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Sunday, July 31, 2005

World News Article |

World News Article | Japan war shrine debate mixes politics, diplomacy
Sun Jul 31, 2005 06:11 AM ET

By Linda Sieg

TOKYO (Reuters) - August in Japan: stifling heat, the cry of cicadas, and a time to ponder defeat in World War Two.

This year's 60th anniversary of Japan's surrender coincides with domestic political strife and diplomatic strains with Asian neighbours, so the atmosphere for reflection is anything but calm.

Instead, a debate over how Japan should view its wartime past -- symbolised by a controversy over whether Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi should visit a Shinto shrine for war dead -- has become intertwined with jockeying to succeed him as premier.

Pressure is growing on Koizumi to halt his annual pilgrimages to the Yasukuni shrine, where war criminals convicted by a 1948 Allied tribunal are honoured with Japan's 2.5 million war dead.

Koizumi, who says he goes to honour war dead and pray for peace, has so far avoided visiting Yasukuni on the emotive August 15 anniversary of the end of the Pacific war. But the pilgrimages have outraged South Korea and China, where many see them as part of efforts to whitewash Japan's past military aggression.

Speculation -- fuelled by talk of an early general election -- is simmering that this year Koizumi will throw diplomatic caution to the wind and keep a campaign pledge made in 2001 to pay his respects at the shrine on August 15.

"The prime minister has his own views, so I can't predict (whether he will go on August 15)," said Takeshi Noda, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) who this month set up a "study group" for lawmakers critical of the Yasukuni visits.

"Certainly, it is quite possible to satisfy Japanese people's nationalism," Noda said after the group met last week.

"But at the same time he is Japan's leader, he is also an Asian leader, so I want him to make a balanced decision."


Noda's move was widely seen as meant to counter a group founded by LDP executive Shinzo Abe to back the Yasukuni visits.

Abe, 50, a hawk on security policy and an outspoken critic of China, is one of a new breed of young neo-conservatives in the LDP and is often cited as top contender to succeed Koizumi.

"They're thinking about the 'post-Koizumi' situation," said Jun Iio, a professor at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, referring to Noda's group.

"They want to wave a different flag."

Despite Koizumi's firm popular support, recent opinion polls show a majority of voters think he should stop going to Yasukuni.

Others were less cynical about the reasons why critics of Koizumi's Yasukuni visits are raising their voices after months of sharply deteriorating ties with Seoul and Beijing.

"There are people who are opposed to the signs of resurgent nationalism and see it as counterproductive, as not in Japan's interests as it tries to integrate itself into the East Asian region economically," said Andrew Horvat, a visiting scholar at Tokyo Keizai University.

One of those is former chief cabinet minister and LDP heavy weight Yasuo Fukuda, another potential contender to succeed Koizumi when his term as LDP president expires in September 2006.

Fukuda argues Japan must repair ties with China and South Korea, and backs the notion of a new, secular war memorial where leaders could pay respects without angering Asian countries.

"Hasn't the ambiguity of the Japanese attitude toward World War Two invited the mistrust of other countries?" Fukuda, 69, said in an interview with the Yomiuri newspaper last week.

"The result of such mistrust is reflected in the Yasukuni issue," he said. "It is necessary to send a clear message abroad as Japanese who can be trusted by other countries."


Jockeying to succeed Koizumi has heated up in part because of a battle between him and anti-reform LDP rebels.

Koizumi has vowed to enact bills to privatise the huge postal delivery, savings and insurance system -- the centrepiece of his agenda for change -- before parliament rises on August 13.

Anti-reform lawmakers, some of whom perhaps ironically are strong supporters of Koizumi's Yasukuni pilgrimages, say they are equally determined to block the bills' passage.

Most analysts expect the legislation to be enacted, if only by a small margin. But Koizumi has tacitly threatened to call a snap election if the legislation fails, and might do so even if the bills are enacted in an attempt to repair a lame duck image.

Some pundits and politicians think LDP neo-conservatives will make nationalism an election rallying cry to try to woo voters anxious about China's rise and gloomy after a decade of economic stagnation, though how well that would play is hard to say.

"There is an increasing number of that sort of politician. It's a way to boost their popularity," Katsuya Okada, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party told Reuters recently.

"In the long term, it would be a mistake for Japan."

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French Family Values - New York Times

French Family Values - New York TimesJuly 29, 2005
French Family Values

Americans tend to believe that we do everything better than anyone else. That belief makes it hard for us to learn from others. For example, I've found that many people refuse to believe that Europe has anything to teach us about health care policy. After all, they say, how can Europeans be good at health care when their economies are such failures?

Now, there's no reason a country can't have both an excellent health care system and a troubled economy (or vice versa). But are European economies really doing that badly?

The answer is no. Americans are doing a lot of strutting these days, but a head-to-head comparison between the economies of the United States and Europe - France, in particular - shows that the big difference is in priorities, not performance. We're talking about two highly productive societies that have made a different tradeoff between work and family time. And there's a lot to be said for the French choice.

First things first: given all the bad-mouthing the French receive, you may be surprised that I describe their society as "productive." Yet according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, productivity in France - G.D.P. per hour worked - is actually a bit higher than in the United States.

It's true that France's G.D.P. per person is well below that of the United States. But that's because French workers spend more time with their families.

O.K., I'm oversimplifying a bit. There are several reasons why the French put in fewer hours of work per capita than we do. One is that some of the French would like to work, but can't: France's unemployment rate, which tends to run about four percentage points higher than the U.S. rate, is a real problem. Another is that many French citizens retire early. But the main story is that full-time French workers work shorter weeks and take more vacations than full-time American workers.

The point is that to the extent that the French have less income than we do, it's mainly a matter of choice. And to see the consequences of that choice, let's ask how the situation of a typical middle-class family in France compares with that of its American counterpart.

The French family, without question, has lower disposable income. This translates into lower personal consumption: a smaller car, a smaller house, less eating out.

But there are compensations for this lower level of consumption. Because French schools are good across the country, the French family doesn't have to worry as much about getting its children into a good school district. Nor does the French family, with guaranteed access to excellent health care, have to worry about losing health insurance or being driven into bankruptcy by medical bills.

Perhaps even more important, however, the members of that French family are compensated for their lower income with much more time together. Fully employed French workers average about seven weeks of paid vacation a year. In America, that figure is less than four.

So which society has made the better choice?

I've been looking at a new study of international differences in working hours by Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser, at Harvard, and Bruce Sacerdote, at Dartmouth. The study's main point is that differences in government regulations, rather than culture (or taxes), explain why Europeans work less than Americans.

But the study also suggests that in this case, government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff - to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family - the kind of deal an individual would find hard to negotiate. The authors write: "It is hard to obtain more vacation for yourself from your employer and even harder, if you do, to coordinate with all your friends to get the same deal and go on vacation together."

And they even offer some statistical evidence that working fewer hours makes Europeans happier, despite the loss of potential income.

It's not a definitive result, and as they note, the whole subject is "politically charged." But let me make an observation: some of that political charge seems to have the wrong sign.

American conservatives despise European welfare states like France. Yet many of them stress the importance of "family values." And whatever else you may say about French economic policies, they seem extremely supportive of the family as an institution. Senator Rick Santorum, are you reading this?


Saturday, July 30, 2005

The New York Times > Magazine > Toward a Unified Theory of Black America

The New York Times > Magazine > Toward a Unified Theory of Black AmericaMarch 20, 2005
Toward a Unified Theory of Black America

Roland G. Fryer Jr. is 27 years old and he is an assistant professor of economics at Harvard and he is black. Yes, 27 is young to be any kind of professor anywhere. But after what might charitably be called a slow start in the scholarly life, Fryer has been in a big hurry to catch up. He was in fact only 25 when he went on the job market, gaining offers from -- well, just about everywhere. He abruptly ended his job search by accepting an invitation to join the Society of Fellows at Harvard, one of academia's most prestigious research posts. This meant he wouldn't be teaching anywhere for three years. The Harvard economics department told Fryer to take its offer anyway; he could have an office and defer his teaching obligation until the fellowship was done.

Now that he is halfway through his fellowship, the quality and breadth of Fryer's research have surprised even his champions. ''As a pure technical economic theorist, he's of the first rate,'' says Lawrence Katz, a prominent labor economist at Harvard. ''But what's really incredible is that he's also much more of a broad social theorist -- talking to psychologists, sociologists, behavioral geneticists -- and the ideas he comes up with aren't the 'let's take the standard economic model and push a little harder' ideas. He makes you think of Nathan Glazer or William Julius Wilson, but with economic rigor.'' Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard humanities scholar, says that Fryer is ''destined to be a star. I mean, he's a star already, just a baby star. I think he'll raise the analysis of the African-American experience to new levels of rigor and bring economics into the mainstream area of inquiry within the broader field of African-American studies.''

When he presents a paper, Fryer is earnest and genial and excitable, sometimes carrying on like a Southern preacher. While he denies that his work is united by a grand thesis -- he is a scientist, he explains, devoted to squeezing truths from the data, wherever that may lead -- he does admit to having a mission: ''I basically want to figure out where blacks went wrong. One could rattle off all the statistics about blacks not doing so well. You can look at the black-white differential in out-of-wedlock births or infant mortality or life expectancy. Blacks are the worst-performing ethnic group on SAT's. Blacks earn less than whites. They are still just not doing well, period.''

To Fryer, the language of economics, a field proud of its coldblooded rationalism, is ideally suited for otherwise volatile conversations. ''I want to have an honest discussion about race in a time and a place where I don't think we can,'' he says. ''Blacks and whites are both to blame. As soon as you say something like, 'Well, could the black-white test-score gap be genetics?' everybody gets tensed up. But why shouldn't that be on the table?''

Fryer said this several months ago, which was well before Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard, wondered aloud if genetics might help explain why women are so underrepresented in the sciences. Summers -- who is also an economist and a fan of Fryer's work -- is still being punished for his musings. There is a key difference, of course: Summers is not a woman; Fryer is black.

Fryer well appreciates that he can raise questions that most white scholars wouldn't dare. His collaborators, most of whom are white, appreciate this, too. ''Absolutely, there's an insulation effect,'' says the Harvard economist Edward L. Glaeser. ''There's no question that working with Roland is somewhat liberating.''

Glaeser and Fryer, along with David M. Cutler, another Harvard economist, are the authors of a paper that traffics in one form of genetic theorizing. It addresses the six-year disparity in life expectancy for blacks versus whites, arguing that much of the gap is due to a single factor: a higher rate of salt sensitivity among African-Americans, which leads to higher rates of cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Fryer's notion that there might be a genetic predisposition at work was heightened when he came across a period illustration that seemed to show a slave trader in Africa licking the face of a prospective slave. The ocean voyage from Africa to America was so gruesome that as many as 15 percent of the Africans died en route, mainly from illnesses that led to dehydration. A person with a higher capacity for salt retention might also retain more water and thus increase his chance of surviving.

So it may have been that a slave trader would try to select, with a lick to the cheek, the ''saltier'' Africans. Whether selected by the slavers or by nature, the Africans who did manage to survive the voyage -- and who then formed the gene pool of modern African-Americans -- may have been disproportionately marked by hypertension. Cutler, a pre-eminent health economist, admits that he thought Fryer's idea was ''absolutely crazy'' at first. (Although the link between the slave trade and hypertension had been raised in medical literature, even Cutler wasn't aware of it.) But once they started looking at the data, the theory began to seem plausible.

Fryer has published only a handful of papers so far, all of them written with senior colleagues. A bet on Fryer is, at this point, a bet on potential. But his voice is bold enough to have drawn critics already. Some black economists say he is simply too hard on blacks. ''Part of his work tries to dismiss the influence of racism,'' says William Darity Jr., who teaches at Duke and the University of North Carolina. Darity points to ''An Economic Analysis of 'Acting White,''' a paper in which Fryer explores the mechanism by which high-achieving black students may be antagonized, and held back, by their low-achieving peers. ''The inclination to look for an explanation based on some sort of group-based dysfunctionality is an instinct I don't have,'' Darity says.

While most of Fryer's colleagues consider him blazingly smart, he constantly belittles his own intellect. ''I have to think hard when somebody says, 'World War I,' because I don't know what years those were,'' he says. ''But I work hard, harder than anyone. That's what I can control.'' Last summer, he told me he was vexed by the sight of a silver Volkswagen Jetta in the parking lot outside his office. It was there when he showed up every morning, and it was still there when he left at night. Weeks later, he sent me a relieved e-mail message: ''The Jetta was not working harder than me -- rather, they were on vacation.''

He works so hard because his career goal is so audacious. Fryer's heroes are not contemporary economists like Glenn Loury or James Heckman or Gary Becker, even though he admires their work on racial issues and has been mentored by all three of them. Nor are his models the estimable crowd of Afro-American scholars assembled at Harvard by Gates, who happens to be Fryer's next-door neighbor. There is only one forebear whom Fryer aspires to emulate: W.E.B. DuBois, the fiercely interdisciplinary black scholar and writer who helped to pioneer the field of ethnography. ''The problem of the 20th century,'' DuBois said, presciently, in 1900, ''is the problem of the color line.''

In Fryer's view, DuBois alone had the appetite to rigorously round up the facts and concepts and emotions that constitute race and then crack them open one by one. Separated by a century, their missions are identical: to study -- and maybe even help fix -- the condition of being black in America.

I met Fryer just over a year ago through a collaborator we share, the economist Steven D. Levitt of the University of Chicago. One paper that Fryer and Levitt wrote suggested that the gap in early test scores between black and white schoolchildren is largely caused by the fact that most black children attend worse schools. The second paper, a sort of sequel to Fryer's work on ''acting white,'' explored the rift between black and white cultures, asking in particular whether black parents who give their children a name like DeShawn or Imani hinder their children's career prospects.

In person, Fryer gives the appearance of coming from a middle-class background, some kind of Cosby kid all grown up. But as I spent more time with him, it became obvious that that wasn't remotely the case. He began to tell me stories about his past that -- although I didn't know it then -- he didn't share with people in his ''new life,'' as he called it. It was unclear why he had finally decided to talk, and to me. It may have been that the project that brought Fryer, Levitt and me together was the sort of grisly work -- a research project concerning the inner workings of the Ku Klux Klan -- that tends to produce a bond. It may have been that he was simply weary of holding the two chapters in his life so far apart. Regardless, I soon became as fascinated with Fryer's life as I was impressed with his work.

One morning, as we sat on a bench in Central Park in New York, he talked about his childhood in Daytona Beach, Fla. When he was a boy, he sometimes lived there with his grandmother Farrise, whom the family called Fat. She was a schoolteacher and a disciplinarian. But Fat's sister Ernestine, who lived nearby, ran a looser household, and Fryer preferred to hang out there. His older cousins had gold teeth and gold jewelry and, always, the latest Karl Kani track suits, in maroon or bright red, with matching suede Champion sneakers. On the weekends, Ernestine's husband, Lacey, cooked up a batch of pancakes. Lacey was a retired postal worker and a past president of the local N.A.A.C.P. chapter.

At the same time, Lacey and Ernestine and some of their children were running one of the biggest crack gangs in the area. They would drive down to Miami to buy cocaine and then turn it into crack in their kitchen. As a boy, Fryer used to watch. In a frying pan -- the same one Lacey used for pancakes -- they mixed the powdered cocaine with water and baking soda, then cooked off the liquid until all that remained were the little white rocks. The family processed and sold as much as two kilograms of cocaine a week.

One day when Fryer was planning to visit Lacey and Ernestine -- Ernestine told him she would be making pork chops -- he decided to stop by the dog track first. He wasn't old enough to bet, but he loved to watch the greyhounds run. When he got to his aunt's house, it was surrounded by federal agents. Almost everyone in the family was sent to prison. Lacey got a 30-year sentence and died in prison; Ernestine was sentenced to a little more than three years. Fryer's favorite cousin, Wendy, got a long term; his cousin Vaughn got a shorter sentence, but upon his release he went back to selling crack and was murdered.

Fryer loved Vaughn and Wendy. ''They seemed like pretty decent people,'' he said. ''If you had put them in the schools that a lot of these people came up in'' -- here he gestured toward the apartment buildings that border Central Park -- ''they probably would have been fine.''

How many of his close family members, I asked him, had either died young or spent time in prison? He did a quick count: 8 of 10. ''Suppose you can separate people into two camps: geneticists and environmentalists,'' he said. ''Coming up where I came up, it's hard not to be an environmentalist.''

As a graduate student, Fryer was enamored with the most theoretical realm of economics, studying arcane mathematical questions that kept him a safe distance from his past. But he has since crossed over to the empirical side of his science, which emphasizes real-world information. Most of his current projects involve huge troves of data that he is able to dissect with a particularly knowing eye. While this work may play more to his strengths, it also requires him to revisit his background in a manner that is anything but theoretical.

He is writing one paper about mixed-race children (trying to tease out the influence of environment versus genes), another about historically black colleges (he suspects that graduates might pay for their racial loyalty in the form of lower career earnings, but are in general happier) and another tentatively titled ''Bling-Bling'' (which, he says, ''explores the consumption patterns of blacks versus whites''). There are also papers on colorblind affirmative action and the devastating impact of crack cocaine on black Americans. In addition to his economics-department office, he maintains another office at the Society of Fellows and a third at the National Bureau of Economic Research; he keeps at least seven research assistants busy. Claudia Goldin, an economist colleague at Harvard, is among those who marvel at Fryer's creativity and his energy. ''You're running a factory,'' she told him.

His most ambitious project, which grew out of his belief in the power of environment, is an experiment designed to see if incentives can inspire minority students to improve their grades. For all the talk about education reform, Fryer says, he feels that one party is being overlooked: the students themselves. ''I'm troubled by the fact we're treating kids as inanimate objects,'' he says. ''They have behavior, too. They respond to incentives, too.''

Fryer recently ran a pilot experiment with third graders at P.S. 70 in the Bronx. If a child achieved a certain score on her reading test or improved by a certain percentage, she got a small prize. In some classrooms, every student competed for herself; in others, each kid was assigned to a group of five. Fryer is trying to find out whether the individual or group incentives work better. He suspects the latter -- ''because no stigma of being the smartest kid applies.'' But the P.S. 70 data was inconclusive.

At a dinner party held by Larry Summers, Fryer met Joel Klein, the chancellor of New York's public schools, and explained his project to him. Klein asked Fryer if he might be interested in expanding his incentive experiment into 15 or so low-achieving schools. At P.S. 70, the rewards had been pizza parties or field trips. This time around, Fryer planned to give cash -- $10 per good test for third graders and $20 for seventh graders. Now it was time to sell the idea to the principals of those 15 schools.

On a Tuesday afternoon in October, Fryer met the principals in the library of an elementary school in Harlem. All but one of them were black. Fryer usually wears Polo jeans, a button-down shirt and chunky black shoes. Today he was dressed for church, maybe even the pulpit: charcoal Brooks Brothers suit, crisp white shirt, black Cole Haans and a dazzling tie of white and mauve checks. He began by reciting a list of statistics that illuminate the gulf between blacks and whites. ''These facts bother me,'' he said. ''The achievement gap is not only disturbing; it's alarming. I'm here to try to understand and close the achievement gap.''

The principals began to grill him. Even if the kids do respond to the cash incentives, one principal asked, what happens next year, when they aren't getting paid? Won't students in other grades be resentful? What will parents think when their kids start receiving cash in the mail every few weeks?

Fryer addressed each issue as best he could. But one question kept coming back at him: if we start paying students to test well, aren't we sending the message that learning is not its own reward? Although the exchange flustered him, Fryer had by meeting's end persuaded the principals to take part. Afterward, though, he took no joy in his success. He knew there were still plenty of bureaucratic hurdles ahead. What's more, he is not given to bragging. Typically, the first words out of his mouth after any presentation are ''they hated it.''

Long ago, Fryer made a vow that he would always be so hard on himself that it wouldn't hurt when others were hard on him. He told me this one night at his house in Cambridge. He and wife, Lisa, a graduate student in elementary education, were showing me his childhood photo album. It was one of the saddest photo albums you will ever see. A few baby pictures, then a picture from Pee Wee football and then . . . nothing until high-school graduation. Where was Roland Fryer during all those years? Or, really, where were the people who should have been snapping pictures of him?

His full name is Roland Gehrard Fryer Jr. Two years ago, as he was entering the job market, the name suddenly led him to panic. He worried that some university dean might Google it and see that Roland Gerard Fryer was convicted of a 1993 sexual assault in Lewisville, Tex. But that wasn't Roland; that was his father.

The more Fryer told me about himself, the more it became clear that his research is directly, even painfully, inspired by his own past. Here were the bare facts of his early life, as he related them. He was born in Florida. His mother left when he was very young, so he lived with his father, who sold copy machines for Xerox, and when Roland was 4, they moved to Texas. He spent summers in Florida with his grandmother Fat and begged her to let him stay permanently. But always he was returned to his father in Texas.

I was curious to know more. Fryer, who sometimes seemed torn between wanting to explain himself and wanting to obliterate his childhood entirely, agreed to accompany me on a tour of his past. On one level he seemed to be dreading the trip, but on another, I think he was eager to show an outsider the distance he had traveled -- and perhaps to square things off for himself as well.

Roland Fryer Sr., now 54, had recently moved back in with his own mother -- Roland's grandmother Fat -- after being released from prison. So our trip began with a visit to Daytona Beach. The houses in Fat's neighborhood were grim, brick and cement block with ragged yards and bars on the windows. Her living room was dark and cluttered. Roland, Fat and I sat on plastic slipcovers and talked. I asked how on earth Roland had become a Harvard professor.

Fat looked at him before she answered. ''I think I did a little bit,'' she said. ''Did I help you, JuJu?''

That was his nickname here, JuJu. He gave an uneasy smile. Soon his father came in. The two men said hello. Fat went into the kitchen, and Roland Sr. sat down.

He said that he had grown up in this very house. He studied business at Bethune-Cookman, a nearby black college, and then held a series of jobs, none for very long. He met his future wife when she sang backup for Roy Clark, the country musician, at the high school where he taught math.

''You were a math teacher?'' his son asked.

''Mm-hmm. Tenth grade.''

I asked Roland Sr. how he and not his wife wound up with Roland when they split.

''I loved my son so much that I wanted to make sure he lived a certain type of lifestyle,'' he said. ''I didn't want him to be in an environment that was not conducive to be the person he is right now.''

At this, his son turned away.

And what kind of teenager, I asked, was Roland?

''Not a bad kid,'' his father replied. ''Matter of fact, he and I used to be so close when we lived together that we would remind each other when we didn't spend enough time together.''

Now his son stomped out of the room. Roland Sr. talked for a while longer and then said he had to leave. Roland Jr. came back in, looking grim. After dinner, driving toward our hotel, he vacillated between anger and bitter silence. His father's version of their life together, he said, was ''total bull.''

The next morning we flew to Dallas. Twenty minutes north of the airport lay Lewisville, an unremarkable city of about 80,000. Fryer drove us past the home where he had lived with his father, a tidy, tan brick ranch on a wide pleasant street.

When he was in third grade, he said, his father started to deteriorate: he drank heavily and beat a girlfriend so badly, in front of Roland, that she ended up in the hospital. Once, when his father left town and returned to find the house a mess, he beat Roland with a length of garden hose. By the time he was 13, Roland was bigger than his father. Though his father denies it, Roland says that one night they had a brutal fight. ''I told him if he ever touched me again, I'd kill him,'' Roland said.

When Roland was in the ninth grade, his father was fired from Xerox for sexual harassment. He passed his days gambling and drinking. Roland made sure to be asleep by the time his father came home from the bar and to be out of the house before he awoke in the morning. Roland was a star athlete, in football and basketball, which made things a little easier. But he was angry at everybody, all the time, and was essentially left to raise himself.

At 13, he forged his birth certificate to get a job at McDonald's. When he could, he told me, he stole from the cash register. He sold counterfeit Dooney & Burke purses out of the trunk of his car -- a tricked-out 1984 Monte Carlo that he wasn't nearly old enough to drive legally. With a friend, he recounted, he would go into Dallas, buy a pound of marijuana for $700 and sell it back in Lewisville for $1,400. He carried a .357 Magnum and one night, in a fight outside a Citgo station, almost used it on a white man. ''I didn't care if I lived or died,'' he said now as we idled in the parking lot of that same Citgo station. ''I always think I'm supposed to be dead, not alive, much less at Harvard.''

We stopped to eat lunch at a dimly lighted sports bar called the Point After North. ''Right over there, against that wall,'' Fryer told me, ''is where my father's rape case began.'' Roland Fryer Sr. was 43 at the time. After a night of drinking, he went home with two women who were sisters. One of them would later say that she went to sleep and woke up to find Fryer having sex with her. Roland Jr. was horrified and ashamed when the arrest made the local newspaper. He had to bail his own father out of jail.

He was 15 years old and couldn't see how his life could get much worse. Then one day while driving his Monte Carlo, he was pulled over by the police. They drew their guns and made him lie on the pavement. He was less humiliated than petrified; he wasn't half the thug he had imagined himself. The one thought he could muster was this: what will my grandmother think if I'm thrown in jail? The police, all of whom were white, questioned him for a few hours -- they thought he was a crack dealer -- and then sent him home. Later that day, some friends called. They had planned a burglary for that night, and told Fryer they were on their way to pick him up. He begged off. His friends did the burglary anyway and wound up in jail.

Fryer points to that day as his road-to-Damascus moment. He can't quite explain what provoked the change -- the fear of jail, perhaps, or of death or of his grandmother's wrath. Or it may be that everyone, at some point, has to choose the kind of person he hopes to be. But after that terrible day of two near-misses, Fryer stopped doing the bad things he had been doing.

At 18, he entered the University of Texas at Arlington on an athletic scholarship. For the first time in his life, Fryer started to study. He liked it; more important, he discovered he had a good brain and a God-given capacity to outwork his peers. He once tried to share his enthusiasm with his father, but he didn't get the response he was looking for. ''I don't care how much education you get or how successful you become, because you'll always be a nigger,'' he says his father replied.

While carrying a full course load at Arlington, Fryer held down a job (he owed his father's bail bondsman) and took extra credits at a local community college. He also managed to meet Lisa during this period. He was efficiency incarnate, earning an economics degree in two and a half years.

He entered graduate school at Penn State University, and it was there, early on, that he realized the power of economics to study race. ''We learned all these powerful math tools that were very deep, very insightful, and were being used to solve -- you know, silly problems, frankly,'' he says. ''At the same time, you'd look on TV and see people literally yelling at each other about affirmative action, bringing up anecdotal stories of one white guy who lost his house and his wife and his kids. The whole debate could be turned by bringing in some horrible travesty. And I thought, here's the exact way that these tools should be used.''

He attended a conference at which Glenn Loury, the prominent black economist, presented a paper on antidiscrimination laws. ''He came up afterwards and said: 'Gee, that's an interesting idea. I'd like to work with you on that,''' Loury recalls. ''I said: 'A lot of people would like to work with me. Who are you?' But it was enough to make me want to get to know this kid.''

Fryer had acquired his first big-time mentor. In similar fashion, he soon found a second, James Heckman, who invited Fryer to the University of Chicago to continue his graduate research. Heckman is a Nobel laureate whose research suggests that if disadvantaged kids don't acquire life skills at an early age, it is quite difficult for them to catch up. In Fryer, he had found a glaring anomaly. After barely three years in graduate school, Fryer completed his dissertation, ''Mathematical Models of Discrimination and Inequality.'' And so it was that at 25 he was fielding calls from Larry Summers and Skip Gates, imploring him to choose Harvard.

The final stop on our tour of Fryer's past was Tulsa, Okla. His mother, Rita, lives there with her second husband, Harold, in a black working-class neighborhood.

During his first year of college, Fryer had a brief but intense fling with religiosity. It was then that he first tracked down his mother. He had been working on forgiveness, and he wanted to forgive his mother for abandoning him. But he couldn't get past the old hurt. ''I kept asking, 'Why didn't you come find me?''' he said. ''And then it just turned to complete anger on my part. I said: 'Do you understand what I went through? I went through all this [expletive], and you didn't come rescue me.'''

On this day, however, Roland's mother explained that things weren't as simple as Roland had assumed. She didn't ''abandon'' him, she said. In fact, when she and Roland Sr. split, she moved back to Tulsa with her son -- Fryer looked confused; he never knew he had lived in Tulsa -- but then, Rita said, Roland Sr. came and, against her wishes, took the boy. ''We searched and searched, spent money and spent money, but we finally gave up.''

Fryer seemed to believe his mother, at least partly. As she spoke, his manner shifted; he let down the wall that generally restrains his emotions; the conversation turned tender. When he mentioned that he used to play the saxophone, his mother brightened. ''My whole family was musical, you know,'' she said. Her mother, it turned out, attended Juilliard and played eight instruments. An uncle was a saxophonist with Duke Ellington. Her family, she said, had been a real force in Tulsa, running restaurants and a variety of other businesses.

''They really were the Talented Tenth,'' Harold said.

Fryer smiled. The concept of the Talented Tenth was promoted by none other than W.E.B. DuBois. It referred to the need for an educated black elite -- the top 10 percent -- that would serve as example and inspiration to their brethren.

Later that night, over Scotch and soda at an airport hotel in Tulsa, Fryer sifted through the discoveries of his trip. He hadn't known that his father was a math teacher. He hadn't known that so much accomplishment ran in his mother's family. ''I used to consider myself a genetic aberration or maybe an impostor,'' he said. ''But I actually have some pretty good genes.''

He had come up with one more factor, however slight, to plug into the increasingly complicated calculus whose answer is Roland G. Fryer Jr.

Fryer has never wanted to be white or to even act it. He loves black culture, high and low, and says that the worst thing about Cambridge is that it offers no psychic connection to his roots.

In DuBois's book ''The Souls of Black Folk,'' there is a heartbreaking passage in which he describes how white men look at him and ask, with their eyes only, ''How does it feel to be a problem?'' In the rarefied world that Fryer inhabits, he sometimes feels a similar question land upon him, a question that is subtler but even more troubling: how does it feel to be an exception?

Last summer in Cambridge, he was driving across town to present a paper. One of his research assistants, Alex, rode along; 50 Cent was on the stereo. The paper -- about the slave trade/salt-sensitivity theory -- was potentially controversial, and Fryer now mentioned that one of his co-authors, Ed Glaeser, would be sitting up front while Fryer presented.

''It'll be good to have an ally,'' Alex said casually.

Fryer glowered. ''You doubt me? You doubt me? What are you trying to say? You're saying I'm only here because of affirmative action?''

Alex, who is white, looked stricken. Then Fryer broke out in a big boom of a laugh. Alex looked at least partly relieved.

A few days earlier, I asked Fryer how it felt to be one of a very, very few blacks in his field. It stinks, he said. ''I'd rather be on an absolute standard, where being black doesn't matter.'' He is convinced that Harvard did not hire him because of affirmative action -- and if he found out otherwise, he said, he would quit tomorrow. He is neither opposed nor in favor of affirmative action in the absolute; to him, the more relevant factors are the timing and degree of its implementation. But like DuBois, he can always feel an accusation hovering.

That may be why he has talked so little about his past. Most people I spoke to about Fryer had only a shadowy sense of his upbringing. He never wanted to score any sympathy points, nor did he want to give his colleagues the opportunity to dismiss him as a freak accident, an exception to the standard rules of academic success -- which might imply that Harvard is not a normative goal for a young black man in the first place. There is also the fact that Fryer's particular science places a high premium on avoiding the personal, the anecdotal. The data are what matter in economics, and the more ruthlessness that an economist can summon to make sense of the data, the more useful his findings will be.

Fryer seems to have successfully internalized this creed. He once told me, without a hint of irony or self-pity, that his upbringing, while generally awful, actually provides an advantage. I asked why.

''My father screwed me over so bad that he made my emotions like a lever,'' he said. ''I learned how to turn them off and on. And that's what's needed when you study race.''

So here is Fryer's final anomaly: he is a man who revels in his blackness and yet also says he believes, as DuBois believed, that black underachievement cannot entirely be laid at the feet of discrimination. Fryer has a huge appetite for advocacy but a far larger appetite for science, and as a scientist he won't exclude any possibilities, including black behaviors, from the menu of factors that contribute to the black condition. His school-incentive project in New York would call upon this entire menu: it seeks to provide an empirical means to measure the theoretical effect of ''acting white''; it engages the economist's belief in the power of incentives to change an environment; and it allows for the overlooked abilities of any given child to flourish. The project might do the most good for the kind of child Fryer himself once was: a kid who belongs to the Talented Tenth but just doesn't know it yet.

The very issue of black-white inequality has, in recent years, been practically driven from public view. But according to the data that Fryer lives with, the inequality itself hasn't gone away. There have been countless distractions -- wars, economic gyrations, political turmoil -- and, perhaps just as significantly, fatigue. The proven voices and standard ideologies have lost much of their power. So there is an opportunity, and probably a need, for a new set of voices, and Roland Fryer, though he would never say it aloud, wants desperately for his to be among them.

Stephen J. Dubner is the author, with Steven D. Levitt, of the forthcoming ''Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.''

Daily Kos: The "No Race" Superiority

Daily Kos: The "No Race" SuperiorityThe "No Race" Superiority
by Armando
Sat Jul 30th, 2005 at 09:24:40 PDT

Ever since Charles Murray's racist nonsense "The Bell Curve" first posited that different races have different intelligence aptitudes (to the everlasting shame of The New Republic and its then Editor Andrew Sullivan, the book was treated as a serious work at the time), we have had to suffer too many "serious discussions" on this issue, and other related issues (Summers). Making racism respectable was Charles Murray's goal, and for a while it succeededed. But, as the NYTimes Ed Board points out, race is not an easily described concept genetically:

[A]t Pennsylvania State University, where about 90 students took complex genetic screening tests that compared their samples with those of four regional groups . . . [m]any of these students thought of themselves as "100 percent" white or black or something else, but only a tiny fraction of them, as it turned out, actually fell into that category. Most learned instead that they shared genetic markers with people of different skin colors.

Ostensibly "black" subjects, for example, found that as much as half of their genetic material came from Europe, with some coming from Asia as well. One "white" student learned that 14 percent of his DNA came from Africa - and 6 percent from East Asia. The student told The Daily Collegian, the student newspaper, earlier this year: "When I got my results I was like, there's no way they were mine. I thought it was just an example of what the test was supposed to look like. Then I was like, Oh my God, that's me."

What amazes me about this, as I was amazed by the remarks of Lawrence Summers, is that even if the racist nirvana could be achieved: that intelligence could even be reduced to a measurable concept, that it could be proven that there are genetic differences between the races and genders that lead to different intelligence aptitudes, etc. - does anyone seriously believe that that hypothetical factor is even worthy of mention as compared to the very real, very well documented societal prejudices that have plagued mankind since the beginning of history?

What value these genetic studies may have for understanding diseases et al I can't say, but I am always skeptical when the science appears to be undertaken to discover whether there are innate differences in intelligence between races and genders. I can't see the purpose there, though the potential harm I think we all see.

But, science does not march for anyone of us. And my thoughts on this will not stifle any scientific inquiry. Nor should they.

Court Nominee Stood Out for Conservative Rigor - New York Times

Court Nominee Stood Out for Conservative Rigor - New York TimesJuly 31, 2005
Court Nominee Stood Out for Conservative Rigor

They are not exactly father and son, but they share a singular bond in an elite business: 25 years ago this summer, almost exactly half his lifetime ago, John G. Roberts went to work for William H. Rehnquist, and now he stands poised to become the first Supreme Court clerk in American history to sit on the bench alongside the justice he served.

His 13 months in the chambers of Justice Rehnquist spanned the period of the 1980 election and the dawn of the Reagan revolution in Washington. It was a heady time of relentless work, long walks on Capitol Hill discussing cases informally with the justice and sharp-elbowed basketball games in the Supreme Court gym, wryly referred to as the "highest court in the land."

It was a time when the Supreme Court was far different, more liberal, and that made John Roberts stand out among the other clerks.

"John's conservatism was in fact a sign of intellectual courage, coming out of Harvard and being surrounded by law clerks from mainly liberal, East Coast, Ivy institutions," said John A. Siliciano, a law professor at Cornell who clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall at the same time.

His was "a very solid, rigorous, coherent view of very important social questions," Professor Siliciano said, "about the relations between courts and legislatures, about the relationship between the federal government and the state, between the public sphere and the private."

Fifteen of the 32 Supreme Court clerks in the 1980-81 term agreed to be interviewed about Mr. Roberts, including both of his fellow Rehnquist clerks. They offered a revealing portrait of an affable, ambitious and frankly conservative intellectual, much like his boss.

"John certainly was in sync with his justice," said Paul M. Smith, who clerked for Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. and is now a lawyer in Washington who frequently appears before the Supreme Court.

At the most recent reunion of former Rehnquist clerks earlier this summer, Judge Roberts and several other former clerks played the chief justice in a humorous skit depicting various stages of his career, beginning with those long, Nixon-era sideburns and culminating in a white-haired man with a cane.

Mr. Roberts's clerkship was bookended by two shocks to the Supreme Court's system. The first was the publication in December 1979 of "The Brethren," an exposé of the court's inner workings by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong. The book relied heavily on indiscreet accounts by law clerks who had served in earlier years, which made the justices more cautious, several former clerks said.

When Mr. Roberts left a year later, the court was anticipating the arrival of Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female justice and the one Judge Roberts may now replace. The justices voted to drop the traditional reference to "Mr. Justice" in 1980.

But as far as Supreme Court terms go, Mr. Roberts served during a relatively routine one that included important cases on the First Amendment, federalism and sex discrimination, and ended with a notable affirmation of executive power.

At the time, Justice Rehnquist and Chief Justice Warren E. Burger represented the court's conservative wing. Justice Rehnquist, though, had begun to emerge as one of the court's intellectual leaders, intent on methodically moving his colleagues to the right. His influence grew when he became chief justice six years later.

Sprinkled through the arc of Judge Roberts's career, glimmers of Justice Rehnquist's influence can be detected, in memorandums the young clerk wrote at the time to decisions Judge Roberts, 50, has issued during his two years on the federal appeals court in Washington.

On the last day of the term in 1981, for instance, Justice Rehnquist wrote for a unanimous court to say that Presidents Carter and Reagan had the legal authority to nullify court orders and suspend private lawsuits as part of the agreement with Iran that ended the hostage crisis there. The decision, Dames & Moore v. Regan, took an exceptionally deferential view of executive power.

Judge Roberts cited the decision last year in an opinion accepting the Bush administration's position that it could block claims against Iraq from American soldiers who had been tortured there during the Persian Gulf war.

Few if any of the memorandums found so far from Mr. Roberts's clerkship shed much light on his political leanings. They are, if anything, concise and reliant on procedural points. They do, however, bear the dry wit that so many have cited in describing Mr. Roberts's writings and personality.

Most justices hired clerks who shared their views. But the Rehnquist clerks did not wear their politics on their sleeves, said Robert B. Knauss, a Los Angeles lawyer who also clerked for the justice that year.

"Frankly, the people that did were the liberal clerks, who were more out there, more aggressive, more, frankly, intolerant," Mr. Knauss said. "There were a few that were pretty aggressive that would try to come into the chambers and lobby you."

A Supreme Court clerkship is the ultimate legal status symbol, reserved for students of stunning intellectual horsepower. Almost all of the clerks who served with Mr. Roberts came from elite law schools - seven from Yale, five, including Mr. Roberts, from Harvard - and from prestigious lower-court clerkships.

And many would go on to enormous professional success, particularly in the academy. John E. Sexton, a clerk for Chief Justice Burger, is president of New York University. Michael W. McConnell, a clerk for Justice William J. Brennan Jr., was a noted law professor before he was appointed to the federal appeals court in Denver in 2002. Stephen L. Carter, a clerk for Justice Marshall, is now a law professor at Yale and a best-selling author.

But even in that group, Mr. Roberts stood out.

There were, Professor Siliciano said, two clerks he thought at the time might well end up on the Supreme Court. One was Mr. Carter, and the other was Mr. Roberts.

Only four former Supreme Court clerks have returned as justices: Byron R. White, who clerked for Fred M. Vinson; John Paul Stevens, who clerked for Wiley B. Rutledge; Stephen G. Breyer, who clerked for Arthur J. Goldberg; and Justice Rehnquist himself, who clerked for Robert H. Jackson.

The atmosphere in Justice Rehnquist's chambers was cozy and informal, but it was clear who ran the show, said Dean C. Colson, a Florida lawyer who was the third Rehnquist clerk in Mr. Roberts's year.

"This is a guy you didn't get anything by," Mr. Colson said of Justice Rehnquist. Referring to him by his current title, he added: "The chief would say: 'Here's the way I want to go. Here's the way I want it outlined. Here's the way I want it written.' And then he'd edit heavily."

The three clerks shared a small room with three desks, and the close quarters added to the intensity of the experience, Mr. Colson said. The justices worked harder in those days, deciding 138 cases on the merits in that term. In more recent years, the court has decided about 80 cases.

After Justice Rehnquist read the briefs in a case, he would poke his head into the clerks' office, Mr. Knauss recalled.

"He would point to one of us," Mr. Knauss said, "and say, 'I'd like to talk about such and such a case,' and we would go walking in the neighborhood and walk and talk about the case that would be argued in the next few days."

Clerks for other justices said they appreciated the wry humor than emanated from the Rehnquist clerks.

"I had the impression," said Robert Weisberg, a Stanford law professor who clerked for Justice Potter Stewart, "that they, with the permission and even encouragement of their boss, were prone to take a somewhat sardonic view of Chief Justice Burger's operation, which was pretty absurdly regal."

Justice Rehnquist let the clerks decide who would handle which case. They used a system similar to the NFL draft, but with a twist. The clerks could use a vote to claim a case or to reject one, all before knowing whether Justice Rehnquist would be assigned to write the majority opinion or decide to write a concurrence or dissent.

A clerk who did not vote carefully, Mr. Colson said, "could get stuck with a lot of tax cases."

Mr. Knauss and Mr. Colson declined to discuss the substance of the opinions Justice Rehnquist wrote that year or to say which clerks helped draft which decisions.

Much of the clerks' work consisted of summarizing the thousands of requests that the court receives each year to hear particular cases, known as petitions for writs of certiorari, or cert. petitions. In those days, five justices, including Justice Rehnquist, were part of a "cert. pool," meaning that a single clerk would write a "pool memo" for each case for all five justices. Other justices preferred to have their own clerks review every petition.

Mr. Colson estimated that each clerk in the pool produced 7 to 10 memorandums a week.

The memorandums Mr. Roberts wrote are in Justice Blackmun's papers at the Library of Congress, which were made public in 2004. They generally concern mundane topics, and he almost always concluded that the cases were unworthy of the court's attention.

But Mr. Roberts's memorandums stand out as terse, lucid and even elegant.

All through the fall of 1980, Mr. Roberts plowed through a huge range of cases, from an Osage Indian income tax dispute, to a complex cattle transaction, to a claim that a faulty search warrant had led to a cocaine conviction, to the validity of a lien for payment of repair of an aircraft propeller for a bankrupt airline, to the question of whether a hunting and fishing lodge owned by a foundry and used for entertaining customers was tax deductible. None of the cases made it to the court.

Some of the memorandums contain faint flashes of the sarcastic humor that Mr. Roberts would employ in internal communications in later years as a government lawyer. One of the "more modest claims" in a petition from the Christian-Bull Moose-Fighting Tiger Party, he wrote, "is that all the election laws of all the states are unconstitutional."

Twenty-five years after the clerkships ended, the memories that remain most distinct for many of Mr. Roberts's co-clerks involve basketball.

The Rehnquist clerks were a force to be reckoned with "on that horrific cement court above the library," recalled James J. Brudney, a law professor at Ohio State who clerked for Justice Blackmun. But Mr. Roberts brought more enthusiasm than skill to the game.

"He played an aggressive style of basketball that left other co-clerks with the bruises to show for it," Mr. Knauss said of Mr. Roberts.

Professor Brudney recalled that Mr. Colson was the best athlete in the group and so was not shy about shouting commands. When one of Mr. Roberts's shots went awry one afternoon, Professor Brudney said, "Dean Colson screamed 'way off!' to tell people where to position themselves."

That did not sit well with Mr. Roberts.

"You heard this somewhat meek but still assertive voice," Professor Brudney said, recalling Mr. Roberts's words: " 'Just "off" would have been sufficient.' "

Friday, July 29, 2005

All Fall Down - New York Times

All Fall Down - New York TimesJuly 29, 2005
All Fall Down

In visiting Gaza and Israel a few weeks ago, I realized how much the huge drama in Iraq has obscured some of the slower, deeper but equally significant changes happening around the Middle East. To put it bluntly, the political parties in the Arab world and Israel that have shaped the politics of this region since 1967 have all either crumbled or been gutted of any of their original meaning. The only major parties with any internal energy and coherence left today are Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, and they are scared out of their minds - scared that if all the secular parties collapse, they may have to rule, and they don't have the answers for jobs, sewers and electricity.

In short, Iraq is not the only country in this neighborhood struggling to write a new social contract and develop new parties. The same thing is going on in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Gaza. If you like comparative politics, you may want to pull up a chair and pop some popcorn, because this sort of political sound and light show comes along only every 30 or 40 years.

How did it all happen? The peace process and the large-scale immigration of Jews to Israel (aliyah) were the energy sources that animated the Israeli Labor Party, and their recent collapse has sapped its strength. Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon's decision to pull out of Gaza unilaterally and uproot all the Jewish settlements there, settlements that his Likud Party had extolled as part of its core mission, has fractured that party.

Likud's vision of creating a Greater Israel "collapsed because of Palestinian demography and terrorism, and Labor's vision of peace collapsed with the failure at Camp David," said the former Likud minister Dan Meridor.

The death of Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian intifada - which was as much a revolt by Palestinian youth against Fatah's corrupt old guard as against Israel - and Israel's crushing response have broken Fatah and its animating vision of "revolution until victory over the Zionist entity."

"Fatah never made the transition from a national liberation movement to civil society," said the Palestinian reformist legislator Ziad Abu Amr. Iraq's Baath Party was smashed to bits by President Bush. Syria's Baath - because of the loss of both its charismatic leader, Hafez al-Assad, and Lebanon, its vassal and launching pad for war on Israel - has no juice anymore. Lebanon's Christian Phalange Party and Amal Party, and the other ethnic parties there, are all casting about for new identities, now that their primary obsessions - the Syrian and Israeli bogymen - have both left Lebanon. Egypt's National Democratic Party, which should be spearheading the modernization of the Arab world, can't get any traction because Egyptians still view it as the extension of a nondemocratic regime.

Intensifying these pressures is the big change from Washington, said the Palestinian political scientist Khalil Shikaki: "As long as Washington was happy with regimes that offered only stability, there was no outside pressure for change. Now that the Bush administration has taken a bolder position, the public's expectations with regard to democratization are becoming greater. But the existing parties were not built to deliver that. So unless new ones emerge, either Hamas or anarchy could fill the vacuum."

The big challenge for all these societies is obvious: Can they reconstitute these old parties or build new ones that can make the task and narrative of developing their own countries - making their people competitive in an age when China and India and Ireland are eating their lunch - as emotionally gripping as fighting Israel or the West or settling the West Bank?

Can there be a Baath Party or a Fatah that has real views on competition, science and the environment? Will Labor and Likud (which, though badly hobbled, are still more like real political parties than those in the Arab world) ever have a defining debate over why nearly one in five Israelis live below the poverty line?

"For decades, people in the region were only interested in political parties that offered national liberation," remarked Jordan's deputy prime minister, Marwan Muashar, whose country is in the midst of a huge overhaul. "But now all the existential threats to the different states are gone. Now the focus has shifted from national liberation to personal liberation, but in all spheres: more equality, less corruption, better incomes, better schools. ... Governments are talking differently, but up to now people are still skeptical. They have heard so much talk. ... The first country or party that really shows results will have a big effect on the whole region because everyone is looking for a new vision."

Despite Problems, Bush Continues to Make Advances on His Agenda - New York Times

Despite Problems, Bush Continues to Make Advances on His Agenda - New York TimesJuly 29, 2005
Despite Problems, Bush Continues to Make Advances on His Agenda

WASHINGTON, July 28 - His problems remain many, and include the relentless violence in Iraq, the leak investigation that has ensnared some of his top aides and poll numbers that suggest substantial dissatisfaction with both his foreign and domestic policies. But President Bush has still had a pretty good July, showing how his own doggedness and a Republican majority in Congress have consistently allowed him to push his agenda forward even when the political winds are in his face.

In a flurry of last-minute action as it prepared to recess, Congress on Thursday passed or stood at the brink of final action on several hard-fought measures that had been at the top of Mr. Bush's summer to-do list and that at times had seemed to be long shots. The House narrowly approved a new trade deal with Central American nations early on Thursday morning, the final hurdle for a pact that was one of the administration's top economic priorities this year.

The House and Senate were wrapping up work Thursday on an energy bill that more or less conforms to what Mr. Bush has sought. And the two chambers were moving toward final passage of a transportation bill that contained enough pork to please lawmakers as they headed home, but with a price tag acceptable to the White House.

Even as the legislative wheels turned in Mr. Bush's direction, the White House was watching with satisfaction as the president's choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, Judge John G. Roberts, continued to win support from all wings of the Republican Party while leaving Democrats with little that might threaten his confirmation.

"You can disagree with the merits of individual things, but there's a lot that's been done," said John B. Breaux, the former Democratic senator from Louisiana who often worked across party lines.

The president's record over the past few weeks, combined with generally good economic news and word that the budget deficit is shrinking, suggests that Mr. Bush has hardly lapsed into the lame-duck status that Democrats had been hoping to assign him.

It also highlights yet again the importance of the time and effort he has put into helping retain the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, which for all their fractiousness tend to come through for him at the big moments. As he often does, Mr. Bush relied heavily on his party's leaders on Capitol Hill to make the deals necessary to achieve his broad legislative goals.

"If you had said a month ago that there would be a bill-signing ceremony for the energy bill, the transportation bill and Cafta, no one would have believed you," said David Winston, a Republican pollster, referring to the Central American Free Trade Agreement. "If the last election was about giving the Republican Party the responsibility to govern, they've now shown that ability, and that's a very significant message for them to take back home."

Yet there are limits to the message from this string of positive outcomes for the administration and its allies in Congress.

Mr. Bush remains at odds with substantial elements of his own party, including some Congressional leaders, on issues like federal financing for embryonic stem cell research and immigration, both of which threaten to explode into messy legislative battles in the coming months. Democrats continue to attack him for ignoring the issues of most concern to voters, like health care. And with the exception of his Supreme Court selection, the batch of initiatives that the White House has put front and center this month show few signs of producing a big surge in political support for Mr. Bush.

The energy bill gives Republicans, as the party in power, a chance to show that they responded to high gasoline prices, but the legislation is at most a modest start on addressing the nation's thirst for oil. The trade deal, while certainly a symbolic victory for the administration's economic philosophy at a time of growing protectionist pressures and hardening Democratic opposition, affects only a minuscule percentage of American exports.

Looking ahead, it is not clear that whatever momentum Mr. Bush has picked up on Capitol Hill will do anything to give new impetus to the domestic initiative on which he had staked the most this year, his call to overhaul Social Security.

Democrats have been united in opposition to his plan to add investment accounts to Social Security, and have portrayed the issue as one that revealed how Mr. Bush had overreached in trying to place a conservative stamp on the nation.

Republicans have shown themselves reluctant to embrace his approach, and have backed far away from the White House's demand for a comprehensive approach that would also assure the retirement system's permanent solvency.

At the same time, Mr. Bush faces possible fallout from the investigation into the disclosure of the name of a Central Intelligence Agency operative. And in the long run, Mr. Bush's political fortunes seem wedded more than anything else to developments in Iraq, where the bloody insurgency shows no signs of weakening.

"The energy bill, the highway bill, Cafta - they are all feathers in his cap, but they don't change the underlying drift in public opinion against him," said Doug Schoen, a Democratic pollster.

If the nation has learned anything about Mr. Bush over the last four and a half years, though, it is that he pushes ahead with his agenda in the face of all kinds of crosscurrents. In doing so, he displays what many Democrats view as ideological rigidity that ignores reality and what many Republicans consider principled consistency that defies the political pressures of the moment.

Mr. Bush shows every sign of sticking to his current path in Iraq. He has signaled that he will not abandon his push for changes to Social Security and is gearing up for an ambitious effort to overhaul the tax code.

It is not just Democrats that he will take on as the year progresses. While he seeks common ground with fellow Republicans on his approach to immigration, he has shown no signs of backing down from his proposal to grant temporary guest-worker status to many people who are in the United States illegally, despite intense opposition within the party.

Mr. Bush, Mr. Breaux said, operates by the adage Lawrence F. O'Brien Jr., Democratic Party chairman in the 1960's and '70's, used to cite: that there are "no final victories" in politics, only battle after battle to be fought.

"He's stubborn," Mr. Breaux said of Mr. Bush. "He's persistent."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

An Advocate for the Right - New York Times

An Advocate for the Right - New York TimesJuly 28, 2005
An Advocate for the Right

WASHINGTON, July 27 - The early 1980's were a heady time for conservatives in Washington.

Ronald Reagan was president, and after years on the outside, some of the strongest voices in the conservative movement - men like Edwin Meese III, James G. Watt, William Bradford Reynolds and Theodore B. Olson - were in high positions in the government and were determined to reverse what they believed to be years of liberal policies in areas like civil rights, environmental protection, criminal law and immigration.

John G. Roberts, a young lawyer in the Justice Department in 1981 and 1982 and on the White House counsel's staff from 1982 to 1986, held positions too junior for him to set policy in those days.

But his internal memorandums, some of which have become public in recent days, reveal a philosophy every bit as conservative as that of the policy makers on the front lines of the Reagan revolution and give more definition to his image than was apparent in the first days after President Bush picked him to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

On almost every issue he dealt with where there were basically two sides, one more conservative than the other, the documents from the National Archives and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library show that Judge Roberts, now of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, advocated the more conservative course. Sometimes, he took positions even more conservative than those of his prominent superiors.

He favored less government enforcement of civil rights laws rather than more. He criticized court decisions that required a thick wall between church and state. He took the side of prosecutors over criminal defendants. He maintained that the role of the courts should be limited and the president's powers enhanced.

Mr. Roberts was only 26 when he joined the Reagan administration and 31 when he left. But the ideology he expressed as a young man helps explain why conservative activists seem pleased with him, even though others Mr. Bush might have picked have a more detailed public record of conservative advocacy.

Consider Mr. Roberts's stands on some of the hottest political issues of the 1980's as revealed in the newly public documents:

Busing In 1985, when he was an assistant White House counsel, Mr. Roberts took issue with Mr. Olson, an assistant attorney general at the time, on whether Congress could enact a law that outlawed busing to achieve school desegregation.

Mr. Olson, who was one of the nation's most widely known conservative lawyers on constitutional matters, was arguing that Congress's hands were tied because the Supreme Court had ruled that busing was constitutionally required in some circumstances.

Mr. Roberts wrote in a memorandum to the White House counsel, Fred F. Fielding, that Mr. Olson had misinterpreted the law. He said evidence showed that by producing white flight, busing promoted segregation. "It strikes me as more than passing strange for us to tell Congress it cannot pass a law preventing courts from ordering busing when our own Justice Department invariably urges this policy on the courts," he wrote.

Sex discrimination Mr. Roberts also challenged Mr. Reynolds, who was assistant attorney general for civil rights and another prominent conservative who outranked him.

In 1981, he urged Attorney General William French Smith to reject Mr. Reynolds's position that the department should intervene on behalf of female prisoners who were discriminated against in a job-training program. If male and female prisoners had to be treated equally, Mr. Roberts argued, "the end result in this time of state prison budgets may be no programs for anyone."

Judicial restraint Mr. Roberts consistently argued that courts should be stripped of authority over busing, school prayer and other matters. In a letter in November 1981 to Judge Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, for whom he had clerked and whom he considered a mentor, Mr. Roberts wrote that he and his colleagues in the administration were determined to "halt unwarranted interference" by the courts in the activities of Congress and the executive branch.

A month later, he wrote to Rex Lee, who was the solicitor general, that courts were "ill-suited to policy making because they are limited to the facts presented to them."

Court-stripping is still an issue in American politics. Last year, the House approved legislation that would prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize same-sex marriages in other states. The measure never became law.

Presidential war powers In 1983, Arthur J. Goldberg, the former Supreme Court justice, wrote a letter to the White House questioning President Reagan's constitutional authority to send troops to Grenada without a declaration of war.

Mr. Roberts replied with a ringing endorsement of the president's power. "This has been recognized at least since the time President Jefferson sent the Marines to the shores of Tripoli," he wrote. "While there is no clear line separating what the president may do on his own and what requires a formal declaration of war, the Grenada mission seems to be clearly acceptable as an exercise of executive authority, particularly when it is recalled that neither the Korean nor Vietnamese conflicts were declared wars."

Affirmative action Mr. Roberts held that affirmative action programs were bound to fail because they required "the recruiting of inadequately prepared candidates."

"Under our view of the law," he wrote in 1981, "it is not enough to say that blacks and women have been historically discriminated against as groups and are therefore entitled to special preferences."

Immigration Mr. Roberts took strong issue with a Supreme Court decision striking down a Texas law that had allowed school districts to deny enrollment to children who were in the country illegally. The court had overreached its authority, he wrote, and the Justice Department had made a mistake by not entering the case on the state's side.

Church-state Mr. Roberts was sharply critical of the Supreme Court decision outlawing prayer in public schools, and he said the court had exceeded its authority when it allowed any citizens to challenge the transfer of public property to a parochial school.

John M. Broder contributed reporting from Simi Valley, Calif., for this article, and Jonathan D. Glater from Washington.

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Memo to GOP: Roberts could disappoint

New York Daily News - News & Views Columnists - Stanley Crouch: Memo to GOP: Roberts could disappointMemo to GOP: Roberts
could disappoint

South Carolina's Bob Jones University is a GOP stalwart. But it also has been a public relations spear in the side of the elephants because of its racist policies against interracial dating. After all, so many of our historical troubles in the areas of color, religion and ethnicity come down to the question of two heads on a pillow.

During the civil rights era, the question was often asked in straight terms when questions regarding segregated policies came up: "Would you want a Negro to marry your daughter?"

This may even affect the argument about John Roberts, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court. Roberts neither attended nor taught at Bob Jones University. If he had, it is doubtful that he would have risen far enough to become a legal adviser to the Reagan White House.

Roberts has been exposed in the press as a pragmatic man who supposedly made an intellectual argument in favor of Bob Jones University, saying that there were grounds not to refuse it federal funds because of its policy against interracial dating. But Roberts, who knew what time it was, advised the Reagan White House not to accept that argument. Any policies that exist in order to oppress part of the population should not be upheld by the presidency, like slavery, segregation and the refusal to allow women to vote.

If that is true, Roberts, unlike elephants who travel forward by looking in the rearview mirror for instructions, might actually be the kind of man who understands how important it is to set aside backward policy in the interest of the nation. Let us hope.

What we may soon see is the pachyderms running through the bushes in a tizzy until they find the lost treasure of an argument that Hubert Humphrey used against Bill Miller when they were vice presidential candidates debating in 1964.

Miller was running with Barry Goldwater against the ticket headed by Lyndon Johnson, whom he dismissed as having once been a segregationist.

Humphrey, faster than a whip, responded, "That's what I like about Lyndon Johnson; he learns!" Humphrey could not have known that Johnson would become the greatest civil rights legislator since Abraham Lincoln, but he did know that the time had passed when the Democratic Party could afford to side with racists.

It is still the kind of argument that the elephants need to use, if they want to get Roberts on the court. But the elephants always have to remember Hugo Black, one of the most liberal judges in Supreme Court history. Black proved that even an ex-klansman who avoids elimination might not keep the faith. He might fail to maintain the lease in the good old American times when second-class citizenship was held in place by everything that could be called upon, from murder to the decisions of our highest court.

So, these may still prove to be very disappointing times for backward people.

Originally published on July 27, 2005

Learning From Lance - New York Times

Learning From Lance - New York Timesuly 27, 2005
Learning From Lance

There is no doubt that Lance Armstrong's seventh straight victory in the Tour de France, which has prompted sportswriters to rename the whole race the Tour de Lance, makes him one of the greatest U.S. athletes of all time. What I find most impressive about Armstrong, besides his sheer willpower to triumph over cancer, is the strategic focus he brings to his work, from his prerace training regimen to the meticulous way he and his cycling team plot out every leg of the race. It is a sight to behold. I have been thinking about them lately because their abilities to meld strength and strategy - to thoughtfully plan ahead and to sacrifice today for a big gain tomorrow - seem to be such fading virtues in American life.

Sadly, those are the virtues we now associate with China, Chinese athletes and Chinese leaders. Talk to U.S. business executives and they'll often comment on how many of China's leaders are engineers, people who can talk to you about numbers, long-term problem-solving and the national interest - not a bunch of lawyers looking for a sound bite to get through the evening news. America's most serious deficit today is a deficit of such leaders in politics and business.

John Mack, the new C.E.O. at Morgan Stanley, initially demanded in the contract he signed June 30 that his total pay for the next two years would be no less than the average pay package received by the C.E.O.'s at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. If that average turned out to be more than $25 million, Mr. Mack was to be paid at least that much. He eventually backed off that demand after a howl of protest, but it struck me as the epitome of what is wrong in America today.

We are now playing defense. A top C.E.O. wants to be paid not based on his performance, but based on the average of his four main rivals! That is like Lance Armstrong's saying he will race only if he is guaranteed to come in first or second, no matter what his cycling times are on each leg.

I recently spent time in Ireland, which has quietly become the second-richest country in the E.U., first by going through some severe belt-tightening that meant everyone had to sacrifice, then by following that with a plan to upgrade the education of its entire work force, and a strategy to recruit and induce as many global high-tech companies and researchers as possible to locate in Ireland. The Irish have a plan. They are focused. They have mobilized business, labor and government around a common agenda. They are playing offense.

Wouldn't you think that if you were president, after you'd read the umpteenth story about premier U.S. companies, like Intel and Apple, building their newest factories, and even research facilities, in China, India or Ireland, that you'd summon the top U.S. business leaders to Washington to ask them just one question: "What do we have to do so you will keep your best jobs here? Make me a list and I will not rest until I get it enacted."

And if you were president, and you had just seen more suicide bombs in London, wouldn't you say to your aides: "We have got to reduce our dependence on Middle East oil. We have to do it for our national security. We have to do it because only if we bring down the price of crude will these countries be forced to reform. And we should want to do it because it is clear that green energy solutions are the wave of the future, and the more quickly we impose a stringent green agenda on ourselves, the more our companies will lead innovation in these technologies."

Instead, we are about to pass an energy bill that, while it does contain some good provisions, will make no real dent in our gasoline consumption, largely because no one wants to demand that Detroit build cars that get much better mileage. We are just feeding Detroit the rope to hang itself. It's assisted suicide. I thought people went to jail for that?

And if you were president, would you really say to the nation, in the face of the chaos in Iraq, that "if our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them," but that they had not asked? It is not what the generals are asking you, Mr. President - it is what you are asking them, namely: "What do you need to win?" Because it is clear we are not winning, and we are not winning because we have never made Iraq a secure place where normal politics could emerge.

Oh, well, maybe we have the leaders we deserve. Maybe we just want to admire Lance Armstrong, but not be Lance Armstrong. Too much work. Maybe that's the wristband we should be wearing: Live wrong. Party on. Pay later.

Maureen Dowd is on leave until Aug. 10.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


EditorialChen's undiplomatic act


Last week, President Chen Shui-bian surprised everybody by publicly urging South Korean President Roh Moo Hyuan to facilitate his participation in the November summit of APEC leaders in Busan, saying it was "an ideal occasion for the leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to sit down and talk."

Seoul and Washington immediately rejected the idea. Chen made the undiplomatic move while receiving President Roh's special emissary who came to deliver an invitation for the leader of "Chinese Taipei" to attend the Bushan meeting.

The Chinese Taipei's leader is expected to excuse himself and dispatch a representative from the economic sector to attend the meeting on his behalf. Taiwan is the only member whose president is not allowed to join the group due to Beijing's insistence. It's unfair but it was the condition for Taiwan's admission in the regional economic forum in the first place.

Since April, leaders of Taiwan's three opposition parties have made historic trips to Beijing for talks with Hu Jintao. Their activities on the mainland were highly praised at home and abroad; while the president's approval rating plunged to an all-time low, under 30 percent. Chen has repeatedly called Hu for a meeting, but Hu wants him to honor the "one China" principle first and rejects not meeting on Chinese soil.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Film tries to 'Hustle' us on value of street cred

New York Daily News - Ideas & Opinions - Stanley Crouch: Film tries to 'Hustle' us on value of street credFilm tries to 'Hustle' us on value of street cred

The movie "Hustle & Flow" is not only the latest update of blaxploitation and the most recent neo-minstrel development in black popular culture. It also represents a crisis of artistic consciousness because it was produced by filmmaker John Singleton, and has been supported by Spike Lee and Will Smith, both of whom have presented private screenings.

This is not minor because all three of these men have previously remained removed from celebrating the sort of scum that this film - and that the worst of the rap industry - raises high from the dung heap of popular culture at its most irresponsible and dehumanizing.

Some will defend it because of the remarkable performance by Terrence Howard, who portrays a low-level pimp with a dream of becoming a rap star. With that arrives a muddled conception of morality in which up is down and down is up. The condescension toward black people and women is astounding.

The pimp is airbrushed and carries himself like just another ignorant Negro trying to get above the bottom. That is the fundamental fraud of the film, which avoids the hard story of pimps and their brutal relationships to their whores, who are actually the tragic figures. If, like "The Godfather," it had sought to tell the blood-encrusted truth, it might not have been so irresponsible and might have been able to boast a complexity more like that of this year's "Crash," which also featured the plentiful gifts of Howard.

As a rapper, the pimp in "Hustle & Flow" is supposed to have so much charisma that he is able to convert, or should we say pervert, the middle-class wife of his record producer, a high school buddy. As is often the case, the black middle-class woman is depicted as a hindering lame. But true to cliched manipulation, she thrusts aside her reservations about her husband's wallowing with scum and brings sandwiches to a recording session! The session is held at the pimp's home; not a whorehouse, but one full of his whores. As one black woman said to me, "Supporting your man's dream is one thing, but what sophisticated black woman would go to a pimp's house and offer him, his whores and her husband some snacks?"

Easy: the straw one in the movie.

This film is not about facts or morality or the artistic accuracy of tragic vision. It is about commercialism masquerading as black authenticity. How Singleton, Lee and Smith went for this package is a serious question.

According to this movie, and as we should know, "street credibility" - thug and criminal experience - supposedly transcends all things, be they upper class, middle class or no class.

Of course, the worst of rap has long projected and promoted the amoral vision of thugs and street hustlers, all of whom, in the real world, have never - ever - been shy about saying that they would sell excrement if there was a market for it. This vision has proved quite successful for the extremes of rap, where criminality, misogyny and the crudest materialism soar above all.

Singleton, who has been an ambitious filmmaker, will probably draw a big profit. He is now willing to take his audience into a world where fertilizer is worshiped because it grows bushels of money. But never forget that fertilizer always smells exactly like what it is.

That, finally, is what we can say of "Hustle & Flow."

Originally published on July 25, 2005

Monday, July 25, 2005

Taipei Times - archives

Taipei Times - archivesPRC trying to `isolate Taiwan:' US
DIVIDE AND CONQUER: Beijing, seeking eventual unification with Taiwan, will use its influence on ASEAN to marginalize Taiwan, US experts argue

Sunday, Jul 24, 2005,Page 3

The purpose of China's efforts in aligning with the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is to isolate Taiwan and drive it away from the US and countries in Southeast Asia, US experts said Friday.

Speaking at a hearing called by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission under the US Congress, Bronson Percival, a senior researcher at the Center for Naval Analysis, said that China is pressuring Southeast Asian countries to isolate Taiwan and that those countries are not willing to be dragged into a conflict by the US over the cross-strait impasse.

China now is increasingly emerging as the most unstable factor in East Asia due to its likelihood of attacking Taiwan, Percival said.

Dan Blumenthal, a former director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia affairs at the US Department of Defense, said that China is attempting to cement its influence in Southeast Asia and alienate the countries in the region from the US through the signing of a free trade agreement with the ASEAN member nations.

According to Blumenthal, who cited a recent annual report by the Pentagon on China's military power and strategy, China is aiming to increase its clout in Southeast Asia and adjacent sea areas through its military buildup that focuses on deploying more ballistic missiles, aircraft and destroyers.

Blumenthal suggested that Washington strengthen its ties with Australia, India, Vietnam and Japan as a counterweight to China's expansion in the region.

Another participant claimed that China's intention, rather than its military buildup and modernization, is the major concern to its neighboring countries, such as Japan, and to the US.

China's military expansion is aimed at increasing its influence in Asia, in particular toward Taiwan and the US military deployment in the Far East, he said, warning that future uncertainties will loom large in the region along with China's growing military might

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Xinhua - English

Xinhua - EnglishChina entering era of enlightenment for property rights 2005-07-24 22:09:35

NANJING, July 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Shortly after China made public its drafted law of property rights in early July to solicit public opinion for further revisions, people at a residential quarter in this capital of east China's Jiangsu Province set to use it as a powerful weapon to safeguard their legitimate interests related toan underground parking lot in the quarter.

China is entering an era of enlightenment for property rights. According to a recent survey, the people's awareness of the law remains low in the country, although they pay attention to the safety of their properties and have an unprecedented interest in the preservation and increase of property value.

Prof. Qiu Lufeng with elite Nanjing University said, "Changes have taken place in the property structure of both Chinese societyand individual citizens. China's existing property regime is out of fashion. It is essential to legislate a new law. The Law of Property Rights will help re-build the property regime and systemize the civil subject's disposition of properties," she added.

For example, Qiu said, some 20 years ago, all a couple needed to do when they decided to make a divorce was to determine with whom their child would live and who, the father or the mother, would continue to rent the public house. The rest of their property included only a few items of home electrical appliances and clothing. But things have changed significantly. Today, a couple may probably have a house, furniture, home appliances, stocks and bonds subject to property settlements during divorce.

"The Law of Property Rights is closely related with the daily lives of the masses of people. Once it is enacted, it will become a powerful and useful weapon for individuals to protect private property, "said Prof. Cai Dingjian with the Politics and Law University of China based in Beijing.

Attaching great importance to public properties, the Chinese have for long failed to treat private and public properties on an equal footing. They even felt shameful to talk about private properties several decades ago.

Last week, Mr. Wang, living in western Haidian District of Beijing, was driven out of his own home by a real estate developerand had his 12 houses leveled by the developer's bulldozer. All ofhis family belongings were buried by the debris.

Wang's story is not unique in the construction spree across China over the past few years. And in rural areas, farmers have nosay in sale of land-use rights by village heads.

The Law of Property Rights clarifies that the State safeguards the property ownership of individuals and that compensation shouldbe paid for the immovable properties to be dismantled and for landto be expropriated which is still under contract yet to be expired."

"Humanity's history is a history of respect being gradually paid to private property," commented Sun Xianzhong, head of the civil law research center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Once the State values the property of individuals, the public's aspirations to wealth will be inspired, and social and economic development in the country will be motivated constantly," Sun said.

The Law of Property Rights will be also conducive to retaining more wealth in China, according to Sun.

In 2000, a total of 51 billion US dollars fled from China as against 47 billion US dollars in foreign direct investment flowinginto the country. Some of the money that fled was legitimate, but some was transferred abroad as the owners had no sense of security. Enditem

For Bush, Effect of Investigation of C.I.A. Leak Case Is Uncertain - New York Times

For Bush, Effect of Investigation of C.I.A. Leak Case Is Uncertain - New York TimesJuly 24, 2005
For Bush, Effect of Investigation of C.I.A. Leak Case Is Uncertain

WASHINGTON, July 23 - His former secretary of state, most of his closest aides and a parade of other senior officials have testified to a grand jury. His political strategist has emerged as a central figure in the case, as has his vice president's chief of staff. His spokesman has taken a pounding for making public statements about the matter that now appear not to be accurate.

For all that, it is still not clear what the investigation into the leak of a C.I.A. operative's identity will mean for President Bush. So far the disclosures about the involvement of Karl Rove, among others, have not exacted any substantial political price from the administration. And nobody has suggested that the investigation directly implicates the president.

Yet Mr. Bush has yet to address some uncomfortable questions that he may not be able to evade indefinitely.

For starters, did Mr. Bush know in the fall of 2003, when he was telling the public that no one wanted to get to the bottom of the case more than he did, that Mr. Rove, his longtime strategist and senior adviser, and I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, had touched on the C.I.A. officer's identity in conversations with journalists before the officer's name became public? If not, when did they tell him, and what would the delay say in particular about his relationship with Mr. Rove, whose career and Mr. Bush's have been intertwined for decades?

Then there is the broader issue of whether Mr. Bush was aware of any effort by his aides to use the C.I.A. officer's identity to undermine the standing of her husband, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration of twisting its prewar intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program.

For the last several weeks, Mr. Bush and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, have declined to address the leak in any substantive way, citing the continuing federal criminal investigation.

But Democrats increasingly see an opportunity to raise questions about Mr. Bush's credibility, and to reopen a debate about whether the White House leveled with the nation about the urgency of going to war with Iraq. And even some Republicans say Mr. Bush cannot assume that he will escape from the investigation politically unscathed.

"Until all the facts come out, no one is really going to know who the fickle finger of fate points at," said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster.

The case centers on how the name of a C.I.A. operative came to be appear two years ago in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who identified her by her maiden name, Valerie Plame. The operative, who is more usually known as Valerie Wilson, is married to Joseph C. Wilson IV, a former diplomat who had publicly accused the administration eight days before Mr. Novak's column of twisting some of the intelligence used to justify going to war with Iraq. Under some conditions, the disclosure of a covert intelligence agent's name can be a federal crime.

The special prosecutor in the case, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, has kept a tight curtain of secrecy around his investigation. But he spent more than an hour in the Oval Office on June 24, 2004, interviewing Mr. Bush about the case. Mr. Bush was not under oath, but he had his personal lawyer for the case, James E. Sharp, with him.

Neither the White House nor the Justice Department has said what Mr. Bush was asked about, but prosecutors do not lightly seek to put questions directly to any president, suggesting that there was some information that Mr. Fitzgerald felt he could get only from Mr. Bush.

Allan J. Lichtman, a presidential historian at American University in Washington, said the lesson of recent history, for example in the Iran-contra case under President Ronald Reagan, is that presidents tend to know more than it might first appear about what is going on within the White House.

"My presumption in presidential politics is that the president always knows," Mr. Lichtman said. "But there are degrees of knowing. Reagan said, keep the contras together body and soul. Did he know exactly what Oliver North was doing? No, it doesn't mean he knew what every subordinate is doing."

Although it is possible that other officials will turn out to have played leading roles in the leak case, the subordinates whose actions would appear to be of most interest to Mr. Bush right now are Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby, who as Mr. Cheney's chief of staff had particular reason to protect the vice president.

According to accounts by various people involved in the case, Mr. Rove spoke in the days after Mr. Wilson went public with his criticism in July 2003 to both of the first two reporters to disclose that Mr. Wilson's wife worked for the C.I.A., Mr. Novak and Matthew Cooper of Time. Mr. Cooper has said he also spoke about the case with Mr. Libby.

By September 2003, as a criminal investigation was getting under way, Mr. McClellan was telling reporters that Mr. Rove had nothing to do with the leak, saying he had checked with Mr. Rove about the topic.

Around the same time, the president was saying he had no idea who might have been responsible. Asked by a reporter on Oct. 6, 2003, whether the leak was retaliation for Mr. Wilson's criticism, Mr. Bush replied: "I don't know who leaked the information, for starters. So it's hard for me to answer that question until I find out the truth."

Asked the next day if he was confident that the leakers would be found, Mr. Bush, alluding to the "two senior administration officials" cited by Mr. Novak as his sources, replied: "I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's a lot of senior officials. I don't have any idea. I'd like to. I want to know the truth."

Republicans said the relationship between Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove was so deep and complex that it was hard to imagine the president cutting ties with him barring an indictment.

"Can you survive being involved in something you probably shouldn't have been involved in where you didn't break any laws?" Mr. Fabrizio said. "Well, you probably can, especially if you are Karl."

Mr. Fabrizio said that even if Mr. Rove left the White House, he would continue to consult with Mr. Bush "unless they put him in a tunnel."

Mr. McClellan and other White House officials have repeatedly declined to answer when asked if Mr. Rove or Mr. Libby had told the president by October 2003 that they had alluded to Ms. Wilson's identity months earlier in their conversations with the journalists.

But Mr. Bush's political opponents say the president is in a box. In their view, either Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby kept the president in the dark about their actions, making them appear evasive at a time when Mr. Bush was demanding that his staff cooperate fully with the investigation, or Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby had told the president and he was not forthcoming in his public statements about his knowledge of their roles.

"We know that Karl Rove, through Scott McClellan, did not tell Americans the truth," said Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois and a former top aide in the Clinton White House. "What's important now is what Karl Rove told the president. Was it the truth, or was it what he told Scott McClellan?"

There is a third option, that neither Mr. Rove nor Mr. Libby considered their conversations with the journalists to have amounted to leaking or confirming the information about Ms. Wilson. In that case, they may have felt no need to inform the president, or they did inform him and he shared their view that they had done nothing wrong.

Mr. Bush has also yet to answer any questions publicly about what if anything he learned from aides about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Wilson in the days after Mr. Wilson leveled his criticism of the administration in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on July 6, 2003.