- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Anniston (Ala.) Star, on the politics of sports. It’s a long-standing lament of the political activist: “If only people devoted the time, effort and attention to politics that they apply to sports, we could change the world.”

This year, we may have seen exactly that: an astonishing intensity and interest in the presidential race — largely because of the campaign of Barack Obama — that’s matched in the cultural sphere only by our national obsession with sports. …

The often-discussed iron wall between sports and politics, breached in the past by such figures as Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King, may have been forever obliterated. …

So where is all that steam, not just from fans but from politically engaged athletes as well, going to go now? Will it dissipate or find a home in another piston?

A lot of it could certainly be funneled back into sports. …

There are also certainly some who dream, starry-eyed, that the people who flooded Obama rallies will stay engaged in the political process with the same overheated campaign fervor.

But if we don’t magically become a nation of wonks, here’s another alternative. What if the newly politically energized citizen who also happens to be a sports fan takes a greater interest in the politics of sport? What if athletes take on political issues in their communities, using their hyper-exalted, Nike-sponsored platforms to say something meaningful about the world? …

Fans may have a slightly less exalted platform than the people they cheer, but don’t confuse the humble with the powerless. It’s still the people in the seats who could demand change in the world of sports. …

On the Net: http://www.annistonstar.com/opinion/2008/as-insight-1116-0-8k15c0810 .htm

The Star-Ledger, Newark, N.J., on lobbying for federal bailout funding. In this moment of economic malaise, it’s comforting to know that at least one group of hardworking Americans is destined for a payday from the big federal bailout program — Washington’s legendary lobbyists. …

Lobbyists are swarming like locusts at the Treasury Department as Secretary Henry Paulson and his merry men ponder how to cut up the $700 billion bailout pie. …

The usual suspects are lined up at the pay window — the tapped-out banks and savings and loans (actual and would-be) plus the Big Three U.S. auto firms. But the line doesn’t end with them. …

Wasn’t this supposed to be about banks? Well, yes. But now even what defines a bank has become unclear under pressure from lobbyists. Allstate and MetLife, insurance companies that own savings and loans, and GMAC, the finance arm of General Motors, aspire to reinvent themselves as banks or savings and loans as prelude to a federal payout.

How did this all happen? The usual Washington way. Within days, hours maybe, of the $700 billion bailout announcement, K Street’s corps of law firms and lobbyists was busy alerting potential clients to hard-cash opportunities they’d never dreamed of awaiting in Washington.

In the end — and assuming good sense prevails — the least deserving among this tin cup brigade will get nothing. But it won’t be a total loss, at least not for their lobbyists. Win or lose, their clients’ checks are already in the mail.

On the Net:http://www.nj.com/starledger/

The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C., on U.S. intelligence tools and leadership: The Pelosi Democrats in Congress spent the last two years railing against the national security policies of George W. Bush, symbolized by expanded wiretapping, stressful interrogations, the Guantanamo prison and, of course, Iraq. Now they are unwisely trying to push President-elect Barack Obama into decisions that have less to do with prudent courses of action than with signaling victory over those symbols.

The Washington Post reports, for instance, that senior congressional Democrats have decided the nation’s top two intelligence officers must be replaced right away because they have publicly defended the intelligence value of the Bush administration programs for stressful interrogations and expanded surveillance powers. …

The president-elect must take the utmost care in changing the rules of engagement in a war in which intelligence tools are critical. There should be no return to the Clinton era’s rigid rules that discouraged intelligence officials from intercepting communications among suspected terrorists.

Above all, the incoming commander in chief should not rush into changing the leadership of the intelligence agencies just because some Pelosi Democrats are demanding trophy heads. He must be not be trapped into mistaking political symbols for reality.

On the Net: http://www.charleston.net/editorial

Rocky Mountain News, Denver, on economic bailout oversight. When Congress established the $700 billion bailout fund, it promised strict and thorough oversight. Over a month later, with $290 billion already committed, we have our answer as to what that means: There isn’t any.

The legislation called for a special inspector general within the Treasury to audit and investigate the bailout, reporting on what assets the government is acquiring, its reasons for doing so and their value. The special inspector has yet to be named.

Congress has yet to name the members of a special congressional oversight panel. The deadline under the law for the first oversight report by that panel has passed and the panel, when it’s finally named, may not be able to make the Jan. 20 deadline for a much more detailed report. …

The bailout law also created an entity called the Financial Stability Oversight Board, whose five members include Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who would effectively be doing oversight over themselves. In any case, the board has no staff.

Congress promised the hallmarks of the federal government’s massive intervention in the markets would be oversight and transparency. A top priority of its lame duck session must be to make good on that promise.

On the Net: http://tinyurl.com/6ec89q

Diena, Riga, Latvia, on Russia’s crisis and draft law to extend the presidential term. Last week, the World Bank released a forecast that Russia’s economy will worsen due to lower crude oil prices and capital flight. … A week ago Russia’s finance minister announced that the budget must be adjusted to reflect $50 per barrel oil. The “fat years” are gone.

On this backdrop political bustle has begun - one showing that confusion, perhaps even a silent panic, has descended on Russia’s ruling brigade. Two weeks ago in a speech to the Federation Council, President Dmitry Medvedev proposed amending the constitution so that State Duma (lower house of parliament) deputies’ term would be extended to five years, and the president’s to six.

The amendments, naturally, will not affect the current president - they are his gift to the next one. …

Work on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin throne began even before Medvedev’s election. It was not clear how this change would be carried out “in natural circumstances,” but the world financial crisis interfered. …

The prime minister’s seat, which to Putin and his team seemed good enough in the spring, in times of crisis becomes a drag. The average Russian citizen sees the economy as a result of the government’s and, most of all, the premier’s work. But the presidency is a position beyond everyday worries, which is why Putin, in all probability, will soon return to the Kremlin.

On the Net: http://www.diena.lv

The Independent, London, on cocaine trafficking. No supply chain is quite as lethal and destructive as that of cocaine. That was the message from the Colombian Vice-President, Francisco Santos Calderon, at a meeting of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Belfast (on) Nov. 18.

Mr. Calderon informed his audience that drug production is causing environmental disaster in Colombia, with illegal cultivators destroying 200,000 hectares of forest each year to produce the coca plant. But his purpose was not merely to draw our attention to this crime, but to ram home our own complicity in it. “If you snort a gram of cocaine,” he said, “you are destroying four square metres of pristine rainforest.”

Mr. Calderon is right to point to the hypocrisy of those who claim to be environmentally conscious, yet see nothing wrong in indulging in a few lines of “blow” at the weekend. He is also justified in emphasising that anyone who takes cocaine is indirectly helping to fund brutal drug trafficking groups and human rights-abusing rebel militias which have a stake in the trade, such as the FARC in Colombia.

This is one area in which there has actually been some good news of late. …

But we need to recognize there is only so much that can be done at the supply end of the drugs trade. Poor countries will always struggle to control traffickers. …

It is up to us in the rich world to take a lead by staunching the demand for drugs through rehabilitation programmes and other radical measures. …

On the Net: http://tinyurl.com/6odnx9

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