Latino Sexual Oddysey

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Are two (Gay) games better than one?

Are two games better than one? By Bruce C. Steele

Copyright The Advocate, March 14, 2006

“Where ya from?” The achingly gruff voice of Harvey Fierstein echoed through Yankee Stadium as a parade of gay and lesbian athletes flowed ever so slowly around the field. The playwright and actor had been left on this grand stage without any lines, stranded on a dais constructed over the pitcher’s mound in front of thousands of spectators. So he was improvising. “Where ya from?” he yelled over and over. The athletes yelled back, and Harvey repeated into his microphone the bits and pieces he could make out.

Thus began the closing ceremony for 1994’s Gay Games IV. The organizers had cooked up the athletes’ grand entrance—which went on for a half hour or more—but hadn’t thought to provide any narration or means of identifying the competitors.

Harvey made the best of it, and his good-natured prodding has become an inside joke between my partner and me. “Where ya from?” we’ll fake-shout in our gruffest Harvey voices and laugh. No one else knows why this is funny. You had to be there.

We owe that souvenir to the Gay Games’ disarray. A more professionally produced event would have left no opportunity for Harvey’s bellowing. But since the Games moved from its San Francisco birthplace to Vancouver for the 1990 competition, it’s been a series of “let’s put on a show” events staged by a new crew in a new city every four years.

Each time, the nonprofit Federation of Gay Games selects a freshly assembled committee of planners and promoters. Then it offers advisory support as a bunch of neophytes learn from scratch how to put on an Olympic-size event. Since Vancouver, each local committee—in New York, in Amsterdam in 1998, and in Sydney in 2002—has had grand plans and hopes. And each has wound up tripping over an endless series of unanticipated hurdles and unable to swim its way out of a river of red ink.

For those of us in the stands or on the playing fields, these behind-the-scenes failures may have little or no impact on our enjoyment. For dedicated Games competitors, who loyally support every event, this issue’s cover line, “Saving the Games,” may seem harsh or flatly inaccurate. They come, they perform, and win or lose, they take home precious memories and medals. What’s to save?

Yet clearly something needs work when the drama gets so heated that Gay Games splits itself in two. Original 2006 host city Montreal, selected in 2001 but abandoned over financial disagreements in 2003, is going forward with Outgames, while the Federation of Gay Games hastily set up shop in Chicago. Are two games better than one?

We’ll soon know. Maybe this will be the year that organizers build institutional memory, learn from past mistakes, and guarantee the continuation of these competitions. But we can’t ignore the obvious: Two games are not better than one unless each flourishes in a way that no Gay Games has in at least 16 years.

Organizers in both Chicago and Montreal promise that will happen this summer. It could well be so: Both events are going full steam ahead, with ample sponsorship and upward of 10,000 athletes warming up (a symbolic three of whom The Advocate profiles in this issue). Let’s hope. In any case, I’m sure the vast majority of those athletes will have the time of their lives in Chicago and Montreal—wherever they’re from, and wherever each of these athletic events is headed in the future.

IL NOW Endorsement for the March 21st Primary Election

IL NOW Endorsement for the March 21st Primary Election

Endorsements by the IL NOW PAC, and congressional candidates recommended for endorsement by IL NOW PAC to National NOW PAC are listed below. The list is limited to contested primaries. If you have any questions or concerns about any candidates in your area, then please contact Bonnie Grabenhofer at or Susan Bramlet Lavin

Please, volunteer to help in a campaign. Let the volunteer coordinator know you are from NOW, and do all you can to help them win!

US House – Recommended to National NOW/PAC for Endorsement

John Sullivan D-3

John Haptonstall D-5

Christine Cegelis D-6

Bill Reedy D-13

Danny Stover D-19

Danny Davis D-7


Rod Blagojevich D-Governor

Alexi Giannoulias D-Treasurer

IL Senate

Michael Bond D-31

Don Harmon D-39

IL House

William “Willie” Delgado D-3

Karen Yarbrough D-7

Richard Bradley D-40

Kim Savage D-82

Cook County Board

Forrest Claypool Board President

Early Voting Starts this Year!

Did a late meeting, important phone call, or traffic jams ever keep you from voting on Election Day? It doesn’t have to happen again! Starting this year, Illinois voters can cast their ballots before Election Day at 21 Chicago locations and throughout the suburbs.

This year, Illinois initiates an “early voting” program that allows voters to cast ballots during an 18-day period prior to the election. Early voting runs from February 27 through March 16. Chicago early voting hours are from 9 am to 5 pm daily, from 9 am to noon on Saturdays and Sundays, and from 9 am to noon on March 6, Casmir Pulaski Day. You do not need a reason to vote early, but you must present a government issued picture ID.

In Chicago, voters may cast their ballots at 69 West Washington or at any of 20 other locations throughout the city. To insure you receive the correct ballot, be sure you know your ward and precinct. For a full list of early voting locations and addresses, see

Early Voting makes voting more convenient for busy voters like you. Take advantage of it.

What: Early Voting for March 21st 2006 Primary Election

When: Feb 27 through March 16, 2006, 9 am to 5 pm, Mon – Fri, and 9 am to noon, Sat – Sun

Where: 69 W. Washington and 20 additional locations throughout the city

Bring: picture ID, ward and precinct (see your voter registration card)

Questions: For Chicago, see ; for the suburbs, see


Grace Period Registration and Voting

Regular voter registration ended February 21, 2006. Did you move and forget to register to vote? Did you turn 18 and just now realize you haven’t yet registered. Well, don’t worry! You have can still register to vote! Starting this year, "grace-period registration and voting ", extends the regular registration deadline by 14 days. This allows you to register up to two weeks before the March 21st primary election.

Grace-period registration runs from February 22 through March 7, 2006. There are limitations on when and where you can register and vote:

· There is only one place to register to vote during the grace-period. Unregistered voters must sign up to vote in person at the County Clerk's downtown Chicago office: 69 W. Washington St., Room 500. You must present two pieces of identification to register.

· Grace-period voters must vote absentee. You can vote in person at the Clerk's downtown office immediately after signing up to vote, of you can receive an absentee ballot by mail, complete it at home, and return to the Clerk's office before Election Day.

· Grace-period registrants are prohibited from voting at the polls on Election Day, March 21st, 2006 and are prohibited from voting at any early voting site.

If you missed the February 21 deadline, this is a great chance to make it up. Don’t be deterred, your vote counts, and you owe it to yourself to register and participate in the electoral process.

What: Grace-period registration and voting

When: Feb 22nd through March 7th, 2006

Where: 69 W. Washington St. Room 500 ONLY

Bring: Two pieces of ID

Questions: For more on grace-period registration, see .

The way of the cross or the way that "just has to stand it." That choice is up to you.

2 Kings 2:1-12; Psalm 50:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Saint Mark 9:2-9

In nomine Jesu!

They had no expectations atop that mountain ? not of vision, not of mystery, not of change. Up there all would be routine, "normal" ? normal as they always knew it; normal as their "people" always knew it ? normal, except that they would be together on the mountain, by its streams and in its coolness, high above their drab and arid home down on "the plain." They had no expectations as they climbed up on the mountain, except that they would be together. Un-expecting, unprepared up on that mountain, they were terrified, yet they longed to remain there together. They were repulsed, yet compelled to return. Worse than that, they could not tell what had happened. They could not tell what had changed in "the other" nor admit what had changed in themselves. Worse than that, they could not let what had happened, what had changed, what was different ? they could not let their great "mountaintop experience" ? affect how they lived on the plain. "If you can't fix it, you've got to stand it."

Those words ? "If you can?t fix it, you?ve got to stand it" ? the last words of Annie Proulx? short story, Brokeback Mountain and the awards winning movie of the same name, have become a kind of mantra for all too many of us today. Whether it?s a dead end job or no job at all; whether we?re thinking globally, nationally or familially, these are words of surrender, of wounded relationships, battered hopes and shattered dreams; of helpless resignation and the frustrating paralysis of our very souls. "No matter what I know, no matter what I think, no matter what I believe, no matter what I do, nothing is going to change." Poet and theologian Martin Franzmann called this kind of life "an aimless mote, a deathward drift from futile birth." For all too many of us, these words ring true.

When Peter, James and John ascended the mountain with Jesus, they had a mountaintop experience; a vision of who they were and what they could and would really be. So did Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist on Brokeback Mountain. And just like Ennis and Jack ? although for entirely different reasons ? they could tell no one of what had happened, and so what happened made no difference and so nothing of substance could change. They couldn?t fix it, they had to stand it. How often do you feel the same?

There is no shortage, I think, of mountaintop experiences, of potential life-changing encounters with what is good and best and beautiful, of what is possible for our lives. My own mountaintop experience comes nearly every Sunday as I behold us gathering together for worship, for community, for the sake of one another; as this "communion of diverse individuals and communities" sings and prays and eats and drinks and laughs and cries together, a band of decidedly unique individuals with often mutually exclusive thoughts and behavior, transformed together into the vibrant, loving, caring, exuberant Body of the Christ. It is here that I understand Martin Luther King words, "I have been to the mountaintop! I have seen the Promised Land," because I?ve glimpsed it and I?ve heard it and foretasted it with you. And I know that happens to all of us, if not when we worship, then in some other, more personal, way.

And that is why that sentence, "If you can?t fix it, you?ve got to stand it," and the surrender that stands behind it grates so powerfully on me because I can?t believe God gives us these visions, these mountaintop experiences, without also giving us the will and power and courage to change.

From Brokeback Mountain, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist came down alone. They went their separate ways, they lived with hollow lives and broken dreams. They came back to the mountain in order to escape from those lives, not in order to change them.

From the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James and John came down together, with Jesus. And though they could not tell the vision, they were shown how their lives would change. They went with Jesus, and saw the way of transfiguration. They went with Jesus and found the way of the cross. And after he had risen from the dead, they no longer had to just stand it; they had the hope and the courage and the vision and the power to change. They turned the whole world upside down!

Today, with Peter, James and John, in the presence of Jesus, we ascend to the mountaintop, we behold the vision; we glimpse our bright future; and we taste of the feast that is yet to come. With Peter, James and John ? as with Ennis and Jack on the mountain ? it is good for us to be here.

Yet we cannot remain.

We have been to the mountaintop! We have seen the Promised Land.

There is a choice for us in what follows. There is always a choice, no matter which was the mountaintop, when we come back down to the plain. We can go it alone, as did Jack and Ennis. We can go it alone like proud, self-reliant, self-sufficient Americans, and just stand it, all the drabness, all the dullness, all the injustice in our world and our lives. Then come back to the mountain as they did, for escape, for refreshment, and for all that is really real.

Or we can come from the mountain with Jesus, with Peter and James and John, and with each other, and because we live after Christ?s rising, we can turn the whole world upside down.

The way of the cross or the way that "just has to stand it." That choice is up to you.

Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter?s Church
In the City of New York

Copyright to

`Dude, where's my president?' I want a leader who knows when a product isn't selling

`Dude, where's my president?'
I want a leader who knows when a product isn't selling

Ruben Navarrette Jr
Washington Post Writers Group
Published February 3, 2006 Copyright by the Chicago Tribune

SAN DIEGO -- Before the State of the Union address, I heard a commentator say that what President Bush needed to do was remind Americans why they voted for him.

I don't need reminding. I remember what I liked about Bush. My first impression was that he was honest and straightforward, trustworthy and plain-spoken.

Now--with phantom weapons of mass destruction and phony promises about how the federal government would rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina--those qualities seem to be in short supply.

The one thing Bush always had going for him--and it served him well in two elections--was that he came across as someone who said what he meant and meant what he said.

These days, if you don't like what he says, you can stay tuned and, in a few days, he might say something totally different.

For instance, the administration claims it doesn't need congressional permission or new legislation to engage in domestic spying. But according to The Washington Post, Justice Department lawyers drafted legislation in 2003 that--along with strengthening the USA Patriot Act--would have provided a legal justification for the administration's eavesdropping program.

During his first presidential campaign, Bush projected the image of someone who'd be just as happy if he lost the race and had to go back to the ranch in Crawford, Texas. Now, with the domestic spying fiasco, he's projecting a different image--someone who is not only hungry for the power of the executive branch, but nibbling on the legislative and judicial.

Bush gives a speech talking about how U.S. Border Patrol agents should lay off hardworking immigrants trying to support their families and instead focus on smugglers and other hardened criminals. Then he stands before an assembly of Border Patrol agents insisting that we're a nation of laws and anyone who wants to immigrate here must do so legally.

All this has me scratching my head and wondering: "Dude, where's my president?" Can't the guy make up his mind as to what he really believes, instead of trying to please everyone?

It's no wonder that, according to several recent polls, the number of Americans who still consider Bush honest and trustworthy has fallen to below 40 percent.

What many Americans do consider Bush to be is stubborn. In fact, an AP/Ipsos poll conducted in November found that 82 percent of respondents used that word to describe him.

I like my presidents to be steadfast. I'm no fan of flip-flopping, which is why Al Gore and John Kerry gave me the creeps.

But I also want people who know when a product isn't selling--like the Harriet Miers nomination or Bush's plan to offer at least a temporary amnesty to illegal immigrants--and then are willing to go in another direction.

During his speech, Bush showed again why that's so hard for him to do. After promising that he would seek Congress' advice, he was careful to draw a distinction between "responsible criticism" and "defeatism."

"Hindsight alone is not wisdom," he said. "And second-guessing is not a strategy."

Maybe not. But a leader who learns from his mistakes is so much more appealing than one who has difficulty choking out an acknowledgment that he ever erred.

Maybe Bush needs a personal trainer to show him how to digest crow. If so, I have the perfect candidate.

Last month, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered his State of the State address. Having taken a beating in November's special election in which four Arnold-backed initiatives were defeated, the big guy put it out there:

"I've thought a lot about the last year," Schwarzenegger said, "and the mistakes I made and the lessons I've learned."

He said he had "absorbed my defeat" and that the people "sent a clear message--cut the warfare, cool the rhetoric, find common ground and fix the problems together." Then he said to the people of California: "Message received."

Saying California must keep pace with its population growth, Schwarzenegger then unveiled something that he would never have suggested in his first days in office: a $222 billion, 10-year plan to rebuild the state's infrastructure.

Republicans were furious. Democrats were stunned. And I have to believe that a lot of Californians were flat-out impressed.

Imagine a politician admitting he was wrong and then trying to make it right. Americans don't often see that and, lately, they haven't seen much of it from President Bush.


Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a syndicated columnist based in San Diego. E-mail:

US Coast Guard warned on Dubai ports deal

US Coast Guard warned on Dubai ports deal
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Published: February 28 2006 00:19 | Last updated: February 28 2006 00:19. Copyright by the Financial Times

The US Coast Guard warned before Dubai Ports World was given clearance to take over five US port terminals that “intelligence gaps” about the company made it impossible to assess whether the deal posed any threats to national security, according to a document released by the Senate on Monday.

The revelation raises new questions about why the Bush administration did not pursue an intensive, formal investigation before the transaction was approved.

A little-known statute requires all acquisitions of US assets by a foreign company to be investigated for 45 days if the group is state-controlled and the transaction “could affect” national security.

A Coast Guard official on Monday assured lawmakers at a Senate hearing that the concerns, raised in an undated Coast Guard memo, had been addressed by DP World by the time the committee that vets foreign takeovers of foreign transactions, or Cfius, approved the deal.

The assertion was challenged by Republican Senator Susan Collins and later by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, who said the memo vindicated lawmakers’ opposition to the deal. “We need to know why Homeland Security objected and then backed off their objection, given this devastating report,” Mr Schumer said.

The memo said intelligence gaps included questions about the “security environment” at all of DP World’s terminal operations, and the backgrounds of all DP World personnel.

Most Republican lawmakers’ concerns about deal were assuaged - temporarily at least - over the weekend, after DP World offered to voluntarily submit its bid to further scrutiny.

But news that the Coast Guard had reservations about its ability to review the deal on available intelligence underscores the precarious position President George W Bush faces following his staunch defence of the deal last week. Under current law, Mr Bush will have the final say on whether the DP World transaction should go forward after the 45 day investigation is completed.

Monday, February 27, 2006

It's Time to Impeach President Bush

By Carlos T Mock

President Bush invaded Iraq three years ago looking for weapons of mass destruction. When he found none, he said that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant that needed to be removed, even though there are worse tyrants in the world than Saddam Hussein—just look at North Korea or Iran—and we still engage them in diplomacy rather than unprovoked war. Then you have claims that US troops have killed more innocent Iraqi civilians in three years than Saddam did in all his years of power...

Mr. Bush’ “argument” then shifted to “The spread of Democracy in the region as the only way to combat terrorism.” But when the results of a true democracy in the Middle East brought Hamas to power in Palestine, America withdrew all financial aid from the Palestinians because their democracy was not beneficial to US interests.

So why don't we do the sensible thing and admit that we made a mistake, we have no right to be in Iraq, they do not want democracy, and just leave? Mr. Bush claims that it would bring civil war to the country. “We must stay the course.”

Today’s (February 23, 2006) Financial Times front headlines read: “Civil War Feared in Iraq after Mosque Bombings”. Two bombs ripped through one of Iraq’s most famous Shia religious shrines, sparking retaliatory attacks and deepening fears that the country was slipping into civil war.

What will the Bush Administration say now?

Who cares?

I say impeach Mr. Bush, try him for war crimes, and get America out of Iraq before we shed more American blood for absolutely no good reason.

'Black/brown coalition' tests political waters

'Black/brown coalition' tests political waters

February 27, 2006

BY LAURA WASHINGTON. Copyright by the Chicago Sun Times

We all know New Orleans was meant to be a chocolate city. If Chicago Democratic Congressmen Jesse L. Jackson Jr. and Luis Gutierrez have their way, Chicago will thrive as a mochachino city. Hot coffee, sweet chocolate and steaming milk sound like the recipe for Chicago's body politic. One of the city's best-kept secrets is that its voter pool is now majority minority. At least 56 percent of the city's voting-age population is black or Latino, according to the latest census. South Sider Jackson and Gutierrez, of the Northwest Side, have teamed up to erect a "black/brown coalition."

Joy Cunningham is their inaugural project. They've already picked a winner. Cunningham is running in the March 21 primary for a seat on the Illinois Appellate Court. She is the only person of color in a five-way race. A la Barack Obama, she boasts exquisite credentials: Cunningham is general counsel for Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a former Cook County judge, assistant attorney general, appellate court clerk, and former president of the Chicago Bar Association. She should be a slam dunk. Yet, a la Obama, and many other minority candidates, she wasn't slated by the Democratic Party. The bosses favor candidates who are loyal to the party, not to the people. Sometimes, it seems, only hacks need apply.

The campaign has peppered the landscape of Chicago's black and Latino neighborhoods -- and the south suburbs -- with more than 160 billboards. Some sport super-size photos of the newly svelte Jackson, Gutierrez and Cunningham. Others feature Cunningham, Jackson and his protege, the Rev. James Meeks, a South Side state senator and Baptist pastor.

While Cunningham says she is "flattered" to have their support, she does not condone their spin. "I have put together a much, much wider base of support than just black/brown. My endorsements come from a broad spectrum of constituencies." She notes backing from an array of Chicago's top business executives, labor unions, gays and lesbians, as well as other elected officials from Rep. Jan Schakowsky to Rep. Danny K. Davis.

I'm all for the black and brown. It's time for blacks and browns to take charge of their political destinies. It's time to stop playing Step'n Fetchit to a party whose agenda doesn't mirror our own.

To be sure, black/brown is not only politically expedient. It's a natural alliance with socio-cultural roots. Take the current exhibit at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Pilsen. "The African Presence in Mexico" showcases a "missing chapter in Mexican history that highlights the African contributions to Mexican culture" over 500 years.

The next election is not the ultimate end game for the Jackson/Gutierrez experiment. Both of them are running unopposed in their own re-election efforts. Both are mulling challenges to Mayor Daley. They are sitting on a bounty of political capital that could build the base they'll need to have a prayer of defeating Daley in 2007.

The last time black and Latino voters coalesced around serious political business was in 1983, when a coalition of blacks, progressive whites and Latinos elected Harold Washington as the city's first African-American mayor on a reform agenda.

Discontent is simmering again. Jackson and Gutierrez claim many of their constituents are fed up with a City Hall that is virtually paralyzed with corruption scandals. They argue Daley has neglected the neighborhoods. "It's been 20 years since a black/brown coalition has been tested on the ballot," Jackson says.

Daley critics can talk up a reform coalition. They can pray on it. But can they deliver? Maria de los Angeles Torres is agnostic on that question. Coalition-building, she notes, is about more than appearances -- it's about issues, says Torres, a top aide to Harold Washington and now director of the Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "A content-driven coalition is more durable, more sustainable. It retains a certain level of accountability," she said.

Billboards aside, Cunningham has a strong shot. Still, if she wins, Jackson and Gutierrez will take the credit, and Gutierrez will anoint a Latino candidate for the next go-round. Right now, a compelling black/brown coalition should be putting together a multi-racial "Dream Ticket" of citywide and aldermanic candidates poised to attack the status quo. The 2006 mayoral primary is scheduled exactly one year from today. There will come a time -- and soon -- when the boys will have to decide who will be Numero Uno. If both run for mayor, black and brown will go down.

Primary is in March, but you can vote today

Primary is in March, but you can vote today

February 27, 2006

BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter. Copyright by the Chicago Sun Times

It's not a trick. There's no catch.

Beginning today, you can vote in the March 21 primary.

Simple as that.

Early voting has come to Illinois and will allow voters to cast an early ballot until March 16.

It's a way, supporters say, to vote at your convenience and probably avoid long lines to vote.

You'll also likely be able to avoid a deluge of poll workers hoping to grab your attention or hand you paraphernalia as you make your way into a voting site.

"I think people are going to like it," said Cook County Clerk David Orr, who pushed to introduce early voting to Illinois. "I just don't know how long it will take to really have a dramatic impact ... it might take awhile before the public really understands it."

Voting begins today at dozens of locations across Cook County and dozens more sites throughout the collar counties.

Concerns about fraud

The new provision eliminates the need for absentee voting for most, since you don't need to provide a reason to vote early, as you do when voting by absentee ballot.

Any suburban Cook County voter can cast a ballot at the county clerk's downtown office, but other suburban voters must vote in their hometown, likely at a village or city hall.

But in Chicago, any registered voter can vote at any precinct.

"That's very empowering for voters," said Chicago Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal. "It allows voters to take control of the voting process."

Ballots won't be tallied until March 21, but clerks will keep a daily record of who has voted -- adding some prevention to those looking to vote early and often.

Still, last week, the Better Government Association, League of Women Voters of Illinois and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform each cautioned election officials to be vigilant about fraud.

"Giving voters more opportunities to vote is a good thing," said the BGA's Jay Stewart. "But more opportunities to vote also means more opportunities for fraud."

Stewart said "the integrity of the ballot should be just as strongly guarded on early voting days as the traditional voting day."

Orr said with early voters having to present ID and vote in person, chances of fraud are lessened.


Beginning today and continuing through March 16, Illinois voters can cast ballots for the March 21 primary at the following locations. You must show valid ID. Chicago voters can vote early at any site, while suburban Cook County voters can vote either in their hometown or the downtown clerk's office. Other county rules and voting hours vary, and some offer weekend voting, so call ahead or click on your election office Web site.

Suburban Cook County: Cook County clerk's downtown Chicago office; every suburban city hall, township hall and the county clerk's offices in Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood, Markham and Bridgeview.

Chicago: Board of Elections, 69 W. Washington; Engine 26, 10 N. Leavitt Ave.; King Community Center, 4314 S. Cottage Grove Ave., 3rd District Police Station, 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave., Olive-Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn Ave.; South Chicago Learning Center, 3055 E. 92nd St.; McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing Rd.; West Lawn Park, 4233 W. 65th St.; Archer Heights Library, 5055 S. Archer Ave.; 6th District Police Station, 7808 S. Halsted St.; 22nd District Police Station, 1900 W. Monterey Ave.; Piotrowski Park, 4247 W. 31st St.; West Side Learning Center, 4624 W. Madison St.; Amundsen Park, 6200 W. Bloomingdale Ave.; Mozart Park, 2036 N. Avers St.; Pulaski Park, 1419 W. Blackhawk St.; Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett Ave.; North Park Village Apt. Administration Building, 5801 N. Pulaski Rd.; Norwood Park, 5801 N. Natoma Ave.; Welles Park, 2333 W. Sunnyside Ave.; Warren Park, 6601 N. Western Ave.

Kane County: Kane County clerk's office; Batavia and Elgin city halls; Carpentersville, Gilberts, Montgomery, North Aurora, South Elgin, West Dundee, Aurora, Dundee, Elgin, Rutland and St. Charles township offices.

Aurora: Aurora Election Commission.

DuPage County: Addison Township Office; Bartlett Community Center; Bloomingdale Golf Club; Downers Grove Village Hall; DuPage County Election Commission; Glen Ellyn Civic Center; Lisle Township assessor's office; Naperville Municipal Center; Winfield Township office; York Township office.

McHenry County: McHenry County Building; Algonquin, Grafton, McHenry and Nunda township offices.

Will County: Will County clerk's office; Braidwood and Naperville city halls; Beecher, Bolingbrook, Frankfort, Homer Glen, Manhattan, Minooka, Mokena, Monee, New Lenox, Park Forest, Plainfield, Romeoville, Steger, Tinley Park and University Park village halls; Crete, Homer and Lockport township offices.

Lake County: Antioch, Avon, Benton, Cuba, Ela, Fremont, Grant, Lake Villa, Libertyville, Moraine, Shields, Vernon, Warren, Wauconda, West Deerfield and Zion township offices; Antioch, Buffalo Grove, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lindenhurst and Vernon Hills village halls.

Canadian priests oppose Vatican ban on gay clergy

Canadian priests oppose Vatican ban on gay clergy - Copyright The Advocate

In the strongest internal opposition yet to the Catholic Church's official stance on homosexuality, 19 Canadian priests publicly criticized the Vatican's new ban on gay clergy. In their open letter published in the Montreal newspaper La Presse this weekend, the priests also condemned the Church's view that being gay is a "disorder," and requested a new dialogue on the issue among clergy in Quebec, reports The Gazette in Montreal.

"There is no reason for the ban on homosexual men from entering the priesthood," Raymond Gravel, a priest from Joliette who signed the letter, told The Gazette. He said that the Vatican's invocation of "natural law" to support its antigay position was not legitimate, because the Church has been wrong on issues related to "the mysteries of life" before, as it is now.

The priest added that the Church was contributing to homophobia with its views, and that he and his fellow signatories could no longer stay silent about it.

The letter comes in response not only to the Vatican's recent directive that forbids gay men from serving as priests, but also to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' recently announced opposition to same-sex marriage. Neither the Vatican nor the Conference has commented on the letter. (

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Time for (ILLINOIS) Legislature to pass medical marijuana bill

Time for (ILLINOIS) Legislature to pass medical marijuana bill

February 25, 2006


On Feb. 15, the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to pass the Illinois Medical Cannabis Act. As a physician and former director of mental health with the Illinois Department of Human Services, I commend the committee for its leadership and urge the full Senate and House to pass this sensible, humane -- and popular -- legislation as quickly as possible.

The bill, introduced by Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and co-sponsored by Senators Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) and Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), would allow medically ill patients to obtain marijuana -- cannabis -- for medicinal use with the recommendation of their doctor. Illinois led this effort in 1978 when it became the second state to pass a Cannabis Control Act permitting limited medical use. That law was never fully implemented, and administrative rules to guide implementation are lacking.

Medicinal use of cannabis has a history dating back thousands of years. Today patients use it for a variety of serious and debilitating medical conditions: to stimulate appetite in cancer and AIDS; to relieve nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy; to alleviate the chronic pain and muscle spasticity of multiple sclerosis; to reduce intraocular pressure in glaucoma, and for many other medical conditions, including some involving anxiety and mood disturbances. There is no reason to subject such patients to criminal prosecution for cannabis use if their doctor believes it will help them.

California passed the first effective medical cannabis law in 1996, and 11 states have similar statutes. Despite the federal ban on possession of marijuana, states are within their rights to stop arresting people who use cannabis medicinally. Because federal authorities make only 1 percent of all U.S. marijuana arrests, state medical cannabis laws effectively provide 99 percent protection for bona fide patients. Rhode Island passed the most recent medical cannabis law in January, and 10 states are considering similar bills.

Experience in other states shows that fears raised by medical cannabis opponents are unfounded. Opponents argue that medical cannabis laws send the wrong message to young people, potentially contributing to teen use. But nationwide, adolescent marijuana use has decreased since 1996, when California passed its law. And a recent study by Dr. Mitch Earleywine at State University of New York in Albany showed that trends in teenage marijuana use have been slightly more favorable in the medical cannabis states than nationwide.

Illinois adults and teens know that compassionate treatment of sick people and health care that respects consumer choice and the doctor-patient relationship are not ''the wrong message.'' They recognize that criminalizing patients for their health-care choices is wrong.

Last year, White House officials descended upon Illinois with a misinformation campaign and intimidation tactics to block the Illinois Medical Cannabis Act. Fortunately, 1,000 Illinois physicians have expressed support for patient access to cannabis on a medicinal basis under a physician's care. But federal authorities chant a mantra of ''no medical value and harmfulness'' that ignores patient experience and the findings of their own reviews.

In 1999, a White House-commissioned Institute of Medicine report declared that, ''Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety . . . all can be mitigated by marijuana.'' And in 2002, a Canadian Senate committee concluded that ''there are clear . . . indications of the therapeutic benefits of marijuana."

Other countries' experts have reached similar conclusions, but U.S. federal policy defies both science and common sense in favor of ideology. Patient reports attest to the therapeutic value of cannabis, and rigorous scientific studies emerging from other countries are confirming age-old clinical observations. If there are too few controlled experimental studies to gain federal medicinal approval in the United States, it is not because cannabis has no medical value but because federal leadership has consistently blocked studies of marijuana as medicine. Federally approved studies are limited to those that search for ill effects from marijuana.

Until federal law comes into the 21st century, states will have to take the lead in protecting patients. By encouraging our legislators to support patient access to cannabis on a physician's recommendation, the people of Illinois can stand with those in other states who have chosen not to criminalize patients. Illinois law enforcement need not do the dirty work of a politicized federal bureaucracy afflicted with ''reefer madness.''

With a newly released statewide poll showing that Illinois voters back medical marijuana legislation more than 2-1, our legislators are empowered to do the right thing. They are empowered to send the right message.

Dr. Christopher G. Fichtner is associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Chicago and medical adviser for IDEAL Reform, a nonprofit organization supporting patient access to medicinal cannabis under a physician's care.

Financial Times Editorial - Bush badly needs a port in this storm

Bush badly needs a port in this storm
Published: February 25 2006 02:00 | Last updated: February 25 2006 02:00. Copyright by the Financial Times

The storm over the purchase of US port facilities by a Dubai government-owned operator has temporarily abated. Dubai Ports World, which acquired the terminal operations by buying UK-based P&O, has postponed taking control of the facilities while the Bush administration tries to convince Congress it has not opened a breach in US defences against terrorism.

It is the FT's view that this needless uproar is more about protectionist politicians posturing and Arab-phobia than about security. But it is also, undeniably, evidence of how George W. Bush has lost his political touch. Some Republicans seeking re-election this year regard association with the president as about as welcome as a hunting invitation from Dick Cheney.

That revolt started last autumn. The administration's bungled response to the Hurricane Katrina emergency, along with the fiasco over Mr Bush's failure to get Harriet Miers, a close aide with no track record as a judge, on to the Supreme Court, suddenly threw into high relief policy failures from Iraq to Social Security reform.

Some of Mr Bush's cheerleaders now openly wonder what it was they saw in him. Reaganite conservatives see him as an impostor who smuggled Big Government back into the White House.

Whatever the intrinsic merits of the Dubai Ports case, moreover, the president has been hoist on the petard of his own overblown anti-terror rhetoric. This White House has so impugned the integrity and patriotism of anyone dissenting from its view of the "global war on terror" that sooner or later it was going to be GWOT-ed itself. The pity of it is that the administration is right to defend the ports deal.

As it deployed officials to mollify Congress this week, the Bush team also felt the backlash from its high-handed treatment of the legislature and its expansive view of executive power. It is not yet clear, furthermore, whether its reasonable exposition will make the ports controversy better or worse.

Gordon England, for example, former navy secretary and now deputy defence secretary, pointed out that the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is part) last year made its ports available to 56 US warships and 590 military sealift command ships. This hitherto closely held information underlines the strategic value of the US relationship with the UAE. But will it lead the bipartisan coalition blustering about the Dubai Ports takeover ("outsourcing our coastline") to fold its case in the interests of security? Or will it produce further outbursts of jingoistic indignation about the subcontracting of US defence to dodgy Arab allies?

Longer term, the Dubai Ports furore raises fears that the misadventures of the Bush years are leading towards isolationism and protectionism - trends far from restricted to the right. Embedded in there somewhere is a strain of xenophobia that cannot become a guiding element of US foreign policy.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Only by reshaping the postwar settlement can it be preserved

Only by reshaping the postwar settlement can it be preserved
By Philip Stephens
Published: February 24 2006 02:00 | Last updated: February 24 2006 02:00. Copyright by the Financial Times

We have been well served by the panoply of international institutions created since the end of the second world war. The multilateral system has been decisive in limiting conflicts and in spreading prosperity. For all the tyranny, poverty and casual brutality still around us, the advance on to a global stage of the rule of law has been history's most powerful civilising force.

Casting a glance at today's politicians, it is impossible not to admire the vision of the generation of postwar leaders who saw well beyond the boundaries of narrow national interest. "The Creation" eloquently described by Dean Acheson, the former US secretary of state, was not quite as neat and orderly as it seems in retrospect. But these were political giants alongside today's pygmies.

Nations are more interdependent than ever. Even the US, the most powerful the world has seen, has discovered, albeit belatedly, that hegemony does not bestow omnipotence. I heard Donald Rumsfeld remark the other day: "There is nothing important in the world that we [the US] can do alone." How different things might have been if the US defence secretary had shown such laudable realism a little earlier.

For all that, yesterday's global architecture does not always fit today's world. In some instances, institutions created over the past six decades have outlived their usefulness. Others have struggled to adjust to the end of the cold war. Elsewhere, as we saw last year in the failed attempt to secure radical reform of the United Nations, the interests of incumbents seem to clash with those of aspirants as the world's rising powers challenge the old order.

For all its manifest flaws - more often the fault of governments than its bureaucracy - the UN remains the essential source of international legitimacy. There is much to be done to streamline its myriad agencies and, vitally, to widen permanent membership of the Security Council. It will take too long. But if the UN did not exist we would have to invent it.

The same cannot be said of all the postwar institutions. Earlier this week, Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, called for a radical overhaul of the International Monetary Fund, one of the twin pillars of the Bretton Woods system. The IMF was long seen as guardian of the global economic system. Overall, though not invariably, its influence has been relatively benign. Now it has been overtaken by events.

Its oversight of a fixed rate exchange rate system passed into history with the advent of floating currencies. In an era of free capital flows, the markets force miscreant governments back into line. Nor is there a place any longer for the big lending programmes once used to advance IMF orthodoxies in the developing world. Yet the Fund, with its expensive bureaucracy and a power structure decades out of date, plods along as if nothing much has changed. Mr King wants it redesigned (and, by implication, greatly slimmed down). Global markets, he says, still need rules and the huge imbalances in the world economy demand governments pay closer heed to the wider impact of national policies.

A more ruthless approach would close it down. The Fund's remaining functions could be largely transferred to forums such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. If sentimentality demands the IMF nameplate be preserved, it should be as the badge for a small secretariat serving a new club to replace the present Group of Eight nations.

The G8 was originally conceived as a forum for fireside chats between leaders of big western democracies. It has been left behind by political and economic change. This year its summit will be chaired by Vladimir Putin. Needless to say, democracy and the rule of law are not overly high on the Russian president's agenda.

True, Russia is still excluded when finance ministers of the other seven nations meet to discuss the world economy and exchange rates. But so too are China, India and the other rising economic powers whose decisions are central to the overall stability of the economic system. If a serious effort is to be made to tackle economic imbalances these countries must have a seat at the table.

Suggest this to policymakers and they will shake their heads. It is all too difficult. The old powers will always refuse to give way to the new - witness the deadlock over expansion of the Security Council. Better, the policymakers sigh, to make ad hoc adjustments to existing organisations and to build new, informal groupings alongside them.

Things anyway, they will add, are not that bad. Negotiations with Iran about its nuclear programme have seen India and Germany join the five permanent Security Council members in an informal group. Nato has extended its reach beyond Europe. And, for all its present crisis of confidence, the European Union has expanded eastwards.

All true. But the process of twisting and manipulating existing institutions to changed circumstance has limits. Someone said to me the other day that the US administration wants Nato to abandon entirely its geographical remit and throw open its doors to Japan, Australia and the like. As it happens, I can see a case for a new, security-orientated organisation. But it would not be called Nato.

Globalisation should be a friend to multilateralism. Interdependence increases the value of the public goods that flow from international institutions. But it does not always seem so. Governments who see their authority under threat from the erosion of national borders become more reluctant to cede even notional sovereignty to global organisations. Too often, multilateralism is viewed, wrongly, as a zero-sum game in which a gain for one player must imply losses for others.

Nor should we blithely assume that economic interdependence has inoculated the world against national rivalries. History teaches us that economic self-interest is a feeble shield against nationalist passions - witness the current state of relations between, say, China and Japan.

All these tensions are magnified by the growing sense among the world's rising powers that the founders of the clubs - above all, of course, the US - are intent on excluding them. Yet the system will survive only if the outsiders, most obviously China and India, but others too such as Brazil and South Africa, are given an appropriate stake. Power, if you like, in return for allegiance. The way to safeguard the postwar settlement is to reshape it fundamentally.

Financial Times Editorial - Iraq's future hit by a perfectly aimed blow

Iraq's future hit by a perfectly aimed blow
Published: February 24 2006 02:00 | Last updated: February 24 2006 02:00. Copyright by the Financial Times

The bombing of the al-Askari shrine in Samarra on Wednesday was a well- aimed blow designed to tip Iraq over the edge into a full-blown sectarian war between Sunni and Shia Muslims. So perfectly aimed, in fact, that there is a real danger it will succeed.

Until this week, there had been signs that the tide was turning against the ultra-violent jihadi wing of the overwhelmingly Sunni insurgency - most personified by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his local franchise of al-Qaeda - which was explicitly targeting the Shia in an attempt to start a civil war that would suck in Shia Iran and Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbours.

More mainstream insurgent groups - nationalist or neo-Ba'athist, tribal or Sunni supremacist - had in some cases turned against the jihadis, wary of their extremism and increasingly indiscriminate violence. Reports of shoot-outs between insurgent groups and jihadis had recently multiplied. If even half of them were true, the jihadis had reason to feel dismay.

Their tactical solution is classic. By destroying a shrine the Shia hold in particular reverence, they aim to polarise Iraq irrevocably between Shia and Sunni, and stampede everyone back into their sectarian ghettoes. The Sunnis, in this reasoning, will have to reunite if they all face being shot against the same wall anyway. In recent memory, this logic was employed by all sides in the Lebanese civil war and the wars of the Yugoslav succession. Unfortunately, it works.

Indeed, arguably the most remarkable feature of the Iraqi conflict is how the Shia have resisted being drawn into open warfare despite escalating provocations that have killed them in hundreds and then thousands. That stoic restraint may now have ended.

The Shia did not respond to the murder of their leaders, attacks on their pilgrims and markets, even the destruction of their mosques. But the importance of the golden-domed al-Askari shrine cannot be overstated. It housed the tombs of the 10th and 11th Shia imams, direct descendants of the Prophet Mohammed and grandfather and father to the 12th and last "hidden imam", who "disappeared" around 939 and, in Shia belief, survives supernaturally until he returns at the end of time as the Mahdi, or Messiah. This attack was on the Shia's very identity and, in an almost literal sense, apocalyptic.

Its consequences must not be so.

Amid the bloodshed and mosque-burning that has followed, there are some grim signs of hope. The massacre of demonstrators from a joint Sunni and Shia protest against sectarianism, for instance, would not have taken place if the jihadis did not fear Iraqis still have the will to live together.

Sunni leaders have, so far, only suspended their talks with the Shia majority and its Kurdish allies on a government of national unity. Yet all sides will be tempted to retreat behind their private armies, pulling the incipient national army of rebadged militia apart. US forces and their British allies can do little to prevent this.

This is the moment that will really test the mettle of Iraq's clerical and political leaders - in particular Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spiritual leader of the Shia. Mr Sistani has held the Iraqi ring throughout the occupation and restrained the Shia with the promise of the political power the Sunni minority had denied them for centuries. They now have that power but he and they must decide whether to exercise and share it within a federal Iraq. Because the alternative is war.

New research adds a twist to the debate on the origins of sexual orientation

TUESDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) (c) 2005 ScoutNews, LLC.-- New research adds a twist to the debate on the origins of sexual orientation, suggesting that the genetics of mothers of multiple gay sons act differently than those of other women.

Scientists found that almost one fourth of the mothers who had more than one gay son processed X chromosomes in their bodies in the same way. Normally, women randomly process the chromosomes in one of two ways -- half go one way, half go the other.

The research "confirms that there is a strong genetic basis for sexual orientation, and that for some gay men, genes on the X chromosome are involved," said study co-author Sven Bocklandt, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The link between genetics and sexual orientation has been a hot topic for more than a decade as a few scientists have tried to find genes that might make people gay or straight. In the new study, Bocklandt and colleagues examined a phenomenon called "X-chromosome inactivation."

While females have two X chromosomes, they actually require only one and routinely inactivate the other, Bocklandt said. "That way, both men and women have basically one functional X chromosome," he added. Men have both an X and Y chromosome, but the Y chromosome plays a much smaller role, he said.

Women typically inactivate one of their two X chromosomes at random. "It's like flipping a coin," Bocklandt said. "If you look at a woman in any given (bodily) tissue, you'd expect about half of the cells to inactivate one X, and half would inactivate the other."

In the new study, researchers looked at 97 mothers of gay sons and 103 mothers without gay sons to see if there was any difference in how they handled their X chromosomes. The findings appear in the February issue of the journal Human Genetics.

"When we looked at women who have gay kids, in those with more than one gay son, we saw a quarter of them inactivate the same X in virtually every cell we checked," Bocklandt said. "That's extremely unusual."

Forty-four of the women had more than one gay son.

In contrast, 4 percent of mothers with no gay sons activated the chromosome and 13 percent of those with just one gay son did.

The phenomenon of being more likely to inactivate one X chromosome -- known as "extreme skewing" -- is typically seen only in families that have major genetic irregularities, Bocklandt said.

What does this all mean? The researchers aren't sure, but Bocklandt thinks he and his colleagues are moving closer to understanding the origins of sexual orientation.

"What's really remarkable and very novel about this is that you see something in the bodies of women that is linked to a behavioral trait in their sons," he said. "That's new, that's unheard of."

Still, there are caveats. Dr. Ionel Sandovici, a genetics researcher at The Babraham Institute in Cambridge, England, pointed out that most of the mothers of multiple gay sons didn't share the unusual X-chromosome trait. And the study itself is small, which means more research will need to be done to confirm its findings, Sandovici said.

Ultimately, Sandovici added, the origins of sexual orientation remain "rather a complicated biological puzzle."

And this line of research does have its critics. Some have worried that, in the future, manipulation of a "gay gene" or genes might be used as a method of preventing homosexuality in utero, or perhaps even after. But Bocklandt said these kinds of fears shouldn't stand in the way of legitimate scientific research.

"We're trying to understand one of the most critical human traits: the ability to love and be attracted to others. Without sexual reproduction we would not exist, and sexual selection played an essential role in evolution," he said. "Yet, we have no idea how it works, and that's what we're trying to find out. As with any research, the knowledge you acquire could be used for benefit or harm. But if [scientists] would have avoided research because we were afraid of what we were going to find, then we would still be living in the stone age."

More information

Learn about the debate over a "gay gene" from the PBS' Frontline .

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lobby reform creed: First, feel minor pain by Molly Ivins

Lobby reform creed: First, feel minor pain

Molly Ivins, Copyright by the Creators Syndicate
Published February 23, 2006

AUSTIN, Texas -- Cynics are fond of meditating on the evil done in the name of reform. I'm a great believer in perpetual reform myself, on the theory that political systems, like houses, are always in want of some fixing. However, I have seen some doozies passed off as reform in recent years, starting with "Social Security reform."

Conservatives used to oppose reform on principle, correctly regarding it as a vile plot by goo-goo good government forces to snatch away their perks. This once led to a colorful scene in the Texas legislature in which the letters R-E-F-O-R-M appeared on the rear ends of six female members of a baton drill team, who turned and perched their derrieres pertly on the brass rail of the House gallery.

Reform follows scandal as night the day, except in these sorry times when it appears we may not get a nickel's worth of reform out of the entire Jack Abramoff saga. Sickening. A real waste of a splendid scandal. When else do politicians ever get around to fixing huge ethical holes in the roof except when they're caught red-handed? Do not let this mess go to waste! Call now and demand reform!

Sheesh. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) gets indicted, and all the Republicans can think of is a $20 gift ban. Forget the people talking about "lobby reform." The lobby does not need to be reformed, the Congress needs to be reformed. This is about congressional corruption, and it is not limited to the surface stuff like taking free meals, hotels and trips. This is about corruption that bites deep into the process of making laws in the public interest. The root of the rot is money (surprise!), and the only way to get control of the money is through public campaign financing.

As long as the special interests pay to elect the pols, we will have government of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests. Pols will always dance with them what brung them. We have to fix the system so that when they are elected, they got no one to dance with but us, the people--we don't want them owing anyone but the public. So the most useful reform bill is being offered by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)--public campaign financing. We, the citizens, put up the money to elect the pols. This bill won't cost us money, the savings will be staggering.

We're also looking for a way to control the system of earmarks, which has gotten completely out of hand. "The rush to revise ethics laws in the wake of the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal has turned into more of a saunter," reports the Washington Post. The Republicans keep messing around with the gift ban idea (opposed by those stalwarts who claim "you couldn't accept a T-shirt from your local high school"). But the best anti-reformer is Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the new House majority leader, elected as a "reformer" (puh-leeze), a man after Tom DeLay's heart. Boehner argues that gift and travel bans would amount to members of Congress being "treated like children." (Actually, children are seldom offered golfing vacations.)

The lobbyists, of course, have pulled together to work against efforts to control them. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Tom Susman, chairman of the ethics committee of the American League of Lobbyists (it is a concept), is reported in Legal Times as saying a gift ban would lead to "unnecessarily awkward dividing lines between lobbyists and members." God forbid.

The House Democratic leadership has proposed reinforcing a gift and travel ban with an attempt to control earmarks by prohibiting "dead of night" provisions--inserting language into a law without a chance for review. Members would be given 24 hours to read bills (which they don't, but their staffs can).

The cosmetic fixes--gift ban, travel ban, disclosure and slowing the revolving door between staff, Congress and the lobby--cannot stop the effects of the K Street Project. That's the cozy arrangement whereby lobbyists are Republican activists and Republican activists are lobbyists, and they underwrite campaigns in return for special privileges under the law: tax exemptions, regulatory relief, tariff dispositions, etc.

One of the most dangerous things about this whole corrupt system is that people who are given special privileges inevitably come to regard them not as special but as natural and right, and will fight furiously if you try to take them away.

It is this endless series of earmarks--special little set-asides for one special interest, one home district after another--that is behind the hemorrhaging in the federal budget. Those who remember when conservatives called for fiscal restraint may get sour amusement from the situation. But what is truly not funny is the pathetic spectacle of the United States of America, a nation with the greatest political legacy the world has ever known, letting itself be gnawed to death by the greed in a corrupt system that can be so easily fixed.


Molly Ivins is a syndicated columnist based in Austin, Texas. E-mail:

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Health Care's New Lottery

Health Care's New Lottery
If you slip from the winners' circle of the insured, you'll discover a world of patchy, minimal health care that feels almost Third World.

By Jane Bryant Quinn
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.
Feb. 27, 2006 issue - America's health-care "system" looks more like a lottery every year. The winners: the healthy and well insured, with good corporate coverage or Medicare. When they're ill, they get—as the cliche goes—"the best health care in the world." The losers: those who rely on shrinking public insurance, such as Medicaid (nearly 45 million of us), or go uninsured (46 million and rising).

To slip from the winners' circle into the losers' ranks is a cultural, emotional and financial shock. You discover a world of patchy, minimal health care that feels almost Third World. The uninsured get less primary or preventive care, find it hard to see cardiologists, surgeons and other specialists (waiting times can run up to a year), receive treatment in emergencies, but are more apt to die from chronic or other illnesses than people who pay. That's your lot if you lose your corporate job and can't afford a health policy of your own.

There are other ways that winners might become losers today. New types of corporate health plans put you at greater financial risk if you (or your spouse or child) get seriously ill. They're spun as "consumer-driven health care" (or CDHC), because you decide what you're willing to pay for and what not. But "employer driven" would be a fairer name. CDHC cuts your company's medical costs by shifting more of the burden onto you. Elizabeth Dudek of Thomson Medstat, which gathers and studies health-care data, believes that these plans are "absolutely going to take over as the primary type of insurance offered to employees over the next several years."

CDHC plans come in various designs. What they all have in common is a high upfront deductible that workers pay. For example, in a family plan, you might be responsible for the first $4,000 in medical bills each year. After that, the company might pick up 90 percent of the expense. Your employer also might deposit some money into a special health-care savings account that you can use, tax-free, for bills paid out-of-pocket. Alternatively, you might be left to fund the savings account yourself, through payroll deductions.

Backers of CDHC are making some pretty extravagant claims. The plans, they say, will spark competition and lower national medical costs, because everyone will shop for care at a better price. For that to work, however, you need to know the price. We're a long way from having decent cost and quality information, even assuming that—when you get a chest pain—you'd shout, "Call the cheapest doc."

Having a high-deductible plan does cause workers to cut back on care, the Employee Benefit Research Institute reports. They're more likely to skip or delay getting treated, especially if they're in poor health or earn less than $50,000 a year. In short, they let themselves get sicker to avoid the upfront cost. Eventually, they may consume more medical care, because they didn't attend to themselves.

There's a plus to high-deductible plans. The annual premiums are a bit lower because you're insured for less. Still, you're buying a lottery ticket. You'll save some money if you stay well. But you might struggle financially if a lingering or chronic illness strikes. Laurel Pickering of the New York Business Group on Health is less sure than Dudek that CDHC plans will win, precisely because they don't help workers manage or improve their health.

Still, President George W. Bush loves high-deductible plans and is pushing them for the individual-policy market, too. He wants to raise the amount you're allowed to stash in health-care savings accounts to as much as $10,500 per family this year and sweeten the plans with bigger tax breaks, too. That's fine if you're healthy, in a high tax bracket and can afford to save that much. But of the 3 million HSA policies sold so far, only 1 million are said to include funded savings accounts. They're a luxury product, not for the working stiff.

But at least consumers with health plans get to ration their care themselves. The working poor, on Medicaid, face rationing that's growing more severe. The Center for Studying Health System Change has been studying 12 metro areas since 1995. Its 2005 report concluded that, for the unprivileged, "access to basic care is worsening." Because of cutbacks to Medicaid payments to providers, more docs are shutting their doors to the working poor. State-of-the-art hospitals and clinics are opening in affluent suburbs, not downtown. States are paring their Medicaid rolls—and if you're uninsured, you're less than half as likely as the insured to get any medical care. Brutal cutbacks in services for the mentally ill are adding to homelessness—raising costs for shelters, jails and emergency rooms. Fewer specialists are even serving emergency rooms, let alone offering follow-up care.

We like to tell ourselves that, in America, everyone gets health care if it's really needed. But except for certified emergencies, such as a broken bone, doctors and hospitals may turn you away unless you can pay upfront. You don't want to lose your health insurance—even the high-deductible kind. Our lottery system of health care is sicker than you think.

Reporter Associate: Temma Ehrenfeld

The Imperial (Vice) Presidency

The Imperial (Vice) Presidency
Since Cheney doesn't have a real chance of moving up, he felt he could change the rules.

By Jonathan Alter
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.
Feb. 27, 2006 issue - Fox News's exclusive interview with Vice President Dick Cheney was, as CNN's Jack Cafferty sniped, "like Bonnie interviewing Clyde," but Brit Hume posed some good questions. When asked if he still thinks after everything that happened that he handled the story the right way, Cheney replied, "I still do." To me, this was the most revealing part of the whole episode. Cheney believes in what might be called partisan accountability—you answer only to your own side, on your own terms, not to the jackals of the mainstream media.

This is standard in show business, where errant celebrities choose Larry King or other friendly venues to spin their stories. Through the 1920s, presidents also privatized their damage control. President Herbert Hoover would talk to his friend Will Irwin and one or two other friendly journalists, but otherwise answer only a few questions submitted in writing. Then, in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt instituted twice-weekly press conferences and transformed the idea of accountability in Washington. Politicians have felt obligated to accept the press as proxy for the public ever since. President Nixon had to put up with Dan Rather, President Reagan with Sam Donaldson. Bill Clinton learned the hard way that presidents don't get a private life.

Before Walter Mondale became the first consequential vice president of the modern era in 1977, no one much cared if the No. 2 wanted to stiff the press. FDR's first veep, John Nance Garner, said the vice presidency "wasn't worth a pitcher of warm piss." (When a reporter changed "piss" to "spit" for taste reasons, Garner called him a "pantywaist.") But in the last three decades, vice presidents have steadily gained power. Their taxpayer-funded traveling retinues have become so large (Cheney even travels with his own medical team) that pretending to be normal citizens wouldn't wash. When Al Gore said there was "no controlling legal authority" on his fund-raising, it was at a hostile press conference, not an interview with The Harvard Crimson.

Cheney has simultaneously expanded the power of the vice presidency and reduced its accountability. Because his health made him the first veep since ancient Alben Barkley (under Harry Truman) with no realistic chance of moving up, he felt he could change the rules. Fears of terrorism made his decision to go to an "undisclosed location" understandable, but he has taken secrecy about his whereabouts to inexplicable lengths. News organizations went along with this partly to save money by not sending reporters to cover his trips. They rationalized it by explaining that Cheney never said anything to reporters anyway.

So Cheney has quietly figured out how to avoid answering the messy questions that are a vital part of a modern democracy. His message to the Washington press corps is the same as the one he delivered to Sen. Patrick Leahy in the Senate cloakroom, when the Democrat had the temerity to criticize him: "Go f--- yourself." By not holding a press conference since 2002, Cheney is telling the men and women assigned to cover the White House that they are irrelevant. No wonder they went crazy after learning of the shooting accident from a Texas paper.

When Cheney shot his friend and the press fired back, the battle for the future of the political coverage was joined. Was his contempt for the "MSM" (mainstream media) so over the top that it will create a backlash against future White House efforts to keep reporters at bay? Or perhaps we are witnessing a variation on the "K Street Project," where congressional Republican leaders would deal only with lobbyists loyal to the GOP. We'll see how Sean Hannity likes it when a future Democratic president or vice president gives interviews only to NPR and The Nation.

You can understand why politicians chafe under the old rules of the MSM. The media often focus on relatively unimportant, easy-to-understand stories as metaphors for shortcomings that the normal conventions of the business (and the inattentiveness of the audience) make hard to convey. When reporters wanted the public to see Jimmy Carter was being swamped politically, they focused on how he was attacked on vacation in a canoe by a "killer rabbit." When the press believed that Reagan was tilting toward the rich with his hard-to-explain tax policy, Nancy Reagan's acceptance of expensive White House china briefly became an issue. These feeding frenzies are unattractive, but the alternative is worse—reporters knowing an important truth about politicians and not letting the public in on it.

The shooting could hardly be a better metaphor for Cheney. It neatly packages his faulty judgment, insularity and arrogance in a story that is not cataclysmic on its own terms but will prove hard to forget. That's too bad for Cheney, and certainly for Harry Whittington. But it is a blessing for anyone hoping to restore some accountability to a government that increasingly believes it is a law unto itself.

Religion: Catholic and Queer

Religion: Catholic and Queer

Copyright by Newsweek © 2006 Newsweek, Inc.
Feb. 27, 2006 issue - DePaul University in Chicago recently announced that it's offering a new "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer Studies" minor. That wouldn't normally turn heads (several universities have similar offerings), but DePaul is the nation's largest Roman Catholic university—and the Vatican's official teaching is that homosexuality is "objectively disordered." "I understand that there's a tension there," says Assistant Prof. Gary Cestaro, the program's director.

So do some conservative Catholic groups, who are calling for the program to be abolished. "It's clearly portraying the culture in a favorable way," says Patrick J. Reilly, founder of the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization that promotes conservative teaching on Catholic campuses. "There's no doubt that this program, at least in a subtle way, is undermining Catholic teaching on homosexuality."

Cestaro, who largely developed the program from already existing classes on campus, disagrees, noting that he's even considering adding a class, taught by the campus's Catholic Studies Department, that would address the church's stances on homosexuality. He defends the program's merit—and the university's right to offer it. "Institutions of higher learning, even if they are Catholic, aren't spokespeople for the Vatican," he says. "Like any university, there should be room for free inquiry."

Jennifer Evrard, a DePaul sophomore who identifies as straight, says she's excited that the university "wised up" and started offering more courses in this field. "Some people take this university's values a lot more to heart than others," she says. "I'm not saying this university's values are something to be taken lightly, but there are varying degrees of faith that come with them."

—Elise Soukup

Why not be all that we can be? by Garrison Keillor

Why not be all that we can be?
Because it would take a constitutional amendment

Garrison Keillor, Copyright by Tribune Media Services
Published February 22, 2006

It has been four years since Richard Reid attempted to set fire to his explosive shoes on that Paris-Miami flight, and thanks to him we still do our little dance in stocking feet through airport security, a testimony to the power of the individual to gum up the works for millions of others. Eventually somebody will attempt to scoot through with an underwear bomb, and then we'll be arriving at the airport three hours before departure so we can be inspected by crotch-sniffing dogs.

An individual has vast power to do mischief, which is why our parents inoculated us against narcissism. "Spoiled" was a strong pejorative. When it was applied to us, it stung. And so you went through many little experiences that taught you not to think that the world revolves around you.

Small horrific experiences like taking a shower in gym class in 7th grade, when you shed your skivvies and stepped bare naked into a shower room with 30 other boys, soaping up, rinsing, getting the heck out and into your clothes. A democratic moment. There were many of them.

Of course the great experience that most of us missed out on is the American military, a baseline experience for my dad's generation, the kick in the pants that propels the dreamy adolescent into responsible adulthood. I don't apologize for dodging the draft in the Vietnam years--there is a time and place for cowardice--but there was a price to be paid for it: a dreaminess persisted that some sergeant at Ft. Leonard Wood might have adjusted.

Whenever I meet military men and women, I'm struck by their bearing and temperament. I sit down to dinner with a Marine captain just back from Iraq and immediately feel a little childish in his presence, though he's 30 years younger. He is friendly, polite and tremendously focused. What might appear at a distance to be rigidity is really heightened attentiveness. Everything he says is appropriate and precise. When you ask about his experience in Iraq, he tells you, without spinning the story. He is no tin soldier, no flag-waver. There's no bombast in him. As you see the price to be paid for immaturity and narcissism and bad manners and lousy grammar, you appreciate the military more and you ponder the consequences of its isolation in American life.

Fewer and fewer of our leaders have military service in their resumes. They prefer to sweep blithely along from one comfy perch to the next, cushioned in self-regard, promoting, puffing, spinning, hitting their talking points, building their skill sets. They slip into public office without ever having been yelled at by a bullet-headed man with sergeant's stripes and made to stand up straight in 95-degree weather and march back and forth across a dusty field and not ask why. This is a shame.

The way to put military service back in the picture is to pass a constitutional amendment requiring that a candidate for president have at least two years of full-time military service. It would be a boon to the country, to the military and to the young. It would confirm the importance of service. The 42-year-old governor who discovers that he wants to be president would need to go down to the recruiting office and enlist.

It'd be a big moment, like when Elvis went off to basic training. Think of Newt Gingrich climbing on a bus and going off to have his head shaved and his individuality taken away and rebuilt.

The Constitution requires the president to be at least 35 and a native-born American. The current president certainly casts doubt on the worth of that native-born requirement, but never mind--amend the Constitution and let the boys and girls of Harvard and Stanford and Yale ponder their futures. You will see the Army become more representative of the country, more middle-class and educated, and when it is, it will not likely be sent so casually off to war as the blue-collar Army has been.


Garrison Keillor is an author and the radio host of "A Prairie Home Companion."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

At Religious Universities, Disputes Over Faith and Academic Freedom

At Religious Universities, Disputes Over Faith and Academic Freedom
Published: February 18, 2006

A gay film festival opened at the University of Notre Dame last week with a sold-out showing of "Brokeback Mountain." On Valentine's Day, Notre Dame students staged a production of "The Vagina Monologues."

Though the events have been held for the past few years, it may have been their last time on campus. In speeches and interviews recently, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's new president, has said that staging the events on campus implies an endorsement of values that conflict with Roman Catholicism.

The film festival had to change its name, and "The Vagina Monologues" was performed in a classroom, not a theater, by a group that was not allowed to sell tickets to raise money for women's groups as it once had.

"Precisely because academic freedom is such a sacred value, we must be clear about its appropriate limits," Father Jenkins said last month in a speech before faculty members and students. "I do not believe that freedom of _expression has absolute priority in every circumstance."

The controversies at Notre Dame are the latest and most high profile among disputes at many other religiously affiliated universities about how to promote open inquiry and critical thinking while adhering to the tenets of a given faith. Tensions seem most acute at some Catholic and Baptist universities, in large part because student bodies and faculties have grown more diverse and secular over the years, some theologians and historians said.

For instance, The Catholic University of America in Washington and Providence College in Rhode Island, among others, have sent productions of "The Vagina Monologues" off campus, and four other Catholic colleges have canceled the performances. The Georgia Baptist Convention voted late last year to break with Mercer University in Macon, Ga., in part because the school permitted a gay rights group to operate on campus.

For many, the disputes at Notre Dame arise from different ideas about what it means to be Catholic. Those who oppose the events say they contradict the church's core teachings on human sexuality. Others contend that prohibiting events runs counter to a Catholic intellectual tradition of open-mindedness.

"The Catholic Church in many respects is a multicultural place," said Ed Manier, a professor of philosophy, a graduate of Notre Dame and a Catholic. "Practicing Catholics do not hold exactly the same beliefs about how the faith needs to be translated into the public sector, matters of law or even into issues as serious as moral development of children."

Founded largely by religious orders, Catholic universities were originally meant to educate Catholic immigrants and to train workers for Catholic institutions like hospitals and schools. The struggle to balance academic freedom and adherence to church teachings began in earnest after the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965, as many Catholic universities opened further to the secular world and sought to become top-tier schools by hiring more lay faculty members and broadening curriculums.

In 1967, a group of Catholic university presidents, led by the president of Notre Dame, the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, issued the Land-of-Lakes Statement, which said a university could not thrive without institutional autonomy and academic freedom, an idea still disputed by some Catholics.

"There was a real effort to beef up the academic respectability of universities," said Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a watchdog group. "Our view is that that went too far, and Catholic colleges strayed from Catholic teaching."

Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind., has 12,000 students, about 85 percent of them Catholic. Compared with other prestigious Catholic universities like Georgetown University and Boston College, Notre Dame has the reputation of being largely more conservative on thorny social issues, including sexuality, students and faculty members said.

In the last three to four years, the university has received "scores of complaints" about the play and the film festival, said Dennis K. Brown, a spokesman. This year, the Queer Film Festival changed its name to Gay and Lesbian Film: Filmmakers, Narratives, Spectatorships. Mr. Brown said Father Jenkins did not call for the change. Liam Dacey, a recent graduate who founded the festival three years ago, said the university insisted because the old title was deemed celebratory of homosexuality.

The university prohibited "The Vagina Monologues" from fund-raising after it collected $15,000 last year for groups that fight violence against women. The university said the play was an academic event and, as such, was not allowed to raise money. The play's proponents said that the fund-raising was halted because anti-abortion activists complained that the groups involved had given money to support abortion.

Father Jenkins was traveling and answered questions by e-mail. Mr. Brown said the president hoped to articulate his plan for balancing the university's religious and academic missions by the end of the spring semester and that it would include a decision about the sponsorship of the play and the festival.

Father Jenkins has heard from critics on both sides. This month, Bishop John M. D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, called for the university to cancel the play. A new group, United for Free Speech, is asking faculty members and students to sign a petition requesting that the university maintain its openness in sponsoring academic endeavors. It has 3,000 signatures, said Kaitlyn Redfield, 21, an organizer.

The central question is whether the school's sponsorship of the film festival and the play, and similar events, amounts to an endorsement of values at odds with Catholic teaching. Father Jenkins commended "The Vagina Monologues" for trying to reduce violence against women. But he objected to the work's "graphic descriptions" of various sexual experiences.
In his speech last month he said. "These portrayals stand apart from, and indeed in opposition to, the view that human sexuality finds its proper _expression in the committed relationship of marriage between a man and a woman that is open to the gift of procreation."

Faculty members whose classes explore sexuality and gender worry that their work might be limited because of the subjects they broach, Professor Manier said. "Sponsorship isn't the same as endorsement," he added. "Sponsorship means an idea can be discussed and performance can be discussed."

Some students said that the understanding of academic freedom at a Catholic university should be different from that at a secular university. "We have our own measures of what's good and what's right," said Nicholas Matich, 22, the politics editor of The Irish Rover, a conservative student newspaper. " 'The Vagina Monologues' is performed everywhere else in the academic world. It doesn't mean Notre Dame should do it, too."

Catholic universities do not move in lockstep on controversial issues, and much depends on campus culture, said Michael J. James, executive vice president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Of the 612 American colleges that are staging the play from Feb. 1 to March 8, 35 are Catholic universities, one more than last year, according to V-Day, an anti-violence organization affiliated with the play.

"There are people who say that the play has no place on a Catholic campus," the Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University New Orleans, wrote last year in a statement sanctioning the play. "To exclude the play from a Catholic campus is to say either that these women are wrong or that their experience has nothing important to say to us. I would argue that these are voices that a Catholic university must listen to if we are to understand human experience and if we are to be faithful to the one who welcomed all men and women."

Catholic teachings seem to allow divergence on complicated issues like human sexuality. In the last decade, the number of gay and lesbian groups at colleges, including religious ones, has risen steadily, according to gay rights and academic groups. Notre Dame does not have an officially sanctioned group for gay and lesbian students. Many other Catholic institutions do, including 24 of the 28 members of the Association of Jesuit Universities and Colleges, an increase from a decade ago, said the Rev. Charles L. Currie, the association president.

Watching the controversy unfold at Notre Dame is Father Hesburgh, who, though long retired, retains a campus office. He said Father Jenkins's effort to define what Notre Dame stood for was important. But in an interview, Father Hesburgh also said a modern university had to face the crucial issues of the times.

"I think the real test of a great university," he said, "is that you are fair to the opposition and that you get their point of view out there. You engage them. You want to get students' minds working. You don't want mindless Catholics. You want intelligent, successful Catholics."

Gretchen Ruethling contributed reporting from South Bend, Ind., for this article.

Short view By Philip Coggan - Financial Times

Short view
By Philip Coggan
Published: February 21 2006 02:00 | Last updated: February 21 2006 02:00 Copyright by the Financial Times

Growth or value? Large cap or small cap? Over the past five years, US investors who have plumped for the latter options have been rewarded.

So great has been the differential in performance that it has become an obvious contrarian call to opt for growth and large-cap stocks. That call did not work out in 2005, although the gap between small- and large-cap returns was rather smaller than it had been in previous years.

Inevitably, the performance differential has changed the fundamentals. Darrell Riley, who advises on asset allocation at fund management groupT Rowe Price, says small caps have gone from looking cheap relative to large caps in 2000 to looking expensive today. On a trailing price/earnings ratio basis, they now have a 40 per cent higher rating than stocks in the Russell 1000 (the gap is narrower if lossmaking companies are excluded).

Mr Riley says low borrowing costs have helped the small-cap sector, giving it the scope to expand into new areas. As a result, sales growth has been faster in the sector since 2003.

On the growth/value debate, Mr Riley points out that this has become increasingly about energy. The US energy sector earned a remarkable 29.1 per cent last year, in a remarkably flat market.

Given that energy has a13.6 per cent weight in the Russell 1000 value index and just a 3.6 per cent weight in Russell 1000 growth, this made a lot of difference to value's outperformance.

One reason why value has performed so well in stock market terms is that profits growth has been so strong. The last three months of 2005 delivered the fourteenth consecutive quarter of double digit earnings growth. When most companies are increasing their profits, there is no need for investors to pay a premium for growth stocks.

All this might change, however, if the economy starts to slow in the second-half of the year. If that happens, growth companies will stand out; furthermore, smaller companies would come under pressure.

But this might not be an outcome equity investors should wish for. If the economy does slow, bonds might easily outperform shares.

Modern America's Roman predicament

Modern America's Roman predicament
By Harold James
Published: February 21 2006 02:00 | Last updated: February 21 2006 02:00. Copyright by the Financials Times

Before September 11 2001, it was widely assumed that globalisation bred peace and stability. But over the past five years, there has been increased nervousness about this concept in many parts of the world. It is not worry about the state of the world economy, which has proved amazingly robust, but about the framework for world governance. In particular, there is widespread mistrust of the world's only superpower and increased doubt about the sort of politics that America tries to impose on the rest of the world.

As the Bush presidency gets bogged down in the quagmire of Iraq, there is still a widespread assumption that there might be a quick and easy fix. Critics of the administration think that the world's view of America would be transformed if only the US president sounded kinder. Many officials in Washington believe that if the world understood all they really wanted was peace, prosperity and democracy, the criticism would subside. Such optimistic beliefs are mistaken but are characteristic of an ever-recurring dilemma of an interconnected world. Consider some historical parallels: in 1776, the year of the US Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith and Edward Gibbon published the first volumes of two works that both used history to illuminate Britain's own problems with the globalisation of that age: The Wealth of Nations and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

In these monumental and parallel works, Smith and Gibbon explored what could be called the "Roman dilemma". In essence, how peaceful commerce is frequently seen as a way of building a stable, prosperous and integrated international society. At the same time, however, the peaceful liberal economic order leads to domestic clashes and also to international rivalry and even wars. The conflicts disturb and eventually destroy the commercial system and the bases of prosperity and integration. These interactions seem to be a vicious spiral or a trap from which it seems almost impossible to escape. The liberal commercial world order subverts and destroys itself, and Smith's gloomy (but surprisingly little known) concluding chapters are a long way from the apparently optimistic beginning, with its focus on the immense productivity gains possible as a result of the division of labour.

The central problem identified by Gibbon and Smith is that complex societies need rules to function, whether on a national (state) level or in international relations. But we do not always comply voluntarily with rules and rules require some enforcement. In addition, they need to be formulated. The enforcement and the promulgation of rules are both consequences of power, and power is always concentrated and unequally distributed.

Even when we think of voluntarily negotiated rules, there is the memory of some act of power, the long shadow of a hegemonic strength - the shadow of Rome - falling on the negotiators.

The propensity for subversion and destruction of a rule-based order comes about because - and whenever - there is a perception that rules are arbitrary, unjust and reflect the imposition of particular interests in a high-handed imperial display of power.

Power protects commerce and peace but power is clearly not necessarily a good in itself. It offers a basis on which greater power constantly accumulates, as power is used to affect the outcome of social processes. One way of putting this is the frequently made observation that the exercise of power has an addictive quality. The adage that power tends to corrupt itself affects the way in which the holders of power behave. Even if the wielder of power resists the addiction, other people suspect the addiction is there.

People who believe in universal rules and people who see power behind the rules can scarcely talk to each other. They each have an overall interpretation of such power that the other perspective simply disappears. The alternative is rejected as naive or ideological, as in Robert Kagan's famous juxtaposition of the Mars and Venus views of American and Europeans. As approaches, they are like the optical illusions made famous by Maurits Cornelius Escher, where squares either pop out of a page or recede, but where the observer cannot be brought to see both phenomena at the same time. There is one perspective - or the other.

Both politicians and their critics find this hard to understand as they try to respond to global challenges, such as the threat of terrorism or the proliferation of nuclear weapons. They are about to be as baffled by Iran as they were by Iraq.

If the threat lies in discontent about modernity, and if poverty and marginalisation are the breeding grounds for violence and terrorism, then growth and a better distribution of wealth can hold a more effective cure. If, on the other hand, cultural differences are really so profound, then imperial conflict and conquest is the only adequate answer. Much contemporary debate, especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, fluctuates between these poles. Should the industrial world buy off or fight the barbarians at the gate?

Yet both options look like different aspects of the old but unsatisfactory Roman solution: conquer and provide prosperity. There is only a difference in emphasis. The first is arrogantly belligerent and the second arrogantly patronising. Both recommend more power and more modernisation.

There exists an alternative to the "challenge and response" model that has as its outcome the clash of civilisations. The other path depends on dialogue within a shared natural law framework.

Instead of thinking that technical development will automatically produce prosperity and thus solve, as it were by a kind of magic, the problem of values, policymakers in the industrialised world need to think and talk explicitly about values and traditions.

What does Islamic tradition have in common with western traditions that respects human dignity; and how can modern America show that it respects these values too?

Resolving the issue of the Guantánamo Bay detentions would be an obvious first step to showing how America can accept as well as invent universal values.

The writer, professor of history and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, is author of The Roman Predicament to be published in May by Princeton University Press