March 2005 Archives

March 31, 2005

Times of London: U.S. Conservatives Looking a Bit Battered

Gerard Baker of The Times of London reported April 1, 2005 that, "for a political group feared and envied in unequal measure around the world, America's conservatives are looking a bit battered these days." Here's more.

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Hugh Hewitt on 'Hating the Religious Right'

Law Professor Hugh Hewitt of Hugh Hewitt.Com, in an article in The Weekly Standard, said "a strain of thought is developing that the political objectives of people of faith have second-class status when compared to those of, say, religiously secular elites." I recommend the article "Hating the 'Religious Right.'"

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Richard Reeves: No One is Against Big Government

Columnist Richard Reeves: "If the sad dilemma of the life and death of Terri Schiavo does anything useful for American politics, it will be to reveal that there is no one in power who is actually against big government. That has always been the dirty and not-so-little secret of our governance. Both Democrats and Republicans, both liberals and conservatives, have always wanted bigger and more powerful government. They want activist and interventionist government. The only difference has been a debate over when, where and how that government should intervene. In this case, our rulers can play both physician and God." Read more here.

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Will Schiavo Case Have Political Impact?

The Voice of America (VOA) told its listeners March 31, 2005, that, "The death of a brain-damaged Florida woman whose family fought over her right to live or die could have political ramifications in Washington. The case of Terri Schiavo may have an impact on the battle over President Bush's judicial nominations in the U.S. Senate," the the VOA told its foreign listeners. Since the VOA's mandate is spreading propaganda, it is not heard in the United States except over shortwave radio. Here's more.

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March 27, 2005

What Would Reagan, Goldwater Think About Schiavo Case?

Joe Gandelman has an interesting post at The Moderate Voice headlined "Barry Goldwater And Ronald Reagan Are Turning Over In Their Graves." It's about how they would react to the political right's response to the judiciary's handling of the Schiavo case. It's worth reading.

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March 26, 2005

Shortage of Arabic Speakers Hampers U.S.' Public Diplomacy Effort

"America's acute shortage of Arabic speakers is in danger of crippling the nations efforts to counter terrorist threats, communicate with prisoners, and build bridges to the Muslim world," writes William Fisher in Arab News. Here's more.

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George McGovern: Patriotism is Nonpartisan

In a March 24, 2005 article in The Nation, George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, said:

"There is a notion abroad in American politics, carefully crafted by its proponents, that is both disturbing and false. It is especially disturbing to me personally because it is frequently associated with my campaign for the presidency in 1972. The notion is that my party, and especially its standard-bearer of 72, are not interested in the defense and security of America. Nor, according to this notion, do we care about marriage and the family, the sacredness of human life and the things of the spirit. Perhaps my views are outdated, but I have always assumed that every American cares about these values; consequently, they are not issues for partisan exploitation.
What is the truth as I see it?" he asked. The answer is here.

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Why Congressional Democrats Didn't Fight Schiavo Bill

"Senate Democrats declined to fight a bill giving federal courts jurisdiction over the Terri Schiavo case last weekend because they didn't have the votes to stop it and didn't want to waste political capital in a futile fight, a Democratic Senate staffer said," according to Ken Fireman of Newsday's Washington Bureau. Here's more.

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Washington Times: 'Black Democrats Embrace Faith Issues'

Brian DeBose of The Washington Times says "Black Democratic leaders are openly talking about the importance of faith, opening the door to pro-life Democrats, and changing the culture of violence in hip-hop music, indicating a more open posture toward conservative values among the party's most loyal voting bloc." Here's more.

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Some Conservatives Vow Showdown Over Schiavo Case

Stephen Dinan and Amy Fagan of The Washington Times report that "Conservatives inside and outside Congress are vowing a showdown with the federal judiciary over the Terri Schiavo case, as Republicans say courts at all levels have flouted congressional subpoenas and legislative intent that her feeding tube be reinserted pending a final decision in the case." Here's their report.

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U.S. Torture of Iraqis Was Widespread, Reports say.

Matt Kelly of The Associated Press reports that "Newly released government documents say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. forces was more widespread than previously reported." I suspect the torture and abuse will continue until the U.S. leaves Iraq. Here's more.

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Carla Seaquist: 'Abu Ghraib: the Prison of Our Moral Choices

Playwright and writer Carla Seaquist, in an article published in The Christian Science Monitor and reprinted in The Seattle Times, says "All Americans celebrate the recent Iraqi election-- the images of the long lines at polling sites were truly thrilling-- and we hope these newcomers to democracy can solidify their historic reality. "But," she added, "there is another set of images and another reality moral that haunts still: Abu Ghraib. While the administration may hope nothing succeeds like success, and President Bush declared his own re-election an "accountability moment" on Iraq, political victory does not trump moral stain." Read more here.

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VOA Tells Listeners Bush's Ratings at Lowest Since 2001

The Voice of America (VOA), which can be heard in the United States over shortwave radio, told its foreign listeners on March 25, 2005 that "two new public opinion polls indicate that President Bush's approval ratings have tumbled to among the lowest of his presidency." Heres' the VOA report.

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Is Bush's Approval Rating Slipping?

James Joyner at Outside the Beltway notes that "USA Today is touting the latest Gallup poll with the headline "Bush approval slips to 45%, lowest of his presidency." A quick look at the poll trends, though, shows Bush's numbers to be essentially what they've been for months." he wrote. The disputes never end.

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Dispute Over Washington State Governors Race Continues

Republicans and Democrats in Washington State are still feuding over the outcome of the recent governors race, which was ultimately won by a Democrat. According to the March 26, 2005 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "the judge in the legal challenge to the governor's election has set a hearing date to hash out scheduling issues. No trial date has been set."

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March 25, 2005

Tom Watson's 'Why We Don't Mourn III'

Tom Watson notes that, "Two years now, and 1,521 Americans killed and 11,344 wounded. And yet, our national leadership refuses to mourn the dead, to stop our public life for even a few hours, and pay tribute to the sacrifice. Politics aside," Mr. Watson wrote in a March 25 post, "this is a stark and terrible failure of the weak character of President George W. Bush and those who help to lead his administration." I highly recommend this thought-provoking post.

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Did HHS' Contract With Maggie Gallagher Violate the Law?

Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz reported March 25, 2005 that, "Federal auditors said yesterday that they will investigate whether the Department of Health and Human Services violated the law by awarding a $21,500 contract to commentator and marriage advocate Maggie Gallagher. Here's more.

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Washington Post: 'U.N. Report Quotes Threat By Assad to Harm Hariri'

Washington Post staff writer Colum Lynch said in March 25, 2005 article that "Syrian President Bashar Assad threatened former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri with "physical harm" last summer if Hariri challenged Assad's dominance over Lebanese political life, contributing to a climate of violence that led to the Feb. 14 slayings of Hariri and 19 others, according to testimony in a report released Thursday [March 24, 2005] by a U.N. fact-finding team." Mr. Lynch also wrote:

The report, which calls for an international investigation into Hariri's death, describes an August meeting in Damascus at which Assad ordered the Lebanese billionaire to support amending Lebanon's constitution, according to testimony from "various" sources who discussed the meeting with Hariri. The amendment, approved Sept. 3, allowed Emile Lahoud, the Syrian-backed Lebanese president, to remain in office for three more years.
The alleged threat against Mr. Hariri was reported on March 22, 2005 by The New York Times.. Here is the Washington Post report.

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Security Council Extends U.N.'s Afghanistan Mandate

On March 24, 2005, the U.N. Security Council, "stressing the central and impartial role that the United Nations continues to play in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission there for an additional 12 months," according to a Security Council press release.

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Annan: All Parties Must Work to Safeguard Lebanon

During his March 23, 2005 address to Summit of the League of Arab States meeting in Algiers, United nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this about Lebanon:

In Lebanon, the vicious assassination of former Prime Minister [Rafik] Hariri was a severe blow. He was a Lebanese patriot, a formidable statesman and a vital presence in the international community. Within the next few days, I expect to release the report of the fact-finding I established in the wake of the killing and I believe a comprehensive investigation may well also be necessary. All parties must now work together to safeguard Lebanon's stability and national unity. I am encouraged by the commitment given by President [Bashar] Assad to me and my Special Envoy [Terje Roed-Larsen] that he will fully and completely implement Security Council resolution 1559. I expect the full withdrawal of all Syrian troops, including the intelligence apparatus and military assets, to take place before the Lebanese parliamentary elections. Those elections must be free and fair, and must take place as scheduled. The United Nations is willing to help if needed.
He said his "Special Envoy will be back in the region in the first week of April to continue his dialogue, and I stand ready to help the parties to implement the resolution in any way I can." Here's the entire address.

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Report on Hariri Assassination Delayed

Majdoline Hatoum , a staff writer for The Daily Star of Lebanon, noted in a report in the paper's March 25, 2005 edition that, "UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has delayed the release of a UN report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and failed to indicate when it would be made public.

"The decision by Annan came as Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said he "might" appeal to the international community to help "unveil the truth" about Hariri's murder against a backdrop of a series of bombings near Beirut in the last week which have left three people dead," Ms. Hatoum wrote. She said Mr. Annan "received the report into Hariri's death yesterday [March 24, 2005] from the UN fact-finding mission to Lebanon, led by Irish Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald.

Mr. Fitzgerald "was due to deliver the report to the UN Security Council last night, but decided to postpone the move at the last minute," The Daily Star noted, adding that, "a UN spokesperson in New York said: "The Secretary General just wanted a little bit more time to prepare the ground for this report." Here's more of the Hatoum Report.

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I'll Miss Richard Boucher

Richard Boucher, "the former ambassador to Cyprus and chief U.S. diplomat in Hong Kong," who was "spokesman or deputy spokesman under six secretaries of state," according to Reuters," has been replaced by Sean McCormack, 40, who "served as spokesman for then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and as deputy White House press secretary for foreign policy before Ms. Rice became secretary of state. He has also served in U.S. embassies in Algeria and Turkey," Reuters noted. I will miss receiving daily transcripts of daily State Department briefings with Mr. Boucher handling questions with the deftness of a professional athlete. .

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Columnist Mike North on 'The Politics Of Ownership'

Mike North of The Chattanoogan.Com has an interesting commentary on Pollster John Zogby's theory, "based upon polling results, that economics helped George Bush win" the 2004 presidential election. Mr. North notes that, "In a recent column called Investors for Bush, Zogby explains his thinking, and supplies the data to back it up. He points out some post election figures that shed new light on the election." Here's Mr. North's column.

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Where Did 'GOP Talking Points' on Schiavo Come From?

Hindrocket at Powerline on "GOP talking points" on the Schiavo case: "The memo that ABC News claims constitutes "GOP talking points" on the Schiavo case has turned up on the web, even though neither ABC nor the Washington Post, which has also reported on the memo and declared it to be genuine, has made it public. This web site, however, has posted the document, saying that it was leaked by "a source on Capitol Hill." Here's more.

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March 24, 2005

U.S., France Reportedly Mapping Post-Syrian Plans

Los Angeles Times writers Tyler Marshall and Sonni Efron report that, "In crafting a policy on Lebanon, the Bush administration has adopted a more measured approach, departing from the rigid style that characterized its diplomacy during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq." It is based on "the new cooperation" between President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac "and the almost daily contact that U.S. and French officials have maintained during the crisis contrasted with the bitter rift that emerged between the two countries over Iraq two years ago," they contend. Here's more of their analysis.

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Diplomacy and Japan's Territorial Dispute With its Neighbors

"Japan is now in serious territorial disputes with all of its neighbors -- Taiwan, China, South Korea and Russia," argues Gregory Clark, vice president of Akita International University and a former Moscow-based Australian diplomat, in the March 24, 2005 issue of The Japan Times. "True, this could prove there is something wrong with all of Japan's neighbors," he noted, adding: "But it could also prove that there is something wrong in the way Japan handles territorial problems with its neighbors. There is no clearer example of this than the dispute with Russia. Read more of Mr. Clark's analysis in "Northern Territories dispute highlights flawed diplomacy."

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The Economic Times: 'Diplomacy Pushes Trade to the Edge

G. Ganapathy Subramaniam of The Economic Times of India reports that "Trade diplomacy is becoming increasingly ticklish for India as powerful multinationals, backed by European and American governments, are rocking the boat over major deals, especially in the civil aviation and defence sectors." Here's more of his analysis.

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A New Face Won't Change U.S. Image in Middle East

Hearst Newspapers Columnist Helen Thomas contends that, "If the United States is trying to win the hearts and minds of the people in the turbulent Middle East, a new face won't cut it. It's not the person. It's the policy that needs changing," she opined in a March 22, 2005 column.

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Scott Gray on 'The Quiet Diplomacy of Condoleezza Rice'

Scott Gray at OpinionEditorials.Com says "Condoleezza Rice was the essence of the race card early in the Bush administration; the African-American woman was a member of the most diverse cabinet in American history. After four years as National Security Advisor and proving herself one of the most eloquent members of the Bush administration, she was chosen to be Colin Powell's replacement in the State Department. Congressional Democrats chose to fight Dr. Rice's nomination as Secretary State, but it has obviously paid off." Here's more.

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'Schiavo Case: When Political Priorities Go Awry'

Roger Low, a sophomore in Branford College, states in his March 24, 2005 column at yaledailynews.com: Alright. I've had it. The insanity has to end. For reasons passing understanding, I try to follow American politics fairly closely, and between semen-stained dresses and swinging chads, I've seen the absurdity barometer in Washington hit "high" more times than I care to count. But "absurd" doesn't even begin to describe the farce that has consumed our nation's capital last week thanks to an ill-fated order handed down by one Florida judge." Here's more of "Schiavo case: when political priorities go awry."

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Maine Legislator's Bill Targets Political Bias

Bangor (Maine) DailyNews.Com reported March 24, 2005 that "Aiming to protect students and faculty from political bias, a Rockport (Maine) lawmaker has introduced legislation to ensure that the campus climate at Maine's public universities is conducive to a diversity of ideas and beliefs. Sponsored by Rep. Stephen Bowen, LD 1194 would require state colleges and universities to publish an "academic bill of rights" to keep students and instructors from being penalized for expressing unpopular viewpoints both in and out of the classroom," the paper reported. Here's the entire story.

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Bloggers and the Schiavo Case

Matt Crenson of The Associated Press says "In cyberspace, where anybody who cares to listen can hear you scream, the question of whether Terri Schiavo should live or die has spawned an endless shouting match." Here's more.

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Is 'the 'Government' Out to Get Bloggers?

Paul Jacobs at The Free Liberal contends that, "If you use email, or keep a Web journal known as a blog, beware. The government will soon be out to get you." Read more here.

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Brian McNicholl: ' End Election Law Nonsense'

Brian McNicholl, Townhall.Com: "Bring on the Federal Elections Commission. Bring on, as Commissioner Bradley Smith suggested in a recent interview, a censor squad to review every blog on the Internet looking for those who make in-kind contributions to candidates by linking to their Web sites." Here's more of this interesting commentary.

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Rep. Conyers: Bloggers Have Rights Too

Representative John Conyers ( D-Mich.), who has served in the House of Representatives since 1965 and is the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, says in a March 24, 2005 CNet News.Com article headlined "Bloggers Have Rights Too":

I agree with Thomas Jefferson's sentiments when he wrote, "the basis of our government being the opinion of people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter."

In Jefferson's era, print newspapers revolutionized the way the country read and processed the news. Today we stand on the precipice of a new media revolution with the advent of the Internet. We need to protect bloggers' First Amendment rights so they can help us protect our own citizens' rights.

Mr. Conyers noted that, "Web Loggers, or "bloggers," have already broken several major stories, including those that led to the resignation of a Virginia congressman, a shake-up at CBS news over the "60 Minutes" Bush National Guard story, the firing of a CNN executive over remarks criticizing the U.S. military, and the White House granting Jeff Gannon inappropriate access to White House daily press briefings." He also said:
Today in two separate arenas--campaign finance laws and the legal privileges accorded to journalists to protect confidential sources--bloggers' free speech rights are at risk.
The congressman said "It is incumbent on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), legislatures, and the courts to ensure these rights are protected for Internet-based media."
Read more here.

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March 23, 2005

Dean: Democrats Have to Campaign in Tennessee to Win it

"If the Democrats want to win in Tennessee, the first thing they have to do is campaign here, Howard Dean told a packed house at Vanderbilt University" during an address on March 22, 2005," according to The Tennesseean. Here's more.

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The Schiavo Case and the Republicans

Blogger and Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach contends that, "The Schiavo case is just the latest evidence that the Republicans are all Kennedy-Johnson liberals when it comes to the role of government." Read Will the Last Conservative in Washington...please turn out the lights.

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Will Republican Ranks Split Over Schiavo Case?

Political Interest: "Apparently the inherent contradictions to everything the GOP thought it stood for in the Shiavo bill passed last weekend are too much for a few Republicans," according to the NY Times. Here's more.

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The Economist: Congress, Bush Made Schiavo Case Worse

The Economist of Britain, often called the journal of news and opinion most-favored by world leaders, called the legal battle surrounding Terri Schiavo "a ghastly dilemma which Congress and George Bush have only made worse." Here's The Economist's opinion on the life/death struggle over Ms. Schiavo.

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More Politicians Turning to Blogs to Get Message Out

The Christian Science Monitor says "more politicians write blogs to bypass mainstream media." I'm not surprised by this. Blogs allow politicians to get their messages out without having them filtered by journalist. The best part is that constituents can offer comments. Here's more.

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FEC's Rulemaking on Internet Communications

The Federal Election Commission's Draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Internet Communications has interesting recommendations that affect bloggers.

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Political Bloggers Still Exempt from Campaign Laws

ZDNet: "Political bloggers would continue to be exempt from most campaign finance laws, according to highly anticipated rules that federal regulators released Wednesday {March 23, 2005]. Read more here.

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March 22, 2005

Arab League Holds Summit in Algiers

"Arab leaders open a two-day summit in the Algerian capital on Tuesday [March 22, 2005] to discuss a 17-point agenda, including a resolution to revive a plan for peace with Israel that the Jewish state rejected three years ago," according to an Agence France Presse (AFP) report in Khaleej Times. The report said "Only 14 Arab heads of state or rulers out of the 22-member Arab League are expected to attend the summit, which coincides with the 60th anniversary of the pan-Arab organization." The league is one of the least influential organizations on the diplomatic scene.

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RIA Novosti: Kyrgyz President's Actions Might Be Too Late

RIA Novosti reported March 22, 2005 that "Things are still hanging on a knife's edge in the Osh and Jalal-Abad southern regions of Kyrgyzstan. According to witnesses, about a thousand people who spent the night in front of the Osh regional government building are now beginning a rally there," the news outlet said. "More people have been coming to the central square since morning." Read more here.

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Will Kyrgyzstan's Government Heed Demands to Resign

The Russian news agency Interfax reported that Ravshan Zheyenbekov, a candidate who lost in Kyrgyzstan's recent parliamentary elections, told one of its correspondents on March 22, 2005 that "The population of the Talas region in northern Kyrgyzstan has joined the southern regions in demanding the resignation of the government and announced plans to create its own government." Here's more.

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Rice Lectures China on Anti-Secession Law

An Agence France Press (AFP) report in todays issue of The China Post of Taiwan says "U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday [March 21, 2005] urged China to reduce tensions in the Taiwan Strait, saying an anti-secession law was not welcome and unhelpful for any eventual reunification."

"The anti-secession law was not a welcome development because anything that is unilateral that increases tensions, which clearly the anti-secession law did increase tensions, is not good," Ms. Rice told journalists after talks with Chinese leaders, according to AFP. Ms. Rice, according to the wire service, added: "I did talk to my Chinese counterparts about hopefully taking measures in the wake of this anti-secession law, taking measures that would demonstrate a willingness to reduce tensions in the cross-strait environment."

"We are not pleased when either side does anything unilaterally to either try to change the status quo or that increases tensions." lecturing China on unilateralism sounds hypocritical coming from an administration known for its unilateralist policy on international affairs. Here's more.

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North Korean Premier visits China

North Korean Premier Pak Pong-ju began a visit to China on March 22, 2005 "to study the economic miracle wrought by his country's giant neighbor," according to a report in China Daily.

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Some Nations Seeking Permanent U.N Security Council Seats

Brazil, Germany, India and Japan want the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a resolution by this summer that will grant them permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council, according to Edith M. Lederer, an Associated Press writer. "But Pakistan, Italy and other mid-size countries are still pushing a rival plan to expand the U.N.'s most powerful body," she noted. Read the story here.

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March 20, 2005

Peter Taylor: 'We Have Been Here Before'

Peter Taylor of The Guardian: There's never been a St Patrick's Day like it. Gerry Adams, traditionally feted in Washington as the Irish Mandela, found the door of the White House metaphorically shut in his face, while the five sisters of Robert McCartney and his partner shook the president's hand. The media, most of which had long abandoned Ireland, loved the story and its unlikely heroines." Here's more.

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George Kennan's Profound Imapct on Diplomacy

National Public Radio senior analyst and Christian Science Monitor contributing columnist Daniel Schorr takes a look at the "profound effect" that former diplomat George Kennan "had on averting a hot and possibly nuclear war instead of a half-century of cold war, that ended as he predicted it would." Mr. Kennan died March 17, 2005.Here's more on Mr. Kennan.

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The Belgravia Dispatch on Good News From Iraq

Gregory Djerejian of The Belgravia Dispatch, a good news cheerleader on Iraq who seems to see nothing wrong with imposing democracy at the barrel of a gun, has a post on what he calls "more good news from Iraq".

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The Modi Visa Issue

Anand Bhisey of Rediff.Com reported March 20 that Bharatiya Janata Party president Lal Kishenchand Advani, "continuing his tirade against the United States for its decision to deny Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi a visa," on March 20 said "the U.S. is a large country, but I doubt if it has an intelligence to match." Here's more.

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The EU Dispute Over Opening Negotiations With Croatia

The European Parliament's "Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday [March 17, 2005] contested the [European] Council's decision not to open accession negotiations with Croatia yet," according to European Union @the United Nations. The website said, "In a letter MEPs are proposing that a committee be set up to monitor whether or not Croatia is cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague but that in the meantime negotiations should start. Should this committee find that Croatia is indeed not fully cooperating, then negotiations should be halted."

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The Washington Diplomat Profiles Representative Hoekstra

The Washington Diplomat has an insightful article on Representative Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, who "is examining the complex challenges that confront America's intelligence community in obvious ways." See "Key Lawmaker Says U.S. Needs Strategic Plan for Intelligence."

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University of Buffalo Studying Impact of Blogs

"Researchers in the University at Buffalo's School of Informatics have undertaken a long-term research project to study how information from blogs produced in specific American urban areas reflects the political agendas, opinions, attitudes and cultural idiosyncrasies of the general population of those places," according to Science Blog.

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A Link to Glenn Reynold's Keynote Address to Politics Online Conference

RedState.Org has a transcript of the keynote address that University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds, popularly known as Instapundit, delivered at the Politics Online Conference held March 10 and 11, 2005 at George Washington University.

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Haley Barbour: A Presidential Contender?

U.S. News.Com's Washington Whispers column says "with the 2008 front-runners unable to wow the GOP and kill early presidential competition the way George W. Bush did four years ago, Republicans are sizing up newbies like Govs. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. This month's hottie is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour,"according to the column. "Yup, the very same sweet-talking pol who used to chair the Republican National Committee wants to run for president, say friends who give him fair odds. His strengths: As a former Reagan political aide, lobbyist, and GOP boss from 1993 to 1997, he's got a fat Rolodex filled with names of backers and donors." Read Washington Whispers here.

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Washington State House passes 'Duty to Help' Bill

The Washington State Political Report reported in a March 20, 2005 post that "the state house just overwhelmingly passed a law to mandate that people who know of crimes have to do something. The law could be over broad, but they've taken efforts to avoid that," the report says. Read more here.

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Broder Promotes Representative Shaw's Ideas on Social Securty

Syndicated Columnist David Broder notes that "President Bush's open-ended invitation for anyone to come forward with ideas on Social Security reform has brought a response from a number of Republican legislators. Some, such as Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have won deserved praise for acknowledging that rescuing the endangered retirement, survivor and disability fund from the fiscal effects of the baby-boom wave may require sacrifice from taxpayers and beneficiaries alike." He added:

But, because of its source, another new idea on the bargaining table is entitled to more attention than it has received so far. It is the handiwork of Republican Rep. Clay Shaw of Florida, a 24-year veteran who served as chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security until term-limited out at the beginning of this year.
Mr. Broder, who said he has "been covering Shaw since the 1970s, when he was mayor of Fort Lauderdale, and know him to be a serious legislator," thinks his ideas are worth exploring. Here is a link to Mr. Broder's column promoting Representative Shaw.

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Representative Tom DeLay on the Defensive

Mary Curtius and Richard Simon of the Los Angeles Times reported March 20, 2005 that, "This should be a time to savor for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas." Here's why:

Republicans dominate Washington, a political achievement that DeLay -- with his hardball tactics, consummate fund-raising skills and emphasis on party discipline -- played a key role in securing. And the conservative agenda the GOP is pushing reflects his passionate belief in lower taxes and less government regulation
"And yet," they added, "growing questions about his ethics and his associations have put DeLay on the defensive. He has been forced to reassure jittery Republicans that he remains more of a political asset to them than a liability." Here's is Curtius and Simon's article.

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March 19, 2005

Syria, U.S. Relations: 'Honeymoon and Heartbreak'

Dr Sami Moubayed, a Syrian political analyst, notes in Asia Times Online that, "In December 1990, US secretary of state James Baker described Syria as "a major Arab country who happens to share the same goals as we do". In December 2004, U.S. President George W Bush said, "Syria is a very weak country, and therefore it cannot be trusted." The huge difference in US policy toward Syria over these 15 years shows, if anything, how difficult it is today to mend a very fractured and perhaps irreparable relationship," Dr. Moubayed wrote. Here's more of his analysis."

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'Operating in the Dark in Tennessee'

The Bristol (Tennessee] Herald-Courier says "Getting a public record in Tennessee takes a bit of work. Nowhere is that more evident than in the ongoing squabbles over Tenn-Care, the program that provides health care for the poor and disabled," the paper said in a March 16, 2005 editorial. "Even state lawmakers couldn't readily access Tenn-Care records. And, the Nashville-Tennessean was forced to wage a court battle to shed light on the troubled, financially draining program." Here's more.

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Texas' Election Law: Is it Taylor-Made?

Andrew Wheat, research director of Austin, Texas-based Texans for Public Justice, writing in The Texas Observer, calls Republican lawyer Andy Taylor "the fastest hired gun in the West. Never in the history of Austins oldest profession had a lobbyist fulfilled his contract instantaneously," Mr. Wheat said a March 18, 2005 article. "Yet by the end of his March 3 announcement that he would lobby to clarify state election laws, Republican über-lawyer Andy Taylor already had done so." He adds:

Taylor did not accomplish this feat by suggesting specific election-law reforms. On the contrary, he abandoned the candor of a couple months earlier, when he had vowed to repeal Texas prohibition on corporate electioneering. What clarified the issue this time was Taylor's revelation that the clients paying his lobby fees are seven wealthy men who include some of Texas leading powerbrokers.
Mr. Wheat said Mr. "Taylor's clients gave almost $5.5 million to Texas PACs and state candidates in the 2004 election alone." Here's The Texas Observer article.

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LA Times: Tom DeLay Volcano Threatens the GOP

The Los Angeles Times notes in an editorial republished in the Fort Wayne [Indiana] Journal Gazette, that "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, accuses his critics of using fiction and innuendo to accuse him of a string of ethical breaches. If its that simple, why would House Republicans, led by Speaker Dennis Hastert, have bothered to purge the ethics committee of its leader, Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., two other GOP legislators and several staffers?" the paper asked. Read The Times opinion here.

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Growth Changes Small, Ark. Towns Into Youthful Metropolis

"In 15 short years," according to The Morning News, which covers Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Fayetteville, Arkansas, "the area has emerged from a collection of small towns into a cohesive region of political and financial power." The paper noted:

The four cities along the I-540 corridor have been transformed into a sprawling metropolitan area. Construction in the two counties topped $1 billion in 2004 and appears to be on the same recording breaking track this year.
WalMart, Tyson Foods and JB Hunt Trucking are among the corporations whose economic contributions have propelled the region into a mini-metropolis. Here's more.

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March 16, 2005

Hypocrisy and Occupation

Is the U.S. occupation of Iraq any different than Syria's occupation of Lebanon? No! Occupation is occupation. Why is the Bush Administration demanding that Syria leave Lebanon by May 2005 but it is making no effort to leave Iraq? This reminds me of what many parents use to tell their children: "Do as I say, not as I do." It was hypocrisy then and it's hypocrisy now.

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Syria Comment Offers More on 'The Game is Up' on Resolution 1559

Joshua Landis at Syria Comment reported today that "a number of readers took exception with my 1559 is Finished - The Game is Up post of two days ago." Here's his insightful analysis of the diplomatic chatter surrounding Syria leaving Lebanon.

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President Bush's Foreign Policy Team

The Fields Report, which offers "commentary on international affairs," points to what it calls a "great article in the current Foreign Policy about President Bush's foreign policy team, mainly the national security council." The article is headlined "Inside the Committee that Runs the World."

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'Hypocrisy and Pusillanimity' in the Face of IRA Terrorism

Foreign Dispatches opined in a March 16, 2005 post that "Simon Jenkins says all the right things today about American hypocrisy and British pusillanimity in the face of IRA terrorism." Read more here.

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Why is Pakistan Cozying Up to Israel?

Syed Saleem Shahzad, writing in the March 17, 2005 edition of Asia Times Online, said, "in the changing world, where many Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian leadership, have adopted a more flexible policy toward Israel, decision-makers in Pakistan are developing a strategy to better relations with the Jewish state, though without compromising Islamabad's standing among Islamic countries." Read more here.

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Russian Daily Casts Doubt on Moscow's Version of Maskhadov's Death

Daily Times of Pakistan reports that "Russia said on Tuesday [March 15, 2005] that it was able to locate and kill Chechnya’s moderate rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov last week [March 8, 2005] after people seeking a 10-million-dollar bounty on his head provided the authorities with necessary information."

The paper noted that "on Tuesday [March 15, 2005] the Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid, one of Russia’s most popular dailies known as MK, said that its reporter had inspected the house [where Mr. Maskhadov was rfeportedly hiding] before its demolition and that Maskhadov could not have possibly hidden out there for months, in secret from even the wife of the owner of the house." Here's more Daily Times' report.

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Kavkaz Center.Com: Moscow Telling Stories About Maskhadov

Kavkaz Center.Com reported March 16, 2005 that "Moscow has launched another version about the death of President [Aslan] Maskhadov. Almost a week after the murder Russian FSB (Federal Security Service, former KGB) reported that the Chechen President was allegedly betrayed and that the traitor allegedly received 10 million US dollars for the information provided," Kavkaz Center.Com said. "Besides, the story is still circulating, claiming that President Maskhadov was captured alive, interrogated and then shot dead." Here's more.

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Croatia's EU Membership Negotiations Hit a Snag

Zaman Online reported today that "Great Britain and the Netherlands have announced that the start of European Union (EU) membership negotiations with Croatia will be postponed." The Zaman report said "British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said in an announcement that:" Negotiations cannot begin tomorrow. The conditions outlined for Croatia to begin negotiations demanded that they cooperate with The Hague; however, I am sorry to say that the evidence we have obtained shows that Zagreb has not cooperated with The Hague." Here's more.

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Is U.S. Policy Towards Hezbollah Changing?

Gregory Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch says "US Policy Towards Hezbollah...looks to be changing ever so slightly given the dynamics underway in Lebanon. Namely, in order to keep a large, united anti-Syrian Lebanese front--Bush (despite McClellan's, and the State Department's, protestations to the contrary) seems to be giving Hezbollah something of an opening (a small one, to be sure)," he wrote on March 16, 2005. Here's more of his analysis.

NOTE: This post is also at The Foreign News Observer.

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Juan Cole on 'The Blogging Phenomenon'

Juan Cole at the always interesting Informed Comment discusses Newsweek Columnist Steven Levy's "Blogging Beyond the Men's Club" that, according to Mr. Cole, "asks why blogging is dominated by white males, and what the implications of this configuration are if blogging replaces traditional media. "He quotes presenters at a recent Harvard conference who worried that the newsrooms of the major print media have only recently begun to be diversified with regard to gender and race, and that the white male bloggers could crowd out the voices of these professional journalists," Mr. Cole said in a March 16, 2005 post.

He critique's Jeff Jarvis position on Blogging and journalism. Hopefully, Mr. Jarvis' response will be civil and not the name calling and sarcasm he often uses in referring to Mr. Cole. As for Mr. Levy's "column about blogs in Newsweek," Mr. Jarvis thinks "...well, not to put too fine a point on it," it's "a crock." Here's a link to his post. Here's more of Mr. Cole's commentary.

NOTE: This post is also at The Foreign News Observer.

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March 14, 2005

Syria Comment: 1559 is Finished - The Game is Up

Syria Comment, which offers "thoughts on Syrian politics, history and religion, offers a view of Syria's gamesmanship in Lebanon that put the Lebanese situation into sharper focus. Joshua Landis, the University of Oklahoma assistant professor who publishes the blog wrote on March 13, 2005:

"It's all over." That is how one reporter described the situation in Lebanon after touching base with Western Embassies in Damascus. "There is no more threat of sanctions. No use of force," he was told. Now that the Syrians have agreed to withdraw their troops, UN Resolution 1559 is dead."The resolution demanding the disarming of Lebanese parties cannot be carried out. France and Russia have opposed it. Hizbullah demonstrated that it is much too strong.
Mr. Landis said, "in the American embassy in Damascus, the view is that the game is finished. Now everyone is trying to understand who won. Did the US win because Syria pulled out its troops? Or, did it lose because it got too greedy with 1559 and insisted on stuffing in the articles on Hizbullah and local "terrorist groups," which no one else will now support." Read Mr. Landis' conclusion.

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Mark Lane: 'Net Upping the Stakes for State Open-records Laws'

Mark Lane of the Daytona Beach News-Journal asserts that "To people in government who already dislike people looking over their shoulder -- and who doesn't? -- the post-Internet public records law is something very scary, indeed. It gives people predisposed to secrecy new and more reasonable-sounding excuses. "Do you want this all over the Internet?"

He added: "This forces those who support open government to "go big or go home." It means open-records advocates must make the case that these laws are not paper-only laws from a paper-only age. If we don't watch out, the Internet will soon be -- like terrorism -- an all-purpose vaguely evoked excuse for closing any public record. It shouldn't be. Open means open." I agree. Here's more.

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Public Records in Florida Targeted Again

Carrie Johnson of the St. Petersburgh (Florida) Times says in a March 13, 2005 article that, "Just one week into the legislative session, [Florida] lawmakers are once again taking aim at the state's open government laws, filing more than 40 bills that would close access to public records. The proposals range from expunging false arrest records to placing restrictions on a popular, voter-approved mandate that gives citizens access to reports of mistakes by health care providers," she wrote.

Ms. Johnson quoted Barbara Petersen, director of the First Amendment Foundation, a watchdog group that tracks open government, as saying: "We should not have to beg and battle for government access to public records. Yet we have to beg and battle every single day." Here's more.

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March 13, 2005

Reality, Morality and the United Nations

Fabiana at Foreign Affairs Blog, in critiquing "this post of Andy McCarthy at The Corner argues that:

... the U.N. has never been and should never be a morality-based institution. It is and can only be reality-based because it has to deal with reality: an anarchical and asymmetrical world where bad and good states inevitably coexist; if they did not try to get along somehow, war would be a frequent international event. Despite its inherent flaws, reflexive of an imperfect international system, as well as other flaws that can be corrected with reform, the U.N. is as effective as it could be. If it were fundamentally different than it is today or did not exist at all, international relations would be adversely affected."
Read the full article here. The Diplomatic Times Review welcomes comments on Fabiana's observations.

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March 12, 2005

AG: An Arkansas Immigrant Scholarship Law Would Be Challenged

Doug Thompson and David Robinson of the Arkansas News Bureau reported March 11, 2005 that Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe issued a March 10, 2005 opinion that said: "According to a plain reading of this statute [HB 1525], the state cannot offer illegal aliens any postsecondary benefit 'on the basis of residence within (the) state unless a non-resident citizen is eligible for the benefit."

"In other words," the reporters wrote, "the state apparently cannot offer any benefit to an undocumented resident that it is not willing to offer to any citizen of the United States.The opinion concludes that: "It is my opinion for the foregoing reasons that HB 1525 may be subject to challenge under federal law." According to the Arkansas News Bureau, Senator Jim Holt, R-Springdale, who asked for the opinion,said: "It's what we've been saying from the beginning. This is against federal code. This is not about prejudice, but about charity beginning at home and of benefits going to our citizens first." Here's more of the story.

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Mystery Pollster's Analysis of Gallups's Poll on Bloggers

Mark Blumenthal at Mystery Pollster, one of the most useful blogs I've come across, offered his opinion on March 11 about a poll the Gallup Organization conducted on the impact of blogs on American citizens:

"My blogger status compels me to report as a "must read" a new survey on blogging released today by the Gallup Organization. Under the headline "Bloggers Not Yet in the Big Leagues," Gallup's Lydia Saad concludes: Relatively few Americans are generally familiar with the phenomenon of blogging...Three-quarters of the U.S. public uses the Internet at work, school, or home, but only one in four Americans are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs...More to the point, fewer than one in six Americans (15%) read blogs regularly (at least a few times a month). Just 12% of Americans read blogs dealing specifically with politics this often.
Mr. Blumenthal said "The analysis is worth reading in full, as Gallup's data will provide an important benchmark for tracking the blogging phenomenon. However, though Saad delivers a powerful rebuke to anyone who might confuse blogs with one of the "dominant sources of information for the American public," I fear she misses the point," he said. Here's his entire analysis.

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The Bankruptcy Bill Will Eventually Become Law

On March 10, 2005, JustOneMinute published a realty-check post headlined "After-Action: The Bankruptcy Of The Blogosphere." The blog said:

The bankruptcy bill is set to clear the Senate, and is expected to sail through the House shortly, despite widespread opposition in the blogosphere that spanned the political spectrum. How widespread? In one "Can't tell the players without a scorecard" post, we actually find Atrios pointing approvingly to a Free Republic post and calling the leaders of his Democratic party "morons".
Yet the unusual alliance of
Atrios, Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, the Daily Kos, Glenn Reynolds, Jane Galt, John Cole, and many more seems to have had zero impact. In the Last Alliance, Trent Lott was cast down - what happened here?
It remains to be seen whether the bill can be stopped in the House of Representatives. I doubt it.

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Politology's Coverage of the Bankruptcy Bill

Politology.us says "the opposition against the bankruptcy bill crosses party lines, among the grassroots." The blog has great coverage on the bill, which passed the Senate 75-24 on March 10, 2005. It's viewed by many as a great victory for credit card companies. Thousands of Americans file for bankruptcy each year after amassing huge debt using credit cards. Some conservative and liberal bloggers have united in opposition to the bill.

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March 11, 2005

China Daily On the Many Dimensions of Chinese Diplomacy

In discussing the many dimensions of Chinese diplomacy in a March 7, 2005 editorial, China Daily said "The Cold War has hatched a small profession specializing in churning out allegations about the so-called China threat, allegedly both as a danger to world peace and the global economy. The trick has been laughably simple just keep recycling the old allegations every time China comes to insist on its own rights," the publication said in an article printed in People's Daily. Some of [Chinese Foreign Minister] Li's [Zhaoxing] words are a wake-up call. This business has no future." Here's more on Chinese diplomacy.

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Secretary of State Rice to Visit South Korea March 19-20, 2005

The Korea Times reports that "U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Seoul March 19-20 [2005] as part of an Asian trip. The central issue of her visit will be North Korea's nuclear weapons program, officials in Seoul and Washington said" March 10, 2005, according to the publication. Here's more on the visit.

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John Hughes on 'US-China Relations'

John Hughes, a former editor of The Christian Science Monitor and an assistant secretary of State in the Reagan administration, contends that, "while United States policymakers are preoccupied with the Middle East and North Korea, trouble may be looming in China." Read why.

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March 10, 2005

Foreign Opinion About China's 'Anti-secession' Bill

Melody Chin reported in the March 10, 2005, issue of the Taipei Times that, "following the US' opposition to Beijing's call in its "anti-secession" bill for possible non-peaceful action directed at Taiwan, responses to the law from international foreign representative offices in Taipei were mixed..." Read more here.

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Canada's Receives Uninvited Foreign Officials

Embassy reported March 9, 2005 that "two high-level Chilean Ministers, including the country's candidate for the top post of the Organization of American States, slipped into Ottawa this week and met with Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew. Jose Miguel Insulza, the Chilean Minister of the Interior, took a day away from a heavy lobbying campaign in the Caribbean and elsewhere to meet with political officials in Ottawa on March 7," Embassy said. "Chilean Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker joined Mr. Insulza." The publication said "Foreign Affairs Canada says it didn't extend the invitation, nevertheless the federal government welcomed the visit." Read more here.

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Chosunilbo: 'National Security Calls for Quiet, Very Quiet Diplomacy'

South Korea's Chosunilbo said in an editorial that "President Roh Moo-hyun on Monday [March 7, 2005] made it clear that he has no truck with a "flexible engagement" plan by which the U.S. Forces in Korea can be deployed when a conflict takes place elsewhere in Northeast Asia. "The clear thing is that our citizens will not become embroiled in Northeast Asian conflicts without our consent. This is a firm principle we cannot abandon under any circumstances," the paper quoted Mr. Roh as saying. "In case a conflict flares up between China and Taiwan, for example, Korea cannot be drawn into an armed confrontation along with part of the USFK," Chosunilbo said. Here's the editorial.

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Foreign Minister: Angola's Role in Africa Restricted to Diplomacy

The Angola Press Agency reported March 7, 2005, that, "the Foreign Affairs minister of Angola, João Bernardo de Miranda, said Monday [March 7, 2005] that his government will always continue to give its contribution to Africa, although small, due to new preoccupations relating to the country's economic and social development." Here's more.

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A Commentary on the ASEAN-EU Partnership

On March 11, 2005, Indonesia will host "the 15th regular meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the European Union (EU) and of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)," according to Benita Ferrero-Waldner of the The Jakarta Post Online. The meeting "takes place barely three months after the worst natural disaster of recent history took hundreds of thousands of lives and destroyed the livelihoods of millions in coastal areas throughout the Indian Ocean." Here's more on the meeting.

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The Political Puzzle V 2.0 Asks: 'Was Saddam's capture staged?'

"Was Saddam's capture staged?" That was the headline on a post at The Political Puzzle V 2.0, which said: "UPI reports that, according to a former US Marine who took part in the celebrated 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, the official version of this event was staged by a military production team. The 'spider hole' whence he was extricated was in reality a deserted well." Here's more.

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The South Dakota Press and Jeff Gannon

Back on March 3, 2005, Douglas Wiken at Dakota Today said "Mostly, South Dakota mainstream media has sat on its collective hands and done little in the way of reporting the adventures of "Jeff Gannon" dabbling [in]South Dakota and White House politics. There is some indication they have accepted the GOP spin that Democrats are interested in this only because "Gannon" has apparently posted his photos in provocative ads...at least provocative for male homosexuals," he wrote. "The GOP spin is that this is just some mean, evil Democrat "Gay Bashing". Here's more of Mr. Wiken's take on the issue.

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Senator Leahy's Chief of Staff Leaving to Become a Lobbyist

The Associated Press (AP) reports that, "Luke Albee, who has served as U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy's chief of staff for a dozen years and is considered the political maestro of state Democrats, is leaving his post to become a lobbyist. "I have served Senator Leahy and Vermont for over 20 years and it just seemed, after this last election, that it was time to start a new chapter in my life," said Mr. Albee, 45, according to the AP. The wire service quotes Senator Leahy as saying: "I fully understand him going and I am just so thankful he has stayed so long. He is without a doubt the best chief of staff on the Hill." Read more here.

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A Commentary on 'The Politics Of Holocaust Analogies'

James D. Besser has an interesting article in The Jewish Week headlined "The Politics Of Holocaust Analogies." It's worth reading.

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Marianne Means: 'Only Two Things Bring Us Together Now'

Syndicated Columnist Marianne Means says "only two things bring us together now. The first is the emotional unity stirred by great national disasters -- a temporary sentiment since our memories are deplorably short," she said, asking: "Remember President Bush and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle hugging after the World Trade Twin Towers were destroyed? Daschle and Bush then pledged to work together, and we know how long that lasted. Life quickly went back to normal. Daschle managed to block some of Bush's favorite programs and Bush retaliated by seeing to it that South Dakota voters defeated Daschle last November [2004]." Read more to see what Ms. Means' thinks is the second thing that brings us together.

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Pew: 75 Million Americans Used Internet for Political News in 2004

LinuxInsider reported today that, "according to a new study, 75 million Americans used the Internet in 2004 to dig up political news, give money to a candidate, chat about politics via e-mail or participate in the political process." The study is by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, LinuxInsider noted.

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Two Minnesota Legislators Want An 'Academic Bill of Rights'

"In Minnesota," according to mindaily.com. "Senator Michelle Bachmann, R-Stillwater, and Representative Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, have proposed legislation "called the Academic Bill of Rights," that "could limit what ideas professors can and cannot express in the classroom." Here's more.

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Doris Matsui Sworn In to Fill House Seat Once Held By Husband

Doris Matsui was sworn in March 10, 2005 to fill the U.S. House seat vacated when her husband, Representative Bob Matsui ( Democrat, Sacramento, California), died January 1, 2005. Here's more.

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Why Social Security Reform is Tough

"Formal 2005 debate in Congress over Social Security reform began Wednesday [March 9, 2005], with a hearing on the subject before the House Ways and Means Committee," notes Peter Grier, staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor. "The topic was the general financial health of the system, rather than President Bush's specific proposal to establish private retirement accounts." Mr. Grier uses a previous attempt to reform Social Security to show "Why Reform is Tough".

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Hahn and Villaraigosa: The Rematch

Los Angeles City Beat, in an article headlined "And Now, the Slugfest," said Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn proves that he's not quite as wounded as polls and newspapermen made him out to be." The City Beat article is quite revealing but some observers think Los Angeles City Council member Antonio Villaraigosa will defeat Mr. Hahn in the upcoming run-off. The two men faced each other four years ago.

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'Russia is a Very Important Actor on the European Stage'

Rene van der Linden, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, told Interfax "Russia is a very important actor in the European stage. It is a key partner for us and we need Russia's full support for the important decisions to be taken at this Summit with respect to the position of the Council of Europe in the European architecture," he said ahead of a planned visit to Russia. "Personally, I would appeal to my interlocutors to sustain Russia's commitment to our organization and to help set the course for our future development." Here's more.

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March 9, 2005

Pressure Mounts on Irish Republican Army

It is time for the IRA to go out of business,"Mitchell Reiss, President George W. Bush's Northern Ireland envoy said in a radio interview, according to The Times of London. "And it is time for Sinn Fein to be able to say that explicitly without ambiguity, without ambivalence that criminality will not be tolerated," he added. Here's more.

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Vatikiotis:' Prudence Remains the Key in Sulawesi Sea'

Michael Vatikiotis, in an opinion piece in the March 10, 2005 issue of the New Straits Times, reports that "the dispute over an oil concession area that lies between Sabah and Kalimantan has affected relations between Indonesia and Malaysia. Perhaps jointly developing the area will help cool the tensions and to split the cost of development," he said, adding:

Things were going so well between Indonesia and Malaysia that it is hard to believe that one of Asean's most critical relationships is foundering on a territorial dispute. The war of words and dispatching of warships to a disputed area of the Sulawesi Sea threatens the closest relationship the two countries have enjoyed since either gained independence, and could undermine a crucial investment lifeline that has helped Indonesia emerge from years of economic sterility with the help of capital from neighbouring countries like Malaysia.
Mr. Vatikiotis said "the new Indonesian- Malaysian relationship was built around a personal chemistry established between newly-elected Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi." Read more here.

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Kogan: 'How Diplomacy Can Defuse the North Korean Crisis'

Eugene B. Kogan, in a March 9, 2005 special to The Japan Times headlined "How diplomacy can defuse the North Korean crisis," wrote: "The sure way to miss success is to miss the opportunity," a wise man once observed." He noted that, "Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura asked U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to visit Japan "at the earliest possible opportunity" during a bilateral security meeting in Washington on Feb. 19. When that visit takes place,"Mr. Kogan suggested, "Machimura must urge Rice to take the above maxim to heart if the United States, Japan and their regional allies are to be successful in bringing North Korea back to the six-party negotiating table." Here's the entire article.

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Malaysia, Indonesia in Diplomatic Row Over Ambalat

Wahyu Susilo of Jakarta Post.Com says "The diplomatic tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia have been escalating over a border dispute concerning the oil in the Ambalat block. It started nearly two weeks ago when Malaysia's state oil company Petronas claimed that the oil field in the Sulawesi Sea was its exploitation area, and proceeded to sell a concession to the multinational company, Shell," the publication said. Read more here.

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March 8, 2005

Republicans Flex Their Political Muscles in the Senate

The Hill, "the newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress," reported March 9, 2005 that "Senate Republicans are flexing the political muscle of their new 55-seat majority, aided by a small number of Democrats. They have used their newfound strength to push through a pro-business agenda and prevail on the hard-fought abortion issue, even as President Bush's hallmark Social Security plan has been slow to pick up support," the publication said. Read the full story.

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Italy Wants Investigation into Killing of Agent in Iraq

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini todays "dismissed speculation that U.S. forces might have deliberately fired on the Italians, but he told parliament that the U.S. military's account of the shooting did not tally with Italy's, Reuters reported March 8, 2005.
"It was certainly an accident, an accident caused by a series of circumstances and coincidences," Mr. Fini was quoted as saying. ""But this doesn't mean, in fact it makes it necessary, to demand that events are clarified ... to identify those responsible, and if people are to blame then to request and obtain that the guilty parties are punished," he added. Here's more.

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March 7, 2005

BayouBuzz.Com: 'Americans Getting Snow Job On Social Security'

"Do you know what the social security crisis refers to? It refers to the fact that, according to the most recent actuaries, we've got about 75 years before the system, if left alone, is kaput," writes Nora Walls at BayouBuzz.Com. "Less than that before we would feel the effects of doing nothing (which we wont privatization or other, change is coming)." She said, "Those figures can be made to work within those 75 years if we do one, two, or a combo of two small things: increase money put into Social Security by 15% or reduce benefits by 13%. doesn't that seem easier than private accounts, a dismantled system, a lost safety net, and possibly lost people whose retirement is gone through bad investments and who have nowhere to turn?" Her argument deserves consideration. Here's more.

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March 6, 2005

Interfax: Russians Positive About U.S.-Russian Relations

Interfax, the Russian news agency, reported march 5, 2005, that "Russian citizens are on the whole positive about the current state of relations between Russia and the U.S." Interfax said, "according to the Bashkirova and Partners firm, which polled 1,500 respondents shortly after the Bratislava summit, 47% of Russian citizens described Russian-American relations as relations of allies, or partners, or as neutral. Just about 4% of those surveyed described relations between the two countries as hostile and 28% said partnership between the two countries is not equal, with the U.S. playing a dominant role." Here's more.

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AU Foreign Ministers Meet in Addis Ababa

African Union's executive council of foreign ministers is meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 7 and 8, 2005, according to the Independent Online of South Africa.

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'There Will Be No Relief for Syria's Bashar al-Assad'

Joshua M. Landis, publisher of Syria Comment and an Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies in the History Department and the School of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma, offers an insightful and descriptive perspective on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's March 5, 2005 speech to Syrian Parliament. While Mr. Landis, who is studying in Syria on a Fulbright Scholarship and is married to a Syrian, offers opinions from Syrians, it was his conclusions that caught the attention of The Diplomatic Times Review. His opinion is that Mr. al-Assad is in a Catch 22 no matter what he does. He wrote:

Most Syrians appreciated the presidents rhetoric about Arabism and how Syria is protecting its identity and that of the Arabs more generally. They see the recent events as he does a battle between the forces of imperialism and Zionism against those of the embattled Arabs and Syrians.

My own sensibilities led me to see the speech from a Western perspective and, in particular, to wonder how Washington hawks will interpret it. They will find much to criticize. The president gave no time table for withdrawal. He accepted none of the blame for Syria's isolation and explained the sudden consolidation of the Lebanese opposition only in terms of foreign influence and manipulation. He continued to describe the world from a Baathist perspective, as a battle between the forces of good and evil, pitting himself and Syria against George Bush and his nefarious plans for the region. Rather than laying out a vision for Syrias future by announcing an agenda for reforms, he dwelt on old battles and history. He is carving an ever clearer image of himself as the anti-Bush.

In doing this, he may rally some domestic support, but he will only drive Syrias conflict with the West forward. He cannot win this battle, and Washington hawks will push forward their arguments for regime change, claiming that the Syrian regime is irremediable even if it is flexible. The more Bashar resists, the more the US will focus on him as the source of the regions evil. They will say, He doesnt get it. The world has changed, but not Syria. There will be no relief for Bashar al-Asad so long as he digs in his heals and proclaims George Bushs plan for the Middle East a failure. Washington will come after him whether he is flexible or not. No amount of tactical retreat will relieve the pressure. To truly get Washington off his back, he must flee by advancing, as Napoleon would say, and that means reforms. Some analysts here, argue that if he truly reforms, the regime will be undermined. Perhaps it is a catch twenty two? Read more here.

I, too, believe there will be no relief for Syria. In fact, any leader that resists U.S. dictates for the Middle East will be targeted. That includes those often viewed as pro-Western, if they show any degree of independence. While change is inevitable in the Middle East, and has been thwarted for decades by pro-U.S. autocrats in the region, I predict that in the end change won't be as beneficial to the West as Western opinion makers think.

NOTE: This post can also be found at The Foreign News Observer.

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March 5, 2005

Senator Susan Collins' Iraq

The Deep Blade Journal takes a critical look at Senator Susan M. Collins' March 5, 2005 Op-Ed piece in the Bangor [Maine] Daily News about her recent trips to Afghanistan and Iraq. The chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Armed Services Committee said:

The most encouraging part of my visit to Iraq was our trip to Fallujah, a city once synonymous with danger and firmly in the insurgents' control. Once a sanctuary for insurgents, Fallujah is now what one Marine described as the "safest city in Iraq" due to a fierce battle in which the Marines rooted out the insurgents and destroyed scores of weapons caches. This success has also encouraged more than a thousand Iraqis in the Fallujah area to have the confidence to come forward to fill police and army positions.
That passage was challenged by Deep Blade, who wrote a worth-reading critique that does not sugarcoat the reality of Fallujah.

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Lloyd Axworthy's Open Letter to Condoleeza Rice

Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg and a former Canadian foreign minister, published an open letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in the March 3, 2005 issue of the Winnipeg Free Press. He began the letter with: Dear Condi,

I'm glad you've decided to get over your fit of pique and venture north to visit your closest neighbour. It's a chance to learn a thing or two. Maybe more.

I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were carefully rigged to show results.

But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game.

Here's the entire letter.

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Agriculture Budget Cuts More Than Double Original Amount

The Conservative Voice (TCV) :

President Bush's agriculture budget cuts are more than twice as deep as he had originally said, according to a non-partisan review of the budget, Senator Kent Conrad, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said today [March 5, 2005]. When the President released his budget last month, he said he was seeking $7.6 billion in farm program cuts over the next 10 years, TCV noted. "However, a just-released analysis of the White House budget by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows a far deeper cut of nearly $18 billion. The cuts are outlined in the Presidents budget for Fiscal Year 2006, starting on October 1.
Well, folks, a lame duck president can go back on his promise without fear of political retaliation. Here's more of TCV's report.

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The Social Security Debate and Political Extremism

The TimesRecorder of Zanesville, Ohio, in an editorial headlined Political extremism preventing a true plan for Social Security, said "the truth, as usual, lies in the middle of the political nonsense. There is no doubt that there is a problem with Social Security. The surplus we had five years ago that would have ensured the longevity of the program is no more. It needs to be fixed. However, the current plan of privatization is not the way to do it." The debate is picking up steam in the hinterlands.

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The Social Security Debate Strategy

"Pick a victim," writes Seattle Post-Intellgencer reporter Charles Pope in an article headlined Social Security fight focuses on those who might lose out: Fight shifts to impact on specific groups. "That's the latest strategy in the battle to reshape Social Security, as each side tries to make its case, build support -- and tear down the other -- by focusing on the impacts private investment accounts would have on specific groups." Here's more of his report

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Afghanistan and Narco-State Status

The State Department's Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs released its International Narcotics Control Strategy Report this week. Among its major revelations was that Afghanistan has reached near-narco-state status. However, this announcement probably didn't surprise observers who've kept up with Afghanistan affairs beyond the gloating over the success of U.S. forces against the Taliban. Here's the link to the section on Afghanistan.

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All Governments Act More on Politics than Principle

David Adesnik at Oxblog has an interesting March 5, 2005 post headlined "YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHO SAID THIS. (REALLY. NEVER.) "

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness...Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics.
"That's right," Mr. Adesnik said."Howard Dean. Maybe there's hope for this guy after all. (Hat tip: Aziz P.")

Questions: What's keeping the U.N. Security Council from imposing sanctions on Sudan? Secondly, does European inaction on Sudan justify the continued occupation of Iraq? I say: no.

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Demanding Syria Leave Lebanon While Occupying Iraq

I wonder how long will it take for the world to demand that President George W. Bush pull U.S. forces out Iraq, just as he and other world-leaders demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad pull Syrian forces out of Lebanon.

Will the U.S. remain an occupier of a foreign country, Iraq, while hypocritically demanding that Syria leave Lebanon?

Will European and American opinion makers and citizens make an exception for the U.S. because they, like most Americans, are predominantly Christian and Iraq is predominantly a Muslim nation?

Are most Americans so much into democratic fundamentalism that they view the killings of Muslims and the destruction of Muslim nations as ok as long as it is done in the name of democracy?

Finally, how long before the proverbial chickens come home to roost? Only time will tell.

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Syria to Withdraw Forces in Lebanon to the Syrian Border

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria announced in an eagerly anticipated statement on March 5, 2005 that "As an extension of measures already taken ... we will withdraw our forces stationed in Lebanon to the Bekaa Valley and then to the border with Syria."

"I have agreed with (Lebanese) President Emile Lahoud that the Supreme Council on Security should meet this week to approve the withdrawal plan and then we will have fulfilled our obligations under the Taif accord and under Resolution 1559," he told Syria's Peoples Assembly, according to Reuters.

After the February 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, Syria came under intense international pressure to withdraw it's troops from Lebanon. Some observers blame Syria for the assassination. However, no hard evidence has been produced that links Syria to the hit. Read more here.

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Peter Galbraith: Kurdish Nationalism in Iraq is a Fact

Peter Galbraith, a faculty member of the National War College in Washington and former U.S. ambassador to Croatia," opined in a BitterLemon--International article, which was republished by The Daily Star of Lebanon, that "Kurdish nationalism in Iraq is a fact, and Turkey's ability to influence the drive for statehood (whether merely de facto or recognized) is minimal." He added:

Turkey has no meaningful military option. A large-scale armed intervention would confront more than 100,000 well armed Peshmerga operating on their own terrain (a far more formidable force than the Turkish military faced in a 15-year war against the Kurdish Workers Party - the PKK - in southeast Turkey), would shatter relations with the United States and kill Turkey's hopes of joining the European Union.
He said "an economic boycott is a double-edged sword that would also destroy Turkey's lucrative trade with Iraq. Closing the border would inflict particular pain on Kurdish southeast Turkey where popular sympathy is solidly behind the Iraqi Kurds. Here's more of Mr. Galbraith's insightful analysis

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David Hirst Sees 'The Shadow of Another Iraq'

On March 4, 2005, The Guardian's David Hirst, writing from Damascus, the Syrian capital, asked if the world was seeing "a velvet revolution, Ukrainian style, that will set an example for the whole Middle East? That is how Lebanon's so far peaceful "democratic uprising" likes to see itself. Certainly, something new and profound is under way." Here's more of Mr. Hirst's analysis.

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Larger Questions Revolve Around Syria and Lebanon

Joshua Landis at Syria Comment today said everyone in Damascus, the Syrian capital, is waiting for President Bashar Assad's "6:00 speech to the Peoples Assembly with baited breath." He said Syria is a country "not only in a region[al] struggle for control of Lebanon, but it has been swept into a much larger philosophical struggle over the nature of the Middle East. Little Syria has, despite itself, become the axis on which larger world questions may revolve. Are the neoconservatives right? Has President Bush's revolutionary foreign policy based on the use of force to create the liniments of democracy been vindicated? Is his strategy for remaking the larger Middle East on the verge of fulfillment?" Read more of Mr. Landis' analysis.

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March 4, 2005

Rice, Dlamini-Zuma hold talks in Washington

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South African Foreign Minister Noksazana Dlamini-Zuma held talks in Washington on March 4, 2004. Among subjects they discussed were the elections in Zimbabwe later this month. Read more here.

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Syria Seems Totally Isolated

Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor of The Times Online of London, and Nick Blanford, the paper's Beirut correspondent, reported March 4, 2005 that "the Syrian regime is now considered so isolated and weak that in some Washington circles it is likened to lowhanging fruit, ripe for picking." Here's more.

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March 3, 2005

Columnist: Moderate Reid Made a Villain by Bloggers

Dennis Myer of The Pahrump Valley Times of Nye County, Nevada says U.S. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada is a moderate who has been made a villian by bloggers. Here's more.

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University of Chicago to Host Feminism and Hip-Hop Conference

The University of Chicago's Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture will host a conference on “Feminism and Hip-Hop,” April 7-9, 2005. The University of Chicago Chronicle quotes Cathy Cohen, Professor in Political Science and Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, as saying: “This conference will provide a forum where scholars, students, artists, activists, community members and members of the media can gather to discuss the relevance of feminist agendas to the hip-hop generation.” Here more.

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Bloomberg.Com: Rove Masterminding Social Security Reform Drive

Bloomberg.Com notes that, "as President George W. Bush crisscrosses the U.S. promoting his plan to set up private Social Security accounts, a familiar face from past campaigns is usually close by: political strategist Karl Rove."

"Bush has been taking his drive to overhaul the 70-year-old retirement program straight to the voters, and he's relying on Rove, the architect of his 3.5-million-vote victory over Massachusetts Democratic Senator John Kerry in November, to lead the way," Bloomberg reported March 2, 2005. Read more here.

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Qaddafi: Transfer Security Council Powers to U.N. General Assembly

"Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi was quoted as saying on Wednesday [March 3, 2005]that the United Nations must scrap the Security Council and give its powers to the General Assembly, if it ever hopes to become a truly democratic organization," according to the Associated Press.

The wire service noted that, "in a full-page advertisement in The Guardian newspaper, [Mr.] Qadhafi called the UN Security Council “an ugly, forceful, and horrible instrument of dictatorship _ an executioner’s whip with no appeal against its judgment, even if its judgment is unfair, biased and harmful.” I totally agree that the Security Council is an anachronistic and undemocratic institution. Here's more.

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March 2, 2005

'Inside the Committee that Runs the World'

While he's attending the International Studies Association annual meeting in Hawaii, and probably won't do much blogging, University of Chicago professor Daniel Drezner is urging his readers to "check out David Rothkopf's fascinating Foreign Policy essay, "Inside the Committee that Runs the World." It's about the foreign policy divisions that have emerged within the Bush administration," Mr. Drezner said in a March 2, 2005 post, adding" I've blogged about Rothkopf's argument before, but the FP article is the fullest treatment I've seen on this topic -- plus lots of inside dirt." Here's Mr. Drezner's summary of the Rothkopf article.

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Latest Issue of Syria Today Posted to Web

The latest edition of Syria Today has been posted on the web. As Joshua Landis at Syria Comment notes, "This is the third issue of the new Magazine put out in Syria in English."

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Did Syria steals Blair's Thunder at Summit On Palestine?

Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor for The Times (of London) Online, reported March 2, 2005 that "Lebanon dominated a conference yesterday [March 1, 2005] aimed at boosting support for the Palestinians, as America, France, Russia and other participants spoke out against continued Syrian involvement in the affairs of its smaller neighbour."

"Tony Blair succeeded in galvanising the support of 30 countries and international organisations at his one-day conference devoted to the Palestinian Authority yesterday, but key players were distracted by dramatic events in Lebanon," Mr. Beeston told Times readers.

NOTE: This item is also posted at The Foreign News Observer.

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Seven Oaks on the 'Black Bourgeoisie at 50...'

Seven Oaks, "a Magazine of of Politics, Culture & Resistance," has an interesting essay, at least to me, headlined "Black Bourgeoisie at 50: Class, Civil Rights, and the Cold War in Black America." Read it here.

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March 1, 2005

Paper: Arkansas Has Potential For 'Nasty' Governor's Race Get?

The Benton (Arkansas) Courier noted in a February 28, 2005 editorial that Arkansans will "elect a new governor next year. We know who it won't be - Gov. Mike Huckabee is term-limited - and we obviously have no clue who it will be," the paper said. "But we're not bothered by that right now. Two factors concern us at this very early stage: Just how nasty will this gubernatorial race become, because it has the potential to be very nasty, and just how much of a long and drawn-out campaign must we endure?" Read more here.

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Evan Bayh Seems to be Preparing for Presidential Bid

Maureen Groppe of the Indianapolis Star's Washington Bureau reported todays that "U.S. Senator Evan Bayh is making staff and fund-raising changes that some interpret as laying the groundwork for a potential presidential bid. The most noticeable changes are to his leadership political action committee, a fund-raising tool often used by presidential hopefuls to help fund campaign explorations," she said, adding:

Bayh's PAC has a new name -- the All America PAC -- and its first director, Steve Bouchard, who has worked for previous Democratic presidential hopefuls in New Hampshire, the site of the first primary.
Ms. Groppe said Mr. Bayh, a Democrat, "met with potential donors in California and Chicago last week, and his PAC is paying for him to travel this weekend to Colorado, where he'll be the keynote speaker for the state Democratic Party's fund-raiser." Here's more.

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Analyst: Mid-East's New Era Dawns Blood-red

Nicolas Rothwell of The Australian, in an analysis of political earthquake taking place in the Middle East, maintains that "with the fall of an old government in Beirut, the staging of a summit in London to set up a Palestinian state, and the announcement of multi-candidate presidential elections in Egypt, it is at last plain that a new era has dawned in the Middle East." Here's his analysis.

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'We Need Discussion, Not Panic, on Social Security'

The California-based Times-Herald Online contends in an editorial that that "if the state of Social Security is indeed in a "crisis", and President Bush is correct in urging quick, dramatic action in the form of private retirement accounts to shore it up, there is an alarming lack of agreement about this crisis in the nation's capital. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan downplays Bush administration cries that the retirement system is headed into disaster, ready to strand millions of retirees in abject poverty."

The paper added: "'Crisis to me,' Greenspan told a House committee, 'usually refers to something which is going to happen tomorrow or is on the edge of going into a very serious change. That is not going to happen.'" Here's more of the editorial.

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BBC: Beirut Drama Dominates Arab Media

The BBC reported today that "newspapers in Lebanon have greeted the fall of the government on Monday [February 28, 2005] as a historic moment and proof of people power on the streets of Lebanon." How does other publications in the region view developments? Here's more.

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When Do Claims Belong in Federal Court?

"The [U.S.]Supreme Court said February 28, 2005 that it will use a renters' lawsuit claiming personal injury from toxic mold in apartments to clarify when plaintiffs can sue in federal or state court," The Associated Press (AP) and other news outlets have reported.

"The question is a hot political topic, since consumers often pursue claims in state courts, where large payouts in class action lawsuits tend to be made," the AP noted, adding that, "earlier this month, President Bush signed legislation aimed at steering big-money lawsuits to federal courts." Here's more.

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Specter Makes Judiciary Committee Debut

The Hill says Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter’s "Judiciary debut irks some conservatives. "The newspaper for and about the U.S. Congress" noted in todays edition that Mr. Specter (R-Pa.), "who has begun chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin’s disease, gave a press conference last week in which he demonstrated both his physical stamina and his determination to set his own course on the committee. In particular, Specter emphasized his intention to try to negotiate the judicial standoff through meetings with committee Democrats," the paper said. Here's more.

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