May 31, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM

APOLLO BECOMES DIONYSUS : :

Lieberman Alters His Values Script (DAVID LIGHTMAN, May 31, 2002, CT Now)
Apollonia Kotero's recent films include "Anarchy TV," which features a group of teens taking over a TV station and broadcasting in the nude.

It's just the kind of thing Joseph I. Lieberman has been railing against for years. Yet there was Kotero - aka "Hot Tub Woman" in the film - at a swank Beverly Hills fund-raiser featuring the Connecticut Democrat, and praising him.

She acknowledged that his strong blasts at movie industry excesses once worried her.

Referring to Lieberman's criticisms of her industry, Kotero said that she "had been concerned all the talk could lead to censorship and labeling of movies, but now I think this dialogue is important."

But there was no such dialogue when the senator visited movieland this week. Lieberman, who badly needs California's money and voters for his 2004 presidential bid, was unusually silent on the subject of Hollywood excesses.

Instead, he had nothing but praise for the entertainment business. He told the 40 people gathered in the living room of a party loyalist that he was among "stars I admire," including, perhaps, "Hot Tub Woman," clad in a cleavage-revealing blouse.

"It's a big deal for me," Lieberman said, "coming out here."


What does it say about the Democrats that in order to be the Party's presidential nominee you have to jettison all talk of morality and cater to the likes of "Hot Tub Woman" ?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM

BABE RUTH? IS THAT A DOUBLE ENTENDRE? :

The gay Babe Ruth : The first active major leaguer to come out of the closet may ruin his career--or he could become a cultural hero. (King Kaufman, May 23, 2002, Salon)
In Philadelphia on Tuesday, before the Mets' first game following the release of Valentine's comments, the press pounced on Piazza, a Mets star who spends a lot of time with pretty models in clubs -- not to mention his creative facial hair, if you know what I mean, eh, boys? "I'm not gay," Piazza said.

Everyone: Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Piazza said he agrees with Valentine. "In this day and age, it's irrelevant," he said. "I don't think it would be a problem at all."

Well, of course it would be a problem. It would be a problem for the player who came out, or was outed. Ask Bean, who put the word out that he would like to have a front-office job and hasn't exactly been inundated with offers, or ask the first openly gay major league player, Glenn Burke, who said, before he died of AIDS complications in 1995 after years of drug addiction and living on the streets, that he was hounded out of baseball in the early '80s because of his sexuality.

It's been frequently noted that American team-sports locker rooms are centers of Neanderthal thinking, homophobia, misogyny, the whole business. Even in that world, baseball players are a conservative lot, suspicious of outsiders and wary of change. Valentine and Piazza are either being naive or overly optimistic by saying that a gay player would have no problem.


Forget the other players--imagine the fans. At the Boston Garden last weekend, fans chanted "Wife Beater" at Jason Kidd. Then at the Meadowlands in mid-week someone had a banner saying "Stab Pierce Again"--a reference to Celtics star Paul Pierce being stabbed outside a nightclub. "Fan", we would do well to recall, is derived from fanatic. Fans don't actually care what it is that makes a guy from another team different, they just grab it and run with it.

It's also worth recalling that Jackie Robinson was chosen to break the color barrier not just because of his physical ablity, which was considerable, but because Branch Rickey believed him to be capable of performing at a high level even amidst a barrage of hatred from fans and other players. The first openly gay player had better be just as gifted a player and just as tough mentally, because imagine what people will say if he crumbles under the pressure.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM

IS THE BLOGOSPHERE INSIDE THE BELTWAY? :

Bush Extremely Strong With Base (Will Lester, May 31, 2002, AP)
Occasional grumbling by some prominent conservatives about President Bush sometimes overshadows his extremely solid support among stalwart Republicans and conservatives around the country.

"Within the conservative leadership, there is increasing restlessness about some of the Bush's domestic policy decisions in the last few months," said Steve Moore, president of the Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group.

Democratic strategist Jim Jordan dismisses such complaints as "strictly a debate among the Washington elites."

Polls do not suggest discontent among some conservative activists has spread outside Washington.

"Bush wins overwhelming majority support from all Republicans and with strong Republicans it is all but unanimous," said Thomas Riehle, president of Ipsos-Reid public affairs, which conducts a tracking poll for the Cook Political Report.

"At this point in any president's first term, you would expect to have alienated some faction of your own party, but that is not the case with George Bush."


Few things make the Web more fun than listening to the Weekly Standard and bloggers declare Bush a one-termer in the making.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:57 PM

BUSINESS AS USUAL :

Sam Smith at Progressive Review ran this yesterday, apparently as a part of the argument that using military tribunals in the fight against terrorism is abhorrent and un-American :
Anti constitutional measures

[From a course outline on the history of terrorism prepared by Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer of Humnboldt State University]

1776-81 - Revolutionary War. General George Washington ordered a military commission to try Major John Andre, a British officer accused of spying. Andre was convicted and hanged.

1798 - Sedition Act. Because war seemed likely between the US and France, Congress and President Adams passed an act designed to control pro-French troublemakers. The Sedition Act required criminal penalties for persons who said or published anything "false, scandalous, or malicious" against the federal government, Congress or the president. Twenty-five American citizens were arrested under the act, including a congressman convicted and imprisoned for calling President Adams a man who had "a continual grasp for power." The act expired in 1801.

1846-48 - Mexican American War. The US government used military commissions.

1861-65 - Civil War. President Lincoln proclaimed that all rebels and insurgents arrested within the US would be subject to martial law. About 4,000 people were tried by military commissions.

On September 24, 1862, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus for the first time in US history. Thereafter, Confederate spies, those aiding the rebel cause, resisting the draft, or "were guilty of any disloyal practice" were denied the right to be brought to court to determine if they were being legally held. Lincoln ordered that persons thus arrested could be tried and punished by military courts. In defending his action, Lincoln declared the regular civilian courts were inadequate during a rebellion and those opposing the Union endangered "the public safety." The necessary solution, Lincoln argued, was to suspend the writ and lock up the troublemakers until the war ended.

1866 - Lambdin P. Milligan was an Indiana lawyer who planned to lead a rebellion against federal troops. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to hang for inciting insurrection. Milligan appealed to the federal district court in Indiana claiming that he was being held illegally. The war ended before Milligan's sentence could be carried out, and his case eventually reached the US Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision, the court held that martial law should be confined to areas of actual war and that Milligan should have been tried in a regular court, not by military tribunal. The court declared: "The Constitution of the United States is the law for rulers and people, equally in war and peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances."

1917 - Espionage Act. As the US entered WWI, this law was passed to prohibit all false statements intending to interfere with the nation's military forces or to promote the success of its enemies. Penalties of up to $10,000 and/or 20 years in prison were established for anyone attempting to obstruct the recruitment of men into the military

1918 - Sedition Act. Forbade any statements expressing disrespect for the US government, Constitution, flag, or army and navy uniforms.

1918 - Deportation Act. Congress authorized the deportation of any alien who: opposed all organized government (anarchism; advocated the overthrow of the government "by force or violence"; or belonged to any organization teaching these views. In response, Attorney General Palmer created an alliance with officials in the Bureau of Immigration to find and deport alien "reds." J. Edgar Hoover, Palmer's chief investigating officer, ordered Justice Department agents to go undercover and join suspected radical organizations.

1919 - Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47. In 1918, Charles Schenck, general secretary of the American Socialist Party, was arrested and convicted for sending 15,000 anti-draft circulars through the mail to men scheduled to enter the military. The circular called the draft law a violation of the 13th Amendment's prohibition of slavery and urged draftees to "petition for repeal" of the draft law. The government accused Schenck of illegally interfering with military recruitment under the Espionage Act. Schenck admitted that he had sent the circulars, but argued he had a right to do so under the First Amendment and was exercising his freedom of speech. The US Supreme Court ruled that freedom of speech could be limited by the government - but only when there was a "clear and present danger" such as during war. Chief Justice Holmes wrote the opinion for the unanimous court, "When a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."

1920 - Palmer Raids. On January 2, Department of Justice agents in over 30 cities arrested between 6-10,000 people - often without arrest warrants. The raiders seized political literature, membership cards and lists, organization records, and other papers. Very little evidence of revolutionary or criminal activity actually turned up. Days after the raids, thousands of aliens were still being held without formal charge, without bail, without the assistance of a lawyer and in many cases, without family or friends knowing where they were. Due process rights did not apply to these criminal arrests. Instead, the judgment to deport or not deport an alien was made by an immigration inspector in a secret hearing.

1941-45 - World War II. During the war, the federal government imprisoned 120,000 Japanese in internment camps. At the end of the war, the US armed forces conducted military tribunals to try some 1,600 persons in Germany and nearly 1,000 Japanese military personnel accused of committing war crimes.

1943 - Ex Parte Quirin. The most famous case involving military tribunals occurred in 1942 when a U-boat landed 8 German soldiers on Long Island, New York whose mission was to sabotage U.S. defense factories. The operation failed when two of the men defected and informed authorities. The FBI arrested the saboteurs and turned them over to the U.S. military for trial. Shortly after the arrest, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the use of military tribunals for trying those who entered the country to commit sabotage. Within a month, all 8 were tried and found guilty. Six were sentenced to death by electrocution, and the two defectors were sentenced to prison. The defendants appealed to the US. Supreme Court claiming that under the Milligan decision, they should have been tried in an open U.S. court. The court denied the appeal, ruling that the saboteurs were belligerents (enemy soldiers at war), who because they had entered the country out of uniform to conduct sabotage, had violated the law of war. They were not entitled to the status of prisoners of war or to the protections under the Milligan case, which only applied to non-belligerents not associated with the enemy.

1949 - Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1. In the late 1940s, Arthur Terminiello spoke before an audience in Chicago where he said that Hitler had been right in WWII and that Democrats, Jews, and communists were all trying to destroy America. He was later arrested, tried, and convicted for disturbing the peace with his provocative harangue. In his appeal to the US Supreme Court, he claimed that he should not have been arrested since his speech was protected by the First Amendment. The city of Chicago, however, argued that the things Terminiello raved about in his speech so angered people that a "clear and present danger" to the safety of the community had occurred. The Supreme Court reversed the opinion, with Justice William O. Douglas writing that "freedom of speech, though not absolute, is protected against censorship or punishment unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance or unrest."

1956-71 - COINTELPRO. The FBI's "counterintelligence program" began out of frustration with US Supreme Court rulings that limited the government's power to proceed overtly against dissident groups and ended with the threat of public exposure. COINTELPRO, according to the report of the US Senate's Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations, allowed the FBI to conduct "a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech
and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence."

2001 - The "War on Terrorism." After the events of September 11th, the Bush administration adopted three endeavors designed to aid the government in its response to terrorism.

October 25 - USA Patriot Act. Created a broad new definition of "domestic terrorism" that includes aiding terrorists; relaxes many rules that protect people suspected of crime from unfair investigation and prosecution; and greatly expands the government's power to conduct searches of the premises and property of citizens and aliens without informing them and without a warrant. October 31 - DOJ announcement of "monitoring" lawyer/attorney conversations. The DOJ has the authority to
monitor conversations between detainees and lawyers while they are planning their defense whenever the attorney general believes "there is a substantial risk that such conversations could facilitate terrorism by passing on information or instructions." The detainee and lawyer must be advised that their conversation will be overheard (except when a judge permits secret monitoring) and the monitoring must be conducted by a special DOJ team whose members are directed not to divulge to those actually prosecuting the detainee any part of the conversation that would be covered by the traditional lawyer-client privilege.

November 13 - Executive Order for Military Tribunals. Any non-US citizen the President declares to be a suspected terrorist - aliens residing in the US for many years as well as soldiers captured in combat in Afghanistan - may be tried at his sole discretion by a military tribunal rather than in an ordinary criminal court. Such tribunals may
be secret, would be governed by special rules laid down by the secretary of defense, and will include the following provisions: the ordinary
rules of evidence would not apply; the tribunal might declare a defendant's guilt even though not satisfied of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; its verdict, including any death penalties it might order, could be taken by a 2/3 vote of its members; and the defendant has no right to appeal.


Not being the sharpest tool in the shed, I actually understand this list to show that the measures being undertaken are completely consistent with our history and offer little cause for worry, since that history shows that these kinds of measures are always temporary. Perhaps I missed something?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT'S DUE :

Liberal Reality Check (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, May 31, 2002, NY Times)
As we gather around F.B.I. headquarters sharpening our machetes and watching the buzzards circle overhead, let's be frank: There's a whiff of hypocrisy in the air.

One reason aggressive agents were restrained as they tried to go after Zacarias Moussaoui is that liberals like myself--and the news media caldron in which I toil and trouble-- have regularly excoriated law enforcement authorities for taking shortcuts and engaging in racial profiling. As long as we're pointing fingers, we should peer into the mirror.

We must also relax a taboo, racial profiling, for one of the lessons of the Moussaoui case is that it sometimes works.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta bars airport security screenings based on religion or ethnicity. That's why aging nuns are plucked out of airport lines for inspections of their denture bags, why women with underwire bras are sometimes subjected to humiliating inspections after the metal detector goes off. But let's be realistic: Young Arab men are more likely to ram planes into nuclear power plants than are little old ladies, and as such they should be more vigorously searched - though with no less courtesy. El Al, the Israeli airline, has the world's most effective air security system, and it's all about racial profiling.

The backdrop is that the risks of terrorism are growing. As Joseph Nye of Harvard University observes, terrorist incidents in the 1970's (such as the attack at the Munich Olympics) had maximum death tolls of about a dozen; attacks in the 1980's and 1990's raised the scale (as in the Air India and Pan Am 103 bombings) to the hundreds; 9/11 lifted the toll into the thousands; and terrorists are now nosing around weapons of mass destruction that could kill hundreds of thousands.

As risks change, we who care about civil liberties need to realign balances between security and freedom. It is a wrenching, odious task, but we liberals need to learn from 9/11 just as much as the F.B.I. does.


I don't often agree with the columnists at the NY Times, but this is an adult column--accepting, even asking for, blame and examining preconceived notions from a fresh perspective. Combined with his recent column about the work being done by Christian humanitarian organizations in the Third World, it offers hope that Mr. Kristof may provide us with one worthwhile reason for checking the Times's Op-Ed page, other than to get our own dander up.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM

IF IT'S THE DEMOCRATS, ISN'T IT REALLY MATRICIDE? :

Petty Cash : WILL MCCAIN FEINGOLD BREED DEMOCRATIC FRATRICIDE? (Franklin Foer, 05.29.02, New Republic)
For employees of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), November 6, 2002, will be a scary day. Parties shed excess staff after virtually every election. But November 6 doesn't just mark the end of an election cycle; it marks the beginning of the McCain-Feingold era. And with the party deprived of the $250 million in soft money it raises every two years, this year's DNC cutbacks could reach "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap proportions. According to one top Democrat, the party's specialists in ethnic outreach and constituent relations will be canned, as will its experts in get-out-the-vote and field organization. In all, party chair Terry McAuliffe will likely sack as many as 100 of the party's roughly 400 employees. That's one reason the DNC has canceled long-standing plans to construct a palatial new headquarters. As one Democrat explains, "They don't need the space because they won't have the people."

It's not just that McCain-Feingold will force the DNC to downsize dramatically; it will force it to downsize a lot more than will the GOP--which boasts many more of the hard-money donors who will be able to continue giving once the new law takes effect. So Democrats have begun searching for ways to compete in the post-soft-money era. And the good news is that they have some plans. The bad news is that those plans may vastly increase the political power of trial lawyers, labor unions, and environmental groups--the liberal stalwarts who will replace the party itself once the DNC can no longer raise millions in soft money. In other words, campaign finance reform may unintentionally recreate the pre-Clinton days of bitter infighting between liberals and New Democrats--only this time without a strong party organization to referee.


Folks seem to derive a selfish, almost onanistic, pleasure in running down the two major parties, even the party they favor, and doing things like declaring candidates unacceptable because they disagree with them on one issue [witness the proclamations that "I won't ever vote for George W. Bush again because he (fill in the blank) : (a) raised steel tariffs; (b) hasn't attacked Iraq yet; (c) opposes cloning; (d) signed CFR]. But the two parties offer something all too rare in modern society; they are genuine umbrella organizations that unite people with varied particular concerns but similar general dispositions about politics. They provide a structure within which the two great political impulses--the one toward freedom, the other toward security--can be contained and played out coherently. A specific Democrat may not care all that much about gay rights, but is comfortable in a party that uses the levers of government to benefit such minorities. Similarly, a Republican may not be all that het up about gun rights, but will feel comfortable in a party that generally trusts the citizenry more than the government. Reconciling differences of opinion on certain issues is not always easy, but once achieved, it makes for a strong party with depth and breadth. Thus the two parties have endured and have served us well.

Campaign Finance Reform has the perverse effect of damaging the two parties, by making it more difficult for them to fund their own operations and by giving interest groups so much power that these typically single issue organizations will begin to be more important in some races than the parties they once worked within. This may not only atomize us all into ever smaller political cliques it must also begin to take a toll on democracy itself at some point. We may gradually shift from the current regime where gun activists, born-agains, flat taxers, etc., all have to learn to live together as Republicans and work toward broad common goals, to one in which the only thing you care about is your own issue and the little group of identically-minded zealots who are ideologically pure enough for you to consort with.

When government gets to decide how our money is spent in the political sphere, including how we use that money to determine the make up of the government (who's elected and who isn't), there's something seriously wrong. This is, in the truest sense, an antidemocratic development. Hopefully the Democrats will fare so poorly under this godawful new law that even they will lose their enthusiasm for limiting political speech.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM

FIRST TRAFICANT, NOW MCKINNEY? :

Cynthia McKinney (GA, D) could have real reason to worry about job (Tom Baxter, May 31, 2002, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The last time McKinney had a Democratic primary challenge, she handily defeated three white male opponents. Is there any reason to suspect Denise Majette, a little-known former state judge, has any better shot in the Aug. 20 primary?

Enter Alan Secrest, who has conducted a poll for the Majette campaign.

It's no secret Secrest's most prominent former client in the state is U.S. Sen. Zell Miller, who appointed Majette to a judgeship and has had little good to say lately of McKinney. But Secrest has a long track record in Georgia to point to for validation and says he hasn't talked with Miller about this race. And he says there is an upset in the making.

Although her name recognition is only 28 percent, Secrest says, Majette led McKinney 41 percent to 37 percent, with 22 percent undecided.

[S]ecrest said the poll reflects an "absolutely abysmal" incumbent profile for McKinney and suggested her strong African-American base has been weakened. He wouldn't divulge the percentage of black voters in this survey other than to say they were a majority. Had it been weighted to increase the percentage of African-American voters by another 5 percent, he added, McKinney would still be in no better than a tie.

"Broad swaths of the primary electorate have already written [McKinney] off, and where she had not been written off, she's bleeding," Secrest said.

About the swath of the electorate that could be crucial to this race--African-American women--Secrest had nothing more to say. At this stage it would be hard for any poll to give a solid read on it, but the big question in this race is whether McKinney's demographic advantage breaks down in a race against another African-American Democratic woman. [...]

DeKalb County's politics usually divide along north-south, black-white lines. But in this election an east-west division is also coming into focus: the political differences between the more affluent, predominantly African-American suburbs on the eastern side of the county, and the older neighborhoods closer to the city of Atlanta.


Tom Roberts sent along this story that gives us reason to hope that there may be one less embarrassment on the Democrats' side of the House come next January.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM

YOU GO, HUGO :

Former ally seen as perfect man to push Chavez out (JUAN O. TAMAYO, May. 31, 2002, Miami Herald)
Luis Miquilena is 84 years old, a communist party founder and political godfather to leftist President Hugo Chavez. But to many Venezuelans desperate to oust Chavez and disarm a dangerous crisis, he might be their savior.

A relative centrist in Venezuela's profoundly polarized politics, Miquilena is quietly marshaling votes in the National Assembly for a constitutional reform that would force early presidential elections and replace Chavez.

He is just three votes short of the simple majority required, and the proposal is likely to be officially submitted in the next few weeks, said Alejandro Armas, an Assembly member from Miquilena's Solidarity Party.

But Miquilena is in a race against mid-level military officers threatening another coup against Chavez, who was toppled briefly, April 11-14, unless Chavez renounces his leftist ''revolution,'' his authoritarian ways and his incendiary rhetoric. [...]

Chavez has appeared chastened since April 14, opening talks with the opposition, firing unpopular ministers, accepting legal reforms that he once rejected and even criticizing some of his hard-line backers, popularly known here as ``Taliban.''

But many opponents say he is only trying to buy time to strengthen his rule and insist that his removal from office is the only solution to one of Venezuela's worst crisis in four decades of democratic rule.


Mr. Chavez has already dodged one bullet, but it's long past time for him to go.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM

A WHITER SHADE OF PALE :

Door to EU is 'closing' (David R. Sands, 5/31/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The increasingly potent anti-immigration movement in Western Europe has thrown a kink into plans to expand the European Union to include as many as a dozen Central and Eastern European states.

With anti-immigration political parties showing strength in European polls, EU leaders and officials from many of the applicant countries are worried that voters in the EU member countries will reject the admission of new states for fear of competition over jobs from a flood of new immigrants. [...]

Until now, the principal anti-immigration concern of EU nations had been overwhelmingly focused on migrants from the Arab world, the broader Muslim community and workers from Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa.


That's the funny thing about fomenting ethnic animus : you start out hating only the folks who are truly other--the Africans, the Muslims, the Hindus, the Jews, etc.--but soon even other Europeans aren't "European" enough.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 AM

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SWING ON A STAR? :

Dutch stop kosher slaughter of adult bulls (Yair Sheleg, May 31, 2002, Ha'aretz)
The Dutch Agriculture Ministry has recently blocked kosher slaughtering of full-grown bulls on the grounds that the method causes animals undue suffering and contravenes a law banning animal abuse.

So the Netherlands allows you to kill humans (abortion & euthanasia) but not animals? And they think immigrants are the problem...

May 30, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM

NEXT THEY'LL BE SAYING HE BLEW THE MISSILE CRISIS :

Profiles in Pragmatism: John Kennedy and His Book (Edward J. Renehan Jr., History News Network)
Undoubtedly, John Kennedy was the source for the key notions expressed in Profiles. At the very least, he approved the exemplars of political courage presented. And he did so with a concrete ambition in mind: to make his readers (a.k.a., voters) believe that he himself revered and sought to reflect the altruistic bravery glamorized in his book.

This is a courage that involves the abandonment of cynicism. This is a courage that empowers one to swim valiantly against the tide of popular- and party-opinion, toward the greater national good, regardless of personal consequences. And this is courage that, when it appears in American political life, almost always does so as a con: an exercise in political sleight of hand.

No one understood this better than John Kennedy. A devoted student of both history and politics, Kennedy surely realized that many of the acts narrated in Profiles were simply not feats of courage. They were instead experiments in opportunism.


There's never a bad time for a dig at JFK.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM

THE GAYING OF THE GRAY LADY :

What is the New York Times promoting? (Brent Bozell, May 29, 2002, Town Hall)
[R]ichard Berke, the [NY Times's] national political correspondent since 1993, is being promoted to Washington editor, the No. 2 job in a bureau of more than 50 people.

[T]here's [an] event from 2000 that underscores why Berke's promotion is different than the usual liberals-promote-liberals plan. At that spring's annual conference of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the openly gay Berke rejoiced at the strides homosexuals have made in the nation's newsrooms. He told the crowd "there are times when you look at the front-page meeting [of the Times] and ... literally three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals."


If affirmative action and multiculturalism are about making workplaces more accurately reflect the racial, sexual, religious makeup of the nation, then how can you justify this?

In Ambling Into History. his fine book about George W. Bush and the 2000 campaign, Frank Bruni says the following about what he observed in the President after 9-11 :

Bush's spirituality was perhaps crucial to his ability to handle himself so well in public--and by all accounts, in private--after the attacks. Reporters in general tended not to look for or consider this kind of influence, because so few of them put all that much stock in religion, which they associated with extreme political views based on moral disapproval and condemnation. I confess to membership in this group. And perhaps because of this prejudice, which is probably the right thing to call it, administration officials seldom dwelled on Bush's faith when they described the way he was coping at difficult junctures.

Doesn't this raise the question of whether the Times compromised its coverage of candidate Bush by putting a gay reporter on the beat who acknowledges not being able to comprehend the core of Mr. Bush's being? And is it possible to imagine this situation being reversed : would the Times have a born-again Christian reporter cover an openly gay Presidential candidate? Yeah, right.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM

AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER? :

O brother, where art thou? : Peter Hitchens on why his brother Christopher and the rest of the anti-Zionist Left support this war (Peter Hitchens, October 13, 2001, The Spectator)
My left-wing big brother Christopher has astonished the world with what amounts to a prose version of the Battle Hymn of the American Republic. He reclassifies the White House, once the headquarters of reactionary evil in the eyes of all left-thinking people, as a hallowed emblem of anti-imperialism and anti-racism. He sweeps aside his former comrades as not worth listening to, with the élan of Leon Trotsky ordering an offensive along a 3,000-mile front. Meanwhile, quartered out here among the abandoned fortifications of the Cold War, I find myself becoming a sceptical warmonger, watching the troops march off towards the Taleban front with misgivings in my heart. I am concerned about what seems to me to be a dangerous retreat, as Washington sidelines and restrains democratic Israel, the world's foremost foe of terror, and cosies up to the United Nations and the Islamic world. But as I urge caution and spread doubt, Christopher brandishes the Star-Spangled Banner. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the new world order.

I remember a very different time. In particular, I recall a Reagan-era discussion about the relative merits and faults of the Western and Soviet systems, during which Christopher said that he didn't care if the Red Army watered its horses in Hendon. Something very important has altered since that evening, and I don't think it is my brother's world-view.


I actually do think it may be his worldview that's changed (see below). But several of our correspondents beg to differ and it's only fair to acknowledge that his own brother disagrees too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM

????????????????????????????????????????????? :

Trying desperately to measure up (Georgina Kenyon, 24 May, 2002, BBC)
Doctors in Asia are treating an increasing number of men with severe injuries who have tried to increase the size of their penises by injecting themselves with Vaseline and other oils.

Now doctors in the West say the trend for self-injection is catching on in the UK and the US. [...]

Mr Manit Arya and his colleagues [at the Institute of Urology and Nephrology (IUN) in London] were extremely surprised when a 31-year old British born man presented at their clinic for treatment recently for gross abnormality of the penis and ulceration as a result of injecting oils under his skin.

"This was the first case we had seen. It was a very interesting case.

The man had used a high-pressure pneumatic grease gun to inject his penis."


Now tell me you believe in evolution and natural selection...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM

SHOULDN'T HE BE AT THE NY TIMES? :

Personhood in a Petri Dish (Richard Cohen, May 30, 200, washingtonpost.com)
The Brownback bill is supported by President Bush. No surprise there. In general, if you scratch an anti-cloner you will find someone opposed to abortion. (Although some pretty implacable abortion foes such as Sen. Orrin Hatch and former president Gerald Ford oppose the cloning ban.) And, for the most part, if you scratch
someone in favor of experimental cloning (almost no one supports it for human reproduction) you will find someone supportive of abortion rights. So this debate really is an extension of our cultural division. It is, at bottom, about sex--how to control it, how to punish it.

Brownback and his supporters are entitled to their beliefs. But they are primarily religious ones--a determination that life begins when they believe it does. They feel so strongly about this that, in the Republican-controlled House, they rejected a substitute bill that would have permitted cloning for medical purposes only. Why? Because ultimately, they want to declare the fetus or the electrically zapped egg a person, protected by the Constitution. To destroy it is murder. Goodbye abortion.

But this bill is nothing less than an attempt to impose a religious doctrine on the rest of us. It is not that far removed from the Vatican's attempt to silence Galileo because he supported the Copernican theory that the earth revolved around the sun. It is an attempt by legislative fiat to stop science in its tracks: Thou Shalt Remain Ignorant.

But even the Vatican couldn't keep the earth from revolving around the sun. And not even Congress can stop medical research elsewhere in the world. If therapeutic cloning can be done, it will be done -- and the desperate (not to mention the affluent) will get on airplanes for their treatment. The rest will suffer or die -- all in the name of personhood for a bunch of cells in a petri dish.


Wow, this column is profoundly dim-witted. First, Gerald Ford is pro-abortion. Second, neither the abortion issue nor the cloning issue is about sex (unless it's about having sex with clones), they're about who's human and who we can kill--as even Mr. Cohen acknowledges. Third, his point about opposition to cloning (and abortion) being based solely on religious beliefs is a nonsequitir. The same was true of slavery. And like cloning, our getting rid of slavery did not get rid of slavery in the rest of the world. So should we have kept the peculiar institution? The prohibition of murder likewise represents an "imposition" of religious doctrine on the rest of us. So what? Should we therefore allow people to kill each other?

Finally, let's grant that the Vatican couldn't keep the Earth from revolving around the sun. We can't stop corporations from fudging their balance sheets, people from driving drunk, kids from doing drugs, husbands from beating wives, priests from molesting children, bigots from beating gays, terrorists from blowing people up, one tribe from practicing genocide on another, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum. So should we give up? Should we admit defeat and stop even trying to prevent such things?

What is Mr. Cohen's point?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM

THE WAGES OF SELF-DETERMINATION :

The Most Dangerous Place in the World (SALMAN RUSHDIE, May 30, 2002, NY Times)
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of India, with his talk of a "decisive battle," clearly feels that direct military action, resulting in the reconquest of some if not all of the Kashmiri territory now under Pakistani control, is the only way of preventing attacks like the atrocity this month in which women and children were slaughtered at an Indian army base. Mr. Vajpayee knows that Indian rule is unpopular in the valley, that the Indian army looks to many Kashmiris like an army of occupation. But he will also have calculated that in the opinion of the international community, and also of many fearful, near-destitute Kashmiris, Pakistan's protracted sponsorship of terrorism has damaged its claims to moral legitimacy.

While we're hostile to the idea that every ethnic group on Earth is entitled to "self-determination", it's always enjoyable to see folks hoist on their own petard. Precisely what is the difference between British colonialism in India and Indian colonialism in Kashmir?

UPDATE : Here's some info on Kashmir


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

ODD BEDFELLOWS :

Armed (and dangerous) pilots (George Will, May 30, 2002, Jewish World Review)
[A] potential problem with arming America's 120,000 commercial airline pilots is what one of the three pilots here calls, with no demurral from the other two, "cowboys or renegade pilots." Many commercial pilots began their flying careers as fighter pilots. Two of the three speaking here this day did. One of them says: There is some truth to the profile of fighter pilots as, well, live wires and risk-takers. Arming them might incite them to imprudent bravery. Armed pilots would be more inclined to go out into the cabin, whereas the primary goal should be getting the plane to the ground.

"The popularity of an idea does not make it a good idea,"says one of these pilots, and all three, although members of ALPA, question whether the idea of arming pilots is as popular with pilots as ALPA suggests. One of these pilots was polled by phone by ALPA and considered the questions written so as to produce an expression of support for arming pilots.

There is in the airline industry the suspicion that the drive to arm pilots, to equip them for potential action back in the cabin, is for ALPA a new front in the organization's long-standing campaign to revive the requirement for a third pilot in the cockpit. The three pilots gathered here would prefer that ALPA concentrate on protecting existing jobs rather than creating new ones.


So are gun activists, most of them conservatives and libertarians, unknowingly doing the bidding of Big Labor here? Enquiring minds want to know...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM

DOING OUR WORK FOR US :

Taliban, al-Qaeda linked to Kashmir (John Diamond, 05/29/2002, USA TODAY)
Al-Qaeda and Taliban members are helping organize a terror campaign in Kashmir to foment conflict between India and Pakistan, U.S. intelligence officials and foreign diplomats say.

Here's a paradoxical thing about al Qaeda : presumably they are trying to create a perfected Islam and they view this as an Islam that is fairly fundamentalist, but they are in the process of destroying the very states that are closest to their ideal.

Here's how Karen Armstrong describes the historic mission of Islam :

In Islam, Muslims have looked for God in history. Their sacred scripture, the Koran, gave them a historical mission. Their chief duty was to create a just community in which all members, even the most weak and vulnerable, were treated with absolute respect. The experience of building such a society and living in it would give them intimations of the divine, because they would be living in accordance with God's will. A Muslim had to redeem history, and that meant that state affairs were not a distraction from spirituality but the stuff of religion itself. The political wellbeing of the Muslim community was a matter of supreme importance. Like any religious ideal, it was almost impossibly difficult to implement in the flawed and tragic conditions of history, but after each failure Muslims had to get up and begin again.

Muslims developed their own rituals, mysticism, philosophy, doctrines, sacred texts, laws and shrines like everybody else. But all these religious pursuits sprang directly from the Muslims' frequently anguished contemplation of the political current affairs of Islamic society. If state institutions did not measure up to the Quranic ideal, if their political leaders were cruel or exploitative, or if their community was humiliated by apparently irreligious enemies, a Muslim could feel that his or her faith in life's ultimate purpose and value was in jeopardy. Every effort had to be expended to put Islamic history back on track, or the whole religious enterprise would fall, and life would be drained of meaning. Politics was, therefore, what Christians would call a sacrament: it was the arena in which Muslims experienced God and which enabled the divine to function effectively in the world. Consequently, the historical trials and tribulations of the Muslim community-- political assassinations, civil wars, invasions, and the rise and fall of the ruling dynasties-were not divorced from the interior religious quest, but were of the essence of the Islamic vision. A Muslim would meditate upon the current events of their time and upon past history as a Christian would contemplate an icon, using the creative imagination to discover the hidden divine kernel. An account of the external history of the Muslim people cannot, therefore be of mere secondary interest, since one of the chief characteristics of Islam has been its sacralization of history.


Presumably, for radical Muslims at least, the Taliban's brand of thoroughly Islamicized society and rather fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran would be some kind of a beau ideal. Yet, thanks to al Qaeda, the Taliban is gone and Afghanistan is on its way to becoming a somewhat secularized society.

Now al Qaeda has fled into Pakistan, which, though still fairly secular, has a strong fundamentalist movement and has therefore had to move in the direction of more thorough Islamicization. But by clustering there al Qaeda invites American attacks and by jumping ugly with India they may be courting the near annihilation of Pakistan.

Al Qaeda is practically causing its own domino effect, toppling the societies that most closely approximate its own vision for Islam. They can probably only find sanctuary in the most extremist regions of the Islamic world, but in so doing they make these regions targets of Western aggression. Having set out to extend fundamentalist Islam across the globe, they may end by having decimated it utterly. They have become a Judas goat, leading the lambs to the slaughter.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM

NO! YOU BELIEVE HIM MORE! :

A scientist for the rest of us : Whether infuriating sociobiologists or enchanting readers, Stephen Jay Gould liked messes and knew how to make hard thought look like fun. (Andrew Brown, May 24, 2002, Salon)
He gave as good as he got in his long feud with the "Darwinian fundamentalists," as he called his opponents. This term, an inspired piece of polemical mudslinging, showed that what his own invective lacked in quantity, it made up in quality, since one of the defining characteristics of the sociobiologists he was attacking was their rather Victorian atheism, and their conviction that the worst sort of human being in the world was a fundamentalist Christian.

Regardless of your feelings about evolution, you have to be amused that Mr. Gould's greatest epithet was an accusation that his opponents believed in Darwinism more than he did.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:02 AM

MORE MAGLEV :

The Need for Speed : With the race for high-speed train transportation heating up, magnets are looking very attractive (CHARLES P. WALLACE/LATHEN, May 20, 2002, TIME)
The idea of using magnetic levitation to run a high-speed railroad has been around since 1934, when a German scientist named Hermann Kemper received a patent on the technology. Such trains would be extremely fast and float quietly over the tracks supported by magnetic attraction instead of steel wheels. Although a brilliant idea, the problem has been that it is simply too expensive to implement over a long distance. Now a project in China and advanced proposals for two more trains in Germany have moved maglev from science fiction to commercial reality.

May 29, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:12 PM

TO THE CONTRARY :

The dishonourable policeman of the left : The contrarian Christopher Hitchens's support for the war on terrorism surpised many. Scott Lucas argues that he is no longer the "authentic voice of dissent" (Scott Lucas, 27th May 2002, New Statesman)
"The Hitch" is no longer an activist, no longer a participant in the real debates about power and who wields it, no more a source for thought. No, he is an industry, posing in trench coat with a cigarette dangling from his top lip, hailed as "one of the few remaining practitioners of the five-hour, two-bottle lunch". And, naturally, the most profitable industry is a monopoly. So he packages himself, surreally, not just as a policeman but the only policeman of "a radical left that no longer exists".

Just as Orwell eventually saw himself as Charles Dickens, "a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls", Hitchens now sees himself as Orwell (who, as the cover of Orwell's Victory reminds us, also dangled a cigarette from his top lip), the lone voice of decency among the ranks of a naive and/or nasty left.

It's an effective tactic. Like Orwell, Hitchens has made himself the poster boy of "principled opposition", even as he sides with the dominant powers in the US, by wielding a scatter-gun, "common-sense" rhetoric that does not have to deal with troubling political or economic considerations. He need not worry about such details. Only he, in his words, has "elementary morals". All others, with their "oppositional stance" (like Orwell's pacifists who were the accomplices of fascism, like his "pansy" leftist writers), can cower with their al-Qaeda allies or whimper in the op-ed columns of the Guardian.

I don't care when the hapless Andrew Sullivan of the Sunday Times, through columns repetitively void, or his preening website, thrashes against the "left". I read Mark Steyn's "loud bloke in a pub" opinions in Conrad Black's newspaper from the same safe distance that I would keep from any loud bloke in a pub. But Hitchens, because of his past affiliations, the quality and persistence of much of his writing, and especially his cause celebre against Kissinger, has street cred.


Man, these folk are slow learners. Mr. Hitchens has been a man of the Right for nearly a decade now, or roughly since Bill Clinton was elected president. Once you cut through the angry young man pose, the "I was a boyhood Marxist" shtick, you find a guy who's largely been doing conservative bidding in recent years.

This bit about having street credibility because of his vendetta against Kissinger is especially deluded. Kissinger used admittedly vile methods but he used them to achieve the Left's ends--getting out of Vietnam; suing for a truce with the USSR; coddling Mao; etc.. Thus, the Right hates him far more than the Left ever could. When Ronald Reagan briefly flirted with the idea of making Gerald Ford his Vice Presidential running mate, the conservatives at the convention were most horrified that it was a way for the Kissingerites to return to power. There's no better way to ingratiate yourself with the Right than to attack the architect of detente. And in destroying his reputation you shred the last tatters of the Left's Cold War legacy.

But just in case that didn't suffice, Mr. Hitchens also spent the eight Clinton years going after the perp-in-chief with hammer and tongs. Real afficionados of Impeachment will recall that Mr. Hitchens even went so far as to testify against his old pal Sid Blumenthal during that mess.

For goodness sake, his most recent book is called Orwell's Victory and he's pretty clearly come to model himself after his subject, as he too drifts from socialism to conservatism. Still his former fellow travelers express surprise that he's become a supporter of President Bush and of the War on Terrorism? Do they pay any attention?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM

HUBBA DUBYA? :

Bismarck's Lessons for Bush (JOSEE JOFFE, May 29, 2002, NY Times)
What is the critical strategic problem for the United States, a nation that dwarfs all others in terms of "hard" (military) and "soft" (cultural-economic) power? It is how to prevent the rest of the world from unifying against No. 1. After unification in 1871, Bismarck's Germany found itself in a similar position in Europe: more powerful than any other country, yet threatened by the resentments of all.

The United States is Bismarck's Germany on a global scale. [...]

So the best rule for an unchallenged No. 1 is this: Do good for the rest of the world in order to do well for yourself. This is not the counsel of woolly-headed sensitivity training, but of hard-nosed realism. Bismarck would undoubtedly approve.


Unifying? Nearly every other culture is engaged in a contest to kill each other : Euros vs. immigrants; Muslim vs. Jew; Muslim vs. Hindu; African tribesman vs. African tribesman. They couldn't unify if Earth was being attacked by Mars.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM

SUDDEN DEATH :

Giving "sudden death game" a new meaning (Harvey Tannenbaum, May 29, 2002, Jewish World Review)
The world continues to focus on whether the LA Lakers will make a last minute come back in the NBA playoffs. Some would call theirs, a "life or death" situation.

It's isn't, of course. At least, not really.

On the other side of the world, in this hamlet in what used to be the desert, the nightly study session (seder) for the 10th and 11th grade boys at the Yeshiva High School here ended about 10: 30 PM last night. Dovid, 14, had just finished his daily Talmud study in the lecture hall. Like virtually all Jewish religious schools, these teens' curriculum includes Bible, ethics, and spirituality; works instructing one to be upright, kind and compassionate.

Some of Dovid's fellow students had missed the regular 8 PM Maariv (evening) communal prayer. Instead of skipping the set recitations--or uttering them privately--the boys decided to convene their own service at their high school.

It may have saved their lives.


There's no conceivable way in which actions like the one described here can be called "freedom fighting". They're just evil.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM

BELLES OF ST. MARY'S :

A gay culture in the church (John Leo, May 29, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Years ago an old friend, now deceased, was ordained a priest and joined a new community in the Midwest. My friend was homosexual, and it slowly dawned on me, on a visit out there, that the other priests in the house seemed to be gay, too. So was the local bishop, according to the clerical grapevine.

I wish I could say I was overcome by an intense desire to figure out what was going on, but I wasn't. We pushed these things out of our minds in those days. Sample questions I could have asked my friend but didn't: Will straight priests feel welcome in this house, and if not, wasn't this place going to be a gay institution? What would that mean? And, what are the chances that a houseful of like-minded, high-energy, homosexual men would remain celibate? If they were sexually active, didn't this make them hypocrites, committing themselves publicly to a rule they were all ignoring? [...]

The rise of the sexually active gay subculture among the clergy didn't cause the horrors of priestly sex abuse. The vast majority of gay priests would never prey on the young.
But did the subculture play the role of enabler in the scandals? I think it did, expanding tolerance for the forbidden and generating a sense of futility among the rule-keepers. Self-deception is infinitely expandable. One man's justification for violating celibacy or the ban on nonmarital sex is another man's justification for "intergenerational love," formerly child rape.

The way out for the church is not to hunt down and expel every last gay priest, which would be impossible anyway. But it should restore the pressures to keep priests, gay and
straight, from acting out sexually, whether by showering with a mature friend or preying on a child. The key principles are easily learned: Maybe celibacy will be changed some day, but if you make a vow to stay celibate, you ought to keep your word. And in the seminaries, Catholic sexual morality should be taught by people who actually believe it. Is this controversial?


When even John Leo, who prides himself on his political incorrectness, is cowed into not asking such questions, it's no wonder that the problem grows to crisis proportions.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM

FLIRTING WITH DISASTER :

The laptop fascists : Do not dismiss Europe's far-right parties as simply reactionary. They are all the more menacing because, like the Nazis before them, they embrace modernity (John Gray, 27th May 2002, New Statesman)
To think of the far right as merely atavistic is to underestimate it. Whereas between the wars Europe's far right gained strength from poverty and economic crisis, today it thrives on the insecurities of the affluent. Using democracy rather than seeking to overturn it, the far right is redrawing the map of European politics by exploiting the fears of voters in rich countries.

In its economic philosophy, it is the acme of modernity. Most of Europe's far-right parties have abandoned the protectionist programme of the inter-war years. Except in France, where Jean-Marie Le Pen continues the murky traditions of Vichy, the far right is libertarian in its economic outlook. In Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy, it promotes a high-tech economy linked with the world by free trade but insulated from the legions of the poor by a ban on immigration. This is the fascism of laptops, not jackboots. Like the fascist parties of the past, the far right accepts the economic orthodoxies of its time. Today, those are the orthodoxies of the free market. [...]

The far right was a radical modernist movement in the 1930s, and so it is today. Now, as in the past, it appeals to voters for more traditional right-wing parties, but its widening support includes the much larger ranks of those politically disaffected. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Netherlands, where Pim Fortuyn showed the strategy of the far right at its most subtle. An ex-Marxist and former academic, Fortuyn was neo-Thatcherite on the economy and the environment, harping on the evils of regulation and the burdens of taxation. Yet, unlike Thatcherites in Britain, he favoured a strongly liberal regime on sex, euthanasia and drug use. Again, he took a firm pro-Israel line on conflict in the Middle East and does not seem to have been anti-Semitic. But he undoubtedly played the race card, particularly against Muslims, and he did so, at least by his own account, because he believed that further Muslim immigration would threaten Dutch freedoms of lifestyle: he challenged the belief that liberal societies should assimilate immigrants whose values are anti-liberal. In effect, he advocated a policy of liberal cultural protectionism. He failed to explain how such a policy could be implemented in places where--as in the Netherlands and throughout Europe--multiculturalism is an irreversible reality.


You don't want to give these nutbags too much credit for political genius, but, gauging by bloggers' hysterical reaction to the Fortuyn assassination, their exterminationist rhetoric about Arabs, and their worship of technology, this conscious appeal to libertine libertarians seems to be working. That's a pretty frightening development.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

EVEN A BLIND PIG FINDS AN ACORN OCCASSIONALLY :

W.'s Spaghetti Western (MAUREEN DOWD, May 29, 2002, NY Times)
After NBC's David Gregory asked Mr. Chirac, who speaks English, in French if he would like to comment on a question he'd asked Mr. Bush about Europe's view of America as imperious, Mr. Bush had a petit fit.

"Very good, the guy memorizes four words, and he plays like he's intercontinental," he said sarcastically as a bemused Mr. Chirac looked on. "I'm impressed. Que bueno. Now I'm literate in two languages." Mr. Bush did not care that foreign reporters usually ask him questions in English, or that he often sprinkles Spanish into his speeches with Hispanic groups.

He felt he was being mocked or tricked in some way, even though the question wasn't even directed at him. He was tired and he let his famously thin skin show too easily.

There is something bizarre about watching an Andover-, Yale- and Harvard-educated president, the grandson of an elegant Connecticut senator and the son of a gracious internationalist president, have a hissy fit because a reporter asks a legitimate question about European angst and talks to a Frenchman in French.

W.'s anti-elitism is sometimes refreshing, but does he have to carry it around all the time? He shouldn't be forced to be a chip off the old block, but he should lose the chip on his shoulder.


Part of restoring dignity to the White House, besides keeping your pants on, is not using your considerable power to humiliate people. Mr. Gregory came across like Eddie Haskill, but Mr. Bush came across like a schoolyard bully. This moment was beneath him and the dignity of the office.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

ELIOT'S HEIR :

REVIEW : of The Orchards of Syon by Geoffrey Hill (Adam Kirsch, 05.16.02, New Republic)
More than any other living poet, Geoffrey Hill enjoys the glamour of centrality. He is a distinctly British poet--born in Worcestershire in 1932, though he now lives in Boston--at a time when most of poetry's vigor has emigrated to Britain's old colonies. More important, he consciously labors to extend the tradition of formal, complex, morally serious English poetry. As a confirmed modernist who treats Christian themes, he inherits both recent and ancient forms of poetic prestige. And he is one of the most distinctive verse stylists of the late twentieth century. By the mid-1990s, having published only five collections in thirty-five years, these qualities had earned Hill superlative praise: "the strongest British poet now alive," "the major achievement of late-twentieth-century British verse."

At the same time, Hill's work to this point--it can be found in New and Collected Poems, 1952-1992--inspires serious reservations. Describing it in a few words, at a high level of generality, one could not avoid calling it religious, historical, moral. But if one engages Hill more closely, it begins to seem that he writes about religion, rather than faith; about history, rather than experience; about morality, rather than conscience. That is, he addresses these things abstractly, as themes and subjects, but he does not succeed in making them live.


Geoffrey Hill is very difficult and I'll admit that much of his stuff goes way over my head, but here's one I like :
DARK-LAND

Wherein Wesley stood
up from his father's grave,
summoned familiar dust
for strange salvation:

whereto England rous'd,
ignorant, her inane
Midas-like hunger: smoke
engrossed, cloud-encumbered,

a spectral people
raking among the ash;
its freedom a lost haul
of entailed riches.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM

ADD ONE TO THE BODY COUNT :

The Men Who Come to Dinner (Thomas Fleming, March 7, 2001, Chronicles)
Everyone remembers The Man Who Came to Dinner, the Kaufman and Hart play (turned into a somewhat lame film) in which Monty Woolley plays Sheridan Whiteside, a pretentious and obnoxious bore whose dinner invitation turns into his hosts' nightmare when the great man breaks his leg and refuses to leave the house. In America today, we have the same problem collectively: the public men who come to eat from the trough in Washington and who simply will not go away. Every two-term congressman, once he has been caught with one hand in the till and the other up a congressional intern's dress (or trousers), seems to find a way of staying on in D.C. as a consultant. They'll do anything to stay in the public eye and out of Nebraska or Iowa.

If you thought you'd seen the last of Newt Gingrich's baby face or Jack Kemp's poofed hair, think again. They'll be around so long as there is one last conservative widow to separate from her late husband's savings.

Then there is the third member of that unholy alliance: William Bennett, who simply will not go away. How to describe such a man? Just relying on my memory of the period, I could write a profile that would begin with the less-than-hundred page "doctoral dissertation" he wrote at the University of Texas, complete with a page or two of footnotes and bibliographical references to popular paperback editions.


It just gets uglier, and funnier, from there.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM

EBONY AND IVORY :

Shipping case shifts more power to states (Warren Richey, May 29, 2002, CS Monitor)
The US Supreme Court has once again upheld state sovereignty at the expense of the authority of the national government in a key decision addressing the balance of power between the states and Washington.

This time, the high court's conservative wing has achieved this by siding with the South Carolina State Ports Authority in a dispute over whether a gambling ship should have access to the port at Charleston.

At issue was whether the operator of the gambling ship could file a federal complaint against the state ports authority to be adjudicated by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). [...]

In a majority decision written by Justice Clarence Thomas, the court says its decision is necessary in part to uphold the "dignity" of the states in the face of expansive federal bureaucratic power.

The majority reasoned that because the states were not subject to private lawsuits at the time of the nation's founding, the states should not now be subject to private suits filed through federal agencies.

"If the framers thought it an impermissible affront to a state's dignity to be required to answer the complaints of private parties in federal courts, we cannot imagine that they would have found it acceptable to compel a state to do exactly the same thing before the administrative tribunal of an agency, such as the FMC," Justice Thomas writes.


Here's one of the paradoxical ways in which it is the Left that now propagates racism in America. Their take on the Court requires that Justice Thomas be seen as a lightweight hack who was appointed only because of his race, while David Souter has a superior mind, one that led him to the Court's liberal wing. Yet it is Justice Thomas who writes significant opinions, enjoying the trust of his conservative colleagues, while Souter--whose chambers is known as the "Black Hole", because it takes him so long to produce anything--seldom writes an opinion that matters. Clarence Thomas will never be judged fairly because of his race and that's a shameful thing.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM

GREEN WITH ENVY :

Green Party closes in on Clean Elections funds (Frank Phillips, 5/29/2002, Boston Globe)
In what could be a major blow to Democrats' hopes of regaining the governor's office, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein is on the verge of qualifying to receive up to $3.4 million in taxpayer-funded Clean Election campaign funds. [...]

The potential threat posed by the Green Party in the governor's race is rattling Democrats as they prepare to gather for their state party convention in Worcester this weekend. Democrats fear the loss of a significant number of liberal voters in November. In a close contest with Republican Mitt Romney, those Stein votes could spell defeat for the Democratic nominee. Some Democrats blame Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader for costing Democrat Al Gore the 2000 presidential election.

''It is an outrage,'' said Philip W. Johnston, the Democrats' state party chairman. ''This will significantly damage our chances in November. A vote for Stein is a vote for Romney.''


They may be nuts and enviro-commies, but they're serving their nation well.

May 28, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM

THEY PUT THE DUH IN AL QAEDA :

Taliban and Qaeda Believed Plotting Within Pakistan (JAMES DAO, May 28, 2002, NY Times)
Virtually the entire senior leadership of Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been driven out of eastern Afghanistan and are now operating with as many as 1,000 non-Afghan fighters in the anarchic tribal areas of western Pakistan, the commander of American-led forces in Afghanistan said today.

How stupid are these guys? They're clustering in one place where we can go after them all again? Why not scatter to the four corners of the Islamic world and set up smaller terrorist cells?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM

ANONYMOUS ABROAD :

France? It's like 1970s America(Joe Klein, May 28, 2002, The Guardian)
Europe is in crisis, and in a fairly pissy mood besides. There is a growing "rift" with America. We are seen as naive, arrogant, unilateral barbarians. (But wasn't that always the case: "Monsewer, van rooge see voo play?") And Europe itself is becoming less fun: there is crime, there is a tide of immigrants, there are rightwing
demagogues, there are rightwing demagogues being assassinated, there are lunatic children firing weapons in schools. Indeed, the news from Europe sounds... rather American, don't you think? Could this possibly be true? Where are the accordion players of yesteryear? [...]

Think about it: In the 70s American politicians were still caught in the turbulence of the George Wallace phenomenon - Wallace, the American Le Pen, who had stood in the schoolhouse door to block integration, who had coined the greatest of all political slogans, "Send them a message!" and who had actually won primary elections in reasonably proper states like Michigan and Maryland. In the 70s, too, Americans were reacting against an exploding crime rate (it had quadrupled in the 60s) and a rush of new immigrants from such un-American places as Mexico, Korea, Vietnam, Africa and South Asia. Young people were alienated. The economy was sluggish; American products weren't nearly so nifty as those from Germany and Japan. Jimmy Carter was worried about a national "malaise", which was reflected in the polls: for the first time in the history of the country, a majority of Americans didn't think next year would be better. Much of this was handled over time: crime abated, industry reorganised itself, the immigrants proved themselves brilliant Americans, "Eczema '74" stowed the spray paint and learned computer programming, Donny and Marie Osmond retired. We vanquished the Evil Empire, and made the world safe for Disney. We've even made some progress on race. But it was rather painful there for a while. One wonders if Europe can make a similar recovery (one wonders if America can sustain its triumphs, but that's another story).


I've yet to hear one thing that Europe has in its favor as it tries tackling these problems.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM

I GUESS NAPALM IS AN EXCLAMATION :

Supreme Court will consider free speech challenge to laws banning cross burning (ANNE GEARAN, May 28, 2002, Associated Press)
The high court's ruling, expected sometime next year, could clarify how far states may go in banning a practice associated with racial hatred and intimidation, but accorded some constitutional protection.

The court agreed to hear an appeal from Virginia, where a state court struck down a 50-year-old law that made it a crime to burn a cross to intimidate someone. The sharply divided lower court ruled that the state law was unconstitutional because such acts of bigotry are a protected form of speech.


Thanks to the Court's despicable ruling in Johnson, it seems we now have a regime of laws where it may be illegal to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater but okay to set the fire if you're just expressing dislike for the movie.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM

CASEY JONES, YOU BETTER WATCH YOUR SPEED :

Taking a maglev for a test drive (DEBBIE MESSINA, May 28, 2002, The Virginian-Pilot)
The power was switched on. The motors hummed. The 12-ton car ever so slightly and effortlessly lifted a half-inch in the air.

Ronald Tola, ODU's facilities manager, hoisted his video camera to his eye.

Then, slowly but surely, the train started moving along the track. It wasn't graceful, but it rumbled along, reaching 10 mph on a 500-foot stretch of test track cutting through Florida's lowlands.

Robert L. Ash, ODU's interim associate vice president for research, reached deep into his aerospace engineering background and declared with a wide grin: ``This is so cool.''

The automated train stopped within inches of its mark.

"It's amazing," Tola chortled. "How did they do that? Can we go again? How did they do that?"

After only a year of development at a remote Florida test track, the nation's first magnetic levitation train is almost ready to be delivered to its permanent home at ODU. [...]

If successful, this sleek, 45-foot car--converted from a boxy, electric people-mover vehicle that never took off in Florida--could revolutionize mass transportation.

Magnets and electricity combine to lift and propel the train along a guideway. Because it uses no moving parts and creates no friction, the technology could eventually whisk passengers along at speeds upwards of 300 mph.


This is another reason to believe that the age of the city may be ending. If you can get to work in an hour from 300 miles away, why live in a cement highrise surrounded by asphalt and other people?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM

CULTURE OF DEATH :

Teen-Age Cousin of Militia Leader Slain by Israel Takes Revenge With Suicide Bombing (Mohammed Daraghmeh, May 28, 2002, Associated Press)
Just before blowing himself up near an ice cream parlor in a Tel Aviv suburb, 18-year-old Jihad Titi called his mother in this Palestinian refugee camp to say farewell.

"I realized that he is going to carry out a suicide attack," Haleema Titi, 52, told The Associated Press. "I said, 'Oh, son, I hope your operation will succeed.'" Her husband, Ibrahim, said he wished his son--who was avenging the killing of a cousin by Israel--had carried a "nuclear bomb."


As John Ashcroft said : "Islam is a religion in which God requires you to send your son to die for him. Christianity is a faith in which God sends his son to die for you."

If you were this father wouldn't you at least stop the kid and carry the bomb yourself?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM

A QUARTER CENTURY OF MISERY :

Facing Another Collapse, Nets Don't Buckle (LIZ ROBBINS, May 28, 2002, NY Times)
When you're a Net fan "Nets Don't Buckle" is as good as it gets.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM

HOBGOBLIN :

The Anti-Cloning Conundrum (MICHAEL J. SANDEL, 5/28/02, NY Times)
Imagine a fertility clinic that accepts egg and sperm donations for two purposes - reproduction and stem cell research. No cloning is involved. The clinic creates two groups of embryos, one from eggs and sperm donated for the purpose of in vitro fertilization, the other from eggs and sperm donated by people who want to advance the cause of stem cell research.

Which group of embryos should an ethical scientist use for stem cell research? Those who agree with Senators Frist and Landrieu would presumably permit the scientist to use spare embryos from the first group (since they were created for reproduction and will otherwise be discarded), but not from the second group (since they were deliberately created for research). But why draw the line there? If the creation and sacrifice of spare embryos in infertility treatment is morally acceptable, why isn't the creation and sacrifice of embryos for stem cell research also acceptable? After all, both practices serve worthy ends, and curing diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes is at least as important as enabling infertile couples to have genetically related children.

Of course bioethics is not only about ends, but also about means. Those who oppose creating embryos for research argue that doing so is exploitative and fails to accord embryos the respect they are due. But the same argument could be made against fertility treatments that create excess embryos bound for destruction, which is the common practice in this country.


He's right, as were opponents of in vitro fertilization twenty years ago; there's no coherent difference and in vitro fertilization should be banned too. The cost is too high. Let the couples adopt instead.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM

SAVAGE NATION :

War is Peace : a review of Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace (Derek Copold, 5/26/02, Texas Mercury)
Mr. Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace presents the reader with a mixed bag. Lurking within its covers are a bevy of entertaining and informative
historical vignettes which describe America's "small wars", conflicts which pit America's military against smaller guerrilla forces. This all too often ignored side of American history is given a good airing by Mr. Boot, an editor with the Wall Street Journal, and he deserves much congratulation for the work he did in bringing it to light, particularly when it comes to recognizing several heroes of these forgotten wars.

Unfortunately, Mr. Boot couldn't leave well enough alone and tacks on an overtly pro-intervention commentary at the end of each chapter, and he closes his book with yet another whooping session for what he himself calls "empire." [...]

...Boot draws three main conclusions about American intervention abroad. First, he tells us that it is wholly consistent with America's traditions, going all the way back to the Jefferson administration, a la the Barbary Wars. Second, Mr. Boot argues that the use of intervention is good for the world because it spreads democracy and free markets. Third, and lastly, Mr. Boot declares that American intervention ensures national security because the more democracy prospers globally the less likely it becomes that war will break out.


Mr. Copold does a nice job of deconstructing the interventionist position. The only thing I'd add is that the closing years of the Cold War seemed to show that our best interests may be better served by being on the other side of these guerilla wars. In Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, etc., we made great hay by supporting guerilla movements against powers we wanted to topple. Combined with our own experience in Vietnam, these wars suggest that from a purely realpolitik perspective, it may be better to let our enemies take the reigns of government and then support their indigenous opponents. For one thing it works; for another it's cheap; and, for another, it doesn't cost much in American blood.

The recent Afghan War, where a fairly minimal U.S. commitment of forces enabled native rivals to get rid of the Taliban in mere weeks, seems like a useful hybrid that combines this lesson with American technology to create a kind of non-intervention intervention. This model might work equally well in Iraq. If we invest some effort in creating an armed and trained opposition force, perhaps combining elements of the Kurds in the North (though we'd have to remain cognizant of Turkish concerns) and the Shia in the South (working with the Iranians) with democratic expatriates, we might then be able to use bombing and air cover to enable these guerilla forces to drive Saddam from power.

This weird dynamic has grown up whereby people accuse us of being gutless for not putting ground troops into these situations. But why make ourselves the targets? Why risk large numbers of American lives in these fairly marginal wars? What's wrong with our enabling peoples to take control of their own countries, but requiring them to do much of the heavy lifting? It pains me to say it, but why can't we play France to indigenous Founding Fathers? Seems like it's at least worth trying this strategy out and Iraq seems like a good opportunity.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM

SCOOP'S DEAD AND SO'S THE USSR :

In Russia, A Grudging Consensus (Masha Lipman, May 27, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
There seems to be a growing, if passive and reluctant, consensus that Russia needs to cooperate with the United States, even if Russians aren't fond of U.S. policies or values. The Russian public does not question Putin's policy, and his popularity keeps anti-Western conservatives from uniting against him.

In the United States, the persistence of Cold War attitudes can be seen in the Senate's recent refusal to terminate the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a trademark document of the Cold War punishing Russia for long-discarded practices of the Soviet police state. The same attitudes are found in the commonly expressed opinion that Russia's concessions are never enough.


If the neocons really wanted to be useful, instead of sniping about the Iraqi D-day they'd help repeal what remains their greatest achievement : Jackson-Vanik. Passage of the law was a signal moment in the winning of the Cold War, but that war's over and Russia is now one of our most important allies--time to treat them like one.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM

NOTHING MATTERS :

Do Poets Matter? (Robert Bové, 5/19/02, Texas Mercury)
Poets run into problems in the public sphere. Even the most lyrical among them sound off-key when pontificating on public issues. Take Osama Bin Laden's poetry, please. Or take U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins' now-infamous statement from his piece in USA Today (September 24, 2001): "A poem about mushrooms or about a walk with the dog is a more eloquent response to Sept. 11 than a poem that announces that wholesale murder is a bad thing."

Or try to keep your dander down making sense of Juliana Spahr, who actually took on Collins in an essay in the current readme, an online literary journal, when she says: "Somewhere around 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center while I watched from a street corner in Brooklyn. But that is nothing. Some 72,000 have died from AIDS in New York City since 1981."

She adds: "When that tower collapsed we all screamed or gasped and then we all just scattered back into our houses."

I don't know what street corner she was on, but from where I stood, on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, on 9/11 I saw a lot of tears, shed my own, and heard sobbing among the gasps and shouts-but nobody ran. If anything people expressed real frustration because they could no longer get into Lower Manhattan to help. A lot of them eventually did make it in, whether to work the Ground Zero cafeteria or give the laborers massages, whatever they could. I guess it was just poets who ran home, presumably to go to bed and "heal."

That's going to be hard to live down for a "community" that considers itself to be avant garde--how does one lead from the rear?


There's something inhuman in the statement : "that is nothing".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM

READING THE LEAKS :

America's enemies (Daily Telegraph, 28/05/2002)
President Bush's commitment to overthrowing Saddam Hussein and other rogue regimes remains as strong as ever--but his vision is being occluded by bureaucratic infighting over the methods to achieve it.

In the six months since the Taliban regime in Afghanistan fell in December, and the enunciation of the "axis of evil" in the State of the Union address in January, little visible progress has been made. The sense of lost momentum culminated in recent reports that the American military wants to delay action against Iraq until at least next year.

Whatever the accuracy of the reports, it is significant that somebody in Washington thought it worth their while to leak this on the eve of the Commander-in-Chief's visit to Europe.


Of course the significance of the leak is most likely an attempt by people who are losing the debate to try to make it look like they are winning or by the president's folks to take some heat off him during his European trip. The least likely reason for the leak is that it is the truth.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM

DEFENSIBLE BUT NOT DERIVABLE :

Robert Nozick, anarcho-capitalist : The import of his greatest work made Robert Nozick a figure of political as well as philosophical importance. (Roger Scruton, 16 May 2002, Open Democracy)
The enduring relevance of Nozick's argument is brought out in the dispute with [John] Rawls, who develops a thought experiment, drawing on the tradition of "social contract" philosophy, with which to justify a broadly welfarist distribution of goods and services. The just society, according to Rawls, is one which obeys the "difference principle", guaranteeing the best possible position for those at the bottom of the social pile.

Nozick's critique is based on the thought that justice is not a matter of distributions or patterns, but a matter of procedures and rights. We act justly when we respect rights, unjustly when we violate them. But by respecting rights we produce unpredictable outcomes. Any attempt to squeeze those outcomes into a distributive pattern will inevitably involve violating the rights of someone.

The example Nozick considers is that of the basketball player, Wilt Chamberlain, who will respond to an invitation to play only if each spectator pays a supplement of $5 for the privilege of seeing him. The spectators willingly pay this supplement, and Wilt Chamberlain willingly receives it. Nobody's rights are trampled on and everyone is happy with the outcome - everyone, that is, except the socialist academic, who deplores a situation in which one man ends up a millionaire, while the rest of us remain where we were, only $5 the poorer. But there is no way of avoiding this outcome, which does not involve interfering with the rights of someone. To forbid Chamberlain to play is to deny his right to make use of his talents, skills and training. To forbid us to pay the supplement is to deny us the right to use our money as we wish; to confiscate Chamberlain's profits is an act of expropriation; and so on.

The example may seem trivial, but it has important consequences, and the value of Anarchy, State and Utopia lies in the way those consequences are spelled out, so as to defend private property, private medicine, private schooling and private welfare services, and a variety of social and economic inequalities--not as good in themselves but as the unavoidable outcomes of the only concept of justice that we really understand: the concept of the "justice preserving transaction". It is not states of affairs, distributions or patterns of ownership that are just or unjust, but the human actions that produce them.

Once we understand what justice means, in the real circumstances of human action, then we will see that we cannot respect the demands of justice, and also aim at a socialist or redistributive state.


That's fine in so far as it goes, but the great weakness of the argument is that absent the human dignity and rights that the West grounds on God, there's no basis for the rights that Nozick wants to vindicate other than a mere assertion that they are important.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM

ONE OF US :

Orwell has been co-opted to defend almost everything, including the US Star Wars programme and the Falklands war. Is it time to rescue him from his friends? (D J Taylor, 5/20/02, New Statesman)
Orwell, it may be said, is always good value for the armchair strategist. His writings spill over into nearly every area of public life, and if you look carefully enough there is pretty sure to be a quotation to fit any exigency. It would be perfectly possible, for instance, to make him out as both a supporter of war--he was notably hard-headed about the saturation bombing of German cities--and someone who regarded the very act of picking up a rifle as morally indefensible. In either case, the value of his observations rests on his personal experience, unlike most of those currently pontificating on the international situation, of having thrown bombs into trenches with the intention of killing the men in there.

The irony of Orwell's recent role as quotation-supplier to military apologists - an Observer piece reproduced some particularly injurious remarks about left-wing defeatism made in the aftermath of Dunkirk--is that he should be so consistently used to shore up the defences of the right.


What's so difficult to comprehend about that dichotomy? Why can't you dream of an ideal world but choose to live in the real world? Orwell, it's always seemed to me, hated inequality but was realistic about the horror and ultimate futility of the measures that would be required to obviate it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM

PROMISE & PERIL :

India (Jim Rogers)
What has put the global economic country on the map over the past decade is its high-tech expertise. Bangalore, a city in Southern India, is the Silicon Valley of India, but other technology hubs are popping up all over the country. The software exports have grown from $50 million in 1993 to $6.3 billion last year. That number is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2008, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies. The software industry now accounts for 11.5 percent of India's total exports. Eight Indian IT companies, including firms like Infosys and Wipro and Satyam are listed on North American exchanges. The country is a major supplier of skilled software engineers, who are wooed by high-tech corporations in every country around the world.

Despite such a bright spot, India's economy on the whole is less impressive. India's budget deficit remains sizeable, stuck at 10 percent of its gross domestic product of $475 billion. Inflation doubled in 2000. And despite the growth of the IT industry, the stock market has lost nearly half of its value over the past year. More important, the growth of its IT industry, though, means little to those who don't have enough water or power or struggle to feed themselves everyday. In fact, more than 400 million people live on less than $1 a day.

Such a contradiction within India's economy is the result of a lingering sentiment of protectionism that has remained in India for over half a century. Many of the leaders that ruled India after the British left in 1947, like Nehru and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, feared further influence of foreigners and established a practice of strict self-reliance, known as swadeshi. These governments subsidized many Indian industries, never allowing foreign companies to compete and thereby never allowing its own industries to excel. Such subsidies have long been a drain on the country's economy, accounting for as much as 14 percent of its GDP.

As a result of such protectionism and subsidies, many industries within India have remained stagnant. Indians are incredible farmers who could likely rival the U.S. in agricultural production. But the government doesn't allow people to own more than 18 acres. This is driving out many productive producers. Farmers from the Punjab have started buying huge spreads in Kazakhstan. In the eastern section of India, there is a company called Bengal Fertilizer, which was built in the early nineties. The government spent $1.2 billion on it and it took seven years to complete. It now employs 1550 people with complete work schedules, vacations, canteens, unions, etc. And yet they have never produced an ounce of fertilizer. I can't even figure out why.


Interesting survey of India's economic situation by Jim Rogers, who some may remember from his CNBC days with Lawrence Kudlow.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM

EVEN, BUT LOSING :

Kirk, Cornyn in tight contest : Poll shows dead heat in race that could be key in control of Senate (WAYNE SLATER and CHRISTOPHER LEE, 05/22/2002, The Dallas Morning News
A new poll indicates that Republican John Cornyn and Democrat Ron Kirk are locked in a close race for the Senate, a contest that national party leaders say could be pivotal in determining who controls Congress.

According to the survey, Mr. Cornyn and Mr. Kirk are effectively in a dead heat - the Republican attracting 46 percent of likely Texas voters and the Democrat backed by 44 percent. Ten percent were either undecided or declined to answer.

"With so few of the voters undecided almost five months out, both candidates will need to work to earn the margin that will put them over the top," said Democratic pollster Jeff Montgomery of Austin, who conducted the poll.

The sharpest divisions were along ethnic lines, with 58 percent of Hispanics and 84 percent of blacks supporting Mr. Kirk. Nearly 57 percent of non-Hispanic whites backed Mr. Cornyn.


This seems like a race that Kirk should be leading just on the basis of name recognition. That they are running even suggests that his campaign faces a tough time.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM

BORN IN THE USA :

The Baby Registry of Choice : Thousands of pregnant South Koreans travel to the U.S. to give birth to American citizens. A mini-industry has been created to serve them. (BARBARA DEMICK, 5/25/02, LA Times)
Those who can cough up the $20,000 or so it costs are coming to the United States by the thousands to give birth so their newborns can have American citizenship. Their reasons range from a desire to enroll their offspring in American schools to enabling them to avoid South Korean military service.

Los Angeles is the most popular destination because of its large Korean-speaking population, along with New York, Boston, Hawaii and even Guam. Although there are no figures on how many "tourists" overall have babies in the U.S., the practice is also believed to be popular among women from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

So many are doing it, in fact, that a mini-industry has developed here of agencies that refer expectant mothers to travel agents, immigration lawyers, prenatal clinics, hospitals and even baby-sitters, arranging what are, in effect, package tours for pregnant women.

"From birth to citizenship," advertises one Korean-language Web site (www.birthinusa.com) that helps women give birth in Los Angeles.

The United States is one of the few countries that grants citizenship to anyone born on its soil. Britain and Australia altered similar laws in the 1980s.

Efforts by immigration foes in Congress to stop the practice have failed because the citizenship rights of such children, even those of illegal immigrants, appear to be guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, added after the Civil War to bestow the right on the descendants of slaves.


It would be better if the families just came here to live permanently.

May 27, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM

RARE SENSE :

Corporate Welfare at its Worst (Rep. Bernie Sanders, 5/21/02, The Nation)
One of the most egregious forms of corporate welfare can be found at a little-known federal agency called the Export-Import Bank, an institution that has a budget of about $1 billion a year and the capability of putting at risk some $15.5 billion in loan guarantees annually. At a time when the government is underfunding veterans' needs, education, healthcare, housing and many other vital services, more than 80 percent of the subsidies distributed by the Export-Import Bank goes to Fortune 500 corporations. Among the companies that receive taxpayer support from the Ex-Im are Enron, Boeing, Halliburton, Mobil, IBM, General Electric, AT&T, Motorola, Lucent Technologies, FedEx, General Motors, Raytheon and United Technologies. [...]

The bottom line is that if the Export-Import Bank cannot be reformed so as to become a vehicle for real job creation in the United States, it should be eliminated. American citizens have better things to do with their money than support an agency that provides welfare for corporations that could care less about American workers.


Agreed. How about letting the Democrats pick the 100 programs and tax breaks that they find most appalling and Republicans pick their own 100. Put them all in one bill that kills them and let Congress vote up or down.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM

GREAT AWAKENING? :

Germany's liberal party flirts with the far right : Free Democrats accused of pandering to anti-semitic voters (John Hooper, May 28, 2002, The Guardian)
The Austrian far-rightist J0rg Haider extended an endorsement to the leadership of Germany's august liberal party yesterday amid claims that it is being hijacked by anti-semitic populists in the run-up to September's general election.

His congratulations will be viewed with profound concern by those, such as the German chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, who have warned that recent successes by anti-immigrant politicians could tempt moderate conservatives to veer to the right.

Jurgen Mollemann, the deputy leader of Germany's traditionally middle of the road Free Democrat party (FDP), had welcomed advances by those such as Mr Haider in Austria and Pim Fortuyn's party in the Netherlands as representing "the emancipation of the democrats".

In an article published yesterday, Mr Mollemann said: "Historians will later write that the start of the third millennium saw a wave of awakening self-confidence among the people of the nations and states of Europe".


Religious historians sometimes contend that America is now in the midst of its third great religious awakening.

In Europe, they seem to be headed towards their Fourth Reich.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM

CRANK UP THE MIMEOGRAPH :

Going Wobbly? : Is the president backing away from regime change in Iraq? (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 05/24/2002, Weekly Standard)
Not content to leave the self-caricature field to Mo Dowd, Mr. Kristol and Mr. Kagan issue their latest edict about how we're losing the war on terrorism. This follows on the heels of similar pronouncements as regards our pending loss in Afghanistan and our imminent betrayal of Israel. What are these little boys going to do when a real wolf shows up and everyone stopped listening to them several alarums ago?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM

BECOMING THE MAJORITY PARTY :

In poll, Central Florida's Hispanics favor Gov. Bush (Mark Silva, May 27, 2002, Orlando Sentinel)
Gov. Jeb Bush holds an advantage over Democratic rivals among Hispanic voters in Central Florida, according to his campaign's polling of the region crucial to his re-election.

This could provide an important re-election base for Bush, who already enjoys overwhelming support among the Republican-rich Cuban-American community of South Florida.

Both state and national Republican parties are attempting to build that base, with political analysts reading gains for the GOP in the U.S. Justice Department's move to make polling places more accessible for Spanish-speaking voters in Orange and Osceola counties.

The Bush campaign's survey in the critical "Interstate 4 corridor" of Central Florida focused for the first time on Hispanics not of Cuban origin. The Democratic Party was more popular than the GOP among those surveyed, yet most thought Bush is "a different" kind of Republican.

"These voters are critical in a very swing area of the state," said Neil Newhouse, a Virginia-based Bush-campaign pollster. Bush "has a personal appeal among Hispanics that seems to overcome traditional partisan anchors. He seems to connect much better with these voters than the average Republican."

Bush's own popularity -- 60 percent of Hispanics surveyed approve of the job he is doing -- is one factor in his apparent lead among these voters.


Now the GOP has to aggressively recruit Latinos to run for office. You can't depend on the Bush brothers' unique relationship with Hispanic
Americans to carry you forever.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM

PATIENCE :

Iran bars debate on US ties : Ayatollah Khamenei has ruled out talks with the US (Jim Muir, 26 May, 2002, BBC)
Iran's Justice Department has issued a ruling making it a criminal offence for any newspaper to carry material advocating negotiations with the United States.

The decision has sparked an angry reaction among Iranian reformists--with one reformist newspaper describing the ruling as "illegal". [...]

If the Tehran Justice Department's ruling is confirmed as official judiciary policy, reformists will clearly be outraged at what they see as blatant suppression of one of the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the constitution.

It will significantly increase the contradictory pressures building up within the Islamic regime.

President Mohammad Khatami - the main symbol of the reformists--said pointedly only last week that the Iranian revolution had happened because people wanted an Islamic Republic, not an Islamic dictatorship.


It is the nature of war to force the contradictions--as we see from Russia, which has been forced to realize it is a Western nation, to Palestine, where continual talk of self-determination has only served to remind people that Arafat's a dictator, to Iran, where long dormant Westernizing influences are bubbling to the surface. Hysterical hawks in the U.S. want to attack Iran even as it is on a difficult and uncertain path towards becoming a genuine republic and quite possibly (given Persian contempt for the Arabs) an ally.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM

GERBILDOME :

Zimmer of hope : Field dedicated to former Sox manager (JANINE E. GILBERTSON, May 27, 2002, Union Leader)
[Don] Zimmer, 72, who has donated thousands of dollars, including sports memorabilia, to the Windham Baseball Softball League, was honored by the town.

One of the three new Little League and softball fields at the 37-acre Griffin Park was named the “Don Zimmer Field.”


Doesn't the Park really have to be nicknamed : The Habitrail?

May 26, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM

THE ALLIES WHO ACTUALLY MATTER :

Russia opens military supply line for India (Saurabh Shukla, May 26, 2002, Hindustan Times)
India's declaration of a 'decisive response' to Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism has received a big boost from its strategic partner, Russia.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin is advocating restraint and has also offered to broker peace, Russia has reportedly begun supplying emergency military hardware to New Delhi to meet the Pakistan challenge.

Back-channel diplomacy has also resulted in Moscow extending 'logisitical support', including intelligence on PoK terror camps to Indian security
agencies.

Significantly, Moscow has indicated to New Delhi that if the need arises, it will exercise its 'veto' in India's favour at the UN Security Council. During the 1971 war, the then Soviet Union had similarly acted on four occasions to prevent India from being declared the 'aggressor.'
Any day now, the media and the pundits are going to wake up and notice that the Middle East is effectively encircled by an alliance of admittedly motley democracies--Israel, Turkey, India, and Russia on land [note that three of them have nukes], with the United States controlling the air and the sea. While all the hawks shriek about the minor tactical issue of which day we attack Iraq, we're in the midst of forging a grand strategic alliance that makes it unimaginable that the Islamic world could win a general war with the democratic West.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM

SURE IT'S WORKING, FOR NOW :

W.'s Grand Tour (MAUREEN DOWD, 5/26/02, NY Times)
Like Ronald Reagan, W.'s appeal is that he is an All-American who believes what he believes. And he trusted his gut to create a new dynamic with a Russian leader. But such a lack of nuance over the long term could be worrisome.

Did I miss something? What higher compliment can you pay a political leader than to start a sentence with the phrase : "Like Ronald Reagan..."?

Poor Mo Dowd, she still thinks that Reagan's lack of nuance will come back to haunt him.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:08 PM

DUBIOUS, THOUGH INTERESTING, ANALOGY :

Persistence wins the fight (Tom Wheeler, 05/23/2002, USA Today)
A surprise attack--not on Sept. 11, but during the Civil War--underscores the challenges today for both our leaders and individual Americans as the United States awaits another terrorist assault.

The 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville began with Union Gen. Joseph Hooker's brilliantly devised and executed surprise attack on Confederates under Robert E. Lee. The Rebels suddenly found themselves squeezed between Union troops at their front and rear. Traditional military teaching advised that Lee retreat and regroup. But Lee did just the opposite: He attacked the Union troops.

America's 21st century experience with terrorists has so far tracked the Hooker-Lee metaphor.


Fortunately we're the Union, inevitably unbeatable in this conflict.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM

NOT EUROPEAN ENOUGH? :

Drifting Apart :There has been a divergence in world views among the transatlantic allies (Gerard Baker, May 24 2002, Financial Times)
Mr Bush did not recoil, as some had expected he might, from directly confronting European criticisms of his foreign policy. He repeated his characterisation of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil". He warned Europeans that their criticism of his plans to topple Saddam Hussein was the result of "wishful thinking" about the scale of the threat from weapons of mass destruction.

If Europeans had hoped that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and their own objections to Mr Bush's plans to pursue rogue states aggressively would force the US to think again, they would have been disappointed. The president again promised to consult his allies before starting the next phase of the fight. But he left no doubt the US intended to act.

And although western Europeans, notably this week Gerhard Schršder, the German chancellor, made clear they had nothing to fear from closer ties between Russia and the US, there was no escaping the fact that it was in Moscow--not Berlin, Brussels, Paris, or even London - that Mr Bush had invested most of his efforts during the past year. In fact, some senior officials in the Bush administration are critical in private of what they see as a failure by the European Union to seize fully the opportunity that Russia's emergence from totalitarianism has created in Europe.

Other recent irritants in the relationship - the Kyoto treaty on climate change, the inter- national criminal court, trade disputes over steel, taxes and farming - were played down this week.

It would be wrong to see the gaps between the US and western European views of the world as simply the result of a sudden rupture since the Bush administration came to office, a break with a long period of benign convergence. The global perspectives of the two sides have been evolving in steadily divergent directions for 30 years. In the US, economic success and the American ascent to unrivalled political pre- eminence have redoubled the nation's self-confidence, its faith in the effectiveness of the nation state and the aggressiveness with which it pursues the national interest on the world stage. They have also enhanced a traditionally moral view of the US's role in the world, underpinned by ideological certainty in the justice of America's cause.

Europeans, after a century of wars and the collapse of competing ideologies in a bonfire of human destruction, have less confidence in simple frameworks of right and wrong. The world, in this view, is a moral muddle. Attempts to apply universal values are doomed to complicate it further.

At the end of the cold war, differences over the Balkans and the Middle East were smoothed over by the overwhelmingly Atlanticist approach of President Bill Clinton. But the gaps were becoming much more visible beneath the surface.

[D]oubtless some of the political leaders privately share the view expressed on one ironic banner held up in front of Mr Bush's motorcade in Berlin this week: "Berlin welcomes Bill Clinton."


It's interesting to see this theme repeated in European coverage of President Bush's trip, that he's too American and they long for Bill Clinton, who was more "European". No wonder I loathed him so.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM

ATHANASIUS WHO? :

A Postmodernist of the 1600's Is Back in Fashion (SARAH BOXER, May 25, 2002, NY Times)
A puckish question was raised on Thursday night at New York University: "Was Athanasius Kircher the coolest guy ever, or what?" For those who have no idea who Kircher was, let's begin with the "or what."

The German Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602-80), a rough contemporary of Descartes and Galileo, was no ordinary man. He studied Egyptian hieroglyphs and helped Bernini with his fountain in the Piazza Navona. He made vomiting machines and eavesdropping statues. He transcribed bird song and wrote a book about musicology (still used today). He taught Nicolas Poussin perspective and made a chamber of mirrors to drive cats crazy. He invented the first slide projector and had himself lowered into the mouth of Mount Vesuvius just as it was supposed to erupt. He proved the impossibility of the Tower of Babel and made a model of how the animals were arranged in Noah's Ark. And he collected the objects that filled the Museo Kircheriano, Rome's first wunderkammer or collection of curiosities.

Kircher's body is buried in Rome. His heart is buried three hours away, at a shrine for St. Eustace (which he founded). And his star is on the rise. There have been recent conferences on Kircher at Stanford University, the University of Chicago and in Rome. There was an exhibition of Kircheriana, put on by David Wilson at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles. On Thursday, the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University threw a symposium for Kircher's 400th birthday.

Why the revival? Lawrence Weschler, the head of the institute and the author of "Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders" (a book about the Museum of Jurassic Technology), thinks it is because Kircher is the premodern root of postmodern thinking. With his labyrinthine mind, he was Jorge Luis Borges before Borges. In the years before Kircher's death and for 300 years afterward, he was derided as a dilettante and crackpot. The rationalism and specialization of Descartes had taken over. But now Kircher's taste for trivia, deception and wonder is back.


I like the part apart driving cats crazy anyway.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM

LARGELY RIGHT, BUT NOT "RIGHT" :

We're All Conservatives Now (Robert J. Samuelson, May 24, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
Sometimes the largest truths are the most obvious and overlooked. One is this: Prosperous societies are profoundly conservative. The conservatism is not partisan or ideological. It is personal and psychological, as in: Please don't disturb; let things stay as they are. We see this truth routinely confirmed. It is poorer societies (China, India, Russia, Mexico) that are striving, in fits and starts, to remake themselves. Meanwhile, the world's enclaves of great prosperity -- the United States, Europe and Japan -- are mainly content with what they have. Standing pat has become a public philosophy, practiced by both left and right.

On the whole, this is probably good. It discourages waves of disruptive and probably fruitless experimentation. But the conservatism becomes self-defeating when it prevents countries from moving against undeniable problems. In the United States, Congress and the White House can't ax unneeded or ineffective programs. People feel entitled; someone might suffer. And Japan and Europe are even more tightly tied to stand-patism. [...]

Prosperity becomes a narcotic, accustoming people to present pleasures and numbing them to future problems. What best exemplifies collective avoidance is the refusal to deal with aging populations and the costs of government retirement programs, which -- in advanced societies -- will ultimately become too expensive.

In the United States, political leaders won't consider gradual and modest increases in the retirement age or benefit reductions for Social Security and Medicare. Europe's evasion is similar, but the pressures are worse because birthrates are lower, benefits higher and retirement earlier. In France men retire on average at 59, says the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In Germany and Italy, the figure is 61. Typically, these retirees will live another 20 or 25 years.

European governments already spend 40 percent to 50 percent of GDP. By official estimates, retirement programs will raise these costs considerably. But the official estimates are probably low, as Richard Jackson shows in a new study for CSIS. Using less generous assumptions on life expectancy, birthrates and health spending, he thinks cost increases could be 70 percent higher over the next half-century. Either way, huge changes will be unavoidable -- someday.

But that day is not today. The instinct is to put off. Never mind that small changes and inconveniences now might avert large changes and disruptions later. The "later" lies in the distant future. Not to worry. Delusion is respectable, even mandatory. We may all be conservatives now, and possibly fools too.


Mr. Samuelson is usually so unflinchingly fair in his columns that I was actually shocked at what must be considered the cheapness of this one. Though he's correct that the term conservative can mean an aversion to change, in modern America "conservative" is a political posture as well and it is openly hostile to the status quo that he describes. Had the Conservative Revolution of 1994 succeeded--on other words, had Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich not chickened out during the government shutdown--we might even now be undergoing the kind of entitlement reforms of which Mr. Samuelson speaks. And it is conservatives, from the Reverend Jerry Falwell to George W. Bush who have been most vocal about the dangers of the narcotizing effects of prosperity. Mr. Samuelson may have one specific meaning of the term conservative in mind, but inevitably the column seems to blame conservative politics for these problems. This is unjust.

In his great book, The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk defined the qualities that characterize a conservative :

(1) Belief that a divine intent rules society as well as conscience, forging an eternal chain of right and duty which links great and obscure, living and dead.  Political problems, at bottom, are religious and moral problems. [...]

(2) Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems. [...]

(3) Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes. The only true equality is moral equality; all other attempts at levelling lead to despair, if enforced by positive legislation. [...]

(4) Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected, and that economic levelling is not economic progress. Separate property from private possession and liberty is erased.

(5) Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters and calculators.' Man must put a control upon his will and his appetite, for conservatives know man to be governed more by emotion than by reason. Tradition and sound prejudice provide checks upon man's anarchic impulse.

(6) Recognition that change and reform are not identical, and that innovation is a devouring conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress.  Society must alter, for slow change is the means of its conservation, like the human body's perpetual renewal; but Providence is the proper instrument for change, and the test of a statesman is his cognizance of the real tendency of Providential social forces.

And he contrasted these core beliefs with those of conservatism's opponents on the Left, the radicals of all stripes, who believe in :

(1) The perfectibility of man and the illimitable progress of society: meliorism.  Radicals believe that education, positive legislation, and alteration of environment can produce men like gods; they deny that humanity has a natural proclivity toward violence and sin.

(2) Contempt for tradition. Reason, impulse, and materialistic determinism are severally preferred as guides to social welfare, trustier than the wisdom of our ancestors.  Formal religion is rejected and a variety of anti-Christian systems are offered as substitutes.

(3) Political levelling. Order and privilege are condemned; total democracy, as direct as practicable, is the professed radical ideal. Allied with this spirit, generally, is a dislike of old parliamentary arrangements and an eagerness for centralization and consolidation.

(4) Economic levelling. The ancient rights of property, especially property in land, are suspect to almost all radicals; and collectivist radicals hack at the institution of private property root and branch.

Even if you'd quarrel with certain aspects of these definitions, it seems hard to argue that moral license and massive entitlement programs can be blamed on conservatives.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:25 PM

FROM THE NIMBY FILES :

Another Look at How Members of Congress Exercise School Choice (Jennifer Garrett, 5/22/02, Heritage Foundation)
Despite the President's strong support for school choice, many Members of Congress effectively deny poor school children the educational opportunities their own children enjoy. Of the high percentage of Members who now send or at any time have sent a child to private school, many continually vote against legislation that would enable parents of poor children trapped in failing or unsafe public schools to exercise the same choice. Many, such as Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), whose daughter Chelsea had attended an elite secondary private school in Washington, D.C., argue that giving vouchers to disadvantaged children to attend a school of choice would undermine public schools. Two of the Senate's wealthiest members, Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and John D. Rockefeller(D-WV), voted against school choice but provided their own children with a private education. Such rhetoric is common on Capitol Hill.

House Amendment 57 to the No Child Left Behind Act (H.R. 1) proposed by Representative Richard Armey (R-TX), which would have allowed children in low-performing and dangerous schools to attend a school of choice, was defeated by a vote of 155-273 on May 23, 2001. Of the 273 Members who voted against the amendment, 69 had sent or were sending at least one child to private school. Had these Members voted for the amendment instead, it would have passed by a vote of 224-204.

House Amendment 58 to H.R. 1, also proposed by Representative Armey, would have authorized up to five school choice research demonstration projects to evaluate the impact of school choice on the academic achievement of disadvantaged students. This amendment also was defeated on May 23, 2001, by a vote of 186-241. In this case, 58 of the 241 Members who voted against it had exercised private school choice for their own children. Had they voted for choice instead, the amendment would have passed by a vote of 244-183.

Senate Amendment 536, an amendment to the Better Education for Students and Teachers Act (S. 1) proposed by Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) to fund a low-income school choice demonstration program, failed by a vote of 41-58 on June 12, 2001. At that time, 13 of the Senators who voted against the amendment had sent or were sending their children to private school. Had they voted to provide the same option to low-income families who needed that choice the most, the amendment would have passed by a vote of 54-45.

The failure to approve measures to enable all children to benefit from the best school environment possible makes less and less political sense, especially in light of growing public support for school choice among Americans, particularly parents and minorities.


Expressing high moral dudgeon about hypocrisy is always fun, but it's pretty unrealistic to expect Democrats to offend their most important constituency--in financial terms--the teachers who are part of Big Labor. If you like at these numbers though there's something very revealing about them : Republicans are the problem. For a measure to fail in the House, Republicans have to vote against it and if 59 senators voted against Judd Gregg's amendment, at least seven of them must have been from the GOP. The very ugly fact of the matter is that the opposition of moderate Republicans to school choice is a result of racism--not necessarily their own, but that of their constituencies.

Opinion polling has consistently shown that while white liberals strongly oppose school choice, blacks and conservatives (especially Christian conservatives) strongly support it--blacks because they want to get their kids out of failing schools, Christian conservatives because they'd like the option of sending their kids to religious schools or of home-schooling them. The swing vote, as always, is that great mass of suburbanites (Soccer Moms or what have you). They tend to already have decent schools, want to keep their kids in public schools and they don't want those schools being "wrecked" by an influx of "inner-city" kids. So Republicans from swing districts and States are unwilling to stick their necks out on an issue of Republican orthodoxy if its going to get them in trouble back home.

Democrats richly deserve blame for being in thrall to the unions on this issue, but Republicans (at least some Republicans) should be held to account too. And the unassailable white middle class deserves our opprobrium. In the long run we'll all pay the price if we keep another generation (or two or three) of poor black kids trapped in schools where they don't learn. Shame on us.


May 25, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM

WE'VE ONLY JUST BEGUN... :

Conservatives keep winning, but not for long (Robert Kuttner, 5/22/2002, Boston Globe)
My message is that conservatives have won most of the great battles of the past two decades but are now in danger of succumbing to hubris. They are overreaching, to their likely downfall. [...]

A major backlash is brewing against corporate excess. Ordinary Americans, in a national security emergency, resent corporations ripping off pensioners, moving to tax havens, defrauding investors, soaking ratepayers. It would not take all that much reform to rein in the excesses, but the supremely confident Bush administration is rejecting modest reform.

Or take ''compassionate conservatism,'' the Bush administration's signature philosophy. Study the details and it's a complete fake.

Here, too, it wouldn't take much to combine welfare reform with decent child care, but the administration refuses. And so, despite the Bush slogan, millions of children will in fact be ''left behind.'' Nor would it take much to provide seniors with decent drug coverage, but the administration has already spent the money repealing the estate tax. It would take only $8 billion a year to adequately staff every nursing home, but the White House is determined to slash Medicaid and Medicare.


Talk about not getting it....Mr. Kuttner thinks that conservatives have won, but are in danger of losing. But a country where parents don't look after their children and adults don't look after their elderly parents, leaving these duties instead to government, is not at all conservative.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM

THE SETTING OF THE SUN :

Japan starts to feel growing pains (David Pilling, May 23 2002, Financial Times)
If Japan cannot consolidate itself out of debt problems, it must grow its way out. But that too is difficult. Not only is the economy facing increasing pressure from China, which is sucking jobs and investment away daily; it is also burdened with a rigid labour market and a highly regulated economy.

Worse, its labour force is shrinking by 0.6 per cent a year as the population enters a period of rapid ageing, which will depress consumption and tighten the screw on government finances. "It's hard to escape the conclusion that this economy is heading for a brick wall," says a senior official with one ratings agency.

"There are two sets of structural problems," adds Mr Jerram. "There are those, such as demographics, that they can't solve through policy. And there are those that they can - but won't."

If that is right, Japan is doomed to repeat the cycle of the 1990s when its economy suffered a series of false dawns. The grim reality is that the economy today is smaller in nominal terms than it was in 1995.


In many ways, the current hysteria over our confrontation with Islam resembles the Japanophobia of the 1980s. Then, as now, the emotionally labile, those who live in the moment, took a current situation (things like the Japanese buying Radio City Music Hall) and projected it forward in a straight line, never pausing to consider the catastrophic internal weaknesses of the culture they perceived as a threat. Today, without our having done a thing, Japan is a nation on the verge of collapse. The problems that the rest of the West shares with Japan are a far greater threat than Islamic extremism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM

OF EVER HONORED MEMORY :

Bravery and Breakdowns in a Ridgetop Battle : 7 Americans Died in Rescue Effort That Revealed Mistakes and Determination (Bradley Graham, May 24, 2002, Washington Post)
What became a 17-hour ordeal atop a frigid, desolate and enemy-ridden mountain ridge cost seven American lives, more combat deaths than any U.S. unit had suffered in a single day since 1993, when 18 Rangers and Special Operations soldiers died in battle in Mogadishu, Somalia. How the operation was conducted revealed serious shortcomings in U.S. military coordination and communication in Afghanistan. How it unfolded highlighted the extraordinary commitment of American soldiers not to leave fallen comrades behind: The entire episode spiraled out of an attempt to rescue a single SEAL, who had fallen out of the initial helicopter and was quickly shot by the enemy.

The firefight at Takur Ghar mountain came on the third day of Operation Anaconda, a three-week-long U.S. sweep against al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the Shahikot valley in eastern Afghanistan. The Mogadishu battle nine years ago precipitated the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia. This one, Pentagon officials credit with reinforcing the Bush administration's commitment to pursue the war even in the face of U.S. military casualties. Efforts are underway to award some of the military's highest decorations for valor to those who fought on the mountain.

Even so, the circumstances that led to the firefight on the ridge have been subjected to extensive review in the Special Operations Command,which has responsibility for some of the elite U.S. military forces, including the Navy SEALs. Special Operations commanders ran the star-crossed rescue effort.

Close examination of the effort indicates that U.S. intelligence sources failed to detect enemy fighters on the ridge, leaving commanders to assume it was safe. Even after learning otherwise, U.S. military officials dispatched the SEALs back to the ridge where they had first come under fire, rushing them headlong into another ambush. Self and his Rangers then ended up going to the same spot unaware, because of communications equipment glitches, that the SEALs had retreated from the ridgetop.


As Tracy Wilson points out, here's your Black Hawk Down of the Afghan War.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM

INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MYSTERY :

Until you laugh at plastic fish, Bush will be a mystery (Ben Macintyre, May 25, 2002, Times of London)
Bush is the most American American President since Ronald Reagan. George Bush the elder was a classic East Coast cosmopolitan, with the patrician’s easy ability to blend and schmooze. Bill Clinton was the foreign tourist par excellence, with a chameleon knack for taking on the colour of his surroundings. But Bush is as irreducibly Texan as Reagan was Californian, and for that reason, again like Reagan, most Europeans don’t quite “get” Bush, and probably never will.

The Bush mystique is almost untranslatable abroad. To appreciate it you need to have shot the breeze in a baseball dugout; you must find the sound of a train’s whistle keening across a night prairie the most beautiful music on earth; you must believe that Norman Rockwell was a great artist, wear cowboy boots without irony and know the quiet pleasure of eating Cheez Doodles in front of the Super Bowl. It is not so much the vision thing, as a pretzel thing. [...]

Part of Bush’s appeal to Americans is his sense of humour, which also happens to be the aspect of his nature that Europeans find hardest to grasp. This is a President who would usually rather say something funny than anything profound. In the three years I covered France’s President Jacques Chirac, he never once made anything resembling a joke: but during Bush’s presidential campaign, the candidate lived on an endless diet of practical japes, nicknames and gags, some horribly ill-timed, such as the occasion when he attended a funeral for the victims of a gun massacre and spent the entire time waggling his eyebrows at the press.

Watch Bush approach a microphone. Even when he has something crucial to say, the eyes crinkle round the edges, the lip twitches, the eye twinkles. His is a specifically American form of democratic chumminess, the establishing of a communal wavelength, code for: “I may be President, but we’re the same underneath.” Americans immediately read this code, which is far more sophisticated that it looks; Europeans see a man mugging for the cameras.

During the election campaign Bush was delighted to be presented with a “Billy Bass”, one of those plastic fish on a wall mounting that break into song and remain amusing for about two days. He showed it all around the campaign plane. Only later did it transpire that Bush had been sent hundreds of these things from voters around the country: telling proof of quite how clearly America knew, and shared, his sense of humour. Jacques Chirac would open a vein rather than been seen with a singing plastic fish. [...]

Compounding the culture gulf, Bush is a happy man. I don’t mean that he is smug, or one-dimensionally cheery. He is occasionally capable of expressing profound emotion. But he is comfortable in his skin, his religion, his family and his office. This has done wonders for American self-confidence at a time of the most profound trauma. If the first half of his presidency had been more placid, Bush’s natural optimism might swiftly have lost its appeal, but for many Americans something in Bush’s sunny and straightforward personality has provided an antidote for September 11.

Quite apart from his policies on the environment, Iraq and terrorism, Bush offends French sensibilities in a country where the President is expected to be aloof, cerebral, grave, private, formal and intensely serious. Thus, while France sees a caricature of crass America, much of America sees continuity, familiarity and reassurance.

Clinton was spiritually part European, but Bush’s popularity at home, and his unpopularity in much of Europe, lies partly in his refusal (or inability) to temper his Americanness. [...]


This is a good profile, though if I didn't know better, I'd swear Mr. Mcintyre had plagiarized the whole thing from Frank Bruni's fine book, Ambling into History.

Mr. Mcintyre's assessment offers what's probaby a pretty easy way to divide the Red states from the Blue : would you rather your choice for president have this said about him, "the most American American President since Ronald Reagan", or this "spiritually part European"?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM

GOOD RIDDANCE :

The End of the Affair (WALTER KIRN, May 26, 2002, NY Times Magazine)
Now that ABC has canceled [''Politically Incorrect''] (and announced that its time slot will ultimately go to Jimmy Kimmel, the frat-boy cutup of ''The Man Show'' on Comedy Central), it seems clear that Maher's comments doomed him and that there are still, and probably always will be, some things a person just can't say on television. The cause of free speech needs its martyrs, Heaven knows, but I wonder if there's not another story here, one that has less to do with network cold feet than with a national change in tastes. Could it be that the great role reversal failed and that the Hollywood-Washington nexus of the 90's that gave us George magazine, Bill Clinton rocking the vote on sax and the brief but curiously intense Warren Beatty-for-president episode has come undone at last? [...]

The folks in flyover country felt overflown by this swinging bicoastal encounter session. George magazine's best-selling issues -- till Kennedy's death created a spike in interest -- were its first ones, while the audience for Maher's program (on which performers, who in earlier decades might not have made the cut for ''What's My Line?'' were asked to give their opinions on welfare reform) failed to grow much and, ultimately, dwindled. What's worse, Barbra Streisand, the Clinton administration's West Coast ambassador without portfolio, never quite got the respect that she was angling for and finally fell silent on public policy -- around the same time that a gala for Al Gore the candidate had to be moved from the real Playboy Mansion, where, before the late 90's, it never would have been scheduled.

The whole fusion thing seems dated suddenly. [...] The Old Establishment, with its punctual cocktail hours, has a broader appeal now than the New Establishment, with its Renaissance Weekends and wild all-nighters. Indeed, it's hard to imagine today's Rumsfeldians staying up late enough to watch a show like Maher's. Bush's Washington is already in bed when Hollywood is only waking up, and that will make hanging out together difficult. A lot of folks, neither powerful nor glamorous, and wary of those who desire to trade places and take turns being both, won't mind a bit.


Here in cow country, we figure anyone who's still up at 11:30 and isn't watching SportsCenter must be some kind of deviant.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM

PROPER AMERICANS :

Rethinking Who They Are Census Shows People Are Declining to Report Their Heritage (Michael Powell, May 25, 2002, Washington Post)
As new immigrants arrive with strong social, cultural and linguistic ties to their homelands, older immigrant generations intermarry, move and fade into the tapestry of the United States. Census officials have charted the decline in ancestry reporting across the board -- in border states with lots of immigrants and in midwestern states with few immigrants.

It would appear, in other words, that choosing an identity has become a quintessentially American exercise.

"The United States is a nation of immigrants," said Jeffrey Passel, a demographer with the Urban Institute. "The census becomes a way of cherry-picking identity."

The U.S. Census Bureau has released data for 33 states from the 2000 Census long form in which one in six households were asked the questions on ancestry. The biggest decline in named ancestries has come in the nation's the oldest immigrant stocks. Nine million fewer people identify themselves as being of German ancestry, while those identifying themselves as English and Irish fell by 5 million each.

There was a brief moment in the 1970s when it became fashionable for second- and third-generation European immigrants to reassert their heritage, whether Italian, Irish or Polish. This was especially true of the immigrant-rich port cities, from New York, Boston and Baltimore to San Francisco.

That moment has all but passed. The old-line ethnic neighborhoods are falling away, as fourth- and fifth-generation immigrants intermarry, and move. [...]

For those whose forefathers arrived a century ago, ethnicity is no longer central to their self-identification.

Gig Young, proprietor of that sweet-smelling Caribbean bakery on Utica Avenue, runs down the possibilities. Jamaican (though he left 37 years ago), West Indian, African and Chinese ancestry and . . . an American. He's not sure what he answered on the census form.

"I'm a bit of everything. So I guess I'm a proper American."


Surely a hundred years isn't too long to wait before our Latino, Islamic, Asian, and other immigrants become simply "American".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM

TIED TO THE WEST :

Neckties Slowly Returning to Iran (Ali Akbar Dareini, May 24, 2002, Associated Press)
They've been denounced as decadent, un-Islamic and a symbol of the oppressive West. But neckties are slowly coming back into fashion in Iran.

The reappearance of the tie confirms that the strict social code imposed after the 1979 Islamic revolution is giving way to moderation and variety.

The most obvious change is displayed by women, who once had to wear either head-to-toe chadors or bulky coats and dull head scarves. Makeup was forbidden.

Now, women are wearing cosmetics, brightly colored scarves and body-hugging jackets with little fear of the authorities.

Men are also making some leaps into once-prohibited territory: short-sleeved shirts, long hair and clean-shaven faces in defiance of the Muslim clerics who say facial hair pays homage to the bearded Prophet Muhammad.

Ties are joining the sartorial shake-up, although they are still rare. [...]

"The 1979 Islamic revolution was mostly a cultural revolution. The tie is a symbol of the West and we don't want to be followers of the West. We want to keep our own cultural identity," said a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.


It seems that the important fact here is that this is a "reappearance". For all our reviling of the Shah for being too repressive, too brutal, etc., the fact is he--like Attaturk in Turkey--forced a program of Westernization on his nation from above and thereby may have laid the groundwork for its rapid return. Iran and Turkey may be the most important societies in the world right now, ongoing experiments in the Westernizing of Islamic cultures. We have to expect ups and downs as they attempt to strike a balance [like this one : Iran casting dragnet for Barbie (BRIAN MURPHY, Associated Press)], but the success of this enterprise serves all of our best interests so it deserves our support.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM

WE HAD FACES THEN :

OBIT : Sam Snead (Daily Telegraph, 25/05/2002)
Commentators vied with each other to do justice to Snead's action. It was "like a Faulkner sentence," wrote one, "long, laced with the perfect pause and blessed with a powerful ending."

"Anyone who would pass up an opportunity to see Sam Snead swing a golf club at a golf ball," enthused another, "would pull down the shades when driving past the Taj Mahal."

Snead himself, a countryman who did not go in for flowery prose, took a practical view: "Ah jes' takes tha club back nice and lazy and then ah try to whop it down on the barrelhead." It did not look like that.

Yet his rhythmical acceleration into the ball made him the first player regularly to drive 270 yards, and earned him the nickname "Slammin' Sammy".


May 24, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 PM

O Captain! my Captain! (Walt Whitman 1819-1892)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck
You've fallen cold and dead.

My captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.


Taps (Major General Daniel Butterfield)

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
'Neath the sun, 'neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.

While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM

THE CONGRESSMEN CAME OUT TO SEE BULL RUN (Stephen Vincent Benét 1898-1943)

The congressmen came out to see Bull Run,
The congressmen who like free shows and spectacles.
They brought their wives and carriages along,
They brought their speeches and their picnic-lunch,
Their black constituent-hats and their devotion:
Some even brought a little whiskey, too.
(A little whiskey is a comforting thing
For congressmen in the sun, in the heat of the sun.)
The bearded congressmen with orator's mouths,
The fine, clean-shaved, Websterian congressmen,
Come out to see the gladiator's show
Like Iliad gods, wrapped in the sacred cloud
Of Florida-water, wisdom and bay-rum,
Of free cigars, democracy and votes,
That lends such portliness to congressmen.
(The gates fly wide, the bronze troop marches out
Into the stripped and deadly circus-ring,
"Ave, Caesar!" the cry goes up, and shakes
The purple awning over Caesar's seat.)
"Ave, Caesar! Ave, O congressmen,
We who are about to die
Salute you, congressmen!"
Eleven States,
New York, Rhode Island, Maine,
Connecticut, Michigan, and the gathered West,
Salute you, congressmen!
The red-fezzed Fire-Zouaves, flamingo-bright,
Salute you, congressmen!
The raw boys still in their civilian clothes,
Salute you, congressmen!
The Second Wisconsin in its homespun grey,
Salute you, congressmen!
The Garibaldi Guards in cocksfeather hats,
Salute you, cong iple wing;
Night is the begiressmen!
The Second Ohio with their Bedouin-caps,
Salute you, congressmen!
Sherman's brigade, grey-headed Heintzelman,
Ricketts' and Griffin's doomed and valiant guns,
The tough, hard-bitten regulars of Sykes
Who covered the retreat with the Marines,
Burnside and Porter, Wilcox and McDowell,
All the vast, unprepared, militia-mass
Of boys in red and yellow Zouave pants,
Who carried peach-preserves inside their kits
And dreamt of being generals overnight;
The straggling companies where every man
Was a sovereign and a voter--the slack regiments
Where every company marched a different step;
The clumsy and unwieldy-new brigades
Not yet distempered into battle-worms;
The whole, huge, innocent army, ready to fight
But only half-taught in the tricks of fighting,
Ready to die like picture-postcard boys
While fighting still had banners and a sword
And just as ready to run in blind mob-panic,
Salutes you with a vast and thunderous cry,
Ave, Caesar, Ave, O congressmen,
Ave, O Iliad gods who forced the fight!
You bring your carriages and your picnic-lunch
To cheer us in our need.
You come with speeches,
Your togas smell of heroism and bay-rum.
You are the people and the voice of the people
And, when the fight is done, your carriages
Will bear you safely, through the streaming rout
Of broken troops, throwing their guns away.
You come to see the gladiator's show,
But from a high place, as befits the wise:
You will not see the long windrows of men
Strewn like dead pears before the Henry House
Or the stone-wall of Jackson breathe its parched
Devouring breath upon the failing charge,
Ave, Caesar, ave, O congressmen,
Cigar-smoke wraps you in a godlike cloud,
And if you are not to depart from us
As easily and divinely as you came,
It hardly matters.
Fighting Joe Hooker once
Said with that tart, unbridled tongue of his
That made so many needless enemies,
"Who ever saw a dead cavalryman?"
The phrase
Stings with a needle sharpness, just or not,
But even he was never heard to say,
"Who ever saw a dead congressman?"
And yet, he was a man with a sharp tongue.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:45 PM

Battle-Hymn of the Republic (Julia Ward Howe 1819-1910)

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword,
His truth is marching on.

CHORUS: Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Glory, glory, hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps,
His day is marching on.--CHORUS

I have read a fiery gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
"As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My Grace shall deal;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with his heel,
Since God is marching on."--CHORUS

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His Judgement Seat.
Oh! Be swift, my soul, to answer Him, be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.--CHORUS

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.--CHORUS


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM

JUST STAY OFF THE BEACH :

Falling Coconuts Kill More People Than Shark Attacks (UniSci. 5/23/02)
"Falling coconuts kill 150 people worldwide each year, 15 times the number of fatalities attributable to sharks," said George Burgess, Director of the University of Florida's International Shark Attack File and a noted shark researcher.

Supposedly, that's how Thurston Howell died.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM

I WANT MY MTV :

This isn't war but 'politics as usual' (Mark Steyn, May 23, 2002, National Post)
If the war is just politics now, then let's consider the Bush position. As I wrote some months ago, "on the non-war fronts the Bush Presidency has died." (Sorry to keep saying "as I wrote" every other paragraph, by the way, but don't worry, there's some rare never-more-before-published columnar material coming up in a couple hundred words or so.) The Republican Party base is feeling sorely put upon: The White House caved to The New York Times on campaign finance reform, to the unions on steel tariffs, to Ted Kennedy on education. Bush feels Presidents have to prioritize and his priority was chosen for him on September 11th. Fair enough. But, even within his sole priority, he's had to prioritize: In the "war on terror," Bush's heavyweights have concentrated on the overseas stuff and left the pipsqueaks in charge of the home front.

This week, Norman Mineta, the Transport Secretary whose resignation I called for in September (whoops, there I go again), confirmed that he'd nixed the idea of allowing pilots to carry guns. Underperformin' Norman is so September 10th, in thrall to all the old shibboleths -- gun control good; profiling bad. You can't blame the public for concluding that a war effort which targets 86-year old nuns with tweezers is all effort and no war.

So the domestic agenda's dead, the home front's a joke, and anything overseas is fast receding beyond the far horizon. You can rouse the nation to support a war presidency when the B52s are walloping Saddam, but you can't go to the people and campaign for re-election on the grounds that you're contributing to a new urban-renewal program in Jalalabad. If Bush hasn't been planning war with Iraq these last few weeks, he might as well have been golfing. Recent polls show, to no one's surprise, that the American people once again tick "education" as the most pressing issue facing the nation.

The distinguished conservative commentator John Derbyshire has now declared that war with Iraq ain't gonna happen. Meanwhile, the same crowd making a big song'n'dance about the President "ignoring" "warnings" about September 11th are saying that there's no justification for doing anything about Saddam, as he hasn't yet done anything to us. But, unless Bush II is as languid and purposeless as his dad, war with Iraq has to be coming, and coming soon. Ignore Colin Powell's recent assurances that the Administration has "no plans" to attack. That's the way he was talking in early October last year: Every time Bush made a speech deploring the "evildoers," Powell went on TV and said the Administration was interested in reaching out and working with moderate evildoers. Then the bombing started and that was the end of the outreach.

It has to be the same now. Bush, in his "axis of evil" speech, claimed that "time is running out." What's he going to say on September 11th this year? Time's still running out, but we feel it's important not to rush into things? It's not plausible. So sometime between the G7 summit at Kananaskis in June and the first anniversary of 9/11 war will start--out of the blue, with a huge bang of colossal overwhelming force, and preferably on a Sunday so that Dan Rather and Peter Jennings have to rush back from the Hamptons. Personally, I'd like it to start during Kananaskis, just to put Chrétien, Chirac and Schroeder on the spot. But that's not the Bush style. So summer or early fall it is. There are compelling international security reasons for removing Saddam, but, as CBS News has taught us, there are also persuasive domestic political ones. If war isn't underway by the beginning of autumn, George W. Bush might as well nickname himself President Juan Term.


In the narrow and self-referential world of libertarian-conservative blogging, Mark Steyn is revered. But let's face reality, in the real world no one has ever heard of him. And John Derbyshire? C'mon. So when Mr. Steyn writes a column about a president who's at 76% in the polls and has to refer to his own opinions or Mr. Derbyshire's to show that he's doomed to one term, it should be taken with a large grain of salt.

We expect this kind of petulant impatience from the Left, but those of us on the Right are supposed to be the grown-ups; Republicans are the Daddy Party after all. The idea that the failure to begin the war with Iraq by a certain date represents a catastrophe of paradigm-shifting proportions is sheer nonsense.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM

NEEDED : A MUSLIM MARTIN LUTHER :

Defender of the Faith : Khaled Abou El Fadl (Jay Tolson, US News)
To understand why UCLA law Prof. Khaled Abou El Fadl has become a thorn in the side of reactionary Muslims around the world, you might begin with a personal detail: He likes dogs. The Kuwait-born scholar, a devout Muslim, not only likes them but has three as pets. Why is that a big deal? According to one Islamic tradition, the prophet Mohammed declared dogs "unclean" and therefore, many strict Muslims infer, fit only for strictly utilitarian uses, like guarding the house or protecting the flocks.

Abou El Fadl's rejection of the kind of rigid legalism that declares man's best friend unfit for human companionship is no whim: It is based on a deep understanding of Islamic law. And it is precisely his advocacy of a broad-minded, critical approach that has earned the wrath of so many of his less tolerant co-religionists.[...]

[A]bou El Fadl's six books go to the heart of the question facing modern Islam: What is the place of Muslim religious law in everyday life? As Harvardhistorian Roy Mottahedeh puts it, "Abou El Fadl is asking the question that people are interested in: how you can get from a divine Scripture to a principle that creates law according to the spirit of the Scripture rather than the literal legal meanings." [...]

Some scholars argue that the literal legalism that Abou El Fadl challenges has been the consensus view of most Muslims since the 19th century and is not just the product of recent Wahhabi proselytizing. "My view is that Khaled is a brilliant legal scholar but a self-interested historian," says Islam expert John Voll of Georgetown University. Abou El Fadl does not deny that traditional Islam began to suffer in the colonial period. But he says his greater concern is with the future. If Muslims do not recover the critical and questioning spirit of the much older traditions of Islamic jurisprudence, sharia-based law, he believes, not only will be incompatible with human rights, but it simply won't work. Even in Saudi Arabia, as he points out, members of the royal family either privately ignore the law as they wish or observe the letter and flout the spirit. He believes that Iran is closer to developing a critical, adaptive notion of sharia than Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Sudan.

"I just hope the conservatives don't break that spirit," he says, "because if they do, then the hope of Islamic civilization is lost."


It's becoming commonplace to say that this kind of Reform is simply impossible in Islam. If it is, then Islamic civilization truly is doomed. But if folks like Mr. El Fadl can show that it is possible to reconcile the religion of Islam with a "broader" understanding of what Islam requires under the auspices of the law and politics, perhaps they can offer an honorable way out of the self-destructive dead end that the Islamic world is currently hurtling down.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM

STICKS AND STONES...AND BULLETS :

Poster Children : After 9/11, what can abortion protesters get away with? (Dahlia Lithwick, May 22, 2002, Slate)
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists last week, in an opinion that melted down the First Amendment in ways that would ordinarily trigger national alarm bells for free-speech activists. Before Sept. 11, a decision treating ambiguous threats as unprotected speech might have been troubling. But after Sept. 11, this result may well have been inevitable. The decision may just be about abortion protesters, but the subtext reveals a new awareness of the power of seemingly benign "threats" in a high-speed world of zealotry and hate. In other words, that goofy 9th Circuit may have beaten the rest of us to the punch in realizing that "threats" are never just words anymore.

At issue were a series of Wild West "wanted" posters (a tiny replica can be seen here) and a Web site called the Nuremburg Files. Created in 1995 by anti-abortion activists, the posters featured images of abortion providers,their names and addresses, plus a "reward" of $500 for each doctor who was "persuaded" to stop performing abortions. Posters were handed out at rallies and reprinted in magazines and newsletters. In 1996, the Web site launched, with images of bloody fetuses, threats of eternal damnation, etc. The site names abortion providers, judges, pro-choice politicians, and Mary Tyler Moore as "baby butchers." It also provides

The "wanted" program was pretty effective at dissuading abortion doctors. After his name appeared on a poster in 1993, Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed entering a Florida abortion clinic. Five months later and after his name appeared on a wanted poster, Dr. George Patterson was shot and killed. In 1994, after his name appeared on a poster, Dr. John Britton was killed by Paul Hill.


It's not evident to me why it is important to protect this kind of threatening speech. What useful democratic purpose is served by allowing someone to make implicit death threats, particularly when they incite people to murder?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM

AIR GUNS :

What if gunless pilots went on strike? : Pressure mounts for allowing firearms in cockpits (Mandi Steele, May 24, 2002, WorldNetDaily.com)
A leader of the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance says he personally opposes a strike to force the government to allow firearms in the cockpits, but he has heard rumblings about the possibility from others.

Fine, fire them. I don't mind giving these guys stun guns or something, but giving them guns just seems stupid. We've had, what, one successful hijacking in twenty years? This is just a typical overreaction, made worse by the Right's doctrinaire gun ideology. You can almost guarantee that the first time a pilot pulls a gun, it'll be used on an annoying passenger and then the recriminations will start all over again.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM

BIG CHIEF EQUIPHAGE :

Film of the Week: Spirit the Stallion (Steve Sailer, 5/22/02, UPI)
"Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," the new animated feature from Dreamworks, is the story of a wild horse in the Old American West who teams up with an Indian youth as they both struggle to live naturally, free of the white man's cruel yoke.

The reality is a little more complicated. Mustangs aren't indigenous to the West. They are feral. There weren't any horses in the Americas until they escaped from European invaders.

To be precise, there once were wild horses here, but then the Indians arrived from Siberia 13,000 years ago and -- according to a growing number of scientists -- ate them all.

But, hey, "Spirit" is a kids' cartoon movie, so let's not get picky.


Unfortunately, if you have a daughter, you'll be required to sit through this bit of PC treacle, just because it has a stinkin' horse.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM

REQUIRED INCOHERENCE :

Regressive Progressive? (KATHA POLLITT, May 27, 2002, The Nation)
As chairman of the fifty-nine-member Congressional Progressive Caucus and potential candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been quite visible lately. At a time when few Democrats are daring to question the war aims of the Bush Administration--or even to ask what they are--Kucinich has spoken eloquently against the Patriot Act, the ongoing military buildup and the vague and apparently horizonless "war on terrorism." From tax cuts for the rich and the death penalty (against) to national health insurance and the environment (for), Kucinich has the right liberal positions. Michael Moore, who likes to rib progressives for favoring white wine and brie over hot dogs and beer, would surely approve of Kucinich's man-of-the-people persona--he's actually a New Age-ish vegan, but his website has a page devoted to "Polka, Bowling and Kielbasa."

One thing you won't find on Kucinich's website, though, is any mention of his opposition to abortion rights. In his two terms in Congress, he has quietly amassed an anti-choice voting record of Henry Hyde-like proportions. He supported Bush's reinstatement of the gag rule for recipients of US family planning funds abroad. He supported the Child Custody Protection Act, which prohibits anyone but a parent from taking a teenage girl across state lines for an abortion. He voted for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which makes it a crime, distinct from assault on a pregnant woman, to cause the injury or death of a fetus. He voted against funding research on RU-486. He voted for a ban on dilation and extraction (so-called partial-birth) abortions without a maternal health exception. He even voted against contraception coverage in health insurance plans for federal workers--a huge work force of some 2.6 million people (and yes, for many of them, Viagra is covered). Where reasonable constitutional objections could be raised--the lack of a health exception in partial-birth bans clearly violates Roe v. Wade, as the Supreme Court ruled in Stenberg v. Carhart--Kucinich did not raise them; where competing principles could be invoked--freedom of speech for foreign health organizations--he did not bring them up. He was a co-sponsor of the House bill outlawing all forms of human cloning, even for research purposes, and he opposes embryonic stem cell research. His anti-choice dedication has earned him a 95 percent position rating from the National Right to Life Committee, versus 10 percent from Planned Parenthood and 0 percent from NARAL.

That a solidly anti-choice politician could become a standard- bearer for progressivism, the subject of hagiographic profiles in The Nation and elsewhere, speaks volumes about the low priority of women's rights to the self-described economic left, forever chasing the white male working-class vote. Supporting an anti-choice Congressman may have seemed pragmatic; trying to make him President would be political suicide. Pregnant prisoners may not vote, but millions of pro-choice women do.


Because Democrats are the party of women and because abortion is the central way in which women express their recent empowerment, it is obviously necessary for the Democrat nominee to favor abortion. But, because American public opinion also demands that candidates favor the death penalty, it seems that Democrats require moral incoherence of their nominee.

There are four possible combinations on these two issues ;

(1) Anti-death penalty and anti-abortion

This--what we'll call the Pope's position--is a fairly purist stance and requires little justification. Often accompanied by a more or less pacifist posture and an opposition to euthanasia, it reflects the highest regard for human life in all its forms.

(2) Pro-death penalty and pro-abortion

This--we'll call it the George Carlin position--too is purist. Often accompanied by a hearty endorsement of euthanasia and a spectator sport attitude towards war, it too has the advantage of purity.

(3) Pro-death penalty and anti-abortion

This--we'll call it the Reagan position--is a more nuanced stance. It requires one to believe in a hierarchy of human life, where we can differentiate the guilty (who forfeit their right to life) from the innocent (who should be protected). It is most often accompanied by a reluctance to allow euthanasia and a reluctance to pursue warfare, though a total war mindset once the battle begins. It is admittedly somewhat inconsistent, though I believe coherent.

(4) Anti-death penalty and pro-abortion

This--we'll call it the Mario Cuomo position--has always been the hardest to defend and even Cuomo, the Hamlet of the Hudson, did so poorly. Frequently accompanied by pacifist tendencies but a favoring of euthanasia--a combination which only renders it even more ludicrous--this position seems to have almost nothing to do with human life, but is instead about power politics.

The criminal, the woman, the patient, and the enemy is to be defended from the imposition of Western values. It is their status in opposition to society that conveys special status on them, rather than any concern for human dignity. What makes this position particularly difficult to explain is that it requires that we preserve the life of a Ted Bundy or an Adolph Hitler once they've committed their heinous crimes, but allow them to be disposed of when they are in utero or unconscious for medical reasons.

I disagree with Dennis Kucinich on almost everything (except abortion), but his opposition to nearly all manner of human life-taking is at least intellectually coherent. It seems almost lunatic to believe that he could be a serious candidate for President, but even with his "progressive" politics, I'd prefer him, and his consistency, to a Bill Clinton (George Carlin) or a Mario Cuomo.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM

OCH TAMALE :

'Yahoo' plate completes University of Redlands fight song set (Associated Press, May 23, 2002)
After more than a decade, the University of Redlands has the "yahoo" to go with its "gazump."

Two license plates were delivered Thursday bearing the last word in the first part of a school fight song that runs: "Och tamale gazolly gazump deyump deyatty yahoo."

John Martin, 85, of Arcadia, presented his "YAHOO" plates to Dean of Students Char Burgess and they were bolted onto her Buick Regal.

Students were on hand to chant the "Och Tamale," as it is now called. Originally known as the "Psalm of Collegiate Thanksgiving," the nonsense rhyme was penned in 1920 by a student of the private liberal arts college.


Boy, after the vacuity of the 1920s, maybe America deserved the Depression. Oops...sound like Jerry Falwell, huh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM

IT'LL NEVER FLY, ORVILLE :

Impressive, but still in second (MUGGER, May 24, 2002, Jewish World Review)
The kids and I cringed while watching Roger Clemens pitch another gem on Sunday afternoon, shutting down the Twins 3-0 with 13 strikeouts, and while that was no fun at all my sons were tickled at receiving Derek Jeter replica bats. It was a friendly crowd: an amiable woman seated next to Junior engaged him and MUGGER III in
conversation about The Simpsons and SpongeBob, while I blabbed with two rabid Yanks fans in the row ahead of us.

One of the guys cracked me up when Jorge Posada came to the plate by yelling, "Georgie's got the juice!" When the clutch hitter whiffed, I leaned forward and said, "Yep, there's a glob of juice right now in the catcher's mitt." That didn't go over too well-not to mention the boys wearing their Red Sox hats and warmup jackets-but as the innings progressed and we chatted more about this season, the dump that's called Shea Stadium and Hall of Fame candidates, the glacier melted and we got along like Orrin Hatch and Teddy Kennedy.


Here's what it means to be a Red Sox fan : they look so good that, almost alone, we here in New England understand that a strike is inevitable. We know that we are just being taunted. The longer they stay in first, the more certain it is that there will be no World Series this year. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson : I tremble for Sox Nation when I reflect that God is just: that his justice can not sleep forever...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM

NOT MY PROBLEM :

Cocaine, Marijuana, and Heroin (Robert MacCoun and Peter Reuter, 6.3.02, American Prospect)
What would actually happen if drugs were legalized in America? For the last decade advocates of such a course, though politically weak, have dominated the intellectual debate for the simple reason that their criticism of existing policy holds a great deal of truth. The most conspicuous harms associated with drugs nowadays--violent crime, public disorder, government corruption, and diseases related to injection with dirty needles--are caused in large part by the country's prohibition policies.

But it's quite a leap from this critique to the conclusion that the best way to eliminate harms is to eliminate prohibition; the story is far more complicated. A decade of study presented in our book, Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places has convinced us that legalization of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin would lead to large reductions in drug-related crime and mortality, but also to large increases in drug use and addiction. Poor urban minority communities, which have been devastated by drug violence and drug imprisonments, might benefit substantially, but the larger body of middle-class Americans would likely be moderately worse off. It's impossible to persuasively quantify any of these effects, but in the face of this certainty (about the directions of change) and uncertainty (about magnitudes), it's much less clear than legalization advocates generally acknowledge just what American drug policy should be.


It was mystifying a couple years ago when people referred to the movies Traffic and Requiem for a Dream as being critical of the war on drugs. Each showed peoples' lives being destroyed by drugs. Was that really supposed to show us that they should be more accessible?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 AM

MMMMMMMMMMM, BARBECUE CHICKEN :

Pick a Part : And We'll Tell You the Best Way to Grill It (Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, May 22, 2002, Washington Post)
CRISP-SKINNED, MOIST AND FILLED with the flavor of smoke and fire, perfectly grilled chicken is reason enough to own a barbecue. One of the true gems of the summer cooking season, barbecued chicken is the result of a magical marriage of bird, heat and smoke.

But as any barbecue cook knows, a chicken is the sum of its parts--different pieces have different tastes and require different treatments and cooking methods.

First, before you begin your holiday barbecue, give some thought to those parts: Do you want whole chickens, thighs, drumsticks or delicate boneless, skinless fillets? Then, follow this primer, which gives directions and recipes for everything from the smallest, most vulnerable pieces to the whole bird.


Breast--cheap BBQ sauce--cooked until the skin is black--mashed potatoes--corn on the cob--and a Coke. Pretty much everyone in America will have that meal at some point this weekend.

There's your answer to the question from last September : why do they hate us?

It's simple jealousy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM

EVEN THE DONKEY LEARNS TO LOVE THE WHIP :

Democrats report dissatisfaction (Donald Lambro, May 23, 2002, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
As Democratic leaders struggle to find an election year issue that cuts into President Bush's popularity, a survey of 1,002 adults by the independent Pew Research Center uncovered deep dissatisfaction in the party over the kinds of issues its leadership has been focusing on lately.

Only 64 percent of Democrats approve of the way House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota are doing their job, the Pew survey showed. This compares with an 80 percent job approval score that Republicans gave their party's leadership.

"Perhaps more significant, barely half of Democrats [51 percent] say the party is doing an excellent or good job of standing up for such core principles as representing the interests of working people, protecting minorities and helping the poor," the Pew report said.

Pew findings come at a time when other polls show that Mr. Bush's job approval numbers are still in the high 70s and that 44 percent of Hispanic voters--who account for a major part of the Democratic Party's voter base--say they will vote for Mr. Bush in 2004. That is 9 points higher than the percentage of Hispanics who voted for him in 2000. [...]

The Pew poll, conducted between May 6 and 16, also found that "as many as one-third of Democrats believe the party's leaders are speaking out too little in response to Bush's policies. That number rises to 46 percent among Democrats who express general disapproval of the job Democratic leaders in Congress are doing."


Midterm elections tend to be turnout elections--so, for instance, angry white men carried the GOP to landslide victory in 1994--and that turnout requires that you get your base all jacked up and angry at whoever is in office. Democrats run a tremendous risk if they try doing this for the 2002 midterm, because it puts them in open and rancorous opposition to a popular wartime president. You'd still have to expect them to pick up seats and maybe even to retake the House, but, thanks to the unnatural restraint this situation imposes, it could be a close run thing.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM

CARDINAL TO RANGER :

Safety to give up NFL life for the Army (MEL REISNER, May 23, 2002, Associated Press)
Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman is giving up the NFL for the Army.

Tillman said Thursday he is enlisting in the Army for three years. Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said Tillman, a two-year starter at free safety, wants to go through boot camp and join the elite Rangers program with his younger brother, Kevin, an infielder who spent last year with the Cleveland Indians' organization. [...]

Tillman, an unrestricted free agent, spurned a $9 million, five-year offer sheet from the St. Louis Rams in 2001 and allowed a multiyear deal with the Cardinals to sit on the table this spring despite Bauer's urging to sign.

``This is very consistent with how he conducts his life,'' Bauer said. ``Patty is the type of guy who is very smart and very loyal. I remember when the Rams made their offer, he said, 'No, I want to stay with the Cardinals. If I have to play for the minimum, I don't care.' He axed the offer sheet and played another year. But he's always had a blueprint for what he wants to do. Now everything else is on the back burner.''

Tillman, 25, never tired of football, but felt his hand was forced by the military's age restriction on entry in special forces units, Bauer said. The agent said Tillman hopes to resume his NFL career when his enlistment is up.


This is a great story and we wish Mr. Tillman well now and when he returns to the NFL. Folks like him make you proud to be an American.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM

AMBLING FROM VICTORY TO VICTORY :

U.S. and Russia Sign Nuclear Weapons Reduction Treaty (REUTERS, May 24, 2002)
Russian leader Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush signed a landmark treaty on Friday to slash their long-range nuclear warheads by two-thirds with both men hailing the event as historic.

The pact, the first nuclear disarmament agreement between the former superpower rivals since January 1993, is expected to set the seal on Russia's shift to a more pro-Western foreign policy.


Senate Approves Bill Giving Wider Trade Authority to Bush (JOSEPH KAHN, May 24, 2002, NY Times)
The Senate tonight passed a broad trade bill that would give President Bush the authority to reach trade agreements that are largely immune from Congressional tinkering but would greatly increase aid to workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition.

The 66-to-30 vote brought the White House close to a top legislative priority that administration officials say will make it easier to expand trade, allowing Mr. Bush to reach trade accords that Congress could accept or reject, but not amend.

The Senate's lopsided approval followed razor-thin passage of trade authority in the House late last year, the first time in eight years that both houses of Congress have agreed to grant the White House the enhanced negotiating powers.


And so Mr. Bush achieves two landmarks that eluded Bill Clinton for eight years...

May 23, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM

20/20 HINDSIGHT :

Pre-Sept. 11 FBI Phoenix memo submitted as routine (Tabassum Zakaria, 23 May 2002, Reuters)
The FBI agent who wrote the "Phoenix memo" became concerned about Middle Eastern men linked to Osama bin Laden taking flying lessons in the United States after interviewing one of them who expressed radical views, lawmakers said on Wednesday.

But agent Kenneth Williams of the FBI's Phoenix office said he placed a "routine" rather than an "urgent" status on the memo he subsequently wrote recommending that flight schools be surveyed to see if they also had Middle Eastern students who potentially could be linked to bin Laden, lawmakers said.

The FBI has come under fire for what lawmakers say were missteps in failing to act on the memo written by Williams in July, two months before the Sept. 11 attack, and not correlating that with the August arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, who sought flight lessons in Minnesota and is now charged with conspiring in the attack. [...]

Lawmakers said Williams defended the FBI and said he had sent the memo onward with a "routine" status, which takes 60 days to process.

"He felt it did not deserve urgent status, that he never envisioned planes being flown into buildings at any time," said Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.

"What he presented in that memo was so close to the fact pattern that emerged on Sept. 11 that as you read it, it just takes your breath away to think that two months before Sept. 11 this man sitting out in Phoenix envisioned foreign nationals acting as terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden going to aviation training school, using their ability to disrupt the civil aviation system in America," Durbin said.


Kind of amusing--though admittedly, grimly amusing--that even this guy, who's been turned into a cross between Dick Tracy and Jack Ryan, for "predicting" and "warning" of something "exactly like 9-11", didn't even consider it urgent. Yet Democrats and the media are claiming that guys further up the bureaucratic mountain should have recognized its dire threat immediately.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM

MEMO, MEMO, WHO'S SEEN THE MEMO? :

FBI's 'Phoenix' Memo Unmasked : Fortune's investigative reporter, the only journalist to see confidential document, reveals its true name and nature. (Richard Behar, May 22, 2002, Fortune)
On July 10, 2001, an FBI agent in Phoenix wrote a memo raising serious concerns about Middle Eastern men attending U.S. flight schools. The memo never made its way up the chain of command, and no action was taken. It wasn't seen by FBI Director Robert Mueller until after Sept. 11, and President Bush wasn't made aware of its contents until a few weeks ago. The confidential document still hasn't been released, and yesterday it was the subject of a closed-door Senate Intelligence Committee session.

Recently, I had a chance to read the memo -- apparently the first journalist to have done so. It was shown to me by a reliable government source, who permitted me to take notes but wouldn't let me copy it. What I learned -- and what FORTUNE aired yesterday on CNN -- is chilling. The memo raises questions about what federal law enforcement officers knew and what they did or didn't do to protect the U.S. from terror attacks in the months before Sept. 11. After reviewing the memo, one cannot help but conclude that the FBI dropped the ball -- perhaps ignoring the alert altogether.


Have you ever written a memo that you expected someone to take seriously?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM

LOST BLIND LADY :

The Jewish Ethicist : Q: Is it ethical to make a false claim to get money you rightly deserve? Is it ethical to make a false claim to get money you rightly deserve? (Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, Jewish World Review)
Courts should ideally be used to clarify justice, not to obfuscate it.

If only...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM

SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY :

Little fine print, and lots of loopholes : The treaty that Bush and Putin are signing tomorrow pioneers the new approach of 'fast-track arms control.' (Peter Grier, May 23, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor)
Administration officials agree that the impending treaty, in its simplicity, will be legally binding for but a blink of time. But they claim that to focus on this is to miss the agreement's point.

It's not about numbers, they say. It's about codifying the tone of a new, friendlier US-Russian relationship. The new treaty isn't as complicated as past ones because it doesn't have to be.

"Instead of a negotiation which took multiple years and consumed multiple forests worth of paper, what we have is a negotiation that's ... produced a treaty which when fully prepared, will be about three pages long," said the senior official.


President Gore, Vice President Lieberman, and Secretary Holbrooke would just now be putting the finishing touches on their proposal for where to hold arms control talks and what shape the table should be.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM

FALLIBILISTS VS. FABULISTS :

Remembering Karl Popper (Piers Norris Turner, Hoover Digest)
Popper was a fallibilist, one who perceives great error and danger in any theory of knowledge-or regime-that claimed to offer certain truth. In such a system, there would be no incentive to establish social and political structures that promote learning or the free exchange of ideas; truth is already at hand. [...]

Popper argued that progress requires a critical structure within which competing theories can be tested. Popper captured his philosophy, called falsificationism or critical rationalism, with the motto "I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth." Instead of attempting futilely to verify or justify our theories, Popper claimed we should try to falsify them since we need only a single negative instance to refute a universal theory. Consequently, what matters in rational debate is that different positions are open to criticism, which becomes the engine of progress by removing from consideration false theories, leaving only the provisionally best theories behind. The "best" theories could still not be verified or justified, but since they had not been falsified either, they would be preferable to falsified theories. The rationality of holding a particular position would be granted to the extent to which the theory is open to criticism. This makes possible not only progress but also optimism, which is for Popper a moral duty.

Popper's central insight, inspired by Socrates, is that we can never know anything for certain, which has important consequences for the way we approach the theory of knowledge and critical debate in general. Popper argued that this ought to humble us and cause us to understand our limitations. He wrote, "We know nothing-that is the first point. Therefore we should be very modest-that is the second. That we should not claim to know when we do not know-that is the third."


In response to the Ten Doubts About Evolution, some Darwiniacs seem to think that it is a strength of the theory that it can not be falsified. In fact, that is what makes it more of a religious belief than a scientific theory.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 PM

"NOT THE GOD, BUT A GOD" :

Reflections on Stephen Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science" (Ray Kurzweil)
It's hard to know where to begin in reviewing Wolfram's treatise, so I'll start with Wolfram's apparent hubris, evidenced in the title itself. A new science would be bold enough, but Wolfram is presenting a new kind of science, one that should change our thinking about the whole enterprise of science. As Wolfram states in chapter 1, "I have come to view [my discovery] as one of the more important single discoveries in the whole history of theoretical science."

This is not the modesty that we have come to expect from scientists, and I suspect that it may earn him resistance in some quarters. Personally, I find Wolfram's enthusiasm for his own ideas refreshing. I am reminded of a comment made by the Buddhist teacher Guru Amrit Desai, when he looked out of his car window and saw that he was in the midst of a gang of Hell's Angels. After studying them in great detail for a long while, he finally exclaimed, "They really love their motorcycles." There was no disdain in this observation. Guru Desai was truly moved by the purity of their love for the beauty and power of something that was outside themselves.


Then they beat him worse than Hunter S. Thompson.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM

WHY DIDN'T YOU WARN US? WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THESE THINGS?:

Untimely Warnings (washingtonpost.com, May 23, 2002)
PRESIDENT BUSH and his administration have to battle both terrorism and complacency. Ever since Sept. 11 it's been a difficult balancing act, encouraging Americans to carry on with life while underscoring the serious and lasting nature of the threat. The more time passes without another attack, the harder the balancing act. Mr. Bush handled the initial challenge with grace; but the Cassandra chorus sounded by administration officials this week has served the cause less well.

Episodes like this one always make me wonder how anyone can not be a conservative. Last week, the media and Democrats solemnly declared that had we but known what the administration knew on September 10th, the events of 9-11 might have been avoided. The administration responded by dumping out everything they know in public so that when the next strike hits folks would not be able to make the same specious claim. So now, having gotten what they demanded, and even though no one can any longer say that such warnings are merely alarmist (since we obviously are a target of terrorism), these same critics are complaining about the alarms being sounded.

Adding to the hilarity, most of these same carpers are the folks who continually tell us that we should abandon the war on drugs because it's unwinnable. But now they protest FBI Director Robert Mueller's declaration that there is no way we can prevent all future attacks. This, we are told, is an unacceptable form of defeatism. Can someone explain why it is harder to smuggle a bomb into an American city thanit is several bales of dope? or why these people think we'll never stop the traffic in bags of one white powdery substance (cocaine) but should be able to completely halt the flow of another (Anthrax)?

To be a conservative is to believe that life is a comedy and, comfortingly, our fellow men prove us right every time they open their mouths.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM

THEY JUST KEEP COMING UP SEVEN :

Hawking: God may play dice after all : Famed physicist presents divine-snowball theory for start of universe (Mike Martin, May 23, 2002, WorldNetDaily.com)
Inflation--and creation--started at the top of a potential energy mountain, the two cosmologists [cosmologist Stephen Hawking and his academic collaborator Thomas Hertog] claim, where fundamental field particles acted like snowflakes that coalesced into cosmological snowballs. A rolling stone may gather no moss, but the rolling die of creation - known to physicists as a subatomic particle called the "Hawking-Moss instanton"--gathered these snowflake-like particles.

"The early evolution of our universe is a bit like a ball of snow that grows while rolling down a hill," Hertog told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview. Hertog equated the growing snowball to a field of particles. "Our calculations show that our universe was most likely created by this field at the top of a 'potential hill.'"

Like mischievous children, quantum fluctuations in the early universe rolled the cosmological snowball down the hill and it expanded.

"Because of Heisenberg's famous uncertainty principle, the field at the top of the hill fluctuates," Hertog explained. "Because the top of the hill is an unstable point, these fluctuations eventually cause the field to roll all the way down." [...]

The quantum nature of the cosmos...dictates the "top down" approach, Hawking claims, because the history of the universe depends on the mountain, the dice, the snowflakes and the snowballs. In other words, the universe "depends on the observables being measured."

God may play dice then, but only if the dice are loaded. If the universe depends on observables, it also depends on we the observers, so the dice had to somehow guarantee that we humans would emerge. Physicists call this idea the so-called "Weak Anthropic Principle" from the Greek "anthropos," which means "man" or "human."

"The top-down approach is a mathematical formulation of the Weak Anthropic Principle," Hawking writes, in which observed values of all physical and cosmological quantities are restricted by the requirement that carbon-based life must exist.


If I understand this at all--which, as readers of the evolution discussion will realize is extremely unlikely--mightn't the theory also suggest what we might call a First Observer, who shapes the universe by observing the very moment of creation?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM

'TWIXT SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS :

Europeans struggle with idea of 'replacement migration' : The issue is a flashpoint for countries dealing with aging and declining populations (David R. Francis, May 23, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor)
"Demography is destiny," Auguste Comte, the 19th-century French mathematician, once wrote.

In most of Europe, with birthrates so low that populations are or soon will be declining, there has been much discussion about whether to admit more immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, or eastern Europe to provide the workers needed to produce goods and services for retiring western Europeans.

Without enough workers, people may have have to wait until, say, age 75 or later to retire. But some wonder whether an inflow of migrants from poor countries will cause "cultural genocide," undercutting the ideas, religions, even national identities in the countries where they arrive. [...]

In the United States, immigration has become a livelier issue because of the Sept. 11 tragedy with its foreign suicide hijackers. America's population will continue to grow, though only because of a high birthrate among recent immigrants. Native-born women average fewer than two children each.

In the US, [a UN] report notes, it would take 38 million immigrants, or 760,000 per year, between 2000 and 2050 to keep the population constant. That is less than the immigration level of about 1 million in recent years. The situation is similar in Britain and France.

In Italy, South Korea, and Japan, it would take a much higher level of immigration to stabilize the general population.

To stabilize the working-age population would require an even greater number of immigrants in the industrial nations, levels probably not politically feasible.

The aging of populations raises many critical questions, the report notes. What's the appropriate age for retirement? At 75, there would be enough workers to provide the same support for retirees as today in most countries studied.

Should present retirement and healthcare benefits for the elderly be maintained? Should workers and employers contribute more to support the increasing numbers of the elderly?


We in the West want nothing more than to have our tiny preplanned families and retire early while living the while in the luxury to which we've become accustomed and we want to limit this lifestyle to "Americans". But we find ourselves caught in a demographic vise that is closing rapidly and our failure to deal with any of the implications in a serious way has put us on a collision course with the kind of decline and race-hatred that increasingly defines the rest of the developed world, from Japan to the Netherlands.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM

MESATO :

India and Israel: Dawn of a New Era (Dr. D. Kumar, Dec 1 2001, WesternDefense.org) (via Free Republic)
At the beginning of the 21st century, South Asia and the Middle East pose major challenges to international peace and security. Amid many turbulent political and military developments in the two regions, India and Israel find a growing convergence in their strategic interests. The emerging Delhi-Jerusalem strategic alliance is creating much concern in the Arab world, but could become one of the crucial factors maintaining global security.

This is a long but fascinating account of the emerging cooperation and alignment of interests between Israel and India. Add Israel's relationship with Turkey to the equation and you have the makings of a Middle Eastern/South Asian organization of democratic nations that more than counterbalances the axis of evil. Forget NATO; this is the alliance we should be cultivating.

May 22, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM

WE HAVE A DREAM :

Unfortunately I can't find the entire text on-line, but then again it's fitting, because what may have been the best speech of the Reagan presidency was obscured by events when he gave it and is now largely forgotten. I refer to his 1985 address at Bitburg Cemetery in Germany.

The elder among us will recall that this stop on his itinerary provoked controversy because SS troops were among those buried there--Elie Weisel even confronted the president at a White House event and tearfully asked him not to go. But Reagan, ever stubborn, having promised Chancellor Helmut Kohl that he'd go, and always certain of the purity of his own motives, went ahead with the ceremony even in the face of withering criticism and accusations of tacit anti-Semitism. Meanwhile, lost amid all the white noise was the actual speech that he delivered, which contained a rhetorical formulation that I'd like to see George W. Bush adopt and adapt on his current German visit.

Some twenty years earlier, President Kennedy had famously traveled to Berlin and declared : Ich bin ein Berliner. Although I understand that in German this declaration amounted to calling himself a donut of some kind, it has charitably been translated as "I am a Berliner." Reagan went well beyond Kennedy and declared :

Today freedom-loving people around the world must say: I am a Berliner, I am a Jew in a world still threatened by anti-Semitism, I am an Afghan, and I am a prisoner of the Gulag, I am a refugee in a crowded boat foundering off the coast of Vietnam, I am a Laotian, a Cambodian, a Cuban, and a Miskito Indian in Nicaragua. I, too, am a potential victim of totalitarianism.

In effect, he placed the United States squarely on the side of every citizen of the world who was oppressed by communist totalitarianism. And, in fact, the U.S. supported was at that time accepting refugees by the boatload--from Cuba, Vietnam, etc.--and supporting guerilla armies in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, etc.

A few years later (June 12, 1987), President Reagan went to the Brandenburg Gate and , where his words could be heard across the Berlin Wall and into East Berlin, and demanded :

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Within a couple of years the Wall did indeed come down, thanks in no small part to the relentless pressure--military and rhetorical--that Ronald Reagan subjected the Soviet Bloc too.

Today, George W. Bush should take his cue from these two speeches and seek to do for the Islamic world what Ronald Reagan did for the Communist world--let the people who live under totalitarian regimes in Muslim countries know that our war is not waged against them, but against the governments that oppress them, and let them know that when they dream of freedom and prosperity we share in their dream. And he should demand that the tyrants of the Middle East--from Qaddafi to Assad to Arafat to Hussein to the Sauds--tear down the walls of totalitarianism that keep their people from enjoying freedom and its fruits.

He might say the following :

Forty years ago, President John F. Kennedy came here and declared that he was a Berliner and that the American people shared with the people of West Berlin a dream of peace and freedom. Twenty years later, President Ronald Reagan came here and declared that we Americans, indeed all of us in the West, shared the dreams of Southeast Asian boat people, of Nicaraguan contras, of Afghan tribesmen, of people everywhere whose lives were being lived under the dark cloud of communism. On a later trip, President Reagan demanded that the Soviet Union tear down the Berlin Wall, which had separated the world into two camps, one free, the other oppressed.

Today, we in America, indeed all of us in the West, declare to the people of the Islamic world--from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia to Iraq to Syria to Palestine to Egypt to Libya--that we share your dream of peace and freedom and prosperity, that our dispute is not with you or with your religion, but with the illegitimate rulers who oppress you and with the vile men who twist Islam to their own destructive purposes.

As you dream of a world where Islamic principles may govern daily life but where politics are free and the economy is private, so we dream of the day when you join the rest of the free world, when you get to choose your own leaders, choose your own livelihoods, choose to live in peace with your neighbors, be they Jew or Hindu or Christian, and when you will be free to practice the true tenets of Islam--a great religion of peace and justice.

We have no illusions here in the West. We know that this dream will be difficult to realize. The dream that Americans shared with our friends in Europe took nearly fifty years to make a reality and still today these formerly captive nations struggle to deal with their newfound freedoms and to transition to modern economies. We in the West spent trillions of dollars to help these peoples to win their struggle and it cost us even more in blood and lost lives, yet we never flagged in this fight, nor did the brave folk who labored in the gulags and the reeducation camps--all of us refused to abandon the dream, refused to heed the naysayers, refused to compromise with evil. So today, we pledge to you that we will be just as steadfast in our determination to help the people of Islamic world win their struggle--no matter if it takes fifty or a hundred years; no matter the cost; no matter the pain.

When America confronted totalitarianism in Europe, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared that his generation had a "rendezvous with destiny" and within the lives of that greatest generation, Europe was freed from the twin evils of nazism and communism. Today we say to our Muslim brothers that the struggle for freedom, peace and prosperity in the Islamic world is our generation's jihad.

Today, with you, we demand that the tyrants of the Middle East tear down the walls of oppression and paranoia and anti-Semitism and corruption that have divided too much of the Islamic world from the West and which have divided their own people from their dreams. To Mr. Qaddafi, we say, tear down the walls and let Libya be free. To Mr. Arafat, we say, tear down the walls and let Palestine be free. To Mr. Assad, we say, tear down the walls and let Syria be free. To Saddam Hussein, we say, tear down the walls, and let Iraq be free.

To people everywhere who dream of peace and freedom but wake each day to terror and oppression, we say, in the words of our Founders, in the words of the American dream : We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. As we share a common Creator so we share this common dream and we shall not rest until you too wake to find this dream a reality.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM

KNIGHTS WITHOUT ARMOR IN A SAVAGE LAND :

Cowboys & Cavemen : The Limits of Modern Mythology (Hank Parnell, Texas Mercury)
Traditional mythologies masquerade as ersatz historical fiction. That is, they tell stories, ostensibly set in the real past, but which really take place in an imaginary past that suits the purpose of the myth, which is to explain or reveal aspects of a given culture's worldview, its morality, philosophy, traditions and cosmology. Myths are metaphorical stories about something, usually something fairly important, like a given people's view of themselves. In a broader sense, myth can embody anything archetypical or stereotypical in a culture. When we speak of a myth in such terms, we are usually talking about what is believed to be true but is not. That's because a myth's value doesn't depend on its literal veracity, but on its ability to express the basic assumptions society operates on.

My favorite historic mythology is the American Western. The essential core of the Western myth teaches that justice can be established by the actions of a lone man armed with a gun. This, I submit, says a lot about America as a nation and Americans as a people. "When arms are drawn," said the Romans, "the laws are silent." (Inter armes, silent leges.) We Americans pride ourselves on living under the "rule of law", but the truth is all our real heroes are outlaws, men who "took the law into their own hands." Our Founding Fathers were rebels and traitors. We are the "gunfighter nation", as one leftist wag dubbed us. Americans believe might makes right, as long as we're wielding that might. It tends to make us naturally arrogant and hypocritical, but we are still the greatest group of people ever to exist on the face of the earth. There is simply no denying that. The actions of a bunch of rebels and traitors, most of them with a high-flown philosophical bent (generally aimed at proving they had a "right", as individuals, to do pretty much as they damn well pleased), unleashed a creative cultural dynamo unprecedented in human history. It is impossible to conceive of the scientific, technological and industrial advances of the last few centuries without the existence of the United States of America. The two seem to go hand in hand, because they do. [...]

Today the Western, as a genre, is pretty much dead. Occasionally a memorable Western film will be made, or a novel published, but the glut of Westerns, which 30 years ago were still dominated books, magazines, movies and even TV shows, is now long gone, and it is hard to see how it could ever come back.


The recent essays of Mr. Parnell afford one more excellent reason to check out the always entertaining Texas Mercury. But I'd differ with Mr. Parnell in one regard--and a significant one for the purposes of his essay. We Americans actually--as the Western and the private eye novel most fully reveal--used to believe that "right" makes might. The point of the lone hero--as in High Noon or Shane or Hondo or Riders of the Purple Sage or myriad other great Westerns--is that, though faced with what seem overwhelming odds, he will prevail because of his moral purity, because he is "right" and his adversaries, though many and strong, are wrong. Likewise, the Declaration of Independence is a search for why we would be within our rights to defy the crown and the revolution proceeded from the seemingly foolhardy notion that this tiny (in population terms) colonial backwater would be able to prevail against the world's greatest power, because we were "right", regardless of their might.

The decline of the Western then can be seen as paralleling the decline in American self-confidence. The genre faded, after all, in the 60s and 70s, as the counter-culture and intellectual elites convinced people that we were not in the right. When Taxi Driver came out, in 1976, America was still a mighty nation--essentially an imperial power, with colonies stretching from the Philippines to West Germany--but it had ceased to believe that it was "right". Bad enough that Lt. Calley had replaced Shane as our image of the man with a gun; with half of America, and almost all of the rest of the world, rooting for the "Indians" rather than the "Cowboys" in the Vietnam War, the Western seemed entirely antiquated. And so, when Robert DiNiro straps on a gun, we see not a hero but a psychotic. America not only wasn't right, it was seen to be deranged.

Despite the subsequent election of Ronald Reagan--no coincidence that he was an old hero of the Westerns and came replete with Western motif--it seems fair to say that this doubt about America, specifically, and about Western Culture, generally, prevailed right up until September 11th, 2001. But, forced to confront the reality of another civilization, Americans appear to have had a moment's respite from the political correctness, multiculturalism, and self-loathing that have plagued us for the past 35 years or so. It seems like this might even be a moment, however fleeting, when you could revive the Western. The eggheads may have recoiled when George W. Bush said that we'd bring back Osama bin Laden "dead or alive", but the American people thrilled to the archetypal image it invoked. It was politics by way of Steve McQueen and hit a long buried chord in the American psyche. I don't know who this generation's McQueen would be, or its Gary Cooper or Alan Ladd (it has no John Wayne), but I suspect that a High Noon variant starring Jim Carey, or a Shane with Denzel Washington, might hit a similar chord. A people that once again considers itself to be "right" might once again thrill to its own traditional myths.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM

STEPPIN' IN TO THE TWILIGHT ZONE :

The Principle of Hope : a review of The Case Against Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care edited by Kathleen Foley and Herbert Hendin (Sherwin B. Nuland, 05.16.02, New Republic)
Leon Kass ably states the argument of the self-determinationists and his response to it, which is reiterated and verified by clinical observations, surveys, case reports, studies of the pertinent literature, statements by participants, and data that are to be found in various chapters of The Case Against Assisted Suicide:

"[Its advocates state that] the request for assistance in death is to be honored because it is freely made by the one whose life it is, and who, for one reason or another, cannot commit suicide alone. But this too is fraught with difficulty: How free or informed is a choice made under debilitated conditions? Can consent long in advance be sufficiently informed about all the particular circumstances that it is meant prospectively to cover? And in any case, are not such choices easily and subtly manipulated, especially in those who are vulnerable?"

Truth to tell, the ideal of rational autonomy, so beloved of bioethicists and legal theorists, rarely obtains in actual medical practice. Illness invariably means dependence, and dependence means relying for advice on physician and family. This is especially true of those who are seriously or terminally ill, where there is frequently also depression or diminished mental capacity that clouds one's judgment or weakens one's resolve. With patients thus reduced--helpless in action and ambivalent about life--someone who might benefit from their death need not proceed by overt coercion. Rather, requests for assisted suicide can and will be subtly engineered.

Every physician and every nurse who has spent long hours at the bedsides of dying patients knows that Kass's description of their common inability to make rational or consistent decisions is accurate. These experienced witnesses know also that choices made in previous circumstances, when they seemed proper and wise, are often changed in the face of the reality of grimmer circumstances. A very sick person is not the same man or woman who months or years earlier calmly signed an advance directive or described for
closest relatives and a trusted doctor the point at which they should desist from further efforts to maintain life. Family members and caregivers--including the putatively distanced doctors--have goals and agendas that not infrequently confuse what is best for the wavering patient with what is in fact best for themselves.

That much of this understanding is below the level of actual awareness, that much of it proceeds from the best of intentions, does not make it less influential on the minds of the sick. Unknowing coercion is as effective, if not more so, than that which is deliberate. Add to this the well-known fact that the most common reason given by people asking for assisted suicide is not pain or some other specific form of suffering, but their wish not to be a burden to those whom they love. In this way, sometimes unwittingly and sometimes deliberately, loved ones too often influence the decisions of the debilitated and needful.


Among the issues I've disputed with libertarians, none has perplexed me more than their support for assisted suicide, with its necessity for allowing one individual (the patient) to force a course of action, and one with serious moral implications, on another (the "assistant"). This outstanding review makes in compelling fashion all of the points I've feebly tried to make in the past. If you read only one article today, make it this one.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM

THE HOMOGENEITY OF AMERICAN DIVERSITY :

Here for Good : Religion and the new immigrants. (Philip Jenkins, Books & Culture, May/June 2002)
In religious terms, the United States is not now, and never has been, a terribly diverse nation, nor are any likely changes going to make it so. When we boast of our Judaeo-Christian character, we are speaking of a land in which Jews make up perhaps two percent of a population that is overwhelmingly Christian. When Eck envisages "the world's most religiously diverse nation," she is contemplating an America that, within 20 years or so, may include a non-Christian population of at most six or seven percent, a figure that includes all Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, and Sikhs. That is about as diverse as most European lands, and far less so than the pattern that prevails in much of Africa or the Middle East.

Political factors go some way to explaining why Americans need to exaggerate their religious diversity. For liberals and secularists, the reasons are obvious enough, since the prospect of future growth by non-Christian religions can be used to deter Christian activists from trying to breach the wall of separation between church and state. In effect, Christians are under warning: today you may want to see a pastor leading graduation prayers, but just wait 20 years. Do you really want an imam or a Taoist priest fulfilling the same role? Far better to retain the neutrality of the public sphere.

There is, too, a quite innocent popular tendency to exaggerate the impact of the exotic, to see a few mosques, for instance, to note some women in their all-covering chadors, and to assume that Islam must be the religion of the American future. Yet the absolute numbers are often less impressive. I still treasure the scare-mongering title of a book that Wendell M. Thomas published as long ago as 1930: Hinduism Invades America. Thomas's claim about the imminent Hindu upsurge was not true then, nor can we legitimately speak today of the United States as the world's most religiously diverse nation.

All of which is not to deny that the mass immigration which began in the 1960s may have a transforming effect on American religion-but that impact will be most strongly felt within the Christian community. What one would never guess from Eck's book is that the new immigration is substantially Christian, and hence is bound to change the face of the American church.

If such an ethnic change had occurred 40 or 50 years ago, white Anglo Christians would have viewed the new arrivals in terms of their potential as subjects for mission, but today, that presumption seems inappropriate. Often, it is the immigrants themselves who come from confident Christian societies, and if anybody is going to be doing the evangelizing, it may well be the new arrivals. Many of these new Christian communities are marked by a more traditional and charismatic kind of faith, with an emphasis on direct supernatural involvement in everyday life. As such new populations grow, so also might their particular styles of faith and worship.


It is for reasons such as these that conservatives should view immigration as an opportunity rather than a threat. It may well be, paradoxically, that our newest citizens will save the culture from the natives.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM

MUGGING AS A SPECTATOR SPORT :

What did The Times know...? (MUGGER, Jewish World Review, May 22, 2002)
Nicholas D. Kristof, also a Times columnist, is next in line for the scrap heap [after Paul Krugman]. The Harvard/Oxford-educated writer earned his propaganda stripes with Howell Raines in the 2000 presidential contest with a series of front-page profiles of Bush and Al Gore. The stories about the then-Texas governor were so distorted it's possible even Paul Begala and Jonathan Alter blushed upon reading them. Kristof now covers the world for the Times. He's distinguished himself by making Thomas Friedman, the wishy-washy buddy of every leader in the Middle East, look like Charles Krauthammer in comparison.

On May 17, for example, Kristof confessed that at one time he believed Yasir Arafat was a fool for refusing to accept that give-away-the-store deal offered by Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton two years ago. But now, thanks to "various readers" (one assumes they would include James Zogby and any number of university professors), he's reevaluated his position, and thinks the Palestinian mass-murderer is misunderstood.


The Times under Howell Raines is becoming a paper with which no self-respecting cockatoo would line its cage.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 AM

RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE :

A New Thinking Emerges About Consciousness : Descartes Notwithstanding, Some Neuroscientists Find the Answer in Chemistry, Not Philosophy (Shankar Vedantam, May 20, 2002, Washington Post)
The feeling you have as you read this sentence, [Harvard professor Daniel] Wegner argues, is an illusion pulled off by a complex machine in your skull. It not only reads and understands this sentence, he says, but also makes you feel as if you have experienced the reading of the sentence. In other words, the brain, not content with being a remarkably complex machine, also convinces itself that it isn't a machine at all.

But why would it bother? The brain, Wegner contends, produces consciousness to give itself a feeling of having done something. This feeling helps the brain recognize similar situations when they arise -- the next article in the newspaper, for instance. Being aware of its actions, the brain-machine can better decide whether to read another article.

"When you drive to work, you don't feel there are hundreds of little gears in a machine in your head that make you do this. You think, 'I'm going to get up and go to work,' " Wegner said in an interview.

"We think the intentions cause the actions, and we get the feeling we have willed what we do. It could be the intentions and actions are being caused by the machinery of the brain."

Wegner cites numerous examples to show that intentions and actions are produced by different mechanisms in the brain -- while they are timed to occur simultaneously, they sometimes don't. During hypnosis, for instance, people's bodies act apparently without their will. Yet their movements are still produced by their brains, suggesting that conscious intention doesn't always precede action.

Other experiments have shown that people are not aware of most brain activity. Until they focused on it, for example, most readers would not be conscious that they were stringing together the words in this sentence, applying the laws of grammar and extracting meaning. Wegner says the relationship between conscious will and action is like that of a magician's wand and the rabbit he pulls out of a hat -- it only seems as if the wand made the rabbit appear.


These views--of man as merely a complex machine, or as merely a bundle of pre-programmed survivalist impulses, with no free will--may be perfectly good science, but they are also repellant and anti-human. If this is where science and reason lead us, why follow?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM

MISSED ONE (BUT ONLY ONE) :

Sweet land of liberty : Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free (Mark Steyn, 5/18/02, The Spectator)
The last Frenchman to get the United States was Alexis de Tocqueville. In Democracy in America (1840) he wrote, "Town meetings are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they bring it within people's reach, they teach men how to use and to enjoy it. A nation may establish a free government, but without municipal institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty." That's exactly the phrase: "the spirit of liberty". In the hours and days after 11 September, British friends kept asking me why it was Mayor Giuliani who was taking charge on the streets of Lower Manhattan rather than President Bush. The implication seemed to be that the mayor is some kind of understudy, that the system isn't working unless the top guy's there. But that's to get it exactly backwards. It's in the mayor and the police and fire departments and other municipal institutions that you measure the health of a society.

Trundling around Britain, Europe and the Middle East in recent weeks, I canít say I detected ëthe spirit of libertyí anywhere. I felt its absence in many places--in the impotence and fatalism of prosperous English property owners barricaded into their homes behind their window locks and laser alarms because nothing can be done about the yobboes lobbing the bollards through the bus shelter until David Blunkett comes up with a nationally applicable policy on the subject. And even then he's likely to have filched it from some American police chief--like the "broken window" theory, of which one hears more in Britain than the US these days.

That's what the "democratic deficit" does: it snuffs out the spirit of liberty. The issue is not how to make the chaps in Brussels more "accountable", but why all that stuff is being dealt with in Brussels in the first place--why so much of the primary-school science can only be entrusted to the laboratory's men in white coats, like Chris Patten. Eurocrats who spent much of the Eighties mocking President Reagan's "trickle-down economics" are happy to put their faith in trickle-down nation-building: if you create the institutions of a European state, a European state will somehow take root underneath.

It doesn't work that way over here. The other day, I went to a party for my neighbour Becky, who was retiring after many years as secretary in the town office. Afterwards, I came home and heard that America had withdrawn from the International Criminal Court. These are really two sides of the same coin. At Becky's party, about half the town's adult population were there, many of whom held elected office in municipal government: there were the town clerk and sexton, the cemetery commissioners and library trustees, all elected. There were members of the school board, who, despite being part-time and unpaid, have more control over curriculum and taxation than the Welsh Assembly does. There was Dina, my hairdresser and also the school district treasurer, who cuts the cheques for the teachers each week. There was Freddie, our road agent, who maintains the highways and decides the load limits. Think about that: the weight of the trucks on our roads is the responsibility of an elected official right here in town; in Milton-under-Wychwood, the weight of the juggernauts rumbling through the village is decided by Brussels.

Most British politicians reckon this sort of thingís a joke. But you'd be surprised: give people democratic control of roads, education, law and order, public services and so forth, and it does wonders for their disposition. These things are all primary-school science, but in Britain they're mostly reserved to quangoes staffed by baronesses. The baronesses are perfectly pleasant, but itís unclear to me why their skills are so highly regarded that they should supplant responsible self-government. Meanwhile, what's left to elected officials is trivial. Fleet Street finds it hilarious when Clint Eastwood gets elected mayor of Carmel or Sonny Bono mayor of Palm Springs--typical bloody Yanks, hung up on shallow celebrities. But, to the contrary, the celebrities are acknowledging that, when it counts, theyíre citizens. That's the "spirit of liberty": plumbers, doctors, strippers, movie stars get steamed about crime or zoning regulations or logging restrictions and decide to do something about it. How come Liz Hurley or Robbie Williams never run for mayor or councillor? Because, like non-celeb Britons, they know itís not worth it.


With all due respect to the great Mr. Steyn--who lives in the next town over from us--he's forgotten the one other perceptive Frenchman :
Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.
-Jacques Barzun (God's Country and Mine)

Of course, Mr. Barzun wisely fled France for America many decades ago.

May 21, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM

IF ISLAM IS JUST PATIENT, IT'LL WIN :

Japanese threatened with extinction, minister says (Reuters, May 21, 2002)
Japanese will become extinct unless the nation's birthrate stops shrinking, Health Minister Chikara Sakaguchi said on Tuesday.

Commenting on a slumping birthrate which means Japan's population of 127 million could start shrinking in 2007, he , told a news conference: "If we go on this way, the Japanese race will become extinct." [...]

Figures issued in April show the number of children under 15 in Japan has fallen for 21 straight years and now accounts for only 14.3 percent of the population, the lowest on record.

According to a United Nations report in 2000, Japan is greying so quickly that it will need to import around 600,000 workers annually until 2050 to keep its working population stable. By then, if Japan follows the U.N.'s suggestion, nearly one-third of the population would be of foreign descent.


Why's everyone so het up about the clash of civilizations when we're breeding ourselves out of existence anyway? If Islam just maintains itself and thereby the economic squalor that is associated with high birth rates, they'll overtake the declining West in fifty or a hundred years. They've waited fourteen hundred; what's another few decades?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM

AN AUTHOR TO REMEMBER :

Walter Lord, Narrative Historian, Dies at 84 (ALBIN KREBS, 5/20/02, NY Times)
Walter Lord, the narrative historian whose books ó most notably "A Night to Remember," a riveting account of the sinking of the Titanic ó were characterized by intensive research and exhaustive interviews, died on Sunday at his Manhattan apartment. He was 84.

The cause was Parkinson's Disease. [...]

His usual approach to what he called living history was to combine historical research with journalistic methods, including "you are there" insights gathered in
interviews with dozens of survivors and witnesses to the events he chronicled.

Mr. Lord's writing technique, said Stanley Walker, reviewing "A Night to Remember" in the New York Herald Tribune Book Review, was based on "a kind of literary pointillism, the arrangement of contrasting bits of fact and emotion in such a fashion that a vividly real impression of an event is conveyed to the reader."

David McCullough credits Mr. Lord as an inspiration for his own flourishing career as a writer of popular histories and biographies on such varied topics as the the Brooklyn Bridge, the Panama Canal and, most recently, John Adams.

"He really knew how to do research," Mr. McCullough said yesterday from his home in Massachusetts, "and how not to use all the research he found. He was very good at knowing what to leave out, using what he knew to give the right atmosphere, without trawling it on.

"His `A Night to Remember' was the first nonfiction book that I ever read that left me spellbound, and I was in high school at the time," he said. "Later, when I came to New York and was trying to become an author, I took `A Night to Remember' and studied it and tried to understand its architecture."

Although not a precise model for his own work, Mr. McCullough said that the essence of Mr. Lord's book enhanced his own first effort, "The Johnstown Flood" (Simon & Schuster, 1968), which, like the "A Night to Remember" was "a story about human mistakes and the compounding of false steps that brings on the disaster."

Published in 1955 and the first of several of his Book-of-the-Month Club selections, the wildly successful "Night to Remember" made Mr. Lord's reputation as a writer who could bring drama, terror, and suspense to his historical narratives. A successful television adaptation appeared in 1956 narrated by Claude Rains and in 1958 the book was the basis for a popular British-made film of the same name directed by Roy Baker and starring Kenneth More and David McCallum. [...]

In 1994 The Society of American Historians awarded Mr. Lord the Francis Parkman Prize for Special Achievement, in recognition of his lifetime dedication to
American history.


When his publicity house sent me the 60th anniversary edition of Day of Infamy to review last year, I was shocked to realize he was still alive. Like every red-blooded American boy, his books were a staple of my youth : A Night to Remember; Dawn's Early Light; The Good Years; etc. We wish him a bon voyage.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM

TEN DOUBTS ABOUT EVOLUTION :

I am a creationist only in the broadest sense--in so far as I believe the universe was created by someone, not necessarily the Judeo-Islamo-Christian God, but some kind of sentient being who had an end purpose in mind. And I have no problem with the idea that a kind of naturally occurring breeding goes on in Nature--I can accept that a duck and a blue jay were once fairly similar, maybe even the same creature. But I'm skeptical about the capacity of wholly natural processes to have sculpted humanity and all that surrounds us. Here are some questions that make me at least question the faith of the Darwinists :

(1) If evolution is a continuous process requiring millions, billions, zillions, of tiny mutations as it progresses, why haven't we observed any of these mutations in any mammals in the thousands of years of recorded human history?

(2) Why can't we find the fossil record that should reveal these gradual adaptations?

(3) Once an eye becomes an eye, its helpfulness is obvious, but what is the graduated process by which the eye comes into being? Are there really distinct advantages each incremental step of the way?

(4) And how many steps would be required? If we've been in a several thousand year pause in evolution and presumably such pauses occur with some regularity, plus all the tiny steps required, plus the die-offs from catastrophic events, has there really been time enough for man to rise from a single cell?

(5) If we developed those eyes because they gave us certain adaptive advantages, why didn't we develop wings too or claws or whatever?

(6) If we arose from the same chain as primates, why is that the only chain that produced human-style consciousness? Why aren't there really smart dogs and alligators, etc. Why did those species have ceilings while we don't seem to?

(7) Now that we comprehend evolution can we any longer be subject to its forces or are we by our very understanding of it become an "unnaturally selecting" species, thereby removing ourselves from the process?

(8) Why isn't there intelligent life anywhere else? If there is, what's the answer to Fermi's question : where are they? And, if we're alone, mightn't we be the point of the universe, the reason it exists?

(9) If propagation of the species is the be all and end all, why do we slaughter each other in war, genocide, etc.? Why would we have developed the power (nuclear weapons, global warming, whatever) to end all life on Earth? How can this mechanism allow us to be such a threat to ourselves?

(10) What came before the Big Bang?

(11) Ozzy Osbourne?

UPDATE :
Rand Simberg has decided to take the role of Clarence Darrow in this ersatz version of Inherit the Wind. See his answers.

I have just one further question (#12) : What evidence could conceivably be presented that Rand would accept as fundamentally challenging Darwinism? I'm not saying the evidence exists, but what could disprove evolution to his satisfaction?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:03 PM

LEFTOVERS :

Going Dutch: Pim Fortuyn's legacy pushed the center-right into power in the Netherlands. Now what? (Sasha Polakow-Suransky, 5.16.02, The American Prospect)
Fortuyn's assassination on May 6 prompted many to reconsider their criticisms of his politics. Fortuyn was certainly no angel, and parts of his political platform closely resembled the harsh anti-immigration and anti-Islamic rhetoric of far-right parties throughout Europe. He even acknowledged in a BBC interview that although he did not see himself as a racist, the word might accurately describe many of his supporters. "So what?" Fortuyn said. "Why they vote for me is irrelevant, but if they do they're in safe hands."

If you had a party that was basically a cult of personality with elements of racism added in, and you subtract the personality, what's left?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM

OPEN SEASON...ON HUMANS :

As Forests Reclaim the East, Man Struggles With Nature (JAMES P. STERBA, The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2002)
It's not just an out-of-control white-tailed deer population that people increasingly love to hate. The wildlife wars are escalating as other wild animal populations soar and damage complaints mount. Nowhere are the battles as rancorous as in the eastern third of the United States, a region whose image of end-to-end
metropolises ringed with industrial belts, malls and traffic jams belies the comeback over many decades of the Eastern forest.

"Most Easterners don't realize it, but they live in a huge forest," says Gordon Batcheller, a New York State wildlife biologist. "I flew from Albany to Boston recently, and it's woods from one downtown to the other. But when you get down into it, you see it's full of people."

And wild animals. Indeed, it's probable, say some biologists and foresters, that more people live in closer proximity to more wild animals in the Eastern U.S. today than at any time in history anywhere on the planet.

"Certainly for North America it's hard to imagine a situation in which more people and more animals live in closer contact," says David R. Foster, a Harvard University biologist and director of the Harvard Forest, a 3,000-acre research preserve near Petersham, Mass.

While many smaller animals such as squirrels, raccoons and opossums never left, Dr. Foster says that large animals and birds are now making big comebacks: bear, moose, coyotes, beavers, turkeys, eagles, osprey and the ubiquitous deer. One reason is that the comeback of the forest has afforded them habitat and protection. At
the same time, people who live in sprawling leafy suburbs offer them safety and lots of food.


This is a particularly scary time of year up here in God's country (NH). The moose mothers have given their yearlings the heave-ho and they're now blundering around lost, stopping by the sides of roads to lick up the rock salt left over from the Winter. I was nearly killed when I hit a deer some years ago, and would have died if it had been a moose instead. The problem is that your car takes out their spindly legs and then their mammoth bodies come crashing through your windshield, decapitating the folks in the front seat or at least causing them a significant amount of head trauma. You can't thin the herd enough to suit me.

UPDATE :
WAIT, THERE'S HOPE! :
Almost a quarter of the world's mammals face extinction within 30 years, according to a United Nations report on the state of the global environment. (CORINNE PODGER BBC)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM

FOURTH PLACE, BUT GAINING FAST :

Following God Abroad (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, May 21, 2002, NY Times)
The old religious right led by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, trying to battle Satan with school prayers and right-to-life amendments, is on the ropes. It is being succeeded by evangelicals who are using their growing clout to skewer China and North Korea, to support Israel, to fight sexual trafficking in Eastern Europe and slavery in Sudan, and, increasingly, to battle AIDS in Africa.

Evangelicals are usually regarded by snooty, college-educated bicoastal elitists (not that any read this newspaper) as dangerous Neanderthals. But while the old religious right was destructive when it launched the cultural wars, the new internationalists are saving lives in some of the most forgotten parts of the world.

"The American electorate was split right down the middle on these cultural wars, and nobody was going to win them," said Richard Cizik, Washington director of the National Association of Evangelicals, explaining the shift to international issues. The new international efforts, he says, are "going gangbusters."

The evangelical movement encompasses one-quarter of Americans and is growing quickly. One measure of its increasing influence is that a newsstand in the United Nations has carried the "Left Behind" series of religious novels by Tim LaHaye. These books, which have sold 50 million copies so far, describe the battles that precede the Second Coming, and there is indeed a United Nations connection: In the novels, the Antichrist is the secretary general.


Evangelicals are fast growing. They're now influencing even foreign policy. They're making common cause with Jews on issues like Israel and cloning. The Culture War has turned into an actual shooting war between Christianity and Islam. The Political Correctness crowd has been cowed into silence. An Evangelical president is two Court seats away from overturning Roe v. Wade. If the GOP can retake the Senate we may well get school choice, which means schools with prayers. And Mr. Kristof thinks the religious right is on the ropes? Is this just a feeble bid to overtake Dowd, Rich, & Krugman in the "worst columnist at the Times" contest?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM

GRAY DAYS IN THE GOLDEN STATE :

Long-Shot Winner Turns Dark Horse in California (JAMES STERNGOLD, May 21, 2002, NY Times)
It has been less than three months since Mr. Simon, a wealthy businessman, son of former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon and first-time candidate for political office, won a come-from-behind victory in the Republican primary. But already his candidacy appears to have lost the momentum from that upset.

Mr. Simon has been holding campaign events that are all but ignored, and the gap between his war chest and that of Mr. Davis remains vast. The governor, a prodigious fund-raiser, has a little more than $28 million in hand; Mr. Simon, who had less than $700,000 after the March primary, has been able to amass $6 million or so with help from President Bush.

One problem, many members of his own party complain, is the soft, sunny tone that Mr. Simon adopts in his efforts to strike a Reaganesque pose, in contrast to the hard-hitting Davis campaign, which has called Mr. Simon a "rank amateur" and a "sanctimonious hypocrite."

Mr. Simon's aides argue that opponents who underestimated him in the primary paid the price, and maintain that voters will respond more to his hopeful, pro-business themes than to slashing attacks. But even some senior Republicans criticize his distaste for the harsh offensive and his insistence on describing himself as a Reagan conservative above the fray.

"There are some situations where he's just politically naïve," said Dave Cox, who heads the Republican caucus in the State Assembly. "Ultimately he has to define himself better, and when you run for governor you have to be prepared to play with the big boys."


There is no greater sin in politics than to allow your opponent to define you in the minds of the voters. Democrats have developed a surefire way of doing so in liberal states (like CA), by simply describing the GOP nominee as too far to the Right : on abortion, guns, etc. Had Simon had the money advantage, he might have been able to buy the advertising that he needed to establish himself as a common sense conservative, but with no money you can't compete in California's prohibitively expensive media driven races. Stick a fork in him--he's done.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM

BITING OFF YOUR NOSE TO SPITE YOUR FACE :

Is the GOP Capable of Self-Criticism? : Its silence about NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre suggests not. (Timothy Noah, May 16, 2002, Slate)
Two weeks ago, Chatterbox invited any nationally prominent Republican to come forward and endorse the proposition that comments made by Wayne
LaPierre, the National Rifle Association executive vice president, about Andrew McKelvey, the CEO of Monster.com, were "lunatic" and "completely wrong." In a speech, LaPierre had compared McKelvey, who provoked LaPierre's ire by founding a gun-control group called Americans for Gun Safety, to Osama Bin Laden. [...]

The GOP's reluctance to condemn LaPierre suggests that its capacity to police its constituencies has weakened since 1995, when former President George Bush resigned very publicly from the NRA to protest LaPierre's characterization of federal law enforcement officials as "jackbooted thugs." In that instance, LaPierre actually ended up apologizing. This time out, Bush fils was entirely silent about LaPierre's crack and LaPierre, unsurprisingly, hasn't apologized.


Maybe it's escaped Mr. Noah's notice, but that resignation by the former president helped convince white male conservatives that the senior Mr. Bush wasn't one of us, didn't share our concerns, but was instead a captive of Washington. As a result, Ross Perot was able to field one of the few serious third party candidacies in recent memory, largely by appealing to angry white males. Two years later, the GOP having returned to first principles and President Clinton having embraced gun control, these same wahoos (amongst whom we include ourselves) handed the GOP control of the Congress for the first time in a generation.

What now would be the point of denouncing our own allies? After all, Democrats couldn't even summon the courage to denounce Bill Clinton for his sexual assaults and prevarications, why must Republicans now denounce a private citizen for some overly colorful remarks? If I didn't know better, I'd think Mr. Noah does not really have the GOP's best interests at heart.

UPDATE :
THE CHATTERBOX CHALLENGE :
Now McKinney's lunacy sounds like the Democratic Party line (Clarence Page, May 21, 2002, Jewish World Review)

[T]he paranoid wing of Bush's opposition, as represented by Rep. Cynthia McKinney, feels vindicated. When the Georgia Democrat called for a probe
in mid-April into whether the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the attacks, right-wing commentators rose up to lambaste her as a wacky conspiracy theorist.

Even fellow Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia called her remarks "dangerous, loony and irresponsible."

Suddenly, barely a month later, her remarks sound like the Democratic Party line.

Democratic leaders in both houses of Congress sternly called for wider investigations. Why, they asked, did it take eight months for this new information to dribble out? Even Republican Sen. Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, questioned why the folks at the FBI, in particular, were "asleep."

The only difference between McKinney and her party leaders, it appears, is that they waited to gather a few more facts before making their charges. McKinney, by contrast, did not wait for facts when broad, sweeping conjecture would do.


Okay, here's a deal for Timothy "Chatterbox" Noah, when a "nationally prominent" Democrat comes forward to endorse the proposition that the Democratic Party line on 9-11 is "lunatic" and "completely wrong", then we'll agree that a ranking GOP member should denounce Wayne LaPierre.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM

THE FELLOW'S STILL TRAVELING :

REACTING TO THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S CUBA POLICY (Statement of Senator Chris Dodd
Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, May 20, 2002)
First I want to join with my colleagues in commending President Jimmy Carter for his very successful visit to Cuba. His visit has demonstrated that an honest and respectful discussion of differences between the United States and Cuba is possible.

He rightfully called upon President Castro to respect the human rights of Cuban citizens and to allow for an open dialogue among the various sectors of Cuban society. He also called upon the United States to lift the embargo and allow Americans to travel freely to the Island.

President Carter's visit has opened up opportunities which could lead to improved relations and a more political space inside Cuba.

The operative word is could.

Sadly the Bush administration has not sought to take advantage of President Carter's visit. Instead they have responded in very petty ways. First, by making contradictory statements about Cuba's alleged development and export of biological weapons and second by holding today's press conference rejecting President Carter's call for revisions in US policy.

Today President Bush has set forth a laundry list of actions that the Castro government must take before the US takes even one step toward modifying US policies. By doing so he has guaranteed that the current political system in Cuba will remain the same ñ as it has for the last forty years that the US has pursued this ill advised policy.

The specific package of proposals announced by the Administration is much ado about nothing . Direct mail service ñ not likely to happen without the cooperation of the Cuban government, nor are scholarship programs for Cuban students. Humanitarian assistance by non-governmental organizations--this is already ongoing. Direct assistance to political dissidents--they have rejected it in the past and did so today on CNN.

Throwing worn out wallpaper over a cracked foundation--which is what the Bush Administration proposal amounts to--doesn't solve the problem. We need a fundamental change in the way we look at Cuba.


As Senator Dodd and his ilk work themselves into a dither over our refusal to deal with Fidel Castro, it might be worth recalling that had it been left to these folks we might still have more than one communist dictatorship in this Hemisphere.

Here's an excerpt of an interview he gave in 1983 [found in Soft on communism (Mona Charen, August 24, 2001, TownHall)] :

Georgie Anne Geyer: "Since these kinds of Marxists have never negotiated throughout history ... do you actually believe they would negotiate in good faith now? ..."

Dodd: "I don't know the good faith -- no one knows that. You can only find that out by trying, sitting down and seeing if they're sincere, and testing it out. ... I don't know them. I know they're not all Marxists, any more than all the Sandinistas were Marxists. ... I don't believe that every person who opposes the government in El Salvador is a Marxist either. ... I don't believe Marxism is necessarily monolithic either ... We can have intelligent, thoughtful relations with these countries, and we shouldn't assume that if someone happens to be a Marxist, that immediately they're going to be antagonistic to our interests or going to threaten our security."


In the early 80s, of course, Mr. Dodd was squarely in the mainstream with these views. (As he was when he decried President Reagan's decision to topple the Communist regime in Grenada.) In fact, though Senator Dodd was one of the ringleaders, it was Democrats generally who cut off aid to the Contras. Thanks to the Iran/Contra fund diversions these efforts to prop up the Sandinistas failed and the Democrats found themselves on the wrong side of history, the side of the oppressors, rather than the freedom fighters. But that was twenty years ago, and most of them learned from their mistakes.

Mr. Dodd, on the other hand, continues to wage that battle, as when he recently opposed the nomination of Otto Reich to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, because Reich had supported the Contras. And now, unbelievably, he seeks to salvage the lone communist dictator in the Americas--Fidel Castro.

Well, here's a phrase you probably haven't heard in awhile--and if you're young enough you'll never have heard it--but it's long past time we said it : Chris Dodd is soft on communism.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM

LAST ONE PICKED :

It's Jeffords Week in the Senate (Paul Kane, May 20, 2002 , Roll Call)
"The only things I asked [of Daschle] was for him to take care of my staff and take care of my cows," Jeffords said.

But Jeffords' move has also had a counter-effect, creating an energy and an anger among conservative Republican base voters who are eager to reclaim the majority this fall. As of March 31, the National Republican Senatorial Committee had a $5 million cash-on-hand advantage compared to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, far ahead of where the Senate Republican campaign committee was two years ago.

The NRSC has also recruited a crop of seasoned contenders in most open seats and a handful of strong challengers to Democratic incumbents. Republicans contend that during the past six months they have been driving the agenda in the Senate, putting Daschle on the defensive as they have parried the message that Senate Democrats have obstructed the popular President's agenda.

"It's crystallized our goal,"NRSC Chairman Bill Frist (Tenn.) said. "Once he made the decision, it allowed us to crystallize our vision."

Lott admitted that, after hitting the political trifecta of holding the White House, Senate and House at the same time, he and his colleagues had gone soft. "Going back in the minority has a way of focusing you. We were not as focused last year as we should have been," said Lott, who after Jeffords' switch drafted a "war memo" referring to the illegitimate Democratic majority.

One GOP leader said Jeffords didn't understand the impact his decision would have, both on his longtime Republican friends and in terms of how strongly conservatives would seek to exact revenge at the polls. "I'm not sure he was aware of the magnitude of what he was doing," said Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.).


Think of Jim Jeffords as the ugliest girl at a dance and the Republican Party and the Democratic Party as the only two guys without partners. Whichever guy gets skunked is going to be more bitter than the guy who gets the girl is going to be proud, right?

May 20, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:09 PM

THE GRAY EAGLE GETS SOME COMPANY:

Stephen Jay Gould, Biologist and Theorist on Evolution, Dies at 60 (CAROL KAESUK YOON, 5/20/02, NY Times)
Stephen Jay Gould, the evolutionary theorist at Harvard University whose lectures, research and prolific output of essays helped to reinvigorate the field of paleontology, died today at his home in Manhattan. He was 60 years old. The cause was adenocarcinoma, his wife, Rhonda Roland Schearer, said. [...]

In 1967 he received a doctorate in paleontology from Columbia University and went on to teach at Harvard where he would spend the rest of his career. But it was in graduate school that Dr. Gould and a fellow graduate student, Dr. Niles Eldredge, now a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, began sowing the seeds for the most famous of the still-roiling debates that he is credited with helping to start.

When studying the fossil record, the two students could not find the gradual, continuous change in fossil forms they were taught was the stuff of evolution. Instead, they found sudden appearances of new fossil forms (sudden, that is, on the achingly slow geological time scale) followed by long periods in which these organisms changed little.

Evolutionary biologists had always ascribed such difficulties to the famous incompleteness of the fossil record. Then in 1972, the two proposed the theory of punctuated equilibrium, which suggested that both the sudden appearances and lack of change were, in fact, real. According to the theory, there are long periods of time, sometimes millions of years, during which species change little, if at all. Intermittently, new species arise and there is rapid evolutionary change on a geological time scale (still interminably slow on human time scales) resulting in the sudden appearance of new forms in the fossil record. (This creates punctuations of rapid change against a backdrop of steady equilibrium, hence the name.) [...]

Dr. Gould was also dogged by vociferous, often high-profile critics. Some of these scientists charged that his theories, like punctuated equilibrium, were so malleable and difficult to pin down that they were essentially untestable.


I realize it's bad form to speak ill of someone so recently dead, but I always found Mr. Gould rather despicable, at least in intellectual terms. His theory of punctuated equilibrium strikes me as anti-science--an absurd denial that the absence of evidence matters to the ultimate viability of a theory. This, his great contribution to evolutionary theory, seems little more than an attempt to prop up a feeble theory by further removing it to the realm of pure untestable faith.

That his science was really a form of politics was confirmed by his book, The Mismeasure of Man (1981)(Stephen Jay Gould), which argues that there are absolutely no biological bases for intellectual differences among the races. Had he seriously addressed the measurable differences in intelligence test scores and sought to explain them, the book might have some scientific value. Instead, he cravenly attacked thoroughly discredited quackery like phrenology and then declared that since these specious theories were obviously wrong, he must be right. This method, a cheap trick of sophists and lawyers since time immemorial, is beneath contempt in a man of supposed science.

In a delightful final twist to the saga though, Mr. Gould took a passionate dislike to evolutionary psychology, the inevitable reductio ad absurdum of evolutionary theory, which argues that every human action, indeed every human thought and feeling, has been predetermined by the pressures of natural selection just as surely as has the shape of our coccyx. Appalled by its political implications, he and his allies even resorted to the arguments of us creationists in his feud with the psychological evolutionists, seemingly oblivious to the manner in which he was undermining his own theories. This made him anathema to the rising generation of evolutionists, who viewed him as a reactionary, little better than William Jennings Bryan.

A final word in his favor : he was a Red Sox fan. So, though he may not have believed in the Creator, surely tonight he sits by his side, and enjoys an unobstructed seat view of Fenway.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM

OVERHEARD ON RUSH :

"I'm 48 years old and I've been taxed to pay for America's nuclear arsenal my whole life. Now I want to get my money's worth." The guy went on to suggest bombing every dictatorship in the Middle East.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM

PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF :

Albright blasts Bush foreign policy (Jennifer Peter, May 20, 2002, Salon)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on Sunday accused President Bush's foreign policy team of suffering from "untreated bipolar disorder."

Albright said the Bush administration is projecting contradictory messages on a broad range of global conflicts, including the Middle East and Afghanistan.

"They talk about the importance of the rule of law, but seem allergic to treaties designed to strengthen the rule of law in areas such as money-laundering, biological weapons, crimes against humanity, and the environment," Albright said in a commencement speech at Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


It's this simple : she thinks it's most important that the US be restrained by other countries, we think it more important that they be restrained by us. Whose side are you on?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM

METHINKS THE LADY DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH :

Cheney Rejects Broader Access to Terror Brief : The debate over how to investigate Sept. 11 has become part of a larger battle between Congress and the Bush administration over the limits of presidential authority. (Alison Mitchell, 5/20/02, NY Times)
Vice President Dick Cheney said today that he would advise President Bush not to turn over to Congress the August intelligence briefing that warned that terrorists were interested in hijacking airplanes, and he insisted that the investigation into Sept. 11 should be handled by the Congressional intelligence committees, not an independent commission.

In appearances on several television news programs, Mr. Cheney said "it would be a mistake" to give broad Congressional access to the Aug. 6 memorandum to the president, which ignited a political uproar over whether the nation could have anticipated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"That presidential daily brief is developed from some of our most secret operations and it has to be treated that way," Mr. Cheney said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "It's never been provided to the Congress before, to my knowledge."


This is the surest indicator yet--even more significant than the statements of Congressional leaders who have now seen and dismissed the significance of the briefing material--that there's no smoking gun amidst these warnings. The President will of course be forced to share the contents of this briefing with Congress and the American people. The price to be paid in public opinion simply outweighs the principle involved. But by having Cheney come out and be the bad guy and by making it seem like it's a big deal to the administration, you allow President Bush to step up and say how normally they'd not share such information, but the extraordinary circumstances require it. Then, after all the build up from Democrats and the press, when there's nothing concrete there, the story will redound to the administration's favor : first, because they were "open"; second, because it exonerates them. It's another well played bureaucratic political maneuver by an administration that seems significantly better at such machinations than their opponents.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM

IS PURITY WORTH POVERTY? :

Let them all come : It's not a soft touch welfare system that makes Britain a magnet for immigrants; it's our need for cheap labour. (Nick Cohen, 5/20/02, New Statesman)
In January last year, Barbara Roche--now, thankfully, a forgotten politician--published an extraordinary report. Britain, the Home Office minister said, needed 150,000 immigrants from outside the EU every year for the next 20 years. They had to come to keep the economy moving and provide doctors, nurses, computer programmers, engineers, skivvies and navvies. Roche had advanced her career by pushing political asylum-seekers into penury and using every method she could devise to keep genuine refugees out. Yet in her last months at the Home Office, economic reality had forced her to abandon rabble-rousing and propose mass immigration. No one took much notice.

The projections are more startling in the rest of the European Union. At the same time as Roche's report came out, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, then the French interior minister, said that the EU needed 75 million immigrants by 2050. Admittedly, no one can guarantee that these estimates are accurate. But the nature of an honest debate is easy enough to imagine.

It would begin with a blunt statement that Britain and the rest of the European Union have falling birth-rates and an ageing population. The EU will need millions of immigrants if it is to pay the pensions of today's workers. Honesty would then require a discussion about who should be let in. If the government had total control, it might prefer, for instance, a website designer to a specialist in Arab poetry from Iraq without portable skills. But the government doesn't have total control and insists it doesn't want it. New Labour says it wants to uphold international law and has nothing against refugees who can prove that they have a genuine fear of persecution. It merely wants to stop economic migrants getting in by posing as refugees.

Those on the other side might reply that they have honest arguments of their own. They might say that there is a limit to how many foreigners a culture can absorb. It would be better for Britain to be poorer than more ethnically diverse. They might say that they are prepared to sacrifice the wealth of pensioners to protect the unskilled working class, whose wages could well be held down, and trade unions, which could be weakened by the influx of cheap labour.


This is the reality of immigration : if we don't want the immigrants we need to accept economic decline. Westerners just aren't reproducing in sufficient numbers to fill all the undesirable jobs in our economy or for our younger generations to support the retirement of the elder generations. There are some steps, unrelated to immigration, that we could take to counter these trends--the first and most important is to recriminalize abortion which has devastated the educated upper and middle classes of the West--but we're still going to need to import workers in massive numbers for the foreseeable future. Yet the concerns about assimilation are legitimate and that is where we really need to focus our efforts.

Here are some reforms we might undertake that would attempt to balance our need for immigrants with our desire to maintain some control over our borders and the coherence of our culture :

(1) Allow anyone to come so long as they have no criminal background or history of psychiatric problems.

(2) Document them all, giving them some form of immigrant worker status and a uniform ID card with a ten year duration. Anyone who does not undergo such a background check and receive such documentation shall be deported and be ineligible to immigrate in the future.

(3) At the end of ten years (or reaching age 18 in the case of children) immigrants can take a citizenship test and, upon passing, become US citizens (and give up any prior citizenship of another nation), or they must leave.

(4) Any immigrant who qualifies for national service (military or other) and performs a full tour of duty, shall immediately be eligible for citizenship, upon passing the exam.

(5) Prior to receiving their U.S. citizenship, no immigrant shall be eligible for federal assistance--Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.

(6) Repeal the Constitutional provision that requires the President be native born.

The attempt here would be to make immigrants feel welcome and valued in America, while making it clear that becoming American, besides offering them great opportunity, entails certain responsibilities, and that we expect them to fulfill those responsibilities and to become Americans.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM

UNITY VS. CONFORMITY :

New York is starting to feel like Brezhnev's Moscow : Public debate in America has now become a question of loyalty (Jonathan Steele, May 16, 2002, The Guardian)
What a sad place New York City has become. A vibrant, disputatious town with a worldwide reputation for loud voices and strongly expressed opinions is tip-toeing around in whispers. Grief over the casualties of the twin towers massacre is not the reason (those wounds are slowly healing), but a stifling conformity which muzzles public discourse on US foreign policy, the war on terrorism and Israel. [...]

To enforce this abandonment of reasoned argument in the name of a witch-hunt against terrorists, a strange alliance of evangelical Christians in Congress has come together with the leaders of American Jewish organisations who normally support the Democratic party. "We live in a culture where there is a diminishing tolerance of dissent," commented Abe Brumberg, long-time editor of Problems of Communism, the Soviet-era journal which was funded by the US government.

He drew my attention to a column by Frank Rich in the New York Times. The piece reported that America's foremost Jewish newspaper, Forward, was fielding subscription cancellations for accepting an ad from Jews Against the Occupation. Mainstream papers are also being targeted. "Our press is not being muzzled," Rich was careful to write, "but the dictates of what constitutes politically correct conversation about the Middle East are being tightened to the point that American leaders of all stripes increasingly seem to be in a contest to see who can pander the most to American Jews."


Mr. Steele here demonstrates a confusion that is shared by many on the Left, particularly the European Left. He seems to believe that the current climate of unity in the United States, in opposition to radical Islamic terrorism and to both ant-Semitic and anti-Zionist opinions (the two are somewhat different), is the product of an unhealthy repressive mindset. Mightn't it rather be the case that after a decade of multicultural twaddle and self-denigration, with Bill Clinton apologizing to anything that moved for past American transgressions, Americans have decided that if there's to be a clash of civilizations we'd prefer that our civilization win? So when a Jewish newspaper runs ads that favor the opposing civilization and its readers decide to cancel their subscriptions in response, mightn't that be seen as mere self-respect on the part of people who don't care to be insulted, rather than a new McCarthyism; never mind the inanity of comparing it to Soviet totalitarianism?

UPDATE :
Who's Trying to Silence Free Speech?: Media counterattack against bias charges misses the point : A symbolic protest that calls for subscribers or advertisers to withhold their business for a limited time is not a throwback to Nazi Germany. Those who do not wish to read my work need not purchase any outlet that publishes it. The same holds true of anybody other publication. That's not mob rule, it's just the workings of a free market, without which there cannot be a truly free press. (Jonathan Tobin, 5/20/02, jewishworldreview.com)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 AM

59 IS A BIG NUMBER :

Perry leads by 25 points in poll : Results reveal ethnic divide; Sanchez says deficit is 12 points (GEORGE KUEMPEL, 05/20/2002, The Dallas Morning News)
Gov. Rick Perry enjoys a commanding 25-point lead over Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez in a matchup sharply divided along racial lines, according to a new poll of likely voters.

With the election five months away, Mr. Perry is ahead in every part of the state, including Mr. Sanchez's purported stronghold along the border and in South Texas.

Those surveyed also had a higher favorable impression of Mr. Perry than Mr. Sanchez, a Laredo banker and oilman in his first run for office. [...]

In the survey, Mr. Perry was the favorite of 59 percent, and 34 percent favored Mr. Sanchez. The rest were undecided.

The poll of 1,066 Texans who voted in at least one of the last two general elections was conducted May 7-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, meaning the result could vary that much in either direction.


This race is kind of the mirror image of the California gubernatorial, where an attractive young Republican faces a fairly weak Democrat incumbent. But just as Bill Simon is unlikely to make much headway in a state (CA) that is fundamentally Democratic, Mr. Sanchez faces an uphill battle in a state (TX) that has become as Republican as any in the nation.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM

THE UNLEARNABLE LESSON :

Support for president remains high : NBC/WSJ poll shows division on Bush actions before attacks (MSNBC, May 20, 2002)
1. In general, do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?
Approve: 75%
Disapprove: 18%

2. Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the measures the Bush administration took based on the information they had prior to Sept. 11?
Satisfied with measures: 58%
Dissatisfied with measures: 31%
Not sure: 11%

3. Do you think the Bush administration did as much as was reasonable or could have done more to prevent or warn about hijackings?
Did as much as was reasonable: 53%
Could have done more: 41%
Not sure: 6%


In his fine campaign memoir, Ambling Into History : The Unlikely Odyssey of George W. Bush, Frank Bruni assesses the performance of himself and his colleagues in the press during the campaign. He acknowledges, first of all, how insular is the world of the journalist covering a campaign; how uncomfortable travel may effect the mood of coverage; how boredom with hearing the same speech over and over may cause them to pounce on insignificant variations and inflate them into major policy changes; and, maybe most importantly, the dubious tendency of pressmen to manufacture news themselves. This last happens most often in one of two ways. The first comes when a reporter takes something one candidate said then either confronts another candidate with it or confronts the candidate himself, then writes a story about how the original candidate had to spend the day responding to questions about a remark he'd made. While technically true, the storyline conveniently ignores the fact that the reporter was the one prompting or asking the questions. The second, and maybe more insidious, method requires just one reporter to decide that a campaign is either losing steam or gaining steam. After he files such a story, other editors start asking their correspondents why they haven't written a piece on this dramatic change in the campaign. Soon, as everyone rushes to cover their own butt, what may well have started as just a way of standing out from the reportorial pack has become the accepted wisdom about a candidate and his candidacy. Whether these disturbing behaviors are caused by competitive pressures in the industry or mere desire to break up the tedium of one's own coverage, they are unprofessional, dishonest, and antidemocratic. And it's bad enough that they occur during the campaign, but as you read about them, you can see how the very same thing happens once one candidate becomes president. So we get the random story about how the war on terrorism is in trouble; then within a few days that's the received knowledge in the media; then a few days later some victory occurs that puts paid to the original story; and we can see that it was nothing but an exercise in journalistic one-upmanship in the first place. This has to be unhealthy both for the press, which diminishes its own credibility, and for the political process, which falls prey to the whims of reporters.

We're in the middle of a similarly silly episode right now, with press, pundits, and Democrats all in a dither over how George W. Bush should have prevented 9-11. For the first two groups this just makes good business sense--such personal attacks make careers, sell papers and drive ratings--but for the Democrats there's a real danger here. The American people have a contrarian habit of rallying to a president who's under siege, even when he deserves to be in trouble. When JFK biffed the Bay of Pigs, his poll ratings shot up. Richard Nixon remained reasonably safe until his own tape recordings proved his guilt beyond a shadow of a doubt. Reagan's presidency was saved when he was shot. And Bill Clinton rode impeachment to popularity ratings in the 60s. Perhaps it is just a function of democracy that, having once chosen these guys, we want to be the ones to dispose of them, not let their enemies, foreign and domestic, do it for us. So when Democrats try turning the 9-11 attacks into a partisan political affair--even if it was entirely George W. Bush's fault--they are courting disaster.

The following seems to reflect that realization :
Gephardt backtracks on criticism (Ralph Z. Hallow, 5/20/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt backed away yesterday from earlier suggestions that President Bush had failed to act on warnings that might have prevented the September 11 attacks.

"I never, ever, ever thought that anybody, including the president, did anything up to September 11 other than their best," the Missouri Democrat said on "Fox News Sunday.


Now let's see if he can control the Cynthia McKinney's of the world.


May 19, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM

AN UNSERIOUS PEOPLE FACE A SERIOUS THREAT, UNSERIOUSLY :

'I Sniff Some Politics' : Bitter about the capital storm, Bush needs to get over his anger and give up his love of secrecy and surprise (Howard Fineman, May 19, 2002, NEWSWEEK)
If Bush seemed unsure of his bearings, he had reason to be. After eight months of political calm, the war on terror abroad has turned into an uncivil war at home. Until last week, the capital was full of urgent but murky bureaucratic debates about the quality of counterterrorism information-sharing. Now, suddenly, Democrats, investigators and the news media were asking the hoary Nixonian questions: what did the president know and when did he know it? And they were asking new but equally dramatic ones: With years’ worth of scattered but numerous hints of Al Qaeda’s emerging suicide strategy, why didn’t Bush know more? And why weren’t people told after September 11 what the administration knew before that fateful day?

In this new Question Time, Bush has the benefit of a bond with the American people, who, for the most part, seem to hope that he will succeed. In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, his approval rating is 73 percent, still a lofty number. Yet voters are highly critical of other parts of his administration (the CIA, FBI and his own security team). By a 55 to 38 percent margin, they think the administration should have issued a public hijacking warning before September 11. By a 68 to 24 percent margin, they want a congressional investigation of intelligence failures. And voters’ skepticism even extends to Bush on one crucial subject. Asked if he had done all he “should have” with the pre-9-11 warnings, voters said yes—but by only a 48 to 39 percent margin.


The President of the United States has to take the blame when a screw-up as massive as the 9-11 attacks occurs. We were obviously unprepared for such an attack, despite it being speculated about quite frequently in popular fiction, and we had sufficient warning signals that someone should have been able to put enough pieces together to at least request authority to take some action.

But, let's not kid ourselves here, said authority would have been denied, whether by the President to subordinates or by Congress to the Executive. Even after the attacks we still maintain the honorable but possibly suicidal policy that there's something wrong with racial profiling. Given what we knew prior to 9-11 the logical step would have been to investigate any Arab, or other Middle Easterner, who was taking flying lessons. This may or may not be inconsistent with the Constitution, but it is absolutely inconsistent with the prevailing political atmosphere, which requires even law enforcement officials who know better to deny the efficacy of such profiling.

Next, we could have banned all carry-on luggage and required hand searching of all checked bags. We're not doing this now either, so there's obviously no way people would have tolerated it prior to 9-11.

We could have put armed soldiers, sailors, National Guardsmen, etc. in every cockpit on every flight in America. We don't even have air marshals on board eight months later.

We could have required non-citizens to go through special boarding procedures before flying in commercial planes. Yeah, right.

We could have done any number of things like this, each of which impinges on civil liberties to a greater or lesser extent and each of which we have refused to do even after the murder of 3000 fellow citizens has focussed our attention and scared and angered us all. This redounds to our credit in terms of showing that we take such liberties seriously, but also suggests that an attack like that of 9-11 is a price we're willing to pay in order to maintain these liberties. And, before we get carried away with self-congratulations, it also suggests that there are certain inconveniences we just won't tolerate, even if they might save lives and prevent future attacks.

Instead of recognizing this, Democrats, pundits, and bloggers are insisting, with that hindsight which is notoriously 20/20, that had we all been warned prior to 9-11, America would have responded with a seriousness of purpose that might have thwarted the attacks. Such is the delusion, let's look at the reality.

Here is how such folk responded to a post-9-11 warning that is probably not dissimilar to one that could have been issued pre-9-11 :

Dem senators lambaste vague terrorism warning (Noelle Straub, October 31, 2001, The Hill)(via Free Republic)

Senate Democrats criticized the Bush administration Tuesday for its warning that another terrorist attack could come in the next week, without giving any specifics.

'As if we're not on high alert already,' Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said after Director of the Office of Homeland Security Tom Ridge briefed Senate Democrats. 'It provokes its own level of panic.'

On Monday, Attorney General John Ashcroft cited “credible” information to indicate there would be new terrorist attacks within the United States or abroad in the next week. But he said he could not identify specific targets or the type of attacks.

Dodd said many of his colleagues questioned Ashcroft’s action. 'What the hell are you saying this for? We all know this is a pretty precarious time.'

Sen. Richard Durbin (Ill.) said the Democratic Caucus wants to be as cautious as the administration but wondered whether that kind of vague warning would only “create more fear and anxiety.”

'“I think we have to caution the administration to be careful,” Durbin said. “They can only do this so many times before they lose their credibility'”


That, mind you, is the response after we'd been attacked. Imagine for a moment that it is August 2001 and John Ashcroft--the fanatical Christian Warrior of Democrat and libertarian caricature--steps up to the microphone and says we're being threatened by Muslims, so he needs to use racial profiling techniques for awhile, needs approval for a vast array of electronic surveillance regimes, etc., etc., etc.... The notion that we would have buckled down and become a kind of citizen militia, alert to the threat and ready to act, may be comforting, but it is also ridiculous. Democrats would have begun impeachment proceedings that day.

Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps we really have become the kind of country, like Israel, for which the prevention of terrorist acts is the primary concern. Perhaps we've reached a point where all it would take is a credible warning from the Feds and we'd all be willing to sacrifice liberties, tax dollars, and convenience in order to thwart an attack. (It seems worth noting that Israel--despite its superior intelligence services, more alert citizenry, and more violent responses--has had fairly little success in stopping suicide bombers, even though the terrorists use the same methods over and over and over again. But assume that we might have some limited success if we at least prepared ourselves.) Well, here's our opportunity to prove ourselves :

WE'RE READY (NILES LATHEM and ANDY GELLER, May 19, 2002, NY Post)

The United States has intercepted a new series of frightening messages that suggest al Qaeda is planning a second wave of attacks that would be as big or bigger than Sept. 11 and cause vast numbers of American casualties.

The messages, which are not specific, have come to light amid the furor that has erupted over a parallel series of communications that were received before Sept. 11 and were so vague that U.S. officials couldn't connect the dots.

The latest messages indicate al Qaeda is planning an operation possibly larger in scope than Sept. 11.


Okay, so if we follow the fictional assumptions that are being made about how we would have reacted pre-9-11 to such a warning, we are now required to respond to this one as if we accept that a new attack is imminent. We know several methods that terrorists have successfully used here in America in the past ten years : truck bombs (Oklahoma City and the first WTC attack), highjackings; and anthrax (regardless of whether this was an al Qaeda attack or an opportunist). And operating on the assumption that what we can imagine we should be prepared for, here are a couple of prospective lines of attack that seem entirely plausible.

There will be 13 Major League Baseball games either ending or beginning around 4pm today--it seems like you could truck bomb all thirteen stadiums without too much trouble. You''d not only kill thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, you'd bring the American pastime to its knees. Massive death and great symbolic value--seems like a good target.

Or you could bomb the bridges and tunnels leading into NYC (and other major cities)--less death, but huge economic disruption and good symbolism. If you can't get trucks close enough, maybe you could achieve the same results with private planes or even with gliders. Or where the bridges are concerned you could duplicate the boat bomb that al Qaeda used against the USS Cole; this might be a good way to attack the Statue of Liberty too. At a minimum it seems we should prepare as best we can to face these kinds of threat.

There are a couple of obvious responses that we could make right now : ground all civilian aircraft and ban trucks from all major urban areas until we've dealt with the threat. Sure it would be inconvenient; sure it would cause economic disruption; sure we might look ridiculous if we can't uncover the specific plots and perpetrators behind these warnings; but we'd decrease the risk of attack. Is anyone in a leadership position in either party or in the press even remotely suggesting that we take such actions? No, of course not. Are they suggesting any actions further than those we've already taken? No. Are those we've taken adequate to stop such attacks? No. So who are we kidding here? Ourselves.

Even after taking such actions, most of the same attacks could be undertaken by car bombs or by suicide bombers with explosives strapped to themselves. And there may be no precaution we could take that would stop a group of terrorists with Anthrax from spreading it in such crowded places as ballparks, amusement parks, etc. And, when you get right down to it, have you seen a single anti-terrorism expert who believes that al Qaeda couldn't almost exactly duplicate the initial strikes by highjacking planes? Every guy I've seen says that he could actually get guns on board right now, without much trouble.

It's all well and good to talk tough and to pretend that we can make ourselves safe from terrorism, but the brutal truth is that we probably can not stop determined and suicidal murderers from killing a lot of Americans and doing considerable infrastructural damage unless we're willing to sacrifice so much of our way of life as to render America unrecognizable. Maybe it is instead time to recognize that we are not safe and we are not going to be, that we are all potential targets and that more of us are going to be killed before this phase of radical Islam writhes its way to its inevitable death. We are still entitled to demand that our government do what it can to protect us and to make such attacks more difficult. Anyone, from the president on down, who fails to perform his duties in this regard should be held to account. But as we seek to place blame for past failures and to prepare for future attacks, we have to look at ourselves and our society realistically and recognize how limited are the responses that we are going to tolerate. This not a bad thing, that we value our freedom and our prosperity so highly that we are willing to sacrifice lives to maintain them. But we need to honestly face the fact that this is the trade off we're making. And if we aren't willing to make that trade-off, then those who think it intolerable to lose a single life to terrorism need to clearly enunciate the steps they are willing to take to try to avoid this eventuality. (This is particularly important because the folks who are complaining the most loudly about the past failures are those who are the most reluctant to cede the government new authority to take admittedly repressive measures to foil future acts.) What's going on now--the demands for government prescience; the casting of blame; the search for scapegoats--is unworthy of a great people and a great nation.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM

SWEATING IT OUT IN KASHMIR :

New Delhi dons warpaint for US envoy (Saurabh Shukla, May 17, 2002, Hindustan Times)
In meetings on Friday with National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, Blackwill was told the US had failed to fulfil promises to restrain Pakistan from supporting terrorism. India, therefore, would take "appropriate action". A similar message was given to US Secretary of State Colin Powell when he spoke to Singh earlier.

Blackwill's assurances that the US saw the fight against Kashmir militancy as part of the global war on terrorism received a sceptical response. India said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had done nothing concrete to rein in terrorists — despite US promises to the contrary. India showed evidence that cross-border terrorism had increased after Pakistan pledged to fight terror. Blackwill's request for more time to get Pakistan to comply was rejected.

Blackwill expressed US President George W Bush's concerns about tensions escalating into a full-scale war. India, he was told, would not take rash decisions but as a sovereign country it reserved the right to act on its security needs. India was urged not to break diplomatic relations with Pakistan.


I've been reading Ted Rall's book on the War in Afghanistan. Though otherwise execrable, he does seem to know the region, and he says that many al Qaeda and other radicals fled into Pakistan. If that's true, an Indian-Pakistani War might give us the cover we need to pursue these terror cells.

May 18, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM

STAY THERE :

U.S. Documentary Maker Lashes out at Bush's ‘War on Terror’ : American director Michael Moore (May 17, News Agencies)
A celebrated U.S. documentary maker known for his crusading films, Michael Moore, launched a scathing and derisive attack on the "war on terrorism" Friday at Cannes, and accused U.S. President George W. Bush of Orwellian manipulation.

Speaking at a press conference presenting his "Bowling for Columbine" - a look at the culture of guns and violence in America, in the official competition for the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or - Moore said his compatriots had been systematically duped by the Bush administration since September 11.

"To use the dead of that day as the cover to push their right-wing agenda, to shred our constitution, to take away civil liberties... to try and distract people from Enron, 'because we need to focus on the war on terrorism' - I think it's immoral, I think it's abhorrent.... You're being hoodwinked," he said, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).


Couldn't we just revoke his citizenship while he's in a country that suits him better anyway?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM

THE CHICKEN HAWKS COME HOME TO ROOST :

Child pornography case dismissed (SELENA RICKS, May 18, 2002, Portland Press Herald)
The U.S. attorney will not prosecute a child pornography possession charge against a Dresden man as a result of last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a portion of federal law that applies to computer-generated images of children.

Steven Guay was indicted in June 2001 on a charge of possessing child pornography in violation of the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996. His trial was scheduled to be held next month, but the case was dismissed by federal prosecutors on Thursday.

The dismissal was the first for a Maine child pornography case since the Supreme Court ruling last month. It is unclear whether more cases will be affected.

On April 16, the Supreme Court overturned a 1996 provision that had broadened the definition of child pornography to include not only minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, but also what "appears to be" minors. That included computer-generated images of children engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

As a result of the new ruling, federal prosecutors began reviewing pending cases, including Guay's.

"We decided that looking at the images Mr. Guay had on his computer, we could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that those images showed actual children," said Toby Dilworth, assistant U.S. attorney.


This was pretty predictable, but it's still horrifying. The Court has basically made it impossible to prosecute these cases against the worst predators in
our society.

May 17, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM

MAYBE THE THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM :

a broader view than Judd (Charles Dodgson, May 17, 2002, Through the Looking Glass)

Mr. Dodgson makes a much better go of it in his second attempt to understand George W. Bush. He's at least abandoned his rather odd prior position that Mr. Bush's business career had no effect on the management style he's developed. But, still eschewing any real analysis of that experience, he's now derived what is apparently the real key to the Bush style :

His positions are not earned; they are arranged. Wherever young Dubya wound up, whatever trouble he was in, there was always someone ready to make the deal, to do the favor, to pick up the check, to bail him out. None of his achievements are really his own.

In this scenario--it gets awfully complicated and contradictory but, if we take the red pill, I think we can follow it--George W. Bush is a tool of his father, of oil interests, of some kind of baseball ownership cabal, of Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, of war-mongering old Nixon henchmen, of closet peaceniks like Colin Powell, and, finally, of Crown Prince Abdullah and the Arabs. He left out the Elders of Zion, the Illuminati, and the Rosicrucians, but they too must be in there somewhere. All of these folks have conspired together to give us a Bush government of which Mr. Dodgson says :
The bottom line, as the Bull Moose has noted, is a presidency that serves its own stated agenda --- fiscal restraint, welfare reform, free trade, keeping government out of the market --- far less than Bill Clinton's did. And, fans of fiscal restraint, note that Clinton's point man on cost reductions, a guy with eight years experience in the nuts and bolts of restructuring government programs to improve efficiency and reduce waste, was running for President --- and instead, you voted for Bush. Congratulations.

The reader will be forgiven at this point for wondering why this shadowy conspiracy, which seems to be united only by an interest in commerce, would want to expand government, cripple free trade, wreck welfare reform, and foster government regulation. But the ways of these folks, like those of the Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, are often inscrutable and we can't always expect their reasons for doing things to make sense to us. After all, we still don't really know why they killed Kennedy and covered up the UFO landings at Roswell, so maybe we just shouldn't expect to penetrate to the core of their current machinations in Washington.

For us the frightening thing should be that the American people are proving themselves willing dupes...again. It's terribly galling to know that we can all see through this scheme so easily, at least when Mr. Dodgson shares with us his parallax view, but that those common fools continue to give the guy popularity ratings in the 60%-70% range. Our only consolation must be that in 2004 George W. Bush will face the righteous wrath of the Democratic Party and a heroic nominee like Tom Daschle, who will cut him down to size. Until then, comrades, be strong, and watch the skies. We shall not be crucified on their cross of gold! The truth is out there and the truth will out!


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:03 PM

NO CO-ED READING ALLOWED :

Book clubs are nothing to do with reading : They are just get-togethers for sad middle-class women (Jenny Colgan, May 3, 2002, The Guardian)
I imagine men going to book groups to be about as honest as Hugh Grant going to single mother's groups and anyway, I don't want a man who cried at The Shipping News - I want a man who reads Practical Mechanic!

If you want to see why a straight man can't be in a book group with women, check out the coflicting reviews here, from my failed attempt to participate in one.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM

A PROFILE OF THE SCIENTIST WE MENTIONED EARLIER :

The Man Who Cracked The Code to Everything ... : ... But first it cracked him. The inside story of how Stephen Wolfram went from boy genius to recluse to science renegade. (Steven Levy, June 2002, Wired)
As dessert is served, I bring up the secret-of-the-universe question. Wolfram's theory that there is a single rule at the heart of everything--a single simple algorithm that, in effect, generates all the rules of physics and everything else--is bound to be one of his most controversial claims, a theory that even some of his close friends in physics aren't buying. Furthermore, Wolfram rubs our faces in the dreary implications of his contention. Not only does a single measly rule account for everything, but if one day we actually see the rule, he predicts, we'll probably find it unimpressive. "One might expect," he writes, "that in the end there would be nothing special about the rule for our universe--just as there has turned out to be nothing special about our position in the solar system or the galaxy."

I have some trouble with this.

"I've got to ask you," I say. "How long do you envision this rule of the universe to be?"

"I'm guessing it's really very short."

"Like how long?"

"I don't know. In Mathematica, for example, perhaps three, four lines of code."

"Four lines of code?"

"That's what I'm guessing. I mean, I don't really know, but I think there's no obvious evidence that it's any longer than that. Now, in a sense, it will be short if Mathematica was a well-designed language. It will be longer if it doesn't happen to be as well-designed, in the sense that that doesn't happen to be the way the universe works. But we're not looking at 25,000 lines of code or something. We're looking at a handful of lines of code."

"So it's not like Windows?"

"No." Wolfram laughs. "It's not like Windows. It's going to be something small, I think. I've certainly wondered. You ask about the theological questions and things. I think there will be a time when one will sort of hold those lines of code in one's hand, and that is the universe. And what does this mean? You know, how do we then feel about things, if this whole thing is just five lines of code or something? And in a sense, that is a very unsatisfying conclusion, that sort of everything that's going on, everything out there, is all just this five lines of code we're running."

There is a moment of silence between us. In the background are the clatter of dishes and silverware, noises that come from a restaurant in Urbana, Illinois, preparing for closing time. The mundane but complex stuff of equivalent computational processes.

"Well," I say finally, "I guess we'd feel really bad if it wasn't well-written."

Wolfram grins. "Yes, right."

Another pause. "So do you believe we'll find this code in your lifetime?"

"I hope so. Yeah."

"Do you want to find it?"

"Sure. That'd be nice."

"Is that your next thing to do?"

The self-styled Newton of our times smiles, as if to himself. "I'd like to think about that. Yeah."


Maybe I'm just dense, but I don't see why it's believers who should be threatened by the idea that a sentient being created the universe via a few simple equations.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM

BRIAR PATCH TIME :

Friend of the Court : ALBERTO GONZALES'S HIGH-WIRE ACT (Ryan Lizza,05.16.02, New Republic)
Everything in Gonzales's record prior to his arrival in Washington suggests he is a moderate jurist uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the kind of conservative judicial activism identified with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. And that worries Washington conservatives who fear a replay of 1990, when Bush pere nominated David Souter--another state supreme court judge with an ambiguous record--to the high court, only to have him become a stalwart of its liberal minority.

But if "No More Souters!" has become a rallying cry among conservatives, Democrats are equally determined not to allow another Scalia, an Italian-American right-winger who won confirmation in part because Democrats didn't want to be seen as standing in the way of an ethnic milestone. And if Gonzales's record in Texas causes him problems on the right, his conservative stances as White House counsel--on judicial picks, on terrorism, on administration secrecy--raise red flags for Senate Democrats and their allies on the left. Alberto Gonzales, in other words, has the misfortune to be a potential Supreme Court pick at a time when the window of political acceptability--between being too liberal to be nominated and too conservative to be confirmed--is narrower than ever before. Michael Farris, a home-schooling advocate and influential social conservative, summarizes the dilemma: "Until Judge Gonzales starts saying some things publicly like, `I believe the president is right both politically and constitutionally on abortion, and I'm happy to defend him,' he's not going to be rehabilitated. The problem is that if you start doing that you become unacceptable to the left." No wonder Gonzales addressed the CNP. And no wonder he didn't win them over.

[M]any on the right would prefer to see Bush choose someone like Miguel Estrada, the ideologically committed right-winger currently up for the D.C. Circuit. Estrada, they figure, could be confirmed for the same reason as Gonzales: Democrats wouldn't dare torpedo the first Hispanic nominee. And he'd be a reliable Thomas-Scalia ally on the Court.

But Estrada doesn't have Gonzales's close relationship to Bush--"more like a brother than a lawyer," says a friend of both men. And most close Bush-watchers assume that the president, if given his druthers, favors loyalty over ideological purity. Unlike Gonzales, Estrada has yet to spend time on the bench--a lack of experience that could make confirmation more difficult. Moreover, Gonzales has one other advantage over Estrada and other potential rivals: As White House counsel, he'll be the one leading the search for a new justice when a vacancy occurs. And the last time Bush put someone else in charge of this sort of hunt, Dick Cheney ended up picking himself.


C'mon, Mr. Lizza, get real--if Bush tabs Estrada the Democrats would have to be insane to oppose him. Are they really going to turn a Republican president who's already making inroads on one of their core constituencies into the very public defender of an embattled Latino nominee? God, I hope so.

Bush should hold off on Gonzales for when he needs an easy confirmation. Reagan's big mistake was in not putting Bork up the first time a spot opened. Bork would still have been borked, but the GOP controlled the Senate and he would have made it through. Then for the next openings you would have had O'Connor, unassailable because female, and Scalia, unassailable because Italian. All of which would have spared us the painful schizophrenia of Justice Anthony Kennedy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM

LOMAN NATION :

"Nobodies" will shape a nation's future (M CORNWELL, 5/17/02, The Scotsman)

Pim's people made their first appearance in the Netherlands parliament yesterday, after an election that turned Dutch politics on its head.

Twenty-six newly minted MPs, from a party that has made the most surprising debut in 50 years of European politics, toured the seat of government pursued by a wall of reporters as confused as anyone else by the results of the elections.

"They're nobodies," muttered a shocked Dutch journalist under his breath. "Nobodies."

The stories making the rounds about the members of Pim Fortuyn's List, elected as Netherlands' second largest political party ten days after his murder, were truly scurrilous. One was rumoured to be mentally unstable, another a pedlar of web porn. But perhaps the most unlikely of the new MPs was Herman Wiersma, six times world draughts champion.

"I hope to do something more to promote my game," he said. [...]

Mr Herben yesterday denied reports that Winnie de Jong, elected fourth on the list, was mentally unstable, after she wept in front of the television cameras on election night and said how glad she was the party had not placed first. "She was over-exhausted," he said. [...]

Mr Fortuyn cobbled together his list of candidates in a matter of weeks. One of the party's new deputy chairmen is João Varela, a 27-year-old of Cape Verdean origin who worked for a cosmetic company. He was reportedly recruited soon after he knocked on the door of Mr Fortuyn's Rotterdam home.


And so Dutch government takes on the quality of King of Hearts with Larry Flynt and Willy Loman thrown in for good measure.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM

CONTROVERSY CONVERGENCE (as the Pim story blends into the paedophile priest story) :

Fortuyn favoured depraved : PIM Fortuyn, the charismatic right-wing Dutch politician murdered last week was a powerful advocate for paedophilia (MARCELLO MEGA AND JUSTIN SPARKS, 12 May 2002, The Scotsman)
His controversial views on race, immigration, liberalisation of drug laws and his open homosexuality were well-known. But his approval of paedophilia, while not a
secret, was ignored by Dutch journalists covering his election campaign.

In [an article for the Dutch current affairs magazine, Elsevier, in 1999], Fortuyn wrote: "Paedophilia is just like hetero and homosexuality. It is something that is in the genes. There is little if anything that you can do about it or against it. You are who you are--sooner or later the proclivity makes its irresistible appearance. It is not any more curable than hetero or homosexuality."

The column concludes: "The law philosopher and paedophile [Edward] Brongersma, for years senator of the Labour party, spent his life campaigning for understanding of the paedophile fellow man. He launched this effort fearlessly after serving a sentence for sexual harassment of a minor. The minor in question had not considered it harassment, but the justice department judged otherwise in the 1950s.

"In the 1970s and 1980s, Brongersma slowly but surely gained ground. After the invention of the Pill came sexual liberation. Gay sex became accepted, and why then should paedo sex not be allowed ­ under the strict condition that the child is willing and that there is no coercion? This enlightened point of view has meanwhile been abandoned, and under the influence of the ologists, the child is defined as totally devoid of sexual desires, at least where adults are concerned.

"We are far removed from the understanding that Brongersma tried to foster, to our own detriment, for that matter. For everything which can be discussed is in principle also manageable, one would think!" [...]

In 1998, Fortuyn published an autobiographical work called Babyboomers, the name given to children born in the post-war years up to 1953. He reveals that he had early sexual experiences with adult males, which he claims to have found pleasurable and exciting. His logic is that because he enjoyed sexual experiences with adult men as a child, it should be legal.

Fortuyn's first experience occurred when he was five years old. "The Dutch soldier asks if I want to see his tent. That's what I want. I like it and they all are sleeping
on the ground in a sleeping-bag. I ask if it is hard and cold to sleep on the ground. Oh no, come here. Together we crawl in his sleeping-bag. The soldier asks my name and I ask his name.

He is called Arie and he asks if I like that name. Yes, I think that's a nice name and I lie beside him, nice and warm."

Fortuyn then described a close sexual encounter with the soldier before leaving his sleeping-bag "to go and play outside." He added: "Can I come back tomorrow? Yes, tomorrow I may come back, says Arie."

A few pages later, he describes another incident: "I went to the park for a walk, it was very silent and the sun was shining. On the bench sat a young fellow. I stood still, curious."

Fortuyn relates another sexual encounter - this time in explicit detail. He concludes: "I was frightened and ran away to my home, to my mother. Excited, I ran into the room. My mother looked at me searchingly and asked what had happened. Nothing, of course. Watch out, little man, was the only thing she said. A glass of lemonade made me calm down. Yes, that was exciting."

Most telling is his appraisal of these memories. "In chapter 1 about the 1950s, I wrote about my early sexual experiences, experiences that I see as an enrichment. Today, an experience like that in the park could easily lead to a complaint by parents to the police because of paedophilia, and the relevant young man would be in trouble. But why?

"He didn't do me any harm. On the contrary, he showed me something that was incomprehensibly exciting and I could feel and touch it, but today we are ready to
interfere with complete teams of professionals. By interfering in such an irritating and grown-up way in the world of children, we make an enormous problem of something that for a child is no problem at all and is only exciting."


It's been an unpleasant couple weeks, arguing with friends and allies about Pim Fortuyn, and whether he should be considered "one of ours". I've maintained that, regardless of whether he was a racist personally, his political appeal was to racism. I've also argued, and Perry de Havilland addressed the issue in more detail, that Fortuyn was more of a libertine than a libertarian and that, as such, he made a no better than troublesome defender of Western values and an awful representative for conservatism generally. But the emotional power of his assassination clouded reason (in other words people disagreed with me) and conservatives, who should have known better (in other words, should have agreed with me), embraced him as a martyr in the cause of liberty and a fallen hero of Western Civilization.

But as this article amply demonstrates, Mr. Fortuyn's views were so far out of the mainstream as regards sexual licence, that no self-respecting conservative should any longer seek to hitch our wagon to his fallen star. If being in favor of liberty really requires us to adopt the view that every human behavior should be condoned and protected, then liberty is ultimately irreconcilable with human decency and dignity. If freedom includes the freedom to rape a child, and this unfettered freedom is a Western value that we require the rest of the world adopt, then sign me up for the jihad.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM

LET'S PUT THE BLAME WHERE IT BELONGS, ON ALL OF US :

No Hint of Sept. 11 in Report in August, White House Says (DAVID E. SANGER and ELISABETH BUMILLER, May 17, 2002, NY Times)
In fact, the information Mr. Bush received in the Aug. 6 briefing had been public for months. The Federal Aviation Administration published a report called Criminal Acts Against Aviation on its Web site in 2001 before the hijackings that said that although Osama bin Laden "is not known to have attacked civil aviation, he has both the motivation and the wherewithal to do so." It added, "Bin Laden's anti-Western and anti-American attitudes make him and his followers a significant threat to civil aviation, particularly to U.S. civil aviation."

Every once in awhile the dynamics of partisan politics plunge us into Cloud Cuckoo Land. Even after we lost thousands of people on September 11th, we've refused or resisted the following : racial profiling of Arab plane passengers; preventive detention of suspected terrorists; banning carry-on baggage; confiscating sharp objects from passengers; national ID cards; arming pilots with hand guns; etc.; etc.; etc...and Tom Ridge's color coded warning system for the terrorist threat level has been greeted with uniform derision, rather than anyone paying it any attention. The notion that on September 10th we would have been prepared to do all these things, which is what it would have required to have a chance of stopping the highjackings, both gives us all credit for the kind of foresight that no one has and assumes that we take our civil liberties so lightly that we're prepared to surrender them whenever the government says we should. Implicit in the criticism from people like Tom Daschle is that, had he been president, on receiving these warnings, he would have warned the American people of an imminent threat and demanded that such extraordinary actions as we've since taken be implemented immediately. Yet, oddly enough, as Majority Leader of the US. Senate, even after receiving these same warnings, he did nothing. Are the responsibilities of his office really so minimal that he can escape the blame he's trying to cast?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM

VENAL RATHER THAN VITAL :

US media cowed by patriotic fever, says CBS star : Network news veteran admits national mood caused him to shrink from tough questions on war in Afghanistan (Matthew Engel, May 17, 2002, The Guardian)
Dan Rather, the star news anchor for the US television network CBS, said last night that "patriotism run amok" was in danger of trampling the freedom of American journalists to ask tough questions. And he admitted that he had shrunk from taking on the Bush administration over the war on terrorism.

In the weeks after September 11 Rather wore a Stars and Stripes pin in his lapel during his evening news show in an apparent display of total solidarity with the American cause. However, in an interview with BBC's Newsnight, he graphically described the pressures to conform that built up after the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

"It is an obscene comparison - you know I am not sure I like it - but you know there was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tyres around people's necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tyre of lack of patriotism put around your neck," he said. "Now it is that fear that keeps journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions."


Actually, all that would happen is the ratings for his newscast would go down. So the easy question he faces is whether journalism is a profession or a business. He's apparently decided--quite rightly, I think--that it's just entertainment, like Jerry Springer, and that making money is more important than asking "tough questions". That's fine, but let's stop pretending that folks like him--the talking heads of tv news--are engaged in a noble calling and are playing some vital role in our democracy.

(via Mike Daley)


May 16, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM

MIXED MESSAGE :

Dutch Christian Democrats Win (Robert Wielaard, May 15, 2002, Associated Press)
In a dramatic shift to the right, Dutch opposition parties won big in Wednesday's elections, including the Christian Democrats and the movement of a slain populist candidate.

Riding a wave of discontent with the country's governing socalist, the Christian Democrats were expected to wind up with 43 seats – up 14 from their current holding in the 150-seat parliament.

With 88.6 percent of the vote counted, party leader Jan Peter Balkenende declared that he was "ready to take on the responsibility" of forming a government.

The upstart party of slain right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn was set to sweep into the legislature with 26 seats – a remarkable feat for a political force that did not exist a few months ago.

Prime Minister Wim Kok's governing socialists were seen plunging from 45 seats to 23, and his Liberal allies from 38 to also to 23, according to the results.

The outcome was a severe defeat for Kok's coalition that brought the Dutch peerless growth since 1994, but was punished for ignoring public concerns about drugs, immigration, welfare abuse and lax law enforcement.


It's always difficult to tell just what an electorate was trying to say when they went to the polls. Typically it's easier to discern what they opposed than what they favor. That last sentence suggests that the Dutch at least partially rejected the kind of social permissiveness that Pim Fortuyn seems to have liked personally, though oddly enough this rejection served his party well because you can always convince folks to blame the immigrants for drugs and crime, instead of themselves.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM

RECOUNT!

Baseball's greatest pitches of all-time (David Schoenfield, , May 15, 2002, ESPN.com)

"I never saw anything like it. I didn't think there was a man in the world who had so much speed. I have heard a great deal about Johnson's speed, but now I know. There isn't a man in the world who can touch him. He is in a class by himself."
-- Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Nap Rucker on Walter Johnson, 1912

Ninety years later, it's easy to imagine Nap Rucker saying the same superlatives about another Johnson. From Walter to Randy, there have been many great pitchers. Some, like Warren Spahn and Juan Marichal, relied on a variety of pitches, mixing speeds and location with a good fastball. Others, like the Johnsons, could depend on one dominating pitch. Here is one list of the 10 greatest pitches of all time (in no particular order):

Walter Johnson's fastball
Johnson's heater was so fast, he earned the nickname "The Big Train." Delivered with an easy sidearm motion, it was so fast he relied on it almost exclusively, developing a curveball only late in his career. Nonetheless, he led his league in strikeouts 12 times. Some analysts doubt Johnson approached the speed of modern-day hurlers throwing across his body like he did, and appeared faster than his contemporaries only because he threw hard every pitch. Of course, it doesn't really matter, does it? The Big Train used his fastball to register 417 wins.


The list looks pretty good, though I'm dubious as regards Hoyt Wilhelm's knuckler. One problem is that a couple of the most dominant pitches I've ever seen--Mike Scott's splint-finger and Kerry Wood's slider (they called it a curve, but c'mon)--effectively destroyed the guys' arms. If you recall the great 1986 playoff between the Mets and Astros, they played the tensest 6th game in sports history because if it went to the 7th the Mets would have lost to Scott. Think about that. Everyone knew, on both sides, that the Mets weren't going to beat Scott in Game 7. I don't ever remember another pitcher in my lifetime who we all knew the other team just had no chance against. But Scott got such a devastating break on such a hard thrown pitch that it was ridiculous. Similarly, Wood--and you can see it in the film of the one-hitter where he k'ed 20--was throwing a hard curve that was so tightly wrapped and had such wicked rotation that no one could have hit him with any consistency. But the human arm, which isn't really well designed to pitch at all, sure as heck isn't designed to throw either of those pitches

The Astros in fact used to ban their young pitchers from learning the slider--Daryl Kile supposedly had a great one in college but they made him go with only his curve for a breaking pitch, and he developed the best curve of the last few years. Conversely, back when Whitey Herzog was running the farm system, the Mets had Gary Gentry, who used to cock his wrist before he threw (David Cone did something similar for awhile). They talked about trying to get him to throw properly but Herzog decided he'd rather have Gentry be great for a couple years and then get hurt rather than be just decent for a longer time. The Devil Rays are doing something similar now with Joe Kennedy, who throws across his body. The Rangers got a few useful years out of Roger Pavlik recently, using the same style, but then he got hurt because you're essentially using your own shoulder as a pivot point. Bad idea...

Also interesting (well, to it is anyway) is that at the same time that Herzog and the Mets were producing Gentry, they also brought out the three most mechanically perfect pitchers ever to come through one system at the same time : Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Nolan Ryan. All used their rather thick lower bodies to take the workload off of their arms and they ended up pitching for around 60 years between them. It sounds ridiculous now but when Ryan and Steve Carlton were closing in on Johnson's strikeout record, there was a spate of stories about how Ryan better enjoy his brief bit of fame because Carlton would be throwing for years after he was retired. But Ryan relied on the fastball, the easiest pitch to throw, and Carlton lived by the slider, and thus their fates were sealed.

(via The Weigh In)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM

THEY DON'T CALL THEM CONS FOR NOTHING :

DNA Test Confirms Rape Conviction (THEO EMERY, May 16, 2002, Associated Press)
For years, inmate No. W40280 told reporters and supporters that time, not guilt, was his only obstacle to freedom.

Years of lobbying earned Benjamin LaGuer an A-list of supporters, including former Boston University Chancellor John Silber, historian Elie Wiesel and MIT professor Noam Chomsky.

But long-anticipated testing of the same DNA samples that LaGuer said would prove his innocence instead linked him more closely to the rape for which he is spending his life behind bars.

The results shocked many supporters who'd been convinced of his innocence by his magnetic personality and unflagging persistence.

One of the aspects of LaGuer's case that has stumped some supporters is why he would argue so adamantly for tests that ultimately would tie him even tighter to the crime for which he was convicted.


The key to any successful hoax is the victim's desire to believe.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM

ALWAYS BET ON BLACK :

Mean Eyed Cat, Kneeling Drunkard's Plea, and the Wayfaring Stranger (Dave Urbansk, Mars Hill Review)
Don't ever talk to Johnny Cash about "slowing down." Don't ever talk to him about retirement. About disease. About old age. About death. Cash, who is nearing seven decades on earth, has stared down enough physical, psychological, spiritual, social, and musical obstacles to send a host of humans to their knees. But the Man in Black just keeps coming back. It's a pattern that's repeated itself countless times over his nearly half century-long recording career, during which he shook up the country music industry, influenced countless younger musicians from a host of genres, and did enough living to last several lifetimes.

So there's no reason to assume Cash won't rise off the mat the next time he gets knocked down. After all, he's ravaged his body with drugs and cleaned up. He's died on the operating table and come back to life. He was diagnosed three years ago with a terminal nervous-system disorder, Shy-Drager Syndrome, and has since fought off the symptoms with such verve that doctors are wondering if he was misdiagnosed. He and his family were held hostage at gunpoint in their own home and survived.

Most visibly, though, Cash has tethered himself to the roller coaster seat of popular music, doing it his way (much to self-righteous chagrin of the country music empire), enduring several falls to near obscurity--only to make comeback after comeback. Cash's most recent resurgence stems from his charmed partnership with eccentric rap pioneer Rick Rubin, who produced three distinguished albums for Cash over the last six years. This arrangement has yielded Cash a brand new (and decidedly Gen-X) audience--and the adoration of critics far and wide.


At a time when folks like the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, etc. are just humiliating themselves, dragging around the world making a godawful racket, Johnny Cash just keeps cranking out quality music. This profile should be enough to get you to give him a listen, and, if you've not heard it, we recommend his great American III: Solitary Man
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM

ONCE UPON A TIME A REAL PRESIDENT VISITED A COMMUNIST NATION :

President Reagan's Speech at Moscow State University, USSR (May 31, 1988)
Some people, even in my own country, look at the riot of experiment that is the free market and see only waste. What of all the entrepreneurs that fail? Well, many
do, particularly the successful ones. Often several times. And if you ask them the secret of their success, they'll tell you, it's all that they learned in their struggles along the way--yes, it's what they learned from failing. Like an athlete in competition, or a scholar in pursuit of the truth, experience is the greatest teacher.

We are seeing the power of economic freedom spreading around the world - places such as the Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan have vaulted into the technological era, barely pausing in the industrial age along the way. Low-tax agricultural policies in the sub-continent mean that in some years India is now a net exporter of food. Perhaps most exciting are the winds of change that are blowing over the People's republic of China, where one-quarter of the world's population is now getting its first taste of economic freedom.

At the same time, the growth of democracy has become one of the most powerful political movements of our age. In Latin America in the 1970's, only a third of the population lived under democratic government. Today over 90 percent does. In the Philippines, in the Republic of Korea, free, contested, democratic elections are the order of the day. Throughout the world, free markets are the model for growth. Democracy is the standard by which governments are measured. [...]

But freedom doesn't begin or end with elections. Go to any American town, to take just an example, and you'll see dozens of synagogues and mosques--and you'll see families of every conceivable nationality, worshipping together.

Go into any schoolroom, and there you will see children being taught the Declaration of Independence, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights--among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--that no government can justly deny--the guarantees in their Constitution for freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.

Go into any courtroom and there will preside an independent judge, beholden to no government power. There every defendant has the right to a trial by a jury of his peers, usually 12 men and women--common citizens, they are the ones, the only ones, who weigh the evidence and decide on guilt or innocence. In that court, the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and the word of a policeman, or any official, has no greater legal standing than the word of the accused.

Go to any university campus, and there you'll find an open, sometimes heated discussion of the problems in American society and what can be done to correct them. Turn on the television, and you'll see the legislature conducting the business of government right there before the camera, debating and voting on the legislation that will become the law of the land. March in any demonstrations, and there are many of them - the people's right of assembly is guaranteed in the Constitution and protected by the police.

But freedom is more even than this: Freedom is the right to question, and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to stick - to dream - to follow your dream, or stick to your conscience, even if you're the only one in a sea of doubters.

Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority of government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer.

America is a nation made up of hundreds of nationalities. Our ties to you are more than ones of good feeling; they're ties of kinship. In America, you'll find Russians, Armenians, Ukrainians, peoples from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They come from every part of this vast continent, from every continent, to live in harmony, seeking a place where each cultural heritage is respected, each is valued for its diverse strengths and beauties and the richness it brings to our lives.

Recently, a few individuals and families have been allowed to visit relatives in the West. We can only hope that it won't be long before all are allowed to do so, and Ukrainian-Americans, Baltic-Americans, Armenian-Americans, can freely visit their homelands, just as this Irish-American visits his.

Freedom, it has been said, makes people selfish and materialistic, but Americans are one of the most religious peoples on Earth. Because they know that liberty, just as life itself, is not earned, but a gift from God, they seek to share that gift with the world. "Reason and experience," said George Washington, in his farewell address, "both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. And it is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government."

Democracy is less a system of government than it is a system to keep government limited, unintrusive: A system of constraints on power to keep politics and government secondary to the important things in life, the true sources of value found only in family and faith.

I have often said, nations do not distrust each other because they are armed; they are armed because they distrust each other. If this globe is to live in peace and prosper, if it is to embrace all the possibilities of the technological revolution, then nations must renounce, once and for all, the right to an expansionist foreign policy. Peace between nations must be an enduring goal - not a tactical stage in a continuing conflict.

I've been told that there's a popular song in your country - perhaps you know it - whose evocative refrain asks the question, "Do the Russians want a war?" In answer it says, "Go ask that silence lingering in the air, above the birch and poplar there; beneath those trees the soldiers lie. Go ask my mother, ask my wife; then you will have to ask no more, 'Do the Russians want a war?'"

But what of your one-time allies? What of those who embraced you on the Elbe? What if we were to ask the watery graves of the Pacific, or the European battlefields where America's fallen were buried far from home? What if we were to ask their mothers, sisters, and sons, do Americans want war? Ask us, too, and you'll find the same answer, the same longing in every heart. People do not make wars, governments do--and no mother would ever willingly sacrifice her sons for territorial gain, for economic advantage, for ideology. A people free to choose will always choose peace.

Americans seek always to make friends of old antagonists. After a colonial revolution with Britain we have cemented for all ages the ties of kinship between our nations. After a terrible civil war between North and South, we healed our wounds and found true unity as a nation. We fought two world wars in my lifetime against Germany and one with Japan, but now the Federal Republic of Germany and Japan are two of our closest allies and friends.

Some people point to the trade disputes between us as a sign of strain, but they're the frictions of all families, and the family of free nations is a big and vital and sometimes boisterous one. I can tell you that nothing would please my heart more than in my lifetime to see American and Soviet diplomats grappling with the problem of trade disputes between America and a growing, exuberant, exporting Soviet Union that had opened up to economic freedom and growth.

Is this just a dream? Perhaps. But it is a dream that is our responsibility to have come true.

Your generation is living in one of the most exciting, hopeful times in Soviet history. It is a time when the first breath of freedom stirs the air and the heart beats to the accelerated rhythm of hope, when the accumulated spiritual energies of a long silence yearn to break free.

We do not know what the conclusion of this journey will be, but we're hopeful that the promise of reform will be fulfilled. In this Moscow spring, this May 1988, we may be allowed that hope--that freedom, like the fresh green sapling planted over Tolstoi's grave, will blossom forth at least in the rich fertile soil of your people and culture. We may be allowed to hope that the marvelous sound of a new openness will keep rising through, ringing through, leading to a new world of reconciliation, friendship, and peace.

Thank you all very much and da blagoslovit vas gospod! God bless you.


Let the critics say what they will about Ronald Reagan--he was stupid; he was lazy; he was lucky; he ran up the deficit; he violated the Constitution; he was controlled by an evil cabal of wealthy Californians; he was a racist; he was a sexist; he was a homophobe; he was a bad father; he was the Anti-Christ (as revealed by the fact that "Ronald Wilson Reagan" consists of three words of six letters each : 666); yadda-yadda-yadda. For the nonce, let's concede that all of that is true. The question remains : how few leaders have dreamed that the world could be different, could be better than the world their fellow citizens accepted, and have lived to see their dream realized?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM

WHAT DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT? :

Bush Was Warned bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes : President Bush had been warned last August that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft, but the reports did not say that the planes would be used as missiles. (DAVID E. SANGER, May 16, 2002, NY Times)
The White House said tonight that President Bush had been warned by American intelligence agencies in early August that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft but that the warnings did not contemplate the possibility that the hijackers would turn the planes into guided missiles for a terrorist attack.

"It is widely known that we had information that bin Laden wanted to attack the United States or United States interests abroad," Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, said this evening. "The president was also provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the traditional pre-9/11 sense, not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the use of an airplane as a missile."

Nonetheless the revelation by the White House, made in response to a report about the intelligence warning this evening on CBS News, is bound to fuel Congressional demands for a deeper investigation into why American intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had failed to put together individual pieces of evidence that, in retrospect, now seem to suggest what was coming.

In the past few days, government officials have acknowledged for the first time that an F.B.I. agent in Phoenix had urged the F.B.I. headquarters to investigate Middle Eastern men enrolled in American flight schools. That memorandum also cited Mr. bin Laden by name and suggested that his followers could use the schools to train for terror operations, officials who have seen the memorandum said.

Administration officials reached this evening said the warning given to Mr. Bush did not come from the F.B.I. or from the information developed by the Phoenix agent. Instead, it was provided as part of the C.I.A. briefing he is given each morning, suggesting that it was probably based on evidence gathered abroad.

The C.I.A. had been listening intently over the July 4 holiday last year, after what one investigator called "a lot of static in the system suggesting something was coming." But then the evidence disappeared as quickly as it had arisen, and by August, officials have said, little was heard from Al Qaeda.


All of this should absolutely be investigated, but it seems pretty unlikely that we ever would have prevented the higjhjackings. Considering all the reluctance to investigate men of Middle Eastern descent after we had several thousand dead, there was just no way they could have investigated them beforehand. Even now our precautions to prevent another incident have been pretty lame. How long was carry-on luggage banned--about a week? Simply due to the openness of our society, we really need to prepare ourselves psychologically for the likelihood that something as bad, or worse, will happen in the future. We offer a target rich environment and quite properly won't accept the kind of government repression that might prevent another incident--after all, what would be the point of imposing totalitarianism on ourselves?

The broader question these reports raise though is why wasn't the Bush administration going after al Qaeda prior to 9-11? Republicans can't blame Clinton for his feckless response to stuff like the Cole bombing and then let the Bushies off the hook. Even if the administration didn't know precisely what was planned, it knew a well-organized, well-funded terrorist group was trying to kill Americans and so far as we know, they hadn't done much about it. We deserve either to know what was going on behind the scenes to combat al Qaeda, or an explanation of why nothing was.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM

THE RISE AND FALL OF MAN :

What Is Man? : Is human nature an oxymoron? (Peter Augustine Lawler, 4/26/02, National Review)
[T]he dominant view, today, is that biotechnological progress is good because it mainly promises us more health and safety. It will remain safe as long as libertarian principles are respected: Biotechnological choices must remain in individual hands and respect reproductive freedom. But, as it's easy to see, that choice will not be allowed for long. Will women really be permitted to have babies with genetic defects--given the burdens they will impose upon society by so doing--if they can knowledgeably choose against them? And will parents really be allowed not to choose the latest designer features for their children? Can a parent really be allowed to deprive a child of the best life available? And if, in the end, human beings really are able to live indefinitely long lives, can they really be allowed to have as many children as they want?

The longer human-life expectancy becomes, the more human fertility will have to decrease. It already has, of course: In the most advanced, Bobo countries, the birth rate has dropped below the rate of replacement. But at a certain point--say, when the average age of death reaches 120, the government will still have to step in. A world where women are no longer allowed--or no longer desire--to have children could hardly be called "pro-choice," unless we have or will become so libertarian as to believe that what people really want is to be freed altogether from the burden of babies.

Surely our biggest miscalculation is to assume that we will be happier because our lives become longer, our IQs higher, and our health better. Bobos already live longer than human beings ever have before; they're really smart, and take care of their bodies. But they also seem pretty miserable. The longer and healthier life becomes, the harder a time we have living with the necessity of death. Death comes to seem accidental - and thus far more terrible - and such death-defying virtues as courage seem all the more reckless and ridiculous. Thus the final result of our best efforts to escape the fear of death is to make us more fearful than ever before. Not only that, but even today most Americans say that their families--especially their children--are what makes life most worth living. What will human life become when the terror of death is virtually uncompensated by the demanding responsibilities and joys given us with birth?

Fortunately--in a way--biotechnology can change not only our bodies but our minds. Genetic manipulation and chemical treatments can suppress those human experiences connected with self-consciousness--anxiety, love, death, and God--that make us unhappy even (or especially) in the midst of prosperity. The natural conclusion of the biotechnological project to make us healthy and happy is thus to make human beings no different by nature than the other animals. It may turn out that a perfect human being is one without any uniquely human or screwed-up qualities. The biotechnological project therefore turns out to be to make sociobiology completely true--whether or not it was before.


What I believe libertarians who support this stuff are underestimating is just how attractive people may find the prospect of an "eternal", drugged out, bliss--of a life with no true freedom, but rather a comfortable, pleasurable, nearly vegetative existence. In what important sense would such a future differ from what the Left has sought for centuries?--a life of complete security and pure happiness. Now that may be what libertarians too see as the end goal of humanity. But I take them at their word that what they most relish is freedom and I wonder whether these biotechnologies they are demanding are in the end compatible with human freedom.

(via Reductio ad absurdum)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM

SPONTANEOUS GENERATION :

The Supremacy of Reason : Conventional wisdom does indeed perceive such an incompatibility between religion and science, between faith and reason. Careful consideration, however, reveals that every single one of us truly does rely on faith. Whether we are scientists or laymen, clergymen or atheists, faith is as essential to our diet as flour and water. (Rabbi Yonason Goldson, May 2002, Jewish World Review)
We have all learned that the world is made up of atoms. But no one has ever viewed an atom, only the energy trails left behind by ... something. In the absence of any better hypothesis, we posit the existence of atoms. We have all learned that the universe began with the Big Bang. Scientists tell us that before this great cosmological cataclysm, neither time nor space existed. But what exactly does that mean? It means, according to columnist Bob Berman in the June 2000 issue of Astronomy, precisely this: "Nobody has the foggiest idea what happened the Tuesday before the Big Bang."

We have all learned that life came into existence billions of years ago in a sea of primordial goo, and that sentient life evolved from the lower orders. So where are the myriad
examples of macro-evolution that Darwin predicted we would find? What's more, biologists can make only the wildest speculations as to how a random assembly of amino acids
could produce animation and conscious thought, even given billions of years to work at it. Nevertheless, most people continue to believe that the Big Bang created a universe
made up of atoms and inhabited by creatures evolved from pre-Paleozoic slime. Why? Because they have faith, faith that science will eventually answer its own questions.

At best, the science-believer can claim a rational faith; a faith in observation and experimentation that will eventually confirm the unsubstantiated beliefs he holds today. Nor is
this the only example of how rational faith serves every one of us every day of our lives. If my doctor tells me that I need my appendix out, I'll probably rely on him, since I
realize that I don't know enough to diagnose myself. And if my mechanic tells me my car needs a new fuel pump, I'll probably rely on him too, since I wouldn't know my fuel
pump from my appendix.

The faith demanded by Judaism is no less rational, for it is built upon a logical extrapolation of evidence available to anyone who cares to examine it, tempered by an awareness
of the limitations of human knowledge. Therefore, if the Almighty tells me that observing and safeguarding the Torah is to my benefit, I will certainly take His advice, for He
created me, and He knows me even better than a mother knows her child.

So there was nothing impetuous about the Jews' acceptance of the Torah sight-unseen. Indeed, we did not accept the Torah on faith at all; we accepted it on trust, a trust more
solid than the most compelling scientific proof.

But trust is only the first step. "Na'aseh v'nishmah," the Jewish people said. "We will obey, and we will listen." The Hebrew word "nishmah" implies much more than simply
hearing the commandments. It implies studying them diligently, laboring to understand them. That which we originally accepted based on trust, we can then accept based on
knowledge.

This is how the Jew has faced the unknown since his ancestors received the Torah on that first Shavuos day, 3,312 years ago: by trusting that everything in the world has been
brought into existence by design, but also by questioning the nature of the world and all that is in it; pondering good and evil, triumph and tragedy, nobility and selfishness.

Always confident in the supremacy of divine reason, we stand assured that whenever the universe seems not to make sense, it is rather we who have not yet succeeded in
understanding it.


Belief in God may eventually prove to have been nothing but a mass delusion. But the willingness of the believer to approach these big questions with humility and to accept that there are things that we don't, and maybe can't, know strikes me as far more appealing than the arrogance with which science assumes that everything will yield to its ministrations. Thus, science perceives the Big Bang but can't see beyond, so it insists that nothing existed prior. Religion perceives a moment of Creation and believes in a Creator who is simply beyond our comprehension. In at least this regard, though the answers offered by religion may be inadequate, those offered by science seem grotesquely egotistical and purblind--and maybe just a bit dishonest.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM

ON THE OTHER PATH :

Q&A : Hernando de Soto on Mexico (Steve Sailer, May 6, 2002, UPI)
Q. What kind of reforms would you recommend for Mexico that would enable poor Mexicans to make a living at home and live with their families, rather than have to migrate to America?

A. We were called in by Vicente Fox in 1998 when he was still governor of Guanajuato. And he said, "I intend to be president of Mexico, but why don't we start off by doing the first stage of your program, which is a diagnostic: How much of Mexico is in the 'gray' or extra-legal economy?" So we did that, and he announced it as one of his five top programs when he was running for president. And now that he's won, we are now putting into place the whole organization that will now design the reforms.

We are working with him now. It's going to be a long haul. We have over 150 people working on it.

The assets which are now over in the gray side of the economy -- what we call the dead capital economy -- are over 11 million houses, 137 million hectares (338.4 acres), and 6 million unregistered micro, small, and medium-sized businesses. About 78 percent of the population is related to that side of the economy. We've estimated that all of these assets that I mentioned are worth about $315 billion, which is equivalent to 31 times all foreign direct investment in Mexico for all time now. That's seven times the size of the Mexican oil reserves. So, the poor are really the largest potential capital that Mexico has.

What we recommend is revamping the whole legal system stage by stage. It's a long process, you know. When the European Union told Spain that they were willing to bring it into the European Economic Commission, the process of legal reform took 10 to 15 years. We take about five years to do it.

But what do we have to modify? For example, creating a mortgage in Mexico takes 24 months, working eight hours a day. Foreclosing a mortgage takes 43 months. Selling a house if you're among the 78 percent of Mexicans that are poor takes, if you want to do it legally, 24 months working eight hours a day. Obtaining legal access for a business, that is to say, setting up a limited liability corporation, or whatever allows you to have shareholders, takes you 17 months working eight hours a day and 126 contacts with government.

So basically the whole system -- and if you go from country to country you can see that it's pretty much the same -- is made for a privileged elite that knows how to navigate within the existing laws, that's got access to the big-time law firms. But the country isn't safe for the enterprise of people who have low incomes.

So the recommendations would be varied but, essentially, we have a program. It'll take about three years from here on to look at just about all the laws, talking to poor people, finding out how they see the law, then proposing a strategy and legislation that helps take away some of the main obstacles and puts all the leverage points that are needed in place.


We'd like to think that all it requires to become a functional democracy is to hold a clean election every once in awhile. But to a remarkable extent, what is really necessary is to establish the rule of law, so that common people can have some faith in the system. There's obviously some tension between the desire to bring freedom and the need to establish order, but if we can be a little more patient with emerging democracies, the latter can lead to the former.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM

NEGOTIATING WITH YOURSELF :

A Wider Atlantic: Europe Sees a Grotesque U.S. (TODD S. PURDUM, May 16, 2002, NY Times)
A Russian reporter asked Secretary Powell why the United States had "finally agreed" to the arms control treaty, "because, as we know, you don't like treaties."

Secretary Powell, who for months has found himself the frontline defender of American foreign policy to often-skeptical allies, suppressed a smile and insisted: "We do like this treaty."


Lost somehow in all the coverage of the latest arms control treaty is that it was a product of unilateralism. Then candidate Bush announced during the campaign that he was going to cut our missile force regardless of whether the Russians agreed. Of course Russia can't afford to maintain its weapons, which probably don't even work in the first place, so they had great incentive to go along and none to resist. When Secretary Powell said "we do like this treaty" he could have honestly added that we basically negotiated it with ourselves. What's not to like?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM

A WORTHWHILE "F" :

Berkeley Course on Mideast Raises Concerns (CHRIS GAITHER, May 16, 2002, NY Times)
The listing for the course, "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance," one of the choices for a required course in reading and composition, was pulled for review last week by university officials after protests by civil liberties and pro-Israeli groups. The critics were outraged by the course description's ideological tone and the efforts of the instructor, a Ph.D. candidate who leads a pro-Palestinian group, to dissuade students who did not accept the pro-Palestinian view from enrolling in the course.

"The brutal Israeli military occupation of Palestine, an occupation that has been ongoing since 1948, has systematically displaced, killed, and maimed millions of Palestinian people," the instructor, Snehal Shingavi, wrote. "And yet, from under the brutal weight of the occupation, Palestinians have produced their own culture and poetry of resistance."

The last line of his course description drew the most ire, especially among civil libertarians: "Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections."


Why don't the Jewish and conservative student groups just register en masse and take over the course? Academia offers no greater pleasure than making a professor and fellow students cry.

May 15, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM

JUMPIN' JIM :

Jeffords Hits Campaign Trail : Independent Senator Will Host Events For Carnahan, Kirk (Ben Pershing, May 13, 2002, Roll Call)
Jeffords' decision to leave the GOP in June 2001 - throwing control of the Senate to Democrats by a one-seat margin - has probably been Democrats' most euphoric moment this cycle. Party strategists are eager to showcase the Vermont Senator as a way of firing up the Democratic base.

"Obviously, our party was a little disheartened after the events in Florida, and when [Jeffords] made his very principled decision, it really energized our party and got everyone excited," said DSCC spokeswoman Tovah Ravitz-Meehan.


Jim Jeffords should have switched to the Democrats long ago. His views are more in line with theirs than with the GOP on every significant issue. But when you consider the timing of his switch--immediately after running for reelection as a Republican in a tough year for Democrats in Vermont--and that he only agreed to switch in exchange for keeping his committee chairmanship, it's awfully hard to argue that he acted on principle.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM

DANCING WITH THE DICTATOR :

Watching and listening to normally sensible people--like Rep. Tom Osborne (R, NE) and Mara Liasson (Fox News Special Report)--talk about how
it's time to kiss and make up with Fidel Castro is just appalling. Here are reviews of the stories of two very different men who shared a need to
escape from Castro's Cuba :
The Assault [El Asalto] (1990) (Reinaldo Arenas  1943-90)   (Grade: C)

For Love or Country : The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000)
(directed by Joseph Sargeant 1925-)


I particularly recommend that you watch For Love or Country.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM

THOSE SWINGIN' DUTCH :

Swing to the right in Netherlands poll (BBC, 15 May,
2002)
Right-wing parties are on course to form the country's next government following Wednesday's general election.

With 80% of the votes counted, the centre-right Christian Democrats are predicted to have won 44 seats to become the largest party.

The anti-immigration party of murdered politician Pim Fortuyn is expected to take 26 seats.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM

MAU-MAU YET WORKS :

James Wins 5th Term in Newark as Challenger Is
Rebuffed
(ANDREW JACOBS, May 14, 2002, NY Times)
Sharpe James became the first mayor in Newark's history to win a fifth term tonight, staving off a fierce challenge from Councilman
Cory Booker and cementing his reputation as one of New Jersey's most formidable politicians.

Mr. James, who had never lost a race in his 32-year political career, won with 53 percent of the vote to Mr. Booker's 47 percent after a bitter contest
in the most expensive election Newark has seen.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:38 PM

13 DAY$ :

Now that I've had time to think about this whole fund-raising flap, I am outraged after all. George W. Bush trying to use his response to the 9-11 crisis to his political advantage is despicable. After all, it's not like Bobby Kennedy tried turning the Cuban Missile Crisis into a political bonanza...oops, never mind.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:38 PM

APRES MOI, LE DELUGE :

Dutch vote in shadow of killing (BBC, 15 May, 2002)
A heavy turnout has been reported in the Dutch general election - being held just nine days after the assassination of populist leader Pim Fortuyn threw politics into turmoil.

Dutch television said 16% of the 12 million electorate voted within the first three and a half hours, compared with 13% at the same stage of the last general election four years ago.


Voters don't turn out in heavy numbers, racing to the polls early, because they love the status quo. This could be ugly. Even if Pim Fortuyn wasn't a racist, can you imagine how badly the quality of the candidates for this party must fall off as you get down the ticket?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM

JAMES EARL CARTER--UNWEPT, UNHONOUR'D, AND UNSUNG :

Carter's speech to Cubans (BBC, 15 May, 2002)
Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
'This is my own, my native land!'
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd

As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand?
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;

High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,

Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour'd, and unsung.
-Innominatus (Sir Walter Scott 1771-1832)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM

LAST GASP :

The Guardian Profile: Francis Fukuyama : History's pallbearer : Before he published his famous essay The End of History, he was a policy adviser to Ronald Reagan. Though described as global capitalism's court philosopher, his ideas have a humanitarian underpinning. Now he has turned his attention to the implications of biotechnology. (Nicholas Wroe, May 11, 2002, The Guardian)
On the morning of September 11, Francis Fukuyama was working in his seventh-floor office at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. When American Airlines flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon he crossed to the other side of the building and watched the smoke rising over the city. While his first thoughts were about the safety of himself, his family and friends who worked for the defence department, it soon became clear that Fukuyama was in for a period of professional as well as personal anxiety. The following week the Guardian diary deadpanned that, "efforts to contact thinking-man's thinker Francis Fukuyama to ask whether he feels moved to publish a sequel to his 1989 essay The End of History prove fruitless". It seemed that every other media outlet had had the same idea, and the man who had so spectacularly anticipated the collapse of communism, declared that the alternatives to liberal democracy had exhausted themselves and had been described as the "court philosopher of globally triumphant capitalism" was called to account.

Fukuyama was no stranger to his ideas being scrutinised, challenged and occasionally publicly ridiculed. When the Berlin Wall fell a few months after his essay first appeared it seemed to cement his status as both prophet and sage. But within a year the Gulf war had been and gone. Then, in 1993, the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington published a competing theory that said, rather than arriving at the end of history, we were about to be launched into a clash of civilisations. Following the subsequent war in the Balkans and genocide in Rwanda, the Nation magazine summed things up with the front-page headline "The End of Fukuyama". Following the New York and Washington attacks, Huntington's stock inevitably rose further as Fukuyama's declined. But as the communitarian thinker Amitai Etzioni points out, Fukuyama "is one of the few enduring public intellectuals. They are often media stars who are eaten up and spat out after their 15 minutes. But he has lasted."

Fukuyama spent the autumn thinking about the implications of September 11, and the spring teaching a postgraduate class on the subject. "It was obviously a huge analytical challenge," he says, speaking in the same Washington office. "The question was 'what the hell were we confronting here?' I didn't want to be one of those people who stake out a position then stick to it, even though it has become untenable. This was a whole new set of data coming at us from the real world." His hopeful conclusion was that the terrorism was in essence a last-gasp, rearguard action "by a culture that will over time be modernised". "Even within the Islamic world," he explains, "the hijackers do not represent a dominant trend, and over time they will have to confront modernisation, and modernisation will win."


Even if this may eventually prove not to be the case, it seems worthwhile being a tad patient and giving these natural processes a chance, rather than going off half-cocked to fight the whole Islamic world. If we end up having to fight, fine, but let's not make Truman's disastrous Cold War mistake all over again.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:09 PM

GULAG NOSTALGIA :

And the Next Thing Is? Marxism (or not). (Jeremy Lott, 05/13/2002, Books & Culture)
Two years ago, Harvard University Press published a book called Empire, by Michael Hardt, a professor of literature at Duke University, and Antonio Negri, an Italian political philosopher and leftist activist serving a lengthy prison term in Rome. A long, abstruse book described by the catalogue as "a new Communist Manifesto," it made for an incendiary and unlikely bestseller. OK, OK, not a bestseller in the Left Behind sense, but for a while last year--as ads for the paperback edition later proudly proclaimed--you couldn't lay a hand on a copy. Last July, The New York Times ran a glowing profile hailing the arrival of the Next Big Idea, and the buzz in the academic world has continued.

Thankfully, this excellent review will squash any impulse you may have to read the book, but is anyone else bothered by the fact that the publishers bill it as a new Communist Manifesto. Can you imagine a publisher proudly hailing the new Mein Kampf? Yet, after hundreds of millions of dead, what's the real difference between the two : they're both recipes for murder on a massive scale.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM

AND, FINALLY, A DEVASTATING CRITIQUE I CAN'T EVEN RESPOND TO :

Tyranny of the Twit : A Few Rules to Help You Survive the Internet Era (Michael S. Malone, 5/14/02, ABCNEWS.com)
The Samuel Johnson Law of Web Criticism. It was the great Johnson, of course, who said that only a blockhead ever wrote for anything except money. He also said that the imminent prospect of hanging wonderfully focuses a man's mind.

That's the problem with the criticism you read on the Web, especially at sites like Amazon, and especially by those goobers who write tome-like reviews or list their 25 favorite books on existentialism. One of the great appeals of the Internet is that actions in cyberspace appear to have no consequences. You can be who you want and spout any gibberish you think and it doesn't matter!

On the Web it is fiendishly easy to write your considered opinion about any book or record or movie. But, except for a handful of sites, like Salon or Slate, nobody's paying you for it. By the same token, your job - i.e. your mortgage, your kid's braces, your next meal - doesn't depend upon what you say.

At first glance that may seem like good news: Such criticism, by definition, must be pure, unadulterated by the demands of commerce, undistorted by the pressures of bosses and customers. Yeah, well that's what they used to say about communism.

Take it from somebody who freelanced for seventeen years: Writing for money has a refreshing way of forcing you to write better, smarter and more responsibly. By comparison, if you want to see what writing for free looks like, just go down to Starbucks and look at all the self-righteous people penning bad poetry ... or visit Amazon.com.


(via Kevin Holtsberry, who, in pointing this essay out, has just ruined my life)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM

ANOTHER DISSENT :

On a pleasanter, though still contradictory, note, Christopher Badeaux (who we heartily congratulate on the birth of a son), of Lord Mage,takes exception to several points in the post AND A FRAT BOY SHALL LEAD THEM (Orrin C. Judd, May 05, 2002). Specifically, he thinks I went overboard in referring to the neocons as engaging in "doomsaying about an immediate threat to Israel's existence". He asks :
Was it carping and doomsaying to lament the rise of Soviet power and ideology, or a much-needed reminder of the mortal peril we faced? With Hitler? Maybe the worry over Israel's existence is overwrought; maybe it's a rarified moral certainty (if we can declare war on Islamist terrorism, why can't they?); maybe it's the sort of
mild hysteria partisan opinion tends to produce. However, it seems to me that if any (or all) of these are true, they are true only as a superficial matter; the heart of the "doomsaying" seems valid, to-wit: The price of liberty is eternal vigilance. Israel is an island of liberty in a sea of tyranny. Vigilance can seem shrill, until it is ignored, and ultimately useless.

And, as regards my general opposition to immediately changing the regimes of our putative allies in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, etc.), he suggests that we'd be better served by having Hamas in charge in Palestine and al Qaeda in Arabia, apparently because this would bring moral clarity to the region, turning the war on terrorism more clearly into a war between the West and Islam.

Lastly, he propounds a domino scenario for our Middle East campaign :

I do not suggest going after everyone who menaces us all at once; I (and most "kill 'em alls") advocate prioritizing the bloodshed. Iraq first, because they're almost nuclear, and unstable; then maybe Syria, just to settle that front; then Iran, if need be. Leave the Sa'udis and Egyptians for later; maybe they'll learn to behave like grown-ups if they see someone else get a spanking first.

Now, I suspect we agree on most issues, particularly his commonsensical disdain for John McCain, so I'll not needlessly provoke an argument. But there are a couple points I think worth mentioning.

First, I don't think you can have it both ways, wanting on the one hand to destabilize every regime in the Middle East that bugs us and on the other wanting to roll them up one at a time. Sure, toppling regimes won't represent much of a threat to our security, but once the toppling starts it's likely to be widespread and it's likely to draw us into the region, regardless of whether it's a threat or not. The outcry from the Euros and the punditocracy and others about the necessity for us to restore order would probably be more than a modern president could withstand. The pictures on 24 hour news channels, of bloody chaos from Libya to Pakistan, would force any president into a hasty and ill-considered response. One need only recall our idiotic response to the film from Somalia and Bosnia to realize that we'd not be able to stay out of the Middle East once the sand hit the fan. So if we're going to get into the business of forcing change in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, etc., we'd better have some kind of coherent plan for what we do when the change a comes. We don't have one now.

Second, it's de rigeur on the Right these days to disavow McCarthyism and pat ourselves on the back for toppling the Soviet Union. I take the opposite tack. I don't believe Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union ever posed a threat to the United States (whereas domestic Communism did). I'd have been an Isolationist until Pearl Harbor and, once we didn't settle the USSR's hash in the immediate aftermath of defeating Hitler, I'd have stayed out of the Cold War. We should have just let these two evil empires juke it out on the Eastern Front. By the end, either both would have been too exhausted to threaten anyone, or one would have been so overextended as to be inherently unstable.

At any rate, neither ever could have mounted an invasion of the United States, much less subjugated our population. Nor does Islam, so long as it has neither a vast array of nuclear weapons nor the means to deliver them, represent a realistic threat to the security of United States. In fact, at the end of the day, it's probably not a serious military threat to Israel. It might be necessary for Israel to resort to nuclear weapons if all of Islam rose up against it at once--a thoroughly implausible scenario--but does anyone doubt they would use them? If the confrontation continues to be just between Israel and Palestinians, the conclusion is a given : Israel will win without much effort, though with an unacceptable loss of Israeli lives.

In the longer term, Islam, like those earlier forms of totalitarianism--Communism and Nazism--is its own worst enemy. Islam as a principle for organizing the State is doomed by its own inevitable inability to compete in the economic sphere with the West. Iran's present is likely to be Saudi Arabia and Egypt's future--fundamentalist revolution; twenty years of Islamicist misrule; then a gradual and difficult reform along more Western lines. The best thing we can do is try to stay as clear of this mess as possible. We should encourage the Turkeys, Bangladeshs, and Irans of the world, providing any assistance they may request, but not being seen to be interfering in their internal affairs. We should offer NAFTA membership and mutual defense pledges to any of the nations of the region that choose the path of reform. We should forge a very close alliance with the already Western countries--Israel, Russia, Turkey, India--that surround the Middle East, so that if the region does descend into suicidal confrontation with the West, we're prepared to deal with them. But as a general proposition, our own selfish interests are probably best served by not getting over-involved in the region.

Obviously, we have to root out as much of al Qaeda as we can and try to make sure we don't suffer another 9-11, but we're not going to get every radical Islamic terrorist nor make ourselves perfectly safe, and we've nearly completed the process of crippling al Qaeda which is likely as much as we're going to do for now. We're presumably going to move against Iraq next, sometime this Fall or early in the new year. They aren't a real threat to our security either, but we have unfinished business there. Meanwhile, we'll not let Israel fall, but we need not do particularly much to help them. Now, as Mr. Badeaux suggests, what is required is vigilance, but vigilance is a posture of watchfulness, not a mucking about in the details of every Middle Eastern nation's internal political situation. Let's see if they can work out their own problems rather than making their problems ours.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

TIE ME TO THE WHIPPING POST :

In a post last week, STUPID LIKE A CEO, I suggested that the press was missing a significant story as regards George W. Bush by failing to recognize that his presidential style has its roots in his business background. I suggested that, like the head of a company who has to keep various other executives happy, Mr. Bush is succeeding in achieving his goals by setting broad goals, then standing aside during the decision making process and letting the underlings fight it out and take credit for the final decisions, then stepping in during the implementation phase and jiggering things back towards his original goals. I thought I was pretty careful not to make any claims that Mr. Bush is a business genius or for the final product that is resulting from this process. The point was not to puff up Mr. Bush, but to call attention to a modus operandi that seems to have gone largely unnoticed.

Now, by any objective standard, you would have to say that Mr. Bush has been a legislative success. Congressional Quarterly did a report on his legislative record for 2001 that showed the Congress had adopted his position on legislation over 70% of the time, a record of accomplishment that they compared to LBJ at the height of the Great Society, when America was basically a one party state. That President Bush, despite a contested election, achieved much of this with the Senate in Democrat hands and all of it with the House narrowly divided, makes the record even more impressive. None of which is to say that any of it is good law, merely that he's gotten a good deal of what he wanted. And you'd think that people, even people who hate him, would be interested in how he's pulled it off.

Instead, judging by the tenor of comments on this post--like those in the comments section or And don't get me started on whether anyone learns anything at Harvard Business School (ExPatPundit, 5/11/02) which is addressed below--the Left would appear to be falling into the same trap that the Right fell into during the Clinton years. They don't seem to be able to give George W. Bush enough credit for them to take the things that he has succeeded in seriously. So we get brillig responses like this one from Charles Dodgson at The Looking Glass. Mr. Dodgson--whose taste in authors we applaud--argues that, contrary to my take, President Bush : isn't like a businessmen because he's cutting programs, when a businessman would want to control the money; isn't a big picture guy because he didn't return federal government programs to the states to run them; isn't like a businessman because he's producing a bad product; isn't like a businessman because he's unlike the detail-oriented Bob McNamara, who ran Ford Motor and then the Vietnam War with a heavy hand; isn't like a businessman because he's not successful; isn't like a businessman because the Federal Government is bigger than the businesses he's run in the past; and isn't like a businessman because the government is in the red.

Okay, suppose I concede every one of those criticisms of President Bush, how does any of that contradict the core argument? Perhaps he's more like Henry Ford than like Bob McNamara, so what? We'd expect the dynamics of politics to toss up a visionary rather than a technocrat. The point is, he still should be analyzed from the perspective of the business culture that produced him, not as some kind of sui generis phenomenon. Even if Democrats and pundits think that everything President Bush has done is wrong (from his Cabinet choices to tax cuts to cloning to the war to education), it still seems useful to me to understand how he's getting those things done. Of course, if you refuse to acknowledge that he's done anything, the whole argument is an exercise in futility. But if you think he's somehow managing to do some things, even if you think they're screwing up the country, it seems liked you want to figure out how come he keeps winning, especially if his ideas are so bad for the country.

By failing to reckon with Bill Clinton, Republicans left themselves unprepared to deal with him when crunch time came during the government shutdown in 1995. If President Bush's opponents similarly fail to reckon with him, they're likely in for eight years that will be just as unpleasant for them as the past eight were for the Right. If they can get past their animus long enough to figure out what's going on, maybe they can beat him. I suppose I'm just as happy having them dismiss him entirely--their loss is all of our gain.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM

HAIL TO THE CHIEF :

Photo Op-Portunism (MAUREEN DOWD, May 15, 2002, NY Times)
So now the White House gets caught peddling 9/11 commemorative photos. With all the class of a 1:30 a.m. infomercial for an electronic ab stimulator, the G.O.P. pitched donors, for a bargain price, a pictorial triptych of W.'s "defining moments."

A letter to contributors hawked the goods Franklin Mint style: "Specially commissioned, individually numbered and matted, this limited edition series is yours free for serving as an honorary co-chairman of the 2002 President's Dinner with your gift of $150 or more."

See W. take the oath of office! See W. deliver his first State of the Union address! And, if you act now, see W. aboard Air Force One in the hours after the terrorist attack, talking to the vice president!

Fortunately for the Republicans, it's a photo and not a video. Otherwise we might hear the president nervously inquiring of his adult supervisor, "Hey, Dick, is it safe to come home yet?"

Even putting aside the fact that this "heroic" image captures the shaky hours before the president found his footing and his mission in life, a day of blank fear when Washington received no guidance from its leaders, it obliterates the White House's professed principle of not using Sept. 11 to divide.


If you've not seen the photo, it's here -- On Day of Big Fund-Raiser, White House Is Attacked as 9/11 Marketer (ELISABETH BUMILLER and DON VAN NATTA Jr., May 15, 2002, NY Times) -- and it's terrific. The more publicity this tempest in a teapot gets, the more people who see the photo, the better for the GOP.

The notion that George W. Bush and the Republicans should ignore his leadership during the defining crisis of his presidency is totally asinine. It's not as if the photo showed victims families or tried to wave the bloody flag. It's a quiet dignified image of a president doing his job. Ms Dowd might note that he doesn't look particularly fearful. But then again, who you gonna believe, Big Mo or your lyin' eyes?


May 14, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM

THE STRUGGLE'S NOT EVEN BEGUN :

No Easy Task That: Islam Cannot Repeat Christianity's Modernizing Reforms (Derek Copold, May 12, 2002, Texas Mercury)
Recently a friend of mine from New Hampshire showed me exactly how deeply Americans misunderstand Islam. We were arguing about the aggressive nature of the Mohammedans, and he insisted that Islam's spiritual and moral elements could be separated from its political side, much as has happened in Christianity. I disagreed, pointing out that Islam is a faith rooted in politics and history, and that any such separation would be more than a simple reform of Islam; indeed, it would change it beyond all recognition, if not destroy it. Like many westerners, my friend is all too willing to apply Christian examples to Islam. Nothing could be more wrongheaded. Unlike Christianity, Islam's historical philosophy, its basic theology and the example provided by its founder, Mohammed himself, show that any attempt to isolate Islam's politics from its spirituality equates to asking Muslims to renounce the very heart and soul of their religion.

Despite being the poor deluded friend in this tale of woe, I essentially agree with Mr. Copold here. What I was saying, though apparently inartfully, was that Islam is going to have to be radically and probably violently reformed. He's absolutely correct, as he goes on to demonstrate, that Islam is significantly different than pre-Reformation Christianity and that the particular reason for this difference is that Judaism and Christianity were religions of the oppressed, so they necessarily have separation of Church and State built into them, while Islam very shortly after its birth became the religion of the rulers of the society in which it was born.

The unfortunate corollary of this fact is that the Islamic world judges itself by the success of its society generally. Thus, while a Christian community could consider itself spiritually healthy even while hiding in the catacombs, Islam requires that the community of believers dominate the world in order for Allah's favorable judgment to be made manifest. This might not be quite such a bad thing if we did not know for a certainty that the kind of totalitarian society that this vision requires is incapable of competing in economic terms with liberal capitalist protestant democracy. Therefore, by the terms upon which Islam requires that Muslims judge themselves, they are destined to disappointment.

This in turn means that a change is going to have to come, and I see only three possibilities :

(1) Islam could destroy the West and thereby prove that it is in fact in accord with Allah's plan for Man. This simply is not going to happen, if for no other reason than that the West will nuke the Middle East into submission before it does happen.

(2) Islam could choose its own destruction, could determine that it is better to fight that war with the West, even if the outcome is foreordained, in effect choosing to perish honorably rather than to compromise. I'd argue that folks like bin Laden and company are embarked on this course now.

or, (3) Islam will have to undergo a massive disruption, one that will be at least as bloody and violent as the Protestant Reformation and the attendant Religious Wars of the West.

At the end of this process, Islam will indeed be a significantly different religion than it is today. We must harbor no illusions about how extraordinarily difficult this will be, but I honestly don't see a fourth alternative. Do any of you?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM

THE REVOLUTION EATS ITS OWN :

Reversing Course, Bush Signs Bill Raising Farm Subsidies (DAVID E. SANGER, May 14, 2002, NY Times)
President Bush reversed six years of Republican efforts to wean farmers from huge government subsidies, signing into law this morning a bill that increased those federal payments by at least $83 billion over the next 10 years.

This fight actually ended six years ago, when the GOP caved in to Bill Clinton and reopened the government in the Winter of 1995. That represented an acknowledgement that the Party wasn't willing to take the political heat, which was considerable, for trying to cut government spending in the face of stiff Democratic opposition. Real cuts will have to await a Republican majority akin to the one Democrats enjoyed in the 30s and the 60s/70s.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM

THE MAN WHO TAUGHT SCIENCE HUMILITY :

A legacy of swans left to science : He is thought of as rightwing but is Karl Popper just misunderstood? (Roger James, April 27, 2002, The Guardian)
Until about 30 years ago scientists mostly believed that their task was to find as many examples as they could to confirm their theories. Now they realise that they have to look for examples that are apparently inconsistent with them. Karl Popper is to blame, and particularly his slogan "No number of sightings of white swans can prove the theory that all swans are white. The sighting of just one black one may disprove it." Scientists now look for black swans and if they cannot find any, they can feel reasonably confident that their theory is right, although not yet proved. It is, in the present state of knowledge, the best approximation to the truth.

Of course, the students weren't necessarily listening.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM

JIMMY, I GIVE YOU MY WORD, THE MARIELISTAS ARE ALL INNOCENTS :

Officials contradict remarks by Carter : Cuba's biotechnology 'sharing' disputed (PATTY REINERT and MICHAEL HEDGES, May 13, 2002, Houston Chronicle)
After accompanying Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a tour of a biotechnology lab in Havana, Carter said he had queried U.S. officials about allegations of Cuban research into weapons of mass destruction before his trip.

"I asked them specifically on more than one occasion if there was any evidence that Cuba has been involved in sharing any information to any other country that could be used for terrorist purposes," Carter said. "The answer from our experts on intelligence was `no.' "

But both the White House and the State Department contradicted Carter's remarks Monday.

"Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological weapons research and development effort, and has provided ... biotechnology to other rogue states," said Otto Reich, assistant secretary of state for the western hemisphere. [...]

But Cuban experts heatedly denied the charge Monday during Carter's visit.

"This has offended us because the first thing you need to produce biological weapons is the intention to do so," said Ricardo Bringas, director of bioinformatics at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology on the outskirts of Havana. "We do not have that intention. It does not exist here."

Elias Rodriguez Garcia, another researcher at the lab, said, "These accusations are completely, absolutely false. ... We are very bothered by this because we have worked so hard for more than 15 years, from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m., to get to the level the United States has in biotechnology. But we are interested in biotechnology for lifesaving, not for death and war."


So basically we're asked to take the word of Cuban functionaries that even though they have a crash biotechnology program, they'd never use it for offensive purposes? Well, heck, it was good enough for an ex-President....
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM

HOUSE VS. FIELD :

A new kind of `race card' (Jonathan Alter, 5/10/02, MSNBC)
The contest pitting iron-fisted four-term incumbent Sharpe James against young Rhodes Scholar Cory Booker has attracted national attention for some very good reasons. It's age (66) versus youth (33), Montclair State versus Stanford and Yale Law, experience versus potential. More important, it's a story about the future of black politics and whether a new kind of "race card" can be successfully played by the older generation. [...]

James draws most of his campaign money from city employees and vendors; Booker's comes largely from wealthy whites in the New Jersey suburbs.

James runs a formidable political machine (that helped elect New Jersey Sen. Jon Corzine in 2000) and he is a take-no-prisoners politician. Newark is full of reports of his forces intimidating anyone daring to support the challenger, who is nonetheless matching the mayor in fund-raising by tapping wealthy outsiders. The James campaign gets most of its money from city employees and vendors; Booker's comes largely from wealthy whites in the New Jersey suburbs (and New York City) who hope to place an early bet on a horse they think can go all the way to the White House.

James is an old-fashioned Democrat; Booker is more of a neo-liberal-much less predictable. His support for experimenting with vouchers for poor kids has become a cudgel in James's hands, even though polls show blacks favor the idea. Booker would clean house at city hall, which needs it (James' police chief and staff director have both been convicted). But it's not clear he knows where to find the levers of power to get things done.

Booker may not be as ambitious as James claims; if he were, he wouldn't be running for mayor of Newark but for some job--Congress?--where whites could vote for him. He perfectly expresses their hopes of a moderate, unthreatening post-racial future, where machine politics gives way to a meritocratic elite. But because so few whites actually live in Newark, this is more abstract sentiment than hard-headed political calculation. James is closer to the half of Newark residents who are black.


White folk tend to be extraordinarily clueless about black politics. It is particularly difficult for us to comprehend the racial divide within the black community, and it's a sufficiently inflammatory topic that those who do understand it don't talk about it much. So we get the situation where we defer to the NAACP as a kind of official voice for blacks, while in much of the black community it's referred to as the National Association for the Advancement of Certain People, because of the belief that it is the exclusive province of the fair-skinned. But the dynamic in this Newark race is so obvious that it's gotten some play in the media, though much of it is disingenuous, merely hinting at the role of the two men's appearance as a factor in the election. As with so much of race talk in America, you end up having to read between the lines because the real issues make us all uncomfortable.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM

E = MC2 = METAPHOR :

He's Still Ready for His Close-Up (DENNIS OVERBYE, May 12, 2002, NY Times)
In 1919, British astronomers returning from an eclipse expedition reported that they had measured the bending of light rays, thus confirming Einstein's revolutionary new theory, known as general relativity, which described gravity as the warping of space-time. At that moment, Einstein caught a wave that had been building for decades. The world was exhausted, materially, morally and intellectually, from World War I, a catastrophe that shattered the faith in progress and reason that had guided European civilization since the Enlightenment. Everyone was ready for something new. Einstein gave them a whole new universe.

In his fine book, The Metaphysical Club : A Story of Ideas in America, Louis Menand shows how American intellectual elites adopted the philosophy of pragmatism after the Civil War, quite specifically as a way of draining life of ideological disagreements. Einstein's discovery of Relativity was embraced so enthusiastically for exactly the same reason. If all is relative, then why fight wars?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM

THE REAL SIDD FINCH :

27 K's brought fleeting fame (Jon Saraceno, 5/12/2002, USA Today)

Branch Rickey once called him one of the three best pitchers he had ever seen, a man "destined for greatness." When you consider that Christy Mathewson and Dizzy Dean won a combined 523 games, that is some endorsement.

As it turned out, [Ron] Necciai's major league career lasted two months and produced one imminently forgettable victory for the lowly 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates. But he is more than a footnote in baseball history because, 50 years ago today, he was responsible for one of the most memorable, dramatic nights in history. He accomplished something no man has, before or since.

He struck out 27.

In nine innings.


His fastball was singing...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM

MUST LISTEN RADIO :

The Diane Rehm Show (Tuesday, May 14, 2002)
10:00 - Therapeutic Cloning

Several U.S. senators have made headlines by reversing their
anti-cloning stances to embrace the controversial technique for
its research potential. A panel talks about the ongoing scientific,
moral and political debate over human cloning.

11:00 - Barbara Kingsolver: Small Wonder (HarperCollins)

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver shares her views on politics, nature
and the world around us, as reflected upon in her latest book, a
collection of essays mostly written after September 11th.


To get you ready, here are our reviews of :

Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of The Biotechnology Revolution (2002) (Francis Fukuyama 1952-) (Grade: A)

and

The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)


May 13, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN :

Fortuyn party soars in polls : Fortuyn's party has attracted new voters since his death (BBC, 13 May, 2002)
Support for the party of anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn has been increasing since his murder a week ago, a Dutch opinion poll has suggested.

Projected seats
31 Christian Democrats
28 Pim Fortuyn's List
25 Labour
25 Liberals
15 Greens

With only two days left before Wednesday's general election, Pim Fortuyn's List has overtaken Labour to take second place with 18.5% of the votes, according to the survey by the Nipo research bureau.

A poll by another organisation, Nova, on 3 May put him on 12.4% support, while a Nipo survey on 1 May gave him 17%.

The new poll - the first since Mr Fortuyn's death - puts him only two percentage points behind the leaders, the right-wing Christian Democrats, whose support registers at 20.5%.

Wim Kok's Labour party has been beaten into third

Support for Mr Fortuyn's party was registered at 18.5%, which would give it 28 of the country's 150 seats.

The Labour Party of outgoing Prime Minister Wim Kok has slid to 16.5%, the poll suggests - dramatically lower than the 29% it achieved in the 1998 election.

If the poll is accurate, it would mean Labour losing nearly half its 45 seats.


First of all, what's really fascinating about these numbers, following hard on the heels of the French election, is that it is the European Left that is collapsing and fueling the rise of these nativist nationalist parties. One would have thought that their rising numbers would signal the demise of traditional conservative parties, but that appears not to be the case.

Second, if you're like me, when you read a history of the 1930's and follow the rise of fascism in Europe through relatively democratic processes, there's a sense of disbelief that people were so stupid. As you read these articles, there's a sense that no one learned anything and history is repeating itself. How many will be murdered this time around?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 PM

OH, OH, I KNOW, I KNOW, PICK ME, PICK ME :

Why does John Malkovich want to kill me? (Robert Fisk, 14
May 2002, The Independent)

A : Because he's an American and you're still breathing.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM

THREE STRIKES, YOU'RE OUT :

Disparate Mediums, Familiar Messages (RICHARD L. BERKE, May 12, 2002, NY Times)
Democratic pollsters have been busy, scrutinizing the whims of voters and presiding over focus groups. And by and large, they've been coming to the same conclusion: Democratic voters don't want to criticize the war on terror, but they have bones to pick with the Bush White House on bread-and-butter issues. That advice is having an intriguing effect: when it comes time to deliver speeches, the candidates often seem to be speaking from exactly the same playbook. Sometimes, they use identical language.

The biggest differences are not in content, but in how the speeches are written and what emphasis they give to one topic or another. Democrats all criticize the Bush tax cut, but they do not dare call for its repeal. They try to reclaim the education issue from Republicans. And they remind audiences that Mr. Bush's considered lowering arsenic standards in water.


The Democrats issues in 2004 : one they won't undo (tax cuts); one they acknowledge they've lost (education); and one he didn't do (lower arsenic levels).

These are the reasons you should vote for them?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM

HAPPY TOGETHER :

There's Something About Cato (Lakshmi Chaudhry, May 8, 2002, AlterNet)
The truth is that since Sept. 11, liberals have found themselves increasingly on the same side of the political fence as their arch-enemy (the Cato Institute). And some of them have begun to take notice. [...]

Does this mean we can look forward to a Left/Right love-fest coming to a protest rally near you? Boaz says it all depends on Dubya's War on Terror. "The more this all-encompassing global war drags on, the more opportunities there will be for libertarians and liberals to join together against the national security state," he says. If the war wraps up quickly, the two sides will return to business as usual. That is, screaming insults at each other from opposite sides of the barricade at the next Seattle. [...]

What everyone seems to agree on is that old distinctions of Left and Right are no longer useful. The old fault-lines are increasingly losing relevance. [...] Politics these days entails a lot of bed-hopping. It is entirely likely that some lefties will continue to find something good about Cato, while others never will.


This is a profoundly bizarre essay about what the Left can learn from its newfound common cause with Libertarians. In the first place, it's worth noting that the differences between libertarianism and leftism are less significant than the writer posits. Both are utopian philosophies, based on a belief that Man is perfectible--was in fact once perfect-with libertarians believing in a time past and a time to come when each lived in peace, surviving on his own devices, and leftism believing in a time past and a time to come when all lived in peace, sharing the wealth equally. Both believe that Man was subsequently corrupted by institutions--the Left faults economics, the libertarians government--which once removed will allow a rebirth of Man in pure form. Together they share a loathing of religion, specifically Judeo-Christian religion, which teaches that not only is Man imperfect by his very nature but that he is unperfectible. Though different then, there are similarities between Leftism and libertarianism.

But then the question arises, why would the Left be so happy to find itself allied with the libertarian 1% ? As a conservative, I value the assistance of libertarians, many of whom make up in brain power and enthusiasm what they lack in numbers, but I recognize that the lack of numbers suggests something about how limited their appeal is and how unpopular are the issues on which we're allied. This author notes that the Left and libertarians find themselves in agreement on opposition to the war on terrorism and to the steps John Ashcroft has taken against domestic terrorism. We wish them well together, but they are joined in an incredibly small minority on these issues. When you find yourself on the margins, it may be nice to have company, but you're still in trouble.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM

HITCHED TO THE WHIPPING POST :

The Real David Brock: Minority Report (CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, May 27, 2002, The Nation)
When incurable liberals like Todd Gitlin and Eric Alterman begin using the name Whittaker Chambers as a term of approbation, we are entitled to say that there has been what the Germans call a Tendenzwende, or shift in the zeitgeist. The odd thing is that they have both chosen to compare Chambers's Witness, a serious and dramatic memoir by any standards, to a flimsy and self-worshiping book titled Blinded by the Right, by David Brock. Meyer Schapiro, one of the moral heroes of the democratic left, once said that Whittaker Chambers was incapable of telling a lie. That might well be phrasing it too strongly, but I have now been provoked by curiosity into reading Brock, and I would say without any hesitation that he is incapable of recognizing the truth, let alone of telling it.

I don't have much interest in David Brock, but I revere Whittaker Chambers, whose tortuous path through the 20th Century seems emblematic of all mankind's. To compare someone like Mr. Brock to him seems to me a heinous sin, if for no other reason than that Mr. Chambers overcame his own homosexual impulses through sheer force of will and faith in God, while Mr. Brock insists that the Right's refusal to condone his proclivities somehow delegitimizes conservatism. That Mr. Chambers also became a crusader for the very cause (conservatism) that Mr. Brock now disavows, also serves to make the comparison invidious.

It's great fun to watch Mr. Hitchens cut Mr. Brock down to size.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM

CONJUGAL VISIT :

Former President Carter begins Cuba quest (Vanessa Bauza and Rafael Lorente, May 13, 2002, Sun-Sentinel)
Twenty-five years after first attempting to close the chasm between Havana and Washington, D.C., a beaming Jimmy Carter arrived Sunday, shared a handshake with Fidel Castro and began the newest chapter in his quest for reconciliation.

Is it just me, or does this Jimmy Carter flirtation with Castro remind anyone else of those desperate women who become pen pals with imprisoned serial killers and end up marrying them?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM

A PLAGUE ON BOTH THEIR HOUSES :

The Last Crusader : A weapon must go, and with it a mindset. (MACKUBIN THOMAS OWENS, May 12, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Down in Texas, where I come from, the answer to the homicide detective's question, "Why'd you kill him?" is often, " 'Cause he needed killin'." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld could have said the same last week in response to questions about his decision to terminate the Army's prized $11 billion Crusader artillery program. Put simply, it needed killin'. Why is a longer story, and one Mr. Rumsfeld touched on when he told reporters, "Our country needs an Army that is mobile, lethal and deployable across a wide range of future contingencies."

There is no question that the Crusader is a fine artillery piece. It has a high rate of fire and can keep up with high-speed armored columns. But it's not easily deployable. The Crusader weighs 42 tons; its supply vehicle 33 tons. The combination is enough to give nightmares to a logistician trying to figure out how to get it into a theater of war. It also exceeds the weight limits of most bridges in many places the Army might need to fight.

For these reasons alone, it should be self-evident that the Crusader must go.


This is a very good moment for Rumsfeld and Bush, but there's no way they'll actually get Congress to kill the program. We'll be buying Crusaders long after the Bush administratrion ends. The fact that it is useless has no bearing on the political reasons that it will continue to be built.

Here's our idea : convenve a summit of Republican and Democrat leaders in Congress with a number of administration officials. Have some folks who we all take seriously on budget issues, like Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, John Kasich, Dick Darman, Alice Rivlin, etc., run the meetings. And come up with a number of the programs and tax breaks that are most clearly wasteful and that exist and continue only because of political considerations. Set up a bill where there's a dollar for dollar trade off : for every dollar of tax break that's given back or defense spending that's cut, take a dollar out of domestic spending--so Democrats and Republicans are in equal trouble with their constituencies. Tie the whole thing up in a bow and have an up or down vote on it (the way they do with military base closings).

We expect the Congress would vote against the bill, but at least both sides would be forced to confront their own addictions to government money and they might shut up, however briefly, about how it's the other party that wastes our taxes.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM

YOU SAY YOU WANT A REFORMATION :

How the West was lost : how Pim Fortuyn and others hijacked liberal values and provoked a Muslim backlash against liberalism itself (Melanie Phillips, 5/11/02, The Spectator)
[W]as Fortuyn a martyr to the Right, or to the Left?

The answer is neither. He embodied instead the profound confusions of the West, which have not only torn up the political map but have also hijacked
liberalism itself, turned it inside-out, and delivered it bound and gagged to the far Right. For Western society has embraced both a libertinism and a
cultural nihilism which are not liberal at all; on the contrary, they actually threaten the liberal values of which Western libertines and nihilists so misleadingly claim to be the guardians.

Take the drug use for which the Netherlands has become so famous and which was so enthusiastically promoted by Fortuyn. The Dutch blame immigrants for
the epidemic of drugs and crime. But it is not immigrants that are the cause of the problem; it is rather the indigenous Dutch libertarians, whose misguided permissive approach has resulted in a spiral of social mayhem. This is not a liberal policy. Harm to individuals and society was never part of the liberal agenda. Similarly, sexual licence has left behind a gathering trail of damage and misery in sundered families, broken hearts, and the shredding of trust and security.

Moreover, the very heart of liberalism was the freedom to enter into binding private contracts. Yet the libertine assault on the family has made the marriage contract progressively meaningless, destroying the ability of individuals to secure the future for themselves and their children. As someone who deplores this warping of liberal values, I find that Muslims are often allies. Their critique offers a salutary contrast to Western indifference and inertia. Muslims rightly condemn the collapse of Western moral authority, the failure of nerve that has created our epidemics of crime, drug abuse, family breakdown and promiscuity. They are right to be horrified at the wholesale destruction of the sacred, and the worship instead of consumer choice. They are right to point to the meaninglessness and vacuity of secular society, its arrogance and the paralysis of its institutions.

This is, after all, why so many are turning to fundamentalism in Christianity and Judaism as well as Islam. It represents a search for certainty, authority and hope in a world where the mainstream has connived at their destruction. It provides an anchor in a society which insists on kicking away all the props of traditional attachments. This is surely why Islam, an actively proselytising religion, retains such a strong hold on minorities from Muslim countries. [...]

The further Western society retreats from its core morality, the more it opens the way for Islam to fill the gaps left by Christianity in full flight from its own beliefs. Multiculturalism is predicated on the idea that all faiths are equal; but the fact is that, if enfeebled Christianity no longer identifies itself as the spiritual pastor of the culture it founded, then Islam will move into the vacuum.

[W]e have to reassert liberalism as a moral project which does not pretend to be morally neutral. We have to acknowledge that liberal values are rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and sprang from British culture. We have to defend them by reaffirming the values, history and institutions of Britain using the language of morality, a word which the Left has degraded into an insult and at which much of the Tory party still runs screaming from the room.

No wonder there is such a gap between governed and governments. No wonder Islam holds Western society in such contempt. No wonder the way is open for
populist demagogues and cynical racists of the far Right to foment and exploit such profound confusion and disillusion. Liberalism has to be rescued from the clutches of the libertarians, in order to defend liberal democracy from militant Islam on the one hand and the racist Right on the other. Fortuyn was never going to be the answer. He was part of the problem. But in exposing the hypocrisy and confusion of false liberalism, he did us all a service.


If it has done nothing else, the current clash between Islam and the West has created a consensus, here in the West, that Islam has to undergo a Reformation if the Islamic nations are going to be able to compete with the West economically. But the West has been reluctant to consider whether it too must undergo a Reformation in the political sphere, in order to compete with Islam morally. It behooves us naught to be temporarily wealthy if in the process we destroy our own civilization. Just as Islam has much to learn from the West, so does the West have much to learn from its own traditions : freedom is not a worthwhile end in itself; it is merely a necessary means to achieve a good society.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM

GO EAST, YOUNG MAN :

Global Services Jobs Migrate to India Via Internet (Robin Elsham, May 12, 2002, Reuters)
For once, tech gurus may be guilty of underplaying how much the Internet will change your life.

Especially if you live in a moderate- to high-income country, are of modest to moderate intelligence, and work at a service industry job that can be done more cheaply -- and possibly better -- by some bright eager beaver in Bangalore.

Or Madras, Delhi, Bombay -- anywhere in India to which globally active banks, insurance companies, airlines or credit card companies shift their most labor-intensive operations.

The telecommunications revolution has made it possible for functions such as insurance claims processing, accounting, order taking or customer support to be done from anywhere.

The economics of global competition will ensure they are.

Tech researcher Gartner recently forecast that by December more than 80 percent of multinationals will use IT outsourcing to save money, overcome skills shortages or increase flexibility.

Without a doubt, much of that work is headed to India.

"Today India is the dominant player, with a greater than $6.2 billion (IT service) export industry, more than 900 software export firms and approximately 415,000 English-literate IT professionals," the report said.

Gartner Dataquest forecasts the market for this type of service, which the industry calls global business process outsourcing, (BPO), will grow to $543 billion in 2004, at a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent.


More evidence, if you still needed convincing, that our future lies with emerging nations like India, not with the dying nations of Europe.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 AM

GENESIS :

A Man Who Would Shake Up Science (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, May 11, 2002, NY Times)
[Stephen Wolfram] has, he argues, discovered underlying principles that affect the development of everything from the human brain to
the workings of the universe, requiring a revolutionary rethinking of physics, mathematics, biology and other sciences. He believes he has shown how the most complex processes in nature can arise out of elemental rules, how a wealth of diverse phenomena--the infinite variety of snowflakes and the patterns on sea shells--are generated from seemingly trivial origins.

Conducting experiments on a computer, where he says he has logged 100 million keystrokes in the last 10 years, Mr. Wolfram wrote simple programs that generated odd and intricate patterns to test his ideas about complexity. He then tried to imitate designs found in nature. He argues that natural phenomena can be explored as if they were, in fact, computer programs, their evolution and behavior the products of intricate calculations. [...]

Mr. Wolfram, who was born in Britain, published his first paper on particle physics in 1975 at age 15, and obtained a doctorate at Caltech at 20 (where
Richard Feynman called him "astonishing"). He won a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship at 21, reshaped the ways in which complex phenomena (like the movements of fluids) were analyzed before he was 26, founded an institute for the study of complexity at the University of Illinois, and then left academic life and research science, starting a software company, Wolfram Research Inc., in 1987. His main commercial product, a program called Mathematica, has become an international standard, used as a mathematical tool by over a million scientists and students and engineers in areas ranging from medical research to the analysis of weather. [...]

His theory developed out of a series of elementary computer experiments he conducted in the early 1980's. He was examining the way simple computer programs can generate shaded patterns on grids composed of square cells. A computer would be given a row of cells, some black, some white, along with a
set of simple rules that determine how succeeding lines of shaded cells are to be generated. Such programs have been called "cellular automata."

As one might expect, simple rules generally yield simple patterns. But Mr. Wolfram found one rule for generating a cellular automaton that yields no clear pattern at all. Its appearance is bizarre, unpredictable, seemingly chaotic. No one, Mr. Wolfram writes, could have expected this. Complexity was thought to arise only out of very complex rules; here it is generated out of simplicity. [...]

Here is where matters get quite difficult very fast. Not only can complex designs and processes arise out of the simplest of rules, but, Mr. Wolfram
asserts, simple rules actually lie behind the most sophisticated processes in the universe.


Hmmmmmm...so the entire universe could be created by someone operating from a fairly basic set of rules, eh? "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light..."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 AM

PERHAPS THE TWAIN SHALL MEET :

Two Cheers for Colonialism (DINESH D'SOUZA, May 10, 2002, Chronicle of Higher Education)
The assault against colonialism and its legacy has many dimensions, but at its core it is a theory of oppression that relies on three premises: First,
colonialism and imperialism are distinctively Western evils that were inflicted on the non-Western world. Second, as a consequence of colonialism, the West became rich and the colonies became impoverished; in short, the West succeeded at the expense of the colonies. Third, the descendants of colonialism are worse off than they would be had colonialism never occurred.

After deconstructing these claims to devastating effect, Mr. D'Souza makes a particularly lucid point :
[T]he greatest benefit that the British provided to the Indians: They taught them the language of freedom. Once again, it was not the objective of the colonial rulers to encourage rebellion. But by exposing Indians to the ideas of the West, they did. The Indian leaders were the product of Western civilization. Gandhi studied in England and South Africa; Nehru was a product of Harrow and Cambridge. That exposure was not entirely to the good; Nehru, for example, who became India's first prime minister after independence, was highly influenced by Fabian socialism through the teachings of Harold Laski. The result was that India had a mismanaged socialist economy for a generation. But my broader point is that the champions of Indian independence acquired the principles, the language, and even the strategies of liberation from the civilization of their oppressors. This was true not just of India but also of other Asian and African countries that broke free of the European yoke.

My conclusion is that against their intentions, the colonialists brought things to India that have immeasurably enriched the lives of the descendants of colonialism. It is doubtful that non-Western countries would have acquired those good things by themselves. It was the British who, applying a universal notion of human rights, in the early 19th century abolished the ancient Indian institution of suttee -- the custom of tossing widows on their husbands' funeral pyres. There is no reason to believe that the Indians, who had practiced suttee for centuries, would have reached such a conclusion on their own. Imagine an African or Indian king encountering the works of Locke or Madison and saying, "You know, I think those fellows have a good point. I should relinquish my power and let my people decide whether they want me or someone else to rule." Somehow, I don't see that as likely.

Colonialism was the transmission belt that brought to Asia, Africa, and South America the blessings of Western civilization. Many of those cultures continue to have serious problems of tyranny, tribal and religious conflict, poverty, and underdevelopment, but that is not due to an excess of Western influence; rather, it is due to the fact that those countries are insufficiently Westernized. Sub-Saharan Africa, which is probably in the worst position, has been described by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as "a cocktail of disasters." That is not because colonialism in Africa lasted so long, but because it lasted a mere half-century. It was too short a time to permit Western institutions to take firm root. Consequently, after their independence, most African nations have retreated into a kind of tribal barbarism that can be remedied only with more Western influence, not less. Africa needs more Western capital, more technology, more rule of law, and more individual freedom.


We do well not to romanticize Imperialism, if for no other reason than that laid out by Orwell in Shooting an Elephant, that it corroded the soul of the colonists as much as the colonized, but the broad trends of the post-Colonial era do raise the question of whether those nations that experienced British overlordship are not vastly better off than those that did not. The cases of America, Canada, Australia, etc. are obvious, but in these nations the natives were largely wiped out. More interesting are places like India, Bangladesh, etc., where, despite predictable difficulties, robust liberal democracies have taken root. Thanks to British rule the peoples of these nations, as Mr. D'Souza says, learned "the language of freedom" and they used it against their oppressors and have subsequently, if intermittently, held themselves to its standards. Though the legacy of colonialism is mixed, this aspect at least is an unalloyed good.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 AM

I'M JUST A BILL :

War profiteering : Cashing in on the post-9/11 defense build-up (Julian E. Barnes, 5/13/02, US News)
In overwhelming numbers, Americans support President Bush's decision to prosecute the war on terror. But it is not immediately clear how a new gym in Texas, a harbor cleanup in California, or raising a Civil War-era ironclad in Virginia do much to advance that war. A veteran congressional aide who specializes in defense issues has written a white paper under the pen name "Spartacus" attacking projects like the Boeing deal that have been inserted in the defense- spending bills since September 11. McCain has demanded investigations of the Boeing deal. "This is clearly war profiteering," he says. "It is obscene."

It is also, in all likelihood, going to happen.


Harry S Truman was a terrible president, but a generally decent and honorable man. The great moment of his public career came when he held war-profiteering investigations during WWII. Even during that great patriotic war, even with the greatest generation fighting, corporate scum and their political lap dogs laded bills with pork and produced dubious equipment. The same thing is inevitably going on now, but one doubts there are any Trumans around to stop them.

May 12, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM

COMMANDING THE WAVES :

Sharon loses crucial party vote : The Likud meeting was a tempestuous affair (BBC, 12 May, 2002)
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has lost a key vote in the central committee of his Likud party over whether to allow a future Palestinian state.

The vote, a show of hands in which only a few delegates supported the prime minister, is seen as a major defeat for Mr Sharon and calls into question how strong his support in his party is.

Binyamin Netanyahu Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said he would challenge Mr Sharon's leadership of Likud, had called for a vote rejecting the concept of an independent Palestinian state arising from peace talks.

Mr Sharon had urged party members not to vote on the resolution saying it would be against Israel's interests to rule out any future settlement which included the creation of a Palestinian state.

But in a secret ballot party members voted by a margin of 669 to 465 for the vote to be allowed to go ahead.

After the stinging defeat Mr Sharon made a brief statement saying he would honour the decisions of his party's central committee.


We're big fans of Mr. Netanyahu, but on this issue we can't help feeling he's failed to learn the lesson of King Canute. Whether a good or a bad thing, there's going to be a Palestinian state--in effect there already is one--regardless of Likud's wishes.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM

WHILE THE DEAN SLEPT :

McCain Switch? Please. (David S. Broder, May 12, 2002, washingtonpost.com )
[I]t does amaze me to see this lively, gutsy and quirky man, one of the most useful members of the Senate, who has never given anyone reason to doubt his fidelity to his principles or his party, become the target of an attempted political kidnapping by prematurely pessimistic liberals. [...]

Those who really know McCain know better. Mark Salter, a senior staffer who shared the writing duties on McCain's most recent book and drafts most of his speeches, said to me, "He supports stem cell and fetal tissue research, but he is pro-life. The minute he says, 'I was pro-life, but not any longer,' it's over." In other words, his credibility -- his greatest asset -- would be gone.


David Broder is revered as the dean of American political writers, but he must have slept through the last few years if he genuinely believes what he says above. First of all, it has been widely reported that John McCain negotiated with the Democrats to switch parties and swing the Senate to them, before Jim Jeffords out-traitored him. Second, Senator McCain spent the entire presidential primary of 2000 ditching his conservative principles. Of course, he'd already launched an attack on the First Amendment with his "campaign finance reform" proposals, which he made the centerpiece of his campaign. But he also curried favor with the Left on various other issues, from gay rights to abortion. As I recall, at one point he'd played so much footsie with the pro-choicers that he actually had to make public statements saying that he hadn't abandoned the pro-life position. Being forced to reign yourself in because of the dynamics of your own party's internal politics is hardly the same as a principled commitment to an issue. He's been even worse since, supporting things like gun control and expanded federal health care coverage and actually voting against the Bush tax cut. It's not readily apparent that he has any conservative core beliefs left that are uncompromised. Why not switch parties?

Mr. Broder's point about the danger of altering his position on abortion is even more perplexing. After all, if McCain ran as a pro-choice Democrat, he'd be up against two other candidates who had similar conversion experiences when it came time to seek the nomination : Dick Gephardt and Al Gore. Both had sterling pro-life records until ambition got the better of their consciences. A third, Joe Lieberman, maintains a pro-choice position despite the fact that his own religion forbids it. Who's going to call John McCain a hypocrite? Al Sharpton?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM

ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK :

Religious groups take lead in Bahrain polls (Dawn, 5/11/02)
Religious groups emerged the major winners and women the losers in Bahrain's first local elections since 1957, an indication of the
likely outcome of the vote to restore parliament in October.

More women voted than men - 51 percent against 49 percent - but not one of the 31 women candidates won a seat to the five councils. Official
turnout was 51.28 percent of the 238,636 registered voters.


And here's why it is necessary to move slowly when liberalizing government; processes that give the people their say do not necessarily render liberal
democratic results.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM

YOU CAN EVEN EAT THE DISHES :

The great cloning debate : A guide to a battlefield that crosses parties, faiths and ideologies (The Economist, May 9th 2002)
There are five basic arguments to ban it.

The most basic of all is that it involves killing a potential human being. [...]

The other arguments begin with the slippery slope. Legal therapeutic cloning, argue some critics, would produce stockpiles of cloned embryos for research. Once that happens, it will be virtually impossible to control how the embryos are used. That would make it impossible to enforce a ban on baby cloning. [...]

Other critics cite the precautionary principle. In the realm of genetics, it is far better to be safe than sorry. Senator Landrieu, a supporter of abortion choice, argues that cloning is too unreliable. In animal experiments, fewer than 5% of cloned, implanted embryos produce a healthy birth. Until it improves, that success rate necessitates a ban. Ms Landrieu does not want to ban cloning research in order to limit medical knowledge. Rather, she says, “there are safer, less worrisome means to the same end”—notably stem-cell research. She denies her bill is anti-research.

By contrast, people like Leon Kass, the chairman of the president's advisory council on bioethics, object to cloning precisely because of the medical advances it implies. They see cloning as a route towards a Brave New World of human genetic engineering. They object, in Dr Kass's words, to “the alteration...enhancement [and] wholesale redesign” of human nature itself. They paint scary pictures of society growing humans for spare body parts or as custom-designed children.

This “wisdom of repugnance”, as Dr Kass likes to see it, has been embraced by both conservatives and liberals. From the right, Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, worries that government oversight of the health-care system is likely to grow, so human cloning must be banned now to prevent state-mandated eugenics in the future. From a more liberal standpoint, Mr Fukuyama worries about equality if inequality is designed into people's genes. If an ordinary child and a genetically enhanced one are competing for the same liver transplant, who gets it?

The last argument, specific to cloning, is the spectre of a vast embryo industry. Therapeutic cloning requires large numbers of eggs. On one estimate, you might need eggs from 80m women just to treat American diabetics alone. So cloning, argues Charles Krauthammer, a columnist and psychiatrist, “means the routinisation, the commercialisation, the commodification of the human embyro.” This fear resonates not just with the Christian right but also with the feminist left, which worries that women will be sucked into the embyro business unwillingly.


I guess that's five, but it glides past the central point of Mr. Fukuyama's book, Our Posthuman Future, which is the best thing yet written on bioengineering. He argues that cloning and related attempts to use our emerging knowledge of genetics and other fields of biology in order to fundamentally change our physical beings must inevitably have some effect on human nature too. And since liberal capitalist protestant democracy is a finely nuanced response to our given nature, arrived at only after millennia of trial and bloody error, perhaps we should proceed slowly, lest in altering our natures we lose our system of government.

The power of this argument rests on the fact that it does not depend on morality and assumes that clonophiles will achieve all of their dreams. For those on the Left who don't much believe in freedom, it raises few stumbling blocks, but for libertarians, who have been the other vocal advocates of unfettered cloning, it raises the specter of their scientific aspirations destroying their political aspirations. It appears they must choose between either longer life or greater freedom. Their silence in response to this argument has been deafening.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM

SELF-PITYING TWITS OF THE WORLD, DIVIDE! :

MUB display evokes strong emotions (Lisa Arsenault, Chelsea Conaboy and Liz Kenny, 5//11/02, The New Hampshire)
A display centered around the words of John Lennon, saying, "Woman is the N***er of the World" was hung on the public wall space on the third floor of the MUB Thursday morning. Less than eight hours later the words were gone.

"THINK! All struggles are not the same. But the main struggle is for equality!" replaced the display around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday. The original display included the statements, "Rape is to sexism as lynching is to racism" and "N***er: A disparaging term for any member of a socially, politically or economically disadvantaged class of persons." It was put together by a group of UNH students affiliated with the UNH Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), which is not a UNH-affiliated student organization, with sponsorship from the Presidents Commission on the Status of Women.


Which, combined with the story below, raises the question : are UNH students stupid, insensitive, or trapped in a world where you're required to be hypersensitive to the emotions of every special interest group known to man (or wymyn)?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM

LIVE FREE, UNTIL YOU GORE MY OX :

Unknown chalkers spread message of possible hate (Sean Leslie, 5/07/02, The New Hampshire)
More than half a dozen messages written in chalk were discovered over the weekend on buildings, sidewalks and other locations around campus. Student organizations and other groups usually use chalk messages for advertising purposes, but the content of the messages found over the weekend has left some feeling uneasy.

Messages like "Abortion really tickles!" written next to a picture of a coat hanger, along with "It’s not rape if they’re dead," and "Pedophiles are people too" were found. There was also a sketch of a Swastika and "Osama = rad" among others that have been found on the side and back walls of the MUB, sidewalks on the way to the library, Philbrook dining hall and the upper quad.

Students reported seeing the messages as early as Saturday morning but Lt. Paul Dean of the UNH Police Department said that he had not received any complaints about the chalkings as of 11 a.m. Monday.

Dean said that the act of chalking itself was not illegal, and pointed out that many student organizations use chalking as a way to advertise their events.

"The chalking itself certainly isn’t a crime," he said. "You can pour water on it, and it’s gone. If it involves a hateful message, then it’s something [the UNH police department] would be concerned with."

Dean said that if the messages are deemed to be hateful and directed at a certain person or group, the UNH Police Department would begin an investigation.

According to [Vice President of Student Affairs Leila] Moore, the chalkings qualify as defacement of property and harassing and intimidating behavior, both of which are violations of the UNH Student Code of Conduct. She said that if any leads were discovered as to whom is responsible for the messages, UNH would press charges.


One of the defining features of the Political Correctness movement is its complete lack of any sense of humor, not surprising, since comedy is inherently conservative. These slogans sound more like somewhat inappropriate and intentionally inflammatory digs at the PC quality of the academic world than like serious statements of hate. Since UNH has apparently created a tradition of using the chalking of sidewalks as a kind of public forum, it's hard to see how they could prosecute someone just for saying something unpopular.

(via Volokh Brothers)


May 11, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM

CEO NO? :

And don't get me started on whether anyone learns anything at Harvard Business School (ExPatPundit, 5/11/02)
Glenn Reynolds links to Orrin's post (see below), and doesn't seem to disagree. I do disagree, for two reasons.

First, Bush's fecklessness at actually conducting business operations is legendary. His official bio states that he "[began] his career in the oil and gas business in Midland in 1975, working in the energy industry until 1986." Here are the unmentioned details: He starts Arbusto Energy around 1977, and it nearly fails, and it's then bought by Spectrum 7 Energy and Bush is made CEO, and that nearly fails, and then that's bought by Harken Energy and Bush is relieved of day-to-day management role and becomes a director, and that nearly fails. (And the next one caught on fire, fell on its side, and then sank into the swamp. But the fourth castle...the fourth one stayed up!) By now it's 1986 and Bush retires from the world of business. This is evidence that he learned a culture for getting things done?

Second, Orrin's key point is that Bush's experience gave him insight into running a "modern bureaucratic corporation." But I don't think any of these businesses resembled a modern bureaucratic corporation, at least in the sense of being an organization of substantial size. I have no clue as to how large Arbusto or Spectrum 7 were. But Harken -- which acquired Spectrum 7/Arbusto -- currently has 40 employees in its U.S. operations, according to its FAQ. Who knows, maybe it had 500 employees back in 1986 when Bush was a director, but I doubt it. And managing 40 or fewer employees seems to me to be markedly different from the kind of organization that Orrin intends to invoke. (Later in his post, Judd makes an analogy to Ford Motor Corporation, which has 370,000 employees worldwide).

It's hard to believe that President Bush learned a great deal about running a modern bureaucratic corporation from his work experience. That just leaves the possibility that he internalized a wide range of skills in managing large corporations during his two years at Harvard Business School,
which then lay dormant for fifteen years, only to reveal themselves when he became Governor of Texas. For me, this is wishful thinking.


ExPatPundit makes several points that are true in themselves, but which I don't think really bear on my points. First, Bush went into the energy business at a time when it was in precipitous decline; you can hardly blame him for the worldwide copllapse of oil prices. Second, he did have some success running the Texas Rangers, after 1986, so it seems harsh to portray him as a complete failure in business, though I also don't think his success or lack of success is germane to my argument that his experience has influenced him.

But more importantly, all modern businesses are bureaucratic messes. The techniques that I described for getting something done in a company are based on what I see in a fairly small business of just 400 people--everything is turf wars, empty titles, ego stroking, etc. You don't have to run Ford Motor Company to know how it's run (you can actually just read David Halberstam's The Reckoning). Bush it seems to me is running his government like a business, which should not be surprising to anyone given his business background. Particularly revealing in this regard was his choice of Cheney and Rumsfeld, who brought with them absolutely no political benefit, but who had significant experience running both the U.S. government and major corporations. That he made such pragmatic choices after barely winning election, rather than suckling favor with various constituencies, seems to indicate that he takes the business model quite seriously.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM

CANARY IN A COALMINE :

Bahrain Holds Landmark Elections (May 09, 2002,
AP)
Bahrain held its first elections for representative bodies in nearly 30 years Thursday, with men and women choosing members of municipal councils that are part of plans for radical political change in the Gulf country.

In a region led for the most part by autocrats, the scene of voters clamoring to get to the polls -- men and women standing in separate lines according to the country's conservative Islamic traditions -- was striking. Bahraini women were voting and running for office for the first time. [...]

``Let me in, let me in!'' shouted a bespectacled Maryam Mohammed Yousuf, 80, at a polling center in the capital Manama that failed to open on time. She stood in line leaning on a metal walking stick and a younger female relative, her wrinkled face just visible through her black chador. Most of the women voters wore the head-to-toe robe.

``As a loyal citizen I've been waiting for this opportunity all my life,'' Yousuf said after she was at last able to vote. ``This is a new birth for the nation, this is very, very, very, good.''

Thursday's leap toward democracy was being closely watched throughout the Gulf. Bahrain's eastern neighbor, Qatar, is the only other Gulf Arab state that allows women to run for office. Kuwait also holds elections, but bars women from running for office.

Bahrain's municipal elections were part of a process initiated by the king, Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, last year to transform the Gulf island nation from a traditional emirate where he held absolute power to a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament.

``This is a great first step, a real victory for the women,'' said Sabika al-Najjar, spokeswoman for the Bahrain Human Rights Society as she cast her vote in Arad. ``I can't wait for the next step.''

Soon after Sheik Hamad succeeded his late father as ruler of Bahrain, he commissioned a National Action Charter that provides for a parliament, an independent judiciary and a body to investigate complaints from the public. In mid-February, a year after the charter was approved in a nationwide vote, Sheik Hamed declared a constitutional monarchy and scheduled legislative elections for Oct. 24. The king, however, will appoint one of the houses of the bicameral legislature, allowing him to control lawmaking.

During the mid-1990s, Shiite Muslims, who form a slight majority in Bahrain, staged a violent campaign for political reform and restoration of parliament, triggering a government crackdown. More than 40 people were killed in the unrest. The Al Khalifa ruling family hails from the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam.

``This is the starting point for democracy,'' said former dissident and Shiite leader Mansoor al-Jamri after casting his vote Thursday in Saar more than six miles southwest of the capital.

Bahrain, which became independent from Britain in 1971, last held elections for a representative boy in 1973 when people voted for the National Assembly. That assembly was dissolved two years later.


This experiment in democratization has all the necessary ingredients for success : first, it's a former British possesssion; second, they're moving gradually, starting out by building institutions to undergird the new governing system; and, third, they're aiming at constitutional monarchy rather than
actual democracy. We wish them well.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM

MODERN EUGENICISM :

UN children's conference ends in disarray (DOUG SAUNDERS, 5/10/02, Globe and Mail)
An international agreement to improve the conditions of the world's poorest children was in disarray Friday night as a debate about
sexual abstinence consumed the United Nations.

The debate threatened to leave the UN in a deadlock over its policy on children's issues. The United States, the Vatican and fundamentalist Islamic
nations refused to sign the agreement unless it stated that abstinence was the only acceptable approach to AIDS and sex education in UN-supported
aid programs. The hostile mood in the General Assembly was at odds with the broadly optimistic messages delivered at this week's special international summit on children. [...]

"In terms of sex education we have been adamant that abstinence be included as the strongest choice," a U.S. official told reporters. "Abstinence is the solution to the problems we are discussing at this conference. All the other forms of sex education are dealing with the side effects."

As several aid-agency officials pointed out Friday, the United States shows two faces on social politics of foreign aid. The abstinence policy, which also forbids U.S. federal funding to any aid programs that endorse abortion, has been in place since 1996. But America is also home to the world's most generous philanthropists, Bill Gates and Ted Turner, both of whom have earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to Third World reproductive-health programs that take liberal positions on sex education and birth control.


I'm not sure why this is confusing to people. The government, representing the American people, suggests that kids be taught not to have sex in the first place. Elite liberals, like Gates and Turner, want the kids to go ahead and get their freak on and they'll pay to kill any inconvenient babies they
produce as a consequence. Which side of this debate are the true philanthropists on?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM

WHAT CHIRAC LEARNED FROM LE PEN :

French president accuses Israel of conducting anti-France campaign (The Associated Press, 5/12/02)
French President Jacques Chirac raised the possibility on Saturday of "consequences" if Israel did not put a halt to a campaign presenting France as an anti-Semitic country, the president's spokeswoman said.

In a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Chirac spoke out "with force against the campaign," spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said. "At a time when the French massively demonstrated their refusal of racism, of xenophobia and of anti-Semitism, this campaign is not acceptable," Chirac was quoted as saying.


Actions like this, whipping up French sentiment against Israel, may be merely anti-Zionist in and of themselves, but they are surely designed to
appeal to France's general anti-Semitism.

May 10, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM

STUPID LIKE A CEO :

A Dollar Short : Bush's budget defunds Bush's education plan. (Noy Thrupkaew, 6.3.02, American Prospect)
When the education-bill team gathered in the White House for its initial negotiations, says [Representative George] Miller, both he and [Senator Ted] Kennedy emphasized that substantial reforms were only possible with an increase in funding to schools. "You couldn't do it on the cheap," Miller explains. "And President Bush said the money was going to be there." In order to win the Democrats' backing, Bush also scaled down his support for vouchers. But like so many of the bill's provisions, this compromise was undercut by the president's proposed budget, which diverts $4 billion to private-school tuitions, in the form of tax cuts for parents who remove children from failing public schools.

At the same time, the new budget increases total education funding by just $1.4 billion, the smallest boost in seven years. During that time the yearly increase in education spending has averaged 13 percent; Bush's budget calls for a 2.8 percent hike. "He signed [the bill,]" says Miller, "and he's not living up to it."

Kennedy and Miller aren't the only ones who expected the Bush administration to show a greater commitment to education. After all, Bush rode into the presidency on his education-reform platform. It was the linchpin of his successful effort to package himself as a "compassionate conservative" and to gain the support of white, moderate suburbanites. He repeatedly touted the state- and federal-testing standards that he had developed in Texas as the best way to defeat what he called "the soft bigotry of low expectations." The new education law reflects these ideas: It requires states to begin testing third- to eighth-graders in math and reading proficiency in 2005. Schools will also be required to administer a standardized national test; institutions that do poorly may be taken over by the school district or the state. Without additional funding, however, schools will find it difficult to live up to the law's heightened standards.

Teachers, too, will have a hard time clearing the high bar the No Child Left Behind Act attempted to set. Recognizing that the quality of instruction has a significant impact on student achievement, the legislation requires schools to employ a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom by 2005. But the budget freezes the teacher-quality program. In fact, as a result of the shortfall, 18,000 fewer teachers will receive training next year, Kennedy's office reports.

In all, Bush's budget axes 40 education programs to the tune of more than $1 billion; 26 of those programs are part of the No Child Left Behind Act. After-school programs and bilingual education are slated to receive the same funding next year as they did this year -- which amounts to a cut, due to the projected increase in enrollment. As a result, 33,000 children will go without after-school programs in 2003, and 25,000 will be deprived of bilingual education. [...]

The Democrats are fighting back. Miller believes there is still hope for restoring funding to the education bill, and Kennedy plans to introduce a new bill dedicating more funds to needs-based scholarships, special education, and early-childhood education. If Democrats can frame the issue as a choice between improving schools or letting them deteriorate, moderate Republicans -- from districts that voted for George "No Child Left Behind" Bush -- just might feel compelled to live up to the president's campaign commitments.


One of the great mysteries of media coverage of George W. Bush is how the press can have completely failed to understand his administration's roots in the world of business. The accepted storyline on George W. Bush assumes that his name got him into Yale, into the Air National Guard, into business, and into government, and that he learned nothing along the way. Completely left out of the equation is his MBA from Harvard, because it is annoyingly inconvenient. Bushs after all don't go to Harvard, especially stupid Bushs, and they don't go to grad school, because there's no need to when friends of the family are going to hand you opportunities regardless. So the whole MBA deal just disrupts an otherwise simple picture. Why not ignore it?

But suppose it matters? Suppose the point in his life where he most clearly broke with his father's career path and was most clearly his own man (supposedly he didn't even tell anyone he was applying) truly mattered, at least to him. And, God forbid, suppose he learned something, not something factual or some complex theory, but a culture and a way of getting things done. Suppose that, in much the way that LBJ's senate career taught him how to work legislative levers once he was president, George W. Bush's business training and career taught him how to get things done in a modern bureaucratic corporation, which, at the end of the day, is what government resembles.

As governor of Texas and now as President, George W. Bush has pursued a strategy that has been quite consistent : he proposes ideas; he lets the legislature shape them into bills, intervening only at the end of the process to make sure the final product becomes law; and then, as executive, he's administered the programs, to the greatest extent possible, along the lines he originally envisioned. And when he hasn't gotten everything he's wanted, he's not hesitated to go right back and start the process all over again. Thus, he got as much of his tax proposal passed as possible, then turned right around and asked for more (or, according to this story in The Hill, just used executive orders to create more). With everyone squawking about the need for a Security Czar, he acceded by appointing Tom Ridge, but then gave him no actual power. When everyone demanded he get involved in Middle East peace talks, he sent Colin Powell, knowing he'd fail miserably. Etc., etc., etc. And so, we get a horrible Education Bill, one that Democrats in the Senate thought they'd beaten him on, and he only orders his administration to push the parts of it he wanted. Why are folks still surprised?

Think of this bill as a car and the administration as Ford Motor Company. The president promised buyers a spiffy new car. The various vice presidents of the company each have their own vision of what that car should be like and they have powerful constituencies behind them. The president lets the vps who he disagrees with claim some victories in the design process, knowing that he'll be able to cut and trim once manufacture begins. The car starts rolling out and, even if a very few of the vps are still willing to fight, their own constituents aren't. Meanwhile, the buyers get their car and they're happy. They don't really care about the prototype that didn't get built. And enough of the vps and middle management guys would rather claim credit for the finished product than admit to being hoodwinked that the president can get away with it all.

It that dishonest? Sure, somewhat. Is it effective? Absolutely. Is it the way the real world works? You bet. Is that what President Bush is doing? Let's put it this way, if it isn't intentional, it's at least a frequently occurring coincidence. Sooner or later, the press, his fellow pols and foreign leaders may even figure out that this president is never more dangerous than when he appears to be doing what his opponents ask him to do. By not worrying about who gets the credit in front of the cameras, he's getting what he wants behind the scenes, again and again and again... With this business-trained president, it's time to start watching just one thing : the bottom line.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM

THAT DOG WON'T HUNT :

Research Cloning? No. (Charles Krauthammer, May 10, 2002, washingtonpost.com )
Proponents of research cloning would love to turn the cloning debate into a Scopes monkey trial, a struggle between religion and science. It is not. [...]

What makes research cloning different from stem cell research--what pushes us over a moral frontier--is that for the first time it sanctions the creation of a human embryo for the sole purpose of using it for its parts. Indeed, it will sanction the creation of an entire industry of embryo manufacture whose explicit purpose is not creation of children but dismemberment for research.

It is the ultimate commodification of the human embryo. And it is a bridge too far. Reducing the human embryo to nothing more than a manufactured thing sets a fearsome desensitizing precedent that jeopardizes all the other ethical barriers we have constructed around embryonic research.


Much as I like Mr. Krauthammer, there's a striking intellectual disconnect here. Absent religious belief, why aren't even full grown humans, not just embryos, commodities? From a purely scientific view after all, we're just a mass of cells; why should a mass that we call human be treated differently than a mass that we call rat or wood or paramecium? If human dignity and rights don't derive from our creation by God in His image and His establishment of a hierarchy of being, then how are we any more than things, just as we consider the animals and plants things? This looks to be a fairly textbook case of "freeloading atheism". Mr. Krauthammer wants to hold humankind to Judeo-Christian ethical standards, while at the same time disavowing the foundations of that morality. His impulses are admirable enough, but because he builds his argument on such shaky ground it verges on incoherence. Science and religion can be reconciled, when religion accepts that the Bible is not a literal description of how the Universe got here and when rational science accepts that there are things beyond our ken, which require irrational faith in God to explain. But since science can not provide the basis for constructing a moral system, Mr. Krauthammer must accept that his objections to cloning are fundamentally religious.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

PIM BECOMES MEL :

Dutch leaders fear sympathy vote for slain rightist's party (Keith B. Richburg, 5/10/2002, Washington Post)
The fear is that while the parties have stopped all campaigning--pulling television advertisements, stopping publication of poll numbers, and canceling planned rallies--the events planned around Fortuyn's funeral, all nationally televised, could generate a sympathy vote next week that could benefit Fortuyn's nascent political party, called ''Pim Fortuyn's List,'' or LPF in Dutch.

Analysts said there is even a chance that his party, made up of political novices and so far without a leader to replace its maverick founder, could end up as the dominant party in Parliament. Even before the slaying, his party appeared set to win at least 20 to 25 seats in the 150-seat Parliament, making it one of the three largest parties.

''People who are voting for the party will be voting for Pim Fortuyn, even though he's no longer with us,'' said Kay van de Linde, a campaign consultant working for another upstart, the Livable Netherlands Party.

''We've seen that in the States; we've had a dead person elected to the senate,'' he said. ''For Holland, this is a unique situation. We've never had this for 500 years. A lot of people are going to vote their emotions, and they're going to vote for the spirit of Pim Fortuyn.''


The rival parties are actually making the same mistake that John Ashcroft and the GOP made in Missouri in 2000, giving the survivors a free ride and tacitly participating in the beatification of the dead candidate. You may have to be careful how you do it, but you can't give the guy a free ride just because he's dead. What could be more antidemocratic than to make the death (even if tragic) of one person more important than the political process itself? Crank the campaign back up; run the ads; hold the rallies; stop wallowing in bathos; defeat the LPF. Ashcroft's mistake only cost him his seat and Republicans the Senate. The mistake the Dutch are making may cost them their entire national government.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM

THE UN : 50 YEARS OF CELEBRATING DIVERSITY :

Child sex book given out at U.N. summit (George Archibald, 5/10/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
A UNICEF-funded book being passed out at the United Nations Child Summit encourages children to engage in sexual activities with other minors and with homosexuals and animals.

...or you could go for the trifecta with a lesbian calf or lamb.

May 9, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:35 PM

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE :

Saddam receives Quran written in own blood (September 24, 2000,
AFP)
The press gave no indication how much blood Saddam provided for the team of Iraqi religious leaders and calligraphers to complete the work.

However, Ezzat Ibrahim, vice president of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council, told papers: "You can imagine the quantity of blood required for the holy book, which comprises 6,666 verses and 336,000 words!"


If he can just wait a couple months, I suspect we're going to spill enough of his blood to write the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

N.B. : H.D. Miller has more on Saddam's piety over at Traveling Shoes.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM

YEAH, BUT WHAT ARE YOU SELLING :

RNC Weighs Ad Blitz (John Bresnahan, May 9, 2002, Roll Call)
White House officials are considering mounting a massive multimillion dollar TVad blitz this fall to trumpet President Bush's record and the need to have a Republican-controlled Congress to help him achieve the rest of the administration's goals.

The Republican National Committee could spend $25 million or more on the ad campaign, according to sources, who cautioned that no final decision has been made on whether the RNC will move forward with the effort.

GOP Congressional leaders and strategists, seeking to counter Democratic success on the grassroots level, believe that "nationalizing"the midterm elections, with a popular Bush as the centerpiece of their campaign, would be a winning strategy heading into November.


Nationalizing the election is the way to go; that's what the Contract with America did in 1994; but that race was run on the issues. The GOP needs to take about five big ideas and hammer them home, with electing a Republican Congress being the way to get action on those issues. If they expect people to vote Republican just because they like President Bush, they're even more delusional than usual.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM

"UGLY TRUTH" IS RIGHT :

Judge Not : DON'T GIVE BUSH'S JUDGES A HEARING (Jason Zengerle, 05.09.02, New Republic)
The ugly truth is that the only practical way to stop Bush from stocking the courts with his ideological kin is to stall. Procedurally, that's nothing to be proud of. But it worked for the Republicans in the 1990s. And today it's the only viable strategy Democrats have. [...]

[T]he up-or-down vote solution is no solution at all--unless you're resigned to letting a president, elected with a minority of the popular vote, shift the judiciary substantially to the right.

The fundamental flaw in the up-or-down vote solution is its assumption that voting down judicial nominees is easy. In fact, it's hard to do even once and impossible to do as a matter of course. [...] Defeating Pickering came with a price. First, the Pickering hearings created a poisonous atmosphere on the Hill. The cordial relations between Daschle and Lott, which the two had enjoyed ever since 9/11, became almost instantly bitter as Lott sought revenge by blocking the appointment of a top Daschle aide to a seat on the Federal Communications Commission. Lott also used Senate rules to shut down meetings of three Senate committees, and he tried to block money appropriated to the Judiciary Committee for anti-terrorism oversight.

Even worse for Democrats--particularly those running for reelection this November--was the political fallout. As Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, who supported Pickering, said, his defeat will "make it even more difficult for Democratic candidates to be successful in the South." And sure enough, Republican Senate candidates like John Cornyn in Texas and Lamar Alexander in Tennessee are making judges an issue. ("President Bush was right about Judge Pickering," Alexander declared in one of his campaign's first radio ads.) What's more, Republicans are already threatening that if John Edwards runs for president, they'll use the North Carolina senator's anti-Pickering vote--and his relentless questioning of Pickering during his hearing--to portray him as a liberal tool of left-wing interest groups.

All of which makes it unlikely Senate Democrats will be willing to endure many more Pickeringesque fights in the future (except, of course, when it comes to the Supreme Court). Indeed, were Democrats to grant every Bush nominee a hearing and an up-or-down vote, it seems likely most of the votes would be up: While Democrats have given the green light to 52 of Bush's judicial nominees, Pickering is the only one they have actually voted down.

On the other hand, the political consequences of stalling seem relatively minor. Just consider how brilliantly the strategy worked for the Republicans during the Clinton administration: Of the 24 Clinton appellate court nominees the GOP defeated, not one was ever allowed a public vote. Much as Republicans are doing today, Democrats back then tried to make an issue out of the delays and the vacancy crisis they were causing. "The Republicans are holding up judgeships--causing extraordinary delay of justice in many parts of our country because we don't have judges," Daschle complained in 1997. But when voters went to the polls, they didn't seem to care--returning Republican majorities to the Senate.


It hardly seems necessary to point out (but I'll do so anyway) that the fact that Republicans had no problem shooting down Clinton nominees while the Democrats are terrified of doing the same to Bush nominees suggests that the extremists are likely on their side of the bench, not ours. Voters, wisely, would seem to prefer a conservative judiciary to a liberal-activist one. How shocking of the people to prefer to legislate themselves rather than having judges do it for them. President Bush should beat this issue like a drum.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM

CAVEAT CONSUMOR :

Consumer Reports Recalls Gift for Safety Hazards (Justin Hyde, May 8, 2002, Reuters)
Consumer Reports magazine, the bible of wary shoppers, gave about 15,000 new subscribers an unexpected welcome for signing up -- a defective tire pressure gauge and a flashlight that could overheat and start a fire.

Federal regulators said on Tuesday that Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, would take back a glove compartment organizer it had sent as a gift that included the flashlight and tire gauge.

U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned owners that they should immediately remove the batteries from the flashlight and throw it and the tire gauge away.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM

THE MOUSE THAT ROARED:

Kaiser planned to invade US, papers show (The Guardian, May 10 2002)
Berlin: It was planned in detail. Sixty German ships with tens of thousands of troops were to arrive at various points on the United States Atlantic seaboard. Several thousand soldiers would land at Cape Cod and march into Boston, while heavy cruisers entered New York's Lower Bay to bombard Manhattan.

In Washington, the president, Theodore Roosevelt, would be forced to negotiate.

Papers found in the German military archive in Freiburg and published this week in the newspaper Die Zeit show this was one attack plan ordered by Kaiser Wilhelm II, the last German emperor, at the end of the 19th century ''to put America in its place". [...]

In 1897, the documents show, he commissioned a young lieutenant, Eberhard von Mantey, to draft a series of attacks to force a treaty giving Berlin free rein in the Atlantic and the Pacific. Von Mantey regarded direct attacks on the north-eastern ports as the best option.


As Churchill said : The Hun, he's always either at your throat or your feet.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM

PRESIDENT FRANKLIN WOULD BE ASHAMED :

Seniors Don't Have Basic Grasp of History (Sue Pleming, May 9, 2002, Reuters)
More than half of America's high school seniors do not have even the most basic grasp of U.S. history, showing no improvement in a nationwide test since 1994, the Education Department said on Thursday.

The department's national history "report card" measured the performance in 2001 of fourth, eighth and 12th graders in history, an important part of U.S. citizenship.

In grade 12, the final year of school, only 43 percent of students had a basic or proficient knowledge of American history, a figure unchanged from same tests last done in 1994.


There's nothing more amusing, to a crusty cultural conservative anyway, than listening to the Fortuynauts among us complain about how we can't assimilate immigrants into our culture when the far greater problem is that we "natives" are destroying that culture ourselves. As Montesquieu said, virtue in a Republic is a very simple thing; it is love of one's country; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education. We are failing miserably in this most basic republican task.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM

DOUBLE DUTCH :

Black immigrant is new face of Pim Fortuyn List (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 09/05/2002, Daily Telegraph)
As if Pim Fortuyn had not done enough already to turn Dutch politics upside down, the standard bearer of his anti-immigration movement is now a black cosmetics executive from the Cape Verde isles.

Joao Varela, 27, is the new number one candidate on the Pim Fortuyn List. Under Holland's parliamentary tradition, Queen Beatrix may be required to invite him to form the next government should the party emerge as the biggest grouping in the elections next Wednesday.

Polls taken just before Mr Fortuyn's murder on Monday gave the party 17 per cent, narrowly behind the ruling Labour Party and the opposition Christian Democrats. Few dare
to predict how it will perform without its firebrand leader, who eclipsed the other 51 names on the List.

The property tycoon who bankrolled the movement, Harry Mens, has already called the List an "incompetent" assortment of amateurs who do not deserve a vote. Without Mr Fortuyn, the party was meaningless, he said, declaring that he would now switch to the Christian Democrats.


Are the Dutch deranged? It's as if Pat Buchanan was assassinated and we decided to elect Lenora Fulani out of sympathy.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM

THE LORD SAID TO NOAH, THE WIRE NEXT TIME :

Scientists hope to download some insight into online interactions (Bruce Bower, May 4, 2002, Science News)
Two contrasting schools of cyberthought offer explanations for what's happening. Optimists regard the World Wide Web and e-mail as realms for making and keeping friends, joining global communities, and exchanging ideas freely outside the bounds of oppressive government restrictions. Pessimists argue that online endeavors pull people away from real-world interactions, make them less concerned about their communities, and provide a forum for hate groups. They also charge that the Internet creates unprecedented opportunities for governments to monitor citizens' private lives.

Both views simplify an unsettled situation. Much of the Internet's allure lies in its flexibility. People adapt it to their own purposes, whether for good or ill. For instance, in the 48 hours after the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11, more than 4 million people contacted family and friends by e-mail to check on their safety and used e-mail and the Internet to find out what had happened. Yet government investigations indicate that the Al Qaeda terror network used hard-to-trace e-mail missives to organize the attacks and has since expanded its Internet presence.

Amid this online ferment, there's little that investigators know for certain. Robert Kraut, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, was among the first to peer into the Internet's social side. "Scientists are on the cusp of being able to say something sensible about the effects of the Internet on social life," he says. "It's premature to make any sweeping statements about what's going on."


There is one sweeping statement we can make though, and its implications are truly startling : the Internet has only barely begun to have an effect on social life. Obviously if you're reading this you have a computer. It's likely your friends and family, co-workers and neighbors all have them too. It may well seem to you that we live in a wired world. But the reality is that we only even live in a half-wired nation, and that the richest nation on Earth. And if America, the epicenter of the Information Age, only has half of its population on-line, imagine how small a proportion of the global population must be on-line. It seems likely that Internet access will become at least as ubiquitous as the telephone itself, and this means that there is still explosive growth ahead for the medium, and massive change still to come for America and, even more so, for the underdeveloped world.

Our economy may be in a tech slump right now, but peering ahead, the stage is set for a long and deep technology boom. Far from having reached a saturation point, computers are relatively scarce in global terms. I don't know where you'd find the numbers, but subtract the number of phones on the planet by the number of PCs and you've got a number that predicts the growth remaining. I think it's probably a pretty big number.

Meanwhile, environmentalists, Islamic fundamentalists and others may object to the impact that globalization (in the form of liberal, democratic, protestant, capitalist ideas) is having now, but the process has only just begun; because what the Internet is, above all, is a conduit for ideas and the more spigots that open the harder it will be to contain the flood of ideas.

We like to indulge ourselves by believing that we live in particularly complex and extraordinary times, but where the Internet Age is concerned, it seems quite likely that this is still just the antediluvian period.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM

THE PRIMACY OF CULTURE :

Good Culture Requires Good People (Jimmy Cantrell, Texas Mercury)
There are many people who believe "good" economics produces good culture. They argue that if only we adjust the economic system to near-perfection, then the best possible culture should follow, regardless of the specific people or peoples who inhabit the nation. It is true that if you believe socialist economics are good you likely will be pleased with the cultural results of a socialist system. Socialist economies, and that includes any Welfare State, produce masses of citizens who rely on Government for virtually everything. Socialist art and socialist scholarship, like socialist medicine, will appeal to the dumbed-down masses demanding their MTV right now, but they set no worthwhile standards of excellence. In fact, the dumbed-down masses--Mencken's boob-oisie--addicted to the leveling socialist sugar tit will inevitably squeal that the excellent, those beyond the ordinary and average, are harming the society and must be forced to work with the group at group level and must develop greater humility. A socialist economy produces groupthink and inevitable mediocrity in all endeavors--except in many cases the manufacture of warring tools.

The problem is, many libertarians also apparently believe a good economic structure will produce good culture: they assume that, if we can but get the many socialistic government regulations of the economy overturned, the result will be a burgeoning of good culture. Bad economics helps produce bad culture, and bad culture helps produce and maintain bad economics. But while good culture produces good (certainly better) economics, good economics does not produce good culture. In fact, if a group of people living in a country with a good (largely or totally free from Government regulation and intrusion) economic system are culturally bad and have political power, they will pervert the economic system and the system of limited government. That is true because culture, which is implanted in the marrow as well as in early learning from family, drives all people, and the basic culture that defines them does not evaporate simply because they happen to be placed in a country with limited government and consequently with a free economic system.


Mr. Cantrell here manages to discuss the problem presented by immigration to the West of groups of people from non-Western (even anti-Western) cultures without resorting to any of the demonization that mars the European nativist, nationalist Right. The important corollary of his argument is that if we reinvigorate our own culture and work harder to assimilate immigrants there's no reason that they can't become good citizens, no matter where they're from. This is very different than the European view of race and culture as a function of blood and soil. It is one of the things that makes America quite distinct from the nations of Europe and offers reason to hope that we can avert the ugly future that awaits them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM

THE PASTORAL MOTIF IN THE NOVELS OF UPDIKE, PART XII--NOT! :

The Rehabilitation of Edgar Rice Burroughs (Hank Parnell, The Texas Mercury)
I am one of those odd people who thinks popular culture "matters," or at least did matter, until the most recent (and altogether typical) trend towards mass-manipulation of the mass-market, the creation of literature and films by means of focus groups, demographics, and the like. That is, I believe that those who create works, like Burroughs, or for a lesser example, Ian Fleming, who strike an enormous chord in the popular imagination, often inadvertently and to their great surprise, are usually saying something more important than what more literary and "serious" contemporary writers and artists are.

Here's another terrific essay from Mr. Parnell, of the always interesting Texas Mercury, that will particularly appeal to anyone who grew up loving Edgar Rice Burroughs. His point here about pop mattering is dead on. The textbook example I like to cite is Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. Intellectuals are wont to analyze the American mood in the '50s through the prism of art that they agree with, like 12 Angry Men or whatever, which implies that the accused (obviously allegorical Communists) were innocent and the accusers (Republicans) nearly psychotic, with everyone else frightened into acquiescent silence. Meanwhile, I, the Jury, sold six million copies depicting a two-fisted, gun-slinging hero who may well have been psychotic, but who left no doubt that the accused were guilty and deserved to eat hot lead. Trying to analyze the McCarthy era without considering a mega-bestselling anti-Communist novelist like Spillane, whose popularity would certainly seem to suggest that the silent majority was more bloodthirsty than scared, seems absurd.

Likewise, Mr. Parnell assumes here that Edgar Rice Burroughs didn't sell hundreds of millions of books without having something significant to say and does him the simple courtesy of taking his ideas seriously. It's an eminently worthwhile undertaking.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM

HEART OF DARKNESS :

A target for destructive ferocity : Joseph Conrad's world, where terrorists plotted to blow up the Royal Observatory, speaks to our own. Look no further for a great contemporary novelist (John Gray, 29th April 2002, New Statesman)
"The sacrosanct fetish of today is science." Mr Vladimir, first secretary at the Russian embassy in Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent, believes
that if terrorism is to be truly effective, it must be directed against the spirit of the age. In order to have any real impact, a bomb outrage must be purely destructive--an attack on society's most deeply cherished beliefs. Believing it to be "in some mysterious way at the source of their material prosperity", both bourgeois public opinion and society's most radical critics regard science with deep reverence. Accordingly, Mr Vladimir instructs his agent provocateur, Adolf Verloc, to blow up the Royal Observatory at Greenwich: "Go for the first meridian. You don't know the middle classes as well as I do. Their sensibilities are jaded. The first meridian. Nothing better, and nothing easier, I should think." Attacking a building dedicated to the science of astronomy would be "an act of destructive ferocity so absurd as to be incomprehensible, inexplicable, almost unthinkable", but it would be effective for that very reason: "Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion or bribes."

In The Secret Agent, Conrad makes use of an actual terrorist attempt on the Royal Observatory in 1894, when a French anarchist accidentally blew himself up in Greenwich Park before reaching his target. At the start of the 21st century, science remains a sacrosanct fetish. We believe the internet is the source of our prosperity, linking up economic life everywhere in a network of beneficial exchange. At the same time, in a development that attests to the power of Conrad's darkly ironic vision, the symbols of trade and new technology have come under terrorist attack. On 11 September 2001, the suicide-warriors of al-Qaeda carried off a terrifying assault on the spirit of the age of precisely the kind that Mr Vladimir recommended.


Extending the metaphor, to the degree that Islamic fundamentalism has adopted the philosophy of Mr. Vladimir it seems likely to provoke the West into adopting that of Mr. Kurtz.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 AM

WHAT? NO "BEAST OF BUFFALO"? :

What's in a president's name? (Richard Lederer, May 9, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Martin Van Buren, elected our eighth president in 1836, was born in Kinderhook, N.Y., and, early in his political career, was dubbed "Old Kinderhook."

Echoing the "Oll Korrect" initialism, O.K. became the rallying cry of the Old Kinderhook Club, a political organization supporting Van Buren during the 1840 campaign.

The coinage did Van Buren no good, and he was defeated in his bid for re-election.

But the word honoring his name today remains what H. L. Mencken identified as "the most shining and successful Americanism ever invented."

Match the presidential nicknames in the left-hand column with the presidents in the second column:

1. The Great Emancipator
2. Old Hickory
3. The Father of His Country
4. The Sage of Monticello
5. Ike
6. Tricky Dick
7. Silent Cal
8. Tippecanoe
9. Unconditional Surrender
10. Old Rough and Ready
11. The Gipper
12. The New Dealer
13. The Schoolmaster
14. The Rough Rider
15. Big Bill
16. The Bachelor President
17. The Haberdasher

a. James Buchanan
b. Calvin Coolidge
c. Dwight David Eisenhower
d. Ulysses S. Grant
e. William Henry Harrison
f. Andrew Jackson
g. Thomas Jefferson
h. Abraham Lincoln
i. Richard M. Nixon
j. Ronald Reagan
k. Franklin D. Roosevelt
l. Teddy Roosevelt
m. William Howard Taft
n. Zachary Taylor
o. Harry S. Truman
p. George Washington
q. Woodrow Wilson


And I believe that George W. Bush may be the first to be known by a single letter : "W", though one supposes John Quincy Adams might have been called "Q" for the same reason.

NB--Follow the link for the answers.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM

HERE'S OUR PF-SRotM :

With 'Lagaan,' the Indian Movie Industry Is Poised to Cross Over Bully for Bollywood (Nita Rao, May 1 - 7, 2002, Village Voice)
India's first Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film since Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! in 1989, Lagaan (opening May 10) transcends the generic pageantry of Bollywood's masala moviemaking. Scripted in Hinglish (half-Hindi, half-English), the movie runs an epic three hours 45 minutes, but cannily leavens stock plots of caste discrimination and political tyranny with six frothy musical numbers and a love triangle that recalls the sugary Sweet Valley High novellas. Lagaan was written and directed by former model Ashutosh Gowariker and produced by swoon-inducing megastar Aamir Khan, who also plays Bhuvan. A $5 million-plus price tag makes it the costliest Bollywood production of all time. It became India's top-grossing movie last year, clearing $15 million in ticket sales. With Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann declaring it "David Lean meets Busby Berkeley," Lagaan could be the film that hoists Bollywood from the cult fringes of American pop culture toward a wider acceptance by the Western mainstream.

In the current issue of Vanity Fair, Bollywood topples porn as "Pretentious Film-Snob Reference of the Month."


If you've got four spare hours this weekend, rent Lagaan; it's a hoot.

May 8, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM

PERRY ON PIM :

There is no right to demand acceptance... but there is indeed a right to demand tolerance (Perry de Havilland, 5/09/02, Libertarian Samizdata)
The invaluable Perry de Havilland, the one libertarian in blogdom who we always take seriously, has posted some answers to my questions about whether Pim Fortuyn should be considered a libertarian and whether he was a victim of intolerance, a practitioner of intolerance, or both :
Tolerance...is not a value neutral condition, far from it in fact. To tolerate something is to not accept it. One does not tolerate one's friends, one accepts them. I tolerate people listening to heavy metal music even though I thing most of it is drivel for the simple reason it is none of my damn business what other people listen to. It only becomes my business if they are playing it loudly in the next house at four o'clock in the morning but then it is not a matter of 'tolerance' any more, it is a matter of unwillingly imposed real cost regardless of the type of music involved. I tolerate smokers because if they want to kill themselves and smell like ashtrays, that is there business not mine. I do not accept it as a good idea however. What is wrong is to use the violence of the state to prevent people doing what they want to themselves and others of a like mind and there is the problem with some conservative Christians and more or less all radical Muslims: they want to criminalise what they see as sin rather than criminalise the violation of the objective rights of others. Opposing that is not intolerance because tolerance does not mean tolerating intolerance, any more than it is tolerance to tolerate anything which actively seeks to violate your self-ownership. If you believe homosexuality (or eating pork or looking at pictures of naked women) is a sin, well fine, that is up to you, feel free to not engage in gay sex (or pork dinners or Playboy). If that then induces you to vote for people who will use the violence of the state (laws) to discriminate against homosexuals (or ban pork butchers and Playboy magazine), well that is not fine.

Just remember that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. In a democratic state, no one group ever monopolies power for ever. If the people who, on the basis of religious non-acceptance, want to legally disadvantage (i.e. no longer tolerate) certain people because of their sexual peccadillos use their transitory political clout to actualise that, don't be too surprised if one day the object of that discrimination tries to use the state to legally discriminate against the religions which are seen as the source of the intolerance towards them. In a democratic state, any large cohesive voting bloc with intolerant rather than just non-accepting views is a potential threat. The more truly democratic a system is, the greater such threats are.


While I disagree with much of that (and we've agreed in the past to respectfully disagree about much), I think he is on to the central dynamic that was at work in all this. Pim Fortuyn apppears to have been interested in just one thing, that Dutch society continue to accept a range of behaviors, mostly concerning sexual activities and abortion, which have traditionally been banned in the West. The rising population of Muslims represents a threat to this permissiveness, so Mr. Fortuyn wanted to stop the tide. He would more than likely have failed, because the demographic vise of plummeting European birthrates (in which the homosexuality and abortion he advocated must be seen to play some part) and high Islamic birthrates would have probably shifted power to the immigrants and their heirs in the not too distant future, even if all new immigration was brought to a halt. Democracy in Europe is the long term enemy of libertinism because soon enough the majority of voters will be Muslims. But Mr. Fortuyn did something that is especially dangerous when he began stirring up animosity toward these immigrants--a member of a group that has been met with intolerance in the past he determined to match the specter of resurgent intolerance with an intolerance of his own--for race hatred, as Americans found to our eternal sorrow, has a way of poisoning an entire society and claiming unintended, as well as intended, victims.

For several days now I've been wondering how to connect the assassination of Mr. Fortuyn to that of Robert F. Kennedy almost exactly 34 years earlier. Perhaps the connection is this : although the perpetrators of both crimes surprised us--as the anti-immigrant Mr. Fortuyn ended up being killed by a radical leftist rather than a Muslim, and RFK was assasinated by a Palestinian for his support of Israel, rather than by a white supremacist for his support of civil rights--mightn't we say that in the America of the 60s and the Europe of the 00s the siren song of violence, playing in the background, made such acts more likely? Doesn't the tone of social discourse have to have some effect on how a citizenry behaves, on what kind of actions they're willing to countenance? In consciously appealing to Man's basest instinct, the fear and loathing of the other, didn't Mr. Fortuyn help to create a general atmosphere of fear and loathing? And in tarring him as a Nazi, rather than addressing the legitimate concerns that he raised, didn't the European Left add to this pollution? When a society reaches a point where the most ready recourse is to hate speech rather than to democratic dialogue, where you seek to dehumanize and demonize your political opponents, is it any wonder that the most marginal and unbalanced members of that society start acting out the virulent rhetoric around them?

Mr. Fortuyn is not responsible for his own murder, and I assume (not really knowing enough about him to be certain) that it was not justified, but to the degree that hatred is now a very real part of Dutch politics and to the degree that he helped make possible that disturbing phenomenon, it seems fair to say that he at least contributed to his own demise. Let us hope (and pray) that he does not leave too many more victims in his wake.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:57 PM

A DULCET VOICE, CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS :

Like love to hatred turned : Lady Thatcher's fiery anti-Europeanism has turned her new book from a stately memoir into a polemic (The Economist, Mar 28th 2002)
Lady Thatcher has not hidden her mounting revulsion for Europe during the last decade, but the extent of her current apostasy is breathtaking. This is, after all, someone who was happy to serve in Ted Heath's cabinet when the arch-Europhile negotiated the terms of Britain's entry into the then EEC, who, as prime minister, appointed a succession of Euro-enthusiastic foreign secretaries, signed up to the Single European Act in 1986 and who, during her last weeks in power, took sterling into the exchange-rate mechanism.

The former premier feels so terrible about all this that she devotes about 100 pages to explaining how she could have got it so horribly wrong and why there is no hope for Britain unless a future Conservative government has the courage to pull out of a project that is not only doomed but fundamentally hostile to Britain's national interest. Much of what she has to say relies quite recklessly on half-truths. The opening paragraph of the chapter entitled "Europe-Dreams and Nightmares" states: "During my lifetime most of the problems the world has faced have come, in one fashion or another, from mainland Europe, and the solutions from outside it." Yet the Common Market was an intended solution to those very problems.

Her reason for why her government signed the 1986 act she now regards as worthless-which substantially deepened integration in the cause of establishing a barrier-free internal market-is that she was duped by her ministers and the conniving Europeans. "We can see that any concessions which Britain makes or initiatives which she promotes in Europe are always eventually turned against her and against the original intention," she says. [...]

There is an element of tragedy in all of this. It is tragic that a great prime minister feels such disgust for much that her government did. It is equally tragic in the eyes of many who admired her achievements in office that she is in danger of becoming like one of those deranged people who shuffle along the street shouting angrily at everything around them while passers-by turn away in embarrassment. No doubt she will continue to vent her fury in print. That she will no longer occupy a public stage should, however, be a relief both to the party and to anyone who cares for her reputation.


Gosh, she sounds just like the formerly powerful Winston Churchill warning a disinterested nation of the dangers of Nazism in the 1930s. Of course, no one listened to his deranged mutterings either. Yet, his reputation seems to have survived quite nicely. One suspects she'll come to be seen as equally prescient.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM

TONY THE TORY WATCH :

The unions hold their heads up again : Is new Labour finished and the Third Way obsolete? Many on the left think so. Robert Taylor reveals plans to wrest back the ideological high ground (Robert Taylor, 6th May 2002, New Statesman)
The salubrious surroundings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London are to host an event later this month that promises to be a new landmark in the often tortuous relations between the unions and the Labour Party. Assorted luminaries from parliament, academe and the media, plus a formidable array of union leaders, will assemble under the avuncular eye of Lord (Roy) Hattersley to launch a serious ideological challenge to what remains of Tony Blair's Third Way. [...]

Trailed as a discussion followed by a drinks reception to bless a merger between two think-tanks, there is much more to this event than meets the eye. The launch of Catalyst Forum, as it will be called, had been planned (before 11 September intervened) for the Labour conference last autumn; at that time, many people, particularly union leaders, saw it as a rather desperate old Labour attempt at a rearguard action. Now the likes of Edmonds are convinced that new Labour is "finished" and that "a vacuum" of ideas needs to be filled on the centre left. Edmonds's optimism may stem from a recent eye operation that has enabled him to dispense with his thick spectacles, but it is also based on a conviction that Third Way politics are obsolete and everybody knows this.


Is there any place in an "old" Labour party for the likes of Tony Blair?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM

TO SIR WITHOUT LOVE :

Naipaul, Islam and Gujarat riots (Shazia Nasir, Arab News)
Although violence against minorities in India is an old phenomenon, the Gujarat pogrom is different as it has the evident support of the state and
worse, ordinary Hindus, especially women. It is important to analyze how the intelligentsia is responsible for spreading such venomous hatred. One such
advocate of Hindu militancy is Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul who is known for his love of controversy and intolerance of Islam. The carnage in India and the apparent clash of civilizations call for an examination of Naipaulspeak as he has long been crying hoarse about the "threat from fundamental Islam."

Born in Trinidad of Indian parents, Naipaul visited India in quest of his roots only to find a "wounded civilization" with "a million mutinies." However, he does not cry for humanity's corruption but for what he calls "half-made societies." The poverty of the land, the dust and darkness strike him sharply. He is sentimental about his roots, and as W.B. Yeats wrote "the sentimentalist deceives himself." Naipaul deceives himself by assuming that the chaos that had India in thrall was the fault of "foreign tyrants," i.e. Muslims. He set out on his "Islamic journey" to Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia in an attempt to explore the reasons for the "rage" of the "tyrants who besieged" India. His bitterness about Islam manifests largely as the fear of the unknown.


To the contrary, Mr. Naipaul knows Islam all to well. In Among the Believers he warned us all of the danger presented by Islamic fundamentalism, which lies not so much in Muslim spiritual and moral beliefs, but in its political totalitarianism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM

SECONDARY COLORS :

AFTER STROM : Can a cracker-barrel fabulist capture South Carolina's Senate seat? (JOE KLEIN, 2002-05-06, The New Yorker)
"Do you want to know what I do all day?" asked Alex Sanders, who is the Democratic candidate seeking to replace Strom Thurmond as United States senator from South Carolina this year. "I sit at a desk with a telephone. A woman named Ashley Newton sits across from me with pieces of paper called focus sheets and a stopwatch. She hands me a focus sheet, which has the name and phone number and some vital information about a potential contributor. I call the number. She starts the stopwatch. I have six minutes to make the sale. I'm supposed to make ten calls per hour. So I start out like this: 'Hello, my name is Alex Sanders, and I'm running for the United States Senate. Have you ever heard of me in your whole entire life?' Then I chat with him for a moment about life at his horse farm, or whatever. I tell him that I know about the horse farm because I have this focus sheet with all his information. And then I say, 'I'm not calling to ask for your vote. It'd be a waste of time to make a phone call for a single vote. My purpose is far more humiliating. It's the chemotherapy of a political campaign. It's painful.' " He paused. " 'Wouldja give me some money?' "

Sanders is sixty-three, but his sensibility seems much older-from the time before radio, when people entertained each other by telling yarns. He is a burly, deliberate man, with heavy-lidded eyes that appear to require some miracle of physiological hydraulics, perhaps involving support from his eyebrows, in order to remain open. He has a weathered, scratchy voice and a thick, juicy Carolina accent. Every word he utters is carefully unpacked, inspected, reassembled, and inflected, usually in the service of drollery. "Chemotherapy," for example, comes out something like this: keh-moh-THER-peh, with a chuckle embedded in the middle. He is considered an underdog in the race to replace Thurmond; his opponent, Representative Lindsey Graham, is formidable. South Carolina is a Republican state. But Sanders's success or failure hardly seems the point-and Graham is almost an afterthought. The real contest here is between an American archetype, the cracker-barrel fabulist, and the consultant-driven sterility of the current political system.

God help us; Joe Klein has fallen in love with another Southerner.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM

A DIFFERENT DRUMMER :

Who's ugly now? : Mark Steyn argues that Americans are more compassionate and law-abiding than violent and cynical Europeans (Mark Steyn, 5/04/02, The Spectator uk)
For the Europhiles in the US media, the events of recent weeks are bewildering. It's barely two months since they were reporting approvingly every snotty crack by Chris Patten and Hubert Vedrine and regretting that Washington was so out of step with Europe. But then the synagogue attacks became too frequent to ignore, and M. Le Pen whupped Jospin's sorry [butt], and frankly, if you can pick only one place to be out of step with, Europe's an excellent choice.

Especially since Europe's step is a funeral march...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 AM

SEND AT LEAST A C-130 :

Bush Sending Clinton to East Timor Inauguration (THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 8, 2002)
President Bush has chosen former President Bill Clinton to lead a United States delegation to East Timor's independence celebrations later this month, a senior administration official said today.

A former Clinton official said Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, offered Mr. Clinton the task in March. He immediately accepted. The United States delegation will also include Richard C. Holbrooke, former envoy to the United Nations, and James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific.


Pretty magnanimous on Bush's part, but can you really fit Clinton's ego and Holbrooke's on the same plane?

Also, the story calls to mind Bob Dole's greatest line; when former presidents Carter, Ford, and Nixon went to Anwar Sadat's funeral together, Dole referred to them as "See No Evil", "Speak No Evil", and "Evil".


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:09 AM

TOWARDS A TRUE EUROPEAN CONSERVATISM :

A Lot Is Still Wrong With the European Right (FREDERICK KEMPE, May 8, 2002, Wall St Journal)
At first glance, it would seem that center-right parties are on a roll across Europe. President Jacques Chirac was re-elected Sunday by the widest margin in
French history. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi is finishing his first year atop Italy. Right-of-center parties rule in Austria, Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg.

President Jose Maria Aznar, who for some time was the only conservative leader ruling a major European state, still runs an economically revived Spain. And in September, Bavaria's Edmund Stoiber has a fair chance to take leadership of Europe's slowest and biggest economy from the Social Democrats' Gerhard Schroeder. Even in Britain, a right-center Tony Blair leads a left-center Labour.

Yet it's hard for the center-right to celebrate any new political wind favoring freer markets and individual initiative amid Europe's ugly new stench of intolerance. It was the intensifying politics of hate that likely produced the Monday murder of Holland's anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn and the killing in March of a senior Italian official whose job was to reform Italy's labor market. It is the politics of hate that has synagogues burning and helps Le Pen reach the French election's final round.

The center-right must seize the moral high ground if it wants to maintain political momentum, but it faces obstacles: a foggy message to voters, political fragmentation, moral ambiguity and distasteful alliances with the intolerant and sometimes racist right. These dangers threaten the center-right's chance to create a more dynamic Europe as the EU approaches a critical time of self-definition. Its constitutional convention has begun, and eastward enlargement is just around the corner.

With so much at stake and so many dangers for the center-right to overcome, a leading British conservative European parliamentarian, James Elles, is convening a gathering of fellow European and national parliamentarians in late August at Christ's Church College in Oxford. The agenda, backed by Britain's conservatives and the European parliament's group of 31 center-right parties: to create a European-wide network that can generate ideas to turn this political swing into a historic moment.

Says Mr. Elles: "It doesn't matter how favorable the winds are if you don't set your sails in the right way . . . We're now in a position where we have to decide how big we want this golden opportunity to be." Indeed, Mr. Elles sees a chance to help forge a "new global compassionate conservatism" building off European change and George W. Bush's victory, in a way more lasting than the Clintonian-led and now fizzled Third Way. He notes that George W. Bush Sr. is taking over leadership of the International Democratic Union, the worldwide gathering of conservatives, from the leader of Britain's Conservatives, William Hague, at its June meeting.

Yet one shouldn't underestimate the European center-right's capability to fritter away this historic chance. Soviet collapse, socialist failure in Europe and economic logic have dealt center-right parties a powerful hand. But if they don't deal promptly with their own moral ambiguity and the extreme right--and generate the clear ideas Mr. Elles wants--they will find left-wing parties regrouping at the center and retaking the initiative in next elections.


At this point, judging by the bizarre conservative embrace of the radical Right's mantra of victimization, you'd have to say it's an open question whether genuine conservatism can be revived in Europe.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM

MEETING INTOLERANCE WITH INTOLERANCE :

Rightist in Netherlands Is Slain, and the Nation Is Stunned (MARLISE SIMONS, May 7, 2002, NY Times)
Mr. Fortuyn, a former Marxist who defended an eclectic mix of ideas of both left and right, had become the most hotly debated Dutch politician because of his frankness, his passion and his starkly anti-immigrant platform, directed particularly against Muslims, who he said posed a threat to cherished national values like giving full rights to women, and to gays.

Islam, he said repeatedly, was a "backward culture" because it refused modernity. Echoing the arguments of Mr. Le Pen or Austria's Jörg Haider, he said that immigration should stop because the Netherlands is "now full up." [...]

During a recent interview, Mr. Fortuyn talked freely on a wide range of subjects, including his homosexuality, the ingrained bureaucracy, the liberal Dutch social policies dealing with abortion, same-sex marriages and tolerance of soft-drugs, and the need to denounce the self-satisfied political class.

During the interview he was asked why he was so critical of Muslim immigrants. He said he found it shameful that foreign Islamic clergy here used offensive language against gays in this country, and that Muslim men tried to impose medieval rural customs in the Netherlands. "How can you respect a culture if the woman has to walk several steps behind her man, has to stay in the kitchen and keep her mouth shut," he said.


It's worth noting that what Mr. Fortuyn seems to have objected to in Islam was not its antidemocratic tendencies, which are a legitimate concern as we try to integrate Muslims into Western society, but its religious morality, which seem to me to be beyond the appropriate reach of the state, so long as its adherents conform to public legal standards. Mr. Fortuyn's rhetoric could equally well be directed at most believers in traditional Judeo-Christian morality, or even against the U.S. Congress and President Clinton who together passed the Defense of Marriage Act. Mr. Fortuyn seems to have met "intolerance" of homosexuality and abortion with an intolerance of religion, which certainly would have made him as much a threat to democratic pluralism as any of his foes.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM

A POTEMKIN CHILDHOOD :

He's just a normal boy, with President Castro for a friend (Daniel Schweimle, May 3 2002, Financial Times)
The return of Elian was a battle won, ranking alongside Cuba's victory over the US-backed forces that tried to overthrow Mr Castro at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba in 1961. Last year the Cuban president opened a museum in Elian's home town. Called the Museum for the Battle of Ideas, it charts how Cuba has defied what it sees as US aggression. But in reality it is a museum to celebrate the return of Elian, with pictures of the crowds that thronged the streets to demand his homecoming.

During the opening ceremony, as Mr Castro addressed a crowd made up mostly of local primary schoolchildren on the evils of capitalism, a bored Elian played in the street, watched over by a burly bodyguard. The media are not allowed to talk to the boy or his family, to safeguard his "normal life".


His mother sacrificed her life for his freedom and we shipped him back to bondage.

(via Reductio ad Absurdum)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM

WHATEVER HE WAS, HE WASN'T A CONSERVATIVE :

The twisty politics of a far right showman : Liberal agenda used to argue for immigration ban (John Hooper, May 7, 2002, The Guardian)
With his shaved head, his shiny black chauffeur-driven limousine with its champagne leather upholstery, his colourful ties and matching top-pocket handkerchiefs, Pim Fortuyn represented a radical departure from the Netherlands' traditionally bland politics. But he was more than just an anti-immigrant populist showman.

He succeeded in blending liberal and reactionary ideas in a quite unique fashion He defended his country's ultra-liberal social values while arguing that in order to preserve those values immigration had to be curbed. Central to this paradox was Mr Fortuyn's open, proud homosexuality. His autobiography, entitled Babyboomers, describes in graphic detail his first sexual encounter as a boy.

First as a writer, then as a politician, he argued that Muslim culture, in particular, could not co-exist with Dutch permissiveness. "In Holland, homosexuality is treated the same way as heterosexuality. In what Islamic country does that happen?" he asked in a recent interview.

In another of his books, Against the Islamicisation of Our Culture, he maintained that Islam is lagging behind western culture and should not be imported. Instead, Muslim immigrants should embrace Dutch culture and leave their own values behind.

"Christianity and Judaism have gone through the laundromat of humanism and enlightenment, but that is not the case with Islam. Modern society places an emphasis on individual responsibility, whereas Islam places an emphasis on collective responsibility and the family. We have a separation of state and church. The laws of the country are not subject to the Koran. We have equality of men and women in western society, whereas in Islamic culture women are inferior to men," he said recently .

All of this helped sustain his argument that he was closer to politicians like Edmund Stoiber, the hard right contender for the German chancellorship, than to naked racists such as Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider. Indeed, he would erupt when interviewers made what he denounced as "odious" comparisons. [...]

But unlike Mr Stoiber and other right of centre politicians who have argued for integration and against the values of a multicultural society, Mr Fortuyn backed a more reactionary blend of populist policies. Critics insisted that the mix did not stand up to detailed costing.

It included a drastic reduction in bureaucracy, a massive boost to public services, a clampdown on crime and the return of much of the Netherlands' contribution to the European Union, proportionately the largest of any member state. Mr Fortuyn would slash disability and sickness benefits, which some blame for holding back a country in which almost 20% of the work force is on short or long-term sick leave. And he would freeze spending on health and education.

His policies on race consisted of zero Muslim immigration, a cut in the overall annual number of immigrants from 40,000 to 10,000, better integration of the 2 million immigrants already on Dutch soil, and financial aid to would-be refugees to get them to stay in their own country.

Most alarmingly for his opponents, he campaigned for a key anti-discrimination clause to be struck from the constitution.


As a political platform, Fortuynism seems to border on incoherence and the only Dutch value he seems to have been concerned with was sexual license.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM

WAY OVERDUE :

Just Give Him the Damn Ball! Here's Looking at You, Kidd (Allen St. John, Village Voice)
For a brief shining moment, it's showtime. Late in the fourth quarter of Game One of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Nets and the Hornets,
Kenyon Martin

If basketball can be ballet, this was pure Balanchine, so surprising it took your breath away, and so perfectly executed it seemed preordained. Kareem, Magic, and Worthy couldn't have run it any better.

But for most of this post-season, if the Nets have been doing any dancing, it's been the kind that you'd find at the Bada-Bing, a bump and grind that reveals nothing so much as their weaknesses. During the regular season, the Nets were a guilty pleasure for the savvy hoops geeks who trekked out to the Meadowlands or caught them on cable. Most NBA teams that make a great leap forward do it by playing Soprano-style defense. The Nets blossomed by running and passing and simply playing beautiful basketball. Now it's playoff time, however, and except for a few brief teases, it's over. But give the Nets credit. They've been playing ugly, but winning ugly, too.


If you are one of the few who actually cried when the arbitrator ordered Rick Barry to leave the Nets and go play in the NBA, sobbed when they sold Dr. J, mourned the loss of Drazen Petrovic, and still think Yinka Dare is going to put it all together soon, this Nets team is a beautiful thing.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM

DELETE AFTER READING, YOU STUPID COW :

Going Post-al, Part Two: Susan Schmidt retaliated against her critics. Why won't the Post come clean? (Brendan Nyhan, 5.7.02, American Prospect)
At this point, it's almost a cliché to say that the media loves to dish out scrutiny of powerful institutions -- except for itself. But like many clichés, this one has a grain of truth.

Case in point: the continuing controversy over the actions of Susan Schmidt, a reporter at The Washington Post who is notorious in Washington circles for allegedly serving as the primary conduit for leaks from Ken Starr's Office of the Independent Counsel. As I reported early last month, two readers of the Web site MediaWhoresOnline.com (MWO) sent Schmidt angry e-mail from their work accounts in late March, prompting her, they claim, to retaliate by forwarding the e-mails to their respective employers. [...]

As I argued previously, while it may have been inappropriate for Rentschler and the other MWO reader (an associate at a prominent New York law firm) to send political email from their work accounts, Schmidt's response is unsettling. Vitriolic email from readers is part of the job in the modern media age. Her first responsibility as a reporter is to basic principles of journalism such as serving readers and promoting open debate on issues before the public -- not intimidating her critics into silence.


Here again is a story I just don't get. If these guys wrote letters that they are ashamed to have their employers read, how is that Ms Schmidt's fault? If they want to terrorize authors and reporters, why don't they use Hotmail accounts or other personal accounts, instead of their work email? And what expectation of privacy do you have when you send hate mail to a public figure?

May 7, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 PM

LIBERTY FOR WHOM ? :

I have to admit I'm bewildered by the lack of skepticism with which people seem to be accepting the idea that Pim Fortuyn was a libertarian. I am a conservative rather than a libertarian precisely because I believe that Western Culture precedes and makes possible liberty and that the latter will not long exist once the former passes. But it has always been my understanding of libertarianism that the philosophy holds that one has no right to impose any such views on another. How then can Fortuyn have been a libertarian if he insisted that current Muslim immigrants adopt Dutch culture (in other words, his beliefs) and that no further immigrants (or far fewer) be allowed into the country? Mustn't a true libertarian allow people to believe what they choose to believe and live where they choose to live? Or does libertarianism allow an elite majority to dictate the domicile and beliefs of the minority, so long as the majority are allowed to enjoy unfettered freedom?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM

GODSPEED :

Racing legend Seattle Slew dies (Steve Bailey, May 7, 2002, AP)
Seattle Slew, who won the Triple Crown a quarter-century ago and became one of racing's greatest sires, died Tuesday morning in his
stall. The big, black stallion was a relatively advanced 28.

Seattle Slew's death came on the 25th anniversary of his Kentucky Derby victory. He followed by winning the Preakness and Belmont stakes, the other legs of thoroughbred horse racing's most prestigious series.

He was the only living Triple Crown winner. Affirmed, who won the last Triple Crown in 1978, died in January 2001.


This story reminded me of one of the most moving obituaries ever written, William Nack's for Secretariat. It's online here.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:08 PM

LIBERTY, EGALITY, ANTI-HUMANITY :

France: into the void : Those who voted for Le Pen belong to a generation which, in the words of one writer, "knows that pleasure is the opposite of happiness". (Joshua Winter, 6th May 2002, New Statesman)
Baise-moi is a road movie with a twisted difference. Two young women, one of whom has been raped, embark on a journey through France, sustained by murderous fantasies of revenge. Their aim is clear: to have sex with and then kill as many men as possible, which they do, again and again, in unrelenting and lurid detail. That's about it. These women have the self-satisfied ferocity of a black widow spider: they simultaneously satisfy their sexual and murderous appetites in scenes of appalling degradation. This, I suppose, is meant to be a kind of freedom.

Baise-moi - directed by two women, Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi - has just opened in Britain and is perhaps the most extreme and disturbed film ever to have been passed by the censors. Like many modern French films, with artistic aspirations or otherwise, it collapses the boundary between pornography and mainstream cinema at a time when there is no longer anything new or challenging to be said about pornography: the sex in the film is actual rather than simulated, and the violence has all the suffocating appeal of a snuff movie. Baise-moi labours to shock. Its website has a section entitled "The Controversy" and statements of denunciation are worn like badges of honour on the posters and advertisements. Yet what is most shocking about Baise-moi is not, in the end, the violence, but what it signifies about the cultural emptiness - what Tom Paulin has called the "moral void" - of France in the age of Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The film has been acclaimed as a work of radical feminism - which may say more about the confusion and relativism of modern feminism than anything else. [...]

In the new French cinema, sex is always sordid. It is always separated from love and companionship. It is, as Shakespeare wrote, "Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame". Perhaps that is the purpose of these films, in which images of sex and death are so tightly interwoven: to show us as we really are, with all facades and artifice removed, to remind us that we are really nothing but flesh and blood. Their vision is resolutely anti-humanist, in line with much current thinking in philosophy and science which seeks to show that all schemes to remake the world - socialism, environmentalism, liberalism - are doomed to fail; that history has no direction or meaning; that progress is a myth; that the human animal is hard-wired to find meaning in a universe where there is none; that life on earth is a fluke and amounts to little more than an unceasing struggle for survival; that there is, needless to say, no God.

Watching the dead-eyed actors moving in time to the commands of the directors - actors tricked into believing that their work is engaged and artistic - you understand that what you are seeing in these films is a reflection of a wider nihilism in French society. The French may be celebrated for their hauteur and difference, for their robust struggle against the homogenising forces of les Anglo-Saxons; but they are also a nation in thrall to cheap effects - pornography, populism, political posturing.


Man, I hate the French as much as anyone, but this is just brutal.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM

THE NIGHTHAWK HAS LEFT THE DINER :

Tom Waits: A Poet of Outcasts Who's Come Inside (JON PARELES, May 5, 2002, NY Times)
Mr. Waits, 52, is a family man now, getting up early in the morning to be with his wife and musical collaborator, Kathleen Brennan, and two of his three children. (His 18-year-old daughter is attending college.)

He hasn't taken a drink, he said, in nine years, and his self-destructive alcoholic patches are two decades behind him. But from his first album, "Closing Time" (Asylum) in 1973, to the two new ones being released simultaneously on Tuesday, "Blood Money" and "Alice" (both on Anti), he has peered into dank recesses and populated his songs with drunks, hobos, prostitutes, carnies, transvestites, suicides and a few stray politicians.

In the songs, true love collides with callous fate and close observation dissolves into surrealism. The music drags hymns and parlor songs, blues and ballads into a sonic menagerie that, on the new albums, includes Swiss hand bells, calliope and a four-foot-long Indonesian seed pod, which is "as wide as a Bible," he said, and has "seeds as big as CD's."

The tunes hold some Stephen Foster, some Kurt Weill, some Louis Armstrong, some Lightnin' Hopkins, some Harry Partch, some Captain Beefheart and some circus music--clear points that Mr. Waits has connected into his own constellation. He doesn't mind that his influences show. "Most songwriters, you can trace back what they've been listening to," he said. "It's like you can go through the entrails of any animal and tell what the last three days were like. How do you reconcile your irreconcilable musical desires and dreams and wishes and memories? You may not be able to make one thing out of it. I think I feel more comfortable trying to visit different places. I don't know if I have anything that I've made that's a synthesis of the things I love. I don't think I leave it in the blender long enough."

There has been enough straightforward melody and romance to let some of Mr. Waits's songs, like "Ol' `55" and "Downtown Train," be shined up and turned into pop hits by the Eagles or Rod Stewart. But others never will be. "Blood Money" starts with songs called "Misery Is the River of the World" and "Everything Goes to Hell"; "Alice," a collection of songs written for a music-theater collaboration with Robert Wilson in 1992, is haunted by solitude and death. But both albums are bipolar, with deep-seated misanthropy and pessimism sitting alongside pure, unironic love songs like "Coney Island Baby" from "Blood Money," on which he rasps, "All the stars make their wishes on her eyes."


What's bipolar about combining misanthropy and unironic love, I ask myself.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM

THAT THREAD'S A MITE FRAYED :

Democrats' daring: to dream of McCain (David M. Shribman, 5/7/2002, Boston Globe)
McCain wouldn't be the first conservative to consort with liberals; Winston Churchill, not an unappealing model to McCain, was a Tory, then a Liberal, and then a Tory again. And this wouldn't be the first time McCain thought about straying across the party line. Indeed, he almost did it last spring, when the Senate was deadlocked 50-50. He negotiated with top Democrats, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. But then Senator James M. Jeffords of Vermont left the GOP to become an Independent, the Democrats took power, and the lure of changing parties disappeared for McCain. He wasn't going to do it unless his gesture would swing power in the Senate chamber.

This spring he's been clinging to what one of his closest advisers calls ''the last thread'' that connects him with the Republican Party, his identification with Theodore Roosevelt. In retirement, McCain's hero did his best to make sure a Republican predecessor (and his handpicked successor), William Howard Taft, was defeated by a Democrat in 1912.


That has to be one of the more peculiar formulations you'll run across--that what ties John McCain to the GOP is his identification with TR, who in a fit of megalomaniacal pique quite intentionally gave us the disastrous Woodrow Wilson. Is McCain really only staying a Republican so that he can exact his own revenge on George W. Bush in '04? Mr. Shribman's essay, with its portrait of McCain only wanting to switch parties if he'd get the credit for changing the balance of power in the Senate, certainly leads one to believe that the Senator's ego is precisely that monstrous. But in what sense is this a connection, other than the sense in which a malignant tumor connects to a vital organ?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM

WOE IS ME :

Doing Nothing is Something : The overscheduled children of 21st-century America, deprived of the gift of boredom (Anna Quindlen, NEWSWEEK)
Summer is coming soon. I can feel it in the softening of the air, but I can see it, too, in the textbooks on my children's desks. The number of uncut pages at the back grows smaller and smaller. The loose-leaf is ragged at the edges, the binder plastic ripped at the corners. An old remembered glee rises inside me. Summer is coming. Uniform skirts in mothballs. Pencils with their points left broken. Open windows. Day trips to the beach. Pickup games. Hanging out.

Of course, it was the making of me, as a human being and a writer. Downtime is where we become ourselves, looking into the middle distance, kicking at the curb, lying on the grass or sitting on the stoop and staring at the tedious blue of the summer sky. I don't believe you can write poetry, or compose music, or become an actor without downtime, and plenty of it, a hiatus that passes for boredom but is really the quiet moving of the wheels inside that fuel creativity.

And that, to me, is one of the saddest things about the lives of American children today. Soccer leagues, acting classes, tutors-the calendar of the average middle-class kid is so over the top that soon Palm handhelds will be sold in Toys "R" Us. Our children are as overscheduled as we are, and that is saying something.


On of the most annoying traits of the Baby-Boomers (and yes, I'd acknowledge that much (all?) about them annoys me) is their absurd belief that their lives are particularly difficult in historical terms. This trend, of course, began with Vietnam, where a fairly standard issue war became somehow immoral, just because they were expected to fight it. And it reached its apex with the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992, when a minor slowdown was conflated into the "worst economy since the Great Depression."

A particularly appalling form of this Boomer self-pity is the complaint that their lives are more complicated and hectic than those of anyone who's come before them. See how Ms Quindlen makes her point about the time stress on youngsters by saying that they're "as overscheduled as we are"? The horror, the horror...

It seems worth noting that Ms Quindlen's own ancestors (almost all of our ancestors, unless you were to the manor born) would have been working in the fields or the factories when they were children--doing real, back-breaking, work. They'd have straggled to bed exhausted and hungry and woken the next morning to do it all over again. Yet somehow, even without "downtime" they managed to "become themselves", didn't they?

I'm all for cutting kids some slack and not making them participate in every stupid activity that their socially insecure parents think is vital to their future, but to pretend that children today have more difficult lives than their forbears is simply asinine, and nearly as insipid as pretending that it's been tough to be a Boomer. Get over yourselves already.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 AM

ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER? :

Dutch Election in Limbo After Politician's Murder (REUTERS, May 7, 2002)
"Our white hope in dark days,'' read the message on one wreath, underscoring Fortuyn's appeal to the xenophobic right.

One supporter, 75-year-old pensioner Koos Bosch, told Reuters: "He was the new messiah. They crucified the old one and shot the new one.''


I honestly don't know enough about Pim Fortuyn to know just how dangerous a man he was, but I do know this, the kind of cult-of-personality, messianic racialism that he represented is a cancer upon the body politic. From what European commentators are saying, he may not have been the same kind of exterminationist racist that Hitler was, but the appeal to racism was undeniably an integral part of his message, no matter how he couched it. Such a man by his very nature foments hatred and violence in a society and we can not be surprised that he was swallowed by the tiger he sought to ride.

I don't know that it's a good thing he's dead, but I do know that there's something incredibly creepy about the way we're all of a sudden treating the European far-Right like victims, rather than victimizers. What's most disturbing is that far too many conservatives seem to want to turn Le Pen and Fortuyn into nothing more than popular versions of Pat Buchanan. This seems to me to diminish conservatism and to elevate fundamentally despicable men to a status they don't deserve.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM

MYSTIC CHORDS OF MEMORY :

School may drop Lincoln holiday in favor of Cesar Chavez birthday (Jason Bono, May 05, 2002, Oakland Tribune)
Abraham Lincoln may have to forfeit his solo holiday to Cesar Chavez on the San Leandro school calendar.

Beginning next year, Lincoln's holiday may be dropped to honor labor leader Cesar Chavez on his birthday, March 31, pending school board approval. Several board members have already expressed support for the idea.

The San Leandro Teachers Association voted last month to make the change; 65 percent were in favor.

"The diversity of our community is growing, and it looks beautiful and we want to honor our Latino families," said Thomas Morse, political action chairman for the union. "And the other reason, which is very important for union members, is that Cesar Chavez was a labor leader."


The Brothers went to Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in East Orange, NJ until it was 99% black, then moved on. Several years ago the name of our alma mater was changed to honor its most famous alumnae, The Whitney E. Houston Academy--from a hero of the Revolution to a crack-addled diva. Even that's better though than the East Orange school that was going to be renamed for Thurgood Marshall, who is at least a significant figure in U.S. History, but was instead named the Johnnie L. Cochran Academy.

Black Americans have a great heritage, one to be proud of and to honor, but neither Ms Houston nor Mr. Cochran should be held up as heroes. Moreover, blacks, of course, share in the heritage that we all honor when we name a school for Ben Franklin--there seems no good reason for ceasing to honor him. Similarly, Latinos can honor their heritage without discarding the memory of Abraham Lincoln, who, with all due respect to Cesar Chavez, is a pivotal figure in world history and central to an understanding of our shared history. This kind of tribalism must inevitably isolate minority communities and move them towards the margins of American society, which can not possibly be good for them or us.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM

WE THE PEOPLE :

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT (Eugene Volokh, May 06, 2002, The Volokh Brothers)
Here's a completely unrealistic but possibly amusing thought experiment -- imagine that you had the superpower to add one amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ... What would it be? [...]

The amendment will also be repealable through the normal process -- if the repeal gets ratified by 3/4 of the states, and is proposed by a 2/3 vote of each house of Congress or a constitutional convention called by 2/3 of the states, then the amendment will vanish. So don't choose something that's too out of step with public opinion, since it will just get promptly repealed. Decriminalization of cocaine and heroin, for instance, would probably be stymied by this, whatever its merits might be in your own opinion. (Technical note: To prevent self-entrenching amendments, assume that the amendment will be repealable under currently-existing constitutional procedures and voting rules, even if it purports to change those procedures and rules.) [...]

The goal of this little game is creativity, both in identifying the best problem to solve, and in solving it in a practically useful way given the constraints listed above. A few procedural details:

1. If you think you have a good answer, e-mail it to me at volokh@law.ucla.edu with (a) the subject containing just the word "Amendment", (b) the text of the proposed amendment, and (c) a brief explanation of why you think this proposal will be good, effective, and better than the alternatives.

2. I will blog some of the best solutions I get, as well as some that I think would be unsuccessful or problematic in interesting ways. If I say generally nice things about your proposal, I'll use your name; if I say mostly negative ones, I won't.

3. I'm afraid that if I get enough proposals, I might not be able to respond to each individually; my apologies in advance if that indeed proves to be the case.

4. You of course don't need to be a lawyer to play, but try to think like a lawyer. Think of the ways the proposal might be misinterpreted by judges, and draft it as carefully and precisely as possible.


Here's mine :
AMENDMENT :
(a) The Supreme Court shall have the power to issue advisory rulings on legislation that is proposed in Congress. Having once issued such a ruling, should the legislation become law (and provided that it did not become law by overriding a presidential veto), the Court shall have no authority to review the constitutionality of said law.

(b) When the Court shall rule on the constitutionality of any other legislation (provided that it did not become law by overriding a presidential veto), a supermajority shall be required (2/3rds) in order to rule the law unconstitutional, and said legislation shall be resubmitted to Congress in unedited form and if reapproved by a super majority (2/3rds vote) in the House and a simple majority in the Senate and re-signed by the President, said legislation shall be presumed constitutional and the Court shall have no further authority to review said law.

REASONING :
Since John Marshall took upon himself and the Court the authority to review the constitutionality of laws and executive actions, the final arbiters of our Constitution have been the small handful of men and women who belong to our least democratic institution, the judiciary). For the better part of a century that didn't matter much, but like any unchecked power it began to be abused and under the Warren and Burger courts we reached a point where the Supreme Court became a kind of super legislature, rewriting the Constitution to suit their whims (particularly in the realm of criminal law, privacy, and voting rights).

This amendment would provide a means of restraining the Court without taking it out of the game altogether (which would run the equally unsatisfactory risk of unleashing a tyranny of the majority).


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 AM

WHITES ONLY :

Who's Afraid of Clarence Thomas? (Nat Hentoff, May 6, 2002, Jewish World Review)
In March, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted an invitation to spend a day in discussions with law students and faculty at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. The school's five black law professors boycotted Thomas' visit.

Few Americans, including law students, ever get to see a Supreme Court Justice in person; they can't watch how they conduct oral arguments before deciding a case because the justices refuse to allow television cameras within their sacred precincts.

So why would any law professors, of any color, give up a chance to join their students in direct exchanges with one of the nine Americans who make decisions that affect millions of us for many years to come?

Marilyn Yarbrough, one of the boycotting professors, told Tony Mauro, the very resourceful Supreme Court reporter for "Legal Times:" "We just questioned whether breaking bread with a justice was the appropriate thing for us to do."

After all, she continued, the only black justice on the Court has "lent cover" to his conservative colleagues by joining their "anti-progressive" decisions. "Since we are all black," said Yarbrough, "we did not want to lend cover to him. We have welcomed justices we disagree with, such as Antonin Scalia and Sandra Day O'Connor." However, joining Thomas, she explained, would have been seen as an endorsement, or at least a tacit approval, of his views.


Note first the presumption in the notion that conservatives need someone to provide "cover" for their views, but also, isn't punishing a black person (I know, but let's pretend not getting to break bread with these idiots was a punishment) for holding views that would not earn a white person a similar punishment a form of racial discrimination?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM

A GLIMMER OF HOPE IN FRANCE :

Chirac picks new prime minister (Elizabeth Bryant, 5/6/2002, United Press)
French President Jacques Chirac on Monday said that Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a little known, center-right politician, would replace Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

A provincial politician from the moderate Liberal Right party, known for his hands-on style of governance, Raffarin, 53, was expected to name his government quickly. [...]

Chirac's choice of Raffarin echoes his recent pledges to gather a grand coalition behind his centrist-right message -- and to respond to a disaffected electorate.

A former minister in Chirac's fleeting, 1995-97 government, Raffarin is a provincial politician and a strong supporter of decentralization.

In January, Raffarin published "For a New Governance," outlining his ideas on changing France's centralized system of governing.

Among other suggestions, he called for drastically paring down the number of ministers in the French government and handing more decision-making to the provinces.


France needs a lot more than mere decentralization, but that's at least a start. It's been popular to hammer the Left for the Le Pen debacle, because they couldn't muster enough voters for one of their candidates to finish second in the first round. But, since the Left is incapable of addressing France's core problems (declining population, failure to assimilate immigrants, declining moral values, protectionism, big government, high taxes, etc.), the bigger problem is on the Right, where Chirac's party needs to provide an anti-EU, anti-multicultural, anti-bureaucracy, etc., alternative to the nativists or eventually a Le Pen-like party will replace them as the dominant party on the Right. If Mr. Raffarin can act on some of his ideas, perhaps france can start rebuilding a responsible Right that is genuinely conservative.

May 6, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM

DID RICHARD RODGERS HAVE HIS BACK? :

Lone gunman kills Dutch far-Right leader (Ambrose Evans Pritchard and David Graves, 07/05/2002, Daily Telegraph)
Mr Fortuyn had recently expressed fears for his safety. A few weeks ago, protesters threw two cream pies laced with urine in his face.
"It's a scandal that the Justice Department did not take action after the pie incident," said his lawyer, Oscar Hammerstein. [...]

Mr Fortuyn had occasional bodyguards, but his lawyer said he did not have enough money to hire round-the-clock armed protection.

Harry Mens, a close friend who talked to Mr Fortuyn on the telephone yesterday morning, said Mr Fortuyn was worried about threats made in recent days against him.


There's a strange kind of European arrogance that we've all become especially familiar with in recent months--it holds out the notion that they are advanced and civilized nations, while we uncultured Americans are a bunch of yahoos needing their guidance. So several days ago when that gunman opened fire in East Germany you got man-in-the-street interviews with people saying that stuff like that was only supposed to happen in America, even though recent studies show Europe to be more prone to violent crime than are we. And today that arrogance may have contributed to the murder of Pim Fortuyn, an extremely controversial, openly gay, racial demagogue, who seems not to have had any police protection despite repeated threats against his life. Folks who put on haughty airs and claim, "It can't happen here", are damn near begging for it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 PM

PLAYING THE RACE CARD :

Poll shows Newark election shifting along racial lines (Jeffery C. Mays, May 04, 2002, Newark Star-Ledger)
In the most recent SurveyUSA poll--taken between April 29 and May 1--57 percent of Hispanic voters supported [challenger Cory] Booker, compared to 36 percent who supported [Mayor Sharpe] James. [...]

Among African-Americans, James leads 51 percent to 40 percent. James gained a 3 percent increase in support while Booker lost 3 percent. White voters back Booker 57 percent to 31 percent. In the last poll, Booker led James 45 percent to 44 percent. [...]

The divide between African-American and Hispanic voters may...mark an end to the decades-long traditional alliance between the groups and signal that Hispanic voters are now beginning to flex their political muscle.

The Hispanic population now represents 30 percent of the city's residents, growing from 61,254 in 1980 to 80,622 in 2000, according to Census Bureau figures. Blacks make up 52 percent of Newark's population; whites, 14 percent; Asians, 1 percent; and others, 3 percent.


Republicans have a tremendous opportunity, across the nation, to exploit this racial divide between black and Hispanic voters and possibly to make the fastest growing demographic group in America an integral part of the GOP coalition. Such a coup will require Republicans to abandon what remains of their anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies and embrace a wider range of social services for immigrants, but the long term pay off would more than compensate for these compromises.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM

A HUNDRED MORE YEARS OF PROGRESS AND THEY'LL BE GONE :

Check, please : Some argue that the convention of men paying for women is a harmless gallantry, like holding a door open. I beg to differ. (Ann Marlowe, May 4, 2002, Salon)
We were in a small Greenwich Village restaurant, my boyfriend Scott and I, and our conversation lagged as we waited for the check. You could get pasta
and a salad here for under $10, and the room was pleasant enough, so the place was packed with people in their 20s. As we waited, I calculated my share of the bill, reassured that I'd still have enough for lunch tomorrow, the subway, the Wall Street Journal. Payday, I could not forget, was the day after that.

Every workday I bought the Journal because I couldn't take enough from any one paycheck to buy a subscription. I lived very modestly and close to the financial edge. I found this poverty as surprising as my friends did, for as a financial analyst at an investment bank, I made more money than most 23-year-olds. But even in those days 20 grand did not go far in New York.

The waiter, about our age, tall, thin and actorly, smiled over our table and presented the bill squarely to Scott.

This casual gesture stung like a slap in the face. I wanted to object that the bill belonged in the middle. How could this young, hip-looking waiter, my contemporary, assume I wasn't paying for my own dinner? No, no, I wanted to tell him: I make more than Scott, I'm on Wall Street.

My good mood had dissolved. I knew I wasn't supposed to get upset over trivialities like where the bill was placed; I knew that feminism was about equal pay for equal work, abortion rights and legal issues. Waiters who gave the man the bill were doomed to go the way of ladies' menus without prices. It was just a matter of time.


Okay, hop in your Wayback Machine, travel to the 1890s, find a suffragette and a chauvanist pig, and explain to them that in 100 years women will provide at least equal financial support to their husbands, will offer sex without commitment, will abort any child that results, and will even pay for their own meals on a date, and tell me which one thinks their vision will have prevailed. Is all this really progress for women?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM

WHAT CALIFORNIA DO THE 42% LIVE IN? :

Davis' job performance rates poorly in poll : Energy crisis began governor's slide (Carla Marinucci, May 6, 2002, SF Chronicle)
Gov. Gray Davis, now wrestling with a growing controversy over state contracts with Oracle Corp., has one more reason to be concerned about his re- election effort--a new Field Poll showing more Californians disapprove of his job performance.

Californians, by a 49 percent to 42 percent margin, don't like the job Davis is doing as governor, and only 9 percent hold no opinion, the poll released today showed.

That rating has "held pretty steady" since the onset of the state's energy crisis last summer, says Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo. "It was because of that that people went sour on the governor, and his ratings haven't recovered since."


Here's hoping for a long hot summer...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM

SOYMILK IS MURDER :

The killing fields : Thoughts on man's inhumanity to plants (The Times of London, 5/03/02)
Scientists at the University of Bonn have discovered that plants do indeed cry when they are cut, moan when they are ill and gurgle when they are well. The more stress we subject them to, the more noise they make.

On the other hand, it'll be easier to eat crappy tasting vegetables like broccoli, knowing that they suffered.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM

...AND THE HORSE IT RODE IN ON :

The Inadequacy of Science Fiction (Hank Parnell, 5/05/02, The Texas Mercury)
To a Christian, a life without sin grants the believer a moral superiority; to a humanist, a life devoted to rooting out the causes of human misfortune and suffering grants the same. Neither remedies the ills of human life, since that remains as beyond the scope of human action to us as it did the ancients; nor is there any indication that this will change in that "kingdom of heaven" of the scientific humanists, "the future." Life, as the ancients knew, is inherently tragic, for we all must suffer and inevitably die. Yet death in science fiction is invariably a sort of martyrdom, when it is not cheated outright: an ersatz immortality. Science fiction is preoccupied with things that "are not and work not" in the human, not technical sense; and as mainstream literature itself grows increasingly preoccupied with such fantasies, it begins to impinge upon and overlap the domain of science fiction.

This, then, is the first and greatest inadequacy of science fiction: its inherent falsity, its dogmatic refusal to face the inescapable facts of human existence-something in which, not surprisingly, most science fiction writers and readers take an arrogant pride. This is not to damn SF writers, since most, if not all, human endeavors, however "noble," are ultimately self-serving. Rather, it merely points out the self-serving nature of their most cherished beliefs and assumptions, and in doing so illustrates how just challenging these beliefs and assumptions, as I have done here, will elicit the most hysterical of emotional reactions from the SF cultists, offering further proof of my argument's inherent validity.

The second greatest inadequacy of science fiction is the limitations of human imagination and knowledge; and to state that human imagination and knowledge have no limits, as most SF writers/readers will at this point, is to reference my first objection to science fiction. In truth, we don't know what alien beings, if there are such, would really be like, no more than we can know what our own world will be like 10 years from now, to say nothing of a hundred. Clever and logical as many SF aliens are, they are no more real than dragons and unicorns; just as entertaining and thought-provoking as the world of Heinlein's "future history" is, it is no more real than Tolkien's Middle Earth or Plato's Atlantis. Barry Malzberg (in Engines of the Night, largely an execrable book, but highly instructive as to the workings of the SF mentality) is right when he says there can be no "true" science fiction. There has to be some reference or connection with the present, but the flux of human culture and technological innovation is such that the world of tomorrow would bear little resemblance to the world of today. Just when the proponents of classical mechanics were congratulating themselves on having "explained" all the physical processes of existence, along came relativity and quantum theory, wholly unforeseen and unpredicted by Newtonian physics (and, indeed, quite irrational by its standards), to blow them out of the water.

A related inadequacy is science fiction's reliance on gimmicks. A traditional SF story is a gimmick story. Roads that roll, humans that change sex from male to female and back, robots with "positronic brains"-the heart of the story is the exploitation of a gimmick. Science fiction is a literature of gimmickry. And this is why the science in science fiction stories, and hence the stories themselves, are outdated, often within a matter of weeks or months, as an hypothesis or theory upon which a particular story is based is disproved or discounted. Pick any issue of Analog from the 60s and try to find a story whose science holds up 30 years later. It is a Sisyphean labor whose only reward is to conclude that without gimmicks, there would be no science fiction.

Third, and finally, science fiction is now little more than a platform for ideological agendas that are half-baked, to be charitable. Leftist scholars such as Bruce Franklin, and later David Hartwell, Kathryn Cramer and John Huntington, have long berated Heinlein and the Campbellian school as being "right-wing reactionaries"; but one need only read Gregory Benford's essay "Reactionary Utopias" to understand how the writings of such left-wing icons as Ursula Le Guin are full of their own brand of intolerance, bigotry, and a desperate avoidance of reality. Science fiction by women seems especially pathetic in this respect; I confess that I have read little of it, being absolutely appalled by what I have read. Anne McCafferty's Dinosaur Planet so seethed with wanton intolerance, mindless bigotry, a pathological denial of reality and, above all, the absolutely sloppy science (the paleontology, a subject I know quite well, was so inaccurate that I howled in derision with nearly every page as McCafferty made technical errors that a six-year-old dinosaur buff wouldn't have committed). On top of that, the story itself was simply negligible; the mindless hatred of people from heavy-gravity planets, the swaggering self-righteous intolerance not only of people but even animals who eat meat, and the suffocatingly smug sense of "moral" superiority that so pervaded the novel effectively precluded me from actually enjoying the story for its own sake.

If this is what being a political liberal is about, then I am glad to remain a "right-wing reactionary" who believes that some people are better than others (elitism), that all people should be left free of coercion by others to make their own choices about how they should live their lives (libertarianism), and that some people are by nature going to succeed where others fail in this life (Social Darwinism)-the three evils of Campbellian SF as enumerated by the shopworn theories of Hartwell, Cramer and Huntington, all of whom stole from Franklin.


This whole essay is great, but I'd like to pick up on just a couple of points. First, I think Mr. Parnell overestimates the optimism of Christianity. I'm unaware of any mainstream theologians who believe that Man is perfectible or that any man is capable of leading a "life without sin". It is the essence of the Judeo-Christian worldview that Man is Fallen and sinful by his very nature. On the other hand, I suppose he's right that religious belief, however irrational on its face, ultimately attempts to reduce the universe to rationality, by positing a God who's in control of it all.

Second though, I think he underestimates the impact of secular humanism's blind optimism by restricting himself to a discussion of just science fiction rather than science generally. It seems like his criticisms of sci fi could equally well be leveled against all of science, which likewise believes that it can eventually reveal all of life's mysteries, solve all problems, and heal all our ills. As I understand it, evolutionary psychology for example holds that every single human thought and behavior, no matter how irrational, must ultimately be a product of natural forces--it denies free will completely in favor of an iron determinism.

Finally, for all the criticism that precedes it, Mr. Parnell's statement of his own beliefs does not seem to conflict with classic Christianity in any major way. For an appropriately dark and conservative view of Christian beliefs, I'd once again point readers to Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World (2001) (Robert P. Kraynak 1949-). I suspect Mr. Parnell would recognize a kindred soul even if he might not partake of the faith.

UPDATE :

Ed Driscoll adds some thoughts on Sci Fi, specifically Star Trek.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM

LIE DOWN WITH DOGS, WAKE UP WITH THEM :

Boxers, Briefs, Mochas (MAUREEN DOWD, May 5, 2002, NY Times)
Perhaps the man who reshaped presidential campaigns when he answered the boxers-or-briefs question on MTV and played saxophone on Arsenio Hall should return to his roots. Let Bill be Bill - on cable.

A passel of washed-up celebrities are vying to be the next Ozzy Osbourne - reports say Ozzy has been offered $20 million by MTV to continue letting cameras record him puttering, coloring and scratching.

Mr. Clinton may not have any tattoos and his brain is intact, but the spectacle of Bill 24/7 would certainly be entertaining for us, and gratifying for him, giving him all the attention and love he craves.
You want to know why conservatives hate modern "culture"? Here we have Hollywood and the punditicracy, who told us that we couldn't remove Bill Clinton from the American presidency, turning around and telling us that he's not worthy of joining their exalted ranks.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM

MUST PC = M&M? :

I Am a Racially Profiling Doctor (SALLY SATEL, May 5, 2002, NY Times)
In practicing medicine, I am not colorblind. I always take note of my patient's race. So do many of my colleagues. We do it because certain diseases and treatment responses cluster by ethnicity. Recognizing these patterns can help us diagnose disease more efficiently and prescribe medications more effectively. When it comes to practicing medicine, stereotyping often works.

But to a growing number of critics, this statement is viewed as a shocking admission of prejudice. After all, shouldn't all patients be treated equally, regardless of the color of their skin? The controversy came to a boil last May in The New England Journal of Medicine. The journal published a study revealing that enalapril, a standard treatment for chronic heart failure, was less helpful to blacks than to whites. Researchers found that significantly more black patients treated with enalapril ended up hospitalized. A companion study examined carvedilol, a beta blocker; the results indicated that the drug was equally beneficial to both races.

These clinically important studies were accompanied, however, by an essay titled ''Racial Profiling in Medical Research.'' Robert S. Schwartz, a deputy editor at the journal, wrote that prescribing medication by taking race into account was a form of ''race-based medicine'' that was both morally and scientifically wrong. ''Race is not only imprecise but also of no proven value in treating an individual patient,'' Schwartz wrote. ''Tax-supported trolling . . . to find racial distinctions in human biology must end.''

Responding to Schwartz's essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education, other doctors voiced their support. ''It's not valid science,'' charged Richard S. Cooper, a hypertension expert at Loyola Medical School. ''I challenge any member of our species to show where this kind of analysis has come up with something useful.''


The wife is a doctor. She went to school in Chicago and did rotations at Cook County. Then we moved to NH. When we got here, she all of a sudden saw a lot of cystic fibrosis cases, which she'd rarely seen previously. On the other hand, the folks here were largely inexperienced with AIDs cases and totally unfamiliar with Sickle Cell Anemia. You don't have to be a racist to figure out that the differing racial makeup of the two patient populations played a role in this. You do have to be some kind of fanatic to ignore it. Dr. Satel is neither a racist nor a fanatic; she's a scientist. That used to matter in medicine.

One of the points she makes in her fine book, PC, MD, is that when you try applying politically correct dogma to medicine you are likely to provide inferior care. For instance, if I went to the doctor today because I felt ill and he checked me for Sickle Cell, he might be behaving in an admirably "colorblind" way, but he'd in all likelihood be wasting his time and my money and not be getting any closer to finding out what ailed me. Is this Leftwing ideology really worth the price we'll all end up paying? It can't be.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM

SO MUCH FOR RESTORING DIGNITY :

President Was Comedian in Chief at Press Dinner (ELISABETH BUMILLER, May 6, 2002, NY Times)
Mr. Bush used his time after dinner to narrate a slide presentation of what he called "actual, never-seen-before photos" showing "what life is really like inside the Bush White House." The show, a reprise of "the Bush family album" photographs from last year's dinner and Bill Clinton's boffo video of himself as a Lonely Guy in the twilight of his presidency in 2000, was written by Landon Parvin, a longtime Republican speechwriter.

Mr. Parvin is a master at the self-deprecating humor required for such occasions, but Mr. Bush showed off his timing and delivery and had the crowd laughing harder than did Drew Carey, the comedian who followed the president's act.

In one photo in the slide show, Laura Bush was shown in the Oval Office, standing close to her husband with her hand cupped around his mouth.

"She helps me in a million ways," Mr. Bush said. "Here she is helping me pronounce Azerbaijanis."

In another, Nicholas E. Calio, the White House Congressional liaison, was shown convulsed in laughter as he stood next to Mr. Bush.

"I have just said to him, 'So, Nick, what are the chances of the Senate passing ANWR?' " Mr. Bush said, referring to the Senate's blockage last month of the plan to allow oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In yet another photo, one of the Bush family's dogs, Spot, was shown about to disembark from Marine One, the presidential helicopter.

"The thing about Spot is that she is - she actually thinks she's the president," Mr. Bush said. "Here she is coming back from a fund-raiser for the American Kennel Club." Since Jan. 1, Mr. Bush has helped collect an average of $1 million a week for Republican candidates and the party.

The presidential dogs were featured prominently throughout the slide show.

"Barney's in some trouble here," Mr. Bush said as the black terrier was shown being chased from behind the president's desk. "This is the day he chewed up the list of undisclosed locations and we couldn't find Dick." Mr. Bush was referring to Vice President Dick Cheney, who spent much of last fall in secret locations.

In another picture, Mr. Bush was shown beaming in the Oval Office as he put his arm around a woman in a turquoise burka, the head-to-toe covering worn by some traditional Muslim women.

"I try to work with Republicans and Democrats alike," Mr. Bush said. "For political reasons, some Democrats prefer that it not be known they are working with a Republican president, so they slip in the back door, like Hillary Clinton here." In fact, the woman under the burka was Karen P. Hughes, one of Mr. Bush's most senior aides, who had slipped it on as a joke.

In other photos, Mr. Bush showed a series of senior White House officials keeping watch on him through a peephole in the door to the Oval Office. The peephole is real, but the photos of the peepers - among them Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political aide, and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser - were staged. In a final photo in the series, Mr. Cheney was shown from the back, with his hands in front of him, looking through the peephole in a pose that suggested he might have been relieving himself.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the vice president of the United States looking through a peephole," Mr. Bush said. "And Dick, I hope you're not doing what it looks like you're doing."

The crowd roared while Mr. Cheney, who was at the head table, turned scarlet.


Are we sure Mr. Cheney wasn't just choking on a hunk of steak when he turned red?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM

REBUILD THE WALL! :

Echoes of America : German school siege reflects U.S. influence. (Sanford Tweedie, Apr. 30, 2002, Philadelphia Inquirer)
As a Fulbright scholar during the 2001-02 school year, I lived in Erfurt, the eastern German city where 16 people were slain inside Gutenberg school Friday. When I heard the news, one of my first thoughts was that it is now clear how much America's influence has pervaded the once-communist former German Democratic Republic. [...]

While living in Erfurt, we awoke one morning to find that our car was stolen. It was recovered by police a few hours later. Riding with the police to the local garage where the car had been towed, I asked one of the officers whom he thought had committed the crime.

"Dumbe Junge," he responded. Stupid boy. He then went on to say that the problem with kids today was a lack of leadership. What he meant was that since the fall of the wall, no one was keeping an eye on the kids; the structured and busy lives forced upon people by the East German government were replaced by nothing; kids had too much time to hang out, see what they didn't have, and imagine the criminal means to get it.

Clearly, he was lamenting that cradle-to-grave care and oversight provided by the GDR had disappeared, that "former times" were over.

Robert Steinhaeuser, the 19-year-old gunman in Friday's shootings, proved that they are. He reportedly told a classmate, "One day, I want everyone to know my name, and I want to be famous." He got his wish. He now becomes the poster child for the new eastern German, one whose memory does not include a time when the e in East was capitalized, who has grown up with the conflicting tenets of western values.

Steinhaeuser's legacy is now the methods he chose to cope with the system's new pressures. We in the West are far too familiar with those pressures--and, alas, those methods.


Mike Daley sent us this astoundingly dim-witted column and one supposes it's possible that both he and I misunderstand it, but it certainly seems to reflect a nostalgia for the kind of totalitarian social control that, while it extinguished freedom, nonetheless offer a heightened degree of physical security (from all evildoers but the state itself, of course). We've frequently argued that all of human history boils down to nothing more than the competing desires for freedom on the one hand and security on the other, but rarely is it illustrated so well as in this frightening ode to bondage.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

TELLING A FRIEND FROM A FOE :

America knows who its friends are (Andrew Sullivan, May 05, 2002, Times of London)
In crises or periods of personal turmoil, you find out who your friends are. And your enemies. That¹s why our friendships and relationships can change
more profoundly under stress than in any other condition. And that goes for countries too.

I was thinking about this recently, observing the coverage in the American media of two critical allies: Israel and France.

If you want an insight into the future of US foreign policy, you could do worse than notice how attitudes towards these two have hardened in recent months.

And in these relationships, the growing gap between Americans and Europeans is particularly marked.

While Israel's battle against Islamic and Palestinian terrorism is regarded across Europe with dismay, most Americans cheer the Zionists on.

And while France remains central to the European project, and its flirtation with the far right has alarmed other Europeans, many Americans saw in Jean-Marie Le Pen confirmation of what they already believed: France is an essentially untrustworthy, hypocritical repository of posers and bigots.


The American relationship with Israel and France can be explained adequately by just two incidents. First, Israel : when Jimmy Carter launched the ill-fated Desert One operation to try and free the hostages in Iran, the Israeli military picked up American radio transmissions, realized the mission was so screwed up that we were broadcasting over open frequencies, and immediately began jamming them for us. Then, France : when Charles DeGaulle came to power he called LBJ and demanded that all American troops be removed from French soil. LBJ, in his finest moment, asked : Including those who are buried in it?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM

YOU GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO HOLD 'EM :

Peace processes (Thomas Sowell, 5/05/02, Washington Times)
If Middle East negotiations - endlessly described as "the peace process" - actually promoted peace, the Middle East would be one of the most peaceful places on Earth. Nowhere have there been more negotiations, more countries involved, more agreements made (and broken) or more photo ops.

When will peace come to the Middle East? When neither side has anything more to gain by war. That is when peace comes everywhere.

The Israelis have already reached that point, judging by their willingness to make large concessions to Yasser Arafat two years ago. But Mr. Arafat obviously has not, given his rejection of those concessions, which most observers considered extraordinary.


As we've argued here before, by the time two parties sit down to negotiate peace, one side has already lost simply by sitting down. When the Afrikaaners sat down with the ANC, white rule was doomed. When the IRA sat down with the Unionists and the Brits, it marked the de facto end of its terror campaign and of its aspirations for taking over Northern Ireland. And when Israel sat down with the Palestinians, beginning in Oslo, it had in effect conceded that the creation of a Palestinian state was inevitable. But, perhaps not surprisingly, this concession proved inadequate. Having already gotten that far, the Palestinians decided they might as well hold out for more, and they got it in the almost suicidally generous offer that Ehud Barak made, but, since they kept winning concessions without making any, the Palestinians figured they may as well keep making demands. But this proved too much for even the Israeli Left to accept and so the best offer the Palestinians were ever going to get was withdrawn, and now they will have to eventually settle for little more than what they already have.

At this point, the next serious negotiation between the parties will only come when the Palestinians accept that they have all, or most, of the territory they're ever going to get from Israel and determine that their economic development is more important to them than their demand for 100% of the territory they desire. But that moment does not appear to be imminent (it could in fact be several decades away) and so peace negotiations are an exercise in the absurd. Rather than engage in this pointless bit of kabuki theater, Israel, as it should have done several years ago, must simply dictate the situation : declare the existence of a Palestinian state; announce what that state's borders are; and explain that if they want more land they'll have to take it in the traditional manner, through warfare between sovereign states. The U.S. will promptly recognize the newly minted Palestinian state and Arafat will be put in the uncomfortable position of having to either accept it or explain why he doesn't want an independent nation, however circumscribed its borders.

This might be called the Two Koreas solution, and like the situation that has obtained on the Korean Peninsula for the last fifty years (where no peace treaty was signed officially ending the Korean War), it would be tense and unsatisfactory, but it might ultimately work. It might provide an interval of relative, though heavily armed and frequently violated, peace during which the contrast between Israeli economic growth and Palestinian economic decline would demonstrate to the Palestinian people that they would be better served by admitting the inferiority of their system and moving toward a Western model, at which point a genuine peace and some degree of integration with even a historically hostile neighbor might prove possible.

(via Mike Daley)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM

VIVA LA WHATEVER :

Chirac has won big but it will mean so little (Tim Hames, May 06, 2002, Times Online)
General de Gaulle reputedly argued that politics was "too serious a matter to be left to the politicians". The bizarre events of the past fortnight in France would have confirmed his instincts. Jacques Chirac, his self-appointed protégé, has duly earned his second term and by an enormous margin. But rarely can a personal victory have been so pyrrhic. This was less a ballot than a negative referendum on his opponent. When the question is: "Would you like to be thought a Fascist?", there could be but one answer.

If the voters still harboured any doubts then every institution in French society was mobilised to remind them of their duty. Business, the trade unions, the Roman Catholic Church, actors, footballers, the media and even the tourist board hammered home the message. Other than digging up the corpse of the General and displaying it at the President's campaign rallies, the process could not have been any more explicit. France has voted against something, but for absolutely nothing.


Well, the French have restored their national honor, completely burying the only popular politician who is telling the emperor that he has no clothes. The most disturbing note in this article is the following :
One candidate and one contender alone, Alain Madelin, offered the electorate full-blown market liberalism. It was he exclusively who endorsed the Anglo-Saxon economics that are commonplace in the United States and Britain. He was the sole politician willing to denounce the "cultural exception" for blocking US imports, embraced by every other party, as the fraud that it is.

M Madelin does not lack courage, eloquence or talent. Yet his reward was 3.9 per cent of the ballots cast by his fellow countrymen. That is more of a rounding error than a number. I did (a little) better than that in a domestic science test 25 years ago. This advocate of change was outvoted by the likes of two mad Trotskyites, a spaced-out Green and an aristocrat standing on a hunting, shooting, fishing ticket.

The unfortunate reality is that, despite the acres of political space left for M Madelin to occupy, the free market has no constituency to speak of in his nation. It has a role in French politics not dissimilar to that played by Antarctica in the planet: it may well look huge on the map but virtually no one wants to live there. Even if M Madelin were to be appointed by M Chirac as his Prime Minister, he would not have the slightest chance of imposing reform on the natives.

It is not the strength of neo-Nazism but the weakness of neo-liberalism that is the curse of our continent. The far Right will always exploit social tension but it cannot provide any solutions. When it finds itself in a Cabinet - as in Austria and Italy - the limits of bluster become all the more apparent. The neo-liberals, in sharp contrast, have answers aplenty to Europe's economic malaise but cannot get close to office.


Francis Fukuyama is none too popular in blogdom these days, but it is worth returning to the argument that he made in his great essay and book The End of History, that human experience and the 20th Century in particular demonstrate that liberal democratic protestant capitalism offers the optimal way of arranging our political, social, and economic systems. Thomas L. Friedman extended that argument in his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, where he equated globalization with the process of converting to the type of system (at least the economic system) that Mr. Fukuyama described :
The driving idea behind globalization is free-market capitalism--the more you let market forces rule and the more you open your economy to free trade and competition, the more efficient and flourishing your economy will be. Globalization means the spread of free-market capitalism to virtually every country in the world. Globalization also has its own set of economic rules--rules that revolve around opening, deregulating and privatizing your economy.

Yet what has Europe done to adjust to this reality? Practically nothing.

The nations of Europe continue to be overly protectionist (particularly where agriculture is concerned), to be overly regulated, to be overly dependent on government services, to be too bureaucratic (and, with the EU, getting more so, rather than less), and to depend far too much on immigration. But the major parties of the Right, like the Tories in Britain or Chirac's party, have offered no challenge to any of these problems. Like the Republican Party of the 1940's and 50s, they have made their accommodation with the Welfare State and show little interest in charting a different course, even though the ship of state resembles the Titanic.

So now we have the bizarre spectacle of France--which may be as distant as any state in the West from the free market model--casting 100% of its votes for parties of the Right, in order to maintain the sclerotic status quo. What hope is there for Europe when "conservatives", who to warrant the name should feel a yearning for freedom coursing through their veins, do not advocate privatization of government and other free market reforms? I fear, none.

(via Mike Daley)


May 5, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM

ISLAM MEANS WHAT? :

May Allah Curse All Americans: Never Say Amen. : Supplications are directed against the oppressors among non-Muslims (Lamya Tawfiq, 5/05/02, Islam Online)
“O Allah, perish America, Christians and all their allies! O Allah, destroy their homes, widow their women and make their children orphans! O Allah, destroy all the Jews and Christians!” Such supplication should never be construed as seeking the demolition of non-Muslims entirely, Muslim scholars told IslamOnline.

In response to a question by a visitor regarding supplications against non-Muslims during prayers, the scholars said that when imams do supplicate it is directed against the oppressors among non-Muslims and aims at those who launch war against Muslims and against humanity.

“When people invoke Allah’s Wrath on any non-Muslim country, like the U.S. or Israel, this is merely an outburst of anger filling their minds towards inhuman acts or schemes of oppressions orchestrated by both two countries against innocent people.

“Regarding this, it is to be stated that every occasion dictates a special way of behaving. At times of peace, it is better to supplicate Allah to guide disbelievers.

But at wartime, the reality dictates supplicating Allah to grant Muslims victory over warring disbelievers, just as they themselves would normally do, seeking victory in the war they launch on Muslims. This is the normal course of war,” the scholars said.

The curses, they said, are normally directed to the acts and their perpetrators, not to innocent people who have no hand in such crimes.


Hey "scholars", guess what? We're democracies, so all our hands are dirty. When you pray against the least of us you pray against all of us. Yet, oddly enough, we (Jews and Christians) pray for you and your poor misguided souls. Maybe there's a lesson in that, huh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM

AND A FRAT BOY SHALL LEAD THEM :

U.S. Pushing Israel to Accept Arafat for Negotiations (TODD S. PURDUM with JUDITH MILLER, May 5, 2002, NY Times)
The White House is making last-minute efforts to persuade the Israeli government that it must deal with Yasir Arafat even as the Israelis are conducting a sustained campaign to discredit him.

The dueling campaigns come as both sides prepare for a meeting here between President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday.

The immediate challenge for Mr. Bush, one senior foreign policy aide said, is to "convince the Israelis it's in their long-term interest to deal with Arafat, no matter how reprehensible he may be." [...]

Mr. Sharon, who arrives in Washington late on Sunday, is expected to argue that Mr. Bush's efforts to broker peace are doomed as long as they depend on the Palestinian leader.

"The Israelis were truly shocked by the amount of information they found" about Palestinian Authority links to terrorism in their recent sweeps and raids in Palestinian areas, one senior administration official said. "Even they didn't think that the kind of collusion with some of these terrorist groups was so extensive," the official said.

Still, this official said of Mr. Sharon's government, "they've got to understand that only by having a responsible Palestinian Authority are we going to solve these questions, and that Yasir Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian Authority."

Mr. Sharon's face-to-face encounter with the president, set for Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office, promises to be an unusual and risky confrontation for the two blunt-talking, conservative leaders. [...]

The White House says that Mr. Bush is pursuing what he views as the best strategy, regardless of the pressures from within his own party. But his political aides are clearly aware that Mr. Bush's allies have been far more critical of his approach than have the Democrats.

The diplomatic approach Mr. Bush enunciated just a month ago is threatened by Mr. Sharon's refusal to deal with Mr. Arafat. That approach envisions a division of labor, in which Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, are to be responsible for putting pressure on Mr. Arafat, while the president presses Mr. Sharon to embrace concrete steps toward creation of a Palestinian state.

Two days after Mr. Sharon leaves, King Abdullah II of Jordan will arrive to hold talks with Mr. Bush on the next steps in forcing Mr. Arafat to rein in extremists and keep a lid on suicide bombings.

Mr. Bush insists his approach can work, if only the Israelis and the Palestinians follow his lead. "I'm optimistic we're making good progress," he said on Thursday, after meeting with European leaders about the Middle East at the White House. "After all, a week ago, Yasir Arafat was boarded up in his building in Ramallah, a building full of evidently, German peace protesters and all kinds of people. They're now out. He's now free to show leadership, to lead the world."

Mr. Bush has told Mr. Sharon privately that he deeply distrusts Mr. Arafat, and would like to find other Palestinians to negotiate with, American officials say. Secretary Powell has had repeated meetings with some Arafat deputies, but no one in the administration has found a way to avoid Mr. Arafat as long as he remains the designated Palestinian leader.

So, according to administration officials, Mr. Bush plans to tell Mr. Sharon that the strategy of getting Arab states to press the Palestinian leader is working, so that Mr. Sharon should not say or do anything that rocks that plan.

"We think we've seen some breakthroughs, starting at Crawford," a senior administration official deeply involved in the negotiations said in an interview on Friday. He was referring to the meeting between Mr. Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the president's ranch in Texas 10 days ago.

"The Saudis were very active in bringing Arafat's acquiescence to the Ramallah deal," the official said, referring to the Palestinian agreement to let American and British wardens oversee the imprisonment of six Palestinian men whom the Palestinians convicted in the assassination of Israel's tourism minister last October. "And I believe the Egyptians called Arafat, too. So there are signs it can work," if indeed the Saudis and Egyptians can bring much influence to bear on Mr. Arafat.


Perhaps the oddest thing about the apotheosis of George W. Bush is that the clarity of his political vision seems to suggest that he's the most mature American leader and maybe world leader in office right now. In analyzing the Middle East, the most useful thing you can do is to forget everything that's going on right now and imagine what the region will look like in five or ten or twenty years. Several things seem likely :

(1) Israel will still exist. (Though the demographic challenge may have once again returned, this time showing Israel not to be a viable state in the long run.)

(2) Israel will remain in a de facto war with Palestine, although Palestine will be a state. Arafat will have been succeeded by more radical Islamist leaders, like Hamas.

(3) Saddam will certainly be gone, though Iraq may not be governed much better by his successors.

(4) The House of Saud may be gone, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan may be, the Assads in Syria may be, Mubarak in Egypt may be--all replaced by more popular radical Islamist governments.

(5) Iran and Pakistan, on the other hand, may well be fairly far along the road to relatively liberal democratic rule.

(6) Israel, India, Turkey, Russia, and the U.S. (maybe even Iran by then) will have forged some kind of political/military alliance based on shared democratic and opposition to the brand of apocalyptic Islam that dominates the Arab Middle East.

Given this longer term perspective, it is easier to see what Mr. Bush is up to. First, he can ignore all the doomsaying about an immediate threat to Israel's existence because neither the Israelis nor we will allow the destruction to come about. Second, since peace is not an option, he can dither around with various plans, make various concessions, issue random ultimatums, etc., because all are merely intended to quiet the situation and buy time so that we can get on with the business of deposing Saddam. Third, he must deal with the repressive authoritarian rulers of the Arab world and prop them up for as long as possible because they are better than the only current alternative. The Sauds may be scum, but how would it help our interests in the region for the bin Ladens of Arabia to control the Arabian oil reserves and wealth? Mr. Bush understands, as Mr. Sharon apparently does not, that Arafat is as good as it gets in Palestine. The idea that peace will come closer once Arafat is gone smacks of utter delusion. Fourth, those Islamic nations that are taking fitful steps in our direction, though they may frequently disappoint us, deserve our patience and our quiet assistance. Iran and Pakistan may annoy us at times, but there is at least some hope that they can evolve into worthwhile partners and allies. Finally, we have no more important international relationships than those with Israel, Russia, Turkey, and India. We may have to turn a blind eye at times to some of their less savory behaviors and we may find ourselves at odds sometimes (like a good marriage that requires some understanding of the partner's faults and experiences some tension now and again), but we can never lose sight of the common interests that bind us together.

From this perspective you also begin to see how shallow are the criticisms of Mr. Bush from both Left and Right. On the Right, the neocons and others want to attack Iraq yesterday, to get rid of Arafat, maybe even to tackle Iran and Saudi Arabia because they aren't helpful enough. This might all be viscerally satisfying but on the bloody morning after we'd find each of these nations run by even less responsible and more violent leaders--are we going to occupy and oppress all of the Middle East? Or do we really think the situation would be improved by having regimes that we can't work with at all installed in all these countries? This attack 'em all is the ill-thought reaction of a teenage boy--no wonder the tempestuous John McCain is their hero.

Meanwhile, the Europeans and the American Left have convinced themselves that there could be peace in the Middle East, if only we all loved the Palestinians a little more. This emotional response, the Mommy response, completely ignores the fact that the offer that Ehud Barak made to the Palestinians was their best case scenario. That's the most land that is ever going to be offered by Israel and the Palestinians said no. If that offer did not suffice then you have to conclude that it is impossible to reconcile Palestinian demands for territory with the maintenance of Israel's territorial integrity. This means that we're never going to achieve more than a heavily militarized truce between the two parties, with continued suicide bombings on the one side and periodic incursions by the other. At best, the two sides might achieve a North Korea/South Korea or China/Taiwan type cessation of hostilities. In this scenario, Palestine (like China and North Korea) will remain the impediment to true peace and will have to continue to be treated like a pariah. To pretend otherwise would be to disregard Israel's adherence to shared democratic values and her desire for peaceful co-existence. Palestine will not be a partner for peace; the most we can hope for is that it acquiesces in an effort to control the violence somewhat.

The Europeans and the American Left also fail to recognize the importance, or object to the importance, of our imperfect new allies : Turkey, Russia, and India. They continue to try to keep Turkey and Russia from being integrated into European institutions and they treat India like a pariah for its development of nuclear weapons and its periodic outbreaks of anti-Muslim violence. The Left will never relent in regard to these nations because each in its own strange way is becoming a part of the hated "West", of the dread system of liberal democratic capitalism that is the product of globalization. The Europeans likely just resent seeing themselves recede into the mists of history as other nations supplant them in importance. Whatever the reasons, the concerns of Europe and the Left should be ignored, as their interests are at odds with the interests of America and of Western Civilization generally.

So long as Mr. Bush continues to keep his eyes on the prize--preserving Israel; cultivating Russia, Turkey, and India; nurturing Pakistan and Iran; quieting Palestine; deposing Saddam; and destroying al Qaeda--all of the sometimes contradictory steps that advance us towards our goals can be properly viewed as mere tactics and frequently nothing more than feints or dodges. It is the strategic vision that matters and to a shocking degree, it appears to be "the man who put the duh? in W" who has it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM

AN EXPENSIVE DATE :

President Praises Mexican Immigrants (Associated Press, May 5, 2002)
President Bush yesterday honored the Cinco de Mayo holiday and praised immigrants whose hard work and family ties enrich America.

In his weekly radio address, Bush renewed his pledge to help "the entire American familia achieve prosperity and live in peace."

He said that people on both the U.S. and the Mexican side of the Rio Grande value independence, freedom and opportunity. He cited Mexican immigrants for their "strong values and their determination to create a better life for themselves and their children."

Bush worked with measurable success to win Hispanic votes in his 2000 presidential campaign. He has tried to strengthen ties with theSpanish-speaking community and is the first president to follow his weekly radio speeches with a Spanish translation.


The best thing about this courtship is the moronic way that Democrats have chosen to respond. Several have said that the Republicans are just trying to buy Hispanic votes and will do anything they have to in order to purchase their loyalty. So, I'm thinking, if I'm Latino, what's wrong with someone who wants me so badly that money is no object?

When Bush appoints a Hispanic to the next Court vacancy, the Democrats will claim that he was only chosen because he's Latino. Yeah? And that's a bad thing for Hispanics?

UPDATE :
Republicans Unveil TV Show in Spanish (WILL LESTER, 5/06/02, Associated Press)

Republicans are stepping up their drive for Hispanic support--considered crucial to GOP success in upcoming elections--by introducing a Spanish-language television program on public affairs.

Republican National Chairman Marc Racicot planned to announce details Monday of the latest GOP venture to improve the party's appeal in the fast-growing Hispanic community. The title of the new show will be "Abriendo Caminos," Spanish for "opening paths."

'"Abriendo Caminos' is an opportunity to communicate directly with the Hispanic community," Racicot said, adding it is important that the Republican agenda "reach every community across America." [...]

President Bush got about 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2000 election. Republicans hope to build on that base, especially in races for governor, the Senate and the House in regions with large numbers of Hispanics.

The number of Hispanics in the United States has grown rapidly over the last decade and they now make up almost as big a share of the population as blacks. The population of Mexican-Americans grew by 53 percent over the last decade, fueling the surge in the Hispanic population.


May 4, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 PM

DID I MISS SOMETHING? :

Aids fear as Bush blocks sex lessons : US undermines global declaration (Gaby Hinsliff, May 5, 2002, The Observer)
President George W. Bush is blocking an international drive to provide teenage sex education because of his belief in chastity before marriage. Health experts say this could fatally undermine the battle against Aids.

Bush has poured millions of dollars into 'true love waits'-style programmes in America, which teach that abstinence out of wedlock is the best way to avoid underage pregnancy.


You can read the whole rest of the article, and you know what? You never get to the part where the experts outline a better method than abstinence to avoid pregnancy. What a gyp...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM

MAYBE DAVIS RESEMBLES BOTH CLINTONS? :

Scandal could hit Davis hard : Costly Oracle deal may have lasting fallout (Will Shuck, May 3, 2002, The Record)
Whether or not the scandal over California's $95 million software deal with Oracle Corp. rises to the level of a political corruption case, it still has potential to color the gubernatorial debate in a way that benefits Republican challenger Bill Simon.

The Oracle fiasco is ugly and embarrassing. Billed as a money-saver, the software-licensing agreement could cost the state $41 million more than if there were no contract. It's led to three high-level resignations, provided the spectacle of police entering a state office building to prevent document shredding,

Gov. Gray Davis said Friday he's been working for weeks to rescind the contract, and that he continues to do so.

"In terms of the taxpayer, I'm determined to make it right for them. ... I'm as mad as anybody else," he said.

Meanwhile, the state attorney general continues to investigate. And Republicans beat the drum for federal officials to intervene.

For all that, experts say, it probably won't lead to criminal charges close to the governor.

For one thing, it's hard to imagine a governor with a $50 million campaign war chest promising a $95 million contract in exchange for a $25,000 contribution, said Bruce Cain, director of the Institute for Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. And proving that were the case would be extremely hard, anyway.

"You'd have to find a smoking gun," Cain said. "You'd need an e-mail or something in which the contract was promised. It just doesn't seem too likely."

The more likely outcome, Cain said, is that the Oracle story could give way to any number of other stories that reflect poorly on Davis' fund-raising activities.

"You put it together with the teachers union's complaint" that Davis opposed the union's proposed bills only after it rejected his demands for $1 million in campaign contributions, Cain said, "and it starts to look, if you like, kind of slimy."

"It becomes a story about the administration extorting groups that do business with the state. It becomes about shakedown," he said. "That makes character and honesty more important issues (in the campaign) than the ideological differences of the candidates.

"And that's disastrous for the Democrats," he said. "They want to talk about issues, because they've got a really conservative candidate (in Simon)."


That last point is quite right. The scandals may not have much effect on Davis, but the one thing they do is to provide Simon the devastating comeback in debates and interviews, when folks question him on issues he doesn't want to talk about : "Well, of course, what Mr. Davis is trying to do is change the topic to my personal religious beliefs from his administration's corruption."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM

IN THE LINE OF FIRE :

MP stunned at actor's outburst (BBC, 4 May, 2002)
A Scottish Labour MP is taking legal advice after the Hollywood star John Malkovich allegedly said he would like to shoot the politician.

Malkovich is reported to have said that the Glasgow Kelvin MP, George Galloway, was one of two people he would most like to kill.

The source of Malkovich's anger appears to be Mr Galloway's condemnation of Israel's action against Palestinians and his criticism of the west's policies on Iraq.

The actor was addressing students at the Cambridge union debating society when he was asked who he would most like to "fight to the death".


I'm going out to rent my new favorite actor in Being John Malkovick right now. Hopefully, they'll televise the fight.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM

GOD SAVE THE KING :

This Throne of Kings (Michael Kinsley, May 4, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
Is anyone else bothered even a little bit by the idea that the war on terrorism has somehow put the United States in the business of installing a king in Afghanistan? Re-installing, actually. His name is Zahir Shah, he's 87 years old and he's been on an extended leave of absence since 1973. But he apparently has used up all his vacation days at last. Or, more to the point, we think he might be useful as a unifying figure during Afghanistan's transition from a hellish cauldron of feuding warlords to a prim parliamentary democracy, which is penciled in for the second half of this year.

The idea, presumably, is not that the king would actually run things but that he and his family could concentrate on the activities we associate with modern royalty -- smiling and waving, committing adultery, getting divorced -- while the real work of nation-building swirls on around him. We might not want a king ourselves. But Afghanistan, you see, is what one calls a "traditional" culture, in which they take innocent pleasure in pretending that some doddering 87-year-old is better than everybody else because his father was too. The United States of America was long associated with the idea of rejecting kings. And that "branding strategy," as the business world calls it, worked pretty well. When we find ourselves installing kings instead, the course of human events has taken a strange turn. [...]

Doesn't our president understand that there are two different kinds of nations in the world? There are nations where the rulers are determined by heredity -- where the person in charge is in charge for no better reason than that his or her father was in charge before him. Then there are nationswhere the rulers are determined by democracy -- where the person in charge is in charge because he or she got the most votes in an election among thecitizens. And in this great divide, the United States stands proudly on the side of . . .

Oh, never mind.


Suppose for just a moment that two things about last weekend's French elections were changed. Suppose that Le Pen had actually won the presidency, though with a very small percentage of the vote (we'll say 30%) and suppose that France still had at least a British style monarch. On the
following Monday, the King of France, though he has not exercised any real authority since the 18th Century, steps forward and declares : "These election results are a blight upon the soul of France and we can not allow them to stand. We, therefore, declare this election null and void and order that a new election be held, immediately."

France does not have a king of course and that is a very unfortunate thing. For while the scenario above has not yet unfolded, it may well in the not too distant future and France has found itself stuck with equally repellent pro-Nazi (Vichy) and Socialist (Mitterand) governments. Likewise, king-less Germany brought Hitler to power by democratic processes and even America has labored under governments in which the people had lost all faith and whose continuance threatened the health of the nation--Wilson, Hoover, Nixon, Carter.

What a constitutional monarchy would provide to even these most advanced democracies is a final check and balance on the powers of the government. A monarchy is uniquely well-suited to staying above the rough and tumble of partisan politics and, at least in theory, able to place the good of the nation above all other concerns. A kingship where the sole power was to intercede when government went badly awry and which exercised such power exceedingly rarely would quite possibly improve even the political systems of the West.

Now consider a nation like Afghanistan or other places that do not even have viable government institutions. What a king can provide, so long as he does not seek to run the day to day operations of the country, is a way of legitimizing a nascent government in the eyes of the people. Such a monarchy does not preclude democracy--most of us would call Britain a democracy, even though it retains the monarchy--but instead provides a bulwark against a truly ruinous (though maybe democratically elected) government or a descent back into chaos.

Mr. Kinsley's faith that democracy necessarily produces good government is touching, but quite naive. And if the choice is between a bad government that is absolutely democratic or a good government that is not quite democratic enough for Mr. Kinsley, which do you think the people of a chronically misgoverned nation like Afghanistan would choose?

Oh, never mind...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM

BILL, MEET HILLARY :

Bill Simon's Winning Numbers (George Neumayr, 5/2/02, American Prowler)
"I don't want to argue on whether or not Gray Davis has done a good job or a bad job. I just want to look at the numbers. And the numbers say he has done a terrible job. His numbers stink," said pollster Stuart Rothenberg in April. "And he's losing to a guy who has never run for office before on a ballot test."

A survey conducted by the California Teachers Association -- a group which endorsed Davis -- found Bill Simon enjoying a four-point lead over Davis, 41 to 37 percent.

Simon says that he has been maintaining an 8-point lead over Davis since the primary. The polling firm Public Opinion Strategies Inc. says Simon leads Gray Davis 48% to 41% among registered voters. A poll conducted by Probolsky & Associates Opinion Research puts Davis's support at less than 38% of voters and Simon's at 44%.

Polls apparently don't impress the California media unless they show Davis ahead. The San Francisco Chronicle neglected the polls above, but it quickly perked up when an unreliable Field Poll emerged to suggest a Davis lead.

This Field Poll was not restricted to likely voters. And yet even this dubious poll bodes ill for Davis, as 57% of voters indicated they would not vote for his re-election.


It was only about ten years ago that we used to speak of the GOP's electoral lock on the White House. In the Reagan era, Republicans could rely on carrying the South, the Southwest, the Plains, and, most importantly, California. Democrats, if they had a decent candidate, could count on the Northeast, Northwest, and Hawaii, and be competitive throughout the Midwest, but without California they had to run the table and pick up some borderline Southern states in order to have a shot at winning (which is why their only successful candidates were Southerners : Carter & Clinton). Carter lost California to even as weak a Republican candidate as Gerald Ford, but Clinton broke through in 1992 and subsequent gubernatorial and senatorial elections showed how Democratic the state had become. Then in 2000, despite a massive effort by George W. Bush to keep the state at least competitive, he got buried (lost by 1.3 million votes). It now seems fair to say--with a Democrat governor and legislature, two Democrat Senators and three successive votes for fairly weak Democrat presidential candidates--that California is a strongly Democrat state.

There are several reasons for this shift, mainly having to do with Californians having significantly more permissive social views than the Republican Party and with the GOP's foolish alienation of Mexican voters during Governor Pete Wilson's anti-immigrant initiatives. The first problem can not be changed by the GOP, but may well be changed by the continued demographic shifts in California, and so by healing the second breach, Republicans could become competitive there again. Hispanics, who, although they may be more dependent on government services than the average Republican voter are also mostly Christian conservatives, are a natural constituency for the GOP, if only they can be convinced that the Republican Party is not racist. This is probably a process that will require several years and will depend on George W. Bush and his successor to make tremendous and visible efforts to woo the Latino vote in 2004 and 2008 (Bush's first Supreme Court nominee will certainly be Hispanic and look for someone like Condi Rice to be his running mate in '04--she's not Latino but she's from CA and both a woman and a racial minority). For the moment, it seems safe to say that California's Hispanic vote and with it California, is a lost cause for the GOP.

What this means for 2002 is that despite Gray Davis's unpopularity, he is going to be re-elected governor. Sure an incumbent who can't get to 50% in the polls has to be considered to be in deep trouble, but like Hillary Clinton in 2000, we'd have to expect that disaffected Democrats will drift back to the party nominee over the course of the Summer, even if they aren't enthusiastic about doing so. By early Fall, we'd expect to see Davis around 55%, which is still trouble, but, barring a national Republican tidal wave, like that of 1980 or 1994, that should be enough to get him through to victory.

Republicans have taken heart in the numbers that Bill Simon has posted so far, with most polls showing him ahead and all showing him to be polling in the 40s. Keep in mind though that he starts with at least 40% (any major party candidate does in almost every state) and the rest is probably just an inchoate anti-Davis sentiment. In fact, I can't find the specific numbers on-line, but I suspect Simon is actually polling higher than his name recognition numbers. This means that it remains for him to be defined in the minds of voters, and we all know how Davis and his allies in the media will define him : a rich, racist, anti-abortion, whacko. For Democrats, Davis will quickly become the better of two bad alternatives and Simon will likely even lose ground with Republican women. We saw much the same thing happen between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio in New York and there seems no reason to believe things will be different in California this Fall.

I'd like nothing better than to be wrong about this, but the whole thing looks like Hillary redux to me.

UPDATE :
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN' :
California Would Re-elect Bush, Poll Shows (NewsMax, May 4, 2002)

He may have lost California by a whopping 1.3 million votes in 2000, but George Bush would now win the state with 52 percent of the vote, a new poll shows.

Moreover, according to the non-partisan Field Poll Bush would defeat Al Gore - the man who took California handily in the 2000 election, with Bush now getting 48 percent to 41 percent for Gore.

Writing in the San Diego Union-Tribune, reporter John Marelius reported that when asked how inclined they were to vote for the president's re-election in 2004, 52 percent of voters said they were inclined to vote for Bush, compared with 42 percent who said they were not. The remaining 6 percent had no opinion.

A huge 87 percent of Republicans said they are overwhelmingly inclined to re-elect Bush, and a surprising 26 percent of Democrats said they would vote for him as well. Only among independents and members of minor political parties did Bush lag, with 43 percent inclined to vote for him and a hefty 51 percent turning thumbs down on the president.

Among Latinos, a group Bush lost in 2000, a solid majority of 58 percent told the Field Poll they were inclined to support Bush's re-election this time. Among other minority groups, however, 77 percent of African-American voters said they were not inclined to vote for the president, as did 50 percent of Asian-Americans.


These are the kinds of inroads that George W. Bush needs to make with Latinos and if these numbers are real would actually give the GOP reason to believe that it can turn its fortunes around in CA. For now it's just one poll--and it's "registered voters" rather than the more meaningful "likely voters"--but it sure looks encouraging.


May 3, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM

MASTER RACE :

The Fall of the Libertarians : Sept. 11 might have also brought down a political movement. (FRANCIS FUKUYAMA, May 2, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Libertarian advocates of genetic choice want the freedom to improve their children. But do we really know what it means to improve a child? It is hard to object to therapeutic aims, such as the elimination of genetic tendencies toward diseases. But would a child be "improved" if parents were able to eliminate genetic propensity toward gayness? Would the child of an African-American couple be "improved" if she could be born with white skin? Would boys be better human beings if they were born with less of a
propensity for aggression? The possibilities for politically correct, or incorrect, parental choices are endless. Parents, of course, try to improve their children in all sorts of ways today, through education, resources and upbringing. But the genetic stamp is indelible, and would be handed down not just to one's children but to all of one's subsequent descendants.

It is in this respect that the cloning bills before the Senate take on significance. Cloning itself may not be a large issue, since there are few who would want to clone children at present. But it is the first step in a series of technologies that may lead to genetic engineering of humans. Research cloning of embryos to extract stem cells may show great medical promise, but it too involves the deliberate creation of something unquestionably human, even if that something doesn't have the moral status of an infant. It is a line that we should cross only with trepidation. During the stem cell debate, proponents of stem cell research promised that it would not be crossed at all, and have already managed to slide down that particular slippery slope.

The liberalism of the Founding Fathers was built on natural rights. Political rights were seen as a means of protecting those rights which inhered in us as members of a human species that sought certain common natural ends. Thomas Jefferson, toward the end of his life, observed that political rights should be enjoyed equally because nature had not contrived to have some men born with saddles on their backs and others born "booted and spurred" to ride them.

We are at the beginning of a new phase of history where technology will give us power to create people born booted and spurred, and where animals that are today born with saddles on their backs could be given human characteristics. To say, with the libertarians, that individual freedom should encompass the freedom to redesign those natures on which our very system of rights is based, is not to appeal to anything in the American political tradition. So it is perhaps appropriate that the liberal revolution of the 1980s and '90s, having morphed from classical liberalism to libertarianism, should today have crested and now be on the defensive.


Because he begins this essay by attacking Libertarianism in general, Mr. Fukuyama's more important point, that above, is seemingly being lost. This is a shame because properly understood it has political implications that might make even libertarians more wary about genetic engineering.

One of Mr. Fukuyama's main arguments in his new book, Our Posthuman Future, is that bioengineering threatens to fundamentally alter human nature and that this matters because the political system that we have mutually and nearly universally determined best suits our nature is liberal democratic capitalism. Change our natures and who knows what system might arise to suit the new species we become. He is asking us to consider the possibility that in making ourselves more physically perfect we may forfeit the human freedoms that we so value. That may be a trade-off that folks are willing to make--I suspect it will be anyway--but it is one that we should not make blindly and it is one that those of us who care more for liberty should be prepared to fight, by any means necessary.

Among the specific ways in which Mr. Fukuyama argues that our politics may be threatened by bioengineering, one has caused particular consternation, and that is that it threatens to undermine the foundational understanding of democracy, that : "All men are created equal". Set aside all the racialist and gender questions about this concept and we can accept that it is indeed the basis of democracy. To the extent that blacks and women and others have been historically excluded from enjoying this equality, we now understand ourselves to have been guilty of irrational bigotry. But suppose that bioengineering achieves what it implicitly promises, the creation of superior beings--longer lived, smarter, less prone to sin and violence--wouldn't it be fair to say at that point that all men are not created equal? And if some are more equal than others shouldn't they also enjoy greater power and benefits within our political system?

People seem most upset by the way that Mr. Fukuyama has described their aspirations :

Libertarians argue that the freedom to design one's own children genetically--not just to clone them, but to give them more intelligence or better looks--should be seen as no more than a technological extension of the personal autonomy we already enjoy. By this view, the problem with the eugenics practiced by Nazi Germany was not its effort to select genetic qualities per se, but rather the fact that it was done by the state and enforced coercively. There is no cause for worry if eugenics is practiced by individuals. The latter could be counted on to make sound judgments about what is in their own and their children's best interests.

They predictably take umbrage at the use of the word "eugenics" and the mention of Nazi Germany. But eugenics, improvement of the race through breeding methods, is precisely what genetic engineering promises. In fact, as Mr. Fukuyama argues, it promises to move us beyond the human race towards some kind of posthuman species. And the question arises : what will be the fate of mere humans when this manifestly superior race rises? We know how poorly we've treated races that we mistakenly believed to be inferior; why should we be sanguine about our treatment at the hands of a race to which we really are inferior? And if the ultimate effects of this kind of genetic engineering will be a net loss of freedom, is it truly something that libertarians should support?

I continue to believe that libertarians and conservatives should be allies in this fight, as we are in so many others. Hopefully, our libertarian friends will endure Mr. Fukuyama's more inflammatory (and I think mostly specious) points and language early in the piece and consider the legitimate points he raises towards the end.

N.B. : Charles Murtaugh, Boston's beloved and brainy bioblogger, has addressed some of these same issues today. As always, he shows himself to be more thoughtful about the implications of his trade than far too many of his fellow scientists.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM

IT'S NOT ABOUT THEM, IT'S ABOUT HIM :

Whisper of betrayal as Arafat is shunned (Alan Philps, 03/05/2002, Daily Telegraph)
Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, emerged from a month of captivity to make a victory tour of Ramallah yesterday. But it was shunned by most of the populace, amid whispers of betrayal.

A small crowd of supporters joined him - only enough to fill the viewfinder of a television camera. There was no joy on the streets to celebrate the departure of the Israeli army after five months in the north of the city. Schoolchildren filled the gap left by volunteers.

The cause of the muttering among Palestinians was the agreement under which Mr Arafat ended the siege of his compound in return for handing over six Palestinian militants wanted by Israel into British-supervised custody.

"Arafat paid a very high price for his freedom," said one shopkeeper.

"The Israelis lifted the closure around his compound, but it remains imposed on all the Palestinians. We cannot move anywhere outside of town. It is an incomplete achievement."

According to British officials, the deal gives Mr Arafat his freedom of movement, including foreign travel and return. But the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was quick to give warning that he would not guarantee his return if he stepped outside the Palestinian territories.


Can't you just see the scene in the coffee shops of Palestine as the patrons whisper about how, to their shock, it turns out Arafat only cares about saving his own skin?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM

THE HONORS KEEP ROLLING IN :

The Internationalist : Christopher Hitchens on George Orwell (LA Weekly Literary Supplement, May 3 - 9, 2002)
[H]aving confronted the world with little except a battered typewriter and a certain resilience, he can now take posthumous credit for having got the three great questions of the 20th century essentially "right." Orwell was an early and consistent foe of European imperialism and foresaw the end of colonial rule. He was one of the first to volunteer to bear arms against fascism and Nazism in Spain. And, while soldiering in Catalonia, he saw through the biggest and most seductive lie of them all -- the false promise of a radiant future offered by the intellectual underlings of Stalinism. As he once wrote of Kipling, his own enduring influence can be measured by the number of terms and phrases -- Doublethink; Thought Police; "Some animals are more equal than others" -- that he embedded in our language and in our minds.

Mr. Orwell, besides this lovely tribute from Mr. Hitchens, was named one of the Brothers Judd Top Ten Cultural Figures of the 20th Century.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM

MY, HOW THE PEOPLE HAVE GROWN :

Bush's rating not just wartime bounce (Richard Benedetto, 05/02/2002, USA TODAY)
There is more to President Bush's relatively high approval ratings than just the patriotic, rally-round-the-flag effect of his leadership in the war on terrorism, a new USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll suggests.

Built on the faith Americans showed in him following his response to terror attacks on Sept. 11, the poll shows that almost eight months later Bush has developed an image among most Americans as a strong, competent, leader who shares their values and has elevated respect for presidency.

Once seen by many as not quite up to the job, analysts say he has effectively used the groundswell of support that buoyed him after the attacks to earn high marks for his overall conduct in office and forge strong personal bonds with a broad majority of Americans.

"You've got to think this is more than just the normal bounce from the rally effect," says independent pollster Larry Hugick of Princeton Research Associates. "We have seen some slippage in Bush's approval after peaking in October, but his personal ratings are still quite high."

The poll suggests that Americans have taken a closer look at Bush since Sept. 11 and find that while they strongly approve of how he has led the country in response to the terrorist attacks, they also generally like him as a person and admire his character, regardless of whether they agree with him on the issues.


Here's the thing you have to admire about Republicans; John McCain would have beaten Al Gore by double-digits, because we would have had to hold our noses and vote for him, while he would have attracted some significant number of Democrats, which George W. Bush obviously failed to do. But the GOP stuck to its principles rather than acting expediently, and nominated the guy who everyone understood would have a tougher time winning but who we felt would make a better president. That the kind of crisis came along which both bore out our judgment and demonstrated the wisdom of our choice to the rest of the American people is something of a mixed blessing. But the choice of Bush over McCain in the first place is something to be proud of.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM

LIBERTY LEAGUE :

An expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU (Jack Kelly, May 3, 2002, Jewish World Review)
...I've become convinced that an expanded NATO is needed as a counterweight to the UN and the EU. There must be at least one international organization that stands for liberty, democracy and human rights.

I've been chary of NAFTA, because I don't share the view of most pundits that it is good for the U.S. economy to export American jobs. But an expanded NAFTA may be the best way to keep the EU from becoming an ugly monster.

The European Union began with two very good ideas: a free trade area within Europe, and cooperation for the common defense. It went on to a questionable idea, a single currency. But the ultimate vision of the sclerotic socialists who run the EU's vast bureaucracy is to create a European super-state that would oppose American "hyper-power."

Britain and Ireland are geographically close to continental Europe, but are much closer to us in values. Liberty, democracy and human rights are recent transplants to the
European continent, and have only shallow roots there. What we call "Western" values are really Anglo-American values.

NAFTA should be rechristened the North ATLANTIC Free Trade Association, and Britain and Ireland invited to join. Britain and Ireland could join a larger, faster-growing economic union, and could do so without giving up their currency, or large chunks of their sovereignty.


Mr. Kelly is on the right track, but his vision is too crabbed. America should bail out of NATO and instead unilaterally offer free trade and defense agreements to the world's most important democracies : Israel, Turkey, India, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and all of the nations of the Western Hemisphere, plus a few other countries that may fit the same bill. The distinctive features of these countries are twofold : (1) that they surround, and are threatened by, either China or the Islamic world; and/or, (2) they generally share our Western democratic values, our British heritage, our Judeo-Christian roots, or all of the above.

NATO was fine when we were most worried about the USSR attacking to the West or about the Germans attacking the French again, but Europe is no longer really an ally and may soon be an enemy (see below), so there's no reason to protect Europeans any more. The New World Order finds us (the liberal democratic protestant West) arrayed against Chinese Communism and the Islamic World. Our enemies having changed, our allies should change accordingly.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM

UM, MR. KRUGMAN, THAT'S A MIRROR, NOT A WINDOW :

Window of Ignorance (PAUL KRUGMAN, May 3, 2002, NY Times)
In fiscal 2000 the federal budget was in surplus by $236 billion. This year's deficit will be more than $100 billion, possibly more than $150 billion. Only the Treasury Department knows exactly how much money is coming in, but the renewed push to raise the debt limit, which will allow the government to borrow more money, suggests that the news is grim indeed. A year ago Treasury officials said they could stay within the current debt limit until 2008; in April they said they could make it into June; now they say they'll hit the wall in a couple of weeks. [...]

How did a huge surplus turn into a huge deficit?


It's hard to view the budget deficit as huge when it's only about the size of our annual farm subsidies, which we all recognize are a waste of money and, even worse, a transfer payment to the wealthy. You could balance the budget by getting rid of the Agriculture department and its attendant programs and have almost no deleterious effect on the American economy. But we haven't the political will to do so.

We have a big budget and high taxes because people want the government to pay for stuff; get over it; we conservatives have. We tried pointing out how stupid this system is for sixty years and it got us nowhere (except permanent minority party status); so we shut up.

Mr. Krugman's argument isn't actually with President Bush, it's with the American people, who are unfortunately sacrosanct in such discussions. Until people like him (on the Left) are willing to join with the Right and call for a significant rollback of the Federal government, it's not going to happen.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM

HOW COVERT CAN IT BE IF IT'S EVEN IN THE PROSPECT? :

The Power and the Glory : Who needs the Christian Coalition when you've got the the White House? The religious right's covert crusade (Nina J. Easton, 5.20.02, American Prospect)
Overturning Roe v. Wade has become the signature concern of the Christian right, and probably the one uppermost in the minds of those who heard Rove's speech. Conservative evangelicals are furious that Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices have helped keep abortion legal. When the time comes to fill a vacancy on the high court, they will demand that a paper trail be followed on any appointee to assure themselves that he or she is staunchly anti-abortion. "Another [Supreme Court Justice David] Souter," warned Bauer, pointedly referring to Bush Senior's appointee, "is not going to be tolerated."

Christian-right groups are already gearing up to wage war with liberals over Bush's first Supreme Court appointment. The Christian Coalition is soliciting money for its own Judicial Task Force, calling the next couple of months "a watershed in American history." Concerned Women for America, a far more robust group with a daily radio show and 500,000 members, has just hired lobbyist Thomas Jipping--historically an important figure in judicial battles--to run its judicial operations. The Traditional Values Coalition also has a judicial monitoring project.

But no anti-abortion Supreme Court nominee is likely to be confirmed without a Republican Senate. And in order to capture the Senate, the Republicans require not only money but an energized grass-roots base -- something the Christian right is best equipped to provide. Political analyst Charles Cook described the Senate races as "a perfectly level playing field." In the 1990s, conservative Christian activists enjoyed their greatest electoral successes in similarly tight races. Especially in Southern states, say conservative Christian leaders, there is latent anger to be tapped, sparked by a widespread perception that White House nominees who are also evangelical Christians--Pickering and Ashcroft among them--are automatically pegged by liberal lawmakers as unfit for public office.

The campaign year has already begun for Christian-right groups. Of particular interest are Republican Representative Jim Talent's efforts to unseat Jean Carnahan in Missouri, and Republican John Thune's challenge to incumbent Senator Tim Johnson in South Dakota. Bauer's political action committee (PAC), called the Campaign for Working Families, will spend about $1 million on congressional races. The Family Research Council, meanwhile, ran a half-million-dollar ad campaign comparing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The ad, which ran in South Dakota newspapers and was sponsored by the group's PAC, placed photos of Hussein and Daschle side by side, asking what the two men have in common. Both, the ad asserted, oppose drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. What that cause has to do with the council's stated agenda of promoting marriage and family as the "seedbed of virtue" is anyone's guess. But the group is also attacking Senate Democrats for allegedly stalling on the consideration of Bush's Court of Appeals nominations.


With the rightward drift of the Democrats on legislative issues and the power the Court has aggrandized to itself over the past century or so, it seems not much of an overstatement to say that the only reason that elections matter is to determine who will get to appoint and who confirm judges. America would be little different today had Bush I beaten Clinton in '92 or Gore beaten Bush II in '00 except for one significant factor, the judiciary. As the Court churns out 5-4 decisions, conservatives can only tear at their hair as we dream about how different things might be if we'd avoided Ginsburg and Breyer and gotten say Hatch and Ashcroft instead. These are the stakes that matter this fall and the reason that the GOP has to pull out all the stops to try and retake the Senate.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 AM

CHAIT VS. REALITY :

Red Handed : THE DEFICIT GETS WORSE, AND SO DOES BUSH (Jonathan Chait, http://www.thenewrepublic.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020513&s=chait051302, New Republic)
The latest in what has become a steady stream of bad budgetary news arrived last Friday, when newspapers reported that this year's deficit is estimated to be about $100 billion--twice as large as previous forecasts had suggested.

[D]oes a little red ink really do any harm? Yes, it does. We have only one decade left until the baby-boomers begin retiring. Paying off the debt before then would spare future taxpayers having to pay interest costs--which currently soak up almost $200 billion per year--and thus make it easier for them to bear the burden of more expensive medical and retirement costs.

Reducing government debt also frees up capital for private investment, lowering long-term interest rates and promoting growth. Conservatives, seeking to justify the red ink produced by Bush's tax cut, try to deny the connection between deficits and long-term interest rates. "We have very little empirical evidence to suggest much of a link between deficits and interest rates," claimed White House economist Glenn Hubbard earlier this year. But Bush himself has endorsed the link when it suits him. "I'm mindful
of what overspending can mean to interest rates or expectations of interest rates," he said last week. The game here is obvious--and obviously dishonest. The administration stresses the harmful effects of deficits when discussing spending but downplays those exact same effects when the topic is taxes. (As a result, what Bushies actually believe about deficits and interest rates remains anybody's guess.)


I'm not an economist and would welcome correction on this point, but, having just lived through the 70s, 80s, 90s and the start of the '00s, Mr. Chait's argument here, though perched on classical economic theory, seems to have proven quite wrong in practice. The 80s, during which Ronald Reagan famously exacerbated the budget deficit, were a time of falling interest rates. The 90s, during which we reaped the benefit of the Peace Dividend, saw the budget balance and interest rates rise. The early '00s have seen a return to deficit and a fall in interest rates. If anything, you could argue that because interest rates are set by humans trying to manage the economy, deficits have a beneficial effect on interest rates, forcing the Fed to hold them down. And when the retirement of the Boomers completely bankrupts the economy is there any way that the Fed will be able to raise rates or won't they be more likely to go to 0% in a desperate attempt to avert Depression?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM

TALENT POOL :

Supreme Court Calendar (Christopher Buckley, 05.13.02, Forbes FYI)
The Court struck down, 7-2, a controversial Connecticut state constitutional amendment granting full civil rights to raccoons. In a sharp dissent, Justice Stevens, a moderate liberal, suggested that Justice Scalia "was on drugs" when he wrote the majority opinion. "The Founders," Stevens warned, "purposely left vague whether raccoons, regardless of the fact that they carry rabies and upset garbage cans in the middle of the night, are second-class citizens." Furthermore, he wrote, "this will, and should, inspire fear among Connecticut's porcupines, whose civil liberties have already suffered irreparable harm at the hands of juridical Blackshirts." Supreme Court guards separated the two justices, and a brief recess was called.

If we are going to go ahead and clone, let's clone the Buckleys. (Or at least William F. Jr. and Christopher)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM

CLINTON NEWS NETWORK :

Finally, a Show that Speaks to Her (J.R. Taylor, 5/02/02, NY Press)
On a recent Saturday, [Hillary Clinton] dropped into the Broome County Democratic Party's annual breakfast, as she has for the past three years. She choked down some ham and eggs. She talked a little bit about policy. She recognized some local officials in the crowd. She urged them all to watch the new Crossfire. When she finished, virtually everyone in the room surged around her?

Now, that's kind of interesting. Have you ever before seen a politician go out of his (or her) way to tell an audience to watch a particular network news show? Try to imagine how the media would respond if, say, Trent Lott suggested to an audience of Republicans that they regularly tune in to the Fox News' Hannity & Colmes.

The response, of course, would be that the fix is in. You'd have a much easier time proving that to be the case with Crossfire, though. In fact, the show is so Dem-friendly that even Hillary Clinton would be willing to make an appearance there.


Thanks to Mike Daley for catching this one.

The Brothers are all in favor of a partisan press, believing the notion of an impartial press to be risible. But we'd prefer that they be open and above board about it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:47 AM

LONE EAGLET :

Lindbergh Flies Again : The New Spirit of St. Louis : Tracking Erik Lindbergh 75th Anniversary Flight
Ed Driscoll found a great site that tracks Erik Lindberg's successful duplication of his grandfather's heroic and historic transatlantic flight.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM

REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION; WHAT REVOLUTION? :

Quiet Time (Peter Beinart, 05.02.02, New Republic)
...Clinton didn't only undermine xenophobia by ensuring that would-be nativists had secure jobs; he undermined it by signing welfare reform, which destroyed the racist belief that immigrants were receiving handouts for doing nothing. Europe's growing anti-immigrant backlash is stoked by the perception that left-liberal political elites are allowing immigrants to play hard-working native Europeans for suckers. But the welfare bill--whatever its moral flaws-- demolished that perception in the United States.

And Clinton undermined anti-immigrant racism in another way as well: He cracked down on crime. [...]

But if Clinton fought nativism by changing liberalism, George W. Bush has changed conservatism--thus ensuring that nativism's lingering appeal goes unexploited. [...]

Today many pundits consider Bush's support for immigration a matter of political survival--he's courting a Hispanic vote Republicans desperately need. But that calculus is still by no means received wisdom in the Republican Party. Before September 11, when Bush flirted with an amnesty for Mexican immigrants, many in the congressional GOP
expressed concern. And last month, when Bush tried to restore food stamps to some legal immigrants who lost them in the 1996 welfare bill, most House Republicans opposed him.

In truth, there remains a reservoir of anti-immigrant sentiment among the GOP base--and in the country at large. But with a popular, pro-immigration Republican in the White House, and without high unemployment or high crime as a spark, nativism has been silenced as a political force.


Mr. Beinart refers to American nativism as the dog that didn't bark (as in the Sherlock Holmes story); which is to say that the America which teetered on the brink of an anti-immigrant holocaust in '92 was saved by Clinton and George W. Bush and now the anti-immigrationists are mostly quiet. But within his story there's another dog that doesn't bark : the Congressional class of '94. If Mr. Clinton deserves credit for going along with welfare reform and city, state, and federal efforts to crack down on crime, don't the Republican mayors, governors, congressmen, and senators deserve some credit too? Who deserves more credit for the perception that crime in America is under control than Republican mayor Rudy Guliani?

But, of course, that ruins the liberal storyline, which requires that Clinton have spontaneously moved the Party to the Right and that Republicans only have become a responsible party in January of 2001. You may be able to get away with that delusional view in the pages of The New Republic, but in the wider world that dog won't hunt.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM

FREE THE MALVINAS! :

The Belgrano precedent: war in the service of politics? : Twenty years on, the first major incident of the Falklands/Malvinas war between Britain and Argentina still haunts both nations. What really happened and why is it relevant to the United States and Iraq? (Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy)
Twenty years ago, on 2 May 1982, the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano was sunk in a torpedo attack by the British submarine HMS Conqueror with the
loss of three hundred and sixty-eight lives. It was an action that was controversial then and remains so to this day. In this attack, and the war that followed, over one thousand Argentine and British lives were lost. Now, the Falkland Islands has ended up as a veritable fortress that has cost billions of pounds to establish and maintain. To this day, Britain maintains a considerable garrison to protect less than two thousand islanders, and a long-term diplomatic settlement seems years away.

One month before the Belgrano sinking, the Argentine armed forces had invaded and occupied the Falklands (known to Argentinians as the Malvinas), and Britain had responded by sending a substantial task force to re-take the islands. During that month, a hectic round of shuttle diplomacy was undertaken by the US Secretary of State, Al Haig, but this ended in failure. On 30 April, the United States gave its support for Britain, just as the task force was approaching the islands. Haig¹s mantle was taken up by the UN Secretariat and the Peruvian government, and a further bout of peace-making was attempted.

At that juncture, the Thatcher Government had the support of the United States and the EEC as well as a number of other states. It was in a position to organise harsh sanctions on Argentina, already in a weakened economic state and run by a military junta that had used the invasion to counter its own domestic unpopularity.

Negotiations could then have followed, leading in all probability to a leaseback arrangement providing an environment for the economic development of the Falklands/Malvinas and surrounding marine resources. Perhaps most important of all, a potentially costly war could have been avoided.

Instead, the Thatcher government was to embark almost immediately on a war that cost some four hundred Argentine lives within two days, with the first
British deaths from Argentine action following shortly afterwards with the attack on HMS Sheffield.


Here's the real controversy : why does Britain think that it should get to keep the Malvinas but that Israel should give back all of the land it took in 1967?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 AM

THE GOOD NEWS FROM POST-CHRISTIAN EUROPE :

British Official Says Bible Could Violate EU Anti-Racism Law (Catholic World News, 4/24/02)
A top European Union judge warned on Wednesday that the distributing the Bible could become illegal under a proposed European anti-racism law.

British Law Lord Scott of Foscote said the proposed law was meant to normalize members' states laws against racism. "The offense in question would almost certainly cover the distribution of Biggles [novels about a fictional WW II pilot]. It would probably cover the distribution of the Old Testament as well," he said.

Scott outlined the European Commission's draft definition of racism and xenophobia as involving "the belief in race, color, descent, religion, or belief, national or ethnic region, as a factor determining aversion to individuals or groups." The proposed offense would include "public dissemination or distribution of tracts, pictures, or other material containing expressions of racism or xenophobia."


Will the last one out of Europe please turn off the lights...

May 2, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM

Today (5/02/02) is the National Day of Prayer. I'm not personally much of praying man, but here's one I do like :

Prayer for the Captain

There's a little prayer I always say
Whenever I think of my family or when I'm flying,
When I'm afraid, and I am afraid of flying.
It's just a little one. You can say it no matter what,
Whether you're Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or
whatever.
And I've probably said it a thousand times
Since I heard the news on Thurman Munson.

It's not trying to be maudlin or anything.
His Eminence, Cardinal Cooke, is going to come out
And say a little prayer for Thurman Munson.
But this is just a little one I say time and time again,
It's just: Angel of God, Thurman's guardian dear,
To whom his love commits him here there or everywhere,
Ever this night and day be at his side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.

For some reason it makes me feel like I'm talking to
Thurman,
Or whoever's name you put in there,
Whether it be my wife or any of my children, my parents
or anything.
It's just something to keep you really from going bananas.
Because if you let this,
If you keep thinking about what happened, and you can't
understand it,
That's what really drives you to despair.

Faith. You gotta have faith.
You know, they say time heals all wounds,
And I don't quite agree with that a hundred percent.
It gets you to cope with wounds.
You carry them the rest of your life.

August 3, 1979
Baltimore at New York
Pregame show


In case you don't recognize the unique style, that's from the book : O Holy Cow! : The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto (1993) (Phil Rizzuto 1917-) (edited by Tom Peyer and Hart Seely) (Grade: A)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM

EUROPE DONE GONE :

Policy Schism Widens Between U.S., Europe : On the eve of an annual summit, friction is apparent on a number of issues, from American support of Israel to steel tariffs. (PAUL RICHTER, May 2 2002, LA Times)
Europeans, whose countries include growing Islamic populations, were notably more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause than to Israel's. Europeans were also highly skeptical of U.S. plans for military action in Iraq.

There's been an unlikely and impressive across-the-board recognition in America that we are engaged in a Clash of Civilizations with the Islamic world. Particularly startling has been the vehemence of Libertarians and the Left who are generally dismissive of Western culture, which with its roots in the idea of Fallen Man is largely antithetical to both their philosophies. Like it or not, when you accept that this is a civilizational conflict and that you think it's important that we win, you accept an awful lot of Judeo-Christian baggage that such folks would not normally be comfortable with. But the exceptional greatness of America lies in the fact that her people are Americans first and partisan ideologues only a distant second. Since America is the ultimate expression of Western ideals, this makes them de facto defenders of Western Civilization.

What is less well understood is that the European hostility to the United States in this conflict is an entirely logical function of their increasing divergence from Western Civilization, which will be followed in the matter of a few years by their absorption into Islamic civilization. Europe has long since ceased to believe in the values that define Western Civilization--chiefly individual freedom cojoined with personal responsibility. They are already arrived at the late stage of deterioration that Alexander Tytler predicted would be the fate of democracy :

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time
on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always
followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world's great civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence:
from bondage to spiritual faith;
from spiritual faith to great courage;
from courage to liberty;
from liberty to abundance;
from abundance to selfishness;
from selfishness to complacency;
from complacency to apathy;
from apathy to dependency;
from dependency back again to bondage.


But in the midst of their selfishness, apathy and complacency, they are in the process of turning their countries over to immigrant populations (mostly from the Islamic world). We can see--and the poor benighted people of France have obviously seen--a day in the not too distant future when France will be a Muslim nation (I believe there are already more mosques than churches in the country). And so France, which has already departed Western Civilization, will eventually be a part of Islamic Civilization.

So why on Earth would America listen to Europe's whining about this war? Not only are they not on our side now, if it goes on long enough (say twenty or thirty years) they'll be on the opposing side soon.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM

AN OPEN QUESTION :

Naturalistic Fallacy (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The naturalistic fallacy is a metaethical theory proposed by G.E. Moore (1873-1958) in Principia Ethica (1903) that the notion of moral goodness cannot be defined or identified with any property. Moore argues that "goodness" is a foundational and unanalyzable property, similar to the foundational notion of "yellowness," and is not capable of being explained in terms of anything more basic. We intuitively recognize goodness when we see it, as we similarly recognize yellowness when we see it. But the notion of "goodness" itself cannot be defined. For Moore, philosophers who attempt to define intrinsic goodness commit the naturalistic fallacy, the fallacy of defining the term "goodness" in terms of some natural property, such as pleasure. Moore defends his contention with what has been called the open question argument. For any property we attempt to identify with "goodness," we can ask, "Is that property itself good?" For example, if I claim that pleasure is the highest intrinsic good, the question can be asked, "But, is pleasure itself good?" The fact that this question makes sense shows that "pleasure" and "goodness" are not identical. Moore believes that no proposed natural property can pass the test of the open question argument. This implies that all moral theories fail that are based on anything other than immediate moral intuition. It is only of secondary importance whether an action produces pleasure, is in accord with the will of God, or is conducive to reason. What truly matters is whether we can simply recognize the goodness of a particular action.

Commentators argue that we may more accurately view the naturalistic fallacy as a definist fallacy: it is wrong to identify moral goodness with any property at all. Subsets of the definist fallacy are (1) the naturalistic fallacy, which is the attempt to identify goodness with a natural property such as pleasure, and (2) the metaphysical fallacy, which is the attempt to identify goodness with a metaphysical property, such as the will of God.


There seems to be a good deal of resistance to the idea that philosophy has been unable to find any other feasible ground for morality in the absence of God. Perhaps this definition will be helpful. And yes, I do concede that if God is merely a human construct then religious "goodness" and morality are fallacies also. That is why I believe He must exist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:03 PM

WHO GETS TO LECTURE WHOM? :

US pounces on an old European prejudice (Brownen Maddox, May 02, 2002, Times of London)
EUROPE'S greatest problem at today's summit with the US in Washington is that the Continent is suddenly accused across much of America of being anti-Semitic, still at heart inspired by the racist demons of the Holocaust, and deserving of hostility and contempt rather than respect.

The next problem is that European leaders seem not to to have picked up on the new mood. They--in the form of the Commission President Romano Prodi and the Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar--are pitching up with a long and detailed agenda, headed by trade wars. With some good reason: that problem is urgent; Europe speaks with one voice (more or less, despite subversive explorations by Britain), and they have hopes of progress.

But they may find themselves walking unsuspecting into the path of a tsunami of explicitly anti-European rhetoric. The past fortnight's comment in the media and politics has been so poisonous, so homogenous, and so voluminous, that it amounts to a sharp change of national mood, and is a real diplomatic problem of its own.


So, the protectionist, socialist, bureaucratic, post-Christian, anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist, declinist Europeans are coming over to tell us that we need to get our house in order. It is too laugh...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM

"GULP" IS RIGHT :

The Recovery's Soft Underbelly (Robert J. Samuelson, May 1, 2002, washingtonpost.com )
When it comes to profits, we've had a social revolution in the past 15 years. Before that, only corporate and Wall Street types discussed anything so crass as profits. The Great Bull Market changed us. Profits have joined sports, celebrities, sex and politics as water-cooler and Internet chitchat. People watch stock prices and wait for earnings (profits) reports. We've democratized talk about profits and, in the process, have learned two lessons: First, a strong economy requires healthy profits; and, second, profit reports seem more mystifying and less trustworthy.

We can't ignore those lessons now, because if the economic recovery has a soft underbelly, profits would seem to be it. In the first quarter, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) -- the output of goods and services -- rose at an impressive annual rate of 5.8 percent. But if profits don't revive, the recovery may be weak or stillborn. Without higher profits, companies won't have the funds to finance new investment in factories, software or machinery. Profits also underpin stock prices. Poor profits may mean a poor market, dragging down consumer confidence and spending.

Given the ramifications, the present profits picture seems grim. Both sources of profits figures -- the government and companies -- show big declines. The Commerce Department reports that after-tax profits of U.S. companies dropped 16 percent last year to $482.5 billion from $573.9 billion in 2000. The decline began in the last quarter of 2000. Measured from there to the end of 2001 -- and using quarterly statistics -- the decline is 27 percent. But that's still not as large as the drop in company-reported profits, expressed as earnings per share. In 2000 the reported earnings of firms in the Standard & Poor's index of 500 companies were $50 a share for the entire index. In 2001 earnings tumbled 51 percent to $24.69.

Consider the implications for the stock market. Since 1950 the average price/earnings ratio (P/E) of the S&P 500 has been 16, says S&P's Howard Silverblatt. A dollar of earnings results, on average, in a stock price of $16. The S&P index is now about 1100. Divide that by earnings of $24.69, and the result is a P/E of almost 45. Gulp. The market is counting on a rapid rebound of profits. Investors aren't buying on the basis of today's earnings but on the much higher earnings expected for 2002 and 2003.


As Stuart Taylor is to the law, so is Robert Samuelson to economics. Not only is he consistently fair, he's actually readable and comprehensible too. This column explains in clearest terms why the economy, or the market at any rate, may be more rickety than it appears.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM

DANIEL IN THE LION'S DEN :

A speech like air kisses (Debra J. Saunders, May 2, 2002, San Francisco Chronicle)
SPEAKING before the Commonwealth Club in San Jose Tuesday, President Bush knew he was in enemy territory. That is, in the more liberal part of a state that preferred Al Gore to Bush in 2000 by a margin of 53-42. But he never let folks see him sweat.

Dubya had entered the land where 40-year-old bike messengers think he is stupid. Where it is a tenet of faith that only liberals care about poor people and that all Republicans are rich and pinched and care about only one thing -- helping their rich friends. He had come to the land where it is a conceit that only liberals can enjoy a sunset.

Bush doesn't take on that nonsense directly. He simply spoke about his philosophy of compassionate conservatism, and how it is designed to help the less fortunate. "There are young Americans growing up here under this flag," he lamented, "who doubt the promise and justice of our country. They live in neighborhoods occupied by gangs and ruled by fear. They are entitled by law to an education, yet do not receive an education."

With no partisan references, he gave a simple explanation as to why many people -- like me -- become Republicans. They share the ideals of Democrats, but realize that the "guvmint"-program approach doesn't always work. "America doesn't need more big government, and we've learned that more is not always the answer. If a program is failing to serve people, it makes little difference if we spend twice as much or half as much. The measure of true compassion is results."


This is a nice column about why Bush's "compassionate conservatism" appeals to people, though, as more troglodytic conservatives, we find the term redundant.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM

FORGET OIL, CAN YOU IMAGINE A STEEL EMBARGO? :

The Anatomy of a Lousy Decision (Lawrence Henry, 5/1/02, American Prowler)
President Bush's decision in March to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported steel has drawn wide-ranging criticism, some of it notably fierce. "Bush's
Folly," headlined the March 7 edition of "The Times" of the UK. Certainly, the decision seemed to contradict Bush's championing of free trade as a matter of policy. Most commentators have criticized Bush for the fundamental error of imposing a tariff--protecting 160,000 steelworkers while raising costs for 12 million workers in steel consuming industries, for example--just to win votes in steel-producing states.

The decision may indeed have been a bad one. But making it may not have been the one-dimensional political calculation virtually all critics have described. Bush may instead have found himself squeezed between easily explainable costs--the tariff--and nearly impossible-to-explain measures to contain future costs, namely the pensions and retiree health-care benefits of the workers in a dying industry. These are the so-called "legacy costs" of the steel companies. And given the tendency in the press (and in Democrat political rhetoric) to go for the easy jugular, Bush may have decided to take the short-term hit, and deny his political enemies a big target.


Mr. Henry goes on to argue that the specter of having the federal government assume liability for a failed steel industry's pension plans may have influenced Mr. Bush's decision and might even justify it. I wonder if there may not also be some national security justification for preserving a domestic steel industry. To the extent that our military armaments depend on steel for their manufacture, it would seem necessary to insure that we have domestically produced steel available for at least these limited purposes. It may on the other hand be the case that we could ramp up new plants in a fairly short time should our supplies ever be threatened, in which case this concern would not justify the government in propping up a dying industry. Meanwhile, I don't mean to suggest that these considerations entered into Mr. Bush's decision, merely that they may be worthwhile considering in the future.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM

IF YOU DON'T STAND FOR SOMETHING, YOU'LL FALL FOR ANYTHING (OR ONE) :

What Does the Democratic Party Stand For? : Daschle-Gephardt-Clinton Waltz (Nat Hentoff, Village Voice)
Sam Smith is right when he points out that the liberal establishment in the Democratic Party--which includes the current congressional leaders of the party--"yawned as the Clintons disassembled their own cause and became incensed when Ralph Nader dared to defend it."

Moreover, the policies and the forces in the Democratic Leadership Council--epitomized by presidential aspirant Joe Lieberman--continue to control the Democratic Party's increasing centrism. What do the Democrats fundamentally stand for except winning elections?


Although the phrase "Sam Smith is right" causes one physical pain, even conservatives have to feel sorry for honorable liberals like Nat Hentoff who no longer have a party that represents their political viewpoint. For all the satisfaction we may take in watching the Democrats turn into Eisenhower Republicans, this process does not serve them or the nation well.

It would be far better for the Democrats to offer serious alternatives to the GOP--even if these big government, high tax, egalitarian, racialist policies are unpopular right now--than to have them always trying to split the difference. In the same way that liberal Republicans--Dewey, Eisenhower, Nixon, etc.--exacerbated the problems of the New Deal/Great Society era by not enunciating differences and then by leaving the rotten system intact when they attained office, so does the increasing "me-tooism" of the Democrats deprive the American people of a necessary debate on the issues and of a choice when they go to the polls. Democrats might do well to consider nominating a liberal ideologue in '04 who, though they likely would get swamped at the polls, could reinvigorate the party, restore its sense of purpose, and motivate a new generation of young activists, as the Goldwater campaign did for Republicans in '64.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM

YOU JUST TELL THE PRESIDENT (AND ABC, THE NY TIMES, AP, UPI, ETC.) I'M NOT AVAILABLE :

Phony Kass Council (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, 05/01/2002, Tech Central Station)
One needn't follow outside advice, of course, but it's bad manners to ask for it and then ignore it before it is given. Service on White House advisory committees is time-consuming, and not especially career-enhancing for academics engaged in active scholarship, who are judged by what they produce, not by what meetings they attend.

It will be far harder for the Bush administration to put together useful advisory committees on other topics, after the experience of the Kass Council. And that is likely to have consequences that go far beyond the political maneuvering over cloning.


Mr. Reynolds here renews the bizarre argument that President Bush should have taken no action in regard to bioethics until his commission reported on its deliberations. Perhaps his objection is best dealt with by analogy. A wild fire is burning in your neighborhood, approaching your house. Fire officials are meeting to determine the best course of action to contain the fire. In the meantime, do you : (a) do nothing until the experts weigh in; (b) at least try to rescue some valuables and take whatever reasonable steps you can to protect your house?

Meanwhile, the notion that academics won't be willing to serve on presidential councils in the future can not be taken seriously. Oh sure, every once in a while some grandstanding nitwit may announce with great fanfare that he has refused to serve precisely because of this instance of the President ignoring such a panel. But he will be doing so for the same reason that the rest will serve, it's great publicity and a huge boon to your career. As charming as we may find it, the image of a professor who would rather scribble away on his next article for some obscure journal than have a President elevate him to the kind of national spotlight that virtually guarantees someone will finally read what he's written is quite risible.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM

NOT A SUICIDE PACT :

Al Qaeda Detainees: Don't Prosecute, Don't Release (Stuart Taylor Jr., April 29, 2002, National Journal)
At first blush, the idea of indefinite "preventive detention" of people convicted of no crime may seem harsh and un-American. Indeed, it has (and probably should have) no basis in domestic U.S. law, with narrow exceptions such as civil commitment of the dangerously mentally ill. Prolonged detention based solely on a suspected propensity to commit future crimes may well be unconstitutional.

But in the current wartime context, these moral objections and legal obstacles are not insuperable. As a legal matter, the president has broad power to decide what to do with terrorists and others captured overseas by the U.S. military. In addition, military prisoners held abroad do not have the same rights under U.S. law as civilian prisoners in the United States. And there are international-law precedents for detaining "unlawful combatants" and members of terrorist organizations until they are no longer dangerous, as well as for detaining prisoners of war until the war is over.

As a moral matter, preventive detention is the least-bad option for dealing with many captured Al Qaeda jihadists. It's better than setting would-be mass murderers loose to prey on our people or prosecuting them without solid evidence implicating them individually either in war crimes or in specific terrorist conspiracies.


We've long believed Stuart Taylor--a liberal, with whom we frequently disagree--to be the best legal affairs columnist on the planet. Here he becomes one of the few Left or Libertarian pundits willing to acknowledge that what he advocates, and what we are now doing, may be both unconstitutional and justifiable. We eagerly await the counterarguments from those who think the President's oath of office requires him to loose mass-murderers because of constitutional nicities.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM

POST-MORAL AMERICA :

Evidence of moral chaos on 'Oprah' (ANDREA NEAL, May 01, 2002, Star News)
Here's what I learned by watching Oprah Winfrey on Monday: If you see two young women making out in a bar, don't assume they're gay. Chances are, they're just two sexually empowered adults who eschew labels and have learned there are multiple sources of physical pleasure. They don't care what other people think about them, so you (meaning: me) shouldn't worry about it either.

I'm not worried; I'm terrified.

The April 29 "Oprah Winfrey Show" scared the living daylights out of me, not just because of what the young women were saying, but because of the affirmation they seemed to get from the older adults I thought were on stage to knock some sense into them. [...]

Philosophy Professor Christina Hoff Sommers posed the question a few years ago: "Are we living in a moral stone age?" after observing her own students dismiss the notion of moral absolutes. "Conceptually and culturally," she wrote, "today's young people live in a moral haze . . . Ask one of them if there are such things as right and wrong and suddenly you are confronted with a confused, tongue-tied, nervous and insecure individual. The same person who works weekends for Meals on Wheels, who volunteers for a suicide prevention hotline or a domestic violence shelter might tell you, 'Well, there really is no such thing as right or wrong. It's kind of like whatever works best for the individual. Each person has to work it out for himself.' "

That, in my book, is the definition of moral chaos. But I guess we're too embarrassed to talk about it, even on Oprah.


We'd argue that the very point of shows like Oprah, Rosie, etc. is to legitimize the amorality/immorality of the guests and thereby of the viewers. By presenting a wide array of freaks and geeks and letting them tell their stories to a national audience on the almighty television, these shows necessarily cast a cloak of normalcy over even the most repellent behaviors. And if even these most outrageous actions are sanctioned by Oprah, then how much more acceptable must be my own less flagrant departure from traditional morality. After all, how bad can adultery, homosexuality, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, bondage, etc. be if Oprah or Rosie or whoever is having a sensitive and caring discussion with folks who engage in these behaviors? Thus, in Daniel Patrick Moynihan's felicitous phrase, do we define deviancy downwards.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM

LIBERTARIAN LUDDITES? :

The Intrusion Explosion (WILLIAM SAFIRE, May 2, 2002, NY Times)
Forget all about old-fashioned consumer surveys or even focus groups. The hot new technique in exploring your buying decision is called "observational research" or "retail ethnography." This buying-spying uses hidden surveillance cameras, two-way mirrors and microphones concealed under counters.

Stephanie Simon reports on the front page of The Los Angeles Times that cutting-edge market researchers are now zooming in on faces and fingers as customers ponder a decision to buy a product. Though a subtle sign at the entrance says the experimental store is "in test mode" and "your opinion counts," most people are unaware that their every facial tic is recorded and analyzed.

All perfectly legal in today's Intrusion Explosion. Coming soon in a bookstore, video store or newsstand near you: a close-up recording of your examination of a girlie magazine or lusty movie, a left-wing weekly or a right-wing book. Your reactions go in the marketers' dossier on you, available for a fee to advertisers, telemarketers or political opposition
researchers. [...]

Now that the issue is rejoined, privacy advocates should create a simple "privacy index" so voters can see which politicians are on their side and which don't care. This will reveal some surprises: for example, Senator John McCain is an opt-outer, weak on the privacy issue.

We should also expose the intrusion lobby as it yells Yahoo! to the sale of private data without consent. Who contributes to the intrusion lobby's fund--and which legislators in Washington and in state capitals get its largess?

Finally, libertarians of left and right should hold President Bush to his pledge to require merchants to ask the consumer's consent. How would he like to have "observational research" in the Oval Office?


We are shocked, shocked, to find the libertarians becoming luddites, but welcome them to the club. They should get used to hearing about how foolish and backwards it is to try to resist new technologies and the glorious march of science. They will also hear about how they need to "get over" their antiquated belief in privacy, which may have been suitable for a 20th Century world but must be left behind as we "progress". And, of course, their insistence that government act to protect a right (privacy) that nowhere appears in the Constitution will be greeted with derision. Particularly galling will be having all their own arguments thrown back in their faces.

Boy, I'm gonna enjoy this...


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM

MEXICANS NEED NOT APPLY :

Group sues to prevent Mexican trucks from entering U.S. (JESSICA BRICE, Associated Press, May 1, 2002)
A coalition of environmental, consumer and labor organizations filed suit Wednesday seeking to stop the federal government from allowing Mexican trucks to operate in the United States. [...]

The plaintiffs are Public Citizen, the Environmental Law Foundation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the California Federation of Labor AFL-CIO and the California Trucking Association.


Imagine for a moment the squeals of indignation and the charges of racism that would have greeted a similar lawsuit if filed by conservative groups.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

RUN, JOE, RUN :

Lieberman Has One Eye on '04, Other on Gore (RICHARD L. BERKE, May 2, 2002, NY Times)
Some Democrats cannot see a clear path to the nomination for Mr. Lieberman regardless of Mr. Gore's decision. As a distinctly moderate candidate, they argue, he would have difficulty winning over liberals, who vote heavily in Democratic primaries.

This story ignores what would be one of the greatest problems facing Mr. Lieberman, not that he is too moderate for liberal voters, after all he shucked all his non-Leftist opinions easily enough when he ran with Gore, but that he is too Jewish for black voters. In fact, it must be a GOP dream to have both Mr. Lieberman and Al Sharpton run in the '04 primaries, because it would widen the already gaping schism between two of the core groups of the Democrat Party. This could well hasten the already evident drift of Jews toward the Republican Party.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM

LIFE IN THE OLD GIRL YET?

This Dynasty Stuff (MAUREEN DOWD, May 1, 2002, NY Times)
Great news for the two remaining Maureen Dowd fans; her column today actually makes a valid point. It's hard to find, because it's the last sentence and by then nearly all readers will have given up, but after a series of pointless and strangely vituperative digs at the Bush family, she arrives at the following :
By working more closely with the Saudi dynasty, this president may be getting closer to his dynasty's avenging dream of toppling Saddam.

I believe in the press they call this burying her own lead. But still, full credit for realizing, while others are wingeing about how the Arabs are using President Bush, that it is in fact he who is using them to achieve his own purposes.

May 1, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM

AS OPPOSED TO FAIR WEATHER MORALITY? :

Fair-Weather Federalism? (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, April 22, 2002, FOX News)
In supporting legislation banning cloning, President George W. Bush is being true to his moral principles.

Oh, there's room to argue: In the White House's renaming of therapeutic cloning as "research cloning," I smell a focus group. But Bush apparently feels that cloning violates his moral principles, even if--as Nick Schulz has pointed out--the White House has tried to blur the pro-life character of his stance.

Unfortunately, the president's moral principles are in this instance clashing with his professed constitutional principles--and the Constitution has lost.

Bush ran as a federalist, a respecter of the principles of limited government and enumerated powers that the Framers of our Constitution believed in. But in supporting federal legislation to ban cloning--even therapeutic cloning--Bush is revealing himself as a fair-weather federalist. Coupled with his recent decision to sign campaign finance
"reform" legislation despite earlier statements that he regarded it as unconstitutional, this action is endangering Bush's trustworthiness on the very constitutional principles that got him elected.


Having had my disagreements with Mr. Reynolds on the issue of genetic engineering, I find myself in surprising agreement with this column, though I'd reach a different conclusion. The Professor makes a compelling case that in the abstract the regulation of cloning may violate the original intent of Federalism. But that horse has long since left the barn. It might be noble and honorable but it would also be foolish for conservatives to unilaterally disarm in the name of a Federalism that has not existed for decades, maybe not for centuries. For the Federal government regulates many things (especially under the Commerce Clause which seems to cover cloning too) and impinges on States' Rights in a variety of ways that the Founders would have disapproved of, and that conservatives don't much like, but there's no realistic prospect that this will change anytime soon. There's just no willingness in the general public, nor much stomach even on the Right, for the kind of dislocation that a return to originalism would require. A die-hard Federalist can congratulate himself on his strict adherence to Federalist ideals, but in the meantime his opponents will be using widely accepted anti-federalist techniques to thwart his entire agenda--what a Pyrrhic victory.

More importantly though, Mr. Bush did not run primarily as a Federalist, but as a Christian Conservative. He is a moralist first, a federalist secondarily. And Federalism is not an end goal of conservatism, it is merely a means of achieving conservative ends. So when the means (States Rights) conflict with the ends (creating and maintaining a decent society) it should come as no surprise that it is the means that suffer compromise. From a strictly Federalist standpoint, the Civil War was unjustified too, but, outside of a few unreconstructed wahoos, who today regrets fighting to preserve the Union, or the equally unconstitutional Emancipation Proclamation?

What Mr. Reynolds seems to be suggesting is that he would sooner trust a president who is willing to behave immorally in order to vindicate a mere political proposition rather than one who acts on his moral principles regardless of the political consequences his actions may have. We prefer the latter.

UPDATE : If you are being brought here from Instapundit (welcome to you and thanks to the Professor) and are unfamiliar with this argument, the ideas about the tension between Christianity and democracy are developed more fully in this Brothers Judd review : Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World (2001)  (Robert P. Kraynak  1949-) .

Mr. Reynolds characterization of this post is accurate and I think his assessment of its import is right. People who do not think our government should vindicate Judeo-Christian morality should not vote for believing Jews or Christians. On the other hand, people who believe in morality should probably not vote for nonbelievers, who are practically by definition amoral. (One hardly needs to point out the absurdity of trusting the presidential oath of someone who, not believing in God, can not feel themself bound by the oath. )

This seems a reasonable trade off for conservatives, particularly in what remains, despite some attrition, a uniquely Judeo-Christian nation and, for that reason alone, uniquely democratic. When the former ceases to be true so will the latter, as witness the trends in post-Christian Europe.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM

MUST WE CLONE FOR CLONING'S SAKE? :

Experiment bypasses cloning, stem cells (MAGGIE FOX, May 01, 2002, REUTERS)
Scientists said yesterday they had transformed ordinary human skin cells into immune cells in an experiment that, if it can be repeated, might do away with the need for either stem cells or cloning for many medical therapies.

The team at biotech start-up Nucleotech LLC hopes to be able to offer patients grow-your-own transplants that could theoretically be used to treat diseases such as immune deficiencies and juvenile diabetes.

Many teams are working on the idea, but nearly all had assumed the need for stem cells, the body's master cells, which are elusive and difficult to grow in the lab. They can be found in blood and tissue, or can be taken from embryos -- usually obtained from fertility clinics.

Such stem cells could also theoretically be made using cloning technology -- something highly controversial and the subject of competing legislation in Congress. President Bush supports a ban on the use of cloning technology involving humans.

But James Robl, Philippe Collas and colleagues at Nucleotech and the University of Oslo believe they have found a way around the controversy.


So here's the $64k Question : now will the clonophiles support a ban, since we can reap the same benefits without violating Western moral standards, or are they really more interested in the power than in its supposed purposes?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM

IF BEEF ISN'T MEANT TO BE BUTTERED, HOW COME GOD PACKAGED THE MILK WITH THE COW? :

Chain gang : A walkabout through the forbidden pleasures of Outback Steakhouse (Sara Bir, Sonoma Bohemian)
Outback prepares steaks by first dipping them in clarified butter, then seasoning, and then giving them the barbie treatment. This they are indeed doing correctly: Generous amounts of fat and salt make meat tast-ee. When cooking at home, bringing yourself to give food big, wet French kisses of butter instead of tiny, dry pecks with Canola oil can be cringe-inducing. Let someone else surround your food with yummy fat and sodium behind closed doors; it's easier to accept, and the palate-pleasing result is one that keeps people going out to eat.

I hate going out to eat and have no compuction about buttering my steaks (though the wife does shoot me dirty looks), but if forced at gun point (which is what it usually requires) to go out to eat, Outback is option A .

UPDATE : Mike Daley sends along this tantalizing suggestion :

While you may get some "buttery" taste by buttering your steak prior to grilling, you sure wouldn't get any butterfat, it would all be burned off by the charcoal, or wood you're cooking over ( gas barbq's and anything electric are not allowed).

The true flavor of the fat for a steak is in the marbling, and the higher the grade the more marbling, which is why prime is superior to choice is superior to select. Some cattle, ie: Black Angus, naturally have better marbling in their muscles.

To get that butter taste on your steak I recommend grilling it with a very light coating of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Slice up a big bunch of mushrooms, regular button work great, and sautŽ in bacon fat, adding finely diced green onions and crushed garlic when the mushrooms begin releasing their liquid. Cook until almost all liquid is evaporated and then deglaze with the quality red wine you're drinking. Reduce by a third or so and just before serving over the perfect steaks, stir in a big hunk of butter to thicken and flavor. Unless you're a mushroom hater, I guarantee you'll love it.

Of course I have no concept of why anyone would go out to eat steak, you can always buy better and cook better at home for one fourth the price or less. Restaurants are for the foods that require real work and ingredients we would never stock, or for eating a single meal something that you would eat for too long at home. Leg of lamb is great out of the oven, but after that, forget it.

As I mentioned to Mr. Daley, I actually meant that I butter the steak after it's cooked, an old habit our Granddad (The Honorable Orrin G. Judd) taught us. Of course, he also salted melon--including watermelon--a taste I never acquired.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM

FIRST AS TRAGEDY THEN AS COMEDY :

Another Cuomo bites the dust? (MUGGER, Jewish World Review, May 1, 2002)
The former Bill Clinton cabinet member, who's been running for New York's governorship for at least three years, notoriously blasted incumbent George Pataki on April 17 for his conduct after the Sept. 11 destruction of the World Trade Center. On a bus trip from Utica to Buffalo, the grade-A opportunist told reporters: "There was one leader for 9/11: it was Rudy Giuliani. If it defined George Pataki, it defined George Pataki as not being the leader. He stood behind the leader. He held the leader's coat. He was a great assistant to the leader. But he was not a leader." [...]

The Pataki campaign, already way ahead of both Cuomo's and McCall's in the polls (54-30 and 56-29 percent, respectively, in an April 18 Quinnipiac survey), was handed a gift-wrapped gaffe from the never-elected Andrew, one that enraged not only Republicans but New York City Democrats and unions as well. The Bridge and Tunnel Officers Benevolent Association released this statement: "Perhaps Andrew Cuomo should attend some of the funerals of our fallen heroes so he would understand that using Sept. 11 as a political sound bite is a disgusting and despicable act."

Denis Hughes, president of New York's two-million-member AFL-CIO, and a backer of both Hillary Clinton and Gore in 2000, added that he had "nothing but admiration for the way Gov. Pataki handled this."

Finally, an April 19 editorial in The New York Times, while throwing a few jabs at Pataki, said: "Mr. Giuliani's role during those days has made him an international celebrity. Any politician would have wanted that opportunity to be the city's leader then, and the fact that Mr. Pataki showed no jealousy about his subsidiary role seemed to be the sign of real maturity, and a perfect sense of priorities. When voters elect a leader, they are looking for a whole panoply of useful qualities. One of them is an ability to sense when an occasion is about something greater than yourself. Mr. Pataki demonstrated that part of leadership on Sept. 11. Mr. Cuomo has yet to demonstrate it during this campaign."


So, let's see if we have this straight : you're the son of a much beloved liberal icon and you've managed to turn both union leaders and the NY Times into defenders of your Republican opponent? With the singular exception of Robert Rubin, is there a single member of the Clinton cabinet who isn't a crook a moron or both?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM

THOSE WHO REFUSE TO ASK THE QUESTIONS OFT FEAR THE ANSWERS :

Clones Inspire National Endowment for Eggheads (Andrew Ferguson, April 30, 2002, Bloomberg)
Though it has never taken a vote, the panel [the Council on Bioethics] is clearly divided. Five members are themselves scientific researchers who see the creation of cloned embryos as an indispensable weapon in the conquest of disease.

The others -- law professors, social scientists and professional philosophers (nice work if you can get it) -- are harder to pin down, although one faction, led by council Chairman Leon Kass, obviously looks on any cloning, even for research or therapeutic purposes, as a moral calamity.

The scope of their deliberations is always surprising. Last week's sessions, held in the shabby ballroom of an airport hotel, involved presentations from two stem-cell researchers and a third paper from a Yale theologian. Discussions ranged from the neurological intricacies of Parkinson's to the difference between ``motive'' and ``intention.'' Who would expect a government body to wade into such deep waters?

Deep waters, alas, are unavoidable now, as we confront the possibilities presented by genetic science: cloning, ``designer babies,'' and average life spans that are double, or even triple, the ones we currently know. They combine the most profound questions (What is the nature of human nature?) with the most mundane (Should we expand the FDA's police powers?).

Congressmen shouldn't have to answer these questions on their own. It is reassuring to know that Leon Kass and his endowment of deep thinkers are here to help.


The most troubling aspect of the Left/Libertarian opposition to the Council's very existence is that it seems as if the clonophiles are afraid to even consider these questions. It's as if they want to just go ahead and do the research without thinking about it because if they did pause to consider the morality they (and we) might have second thoughts.

That's essentially what happened with abortion in America, when the Supreme Court stripped away all of the thousands of years of moral questions about the sanctity of human life and said : "have at 'em". Thirty million abortions later we look around and wonder what the hell happened to us, how this supposedly limited right turned into a holocaust. And that's why the arguments of the clonophiles are turning to Constitutional grounds--if they can get the Court to rule that any restrictions on cloning are unconstitutional, they can speed up to the process to the point where we'll be knee-deep in mulched embryos, self-aborting fetuses, and nonviable babies before we look around and wonder what we've done.

Of course, by then it will be too late and human life will have been further cheapened and the culture further degraded. They call that progress.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM

SYDNEY BITES :

Player Banned After Testicle Biting (Reuters May 1, 2002)
Former Sydney Swans Australian Rules player Peter Filandia was suspended for 10 matches on Wednesday after pleading guilty to biting an opponent's testicles during a game last week. [...]

St. Kilda AFL player Chad Davis, playing for Springvale, suffered a perforated scrotum and lost a small amount of blood, a club doctor told the VFL tribunal in Melbourne. He also needed a tetanus injection.

Filandia told the tribunal he could not breathe when he became entangled with Davis and bit him as a reflex action.

However, Filandia did not know which part of his opponent's body he had bitten, he said.

"It was a split-second decision," Filandia told reporters after the hearing.

Tribunal chairman Eddie Power ordered Filandia to undergo player counseling before resuming playing.

In a similar case last year, former rugby league international John Hopoate was banned by the Australian National Rugby League for 12 weeks after poking a finger up the backside of an opponent.


Okay, here're the two things that leap out at you from this story : (1) I'm thinking that if you're the culprit you don't want to refer to it as a "decision"; (2) these guys have some sexuality issues to work through.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM

AMBLING TO VICTORY :

Since at least the time of Watergate, when modern American politics became almost purely partisan, there's been no more popular sport in Washington, DC than the party out of power ripping the president and the party in power defending him at all costs. Right now we're being treated to the rare spectacle of each party trying to pull off a bankshot, with Republicans defending George W. Bush's disengagement from the Middle East by accusing Bill Clinton of being over-involved, and Democrats attacking Bush by contrasting him to Clinton. The fact that the degree of presidential involvement in the Middle East has had no effect whatsoever on the level of violence there would seem to make both sides' arguments seem foolish, but that won't stop them.

The one thing though that is strangely missing from the analysis of President Bush's strategy is the degree to which it fits perfectly along the continuum of how he has conducted domestic policy. On issues ranging from the centerpieces of his presidency--the tax cut and the Education bill--to a law that he has openly called unconstitutional--Campaign Finance Reform (CFR)--the President has tended to sit back and let the parties who will actually have to agree on the legislation (House Republicans and Senate Democrats) fight it out until they come up with a bill and only then invested his own energy and prestige in getting the finished product passed.

Here's an excerpt from a piece that ran a year ago, Conflicting Image of Bush Emerges : Bush Makes Political Investments, but Will They Make Him? (John F. Harris and Dan Balz, April 29, 2001, Washington Post) :

The cell phone rang just as Nick Calio was sitting down at the Caucus Room restaurant a few weeks ago for a late dinner with out-of-town friends. It was President Bush on the line -- again, just a couple of hours after they had last spoken.

The Senate was debating the $1.6 trillion tax cut at the heart of the Bush agenda, and the new president seemed to be everywhere. Or so it seemed to White House aides like Calio, the legislative liaison, who recalled his boss as a hovering presence, inquiring constantly about the latest vote counts, filled with instructions on which senators to call, immersed in internal discussions about possible deals to be struck. Bush hung up with Calio that night, only to call him at 7 the next morning for a new update.

This portrait is striking if only because on Capitol Hill that week the same man White House aides describe as the everywhere president was virtually nowhere. He made a few calls to lawmakers, but the most important lobbying was done by Vice President Cheney. At week's end, after the Senate rejected Bush's plan, complaints smoldered among Republicans that he had been missing in action, not doing enough to lobby or strike the bargains that might have yielded something more than the $1.25 trillion figure the Senate endorsed. The White House response: It was simply too early in the long fight over taxes for Bush to invest his prestige haggling for votes.

One hundred days after his inauguration, the contrasting images of Bush during his first Senate showdown neatly encapsulate the contradictory ways of looking at his presidency. He is a natural operative who serves as the most important tactician of his own White House. Or he is a passive leader who relies on proxies to carry out important tasks. This blurred figure is the biggest question mark in the new balance of power playing out this year in Washington. With the White House and Congress under Republican control, however tenuous, for the first time in two generations, how will the new president define his role, and can he successfully play it?

The answer may lie in Bush's conception of "political capital," a term that can be roughly translated to mean the perceived power a chief executive has to wield at any given time in his presidency. Bush and his senior advisers invoke the phrase constantly, as they discuss the intangible process by which a president accumulates and exercises influence. Bush has distinct theories on this subject, namely that only through the expenditure of capital can a president hope to gain even more. His views have shaped White House decisions about where he goes, what he says, when he intervenes -- and when he does not.


All you'd have to do is substitute Palestine for Senate and Israel for House in the appropriate places in those paragraphs and you'd have today's news analysis of the Bush role in the Middle East peace process.

Compare, for instance, that earlier story to this one One Crisis Down, Tougher Ones to Come : Arafat's release would be a first step in bringing peace to region. The parties differ on what lies ahead. (ROBIN WRIGHT, April 30 2002, LA Times) :

The complexity of working out the deal over Arafat's departure from his headquarters in Ramallah underscores the enormousness of what lies ahead.

A confluence of factors finally persuaded Bush to use diplomatic elbow grease to end the crisis, which was provoked by the Passover massacre by a Palestinian suicide bomber that led Israel to invade the West Bank.

Bush's actions were precipitated by the visits of Abdullah and other Arab leaders last week, persistent requests by European allies, the first signs of Israeli flexibility and recognition at the White House that nothing would happen on the big issues in either the Middle East or the war on terrorism until the current crisis was resolved.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell "had tried to work on this same arrangement when he was in the region, but the parties weren't ready then," said a senior administration official who asked to remain anonymous.

A major snag involved five Palestinians holed up in Arafat's compound whom Israel wanted to charge with the October assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi; a sixth man, Arafat's accountant, is also wanted.

As time passed, the Israeli government recognized that it wasn't going to be able to conduct its own trial of the six men--and Washington found room to negotiate, U.S. officials say.

The timing coincided with the visits last week of the Saudi leader, Morocco's king and the Lebanese prime minister, all of whom brought similarly strong messages about the dangers for all involved if the crisis was not defused. Abdullah was particularly forceful, U.S. officials say.

"In talking to the Saudis, the president committed to doing all he could," the senior administration official said. "In the end, his intervention put the process over the edge."

Although Bush's calls to Sharon on Saturday were the critical turning point, much of the legwork was done in a constant flurry of calls Thursday through Sunday by Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, administration sources say.


Looked at in isolation, Mr. Bush's final decision to intervene in the negotiations here may appear to have been an act of desperation that was forced upon him by circumstances. But if you read it in the context of his pre-established management style, you see that he eventually got Israeli, Palestinian, and other Arab leaders to come to him in desperation looking for a solution, which he was then able to hammer out (actually, have his staff hammer out).

The most important aspect of the Bush method is that--although like Ronald Reagan before him, he is dismissed as a lightweight by the policy wonks of Washington--he keeps racking up victories, large and small. Republican critics may have wanted him to get more on taxes, to hold out for school choice in the Education Bill, to veto CFR, etc., etc., etc., and Democrats may believe that he's too divorced from the process to get credit for the results, but at the end of the day President Bush has what Congressional Quarterly has called the greatest record of legislative accomplishment since LBJ at the height of the Great Society (measured by how often Congress adopted legislative positions that he supported). The stuff he cares about is mostly done (the glaring exception being Social Security and education privatization, which requires a Republican Congress) and the stuff he doesn't care about (CFR) is not only gone as an issue, but paradoxically assures his re-election because of the crippling restrictions it places on his prospective Democrat challengers. The critics on the Left may be correct that the president is just a figurehead who deserves no credit for this record of achievement, but you can't help noticing that the achievements keep piling up.

Similarly, as regards foreign policy, Republicans may have wanted President Bush to put ground troops in Afghanistan right away, to attack Saddam right away, to get tougher with Arafat, etc., etc., etc., and Democrats may think he's in over his head, but so long as the war on terrorism keeps going his way, who's to gainsay his strategy? And the important thing to recognize here--which offers the critics a more legitimate line of argument--is that, although the President's support for Israel is genuine, as regards his overall policy goals, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles CFR more than the tax cut. That is to say, it is an annoyance that he would like to see go away even if the results are distasteful. His real concern is with the war on terrorism in general and on Saddam Hussein in particular. Turning the heat in Palestine down from a boil to a simmer will make it easier to pursue the war in Iraq, but beyond that (and guaranteeing Israel's safety) critics are probably right that Mr. Bush isn't any more interested in the so-called peace process than he was in so-called Campaign Finance Reform. In the same way that he measures his domestic success by the fact that the bills he most desired became law and the ones that might prove annoying went away, so his eventual success or failure in the Middle East will be measured by whether bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are running countries at the end of 2003--and by that standard he's halfway home.

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