Commentary, 02/06/07

Monkey-Fu Part III:Tactics
Backwoods Home Magazine

by Claire Wolfe

“The Toad considered the bill lying on his desk. It bore the name of a credibly bland Midwestern congressman as sponsor, though in fact like so many other bills making their way through Congress, it had been written by some faceless drone in an industry group or government bureau. Custom needs — custom laws; that’s how the game is played. The case for this particular bill had been presented to The Toad in a discreet Georgetown bistro by the representative of The Agri-Tech Industry Coalition — presented along with certain other considerations. Rep. Ted O’Day, the Great Centrist, smiled as he thought of those considerations. Some of them were now waiting for him in an Austrian bearer account. The bill’s title was ‘The Food Supply Health and Security Act.’ The few colleagues paying any attention were already calling it ‘A Chip in Every Chicken.'” (02/05/07)

http://www.backwoodshome.com/columns/wolfe070205.html

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Children vs School: Who is failing whom?
The Choice Channel

by R. Lee Wrights

“A few years ago I wrote an open editorial for a local newspaper in which I informed the superintendent of my daughter’s public school district that his services were no longer required. As far as my family and I were concerned, it was the day we fired the local bureaucrats and took our child out of a failing education system. I said it then and I say it now, government today is filled with politicians that think it is their job to take care of us. Either we are too lazy to care for ourselves and our children; or, we are too stupid to know what is best for our precious offspring and ourselves.” (02/05/07)

http://www.isil.org/channels/archives/6850

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Healthcare reform: Partial credit for Bush plan
Free Market News Network

by Steve Trinward

“With all the sound and fury surrounding his proposal for healthcare reform, presented during his State of the Union speech last month, President George W. Bush has garnered almost as much critical commentary as he has for his plans for the war in Iraq. From the right-wingers come praise for his efforts to equalize tax-status for the employer and employee, although some of the motives are suspect; from the ‘progressive’ left is applause for his attempt to break the link between employment and healthcare, although the motives behind that are also considered somewhat suspicious. The outcome of the Bush plan, at least on its own merits, would still be a healthcare system dominated by the Big Insurance industry — driven by that bottom-line, instead of by the individual choices of seekers of personal wellness. While calling for some dramatic changes in tax-status (likely to affect a significant number of people), there’s really not that much in the way of any major paradigm shift.” (02/05/07)

http://tinyurl.com/24k6rl

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Wasting billions on military spending
Independent Institute

by Ivan Eland

“I know, there are wars on — which is the main justification given for the ballooning defense budget. It is true that during Bush’s tenure, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have squandered a staggering $500 billion — all to actually increase the chances that anti-American terrorism will again occur. But the military services, which play the bureaucratic budget game well, have used the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to fund high-tech military toys that have little to do with fighting against terrorism or in Iraq or Afghanistan. And according to the hawks, such as the Journal, the taxpayer should be happy that all of this wasted money, plus some legitimate spending on what should be relatively inexpensive efforts against terrorists, comes in at only 4% of the GDP! No armed force ever fought another — even a guerrilla army or terrorist group — with a percentage of GDP.” (02/05/07)

http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=1906

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Fill’er up, terror free
Reason

by Katherine Mangu-Ward

“Last week saw the unofficial opening of the nation’s first Terror-Free Oil filling station, which sells only gas that originates from countries that do not support terrorism and oil companies that do not operate in the Middle East. The existence of the station was billed a s new way for U.S. customers to make a statement about energy policy and corporate behavior with their dollars. I was chewing on the idea on Thursday afternoon, when I stopped to fill up the tank of my busted 1998 Camry on my way to the Whole Foods in Cambridge, MA. As usual, I drove past the Citgo station to fill up at the Exxon station across the street in my own tiny version of protest about the country of origin of my fuel. These days, any purchase is fair game for an ideological battle.” (02/06/07)

http://www.reason.com/news/show/118507.html>

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Global warming: So what else is new?
Cato Institute

by Patrick J. Michaels

“The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a slim summary last Friday trimming down thousands of pages of its massive overall Fourth Scientific Assessment on global warming, which will be released in May. Hopefully the ‘Summary for Policymakers’ will be an accurate distillation. Hundreds of scientists have been involved in the review process, and it’s safe to say that means hundreds of bored scientists, because there’s very little in it that’s scientifically new. For example, it will report with increasing certitude that humans are responsible for most of the surface warming that began in the mid-1970s. That’s been pretty obvious for years.” (02/06/07)

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=7543

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Pigs at the public trough
LewRockwell.Com

by Charles H. Featherstone

“Does anyone remember the days when ‘libertarians’ spent their time arguing the merits of government contracting? That it would be more efficient, cheaper, and provide ‘better service’ to have ‘private contractors’ do the same jobs that ‘civil servants’ are currently paid to do? (Maybe there are ‘libertarians’ who still passionately argue these points, I don’t know.) The Sunday New York Times ran a lengthy story that ought to put paid to any notion that ‘private firms’ contracting with the government can do government’s work cheaper, better and faster …” (02/06/07)

http://www.lewrockwell.com/featherstone/featherstone66.html

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How to eliminate eminent domain
The Free Liberal

by Fred E. Foldvary

“Some Georgists, followers of Henry George, justify eminent domain as a way to maximize the economic rent of a site even if the government collects only a small part of it and most of it goes into the pockets of a developer who kicks out poor folks so that developers can indulge in rent seeking. In my judgement, under pure geoism, the philosophy inspired by the thought of Henry George, the title holder should have complete rights of possession so long as the economic rent of the land is distributed to the community, as the land rent properly belongs to the residents in equal shares, the land value being a creation of the community and of nature, not the exertions of the title holder. The complete right of possession, conditional only on the payment of the economic rent, would preclude eminent domain.” (02/06/07)

http://www.freeliberal.com/archives/002597.html

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Why America owes Rush Limbaugh a debt of gratitude
Liberty For All

by Joseph Seehusen

“Rush Limbaugh’s ordeal has exposed every drug warrior in America as a rank hypocrite, and for that the entire nation owes him a debt of gratitude. One thing we don’t hear from American politicians very often is silence, especially where the drug war is concerned. Yet when the story broke that Limbaugh was being investigated on suspicion for illegally procuring enough OxyContin pain medication ‘to kill a horse,’ as his housekeeper described it, we heard hardly a peep from the usual tough-on-crime crowd in Washington, DC.” (written 10/03; posted 02/05/07)

http://www.libertyforall.net/?p=502

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Can “the market” really fix healthcare?
The Medical Freedom Channel

by Steve Trinward

“Every time a libertarian tries to argue for getting the government out of a ‘social issue’ (thereby presumably removing the element of enforced coercion from the equation?), the immediate response from the average non-believer is, ‘well how are you going to handle it?’ And the knee-jerk reply of the libertarian is apt to be some minor variation on, ‘the market will take care of it.’ In spite of the validity of this claim, in an ideal world of free society — with no coercive government, just individuals choosing to do the ‘right’ things to perpetuate the culture — it falls far short of an explanation of liberty for those who have yet to absorb the reading-list and drink the right kool-aid. The transition from the current state-dominated culture and ‘market’ (which is about as far from ‘free’ as it gets), if it succeeds at all, will require a considerable amount of rethinking, if it is to avoid causing major havoc on all those caught in the backwash. All it takes to realize this is a glance at the day’s headlines.” (02/05/07)

http://www.isil.org/channels/archives/6843

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Pledge of Allegiance = Worship of Government
The Libertarian Enterprise

by Tinny Ray

“‘Stop The Pledge,’ a libertarian pressure group, works to repeal laws in those states that still retain a daily Pledge ritual in government schools. The group asks for your aid in notifying the public to contribute information (via email at pledge-of-allegiance@earthlink.net or the contact info below) for a study of how many students are taught the whole history of the Pledge; how many students still chant robotically each day; and how many students feel they would be disciplined or persecuted for refusals.” (02/04/07)

http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2007/tle404-20070204-03.html

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Gay marriage and democracy
America’s Future Foundation

by James Kirchick

“On January 3rd, the Massachusetts Legislature — convened in a joint session of its House and Senate known as a Constitutional Convention — voted 62 to 134 to place an amendment banning gay marriage on the state ballot in 2008. If the measure once again gains the support of 25% (50 members) of the legislature in the next legislative session, it will have cleared the last hurdle before voters have their say on the matter. Gay marriage advocates in Massachusetts, where the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the state Constitution mandated gay marriage in 2003, immediately cried foul.” (02/04/07)

http://tinyurl.com/2bqtue

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Retirement syndrome
Boston Globe

by James Carroll

“Four years ago today, then Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before the UN Security Council on the absolute necessity of going to war against Saddam Hussein. What followed is history. That testimony will define the bleak legacy of Colin Powell, but lately he has marked his distance from the war that his testimony both justified and enabled. In December, he contradicted administration claims to declare that the United States is ‘losing’ the war in Iraq, and last month he contradicted the Bush ‘surge’ strategy by calling for a ‘drawdown’ of forces. Clearly, the former secretary of state is a man in the grip of regret. Powell’s example calls to mind the long American tradition of powerful figures who, while in office, put in place structures of unbridled violence, only, upon leaving office, to warn of them.” (02/05/07)

http://tinyurl.com/2285al

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Bush’s double standard on race in schools
Christian Science Monitor

by Alec Ian Gershberg & Darrick Hamilton

“The Supreme Court is considering two school desegregation cases that will probably result in limits on the use of race as a criterion for admission to public elementary and high schools. Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is supporting the plaintiffs’ arguments that the use of such racial criteria is unconstitutional. … But Bush officials are being inconsistent. They don’t apply that standard to their own public education policies. It’s time they embraced the premise of their own student testing rules — race matters — and support efforts to promote access and diversity in schools. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law, is remarkable because it deals with racial issues in a manner at odds with nearly every other policy advocated by the Bush administration — including its current argument to the Supreme Court that school desegregation plans must be ‘race neutral.'” (02/05/07)

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0205/p09s01-coop.html

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Green distortions
Competitive Enterprise Institute

by Christopher C. Horner

“It is, of course, political ritual for ideological factions to flog their own issue as one for which an elected majority was granted a mandate, even when that issue was demonstrably eschewed during the campaign by the victors. The case of global warming or climate change in the 2006 elections is no different, as revealed in the remark attributed to Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, that ‘the politics of global warming has changed and a new consensus for action is emerging.'” (02/04/07)

http://www.cei.org/gencon/019,05746.cfm

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Above the law
Truthout

by David Swanson

“So, there you have a position from an official representative of the Bush administration testifying before Congress. This president believes that laws passed by Congress can be overturned by the president. Only after the Supreme Court has ruled on each point of law is the president obliged to obey and properly execute. So, why have a Congress at all? Its sole function would seem to be the appointment and impeachment of Supreme Court justices. We should be able to at least cut back on its budget if that’s all it has to do.” (02/05/07)

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/020507B.shtml

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Money, money, money … and the Presidency
Fox News

by Susan Estrich

“A million dollars. That’s what it will reportedly take to make it into Hillary’s top tier of fundraisers. That’s 10 times what George W. Bush charged for membership in his top tier, but times have changed. Here’s my prediction: it will be a crowd. The usual suspects and then some. There will be no shortage of would-be new best friends and best friends forever for the Former First Lady. According to some of the folks I know who are getting the calls and e-mails, there’s nothing subtle about the pitch. The train is leaving the station. Don’t give to the other candidates. Now is the time to max out for both the primary and the general election, for both you and your partner, and grown children if you have them.” (02/04/07)

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,250227,00.html

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The market and political freedom
Foundation for Economic Education

by John Marangos

“The history of civilized societies is a timeless effort to enhance freedom. Freedom must be viewed as a whole, and anything that reduces it in one aspect of life is likely to reduce it in others as well. Free people make decisions through their independent minds and have the courage to pursue their own convictions through exchange relations in the market. Thus a free person rejects attempts by others to exercise power over his own choices.” (written 06/99; posted 02/05/07)

http://tinyurl.com/27v8am

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Nuclear power looks better amid rising concerns
Tennessean

by H.L. Dodds

“All evidence suggests that the United States will maintain its currently diverse portfolio of electricity generation options in the future; namely, coal, oil, natural gas, renewables, and nuclear. However, nuclear has some distinct advantages over the other options: Nuclear is cleaner because it does not pollute the air or emit greenhouse gases; nuclear is less expensive to produce; it has an outstanding safety record in the U.S.; and most importantly, it helps to reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. For the United States to realize the full benefits of electricity generated by nuclear power, two concerns must be addressed.” (02/05/07)

http://tinyurl.com/ysnjsd

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Challenge market fundamentalism
Tom Paine

by Ruth Rosen

“Women have gained the potential for enormous power in D.C. with Nancy Pelosi’s election as speaker of the House. The Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues will grow to become perhaps the largest in Congress, but the question remains: How will these newly empowered women use their power? Among the issues on the wish list of newly elected women, according to Women’s eNews, are women’s health, educational equity, sex trafficking, women in prison and international domestic violence. All are important but will go nowhere if women leaders don’t challenge market fundamentalism, the exaggerated and quite irrational belief in the ability of markets to solve all problems, an economic fundamentalism that has dominated our national political debate for a generation.” [editor’s note: The characterization of this phenomenon as having anything to do with the “free market” is ludicrous of course, but once we pass by the terminology, replacing the term with its correct label (corporatist oligarchy, engineered by abusing government power), it’s a well-reasoned piece – SAT] (02/05/07)

http://tinyurl.com/yqn8qs

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Net reality of net neutrality
Frontiers of Freedom

by Chuck Muth

“The Internet has grown and flourished because it’s a great idea enabled by advanced technology which is affordable to the average consumer combined with minimal government involvement. Yes, the net still has some problems with ‘spam’ and viruses and such, but private enterprise is addressing and fixing those problems every day. Life’s not perfect on the worldwide web, but it’s pretty doggone good. That could soon change if the federal government successfully gets its busy-body nose under the e-tent with a really bad idea known in political circles as ‘net neutrality.'” (02/05/07)

http://tinyurl.com/2ggu79

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Taking Cheney’s words seriously
Common Dreams

by Ira Chernus

“If we want to have any chance of curing the public’s appetite for war, we can’t prescribe just another dose of the same old ‘corporate greed’ story. Not that we should ignore corporate greed. It’s part of the story of every war. But we need to put our message in a broader context that can explain not merely why we go to war, but why we lose. … We, Cheney says, are fighting mainly to send a symbolic message to the world, and to ourselves. It’s a demonstration war. It’s war as theater. The victory we want to score can happen only inside the minds of the audience. That’s why we can’t ever know for sure when we’ve won. We can’t even say for sure what ‘victory’ might mean. And that means our fighters won’t ever have the same zeal for victory as their opponents.That should be a fairly simple message to get across to the public. But first we have to take some of Cheney’s words seriously. ” (02/05/07)

http://www.commondreams.org/views07/0205-26.htm

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Attention: Deficit disorder
The American Prospect

by Robert Bixby & Robert Kuttner

Rebuttal from the Concord Coalition’s executive director to TAP’s Kuttner: Bixby: “Robert Kuttner’s attack on the Concord Coalition … misstates important facts and ignores others in dismissing our call for bipartisan cooperation on fiscal policy. The immediate source of Kuttner’s scorn was an ad we ran in The New York Times calling on Congress and the President to negotiate a balanced budget plan and begin a bipartisan process for addressing the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. We observed, ‘a realistic strategy will require reductions in promised benefits, higher revenues, or a combination of both.’ Kuttner’s view is essentially that there is no need for a bipartisan solution to the budget deficit because the deficit isn’t much of a problem, and to the extent that it is a problem the cure is to repeal the Bush tax cuts.” [Kuttner’s response follows at the end of this piece – SAT] (02/05/07)

http://www.prospect.org/web/view-web.ww?id=12436

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Posner’s catastrophes, and ours
Ludwig von Mises Institute

by J.H. Huebert

“Richard Posner is widely described as a libertarian, but as many of this journal’s readers likely know, this is not true. And the latest of his many books, Catastrophe: Risk and Response, may be his most statist work yet, for it wants nothing more than to scare you into accepting bigger, ever-more-powerful government. It is part of a stream of recent work from University of Chicago court intellectuals advocating bigger government and explicitly attacking those who warn against trading liberty for security.” (02/05/07)

http://www.mises.org/story/2470

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Declassified, but still unavailable
In These Times

by Nat Parry

“At the stroke of midnight on December 31, hundreds of millions of pages of secret government documents — including 270 million pages of FBI files — were instantly declassified, promising to shed light on everything from the Cuban Missile Crisis to government surveillance of antiwar and civil rights activists in the ’60s and ’70s. It was to be a ‘Cinderella moment,’ said the New York Times, for researchers of the government’s secret history. But upon contacting the National Archives, researchers learned that declassification is not the same thing as release — none of the documents were publicly available for review.” (02/05/07)

http://www.inthesetimes.com/main/article/3007/

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On its day, a look at Mexico’s constitution
Mexidata

by Alan Wall

“February 5th is Mexican Constitution Day. … The Mexican Constitution spells out the same basic rights as the U.S. Constitution — freedom of speech, religion, petition, legal rights — yet it goes farther, guaranteeing Mexicans the right to a good job (Article 123), decent housing, and health protection and care (Article 4). And the aforementioned Article 123 spells out workers’ rights in detail. … Nevertheless, as Mexican history has shown, just because you decree a right doesn’t mean it exists …. The right to bear arms is part of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and it is also guaranteed in the Mexican Constitution (Article 10). But Mexican weapons’ laws are more restrictive than in the U.S. Needless to say, this hasn’t prevented Mexican criminals from bearing arms, including rocket launchers and grenades, as recent news reports demonstrate.” (02/05/07)

http://www.mexidata.info/id1244.html

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The next war has already begun
The Nation

by Laura Flanders

“Last weekend’s peace march in Washington was short a few bodies. A plane-load of potential marchers was held up by British Airways on our way back from the World Social Forum in Nairobi. No, we weren’t detained, just delayed, by an engine failure discovered late at night on the runway. There we were, packed, pumped up, and eager for action after a week of talk when the pilot came on the sound system and announced that one of the jumbo jet’s four engines had failed and our departure was put off for a day. … But after ten days in Kenya, the contrast in priorities between the peace agenda in DC and that in Nairobi couldn’t be starker. Dig as I might into the reporting on Saturday’s event, I can’t find any serious mention of the US intervention in Somalia.” (02/02/07)

http://www.thenation.com/blogs/notion?pid=162840

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Political power and the rule of law
Texas Straight Talk

by US Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)

“With the elections over and the 110th Congress settling in, the media have been reporting ad nauseam about who has assumed new political power in Washington. We’re subjected to breathless reports about emerging power brokers in Congress; how so-and-so is now the powerful chair of an important committee; how certain candidates are amassing power for the 2008 elections, and so on. Nobody questions this use of the word ‘power,’ or considers its connotations. It’s simply assumed, in Washington and the mainstream media, that political power is proper and inevitable. The problem is that politicians are not supposed to have power over us– we’re supposed to be free. We seem to have forgotten that freedom means the absence of government coercion. … Remember that one’s relationship with the state is never voluntary. … That is why political power must be fiercely constrained by the American people.” (02/05/07)

http://www.house.gov/paul/tst/tst2007/tst020507.htm

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Now it’s official: Iraq’s a mess
Asia Times

by Jim Lobe

“Just in case they needed reminding ahead of passing a non-binding resolution on President George W Bush’s plans to send more troops to Iraq, US senators have it officially: a civil war is raging in Iraq and the country’s troubles won’t end any time soon. The US intelligence community’s report also debunks a frequent Bush claim that Iran plays a major role in support of Shi’ite militias.” (02/05/07)

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IB06Ak02.html

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The message in the bomb scare
Boston Globe

by Jeff Jacoby

“Suppose for a moment that the harmless Lite-Brites that threw Boston into such pandemonium last week hadn’t been so harmless after all. Suppose that the 38 illuminated devices attached to highway overpasses and other public spots around the city hadn’t been ‘guerrilla art’ intended to promote an animated show on cable TV, but the terrorist bombs that authorities at first feared they were. Suppose the individuals behind this operation in Boston and nine other cities had been devotees not of ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force,’ an inane cartoon about talking fast food, but of Al Qaeda and its violent, totalitarian version of Islam. Suppose the worst had very nearly come to pass, and had been averted only by the grace of God and the nick-of-time intervention of the police department bomb squads. What would we be doing now? Patting ourselves on the back for winning a round in the war against terrorism? Hardly. We would be gasping at how close we had just come to suffering a devastating attack.” (02/04/07)

http://tinyurl.com/26ow3d

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What “Israel’s right to exist” means to Palestinians
Christian Science Monitor

by John V. Whitbeck

“Since the Palestinian elections in 2006, Israel and much of the West have asserted that the principal obstacle to any progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace is the refusal of Hamas to ‘recognize Israel,’ or to ‘recognize Israel’s existence,’ or to ‘recognize Israel’s right to exist.’ These three verbal formulations have been used by Israel, the United States, and the European Union as a rationale for collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The phrases are also used by the media, politicians, and even diplomats interchangeably, as though they mean the same thing. They do not. ‘Recognizing Israel’ or any other state is a formal legal and diplomatic act by one state with respect to another state. It is inappropriate — indeed, nonsensical — to talk about a political party or movement extending diplomatic recognition to a state. To talk of Hamas ‘recognizing Israel’ is simply to use sloppy, confusing, and deceptive shorthand for the real demand being made of the Palestinians.” (02/04/07)

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0202/p09s02-coop.html

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Agenda: The principles behind editorial positions
South Bend Tribune

by staff

“We support the Second Amendment to the Constitution and do not believe that sensible gun control and the Constitution are in conflict. We believe gun sales should be subject to a waiting period that allows purchasers’ qualifications to be verified. Violations of gun laws should be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.” [Editor’s note: Ah, those ‘sensible gun laws’ – MLS](02/04/07)

http://tinyurl.com/2sefqr

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The blame game
The American Prospect

by Gareth Porter

“After promising that the Bush administration would publish a document this week detailing the evidence for its charge that Iranians in Iraq are providing arms and advice to Shiite militias to kill American troops, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack suggested Wednesday that no such document would be forthcoming any time soon. Paul Richter of The Los Angeles Times reported that some officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, had resisted the release of the dossier, because they believed the assertions contained in it would have so little credibility that it would backfire politically. As Richter wrote, ‘They want to avoid repeating the embarrassment that followed the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, when it became clear that information the administration cited to justify the war was incorrect.'” (02/02/07)

http://www.prospect.org/web/view-web.ww?id=12433

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Education reform: Pass or fail?
In These Times

by Adam Doster

“The Cerveny Middle School in Northwest Detroit looks like any other aging public school in a depressed urban area. The ominous brick structure is checkered with Cold War-era bomb shelter signs, the linoleum tile floors are scuffed from years of foot traffic and a busted clock rests on a hallway wall in dire need of a paint job. But one classroom on the second floor is markedly different. A Malcolm X quotation — ‘I never felt free until I began to read’ — lines the outer wall, and Gary Paulsen’s teenage classic Hatchet leans against the chalkboard alongside a biography of Che Guevara. When the bell rings, a seventh grade language arts class enters the room and begins an orderly, active and sophisticated discussion about the effects of depopulation on their once-enormous city. Welcome to English class with Nate Walker.” (02/04/07)

http://www.inthesetimes.com/main/article/3025/

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Which side are you on?
The Nation

by staff

“Rarely does the response to a State of the Union address create more buzz than the presidential pontification itself. But that’s what happened with the sharp lesson in populist economics delivered by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. Webb’s indictment of the Iraq War was direct and powerful, but it was his use of the language of class conflict in discussing domestic policy that really had the country buzzing after January 23. Talk-radio host Laura Ingraham referred to Webb’s response, warning the National Review Institute Conservative Summit, ‘The party that comes off as the party that represents the American worker best is the party that wins in 2008.'” (02/02/07)

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070219/editors

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