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"The ballot is stronger than the bullet." - Abraham Lincoln


Waiting Outside the Atlas Café: A Study in Community

Fri, 20 Feb 2009 18:40:16 GMT

David M. Jones Communication, University of Arkansas © 2004, David M. Jones and Journal of Mundane Behavior. All rights reserved. Permission to link to this site is granted; all copyright permission requests under US copyright laws must be jointly approved by the authors and Journal of Mundane Behavior. Requests for reprint, archiving, and redistribution permissions beyond those expressly granted on this site should be forwarded to the managing editor of Journal of Mundane Behavior. The URL of this article is: Abstract: Having just returned from two years living in Bulgaria, where outdoor cafés dominate the social life, the author narrates his experiences joining a café community in Fayetteville, Arkansas. What emerges from the study is more than a description of one American café’s social meaning, but insights into the nature of community in the United States.   PROLOGUE It was early on a Friday afternoon and no one was at the café, except me sitting outside in the shadow made by the pay phone hanging on the wall over my table. I got up and went inside to get my third cup of coffee. “I’m going to drink the place dry as a part of my charitable campaign against dehydration,” I said joking about my third cup of coffee to the server behind the counter. “It got my uncle, but it’s not gonna get me.” The clerk laughed and said, “You know caffeine is a diuretic.” With a dejected air, I asked for directions to the restroom. Returning to my outside table, I watched the passing traffic. As I took a sip from the dark caffeine-nectar, I started to think about how I have been drawn to these places ever since my days as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bulgaria, where they were a part of my daily routine. In Bulgaria, cafés are often the foundation of community and social life. I was not sure what they are in this country. That’s why I was sitting outside Atlas that day. I at least wanted to figure out what this particular café represented within this cultural context. I wanted to know why people come. What kinds of people come? I wanted to understand the café's place in this society. Cafés are one manifestation of what Ray Oldenburg calls “the third place.” First places are the home, second places are work and third places are cafés, bars and other social meeting places. Oldenburg feels that third places are disappearing in the United States. I took a long sip, leaned back, and questioned the plausibility of this study. Little round and rectangle tables were inside and out. I felt sure that the tables and the parlor-like atmosphere would make it a “bring your own friends” sort of place, not the kind of place I could easily study (Oldenburg, 171). I suppose this was my first prejudice about café culture in the United States. I sat at my table for about an hour. I then asked the server when the most customers tend to come, and decided I would return. EXPOSITION – The Return Early the next evening, I went back to the café. Quite a few people were there this time, and the quiet, empty place I had been to the day before was now very much alive. I stood in line at the counter and waited. The café moved at a leisurely pace. The various espresso machines created a white noise that formed the auditory backdrop for the café. They served as metronomes for the tempo of the café's life. They worked fast enough to keep the servers occupied and the café moving, but not too fast to prevent conversation among servers and the customers in line. In Atlas, no one waits on you; rather they wait with you. The customers have time to talk with each other, and the servers can chat with the customers. Impatient customers who do not like the wait usually leave, and so their hurry never interrupts the natural pace of the café. Waiting can pull back a racing mind. It creates a calm, tranquil atmosphere that encourages relaxation and friendly interaction among the customers. While waiting, I asked a customer behind me about a sign advertisin[...]

Getting to know the Candidates

Fri, 15 Aug 2008 06:50:35 GMT

  McCain’s Avatar: I act and talk in the name of John McCain, I am his avatar. I have to tell you that I greatly dislike your speech in Berlin’s Tiergarten. I think the public doesn’t know you very well if they did they would realize the kind of person you are;  you rather lose the war in Irak in order to win the election here.    Obama’s Avatar: as you can probably tell I am Obama’s avatar and also talk and act on his behalf. First I thought the speech at Tiergarten was great. You talk a lot about having a great deal of experience more than me. However recently you talked about the Irak-Pakistan border and as everyone knows these two countries, do not share a border. You also said that Irak was the first major conflict we had after 9/11 forgetting about the war in Afghanistan, and sang “Bomb-Bomb Iran” to the tunes of “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys. You have mentioned recently Czechoslovakia  as a country forgetting that since 1993 it divided in two countries the Check Republic and Slovakia.    McCain’s Avatar: well what about you mentioning that your uncle helped to free Auschwitz when it had been really Buchenwald .Besides you are in part responsible for the rising gasoline price by opposing innovation on energy policies and lets not forget that you voted 94 times for higher taxes. Obama’s  Avatar: I never oppose energy policies innovation and certainly did not vote 94 times in favor of higher taxes. On the other hand your wife Cindy owns a distributorship of the Belgian Beer company Inbev. This beer company is about to merge with Anheuser-Bush. As you know Inbev makes beer in Cuba, and therefore acts against our commercial laws and embargo to that country I also will like to remind you about your impulsive and angry behavior. I understand that because of it senator Cochran, a Mississippi Republican said once that “The thought of your being president send a cold chill down his spine” and senator Pete Domenici a New Mexico Republican for the same reason told Newsweek in the year 2000” I decided I don’t want this guy near a trigger”.   THE LORD: “enough from both of you”  “I order you to tell me, who do you think will be the best candidate for the upcoming election’s of November? and you better be honest”   McCain’s Avatar: ups.. please you highness don’t tell anyone but I think…. Well saying the truth; Hilary Obama’s Avatar: I hope no one gets to know I said this; but I believe without a doubt; Al Gore. [...]

Energy as an issue

Sun, 10 Aug 2008 18:04:37 GMT

  A toxic combination of $4 gasoline, voter anxiety and presidential ambition is making it impossible for this country to have the grown-up conversation it needs about energy.   The latest evidence comes from Senator Barack Obama, who in less than a week has reversed his stance on tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, softened his opposition to offshore drilling and unveiled an out-of-nowhere proposal to impose a windfall profits tax on the oil companies and funnel the money to consumers in the form of a $1,000 tax rebate. Compared with his slightly hysterical opponent, Mr. Obama had been making good sense on energy questions, and his recent speeches had included a menu of proposals for energy efficiency, conservation, alternative fuels and new technologies. Yet public opinion polls showing deep voter discontent with fuel prices — and Senator John McCain’s steady pounding on the issue, including television ads blaming Mr. Obama personally for the rise in gasoline prices — have caused high anxiety among Democrats. They also seem to have persuaded Mr. Obama, who earlier had resisted gimmicky proposals like a gas tax holiday, to strike back. The Democrats’ presumptive nominee has made a poor choice of weapons, beginning with his proposal to tap the petroleum reserve, an idea that Mr. McCain has wisely resisted. True, some usually responsible Democrats have been urging the release of as much as 70 million barrels of oil from the 700-million-barrel strategic reserve. And tapping the reserve on several earlier occasions — including the home heating oil crisis in 2000 and after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — did in fact cause oil prices to drop. But these were the kinds of genuine emergencies for which the reserve was designed in the first place. High prices — even $4 for a gallon of gasoline — do not, in our view, constitute such an emergency. (They may even be salutary: according to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 30 billion fewer miles in the first five months of this year than they did last year. Consumers are moving briskly to the more fuel-efficient cars they probably should have been buying all along.) The windfall tax idea seems exactly the kind of populist gimmick Mr. Obama has been trying to avoid, and could be counterproductive. It is true that oil company profits have reached obscene levels, largely as a result of oil prices. It is also true that oil companies receive tax benefits that they do not need and that ought to be repealed. But rebates would encourage consumption, leading to higher prices at the pump and hurting the very consumers Mr. Obama is trying to help. The senator’s shift on offshore drilling is less disturbing and more nuanced. Having opposed it in the past, he now appears willing to endorse selective drilling in places where states allow it, and only then as a negotiating tool to win a much bigger and broader bipartisan energy package. This is far more defensible than Mr. McCain’s gung-ho, drill anywhere approach. But Mr. Obama cannot allow himself to be seen as endorsing the twin fictions (assiduously promoted by Mr. McCain’s advertising, if not by the candidate in his own public statements) that freeing up the 18 billion barrels in areas now off limits to drilling will bring quick relief at the pump and, in time, satisfy the country’s long-term needs. Here is the underlying reality: A nation that uses one-quarter of the world’s oil while possessing less than 3 percent of its reserves cannot drill its way to happiness at the pump, much less self-sufficiency. The only plausible strategy is to cut consumption while embarking on a serious program of alternative fuels and energy sources. This is a point the honest candidate should be making at every turn. [...]

freedom nonagenda

Tue, 27 May 2008 08:05:06 GMT

By JAMES TRAUBWhen John McCain talks about the world, he returns again and again to the subject that so preoccupies George Bush — democracy. McCain says that democracies share not only values but also interests that differ fundamentally from those of authoritarian states. In a major foreign-policy speech this past March, he spoke of “the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel,” and proposed that the U.S. and Europe join with them in “a global coalition for peace and freedom” that he calls the “League of Democracies.” This month, in a speech he gave in Columbus, Ohio, McCain offered more detail on his bold proposal, forecasting that the league, once formed, would apply “stiff diplomatic and economic pressure” to force the government of Sudan to accept a peacekeeping force in Darfur. The organization would go on to use “the economic power and prestige of its member states to end other gross abuses of human rights.”We don’t hear much about the propagation of democracy these days, largely because President Bush’s own democratic crusade has sown so much chaos, and so little liberty, abroad, and above all in the target region of the Middle East. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shy away from Bush’s clarion calls. But not McCain. In the 2000 Republican primaries, it was he, and not Bush, who was the candidate of the so-called national greatness conservatives and argued for an assertive, interventionist policy. Now McCain sounds the same resonant tones that come so naturally to Bush. “Since the dawn of our republic,” he declared in a speech last year, “Americans have believed that our nation was created for a purpose” — the universalization of our own democratic principles. The League of Democracies would be the body through which we would advance that great mission. McCain did not conjure this idea from thin air. A number of Democratic thinkers, including Anthony Lake, one of Obama’s key advisers, have proposed a “Concert of Democracies,” which, despite the mild-mannered 19th-century name, also foresees free societies as the global peacekeeper of last resort. The appeal of some kind of action-oriented democratic body has grown in recent years as Russia, China and other authoritarian states have used their positions in the United Nations Security Council to block almost all proposed forms of intervention, whether economic or military, in places like Sudan, Myanmar or Zimbabwe. The logic is straightforward: if it’s only the world’s democracies that accept the universality of fundamental human rights, then only an organization of such states will authorize action to protect victims of abusive dictators like Robert Mugabe. There are, however, several large and possibly insuperable problems with this theory. For one, many democratic countries might well refuse to join an organization of global security that excludes China. For another, such an organization would be acting only in the countries of nonmembers, which would undermine its claims to legitimacy. (What happens when the league imposes sanctions on, say, Syria, and only Israel, of all the countries in the region, gets to vote?) And finally, most third-world democracies are profoundly reluctant to meddle in neighbors’ affairs, as the tepid response of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa to Mugabe’s depredations has made all too plain.McCain’s democracy talk has a “soft power” side as well as a hard-power one. His underlying premise is that the United States has a deep national-security interest in the growth of democracy abroad. Our strategy of relying on autocrats to protect our interests in the Middle East and elsewhere has backfired, he said in his March speech; we should promote democracy abroad because “it is the democracies of the world that will provide the pillars upon which we can and must build an enduring peace.” In an effort to change the face of t[...]

Polimon: Political Monsters

Thu, 10 Apr 2008 21:16:37 GMT

I saw this and thought it was really funny. It's the political election as if it was the Pokemon video game on Gameboy.  


We Have To Rebuild Our Manufacturing Bases

Mon, 03 Mar 2008 05:37:22 GMT


DURING this campaign season, one issue has often been left out of the national discussion: the deterioration of our industrial base. More than three million manufacturing jobs have been lost over the last eight years alone and, for the first time since 1950, fewer than 14 million Americans are employed by domestic manufacturers.

Consider these figures alongside our annual global trade deficit of $815.6 billion, and it is clear that today’s workers are losing to foreign competitors. The rapid decline of our industrial strength, once called the “arsenal of democracy,” can be attributed to bad trade policies that severely disadvantage our workers.

The arsenal of democracy that carried Eisenhower’s forces to Berlin and ended the cold war is now found in other countries across the world. The few remaining textile, machine tool and steel companies in the United States must weigh whether to shift production overseas or risk having to close their doors altogether.

Free trade agreements should promote collective economic interests, but the policies of recent administrations have only made it more difficult for our workers to compete in the global market. China enjoys a $256 billion annual trade surplus with the United States, and thanks to subsidies and currency manipulation, Chinese products cost less here than our manufacturers have to pay just to procure raw materials.

We must eliminate this disparity. I have introduced legislation to declare currency manipulation an illegal export subsidy, and we should also have zero federal taxes on domestic manufacturing.

The presidential candidates must give serious attention to our declining industrial competitiveness. This debate is desperately needed if we are to reverse this damaging course and rebuild our manufacturing base.

Duncan Hunter is a Republican representative from California.

Will Politics Destroy America?

Fri, 29 Feb 2008 16:13:22 GMT

Will politics in general destroy the very fabric of our country? Will the die hard conflict between Republican and Democrat overshadow and overrule the good of the country? Will the desire to promote a given party overcome the desire to do what is morally and logistically right for our country?

Most of us are associated with a particular political party that we support. One can't hear about any part of an election without references to Republicans or Democrats. Our bipartisan system allows candidates to receive the publicity, funding, and screening they need to become President. They help narrow down candidates for us so we ultimately only have to choose between a handful of candidates. Parties give people a group to identify with and follow. Some people dedicate their entire lives to their party and become so engulfed with politics that they seem to lose themselves in it. When Kerry lost the previous election, it sparked a massive exodus with hundreds of people fleeing the country. So what are the downsides of politics? After working as an assistant political director on a senatorial campaign in college, I got a very good taste of what politics is like... and it wasn't a pleasant flavor.

Most importantly, people tend to vote based on parties and not issues. I know democrats who would vote for a democrat without knowing anything about him, and republicans who would do the same thing for their party. People tend to stick by their political party while they may not even know where their candidate stands on critical issues. If a candidate was pro-global-domination, the issue could easily be played down by a party, blindly backed by its supporters, and promoted into power. The world would be thrust into chaos simply because people were too naive to think for themselves. Hitler rose to power because of his charisma and empty promises, and Germany never saw him coming. By the time they stopped to evaluate his goals and views, it was already too late.

I refuse to call myself Republican or Democrat. I'm an American who thinks for himself, and I think we should all be the same. We should vote as an American citizen, not a mindless follower of propaganda and media hype. We should vote because of what we believe, not because we are rich, poor, white, black, male, or female. I challenge us all to take the time in this election to truly evaluate the candidates and not their party. Find out their views on key issues and look to the good of the country over the good of the party. Don't buy into the schoolyard style mud slinging done by both parties. Don't buy into the spin from the media and each party. Learn for yourself who the candidate is. Look at the objective facts. Find your own information. This is your right and your duty as an American. America leads the world, and we collectively lead America. The world is in good hands... and very bad hands. Ultimately the fate of the entire world rests on the shoulders of us all. It rests equally in the hands of the rich, poor, black, white, male, female, educated, and ignorant. God help us all.


Mon, 04 Feb 2008 06:17:32 GMT

  A Clearer Picture on Voter ID By JIMMY CARTER and JAMES A. BAKER III THIS is a major election year. Unfortunately, our two major political parties — Democratic and Republican — continue to disagree on some of the rules that apply to the administration of our elections. This divide is perhaps most contentious when the issue becomes one of whether voters should present photo identification to vote. Twenty-seven states require or request some form of ID to vote. Supporters of this policy argue that if voters identify themselves before voting, election fraud will be reduced. Opponents of an ID requirement fear it will disenfranchise voters, especially the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely than other voters to have suitable identification. The debate is polarized because most of the proponents are Republicans and most of the opponents are Democrats. In 2005, we led a bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform and concluded that both parties’ concerns were legitimate — a free and fair election requires both ballot security and full access to voting. We offered a proposal to bridge the partisan divide by suggesting a uniform voter photo ID, based on the federal Real ID Act of 2005, to be phased in over five years. To help with the transition, states would provide free voter photo ID cards for eligible citizens; mobile units would be sent out to provide the IDs and register voters. (Of the 21 members of the commission, only three dissented on the requirement for an ID.) No state has yet accepted our proposal. What’s more, when it comes to ID laws, confusion reigns. The laws on the books, mainly backed by Republicans, have not made it easy enough for voters to acquire an ID. At the same time, Democrats have tended to try to block voter ID legislation outright — instead of seeking to revise that legislation to promote accessibility. When lower courts have considered challenges to state laws on the question of access, their decisions have not been consistent. And in too many instances, individual judges have appeared to vote along partisan lines. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has taken on a case involving a challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law. The court, which heard arguments last month and is expected to render a judgment this term, has the power finally to bring clarity to this crucial issue. A study by American University’s Center for Democracy and Election Management — led by Robert Pastor, who also organized the voting commission — illustrates the problem at hand. The center found that in three states with ID requirements — Indiana, Mississippi and Maryland — only about 1.2 percent of registered voters lacked a photo ID. While the sample was small, and the margin of error was therefore high, we were pleased to see that so few registered voters lacked photo IDs. That was pretty good news. The bad news, however, was this: While the numbers of registered voters without valid photo IDs were few, the groups least likely to have them were women, African-Americans and Democrats. Surveys in other states, of course, may well present a different result. We hope the court will approach the challenges posed by the Indiana law in a bipartisan or nonpartisan way. As we stated in our 2005 report, voter ID laws are not a problem in and of themselves. Rather, the current crop of laws are not being phased in gradually and in a fair manner that would increase — not reduce — voter participation. The recent decision by the Department of Homeland Security to delay putting in place the Real ID Act for at least five years suggests that states should move to photo ID requirements gradually and should do more to ensure that free photo IDs are easily available. The Supreme Court faces a difficult and important decision. If the justices divide along partisan lines, as lower[...]

No longer number one?

Mon, 28 Jan 2008 04:30:59 GMT

  By PARAG KHANNA   Turn on the TV today, and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s 1999. Democrats and Republicans are bickering about where and how to intervene, whether to do it alone or with allies and what kind of world America should lead. Democrats believe they can hit a reset button, and Republicans believe muscular moralism is the way to go. It’s as if the first decade of the 21st century didn’t happen — and almost as if history itself doesn’t happen. But the distribution of power in the world has fundamentally altered over the two presidential terms of George W. Bush, both because of his policies and, more significant, despite them. Maybe the best way to understand how quickly history happens is to look just a bit ahead. It is 2016, and the Hillary Clinton or John McCain or Barack Obama administration is nearing the end of its second term. America has pulled out of Iraq but has about 20,000 troops in the independent state of Kurdistan, as well as warships anchored at Bahrain and an Air Force presence in Qatar. Afghanistan is stable; Iran is nuclear. China has absorbed Taiwan and is steadily increasing its naval presence around the Pacific Rim and, from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea. The European Union has expanded to well over 30 members and has secure oil and gas flows from North Africa, Russia and the Caspian Sea, as well as substantial nuclear energy. America’s standing in the world remains in steady decline. Why? Weren’t we supposed to reconnect with the United Nations and reaffirm to the world that America can, and should, lead it to collective security and prosperity? Indeed, improvements to America’s image may or may not occur, but either way, they mean little. Condoleezza Rice has said America has no “permanent enemies,” but it has no permanent friends either. Many saw the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as the symbols of a global American imperialism; in fact, they were signs of imperial overstretch. Every expenditure has weakened America’s armed forces, and each assertion of power has awakened resistance in the form of terrorist networks, insurgent groups and “asymmetric” weapons like suicide bombers. America’s unipolar moment has inspired diplomatic and financial countermovements to block American bullying and construct an alternate world order. That new global order has arrived, and there is precious little Clinton or McCain or Obama could do to resist its growth. The Geopolitical Marketplace At best, America’s unipolar moment lasted through the 1990s, but that was also a decade adrift. The post-cold-war “peace dividend” was never converted into a global liberal order under American leadership. So now, rather than bestriding the globe, we are competing — and losing — in a geopolitical marketplace alongside the world’s other superpowers: the European Union and China. This is geopolitics in the 21st century: the new Big Three. Not Russia, an increasingly depopulated expanse run by; not an incoherent Islam embroiled in internal wars; and not India, lagging decades behind China in both development and strategic appetite. The Big Three make the rules — their own rules — without any one of them dominating. And the others are left to choose their suitors in this post-American world. The more we appreciate the differences among the American, European and Chinese worldviews, the more we will see the planetary stakes of the new global game. Previous eras of balance of power have been among European powers sharing a common culture. The cold war, too, was not truly an “East-West” struggle; it remained essentially a contest over Europe. What we have today, for the first time in history, is a global, multicivilizational, multipolar battle. In Europe’s capital, Brussels, technocrats, strategis[...]


Sat, 22 Dec 2007 06:25:18 GMT

By STEVEN LEE MYERSMOSCOW, Oct. 14 — At the gathering of leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in Germany this year, President Bush turned to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and remarked that the two of them had outlasted most of their old colleagues from the group’s annual meetings, American officials recalled. Jacques Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi, Gerhard Schröder and Tony Blair had left or were leaving. “Next year,” Mr. Putin replied, “it will be only you.”Mr. Putin’s response, for a time, persuaded the Bush administration that he would keep his word and step down as Russia’s president when his term ends next year, several months before Mr. Bush’s own presidency ends in January 2009.Now, though, Mr. Putin’s plans are far from clear, and as a result, the administration’s hopes that Russia would move toward a freer, more democratic society have substantially diminished.Mr. Putin’s surprise suggestion last month that he might yet remain in power — possibly as a newly empowered prime minister, possibly as the eminence atop the “party of power” — has left the White House stumped. The administration is uncertain how to deal with a man who has consolidated power almost exclusively in his own hands, even as Mr. Bush continues to call Mr. Putin “my friend.”That is why a certain discomfort regarding Mr. Putin’s future hovered over two days of talks here attended by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.“If you don’t have countervailing institutions, then the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development,” Ms. Rice said Saturday, raising concerns about the state of Russia’s judiciary, legislative branch and news media, but declining to criticize Mr. Putin by name.When asked by reporters more than once and by a human rights advocate in a meeting at Spaso House, the American ambassador’s residence, she declined to discuss who might lead Russia, formally or informally, come next year and what that outcome might mean.At a news conference with the Americans and their Russian counterparts, the question elicited a smile from Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and guffaws from uniformed members of the general staff sitting in the audience, as if asking it were audacious.“There’s a lot of speculation about who’s going to be president, whether President Putin is going to take any of a number of jobs or no job at all,” Ms. Rice said later, “and I just think speculating on that is not going to help.”Such comments reflect another reality: the powerlessness of the United States when it comes to prodding Russia in a more democratic direction, barely six years after Mr. Putin’s willingness to reach out to Mr. Bush after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, seemed to herald a new era of cooperation.Mr. Bush, a believer in the personal bonds of diplomacy, said he had seen in Mr. Putin’s eyes a trusted democratic ally in the effort to curb terrorism. Instead, on Mr. Bush’s watch, Russia has slid toward a more authoritarian system that seems to differ with the United States on more issues than not.The administration’s occasional scoldings have accomplished little except to harden anti-American views at the Kremlin and in the state news media. (A swaggering Mr. Putin opened the discussions on Friday with a sarcastic harangue over the American plans for missile defense.)Along the way, promoting democracy in Russia has largely faded from the administration’s agenda, overtaken by a clear-eyed, pragmatic effort to defuse the disputes over missile defense, the future of the two countries’ strategic nuclear forces and the array of conventional forces in Europe. Those issues, along with Iran’s nuclear programs, dominated the discussions here. A senior official [...]

Our relationship with India

Sat, 06 Oct 2007 14:53:39 GMT


The Bush administration and the American business community have been hoping for a swift, rubber-stamp approval of their ill-conceived nuclear trade deal with India. Luckily, some members of Congress, and some American allies, are finally asking questions.

Congress was far too uncritical when it gave preliminary approval to the agreement in December. As a next step, Washington must get a change in rules from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the main providers of so-called civilian nuclear technology around the world. All nuclear trade with India has been banned since it refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and tested nuclear weapons.

Now some members of Congress are beginning to raise doubts about the deal. The proposal introduced in the House this week by Howard Berman, a California Democrat, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, would be a sense of the House resolution. But by highlighting bipartisan concerns, it should bolster skeptics in the suppliers’ group who rightfully fear that the agreement could benefit New Delhi’s weapons program as much as its pursuit of nuclear power, while making it even harder to rein in the ambitions of nuclear wannabes, including Iran.

The resolution would urge the administration to answer key questions such as why an implementing agreement, completed in July, seems so at odds with the law Congress approved the previous December. Aiming to keep critics in both capitals off-balance, American and Indian officials have offered conflicting interpretations about whether — as the law demands, but the agreement fudges — the United States would cut off trade and fuel deliveries if the Indians test another nuclear weapon.

The resolution also instructs the administration to ensure that any change in the suppliers’ group rules be consistent with United States law. This would include adopting specific conditions that would require all member states to halt nuclear trade with India if New Delhi tests a weapon. And it would ban member states from transferring equipment that can make nuclear fuel for a reactor or a weapon.

If the suppliers’ group fails to set these conditions, it will be far too easy for New Delhi to do an end-run around Washington and buy technology and fuel from states that are even more eager to make a buck.

President Bush is right when he says that the United States needs to develop strong ties with democratic India. But he erred in making a nuclear deal the centerpiece of that relationship. And he erred by being so eager for a deal that sufficient thought wasn’t given to its implications. Now it’s up to Congress and other countries to try to limit the damage.


Mon, 03 Sep 2007 19:30:43 GMT

  The Politics of God     By MARK LILLA   I. “The Will of God Will Prevail”     The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong. An example: In May of last year, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran sent an open letter to President George W. Bush that was translated and published in newspapers around the world. Its theme was contemporary politics and its language that of divine revelation. After rehearsing a litany of grievances against American foreign policies, real and imagined, Ahmadinejad wrote, “If Prophet Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Joseph or Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) were with us today, how would they have judged such behavior?” This was not a rhetorical question. “I have been told that Your Excellency follows the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) and believes in the divine promise of the rule of the righteous on Earth,” Ahmadinejad continued, reminding his fellow believer that “according to divine verses, we have all been called upon to worship one God and follow the teachings of divine Prophets.” There follows a kind of altar call, in which the American president is invited to bring his actions into line with these verses. And then comes a threatening prophecy: “Liberalism and Western-style democracy have not been able to help realize the ideals of humanity. Today, these two concepts have failed. Those with insight can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems. . . . Whether we like it or not, the world is gravitating towards faith in the Almighty and justice and the will of God will prevail over all things.” This is the language of political theology, and for millennia it was the only tongue human beings had for expressing their thoughts about political life. It is primordial, but also contemporary: countless millions still pursue the age-old quest to bring the whole of human life under God’s authority, and they have their reasons. To understand them we need only interpret the language of political theology — yet that is what we find hardest to do. Reading a letter like Ahmadinejad’s, we fall mute, like explorers coming upon an ancient inscription written in hieroglyphics. The problem is ours, not his. A little more than two centuries ago we began to believe that the West was on a one-way track toward modern secular democracy and that other societies, once placed on that track, would inevitably follow. Though this has not happened, we still maintain our implicit faith in a modernizing process and blame delays on extenuating circumstances like poverty or colonialism. This assumption shapes the way we see political theology, especially in its Islamic form — as an atavism requiring psychological or sociological analysis but not serious intellectual engagement. Islamists, even if they are learned professionals, appear to us pr[...]

Karl Rove's tenure

Tue, 14 Aug 2007 18:13:53 GMT

      THERE is a paradox at the heart of Karl Rove’s tenure in the White House, and it is a key to understanding why he failed to remake American politics, despite ambitious plans to do so. In seeking to establish a lasting conservative majority, Mr. Rove violated one of the central tenets of modern conservative ideology: the idea that government cannot effectively refashion American society. For decades, conservatives have inveighed against what they consider to be the hubris of liberals — the belief that regulations, laws and bureaucrats can contend with deep cultural forces. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York senator and a chastened veteran of the Great Society, liked to warn about government overreach by citing Rossi’s Law, so named for the sociologist Peter Rossi, who had declared that “the expected value for any measured effect of a social program is zero.” Conservatives believe the Great Society programs that liberals pushed in the 1960s demonstrated that government engineering doesn’t work. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty failed, this critique goes, because liberals simply didn’t understand the limits of government’s power to transform culture. Whether or not one accepts Rossi’s Law, there can be little dispute that Mr. Rove pursued his vision of a new political order with the activist zeal of a 1960s Great Society liberal. From the outset of the Bush administration, Mr. Rove aimed to create a “permanent majority” for Republicans, just as Franklin Roosevelt did for Democrats in the 1930s, and as William McKinley and his campaign manager Mark Hanna — Mr. Rove’s hero — did for Republicans in the 1890s. As Mr. Rove sought a political realignment that would create a durable Republican majority, he seized on government as his chief mechanism. He tried to realign American politics principally through the pursuit of major initiatives that he believed would reorient a majority of Americans to the Republican Party: establishing education standards; rewriting immigration laws; partially privatizing Social Security and Medicare; and allowing religious organizations to receive government financing. The only thing that united these government actions was the likelihood that they would weaken political support for Democrats. Social Security privatization would create a generation of market-minded stockholders. Pork-barrel spending on religious organizations would keep evangelical Christians engaged in the political process — and pry loose some African-American voters by funneling money to black churches. No Child Left Behind would appeal to voters who traditionally looked to Democrats as the party of education. And generous immigration policies would persuade Hispanics to vote Republican. Mr. Rove’s entire vision for Republican realignment was premised on the notion that he could command government to produce the specific effects that he desired. But as a conservative could have predicted, his proposed policies unleashed a series of failures and unintended consequences. Mr. Rove had extraordinary power within the administration to shape domestic policy. But pushing through many of his programs proved difficult. On Social Security and immigration reform, Congress and the country weren’t prepared to embrace his vision. Like a 1960s liberal in love with the abstract merits of a guaranteed income, Mr. Rove misread the mood of the country and tried to do too much. Mr. Rove married a liberal’s faith in the potential of government to a conservative’s contempt for its actual functioning. This was the contradiction at the heart of “compassionate conservatism,” and it helps explain the tension between the president’s fine words about, sa[...]


Tue, 07 Aug 2007 20:31:39 GMT

  By Fred Weir | Moscow - Less than a week before presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin sit down for a heart-to-heart in Maine, the status of Kosovo is emerging as a primary sticking point in US-Russia relations. True, the tiny territory seized by NATO in a 1999 war lies far outside Moscow's claimed post-Soviet sphere of influence. But Russia's key concern, which it says the West is ignoring, is that granting independence to Kosovo will encourage a wave of imitators across the former USSR and beyond as well as boost the passions of Russian ultranationalists who dream of gathering pro-Russian minorities in neighboring states back under Moscow's sway. Kremlin opposition to a US-backed plan that would put the tiny Serbian province on the road to independence has grown so vociferous that experts say the dispute could stymie efforts to repair collapsing Russia-Western relations at the Putin-Bush summit. "Never since Hitler and the Western allies carved up Czechoslovakia at Munich in 1938 has a sovereign state been dismembered with the agreement of the international community, as the West is proposing to do with Serbia," says Nadezhda Arbatova, head of European studies at the official Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow. "Russia is asking the West to stop and think about the precedent they are setting. Kosovan independence might make life a little simpler for Europe, but they are opening Pandora's box for the rest of us." Statelets set to follow suit Last week, a group of four breakaway post-Soviet statelets – South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transdniestria, and Nagorno-Karabakh – signed a joint statement calling on the world community to "recognize the will" of their peoples for independence. Though Russia backed the emergence of those rebel territories, all four of which won wars of secession against their ex-Soviet parent states in the early 1990s, Moscow has never recognized their independence. Experts say that Russia, a multiethnic federation with an active separatist rebellion of its own in Chechnya, has good reasons to support the status quo. But the looming Kosovo verdict could tip the balance in favor of insurgent minorities, they warn. Moscow has threatened to veto the plan for independence if it's brought to the UN Security Council. But that would not necessarily prevent Kosovo from declaring independence, or the US and European countries from recognizing it. Many Western leaders seem exasperated by what they view as Russian stalling on the issue. "At some point, sooner than later, you've got to say enough is enough," Mr. Bush said in Italy on a recent European tour. "The question is whether or not there's going to be endless dialogue on a subject that we have made up our minds about. We believe Kosovo should be independent." Kosovo, an Albanian-majority province of about 2 million that Serbs consider the cradle of Serbian civilization, was the scene of a separatist war and brutal Serbian crackdown in the late 1990s. After reports of Serb-backed ethnic cleansing that may have killed up to 10,000 Albanians, NATO intervened, pummeled Serbia in a 78-day bombing campaign, and occupied Kosovo. The territory has since been administered by the UN, backed by some 16,000 NATO troops. West say Kosovo a unique case Western experts argue that Kosovo is a special case because of the genocide it experienced under Serb rule and the overwhelming desire of its population for independence. "There is no situation anywhere in the world that bears a resemblance to Kosovo," explained Daniel Fried, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eura[...]