June 30, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Several years ago [actually, it now appears to have been thirteen years, but I wrote this a while ago]...

My friend Charlie and I had been out somewhere all day--I believe beer may have been involved.

We come stumbling back to his apartment in Hoboken (a 5th floor walk up, to my cardiovascular system's horror) and Sue (his wife) had been extraordinarily gracious, not only renting a movie, but getting what was theoretically a guy flick--Everybody's All-American.

We watched in dumbfounded silence as one of the most excrutiating pieces of dreck ever committed to celluloid unfolded before our glazed eyes.

Finally (or after 5 minutes), I begged to shut it off.  Chuck hesitated, but when Sue said it wasn't that bad, he agreed to continue the audio-visual crime.

He came over to my side about 10 minutes later, but Sue held fast.

At last  the movie reached it's emotional climax, Randy Quaid and Tim Hutton have a huge confrontation  at the LSU Homecoming game, during which they happen to be directly in front of the LSU mascot's cage.  We see a tiger pacing back and forth in back of them as they mewl about 20 years of emotional wounds that no straight man would ever suffer, let alone admit to in front of another man.

And, like Saul on the road to Damascus, it came to me:

"The only way to save this movie is to let the Tiger out and have him maul everyone"

By then even Sue waited with baited  breath, hoping against hope that the Tiger would make it a Blockbuster night.

Since that time, we've referred to shutting off an awful movie as "Letting the Tiger out".

Well, tonight we let the tiger hunt after about 15 minutes of Waking Life. If you see this one on the shelf next time you're at the video store, we urge you to, as Isaac Hayes sang : just walk on by. See if they have Himalaya instead.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 PM


George Michael shocks in new video (Annanova)
A pop video depicting George Michael apparently trying to have sex with Cherie Blair is reportedly to be released with his new single.

Shoot The Dog, out this week, depicts the singer dressed in a leopard-print thong, trying to approach the Prime Minister's wife.

Tony Blair is also depicted in the video portrayed as a poodle to President George W Bush.

Michael told the Daily Mirror he is concerned about the growing relationship between the Prime Minister and President Bush.

Here's one of the rules we here at Brothers Judd find it helpful to follow : never take relationship advice from a guy who's been arrested in a men's bathroom.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


What part don't they understand? (Bennett M. Epstein,  June 30, 2002, Israeli Insider)
Am I missing something here? What part of President Bush's speech on the preconditions for a Palestinian state don't the Europeans understand? Bush clearly said that a regime compromised by terror and corruption cannot be trusted to give birth to a state next to Israel, and therefore a new leadership, free of terrorism and corruption, is required before a Palestinian state can be recognized by the United States and before such a state should be recognized by the rest of the world. What part of that was ambiguous? He did not mention Arafat by name, but his mention of the terms "terror" and "corruption" left no doubt about whom he was talking. [...]

The President's policy is simple. There must be new leadership, one that is not compromised by terrorism and corruption. Is that "setting the bar too high" for the Palestinians, as the Europeans have suggested? It may be difficult jump for an Arab regime, but it is the lowest civil denominator for the security of Israel, and the world will just have to wait until they can handle this minimal height. Annan suggests that Arafat might be replaced by a worse regime, and this is a reason to keep him. The logical flaw in that reasoning is that it assumes that Oslo is still alive. Wake up and smell the coffee, Kofi. Israel has been forced to re-enter the West Bank. Things can only get worse under a new Palestinian regime if Israel withdraws, which it is not about to do, nor is it required to under the UN resolutions until there is a substitute for the chaos that already reigns. Under Bush's policy, the Palestinians will get a state when they prove by their selection of leadership that they deserve one. They don't have the right to a terrorist and corrupt regime simply because they elect one, even if Jimmy Carter himself counts the votes.

...unfortunately the Europeans and the American Left seem confused by this simple policy.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Perpetual War Poses a Risk to US Power (Daniel Warner, June 28, 2002, International Herald Tribune)
The United States is at war. This has been repeated by President George W. Bush and members of his administration on several occasions. What has not been made clear is the nature of the war. There has been no formal declaration that clearly sets out goals and objectives.

Why is this so worrying? In 1987, the Yale University historian Paul Kennedy described the rise and fall of empires. He analyzed how all imperial powers arrived at a point of overreach that eventually destroyed the empire. Too much concern for security and disproportionate spending on defense were endemic to the fall of all previous empires he studied. The United States appears at this time to be marching into a situation that fits Kennedy's description of imperial decline.

Mr. Kennedy had the great misfortune to publish his book even as Ronald Reagan and the United States were winning the Cold War and alleviating the economic stresses he warned of. We immediately began shredding the military, as we always do between wars, and soon his concerns appeared to have been the product of a fevered imagination. This is unfortunate because he was largely right--the long term pursuit of extensive imperial policies and the military spending required for such actions do seem to have a catastrophic effect on economies, ultimately contributing to the disintegration of said empires.

But Mr. Warner's warning about the current crisis seems a tad overblown. There's no reason to believe that our current war against radical Islam will require anything like the spending levels of World Wars II and III, nor does the conflict seem likely to last for more than a few years. Most important to keep in mind is that unlike the Cold War where the balance of terror restrained the U.S. from using much of its military superiority, there are no similar restraints now. Should the war become too burdensome or should it begin to go poorly, one would anticipate that we'd just trot out our nuclear capability and put an end to it on our own--very ugly, but reasonably cost effective--terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 PM


A Jewish demographic state : Having lodged itself close to the top of the national agenda, the issue of demography is forcing both the right and the left to grapple with the difficult dilemma at the heart of the state's character. Can Israel be a Jewish and democratic state? Is there any such animal?
(Lily Galili, June 29, 2002, Ha'aretz)
About three months ago Prof. Arnon Sofer sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. the subject was the need for separation from the Palestinians. "Most of the inhabitants of Israel realize that there is only one solution in the face of our insane and suicidal neighbor - separation," wrote Sofer. "You should have known this months before they did, as the grave demographic data were put on your desk many months ago. In the absence of separation, the meaning of such a majority (of Arabs - L.G.) - is the end of the Jewish state of Israel. You should remember that on the same day as the Israel Defense Forces is investing efforts and succeeding in eliminating one terrorist or another, on that very same day, as on every day of the year, within the territories of western Israel, about 400 children are being born, some of whom will become new suicide terrorists! Do you realize this?" [...]

According to figures presented by Dr. Yitzhak Ravid of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, in 2020 the population of the land of Israel will reach 15.1 million, of whom 6.5 million will be Jews. Sofer says that in 2020 the number of Arab citizens of Israel will reach 2 million, and the Jewish majority will shrink to 65 percent. According to Ravid the number of Arabs will come to about 1.9 million. Prof. Sergio della Pergola presents identical numbers. According to demographic assumptions that are accepted throughout the world, a minority of more than 30 percent defines a state as binational. There are also demographers who are following the foreign workers, as well as the non-Jews, particularly among the immigrants from the Commonwealth of Independent States. Certain demographers put these in the category of "Others," as an additional demographic threat to the Jewish majority; others see them as reinforcements for the Jewish majority, as they are "non-Arabs."

I don't know about the rest of World Jewry, but my Jewish friends and family seem to be in a state of complete denial about these cold hard numbers. If Jews don't get serious about revitalizing their religious beliefs and cranking up their birthrates they are doomed no matter what happens in "peace" negotiations. Eventually they'll just breed (or unbreed) themselves into oblivion and Judaism may well cease to exist, with the Jewish race subsumed into America's melting pot and Jewish beliefs a matter for study in university antiquities departments. There is no more important issue facing Israel and Jews.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


US threatens Balkan pull-out over world court (Judy Dempsey, June 27 2002, Financial Times)
The US has threatened to pull out of the Balkans if the United Nations fails to grant its peacekeeping troops blanket immunity from prosecution when the treaty for the new international criminal court comes into force on Monday.

(a) What the Hell are we still in the Balkans for anyway?
(b) Why were we ever there? The Europeans think they are a serious player on the world stage but they can't even deal with this problem without us?
(c) Is it even constitutional for us to participate in a World Court?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


Amtrak : The little engine that couldn't. (Chris Suellentrop, June 26, 2002, Slate)
Amtrak should be dismantled for practical reasons, not ideological ones about the size and purpose of government. Our intercity passenger rail system works exactly the opposite way that our other systems of intercity transportation work, notes Anthony Perl, author of the book New Departures: Rethinking Rail Passenger Policy in the Twenty-First Century. With air travel and road travel, the government provides the infrastructure, and the private sector moves the passengers. The government runs the airports, and the private sector flies the planes. The government builds the highways, and the private sector handles the cars, trucks, and buses. But with passenger rail, we've got it backward. The government (Amtrak) runs the trains, and the private sector (the freight railroads) owns the rails, except in the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston. That creates a double whammy--the private companies don't have the deep pockets or the interest in maintaining the infrastructure needed for a viable passenger rail system, and the government doesn't have the market incentives to be entrepreneurial or customer-focused. The result is a lot of decrepit tracks and routes that respond to political, rather than consumer, demands.

The other day we were wondering why the railroads elicit such hostility from folks who are perfectly willing to acknowledge a legitimate role for government in maintaining a transportation system. Here's a partial explanation. Looks like the reaction may be different, in part, because the system is structured differently. (Though one suspects the fact that trains are more important to the inner city and roads and airways to the suburbs may play a role too.) So why not get government back in the rail end of things and out of the actual train-running end of things?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Bush's Speech : Standing by His 'Man of Peace' (Mary McGrory, June 27, 2002, Washington Post)
[J]ames Zogby, president of the Arab-American Institute, who is touring the Mideast, reports despair and devastation among moderates in both Palestine and Israeli and Arab circles. "They were looking to the U.S. to back them, and they got nothing," he says. "Bush is backing the Sharon government, which wants an Indian reservation type of governance on the West Bank, with the Palestinians all subdued and submissive."

Mr. Zogby and Ms McGrory apparently think that would be a bad thing--but it may well be the only possible solution. Right now Israel's problem with the Palestinians is similar to the one the American South had with blacks--they are in but not of the society and there's little willingness on the part of Jews, as there was little willingness on the part of whites, to integrate fully. This leaves them in a position of "oppressing" a "minority", which, irrespective of the effect on the oppressed, must eventually eat away at the moral fiber of the majority. Israel would be far better served by treating Palestine as America treated its Indian problem, recognizing it as a sovereign nation upon which Israel can make war. The treatment of Palestinians would not improve any, would actually be likely to get worse, but the effects upon the Israeli psyche would be beneficial. Just look at the American example--we're currently debating reparations for blacks and maintain affirmative action systems to benefit them in employment and education, but the Indians get bupkus (well, except for a lot of quarters from white trash gaming-addicts).
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


One in three Europeans 'is anti Semitic' (Robert Mendick, 30 June 2002, Independent)
Attitudes towards Jews vary across the five countries surveyed with Belgians, Germans and the French "most likely to hold a prejudiced view of Jews". Denmark and the UK are said to be the least prejudiced. But attitudes in the UK show a worryingly high level of anti-Semitic sentiment.

Okay, so this is what folks are willing to tell pollsters--imagine how high it must really be? Now can we stop pretending that Europe and America share common values?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


Bush's Turn Against Arafat Signals a Big Strategy Shift (PATRICK E. TYLER, June 30, 2002, NY Times)
Mr. Bush's position that Mr. Arafat must go and that not much else can happen until he does is a significant gamble by the president, one offering the Palestinians the carrot of strong American support for Palestinian statehood. To many, it seems a long shot, though a prominent Palestinian columnist in the London-based (and Saudi supported) newspaper Al Hayat called for Mr. Arafat to step aside.

With the abrupt shift in strategy, some administration officials, Arab leaders and Middle East experts are wondering whether the United States is in effect disengaging, putting its policy on hold while Mr. Arafat remains defiantly in place. [...]

Until this spring, the White House had shunned any idea that it would undertake risky peace initiatives like the ones that President Bill Clinton tried in his final year in office. Mr. Bush's national security team considered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a brutal sideshow, not one that involved America's strategic interests.

So the Bush team came to office saying they wanted no part of Palestinian peace negotiations. After a few especially horrific attacks on Israel, they briefly tried to get peace talks moving, but the Palestinians weren't serious. The President announced he's done until the Palestinians get serious. I'm having trouble discerning the radical shifts in all this. It seems like they've pursued a reasonable and measured strategy, that has kept American interests at the forefront, Israel's interests just behind, and has been skeptical, even distrustful, of the Palestinians right along.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


No details, No Hope : The president's Middle East speech called for all the right things. But he offered no plan to achieve them. (Gershom Gorenberg, June 30, 2002, LA Times)
If you missed President Bush's speech on the Middle East conflict, it's not hard to find out what's in it. You can read the full text on the White House Web site. But to assess the long-awaited policy statement, it's actually more important to look at what isn't in it. The short answer is hope. For those who live in the Mideast and for Americans who care about what is happening here, the speech contained almost nothing that could lead to a peace initiative with a chance of succeeding.

This may come as a surprise to Mr. Gorenberg, but if the Palestinians want hope for the future and peace with Israel they're going to have to take responsibility for themselves. Perhaps it would be helpful for all these confused liberal commentators to think of Mr. Bush's speech as a foreign version of Welfare Reform. We're weaning the Palestinians off of a dependence on the American government to do all the peace-making for them. We're telling them that it's a new era of responsibility. We're saying that we believe that they and must do for themselves. Liberals didn't like it when we did that with welfare recipients either, but it worked. Just maybe this can too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Americans Overwhelmingly Favor 'Under God' (June 29, 2002, Reuters)
A vast majority of Americans say "under God" should remain part of the Pledge of Allegiance in the wake of a court ruling that said the pledge is unconstitutional, a Newsweek magazine poll said on Saturday.

The survey showed that 87 percent support the phrase and 54 percent think the government should not avoid promoting religion. Additionally, 60 percent think that government leaders making public expressions of faith in God is good for the nation.

When 87% of the American people and two hundred years of tradition say that the Constitution allows us to recognize that our form of government is derived from God, then it does allow it--regardless of what a handful of antidemocratic, antihistorical judges and liberal antireligion activists say.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


The End of Something (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, June 30, 2002, NY Times)
Even if Mr. Arafat went away, and even if a majority of Israelis were ready to give his successor all of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, the security requirements and limitations on Palestinian sovereignty that Israelis would insist upon - in the wake of the total breakdown in trust over the last year - would probably be so high that no Palestinian leader would be able to accept them.

If that is the case, it means that a negotiated two-state solution is impossible and Israel is doomed to permanent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. And if that is the case, it means Israel will have to rule the West Bank and Gaza permanently, the way South African whites ruled blacks under apartheid. Because by 2010, if current demographic patterns hold, there will be more Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem than Jews. And if that is the case, it means an endless grinding conflict that poses a mortal danger to Israel.

Because there are three trends converging in the Middle East today. The first is this vicious Israeli-Palestinian war. The second is a population explosion in the Arab world, where virtually every Arab country has a population bubble of under-15-year-olds, who are marching toward a future where they will find a shortage of good jobs and a surplus of frustration. The third is an explosion of Arab satellite TV stations, the Internet and other private media.

Basically what's happening is that this Arab media explosion is taking images of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and beaming them to this population explosion, nurturing a rage against Israel, America and Jews in a whole new Arab generation. [...]

The only hope for Israel is to get out of the territories--any orderly way it can--and minimize its friction with the Arab world as the Arabs go through a wrenching internal adjustment to modernization.

There are going to be two states if for no other reason than that the Israeli population can not be allowed to become majority Muslim and the Jewish people probably can not tolerate the moral compromises necessary to administer an apartheid regime. This is the major weak spot of the Bush plan. We and Israel should immediately recognize the state of Palestine within borders we prescribe--no negotiations--and leave the Palestinians to their own, considerable, problems.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM


Makin' Us Dizzy (MAUREEN DOWD, June 30, 2002, NY Times)
Everywhere you look these days, you see situations that are absurdly contradictory and circular and self-defeating. Reality has turned into one huge, self-consuming loop. Call it Catch-2002. [...]

On Monday, the president declared that he would deal only with a democratic leader of Palestine--Abu Jefferson--even though he deals with the region's kings, autocrats, tyrants and military dictators stalling on democratic elections. Catch-2002.

That is, of course, not what the President said. What he actually said was the following :
Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.

I call upon them to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.

If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.

And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state, whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.

In the work ahead, we all have responsibilities. The Palestinian people are gifted and capable and I'm confident they can achieve a new birth for their nation.

A Palestinian state will never be created by terror. It will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo. True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions based on democracy, market economics and action against terrorism.

Today the elected Palestinian legislature has no authority and power is concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few. A Palestinian state can only serve its citizens with a new constitution which separates the powers of government.

The Palestinian parliament should have the full authority of a legislative body. Local officials and government ministers need authority of their own and the independence to govern effectively.

The United States, along with the European Union and Arab states, will work with Palestinian leaders to create a new constitutional framework and a working democracy for the Palestinian people. And the United States, along with others in the international community, will help the Palestinians organize and monitor fair, multiparty local elections by the end of the year with national elections to follow.

Today, the Palestinian people live in economic stagnation, made worse by official corruption. A Palestinian state will require a vibrant economy, where honest enterprise is encouraged by honest government.

The United States, the international donor community and the World Bank stand ready to work with Palestinians on a major project of economic reform and development. The United States, the EU, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are willing to oversee reforms in Palestinian finances, encouraging transparency and independent auditing. And the United States, along with our partners in the developed world, will increase our humanitarian assistance to relieve Palestinian suffering.

Today, the Palestinian people lack effective courts of law and have no means to defend and vindicate their rights. A Palestinian state will require a system of reliable justice to punish those who prey on the innocent. The United States and members of the international community stand ready to work with Palestinian leaders to establish, finance and monitor a truly independent judiciary.

Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing terrorism.

This is unacceptable.

That's quite different from Ms Dowd's airy version of the speech. For one thing, he's applying a different standard to Palestine because only it, among the Arab states, is currently at war with Israel. And there's nothing unusual about his calling for Palestine to become a democracy because democracies have a history of imposing regime change and democracy on their opponents before they'll sign peace agreements--for example, the North vs. the South in our Civil War and the U.S. vs. Germany and Japan in WWII. Would Ms Dowd have allowed Japan to retain its fascist government at the end of WWII because the other countries of Asia weren't democracies?

For another thing he's not even remotely saying that elections will suffice. He's laid out an entire range of reforms that Palestine will have to embrace before peace will be agreed to--from elections to institution building to a crackdown on terror to economic development. Most of these are actually better accomplished by a military dictatorship--witness Spain, Chile, etc.--but in the absence of a military capable of imposing order over Palestinian society it will be necessary for people to exercise some control over themselves and to take control over their own leadership. The prospect for this happening is fairly slim, but it is in no sense "absurdly contradictory and circular and self-defeating" to demand it.

Reality isn't a loop--it is a straight line. Palestine now is a corrupt and backwards society in love with death and murder. It must reform itself and renounce violence. Then it may have peace and economic development. Does that really seem as convoluted to you as it does to the dizzy Ms Dowd?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 AM


REVIEW : of A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss (Charles Murtaugh)
Good, but not great is how I would rate David Liss's historical thriller, set in 1719 London at the height of the South Seas bubble (and written, not coincidentally, at the height of our own stock market bubble -- the parallels are laid on pretty thick, but are still enjoyable). As a good historical novel must do, Liss admirably conveys the (imagined) sights, sounds and smells of 18th-century urban life, both splendid and squalid. The main character moves smoothly between both worlds: the estranged son of a Jewish stockbroker, Benjamin Weaver has lived on both sides of the law and now makes his living, more or less, as a private detective. Weaver's many double lives -- Jew and Englishman, criminal and law enforcer, son and outcast -- are masterfully drawn, with the help of a vivid supporting cast of characters.

We welcome Mr. Murtaugh to the fold. His recommendation is reason enough to get out our copy of the book and read it finally.

One word of warning, nothing has excited more negative comment about our reviews than the letter grade at the end of each. We're continually accused of presumptuousness.

June 29, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


Best Chances for Vouchers Lie in the Cities (ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS, June 29, 2002, NY Times)

Although vouchers have been a bedrock conservative issue, suburban voters support their public schools, and Republican candidates may find support for vouchers politically risky. [...]

Roman Catholic lobbying groups immediately began to focus their attention yesterday on the Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Legislative Caucus in Albany. "A lot of our advocacy really must be geared toward minority communities, to begin to apply pressure on the Black and Hispanic Caucus, who in turn can apply pressure on both houses to get something going," said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference.

The biggest obstacle to minority legislative support, Mr. Poust added, is probably the state teachers union, whose large membership and get-out-the-vote money are critical. "So that puts legislators in a very uncomfortable position," Mr. Poust said.

It may unfortunately be the case that at the end of the day Republicans are too racist to support vouchers and Democrats are both too racist and too corrupted by Unions. If that's so, we will have betrayed the children who are stuck in inadequate schools and will have disgraced ourselves as a people. President Bush should make this the centerpiece of his domestic agenda and shame suburban white voters into supporting it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


I'm not sure how broad are the conclusions we can draw, but it's interesting to note how differently Emily Eakin treats these two stories :
An Invitation Ruffles Philosophical Feathers (EMILY EAKIN, June 29, 2002, NY Times)
The black studies scholar Cornel West, who may be best known for recently cutting a rap album and for feuding with the president of Harvard University, is also the author of a well-regarded book on American pragmatism that includes a section on the philosopher Sidney Hook. So he seemed a natural choice to invite to a conference on Hook that the Graduate Center at the City University of New York is planning to hold in October.

Yet when a group of prominent conservatives--the political essayist Irving Kristol, the art critic Hilton Kramer and the historians Gertrude Himmelfarb and John Patrick Diggins--who had also been invited heard that Mr. West would be attending, they abruptly withdrew. [...]

For his part, Mr. West seemed strangely unaffected by the furor. Reached by telephone on Thursday, he said he had no memory of being invited to the conference and learned of the boycott only when a reporter contacted him last week. Still, he said he was eager to attend. "I have learned much from the art criticism of Kramer, the fine historiography of Himmelfarb, the intellectual history of Diggins and some of the essays of Kristol," he said serenely. "I just see through their nonsense."


Into the dazzling light : In his quest to produce the perfect novel, Jonathan Franzen spent four years writing in the dark, wearing earplugs and a blindfold. Judging by the critics' response to The Corrections, it paid off (Emily Eakin, November 11, 2001, The Observer)

[S]uccess has not entirely agreed with Franzen. When Oprah Winfrey selected The Corrections for her book club last month--a decision virtually guaranteeing millions of dollars in additional sales--he publicly questioned her judgment, suggesting to more than one interviewer that his novel's 'high-art' literary qualities made it a dubious choice for a programme normally associated with middlebrow fiction. His remarks started a national scandal. Winfrey disinvited Franzen from appearing on her show, and the literary community rallied to her defence, calling Franzen arrogant and ungrateful. 'That pompous pr*ck' was how one powerful agent referred to him.

Franzen is now busy trying to explain his way out of the gaffe, telling the New York Times last week: 'Mistake, mistake, mistake to use the word "high". Both Oprah and I want the same thing and believe the same thing, that the distinction between high and low is meaningless.'

Whatever his true feelings on the high- versus low-brow debate (and one suspects he was not being entirely honest with the New York Times), Franzen's book is much clearer on this point. The Corrections is as clever as the brainy postmodernists Franzen admires but infinitely more accessible.

She does not say so in so many words, but the heroes of Ms Eakin's two stories are pretty obviously the "serene" Cornel West and the "clever" Jonathan Franzen. Yet, what one can't help notice is that part of what makes Mr. Franzen heroic is his resistance to having his art compromised by participating in the "lowbrow" Oprah Book Club, while part of what makes Mr. West heroic is that he's embattled by conservative scholars who didn't want to help legitimize his "scholarship", which anyone who's ever had the misfortune to read him could tell you is as lowbrow and foolish as it gets. In a moment of especially amusing self parody Mr. West's last published work was even a rap album, the website for which begins with these immortal words of self-aggrandizement : "In all modesty, this project constitutes a watershed moment in musical history." And, yes, that is the extent of his modesty. In his excruciating book, Race Matters, he actually implicitly refers to himself as a "race-transcending prophet".

Not to put too fine a point on this but while Mr. Franzen is a decent novelist who made himself appear somewhat foolish by demonstrating that he was afraid that being seen as "popular" would make others take him less "seriously", Mr. West is simply a buffoon, who no self-respecting scholar should appear on a panel with. One would think that for mere consistency sake it would be the conservatives who would be the heroes of Ms Eakin's piece in the Times today, as they valiantly defend serious scholarship from popular debasement. Wouldn't one?

Here are some links and responses to points made in the comments section, but they seem of general interest :

Here's the Salon article referred to :
Right-Wing Blacklist : Conservatives tell Cornel West to go to the back of the bus. (Sam Tanenhaus, June 20, 2002, Slate)

As that story indicates, Cornel West is a disciple of Richard Rorty, who notes that fellow philosophers don't read either of their books, and the one academic analysis of Mr. West's philosophy work that's mentioned (mightn't we assume it's nearly the only one that exists) is by a Harvard colleague of both men--that's kind of a closed loop of people who think he has anything worthwhile to say isn't it?

Here's Hilton Kramer's own assessment of Mr. West :
Harvard’s black comedy (New Criterion, February 2002)

Here's the piece from the Voice, a reliably Leftist publication, which shows how West and company cash on their race :
Spinning Race at Harvard : The Business Behind the Gates-West Power Play (Thulani Davis, January 16 - 22, 2002, Village Voice)

Here's a note from The American Prospect, another liberal source that we might expect to support West if he were a serious scholar :
Good Riddance

The Associated Press reports that Cornel West has finally decided to leave Harvard to join the faculty at Princeton. This caps a short, glorious period during which someone -- namely new Harvard president Larry Summers -- finally noticed that West hasn't produced a serious work of scholarship in years, yet continued to be accorded the same level of respect as far more serious and important colleagues, such as Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson. (The Village Voice, believe it or not, actually produced a memorable and critical article on how West made out like a bandit at Harvard.) At Princeton, West will no doubt continue to write self-important popular books (like Race Matters), produce lame attempts at cultural engagement (another rap CD?), and retreat ever closer to the political fringe (Now that he's rallied his vast following to Al Sharpton's banner, we're thinking he'll start showing up at Mumia rallies). Harvard will breathe easier tonight.

Here's the view from another Left bastion, The Washington Post :
A Harvard Education (Fareed Zakaria, January 8, 2002, Washington Post)

[T]he high drama of [Larry Summers's] presidency so far has been the recent controversy over his discussions with Cornel West, a leading member of the Afro-American Studies department. Whatever they talked about -- and there is some dispute about the specifics -- clearly the conversation went badly, with West feeling he had been attacked and insulted.

Summers told me that he "felt bad about the misunderstandings that arose from that first meeting and value the mutual respect that came out of the second one." But he did confirm that he had "encouraged Professor West to write a major academic book." Is this so scandalous? Over the past several years West has done little other than produce a CD of rap music and advise Al Sharpton on his "bid" for the presidency of the United States. West's earlier work is not that impressive, either. In a long review in the New Republic, Leon Wieseltier concluded of his books: "They are almost completely worthless . . . noisy, tedious, slippery . . . sectarian, humorless, pedantic and self-endeared." I have read some of West's work, and Wieseltier's judgment sounds about right.

And here is the final word, the Leon Wieseltier profile of West, that makes it impossible to take the good professor at all seriously :
All and Nothing at All: The Unreal World of Cornel West (Leon Wieseltier, March 6, 1995, The New Republic)

It may be predictable that we on the Right would be so dismissive of Mr. West's racist ravings, but the fact that The Voice, The Post, TAP and TNR are all equally contemptuous leads one to wonder if anyone outside his own circle and the NY Times, though that may be redundant, really pays him any attention. Perhaps more to the point, it seems fair to ask whether anyone at all would listen to him if he weren't black or whether he is a mere quota hire. It certainly seems unlikely that any white professor could quit Harvard just because he was asked to do some work and then be courted by other Ivy League schools.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Unbeatable rates : Students, grads can lock in loans as low as at 3.46% (Dolores Kong, 6/29/2002, Boston Globe)
Jason Mendonca, a newly minted MBA, owes $27,000 on education loans. It's a situation facing recent graduates across the country, whether or not they're ready to start paying. ''It's kind of bittersweet, because the job market is a little sour,'' Mendonca said.

But the 27-year-old, who is a financial aid coordinator at Northeastern University, isn't worried. He knows that after July 1 he can lock in the lowest-ever interest rates on student loans, as low as 3.46 percent.

I'm ambivalent about this because we already send way to many people to college, but could the Democrats please shut up about how hard life is for the middle class these days.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Imperial America and the Common Interest (James Chace, Winter 2002, World Policy Journal)
[The] inclination to act unilaterally, stemming from the traditional American preference to define the national interest without the constraint of allies, has only been strengthened by America's economic and military prowess. With such power undergirded by a belief in America's moral exceptionalism, the most dangerous threat to American omnipotence may very well come about as a result of the alienation of Europe and Japan, and the wariness of China and Russia. The duration of the American imperium will thus depend on our ability to seek common ends with potential rivals. In this respect, we have more to fear from our own mistakes than from those enemies who are now determined to bring us down.

It would be helpful if prior to this statement Mr. Chace hadn't already shown that these places aren't capable of challenging our power or if he could show why it makes sense to tie our fortunes to the dying states of Europe and Japan.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Theatre company straightens out Quasimodo (Sydney Morning Herald, June 28 2002)
A British theatre company has reportedly dropped the word hunchback from its stage adaptation of the classic novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame to avoid offending disabled people.

Oddsocks Productions has renamed its touring production The Bellringer of Notre Dame.

The original title of the novel by Victor Hugo was Notre Dame de Paris - the name of the ancient Catholic cathederal where the story takes place.

Ed Driscoll notes this latest bit of PC nonsense. Two questions : (1) Why not just use the original name : Notre Dame de Paris?; (2) Have the producers actually read the book?

The story ends with Esmerelda's execution and entombment, but in the concluding chapter, The Marriage of Quisimodo, Hugo revals that:

About a year and a half or two years after the concluding events of this story, when search was being made in the pit of Montfaucon for the body of Olivier le Daim, who had been hanged two days before, and to whom Charles VIII granted the favour of being interred at Saint-Laurent in better company, there were found among these hideous carcases two skeletons, the one clasped in the arms of the other. One of these skeletons, which was that of a woman, had still about it some tattered remnants of a garment that had once been white, and about its neck was a string of beads together with a small silken bag ornamented with green glass, but open and empty. These objects had been of so little value that the executioner, doubtless, had scorned to take them. The other skeleton, which held this one in so close a clasp, was that of a man. It was observed that the spine was crooked, the skull compressed between the shoulder-blades, and that one leg was shorter than the other. There was no rupture of the vertebræ at the nape of the neck, from which it was evident that the man had not been hanged. He must, therefore, have come of himself and died there.

When they attempted to detach this skeleton from the one it was embracing, it fell to dust.

You'd think they'd worry more about his necrophilia than about his disabilities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


Captain Euro
...to defend the security of Europe and uphold the values of the Union.

Maybe Leni Riefenstahl can come out of retirement to direct the movie version.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM


A furious President Bush yesterday warned corporate chiefs to stop "trying to fudge the numbers"--and the White House said he wants "bad apples" to go directly to jail.

Bush will come to Wall Street to personally deliver that stern message to the titans of industry on July 9 as he copes with escalating corporate scandals that could spell political and economic trouble. [...]

"Corporate America has got to understand there's a higher calling than trying to fudge the numbers, trying to slip a billion here or a billion there and hope nobody notices," Bush said at a GOP fund-raiser yesterday.

As Everett Dirksen once said : " A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 AM


Four S.Koreans Killed, 18 Hurt in Clash with North (Paul Eckert, 6/29/02, Reuters)
Four South Korean sailors were killed and 18 wounded in a clash with North Korean patrol boats on Saturday in waters off the west coast of the divided peninsula, South Korea said.

The defense ministry said one South Korean vessel was sunk in the clash in the Yellow Sea at a point 170 km (105 miles) west of Inchon International Airport, through which tens of thousands of World Cup soccer visitors entered the country this month.

"This provocative behavior by North Korea is a blatant armistice violation for which North Korea bears full responsibility," South Korean Lieutenant General Lee Sang-hee told a news conference at the defense ministry in Seoul.

We've owed them one for fifty years. Time to take out this pole of the axis of evil.

June 28, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 PM


Bush is Irrelevant and Must Go (Ira Chernus, June 26, 2002, CommonDreams.org)
In a major policy shift, I have decided that George W. Bush is irrelevant and must be replaced as leader of the United States. Every week, an American somewhere murders, rapes, or brutalizes a foreigner. I hold the president personally responsible for every such attack.

With American citizens continuing to kill and attack people in other nations, Bush is clearly irrelevant to the world?s search for peace. I am ceasing all contacts with him, immediately. And I am calling upon the people of the United States to elect new and more effective leadership, right away. [...]

All joking aside, no leader can control the actions of all people in his nation. It is always counterproductive to treat a nation's leader as irrelevant. And no nation has the right to tell another nation whom it can or cannot choose as its leader.

Here's the clincher to our argument that the Left is humorless. And not only is it an excrutiatingly labored attempt to be funny, it's serious point is moronic. Would Mr. Chernus contend that the U.S. had no right to tell the Germans that they couldn't have Hitler as their leader?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 PM


The Most Wanted Palestinian (ELIZABETH RUBIN, June 30, 2002, NY Times Magazine)
''I've been in this business for 20 years,'' the officer said, ''and I've never encountered such a vicious and cruel terrorist as Qeis Adwan.''

It was an astonishing claim regarding such a young man barely out of college, given the long list of his predecessors--among them, Yahya Ayyash, the prototype of the Hamas ''engineer'' (typically a bomb maker with an engineering degree) and originator of Hamas's suicide bombers.

The Shin Bet officer shook his head. Ayyash had a family, he said, but Adwan had no personal life whatsoever--no wife, no interest in his family. He was, he said, a ''terror machine.'' [...]

Over the two days I spent in the Jenin camp, I watched and occasionally talked to a 13-year-old girl who was staying with Jamal's family because her house had been destroyed and her father killed. She had an encyclopedic brain and an uncanny memory. She remembered what I wore in the camp a month before, though we had never met. She remembered conversations with her father from eight years ago and knew what all the politicians were saying or had said. She never smiled and told me that her father wanted her to be a doctor. She said she would prefer to study nuclear physics so she could blow up America. ''When someone comes to fight you in your home, you have to fight him back, isn't that true?'' she asked.

Of course, these are the words of an angry, hurt child. But in the mind of Serraj, the psychiatrist in Gaza, they may express a potentially terrifying illness, the fruits of 15 years of unending violence. ''We have seen the children of the first intifada become suicide bombers,'' he had said. ''You only have to wait and see these children of today, what kind of horror they will bring to the world.''

After reading this chilling piece it's awfully hard to argue with John Ashcroft's assessment : "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."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


'Let down' by Arafat (BBC, 28 June, 2002)
Yasser Arafat is a "let down" in the Middle East, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

In an attack on the leader of the Palestinian Authority he said: "The difficulty is, and I say this frankly, with President Arafat, is that it's not just the Israelis and Americans who feel let down by him, but so does virtually every foreign minister that I personally have ever spoken to."

First Berlusconi, now Straw, and half the other governments in Europe are run by parties that were elected on explicitly anti-Arab platforms--so where is the press getting these stories about how Europe is uniformly dismayed by President Bush's speech calling for the ouster of Arafat?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


School Choice Legislation Introduced In House (Jim Burns, June 28, 2002, CNSNews.com)
Capitalizing on Thursday's Supreme Court decision in favor of school vouchers, House Republican Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) introduced legislation to provide education scholarships to disadvantaged children in the nation's capital. [...]

The bill would provide families with incomes below the poverty line, scholarships of up to $5,000. Students with family incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level, which Armey says is at $33,226, may receive up to $3,750 in tuition assistance.

Two points : (1) pick up your paper and look at the story about this Court decision and what's the thing that leaps out at you? For all the talk about how this is just GOP union-busting or religious groups sneaking into the public trough, the picture that accompanies the story will be of black women hugging each other and rejoicing because their kids will get to continue to go to decent schools.

(2) Suppose you just disband the Education department and every education program in the federal government and give every school age kid in America a voucher for $5000. Let them give it to any school or teacher they choose. If states or cities or whoever wants to supplement this amount, that's fine. But assume they each have "just" $5000.

Now consider this. In the case that was before the Court the kids are being educated at parochial schools for less than $2500 a year. So this amount seems ample to secure a decent education. Further, the average teacher salary in America for the 2001-2 school year was a little under $45k. A teacher could take on just 9 students and match their current salary. It'd be class size reduction on a monumental scale. These are just a couple of the choices that such vouchers would provide.

Okay, so take a wild guess at what Washington DC actually spends per pupil right now (actually in 2000-1)? How about : $12,345! Let the District voucherize some of what they're spending and a teacher could take on just four or five students and make what they are now.

Besides all the other benefits that would flow from bringing market forces to bear on the system, just imagine the retirees (military guys, former teachers, business people--with a wealth of experience and a lifetime of learning to share) who could supplement their income by taking on one or a few kids.

There are just so many exciting possibilities in all this it would be a real shame not to experiment with the idea of school choice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Curbs on Judicial Hopefuls Lifted : High Court Clears Candidates to Offer Views on Issues (Edward Walsh, June 28, 2002, Washington Post)
The Supreme Court yesterday struck down restrictions on what candidates for judicial offices can say during their campaigns, moving the process of electing state judges toward the rough-and-tumble world of everyday politics and the types of political campaigns that are waged for other elective offices.

In a 5 to 4 decision in which the justices expressed conflicting opinions about the wisdom of electing judges, the court ruled that a Minnesota restriction that says a judicial candidate may not "announce his or her views on disputed legal or political issues" violated the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech.

"We have never allowed the government to prohibit candidates from communicating relevant information to voters during an election," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. [...]

"Judges are not politicians, and the First Amendment does not require that they be treated as politicians simply because they are chosen by popular vote," Ginsburg said.

Oh, really? Here's a definition of "politics" from dictionary.com :
pol·i·tics Pronunciation Key (pl-tks) n.
1. (used with a sing. verb)
a. The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs.
b. Political science.

2. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
a. The activities or affairs engaged in by a government, politician, or political party: "All politics is local" (Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr.). "Politics have appealed to me since I was at Oxford because they are exciting morning, noon, and night" (Jeffrey Archer).
b. The methods or tactics involved in managing a state or government: The politics of the former regime were rejected by the new government leadership. If the politics of the conservative government now borders on the repressive, what can be expected when the economy falters?

3. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Political life: studied law with a view to going into politics; felt that politics was a worthwhile career.

4. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Intrigue or maneuvering within a political unit or group in order to gain control or power: Partisan politics is often an obstruction to good government. Office politics are often debilitating and counterproductive.

5. (used with a sing. or pl. verb) Political attitudes and positions: His politics on that issue is his own business. Your politics are clearly more liberal than mine.

6.(used with a sing. or pl. verb) The often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

What do judges do if not participate in the governing of their jurisdictions? And if they govern us why shouldn't we be able to ask them what their views are on the issues? ...most dangerous branch indeed.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Pledging Allegiance: Wrong for the Right Reasons (E. J. Dionne Jr., June 28, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
[I]f liberals want to be intellectually honest and not just political in defending the use of "under God" in the pledge, they need a more robust argument than "ceremonial deism." If you think the 9th Circuit was wrong, you have to believe on principle that it's wrong to obliterate every public reference to God, whether on the currency or at the opening of Supreme Court sessions. The doctrine underlying such a view cannot be that public references to religion are unimportant. That takes neither religious people nor their critics seriously.

There is only one viable principle for upholding the reference to God in the pledge. It would assert that we need to strike a balance between the rights of believers and the rights of nonbelievers. That means that the public arena should not be godless, but neither should it be dominated by religion.

Before the 9th Circuit panel's ruling, we thought we had achieved an implicit, awkward but workable equilibrium. We did so by combining sharp limitations on religion's role in government institutions with at least some permission for its expression. Politicians are angry with the two judges not because they are "nuts," but because their unfortunate yet principled decision has forced us to decide explicitly if this is what we really want.

Here's an idea for the GOP, why not replace the words of the current Pledge with the words of the Declaration of Independence : 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. This passage makes conservative arguments quite precisely. In the first place it is an acknowledgment that our rights derive from God and that our system of governance must be predicated on this. Secondly, it establishes the right to life, which has been so badly degraded over the last thirty years.

To object to such a pledge would be to object to the very idea of the American Republic itself. That's not to say that people would not so object, but at least the terms of the debate would be clarified--you either believe in those words or you don't believe in the foundation upon which America is constructed. In which case, let's hear what you believe instead.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 AM


In Growing Bad News, Risk for Bush and GOP (Dana Milbank, June 28, 2002, Washington Post)
For two days in a row, President Bush has inveighed against irresponsible WorldCom Inc., executives -- an aggressive response that reflects the potential danger a wave of corporate scandal represents for Bush and the GOP. [...]

The urgency of the matter was reflected in the distraction it caused Bush while attending the meetings of the Group of Eight industrial nations in Canada. During separate news conferences with Britain's Tony Blair and Russia's Vladimir Putin, Bush angrily criticized "corporate leaders who have not upheld their responsibility," calling WorldCom's actions "outrageous" and vowing to "hold people accountable" for fooling employees and investors.

This is a fight that President Bush can win and in the process transform the image of the GOP as mere protectors of the privileged. He sounded the theme of responsibility effectively in his campaign. Here's what he said in his acceptance s[peech at the Convention :
We have discovered that who we are is more important than what we have. And we know we must renew our values to restore our country.

This is the vision of America's founders.

They never saw our nation's greatness in rising wealth or advancing armies, but in small, unnumbered acts of caring and courage and self-denial.

Their highest hope, as Robert Frost described it, was "to occupy the land with character."

And that, 13 generations later, is still our goal ... to occupy the land with character.

In a responsibility era, each of us has important tasks -- work that only we can do.

So just return to that message. "The 1990s were a time of material plenty but of irresponsibilty in high places. From the White House to the corporate board room, misconduct was excused so long as stock portfolios went up. But at the start of the 21st Century we are called upon to reoccupy the land with character. The CEO who defrauds stockholders and steals millions of dollars is no different than the armed cfriminal who holds up a bank. As we hunt down and punish the later, so we must root and jail the former."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM


ENRON, WorldCom and Martha Stewart just proved that America's financial and accounting systems work. Despite the monstrous cheating and mad-dog greed, the good news about all the scandals we are suffering is that the bad guys--and gals--got caught.

Behind the appalled headlines, the deeper message is that the United States isn't India, or China, or Brazil--or even France.

In any of those countries, well-connected corporate scoundrels would have been shielded by the system. Hell, in plenty of countries, the scoundrels are the system.

Here, in the world's largest economy, unscrupulous CEOs and CFOs have nearly unlimited opportunities to cheat investors, banks and their own employees. But they get caught in the end.

As Samuel Johnson said : The prospect of hanging wonderfully concentrates the mind. Send a few of these CFOs, CEOs, and accountants to SuperMax and these corporate ledgers will straighten themselves out damn quickly.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


G-8 nations pledge aid to Africa : Plan hinges on effort by African leaders for democracy, reform (Colin Nickerson, 6/28/2002, Boston Globe)
The heads of the world's wealthiest nations yesterday pledged a ''new beginning'' for inhabitants of the earth's poorest continent, signing a historic agreement to increase development aid by billions of dollars in return for a commitment from African leaders to eliminate corruption, despotism, and human rights abuses.

The pledge, made at the close of a two-day summit of the Group of Eight leading industrialized democracies, marked the first time that aid to the beleaguered nations of sub-Saharan Africa has been made contingent on promises by African leaders to take responsibility for economic and political reform. Supporters called it a turning point in relations between Africa and rich donor nations, while critics dismissed the agreement as empty rhetoric--noting that the G-8 nations failed to make hard commitments on promises of new cash.

If we keep this up, people may get the impression that we're serious about reform.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


ARAB WORLD TAKEN ABACK BY BUSH SPEECH ON MIDDLE EAST (Michael Widlanski, June 25, 2002, Media Line)
“I didn’t think much of Bush’s speech,” insisted Ghazi Ghreib, an Arab journalist in Jerusalem. “What does he think he’s doing ignoring our interests?” he added.

Let's see, he told you that you needed to liberalize your society and get serious about making peace with the West. You prefer dictatorship and suicidal violence. Who's ignoring your interests, you or President Bush?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


UK economy barely growing (BBC, 28 June, 2002)
The UK economy was barely growing during the first three months of the year, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

(The economy) still looks slightly weak and the services sector growth, in particular, is weaker than survey evidence would suggest

David Page, Investec The ONS said UK gross domestic product (GDP) was up just 0.1% in the January to March period, and had risen by 1.1% over the year as a whole.

Growth in the last three months of 2001 was also revised up to 0.1%.

It had previously said that GDP was flat in the first quarter, after also recording zero growth in the last three months of 2001.

The revision means the economy is not officially in recession, but it has recorded its lowest growth for two successive quarters since 1991.

So we've got money fleeing the U.S., which grew at 6+% in the First Quarter to go to places like Europe, where there is no short term growth and the future appears bleak. We like to think that markets are rational, and that may be the case over a significant period of time. But at any given moment they are just as irrational as any human institution. Today's panic over the U.S. economy--which continues to grow despite the destruction of a major financial center and our solitary pursuit of a global war--is such a moment. It's hard to see the flight to European markets and the eurocurrency as anything but a function of psychology--the EU is supposed to matter and the unified currency is supposed to do well so folks pursue the theory and ignore the reality.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 AM


Proud to be an Okie (H. D. Miller, 6/27/02, Travelling Shoes)
In the case of Okies, I can actually claim a certain amount of first-hand knowledge, you see, I'm an Okie. Or at least, I'm a third-generation California Okie. My maternal Granny was born in the Okalahoma Territory in 1903, and grew up in a tiny West Texas town just south of the Oklahoma border. In the mid-1940s, my grandparents upped stakes and moved to Garden Grove, California, so my grandfather could find work in the Los Angeles defense plants. They weren't Dust Bowl refugees, rather they followed a more common migration pattern, one [Keith] Windschuttle identifies in this passage:

"The real mass migration of Okies to California actually took place in the 1940s to take advantage of the boom in manufacturing jobs during World War II and its aftermath. In this period, about 630,000 of them went to the west coast. It was not the Depression of the 30s but the economic boom of the 40s that caused an abnormal increase in Okie migration."

H. D. Miller has more on that New Criterion piece that put paid to the notion that Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath portrays the reality of the Great Depression. Read it and admire what Mr. Miller refers to as "the central philosophy of Okie-ism: dogged, stubborn, bloody-minded determination".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Bulldozer Hits Palestinian Headquarters (NASSER SHIYOUKHI, June 28, 2002, Associated Press)
With Israeli troops controlling seven of the eight main West Bank cities and towns, the Palestinian leadership issued a statement on
Friday condemning the Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas as "an attempt to sabotage peace efforts."

Who knew chutzpah was an Arabic word?

June 27, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 PM


Mr. Bush Talks the Talk (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, June 28, 2002, NY Times)
It obliges our moralistic streak to try to replace Mr. Arafat, and it would be great if the Palestinians did get a better leader. But Mr. Bush's harrumphing does nothing to achieve better leadership in Palestine; if anything, it strengthens Mr. Arafat and boosts Hamas as well. One poll of Palestinians has already found that a solid plurality expects Mr. Arafat to be elected in a democratic vote. Another poll found that nearly three times as many Palestinians trust Mr. Arafat as they do the next highest contender.

So by calling off our plans for a Middle East conference and simply insisting that Mr. Arafat leave the scene before we come out to deal, Mr. Bush is signaling that we are disengaging from the Middle East, returning to his earlier failed policy of looking the other way. That was a catastrophic mistake that helped create today's mess.

Mr. Kristof continues to emerge as the one serious columnist at the NY Times, with this very fair assessment of George W. Bush's black and white morality--fair, but also probably wrong. what he seems unwilling to confront is the fact that all Middle East policies involving the Palestinians have been failures. Negotiations failed. Confrontation failed. Ignoring them failed. Being nice to Arafat failed. Reviling him failed. The search for peace in Palestine is simply a failure, no matter how we pursue. So, given this fact, why not pursue the course that provides us with moral clarity. It may at times be worth cutting moral corners if you can end up wiuth a sufficiently desirable result--that's simple realism. But what's the point of trimming your moral sails and failing too? You get the worst of both worlds.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


The Who Bassist John Entwistle Dies (Ken Ritter, June 27, 2002, Associated Press)
Having grown up in the 'hood, we were never big on British bands, but Ed Driscoll has some thoughts on the matter. On the other hand, if Isaac Hayes should, God forbid, predecease me, I'll be inconsolable.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


India asked for Israeli shield for Pak Scuds (Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, June 27, 2002, Hindustan Times)
Early this month, Major-General Amos Yaron, director-general of Israel's Defence Ministry, flew in secretly twice to meet his counterparts in New Delhi. [...]

Jane's reported that India wanted to "buy or borrow" Israel's newly-launched Ofek-5 spy satellite. Yaron said Israel needed to keep it on an Iran-Syria-Iraq orbit, that it could not, even temporarily, be sent over Kashmir at the present time--as New Delhi wanted.

Yaron also turned down India's request for the Arrow anti-missile system--but only because the weapon was not yet ready. [...]

Diplomatic sources say the long-term obstacles to the sale of the Arrow and the Phalcon, both of which have US technology, are sections of the State Department and Democratic senators who still hope to revive the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The Pentagon and the White House are more favourably inclined.

The burgeoning alliance between Israel and India--particularly if we can bring Turkey and Russia on board quickly and Iran and Jordan eventually--will do far more to impose world peace than the Test Ban Treaty ever could.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Court Puts Pledge Ruling on Hold (ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 27, 2002)
A day after he shocked the nation by declaring the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional, a federal appeals court judge put his ruling on hold Thursday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


Leaders Reach Out to Davis (Lauren W. Whittington, June 27, 2002 , Roll Call)
After the resounding defeat of Rep. Earl Hilliard (D-Ala.) on Tuesday marked the end to a contest that strained relations between black and Jewish Democrats, observers said the same tensions are all but certain to erupt in other races in this cycle. [...]

The Alabama race gained national attention in recent weeks in part because of the amount of out-of-state money funneled to the candidates in the majority-black district, one of the poorest in the nation. Although Davis has maintained throughout that the race was a referendum on the incumbent's lack of legislative accomplishment and poor constituent service, donor interest in the race was fueled largely by Middle East politics.

Davis was heavily supported by the Jewish community, while Hilliard got considerable support from Arab-Americans and affiliated interest groups. Hilliard voted against a resolution passed by the House earlier this year that condemned Palestinian suicide bombings.

This dynamic can't help but hasten the Republification of the Jewish vote. You can understand why they did it, but Jewish donors working to defeat black Congressmen is a recipe for open warfare in the Democratic party.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Parents praise court's ruling on school vouchers (PAUL SINGER, 6/27/02, Associated Press)
Eulanda Johnson, 37, of Cleveland was overjoyed at the ruling.

"Thank you lord!" she said. "I thought I was going to have to work a second job."

Johnson's daughter, Ebony Williams, is entering sixth grade at St. Mary's Catholic school. Based on her income, Johnson pays 25 percent of the school's $2,250 annual tuition and the voucher program pays the remainder.

"Now I can be able to afford to send her to the school," Johnson said.

First of all, does that sound like a woman who's primarily concerned with screwing the NEA or concerned with the best interests of her child?

Second, what really leaps out there is that this school educates kids for about 1/4 of what New York City spends per pupil in its atrocious school system.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


Mideast Misstep : Bush's dismal foray into peacemaking. (Adam B. Kushner, 6.27.02, American Prospect)
President Bush concluded his Rose Garden speech about the Middle East on Monday by calling the moment "a test to show who is serious about peace and who is not." Given how na•ve his plan is--how astonishingly far it is from any foreseeable reality--he may have failed his own test. It's not that Bush's goals aren't noble or correct, but real diplomacy takes more than wishful thinking.

Bush's fuzzy logic, to borrow a term, is weakest with regard to what he calls the "Palestinian leadership." By refusing even to name Yasir Arafat, the president showed that he's just not ready for an honest attempt at peacemaking.

Considering that they uniformly think he's a moron, the Left has an "astonishingly" hard time figuring out what he's doing. We might first pause to consider Mr. Kushner's statement that Mr. Bush's goals may be "noble or correct" but that's not what "real diplomacy" is about. Presumably then it's about the ignoble and incorrect.

But then look at that second paragraph. Mr. Kushner refers to what he calls the "fuzzy logic" of the Bush speech. The logic is apparently fuzzy because the only conclusion you can draw from the speech is that we aren't interested in the "peace" process and Mr. Kushner can't believe that's the point of the speech. After all, this is diplomacy. Even if peace negotiations would be ignoble an incorrect you can't let that stop you, can you?

Who's na•ve?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM


Italy's Berlusconi urges Arafat to quit (Reuters, June 27, 2002)
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat should book himself a place in history and stand down, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Thursday, backing a U.S. call for a change in Palestinian leadership.

Berlusconi, who has forged close ties with the Arab world since taking office last year, told reporters the international community was ready to help Palestinians as long as they set up a transparent democracy.

"Many people are convinced that Arafat, a winner of the Nobel peace prize, should make a generous gesture and move aside," Berlusconi said on the final morning of a two day meeting of major power leaders.

"If I were President Arafat I would make a grand gesture that would enable him to go down forever in history as the man who gave everything for the freedom of his country," he said.

The problem with this suggestion is that Mr. Berlusconi is a patriot--Mr. Arafat is not.

Still, the statement is a reminder of how potent a force it may be for Europe to be swinging Right while Republicans hold the U.S. White House. This is the alignment that was required to finally win the Cold War too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Simon lampoons Davis in series of new TV ads (Carla Marinucci and John Wildermuth, June 26, 2002, SF Chronicle)
In a pair of TV ads debuting today, GOP businessman Bill Simon lampoons Gov. Gray Davis as the denizen of a dusty office jammed with campaign cash, visited by a parade of dollar-laden constituents.

The new 30-second spots use parody to stick in the minds of voters while skewering Davis -- the Democratic incumbent who has raised more than $30 million for his re-election campaign -- on the fund-raising issue, where Republicans believe he is most vulnerable. [...]

The commercials were shown on a day the Simon campaign announced they had added as senior advisers veteran GOP consultant Ed Rollins--who managed President Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign--and Lyn Nofziger, who worked for Reagan in California and Washington.

The move, GOP insiders say, is an effort to help Simon's campaign become more aggressive against Davis.

Suddenly, with the hiring of two of the historic giants of Republican electoral politics, it's necessary to take Bill Simon seriously. No one, besides Ronald Reagan, has ever understood better than Mr. Rollins how to position the GOP so that it appeals to middle class men. This race is not dissimilar to the Christie Todd Whitman/Jim Florio campaign in NJ, where Rollins helped knock off an incumbent governor in a Democrat state. Let's hope they've got a cache of "walkin'-around money" on hand.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:14 PM


Statement of Bob Chase, President of the National Education Association on the U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Private School Tuition Vouchers (June 27, 2002)
The National Education Association pledges to continue to fight for children and public education--and oppose divisive and counterproductive proposals to divert energy, attention, and resources to private school tuition vouchers, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, the Cleveland private school voucher case. Just because vouchers may be legal in some circumstances doesn't make them a good idea.

The 96.6% of parents choosing private schools over public in the case before the Court amply explains NEA opposition. Monopolists don't like competition.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


Pennies for the Pentagon: Michael Nouri Antes Up (Lloyd Grove, 6/27/02, Washington Post)
Actor Michael Nouri--who recently starred in a six-month, 26-city road production of "South Pacific"--yesterday presented Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim with a check for $181,041.01, representing the dollars, dimes and pennies collected from audiences at each performance for various Sept. 11 victim relief funds.

"He was very emotional," Zakheim told us after the Pentagon ceremony. "This was something he obviously had put his heart and soul into."

Nouri told us: "Absolutely, I was emotional. The terrorist attacks happened when we were in rehearsal for 'South Pacific' in New York. We were on 18th Street and I saw the second plane strike the tower."

To me the most interesting story is that Michael Nouri presented the money to Dov Zakheim--you can pretty much bet that at some point Republicans tried keeping both their families out of this country.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM


First Inaugural Address (George Washington, In the City of New York, Thursday, April 30, 1789)
[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:26 AM


Supreme Court Approves Vouchers for Religious Schools (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/27/02)
The Constitution allows public money to underwrite tuition at religious schools as long as parents have a choice among a range of religious and secular schools, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The 5-4 ruling led by the court's conservative majority lowers the figurative wall separating church and state and clears a constitutional cloud from school vouchers, a divisive education idea dear to political conservatives and championed by President Bush. [...]

``We believe that the program challenged here is a program of true private choice,'' Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for himself and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

The Cleveland program goes too far toward state-sponsored religion, the dissenting justices said. It does not treat religion neutrally, as Rehnquist contended, wrote Justice David H. Souter. The majority is also wrong about the question of whether parents have a true choice among schools, Souter wrote for himself and Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

``There is, in any case, no way to interpret the 96.6 percent of current voucher money going to religious schools as reflecting a free and genuine choice by the families that apply for vouchers,'' Souter wrote.

Justice Souter here shows himself to be badly confused. That people make a choice he doesn't like is not the same thing as them not having a choice.

Conservatives need to seize on this ruling, the Pledge ruling, genetic manipulation, abortion on demand, corporate misconduct, and the war on radical Islamic terror and tie them all together as a defining struggle over what kind of culture we want to be. Does it suffice to be wealthy, even if amoral, as we were in the Clinton Era? Or do we ask something more of ourselves? Is mere "freedom" purpose enough for America or do we want to create a decent society with that freedom? Is it enough to do good (as in having a rising stock portfolio and no social responsibilities) or should we strive to be Good?

It seems that this is a nearly unique moment in our recent history and that people are begging to be challenged, to be asked to give more of themselves. Why doesn't the GOP just ask?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


Newdow v. U.S. Congress
In the context of the Pledge, the statement that the United States is a nation “under God” is an endorsement of religion. It is a profession of a religious belief, namely, a belief in monotheism. The recitation that ours is a nation “under God” is not a mere acknowledgment that many Americans believe in a deity. Nor is it merely descriptive of the undeniable historical significance of religion in the founding of the Republic. Rather, the phrase “one nation under God” in the context of the Pledge is normative. To recite the Pledge is not to describe the United States; instead, it is to swear allegiance to the values for which the flag stands: unity, indivisibility, liberty, justice, and — since 1954 — monotheism. The text of the official Pledge, codified in federal law, impermissibly takes a position with respect to the purely religious question of the existence and identity of God. A profession that we are a nation “under God” is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation “under Jesus,” a nation “under Vishnu,” a nation “under Zeus,” or a nation “under no god,” because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion. “[T]he government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.” Wallace, 472 U.S. at 60. Furthermore, the school district’s practice of teacher-led recitation of the Pledge aims to inculcate in students a respect for the ideals set forth in the Pledge, and thus amounts to state endorsement of these ideals. Although students cannot be forced to participate in recitation of the Pledge, the school district is nonetheless conveying a message of state endorsement of a religious belief when it requires public school teachers to recite, and lead the recitation of, the current form of the Pledge.

This is the most disturbing part of the court's opinion, because it reflects a complete failure to understand that the American Republic is in fact grounded on not just monotheism but Judeo-Christianity and that without that grounding it will perish. A hundred years of liberal domination of academia have managed to convince many people that the Founders held no strong religious beliefs or, at best, acknowledged some kind of watchmaker version of God. This is antihistorical and is contradicted even by the Founding documents.

As the Declaration makes clear, the very basis of our assertion of political rights flows from the idea that we were Created with such rights. Unpleasant as it may be for the irreligious to contemplate, in the absence of God (and by that we do mean the God of Abraham) there simply is no coherent basis for human rights (nor for morality, for that matter). Adding the phrase "under Vishnu" to the Pledge would not be unconstitutional--it would just be wrong. Whereas this truly is, or was, a nation "under God". We've addressed these issues more fully in this review, and can't recommend the book under review highly enough.

But setting even this fundamental question aside, there is nothing in the First Amendment that prohibits such a voluntary pledge. The language of the text could not possibly be clearer : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof... . Given that several states actually had established religions at the time the Constitution was adopted and were allowed to keep them, it seems obvious that all the provision was meant to do was to prevent the establishment of a single national religion. All of the drivel about separation of church and state is merely the opinion of unelected judges and its application to our laws is antidemocratic.

It will be argued that the First is at least applicable, in whatever form, to the States because of the doctrine of incorporation. This too is judge-made twaddle and antidemocratic. Are we such inartful drafters that we couldn't explicitly incorporate States under the Bill of Rights if we so chose and give them an opportunity to determine whether they choose to be bound ?

Finally, no matter how many judges believe something to be unconstitutional, that which 280+ million American citizens believe to be constitutional and which belief they have by long tradition and practice demonstrated, is, therefore, constitutional. Two hundred years of praying in public schools and reciting the pledge is not a tradition to be lightly discarded. It is some sense must be considered to be part of the structure that undergirds our nation. One should kick at such structural supports only with great trepidation. When the courts intervene in these kinds of quintessentially moral matters they have in almost every instance done our society harm. Such interventions represent nothing more than the desire of intellectual elites to circumvent democratic processes in order to impose their will. It is this tendency that makes the judiciary the most dangerous branch of government. This ruling should simply be ignored. As Andrew Jackson said of Justice Marshall, and as we all should have said many times since : they've made their ruling, now let them enforce it, if they can.

A few folks over the last few days have said that this ruling, though annoying, pales in importance in comparison to the war on terrorism--this is precisely backwards. Al Qaeda poses no threat to our republic. They are a temporary phenomenon, associated with a failing civilization, destined to be little more than a footnote in the history books. The far greater threat to our society is that we continue to distance ourselves and our political system from the religious beliefs that are required for a healthy democracy and a decent culture.

Perhaps that's just our inevitable destiny. Maybe the conservative critique is right and a political system that is structured to gratify the debased desires of mass men is doomed to a kind of cultural suicide, as we see occurring throughout post-Christian Europe.
Perhaps, as Albert Jay Nock believed, we will simply grow bored with our own hideousness and seek annihilation. When the bell tolls for American democracy, it won't be rung by crazed Arabs, but by a people who have become so detached from the Judeo-Christian morality that once supported the republic that death will appear preferable to a continued deracinated existence.

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, a citizen approached Benjamin Franklin and asked him : "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" He responded : "A republic if you can keep it". Maybe we can't.

On the other hand, Patrick Ruffini says it's good for Republicans!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 AM


There's a tendency when folks put together lists of suggested summer reading to assume that readers don't want to have to think. So such lists usually have a lot of mindless thrillers and the like. It seems to me that a book can be mentally challenging but still be reasonably easy to read, in fact most of the best books are. So here's a list that won't strain your brain too much but that won't waste your time either.

These are the rough guidelines for the choices :

(1) It should be big. Five-hundred-pages-or-better big. You should be able to only take two books from the list and still have enough reading to get you through a week.

(2) It should be readable. No note-taking needed. Not a whole lot of names to remember. You should be able to pick it up and put it down again without having to reorient yourself. Most of all, you should enjoy it.

(3) Ideally it should be a book that you've been meaning to read but you've put off, probably because of its size. But now, when it's the only one, or one of the only ones, you have with you, you'll be "forced" to read it. At the same time, it should be good enough that you won't regret having brought it. No experiments.

So here are a few suggestions (with links to our reviews where applicable)(please add your own suggestions in the comments section) :

What it Takes : The Way to the White House (1992) (Richard Ben Cramer)
[A whopping 1051 pages, but you won't even notice. Available in a nice paperback edition.]
Mr. Cramer's account of the 1988 presidential campaign is an amalgam of both The Right Stuff and Moby Dick. It may be the quintessential book about America.

The Power Broker : Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974) (Robert Caro)
[1246 pages. Available in hardcover]
Mr. Caro writes biography in order to understand political power. He's in the middle of his acclaimed four volume Lyndon Johnson series, but for a
one volume masterpiece this one can't be bettered. Along with Mr. Cramer's book and All the King's Men it forms my personal triumvirate of great American political books.

Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943) (Albert Jay Nock  1872-1945)
[Not 500 pages, but I never miss a chance to plug it. Hard to find, but looks to be available in paperback.]
An idiosyncratic thoroughly charming book by a conservative writing at a time when conservatism appeared dead.

The Last Hero (1990) (Peter Forbath)
[729 pages. Hard to find (though I have four copies and might be convinced to
send you one.)]
Maybe the best historical novel ever written, based on Henry Morton Stanley's expedition up the Congo to relieve the embattled Emin Pasha.

Sweet Soul Music : Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom () (Peter Guralnick)
[448 pages (Close enough). Available in paperback.]
There's no better music writer in America and no better book about American music. If you take this one, you'd better bring some Solomon Burke cds too. His Elvis bio is excellent too.

All the King's Men (1946) (Robert Penn Warren 1905-1989)
[531 pages. Available in a fairly cheap hardcover.]
You might have had to read it for a class and thus ended up hating it. But it is an amazing political fable of good intentions corrupted by political power.

The Pity of War : Explaining World War I (1998) (Niall Ferguson) (Grade: A+)
[608 pages. Available in Paperback.]
I'm especially partial to authors who argue against the conventional wisdom. Mr. Ferguson takes on nearly everything you think you know about WWI.

Falls the Shadow (1989) (Sharon Kay Penman)
[580 pages. Available in paperback.]
Churchill mentions Simon de Montfort as an early hero of democracy in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples. Ms Penman takes the ball and runs with it. Went to Spring Training one year with married friends. Players went on strike. The couple fought over who got to read the book all week.

The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963 (Michael R. Beschloss)
[Looks to be out of print.]
Though Mr. Beschloss is more impressed by the handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis than I, this is a terrific, nearly novelistic, account of the utter hash that a drug-addled and sexually compromised JFK made of American Soviet relations.

The Conservative Mind : from Burke to Eliot (1953) (Russell Kirk 1918-94)
[Clocks in at 535 pages. Nice paperback edition available.]
Kirk is such a good writer that though the topic may appear dry you'll be captivated. Written in sections so if you find you're not particularly interested in one of the authors he's discussing, you can easily skip without losing anything.

Witness (1952) (Whittaker Chambers 1901-61)
[Roughly 800 pages. I'm not familiar with the edition that's available.]
Lost in the controversy between Hiss and Chambers, an understanding of which is central to comprehending mid-Century America, is the fact that Mr. Chambers was a great writer. This book is a psychodrama, a spy thriller, a courtroom story, and a testimony of faith all rolled into one.

Parting the Waters : America in the King Years (1989) (Taylor Branch)
[1064 pages. Available in paperback.]
America has no greater tale to tell than that of the successful and largely peaceful struggle for civil rights in the 1950s and 60s. Mr. Branch tells it well.

A Man In Full (1998) (Tom Wolfe 1931-)
[727 pages. Available in Hardcover.]
One assumes everyone has read The Right Stuff and Bonfire of the Vanities, but the mixed reviews on this one seem to have turned many folks off. Don't be one of them. It's a terrific satirical social novel that offers a sweeping panorama of America in the 90s.

Coming of Age in the Milky Way (1988) (Timothy Ferris)
[495 pages (so sue me). Available in a nice paperback.]
Mr. Ferris is one of the best popular science writers going--take it from someone who hates science. His history of Cosmology is a thrilling intellectual adventure.

Tai-Pan (James Clavell)
[730 pages. Available in a mass market paperback that might not be ideal for older eyes.
King Rat, Shogun and Noble House are excellent also, but Tai-pan is my favorite. A great anti-anti-colonial novel.

The Russian Revolution (1991) (Richard Pipes)
[944 pages. Available in paperback.]
As Daniel Pipes is to the war on terror, so his Dad was to the Cold War. He was the scourge of fuzzy thinking about the Soviet Union and this great history of the Revolution--from showing why it was not necessary to showing Lenin to be the father of the Terror--is unparalleled.

How Green Was My Valley (1939)(Richard Llewellyn 1906-1983)
[512 pages. Available in paperback.]
Heartbreaking look back at life in a dying Welsh mining village. You won't want it to end and won't ever forget it.

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001) (Rick Perlstein 1969-)
[671 pages. Available in Hardcover]
The book's worth buying just for the cover. Mr. Perlstein, though a self described "European-style Social Democrat", gives a fair and wonderfully readable account of the rise of grassroots conservatism, culminating in the 1964 nomination of Barry Goldwater.

Lindbergh (1998) (A. Scott Berg)
[628 pages. Available in paperback.]
All any of us remember is that he flew, he lost a child and he was a Nazi. The last is untrue. The first is far more remarkable than we realize any more. The second is heartbreaking.

And the Band Played On (1987) (Randy Shilts)
[672 pages. Available in paperback.]
Fairly even-handed history of the early years of the AIDs crisis, by one of its victims.

Modern Times : The World from the Twenties to the Nineties (Paul Johnson)
[880 pages. Available in paperback.]
Takes on the convential wisdom decade by decade.

Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories (1992)(Joseph Mitchell  1908-96)
[716 pages. Available in paperback.]
Mr. Mitchell was later to become a staple of fiction himself, as the writer's-blocked old fellow wandering the halls of the New Yorker, but before his pen went dry he wrote some of the best essays--mostly about New York City and its characters--that you'll ever read.

A Better War : The Unexamined Victories and the Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam (1999) (Lewis Sorley 1934-)
[528 pages. Available in Hardcover.]
It's a major rethinking of whether even if we weren't going to "win the Vietnam War we might have at least salvaged South Vietnam and our honor.

The Great Bridge : The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge (1972)(David McCullough 1933-)  (Grade: A+)
[640 pages. Available in a very nice Hardcover edition.]
Remarkable story about the building of an engineering marvel that the rest of the skyline eventually dwarfed, but never diminished.

Dune  (1965)(Frank Herbert  1920-1986)   (Grade: A+)
[528 pages.
Available in Hardcover.]
An intensely political science fiction novel. I never liked any of the sequels, but this first is terrific and stands alone quite nicely.

Ulysses S. Grant : Soldier & President (1997) (Geoffrey Perret)
[560 pages. Available in paperback.]
Mr. Perret, who writes wonderfully, challenges the caricatures of Grant and refurbishes his tarnished reputation.

Independent People (1946)(Halldor Laxness 1902-98) (Grade: A+)
[480 pages. Available in Hardcover in an excellent translation.]
If you pick this one, take two more. But if you're willing to trust me, it's just an amazing book, in which an Icelandic sheepherder becomes an "epic" hero.

Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (1994) (Gerald Posner)
[600 pages. Available in paperback.]
One of the great feats of debunking as Mr. Posner just shreds every last bit of the JFK conspiracy theories.

And a few more for the slightly more adventuresome palate :
Don Quijote (Part 1--1605, Part 2--1615)(Miquel de Cervantes 1547-1616)(translated by Burton Raffel)  (Grade: A+)
[Available in a Norton Critical edition paperback.]
For years, you'd start this book with every intention of reading it but be defeated by the translation. That all changed with Burton Raffel's masterful work. It's now very accessible and quite wonderful.

Possession: A Romance (1990)(A.S. [Antonia Susan] Byatt  1936-) (Grade: A+)
[608 pages. Available in a nice Modern Library hardcover.]
A seeming chick book that none of the women I've recommended it to have much liked--just a good literary mystery.

With Fire and Sword (1899) (Henryk Sienkiewicz 1846-1916)
[1135 pages. Hard to find and it's imperative to get the Kuniczak translation (not Curtin)]
The Polish names can make for tough sledding, but once you get into it you'll fly. Sienkiewicz won the Nobel prize and richly deserved it. You might want to start with Quo Vadis?  (1896)(Grade: A+) instead.

And, for teens, see :
Mr. Doggett's Suggested Summer Reading for Students

N.B. : Wild Weasel says he's had uniformly good experiences shopping for used copies of books at ABE.

June 26, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM


Man who sued to stop pledge explains reasons for suit (STEFANIE FRITH, June 26, 2002, Associated Press)
Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow said Wednesday he was trying to restore the Pledge of Allegiance to its pre-1954 version because no one should be forced to worship a religion in which they don't believe. [...]

Even though his daughter wasn't forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, it was wrong to require her to listen to it when she doesn't believe in it, he said. [...]

But Elk Grove parent Kathleen Doncaster, whose daughter attends the school said the Pledge of Allegiance isn't promoting religion.

"It's about being American. He needs to get a hobby," she said.

You know, Kathleen Doncaster probably didn't even go to Law School and her opinion is substantially more sound than the Court's.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Osama bin Laden Has Given Common Identity Back to the West (SAMUEL P. HUNTINGTON, Winter 2002, New Perspectives Quarterly)
[U]ndeniably, the terrorist actions of Osama bin Laden have reinvigorated civilizational identity. Just as he sought to rally Muslims by declaring war on the West, he gave back to the West its sense of common identity in defending itself.

The point Mr. Huntington raises is still somewhat uncomfortable for folks to contemplate, but if we were to put this unity to some greater purpose than just beating radical Islam, which though worthwhile is ultimately a fairly minor chore, then we might look back on September 11, 2001 as having helped to save us from ourselves by remembering where we came from.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM


Steinbeck's myth of the Okies (Keith Windschuttle, June 2002, New Criterion)
John Steinbeck performed a rare feat for a writer of fiction. He created a literary portrait that defined an era. His account of the "Okie Exodus" in The Grapes of Wrath became the principal story through which America defined the experience of the Great Depression. Even today, one of the enduring images for anyone with even a passing familiarity with the 1930s is that of Steinbeck's fictional characters the Joads, an American farming family uprooted from its home by the twin disasters of dust storms and financial crisis to become refugees in a hostile world. Not since Dickens's portrayal of the slums of Victorian England has a novelist produced such an enduring definition of his age. . [...]

Unfortunately for the reputation of the author, however, there is now an accumulation of sufficient historical, demographic, and climatic data about the 1930s to show that almost everything about the elaborate picture created in the novel is either outright false or exaggerated beyond belief.

Gotta forgive a guy a little youthful Socialist enthusiasm don't we? He did write a couple better books later on : Of Mice and Men and Winter of Our Discontent.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Fighting the spectre of the far right : Populist politicians who hold government in contempt and raise the alarm about "outsiders" can be stopped only by a strong social democracy. (Godfrey Hodgson, 10th June 2002, New Statesman)
Analysis of the American experience over the past 40 years shows just how much damage can be done, not by fascism or extremism directly, but by the corruption of the discourse of mainstream politics. A backlash against black migration to the northern cities set off a chain reaction that has frightened even liberals into deriding government, and into looking to corporate business to undertake many of the proper functions of government. In Britain, new Labour is imitating this mistaken strategy.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the American political landscape was transformed by a wave of immigrants. The political failure to handle the fierce resentments set off by that migration has affected not just civil society, but public philosophy as well.

I do not have in mind the 30 million or so immigrants, more than half of them from Latin America, who have settled in the United States as a result of the Kennedy administration's reform of the previously racist immigration law. The migrants I mean are the more than four million black men and women who poured out of the rural south into the slums of northern cities. The reaction to that mass migration has largely (and unjustifiably) discredited the liberal consensus that did so much to civilise American society from the time of the New Deal to that of the Great Society.

Mr. Hodgson wrote a just barely worthwhile book about conservatism several years ago : The World Turned Right Side Up : A History of the Conservative Ascendancy in America (1996). But we noted even then that he was obsessed with race. In this essay he goes beyond obsession to genuine head-banging, talking-in-tongues, jacket with one sleeve, help me Nurse Ratched, Beautiful Mind dementia. The America he describes herein exists only in his tortured psyche. Somebody better boost his meds, quick.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 PM


WorldCom Says Its Books Are Off By $3.8 Billion : U.S. Criminal Probe Reported (Yuki Noguchi and Renae Merle, June 26, 2002, Washington Post)
WorldCom Inc. said last night it had improperly accounted for $3.8 billion in expenses and would restate its financial results for the last five quarters. The company fired a top financial officer and accepted the resignation of another, and sources said the Justice Department had begun a criminal investigation.

Despite all the shock, this is how booms always end. You get all that money sloshing around and it's best to assume folks are diddling around with it. Here's a helpful hint : when things look too good to be true, they aren't true.

One interesting thing about this current cycle of scandal is that the Right always has a blind spot about business. They think spending programs are all evil, but tax breaks are all great. They rage against any concentration of government power but think monopolies are swell. They want to send welfare cheats to prison, but think Mike Millken is some kind of hero. Usually though you can count on the Left to counteract this tendency somewhat.

Will today's Democrat Party, which is so firmly entrenched in the pockets of business that you can barely see Dick Gephardt's carrot top sticking out, be able to play the role of enforcer on this one? Or are they so compromised that the abuses we're finding will go unrepaired? Has the party of Eleanor Roosevelt become so completely the party of Martha Stewart that they'll be shamed into silence?

These are the kinds of problems we confront now that liberalism has ceased to function as a counterweight to conservatism. The Clintonification of the Democrats served no one but him well.

A Corporate Crisis? No, Just Business As Usual (John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, June 23, 2002, washingtonpost.com)

As we try to make sense of the current corporate meltdown, history suggests three important lessons. First, many of the previous scandals have, by most measures, been rather more serious than today's fuss. Second, the longer-term significance of the scandals is not the wrong-doing of the villains but the remedy society applies. For instance, Tarbell's muckraking journalism helped pave the way for modern antitrust law, and eventually, the dismemberment of Standard Oil in 1907; Insull was often cited as a reason for the regulation of the 1930s. Third, the backlash against corporatemalfeasance can sometimes do more damage than the malfeasance itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Study questions class size reduction : Report shows that state test scores did not improve as much as had been anticipated since the law was passed in 1996 (Jessica Brice, June 26, 2002, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
California's $1 billion-a-year experiment with class size reduction isn't producing the monumental benefits lawmakers had hoped for, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Public Policy Institute of California found that while many schools across the state boosted test scores, other schools appeared to benefit little, if at all, from the class size reduction law that passed in 1996.

Overall, schools that reduced their average class size by 10 students saw the number of third-graders with test scores above the national median jump by only 3 percent to 4 percent, according to the report released by the institute, a San Francisco-based think-tank.

Imagine the effort of faith it takes, in the face of the fact that the decline in the quality of American education over the last forty years has precisely coincided with falling class sizes, to believe that reducing them further would magically increase scores. As Samuel Johnson said of second marriages : "it's the triumph of hope over experience".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:25 PM


Tennis Great Navratilova Attacks U.S. Values (Reuters, June 26, 2002)
U.S. tennis great Martina Navratilova criticized her adopted homeland in a German newspaper on Wednesday, saying money is the only thing that matters there. [...]

"The most absurd part of my escape from the unjust system is that I have exchanged one system that suppresses free opinion for another," said Navratilova, 45, who fled Czechoslovakia at the age of 18 to go to the United States. [...]

"The Republicans in the United States manipulate public opinion and sweep any controversial issues under the table," Navratilova said.

"It's depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the question of 'how much money will come out of it' and not on the questions of how much health, morals or the environment suffer as a result."

Just what Republicans need--Renee Richards's main squeeze lecturing us on "values".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


Federal appeals court declares Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional (DAVID KRAVETS, June 26, 2002, Associated Press)
A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the Pledge of Allegiance is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion and cannot be recited in schools.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a 1954 act of Congress inserting the phrase "under God" after the words "one nation" in the pledge. The court said the phrase violates the so-called Establishment Clause in the Constitution that requires a separation of church and state.

"A profession that we are a nation `under God' is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation `under Jesus,' a nation `under Vishnu,' a nation `under Zeus,' or a nation `under no god,' because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion," Judge Alfred T. Goodwin wrote for the three-judge panel.

And I quote : "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." That's it. That's the religious provision of the First Amendment in its entirety. Note the lack of any language about a "separation of church and state" or about an "endorsement" of religion. The Establishment Clause, it should come as no surprise to say, actually refers to an "establishment" of religion, which such generic language as "under God" in no wise accomplishes.

It is hard for me to to believe that America wouldn't be a better place if we turned al Qaeda loose in the 9th Circuit's chambers for about an hour.


Here's Professor Volokh's take.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM


Here's an email from a reader that began as a discussion in the comments section of this post. It touches on several matters that people seem to be misunderstanding, so I assume the fault is mine. Maybe we can cover everyone's concerns at once :
Your remarks are indeed rational : "Have them attack you and then respond."

I will reiterate that we should realize by now what "rational" means in this neck of the woods. We're not exactly in "win-win" land.

Your point, however, raises several serious questions:

1. If it is practically certain that Israel will be attacked, why should she create conditions that will abet the attacker? (By the way, Charles Krauthammer addresses this more eloquently than I ever could in a recent column in the Washington Post, if you haven't seen it already.)

Should she do this merely to kill more people? To raise the heat a bit more? To waste more of her resources? To further guarantee her status as "pariah state" (as well as the US, her "sponsor")? To be sure, the Palestinians will continue attacking because they have been encouraged to continue. I am convinced that their attitude goes something like this: "We will destroy you because we don't believe that you have the will to destroy us. And if you do have the will to destroy us, our friends and allies in the Arab/Moslem world and in Europe, in Russia and in China, will not allow you to destroy us. And even if you succeed in destroying us, you will in the process be destroying yourselves." (This, by the way, could be a paraphrase for Al Qaida too, vis a vis the US)

Attacks will continue because nothing Israel grants the Palestinian Authority (short of agreeing to disappear) will appease them. Attacks will be by "terrorists" or "freedom fighters" what have you. They will likely be with whatever weaponry they can get, Katyusha missiles, artillery, (gas?) etc. Following the most effective model of Hizbullah in Lebanon, the missiles will be concentrated among civilian sites (i.e., cities and towns). How do you expect that the "world" will accept an Israeli response to this when they don't even now accept Israeli attempts to curb attacks on its civilians, referring it to "retaliation" and "illegitimate" (or "excessive") use of force.

2. What about pre-emption? As a sovereign nation, Palestinians will attempt to build up their arsenal as fast as they can. To prevent this build-up (which already started, it seems, as soon as Olso was signed--and aided by Israeli "donations" of automatic weapons "to help the Palestinian Authority "fight terrorism"--not bad as jokes go), Israel will be forced to pre-empt, but she will not be able to so easily (look at the situation in South Lebanon). Once again, as time marches on (our Arab brothers have learned patience, alas) and Israel is further weakened, as the squeeze gets tighter, you don't have to be too too imaginative to figure out the next move.

What I think you're saying, Orrin (and you may be right--I'm just expressing reservations), is: "They'll attack you, as certain as the night follows day, but you'll be able to whack 'em for it. And you'll be supported in it."

I'm saying:

1. Why should more Israelis have to be killed for this "privilege" and why more Palestinians too (though they'll benefit for sure from the sympathy)? I guess this is a dumb question, for 'tis the way of the world?...

2. Why should Israel so obviously further endanger herself?

3. What if people get so tired of the events in this sorry region that they just "turn off" (especially if the US has its hands full with Al Qaida) and tell Israel to solve its own problems? Or even worse, for if Israel, in the words of the French Ambassador to England, is "That sh[odd]y little country that stands in the way of world peace" (I'm paraphrasing), why not just come to the conclusion that the world will be better off without her? Sounds reasonable to me, according to that line of thinking....

4. And what happens when you will get countries like Syria, Iraq, Iran and likely Egypt saying, "Any attack on Palestine is an attack on all of us," even as Israel is being herself attacked?

5. Besides, your view on the difficulty of fighting terror because it's stateless (i.e., it's easier to fight it when it's part of an actual country), seems to be disproved by the Hizbullah in Lebanon, which is part of the government.

Why should the ante have to rise before people wake up? It's just the Oslo accords all over again, except that the stakes for Israel are way higher. And there's no reason at all to believe that the Palestinian response to the concessions offered in 2001 will be any different the next time. There's every reason to think they will try to exploit their opportunity to destroy Israel to the fullest.

Anyway, thanks again for your time,
Barry Meislin
Tel Aviv, Israel

In response I would say :

Thanks, Mr. Meislin for your questions and comments. I fear I've been unclear here. Let me try to rectify that :

(1) As a starting point, I don't believe there is any situation under which America would abandon its support of Israel--which means that Israeli security is guaranteed. Nor do I think there is any scenario one can envision in which Israel could lose a war with Palestine or, in fact, with the entire Arab world. I believe you are right that radical Islamic terror strategy is based on the assumption that Western democracy is fundamentally effete and will not do what is needed even to guarantee its own survival. But this belief is obviously mistaken as our atomic bombing of Japan, our firebombing of everywhere from Dresden to Tokyo and any number of bombing tactics used in Vietnam should have amply demonstrated by now. As Victor Davis Hanson has most capably written, democracies are actually the most bloodthirsty and destructive war-making powers the world has ever seen when once roused to self-righteous anger. No political system is more willing to target civilians, perhaps because no system gives citizens greater power and responsibility. If necessary, does anyone doubt that Israel and maybe even the U.S. will use nuclear weapons on the Islamic world rather than lose such a war?

So what we are discussing here is really just the terms of Palestine's loss. They get their state sooner or later. What is being decided is now is how the defeat is administered and how many of them are still alive when they get it. If they could grasp the olive branch today it would be all of them, but they can't. So they will in all likelihood have to be brutally crushed by Israel first. This brings us to the question of whether it is in Israel's best interest to crush an occupied people or to defeat a rival sovereign nation.

(2) It is our contention that Israel would be better served by creating a Palestinian state itself, with American connivance, so that when the final conflict comes it is waged against the state of Palestine, rather than against Palestinian occupants of Israeli territory. The analogy we'd make is to America's own conflicts with Indians, on the one hand, and with blacks, on the other. Because blacks were an integral part of American society and the body politic, Southern (for the most part) oppression of them was a festering sore for hundreds of years. It led to immense guilt and a kind of psychoses on the part of the white oppressors, which continues to this day as we try to buy off our consciences with everything from affirmative action to talk of reparations for slavery.

Contrast this with the relatively guilt-free way in which we look back at our annihilation of the Indians and our conquest of their territory (or of Mexican territory for that matter). This difference in national psychology may be a function of dubious moral reasoning--perhaps it shouldn't matter that we called one group a nation and the other fellow citizens--but it is nonetheless real and has significant political consequences. It simply is the case that you can exterminate the Maori as long as you treat them as a foreign power, but you can't treat minorities within your own state harshly without provoking international indignation.

But the reasons for our assertion that statehood serves Israel go beyond mere appearances. For one thing it seems likely that at least some of the attention and energy of Palestine's leadership would be consumed by the massive task of administering a state. And it seems that statehood would take some of the passion out of the Palestinian cause. "Live Free or Die" is an easier cause to rally folks to than "54-40 or Fight". Reduce the conflict to a dispute over borders and you may be able to suck some of the air out of a balloon that's near bursting right now.

In addition, it's fairly easy for terrorists to hide within a civilian population. It will be much harder for the leaders of a nation to hide themselves. And, once out of hiding, they are ready and easy targets. The IDF hesitates now before putting a rocket down Arafat's gullet. But make him the leader of Palestine. Tell him that further attacks are acts of war. And then when the next attack inevitably comes, kill him. What was an assassination becomes a mere response to provocation. He's just as dead either way, but there is a difference between the two situations in the eyes of the world.

Suppose instead that the Palestinians manage to (mostly) reign themselves in for a while and try to develop a real military. This would be ideal. Let them collect their young men of fighting age and their armaments into central locations. what more inviting targets could the Israeli military ask for? At that point seize on any provocation or create one and then launch a pre-emptive strike which would truly cripple the Palestinian ability to continue a campaign of violence against Israel.

In short, Israel should announce today that it recognizes the state of Palestine, its borders being the territory that the PLA now administers. The U.S. would likely join in such a declaration, along with several other Israeli allies. Tell Arafat that if they want more land they have to take it but that any further violence against Israel or its citizens will be considered an act of war and will be responded to as such. I fail to see how this negatively impacts Israeli security. In fact, judging from the timing of terrorist attacks, one suspects this is the worst nightmare of the PLO and Hamas. So let's cram a state right down their throats.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM


Bombing Link Swayed Bush : Reported Arafat Payment to Terror Group Shifted Stance (Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus, June 26, 2002, Washington Post)
Here's the State Department spin on why the U.S. "changed" course. It's of course impossible to reconcile the idea that there was such a shift with the preceding 18 months of policy and pronouncements all of which pretty clearly were leading to this moment. But if it makes the striped pants crowd feel better, let them have their own version of events.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:48 AM


The Rough Beast Returns (Todd Gitlin, June 17, 2002, Mother Jones)
Wicked anti-Semitism is back. The worst crackpot notions that circulate through the violent Middle East are also roaming around America, and if that wasn't bad enough, students are spreading the gibberish. Students! As if the bloc to which we have long looked for intelligent dissent has decided to junk any pretense of standards.

A student movement is not just a student movement. It's a student movement. Students, whether they are progressive or not, have the responsibility of knowing things, of thinking and discerning, of studying. A student movement should maintain the highest of standards, not ape the formulas of its elders or outdo them in virulence.

It should therefore trouble progressives everywhere that the students at San Francisco State are neither curious nor revolted by the anti-Semitic drivel they are regurgitating. The simple fact that a student movement -- even a small one -- has been reduced to reflecting the hatred spewed by others should profoundly trouble anyone whose moral principles aim higher than simple nationalism -- as should be the case for anyone on the left.

As a leader of the Left since the 1960s, few people have spoken more nonsense over the last forty years than Todd Gitlin, but this may take the cake. The notion that this most recent wave of anti-semitism represents any kind of departure from the typical self-centered, uninformed silliness that professor-influenced students usually spew is completely ridiculous. In what way does their stupidity today differ from the stupidity that students were convinced of in the 60s and which Maureen Dowd celebrates even today in her column?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


Tastes Like Chicken (Hole City, 6/17/02)
[C]hickens are playing tic-tac-toe against gamblers at the Tropicana Casino Resort. Chickens sit in glass boxes playing tic-tac-toe against us, and they win. Happens all the time. The casino unleashed the chickens upon the gaming public last September, and they've won all but three matches. In the unlikely event that you beat the chicken, the house pays $10,000.

There's just something inherently funny about the concept of tic-tac-toe playing chickens.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


Syria forms new alliances : Bush's talk of removing Hussein inspires Damascus to improve relations with Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. (Nicholas Blanford, June 26, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor)
Pressured by Israel and a suspicious United States, Syria is taking steps to build a loose-knit regional alliance by turning its immediate neighbors from potential enemies into useful allies.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is reversing decades of hostility and mistrust with Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan. With military and economic delegations dispatched to Ankara and Baghdad in the past week, Syria and its neighbors are also preparing for the potential ramifications of a Washington-led drive to unseat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, analysts say.

Two of the Islamic nations for which optimists--including we--have held out the most hope are Jordan and Turkey. Both have reasonably good relations with Israel and the U.S.. Both seem to be developing the infrastructure that would make possible a gradual evolution toward full democracy. But this story is troubling.

If these two countries have decided that their future lies with Syria and Iraq instead of with the West then maybe we are headed toward a semi-apocalyptic clash of civilizations. In the face of such an alliance I would have no trouble admitting that I've been wrong and that Islam may be irredeemable.

The possibility of such a widening of the axis of evil would seem to offer ample reason to depose Saddam sooner rather than later, before such relations can develop too much further.

June 25, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 PM


As most of you will recall, President Bush made some Rose Garden remarks some two and a half months ago, regarding the situation in the Middle East. He then allowed Colin Powell to go on a mission to Palestine and Israel to attempt to salvage a peace process. Some of you will also recall that his remarks were met with almost universal hysteria by war bloggers and neocons. Their dire predictions and accusations of sell-out and wobble are now ash in their mouths, but we'll not seek to track down the guilty parties...

(Well, okay, just one, and not a fellow blogger [you know who you are] but a Timesman. Here's a piece by Frank Rich that was merely dim-sighted when he wrote it but in retrospect is obviously dim-witted : The Bush Doctrine, R.I.P.. Okay, one more, the obligatory dose of Kristol meth about Bush wobbling : Lost in the Wilderness : The Middle East gets worse and worse for the administration.)

Instead, let us celebrate the perceptive among the cognoscenti. Rare were the voices of reason raised in the administration's defense, but Tom Friedman's was one :

President Bush's speech last week was particularly important because he put America in exactly the role it should be playing: restoring clear lines. He drew a clear line for Israelis - that no matter how many settlements they've built, any peace deal has to be based on the 1967 lines. He drew a clear line for Palestinians - that suicide bombers are not "martyrs, they're murderers."

But Mr. Bush did not draw the line down the middle. He was more critical of Mr. Arafat than Mr. Sharon because he knows something the Arabs have consistently tried to ignore: Ariel Sharon did not come from outer space. He was elected only after Mr. Arafat walked away from the best opportunity ever for creating a Palestinian state: the Clinton plan. Mr. Arafat deliberately chose to use military pressure, instead of diplomacy or nonviolence, to extract more out of Israel, and Israelis turned to Mr. Sharon as their revenge. This context is critical, and Mr. Bush has refused to ignore it.

A firm U.S. hand in redrawing all the fudged lines is our only hope. Otherwise the distinction between the sane center and the extremists, in both communities, will become totally blurred, with the hard-liners calling all the shots.

That stands up awfully well.

Here's another, from the day of that speech, that we here are kinda proud of :
FORCING THE CONTRADICTIONS (Thursday, April 04, 2002) :

This was the President's strongest statement since the immediate aftermath of the 9-11 bombings, as he issued an ultimatum to Palestine, Syria and Iran ordering them to choose sides in the war on terrorism. His requirement that Palestinians cease attacking Israel and that Syria and Iran cease aiding terrorists confronts them all with choices that may have terrible consequences. There may still be time for the other two nations to draw back from the brink, but by drawing a line in the sand at a point where it is almost inevitable that the Palestinians will cross it, President Bush seems to have laid the groundwork for a full scale American tilt towards Israel.

Yasar Arafat has always had a genius for saving his own skin, but one doubts that the Palestinians are any longer capable of accepting this final offer of peace; they seem too much in love with death. So the further terror attacks that they will almost certainly launch, or permit to be launched, will in effect make it their own fault that the U.S. sides with Israel. Even more important, by speaking out so forcefully against Hamas, which seems the only potential successor organization to Arafat's PLO, the President basically warned that the next Palestinian leadership is already part of the axis of evil. Palestine's only options appear to be immediate peace or a future war with both Israel and America, a war that they can't conceivably win. Pretty grim prognosis, eh?

If you heard the speech it was really striking how much the language and the tone in which the President delivered it resembled those earlier speeches in which he declared war on al Qaeda. We certainly don't view the suicide bombers as legitimate warriors, but the Palestinians and many others in the Islamic world do; yet the President referred to them as "murderers". That's very harsh, though entirely appropriate, and indicates a real disregard for Palestinian popular opinion and desires, as does his statement that the situation Arafat finds himself in his largely of his own making. It sure sounded like the President is prepared to consider this conflict to be the next front in the war on terror and Palestinian terror organizations, including the PLO, to be the next target.

As the too little noticed piece in today's Jewish World Review revealed, the administration has been walking a path that it has co-ordinated very closely with the Israelis, in particular with Natan Sharansky. When the Bush administration took office in January 2001, they bowed out of the Middle East, at Israeli behest, agreeing that Arafat was not a serious partner for peace. After 9-11 they were sucked back in and decided to give Arafat one last chance to prove his intentions were peaceful. As expected, he failed to do so, and now the administration is once again withdrawing from the process and giving Israel a free hand. Only from within the midst of this process did it appear confusing and contradictory. Unfortunately, in the midst is where daily punditry occurs. That's a significant problem with networks, papers, magazines, and bloggers, all of whom are locked into our modern 24 hour news cycle and few of whom served this story or their readership well.

Bush's Speech : Yesterday the president cut through the diplomatic double-speak and expanded on his bold vision for American foreign policy. (William Kristol, 06/25/2002, Weekly Standard)

President Bush rose to the occasion yesterday. As he did in his speech to Congress on September 20, in his State of the Union address on January 29, and in his West Point speech on June l, he rose above the morass of diplomatic double-speak and the in-fighting of his own administration, left behind the tired and failed formulas of the past, and charted a new course for American foreign policy.

Bill Kristol is becoming the most tiresome person on the Right--measuring everyone against his own personal standard of Zionism and judging everyone, except himself, wanting. Here, in an entirely predictable column, he not only fails to mention the April 4th speech--which he can't because he criticized it at the time--he also fails to recognize the continuity of the Bush policy--which he can't because he's been the main proponent of the wobbliness theory. America's "new course" has been in effect for eighteen months now. It merely holds that there is unlikely to be peace between Israel and Palestine so long as Yasar Arafat or others like him are in control of Palestine, so why bother to try and engage in futile negotiations. That it's taken Mr. Kristol almost two years to comprehend the new policy says more about him than about the administration.

Making Bush's Vision Realistic (DENNIS
ROSS, 6/26/02, NY Times)

The vision Mr. Bush outlined in his speech on Monday is forceful, but it is far more an exhortation for reform than a plan. Even as
exhortation it faces significant problems. What happens, for example, if Yasir Arafat, still an important symbol for many Palestinians, is re-elected in
free and fair elections early next year? How will President Bush go about making his vision of transformation a reality? Will he give the Palestinian
people a way to achieve what they need to achieve? Will his statement this week have any more effect than Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech
last fall or his own speech on April 4?

I hope so, but I am doubtful. The words are right, but I do not see the mechanism for connecting diplomacy to the realities on the ground. Secretary Powell has been asked by Mr. Bush to work intensively with others "on a comprehensive plan to support Palestinian reform and institution building." Who on the Palestinian side will he work with? In the period before elections and the creation of new institutions, who other than the remnants of the Palestinian Authority can Secretary Powell find to stop the violence? And make no mistake: no diplomatic effort, no reform process, no political talks will have any chance of success if the violence continues, because the day-to-day situation of terrorism and reprisals is a force that will continue to overwhelm any plan.

Mr. Ross nearly seems to get it. But it's most likely that there are no mechanisms because the reality on the ground is that no amount of diplomacy is going to transform Palestinian society. It's hard to see how this speech was anything other than the U.S. bowing out of a pointless attempt to negotiate a settlement that can probably only be imposed after Israel defeats Palestine in a fairly brutal war--much as peace with Japan and Germany could only come after democracy was imposed on them at the barrel of U.S. guns. In those cases, it's worth noting, great care was taken to reconstitute the institutions of civil society. It was not expected that mere elections would create democracy. Nor will they in Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


Bush Declares His Path (LA Times, 6/25/02)
President Bush's long-awaited speech Monday marked a decisive break with his administration's on-again, off-again approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Never again can he pretend, as he did for months, that the United States can conduct a war on terrorism and at the same time remain aloof from the spiraling Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When our son was a toddler and he didn't like something you'd said to him, he'd look at you and holler : Opposite! Today he should be standing on the curb in front of the LA Times building, because they have this story exactly backwards.

With his speech yesterday, President Bush disengaged from the Palestinian problem and gave Israel carte blanche to do whatever it deems necessary. He did so by setting the bar to further negotiations so high that the Palestinians can't clear it. No leader can come to power there who doesn't bear the taint of having been involved in terrorism, so there's no one for us to negotiate with. Israel will have to settle this militarily and then dictate terms to whatever is left of the Palestinians. That's where this has always been headed, but it would be better to follow this course against a Palestinian state than against an occupied territory, solely for reasons of appearance.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:07 PM


GOP Makes Gains With Jewish Voters : Democrats Worry Party Critics of Israel Are Costing Support (Thomas B. Edsall, June 25, 2002, Washington Post)
Leading congressional Democrats are increasingly concerned that party critics of Israel are helping drive Jewish voters, donors and opinion leaders toward the Republican Party, according to Democratic strategists and leaders.

While support of Israel is strong among most Democrats and their leaders, a small but significant faction is openly questioning whether the Bush administration has tilted too far in favor of Israel. They include some of the most senior members of the House, as well as a sizable number of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The question for Democrats is how do you appeal to Jewish voters without alienating the generally anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist leadership of the black community.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM


The people's party...where have I heard that before? (Robert Harris, 25/06/2002, Daily Telegraph)
Sitting at my desk last week, preparing to write a column about the Black Rod affair, I found myself leafing through Ian Kershaw's massive biography of Adolf Hitler.

Something had stirred in my mind - something to do with Tony Blair's assertion that his officials had made all those phone calls without his knowledge. What was it?

Ah yes. Here it was. Page 529. A speech made in 1934 by the chief civil servant at the German ministry of agriculture, trying to explain to his colleagues how they should cope with the country's charismatic new leader: "Everyone with opportunity to observe it knows that the Fuhrer can only with great difficulty order from above everything that he intends to carry out sooner or later.

"On the contrary, until now everyone has best worked in his place in the new Germany if, so to speak, he works towards the Fuhrer."

Professor Kershaw believes this phrase is crucial to understanding what happened in Germany between 1933 and 1945. Ambitious officials fell over one another to "work towards the Fuhrer", trying to give the Boss what he wanted before he even asked for it, and in this way the whole sophisticated system of Prussian government, far from acting as a brake on Hitler (as most observers had expected) became an accelerator.

The comparison does seem unfair, but the analysis is interesting and Mr. Harris is a terrific conservative novelist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


Washington's Slow Pace in Trade Talks Annoys the Chileans (LARRY ROHTER, June 25, 2002, NY Times)
The United States first began wooing Chile as a free-trade partner more than a decade ago, only to back away when it came time to commit. Now the courtship has resumed, but American negotiators are finding to their chagrin that not only are they just one of many suitors, but they may no longer even be the preferred partner.

Reflecting the new pecking order, President Ricardo Lagos went to Spain in May to sign a sweeping accord that establishes the European Union as Chile's closest economic and political ally. From start to finish, the negotiations took less than three years.

"We always thought an agreement with the United States would come before one with Europe," said Ronald Bown Fernández, president of the Chilean Exporters Association. "Europe, after all, is 15 countries trying to speak as one. But after a dozen years of promises and nothing more from the Americans, both the government and the private sector here are disillusioned."

This is humliating and shows why Fast Track Authority is vital. There's no way an American administration can negotiate a trade treaty that would get through Congress unless there's a simple up or down vote.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Does President's move vindicate Sharon? (Eli J. Lake, June 25, 2002, Jewish World Review)
In many ways the president's new policy is a vindication of Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky, who left Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government on the eve of the July 2000 Camp David peace summit on the grounds that Arafat's word could not be trusted.

Bush's speech yesterday echoed Sharansky's call for democratic reforms inside the Palestinian Authority as a precondition for ending terror. Calling for new and democratic political and economic institutions, Bush said: "The Palestinian state will never be created by terror. It will be built through reform, and reform must be more than cosmetic change or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo."

Interesting story about how we got to this point and Natan Sharansky's key role. He's just one example of how ending the Cold War--and the resulting influx of Russian refugees--saved Israel.

June 24, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


A new birth of freedom (Jerusalem Post, Jun. 25, 2002)
The Oslo "peace process" was born on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993. It died yesterday in the White House Rose Garden. [...]

For years, the US acted as if the real obstacle to peace was Israel's reluctance to give up land. The great breakthrough in this speech was the unmistakable shift in the US interpretation of the "root causes" of the conflict. The concept of land for peace has been relegated to where it should have been all along: a reflection or ratification of peace, rather than its source or cause.

In all history, no two mature democracies have ever warred with each other, an axiom that applies to the Middle East no less than to Europe or the Americas. Now the President has noted this fact, and embraced its wisdom.

For this alone, he stands at the cusp of greatness.

One wonders what the writers think Nazi Germany and France were in 1940.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 PM


Disaster: 3,400 dead, many more injured! (New Statesman, 24th June 2002)
[I]n 1998, Labour decided to set up extra speed surveillance cameras in eight areas. The results were significant, sometimes spectacular: in Northamptonshire, for example, the numbers killed or seriously injured fell by 30 per cent. Moreover, surveys showed majority public support for the cameras. Yet, after a shameful press campaign, egged on by the Tories, ministers agreed that, when the scheme went national, its effectiveness should be reduced.

It's hard to imagine a more specious argument than the current one that passive traffic cameras represent a freedom-threatening invasion of privacy. As the events of 9-11 amply demonstrated, we don't have enough resources to sift through evidence pertaining to guys who are trying to blow up buildings, but people seem to seriously believe that there'll be legions of government agents studying the billions of photos these cameras would take.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


WHAT IT MEANS: Politically, Arafat is a dead man walking (David Landau, 6/25/02, Ha'aretz)
Yasser Arafat, the seemingly immortal leader of the Palestinian national movement, was politically assassinated Monday by President George W. Bush.

His role as Israel's prospective partner in any future diplomatic process was effectively snuffed out by a stern-sounding American president, delivering his verdict on two years of violent intifada and his recipe for a turnabout towards peace in this war-torn region.

Bush's verdict: Arafat is the guilty party. [...]

Bush's sentence was brutal and unequivocal: "Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership," he pronounced.

Great--now we get to deal with Hamas...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


U.S. Enlists Morocco's Help to Counter Terrorist Plots (DOUGLAS FRANTZ, June 24, 2002, NY Times)
George J. Tenet, the American director of central intelligence, came to Morocco in February on a special mission, to secure the kingdom's help in quelling any future terror attacks, Moroccan and Western officials said.

He had scraps of information gleaned from suspects being held at Camp Delta at Guant·namo Bay, Cuba, those officials said, and was pursuing tips about Al Qaeda operatives in Morocco and their possible plans for attacks.

He brought up his concerns in a meeting with King Mohammed VI and the country's intelligence chief, and he was promised full cooperation, Moroccan officials said.

Within days, Moroccan intelligence agents were at Guantanamo Bay, helping question Moroccan prisoners and drawing a sketchy portrait of a mysterious senior Qaeda operative believed to be orchestrating a plot in Morocco.

The initial result of that unusual cooperation came last week. Moroccan authorities charged three Saudis and four Moroccans with plotting to use explosive-packed boats to attack American and British ships in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Here's an account of another quiet victory in the war on al Qaeda and radical Islamic terrorism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM


Hans, Franz & W. (MAUREEN DOWD, June 23, 2002, NY Times)
What this president desperately needs is a few more geeky, scholarly analysts with thick glasses and shameful physiques, poring over memos and intelligence feeds at the C.I.A., F.B.I. and N.S.A.

Toned bodies are well and good. But how about some toned minds?

One of the less endearing but persistent errors of the Left is their continuing faith in the repeatedly disproven notion that human problems will yield to reason and that if only we let the eggheads have their way we'd all be fat and happy. One wonders if Ms Dowd--who actually seems in this column to be criticizing the President for exercisin-- has ever read The Best and the Brightest, which depicts what happens when you turn over the making of national policy to a bunch of intellectuals. If she had, she probably wouldn't be wishing that George W. Bush were more like Bill Clinton.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM


DYNASTIES! (KEVIN PHILLIPS, July 8, 2002 , The Nation)
Maybe it's time for a new set of Fourth of July orations. Only at first blush is there silliness to the idea of the United States--the nation of the Minutemen, John and Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson--becoming a hereditary economic aristocracy. When you think about it, there is evidence for serious concern.

Perhaps we should consider the following, before disdaining the dynastic tradition too quickly. Over the last forty years we've had several presidents who were born to the manor : JFK, Bush I & Bush II. For all their other faults, none of these men was guilty of avarice and greed and all managed to avoid the taint of personal corruption of the financial sort. We had two presidents who actually had careers outside of politics first--Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan--and they came to office wealthy enough to remain relatively honest. Ford doesn't count. That leaves us with LBJ, Nixon, and Clinton--all born poor; all made politics a career early; all ended up rich.

If we ignore the politics and the achievements of all these men and look only at the likelihood of corruption as a function of socio-economic birth status, it seems fair to say that nothing is a better predictor of personal corruption in office than having been born poor and chosen politics as a career. On the other hand, there's no better predictor of honesty than hereditary wealth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM


McCain Vows to Block All Bush Nominations Until FEC Replacement Installed (The Associated Press, 6/24/02)
Sen. John McCain vowed Monday to block confirmation of all Bush administration nominations until a replacement is installed for a lame duck Federal Election Commission member who helped approve controversial campaign fund-raising rules.

In a letter to Senate leaders, the Arizona Republican pledged to object to action on "any nominee" unless Ellen Weintraub is confirmed by early August or President Bush agrees to bypass the Senate and make the appointment on his own.

What a vile little man John McCain is.

When Otto von Bismarck said that, "God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America", he may as well have meant that God would not allow such a self-absorbed, tempermental, autocrat to become president with a crisis coming.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


On a Big Issue, Bush Goes Wobbly : Why is the president endorsing a provisional Palestinian state? (Fred Barnes, 07/01/2002, Weekly Standard)
Though Bush's embrace of an interim state is highly conditional, his plan will be harmful to him nonetheless--morally, strategically, and politically. The moral angle is quite simple: He's rewarding Palestinian terrorism. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has failed to deliver a promised speech denouncing suicide bombings, and he hasn't arrested any Palestinian terrorists either. Yet his regime would suddenly be moved a large step closer to full statehood. And Bush would also weaken his brave and lonely support of Israel as it suffers relentless terrorist attacks.

The normally reliable Fred Barnes appears to have sniffed whatever Bill Kristol is cooking up. There are only two questions that really matter as regards Palestine :

(1) Will it be a state five to ten years from now?

The answer is unequivocally, yes. In fact, it will likely become a recognized state by the end of 2003.

(2) Is Israel (and thereby the U.S.) better served by a Palestinian state that can be held accountable for violence and treated as harshly as any other sovereign state or by a Palestine that is occupied territory, with its people under the nominal control of Israel and, therefore, able to claim the status of civilians?

The answer to this one seems obvious too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM


Congress Should Call Amtrak's Bluff (Wendell Cox, 6/24/02, Heritage Foundation)
After five years of mismanagement and deception, Amtrak's new and highly touted management has unwisely raised the stakes beyond credibility. [...]

The Bush Administration should meet this challenge head on and implement a strategy to keep Amtrak's profitable service lines in operation. The administration should seek whatever legal or administrative strategy available to bring Amtrak under control. Either bankruptcy or a form of federal administration, under which a trustee would continue to operate trains and undertake the financial reforms that have so long been avoided by Amtrak's management and board of directors. Whether they know it or not, Dave Gunn, the Congress and the Bush Administration are embroiled in a game of brinkmanship and Mr. Gunn has raised the stakes well beyond what he or Amtrak can sustain. Neither Congress nor the President should blink.

It's unclear to me why the rails should be the one area of transportation where free market laws apply. The government is up to its neck in highways, shipping, air, and space--what makes the railroads so different? Should we close certain national highways because not enough people use them?

Even libertarians typically pay lip service to the need to have a transportation system that the central government has some legitimate role in maintaining. Why not railways? Can anyone help here?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Bush Calls for New Palestinian Leaders : President Urges 'A Practicing Democracy' for Palestinians (Washington Post, June 24, 2002)
President Bush, revealing a long-awaited new Middle East policy, called on the Palestinian people this afternoon to choose new leadership, as a step toward coexistence with Israel and eventually the creation of a Palestinian state.

"Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born," said Bush, who was flanked by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in the humid Rose Garden. "I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror."

This is just absurd on its face. We may disagree with them, but to be a modern Palestinian patriot is to take up arms agaist Israel. Since there is no official state of Palestine that makes you a de facto terrorist. The standard the president laid out requires a Palestinian David Ben-Gurion which they don't seem to have produced. Meanwhile it would bar a Menachem Begin and, the Palestinians will likely mention, Ariel Sharon, not to mention that it would have barred Yitzak Rabin's mother. It would also bar (more appropriately) Gerry Adams from his seat in Parliament--raising the question of why the Irish terrorist scum are okay but not the Palestinian scum.

The situation is inexact but, suppose that the Brits had told us after Yorktown that we could have our own country so long as no one who had fought against the Crown led our government. Is that an offer we could have accepted?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:20 PM


We on the Gay Right Find Diplomacy Can Work Wonders : When mistaken for a man, I gently correct. (Norah Vincent, 6/20/02, LA Times)
I used to be bothered and embarrassed when strangers mistook me for a man, especially when it happened in public restrooms. I felt left out by what Foucaultians and other leftist intellectuals like to call "gender norms." I didn't fit, and to me the fault lay with--to borrow another radical's pet phrase--the heterosexist hegemony, the insidiousness of which had made me into a pariah among my own sex and a virtual Medusa in the eyes of the opposite sex. And all this because I had a boy's wardrobe, short hair, masculine features and a deep voice. Go figure. If the world couldn't see me through my disguise, I thought, it was the world, not I, who was going to have to change.

And that, in a nutshell, is what leftist gay politics is all about. Making the world change to suit the outcast. Not an ignoble cause on the face ofit. Everyone deserves respect, after all, as well as a certain degree of recognition. This is no less than the founding principle of our Bill of Rights. All libertarian-minded folk are in harmony with left liberals on this point--even gay conservatives, whom Village Voice Senior Editor RichardGoldstein has dubbed "homocons."

When Mr. Goldtsein last week announced that Norah Vincent was the new voice of Gay America and an inappropriate one because a conservative, some of us were concerned because we were as unaware that Ms Vincent was gay as we were that she was conservative. In the few things I'd read by her I guess her sexuality hadn't been at issue. But this column helps to clarify things by amply demonstrating that she is gay and that--as expected-- she's not conservative. One can not favor, as Ms Vincent says she does, making the world change to suit your own desires and still be a conservative. In the, as always, useful words of Russell Kirk :
Any informed conservative is reluctant to condense profound and intricate intellectual systems to a few portentous phrases; he prefers to leave that technique to the enthusiasm of radicals.  Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time.  As a working premise, nevertheless, one can observe here that the essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions. Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors...; they are dubious of wholesale alteration. They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution: it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine.

It's damned hard to reconcile this with a belief that we should suddenly accept homosexuality as merely a lifestyle choice.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


Supposedly President Bush is giving his oft-delayed MidEast speech at 3:45pm today. One hopes, but doubts, he'll just bypass the Palestinians entirely and recognize Arafat as the head of a Palestinian State, consisting of the territory they hold as of today.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM


Rightward march? (MICHAEL BARONE, 7/1/02, US News)
Not so long ago, in 1999 and 2000, Bill Clinton was hosting conferences of "third way" center-left politicians, including the heads of government of the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Italy. Today only one, Tony Blair, is still securely in power; another, Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, is trailing in polls in the run-up to the September election; all the rest are out of office, replaced by parties of the right. The right has also recently ousted the center-left in Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, and Austria, and conservative governments were handsomely re-elected in Spain and Australia. At one moment, the "third way" seemed to be sweeping all before it with a Goldilocks formula of not too much government and not too much free market; now it seems to be losing everywhere. Are we seeing a worldwide trend to the right?

One thing that Mr. Barone doesn't discuss here is the real danger when one side of the political spectrum accepts the other's argument. The Third Way is very reminiscent of the Liberal Republicanism that dominated the GOP for much of the half century after FDR came to power. Just as Republicans at that time accepted the Democrats argument in favor of a massive Federal government, so now the Left has accepted the Right's argument in favor of free markets and smaller government. But they're running into the same problem that the GOP did then.

If even you say that the other guy's basically right and your argument is reduced to nothing more than we might be able to implement his ideas a little better, why shouldn't the voters choose the true believers instead of the Johnny-Come-Latelys? Sure, every once in awhile, particularly during an economic downturn, you can sneak through an Ike or a Clinton, but most of the time you end up trotting out a Wendell Willkie or a Tom Dewey to say "me too". Me-tooism is a singularly unappealing political; philosophy. It is the doctrine of a follower, not a leader.

Al Gore's nostalgic New Deal class warfare candidacy may have been based on policy that would have been disastrous for the nation, but it represented a genuine attempt to lead the country in a different direction than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton had agreed on. This may well be one of the major reasons why he "won".

Today, the Left finds itself stuck not only accepting the free market argument but also, and more problematically, the cultural case that conservatism has made for two centuries. The spectacle of Democrats and European Socialists defending Western Civilization may be more than voters can bear, the dissonance too much for them to handle. It's one thing for Bill Clinton to say the era of big government is over, but one assumes that even he couldn't have gotten away with leading what amounts to a crusade on behalf of Judeo-Christendom. It remains to be seen whether a politician of the Left can enunciate such a conservative social program and be taken seriously. And considering the difficulty that Tony Blair is having keeping his Labour Party in line as he helps lead the crusade, one has to question whether such a candidate can appeal to his own party to a sufficient degree to win its nomination. How would Democrats feel, after all, if one of their own gave a speech as overtly religious in tone as the one President Bush gave at the National Prayer Service after 9-11, particularly since such an introduction of religion to the national conversation by a Democrat would tend to legitimize the more ambitious religiosity of Republicans?

The Left seems to be helping to erect a tightrope that it's not entirely clear anyone can safely walk. What Mr. Barone calls a "Goldilocks" approach on the economy is now necessary on geopolitics and social policy too. That's a lot of porridge to keep at just the right temperature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM


Why Few Senators Become Presidents (David S. Broder, June 23, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
In all of American history, only two men -- Warren Harding and John Kennedy -- have gone straight from the Senate to the White House. Bob Dole in 1996 was the last sitting senator to win a party nomination (though he resigned his Senate seat a few months before the convention) and, like most of his predecessors, he was whomped in the election.

In 2000, two men who had spent most or all of their public careers as senators, Al Gore and Bill Bradley, and a sitting senator, John McCain, were in the race -- and all three lost.

The staggering part of all this for Democrats is who do they have other than their congressmen that's a serious contender? Howard Dean?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Trying to Exorcise a GOP Demon : Simon ad woos Latinos alienated by Republicans' past attacks. (Frank del Olmo, June 23, 2002, The Los Angeles Times)
In a state as big and diverse as California, one broadcast ad will not make or break a political campaign. Still, the ad Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon Jr. began running last week is both noteworthy and praiseworthy.

It is noteworthy because it was the first ad that Simon's campaign broadcast in an uphill effort to unseat Gov. Gray Davis. The better-funded Davis campaign has been hammering away at Simon with its own TV ads for weeks now.

Even more intriguing, however, is the language that Simon's campaign team opted to use in its first ad--Spanish. The new Simon ad will be used on both radio and TV stations to "introduce" the GOP candidate to a group of voters he has made only a minimal effort to woo thus far, California's more than 400,000 newly enfranchised Latino voters.

It is also noteworthy that a California Republican would make such a dramatic, and potentially controversial, gesture to seek Latino voters' support.After all, most political analysts trace the GOP's current weak position in California to 1994, when then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, linked his reelection campaign to Proposition 187, the ballot initiative to bar illegal immigrants from schools and other publicly funded services.

This is how the Simon candidacy can help to revive the party, if the GOP there is smart enough to aggressively court Hispanics instead of asking them to cut the lawn and then go home.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


He proves the GOP is still California's party of optimism and growth (Lewis A. Fein, June 24, 2002, Jewish World Review)
[I]n a state where the Democratic Party is large and liberalism strong, Michael Wissot proves the ideological home of Ronald Reagan remains brilliantly alive.

Wissot proves the GOP is still California's party of optimism and growth because of an idea -- recited like an engraver's seal, before images of Reagan's heroic actions -- that motivates all voters: the idea that public schools must improve, taxes lower and independence thrive. These ideas are the same principles that will not only energize California's Republican Party, but inspire voters from other political persuasions.

One of the worst aspects for a political party of being completely out of power is that they don't get to develop a bench, a group of guys who are ready to move up and take on the big races. Thus, the GOP in CA has been trotting out canon fodder like Matt Fong against even so vulnerable an incumbent as Barbara Boxer. If Bill Simon manages to mount a serious candidacy for governor that's all well and good, but the party really needs to be rebuilt from the ground up--this guy looks like a decent start.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM


The New York Times on the Web
Monday, June 24, 2002
"I cannot tell you how serious this is. This is like a freight train coming at us."
-GOV. JANE DEE HULL, on the wildfires in Arizona.

In our continuing quest to determine whether anyone edits the Times anymore, we present this quote, where the actual disaster is far worse than the imagined one. The Governor can be forgiven an inadequate metaphor, but what about the nitwits at the Times? It's like publishing a quote from Sonny Corleone saying : "I feel like I've been punched".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


Bush Facing Test in Fight to Avert a Financial Crisis (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, June 23, 2002, NY Times)
The Republican-controlled House faces a politically painful decision in the coming week about whether to give in to increasingly urgent demands from the Bush administration for action to avert a government financial crisis, the latest example of the White House economic agenda's becoming trapped in partisan gridlock.

The administration is likely to succeed in its efforts to persuade the House to support an increase in the legal limit on the national debt, because failure to do so would leave the government unable to borrow enough money to meet all its obligations starting at the end of the week.

The reluctance of House Republicans to take up the issue, and the eagerness of Democrats in both chambers to emphasize it, is the newest skirmish in the fight over whether the tax cut pushed through Congress last year by President Bush has proved to be too expensive.

Why not go to the American people and say : "When we declared war on terrorism, we all knew that a time would come when all of us would be called upon to make sacrifices. For months now, American men and women have been fighting the enemy across the globe, making just such sacrifices, some of them even giving their lives. Today I come before you to ask for your sacrifice--your time has come.

As we now know from various reports in the media and internal reviews, part of the reason that al Qaeda was able to strike on our shores on September 11th was because even our national security services have grown bloated and wasteful to the point where their effectiveness is diminished. Meanwhile, the failure to seriously reduce the federal budget after the end of the Cold War has left us with an overall government that costs in excess of two trillion dollars ever year.

If you started reading the Federal Budget on January first and you did continued to read it for eight hours every day, as if just the reading of it were your full time job, never mind understanding it all or making judgments about what you're reading, you could not finish your task by the end of the year. No one in the executive knows what all's in the budget when we propose it. No one in the Congress knows what's in the budget when they pass it. We just keep piling money higher, hoping to demonstrate that we care, yet we have no idea as a nation how our money is being spent. We just know that many of the problems we originally targeted the money at--from education to health care to the environment--remain, most of them no better, or even worse, than they were when we started.

And so tonight, I ask the American people to make a tremendous sacrifice, one worthy of them and of a great nation at war. Tonight we ask Congress to pass legislation that will sunset, end, every program, agency, position, and tax provision of the federal government over the next five years--20% each year, with the specific budget items to be decided by a small working group from the respective congressional budget committees and the OMB.

Over the next five years, let's not kid ourselves, many of these departments and jobs and tax breaks will simply be reapproved--such is the nature of democratic politics. But we will give ourselves a unique opportunity to examine the massive Federal Government and to make cuts where they make sense. Our goal and the end of that five year period should be to reduce--in absolute, not relative, terms--the expenditures of the Federal government by 10%. As a part of this overall effort, and to demonstrate that the commitment to streamlining government begins here--we will be introducing plans to reduce the size of the executive branch down to six, or less, cabinet level positions--with only Interior, War, National Security, and Finance absolutely required.

This endeavor does not mark any lessening of our commitment to friends, neighbors and fellow citizens in need. It marks, instead, a moment we must all ask less of government and expect more of ourselves. It will be up to each of us to not only pick up the slack in our own financial situations but to lend a helping hand, through local churches, unions, citizens groups, and the like. It is a chance, perhaps our last, to restore a sense of community in America and to revitalize our civil society.

Since September 11th, we've received tens of thousands of letters from citizens asking what they can do to help. We've seen a spirit reborn that many thought was long dead in America, a spirit of giving and caring and sharing. Tonight I ask the American people to join together to make sure this spirit does not fade again, but instead resumes its place at the heart of our nation. Thank you and God Bless you and the United States of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


Palestinian elections now : Palestinians have seldom faced a worse, or a more seminal, moment. How, then, might it be grasped? (Edward Said, 6/19/02, El Ahram Weekly)
Six distinct calls for Palestinian reform and elections are being uttered now: five of them [Sharon, the United States, Arab leaders, the Europeans, and Yasser Arafat and his circle of associates] are, for Palestinian purposes, both useless and irrelevant. [...]

Sixth, finally, is the Palestinian people who are now justifiably clamouring both for reform and elections. As far as I am concerned, this clamour is the only legitimate one of the six I have outlined here. [...]

We have never faced a worse, or at the same time, a more seminal moment. [...]

[O]ur society has been nearly wrecked by poor leadership and the insanity of thinking that suicide bombing will lead directly to an Islamic Palestinian state.

You don't need to be a Wilsonian interventionist to think that when a society is being "wrecked" and is pursuing a policy that reflects "insanity" it may be "legitimate" for other countries, particularly its neighbors, to suggest that reform might be in order.

June 21, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 AM


We're headed to a wedding, so there'll be no more from us 'til Sunday night. In the meantime, we'd be honored to have you check out our book reviews and encourage you to patronize the fine folks whose buttons appear to the left of this page, though their politics is generally of the Right.

Be well,
The Brothers

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM


Why are conservatives winning? (Dick Morris, June 21, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Leftist parties have always focused on economics in general and income redistribution in particular. Indeed, most modern social-democratic parties were founded as a political expression of the labor movement's demand for industrial fairness. When such parties existed before the age of the unions, labor has taken them over, as with the Democratic Party in the mid-20th century United States.

But economics no longer work as a key political issue. Globalism determines the winners and losers of the economic game much more than any national policies. International bankers are replacing nation-state presidents and premiers as the key movers and shakers in the markets. The left's agenda is a fantasy. Voters realize that a promise to raise incomes is as serious as one to change the weather. (Indeed, with the saliency of global warming and climate change as issues, perhaps the weather is more amenable to political intervention.) [...]

Can the left come back? Absolutely. [...]

The enterprising Social Democrat will find a plethora of values positions on which to run in place of the traditional bread-and-butter issues. Global warming, pollution, education standards and healthcare reform, for example, are great issues for any liberal candidate.

So the West (the former Christendom) perceives itself as locked in a twilight struggle with Islam, which, rightly or wrongly, casts its jihad as a holy war. Parties of the Right--parties that use the ancient code words of anti-Semitism, nationalism, and racism--are resurgent in Europe. Americans of all stripes, from liberals to libertarians to, of course, conservatives, are marching in lockstep in a war against Islamicist terror, the American polity more unified in this time of war than in any conflict since WWII. The entire language of our politics has been returned to that of an earlier day. Gone are the one world platitudes of FDR, replaced by the racialist and imperialist exhortations of Teddy Roosevelt. Not only is multiculturalism a dead letter, there's near universal support for monoculturalism--and that one culture is ours.

Having greeted their theses with derision when they were propounded, we all now embrace the two most profound conservative cultural critics of recent decades, accepting, as Samuel Huntington, said that this is a Clash of Civilizations and, as Francis Fukuyama said, that the West's form of liberal capitalist protestant democracy represents the "End of History", the ideal system of human governance. And, combining the two, we demonstrate a growing willingness to hasten other civilizations towards that end. After nearly a century of liberalism, humanism, anti-imperialism and the rest, a time during which intellectual elites had little difficulty dismissing conservative warnings about the erosion of Western Culture, there's suddenly a mammoth lurch back to the Right, an eager defense of the traditional culture that must now be seen as having uniquely provided the basis for the End of History and as having given us the wherewithal to triumph in the Clash. It must come as no surprise that in concert with this megatrend there's been a rise in the political fortunes of political parties of the Right and a precipitous decline of parties of the Left, who have after all been busy for a century telling us that culture doesn't matter and that our civilization is no better than any other. As the great Malcolm X said : "the chickens have come home to roost".

And how does Dick Morris believe the Left can latch onto this phenomenon? By advocating environmental issues, education spending, and greater social welfare benefits. Is it possible to more completely misunderstand the world around you? Dick Morris, like his vile acolyte Bill Clinton, is an unserious man who was well-suited to an unserious time--the 1990s. The Reverend Jerry Falwell and the Reverend Pat Robertson were roundly condemned when in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 they suggested that it might represent an angry God's judgment upon a people and a culture that had debased themselves. Yet, who among us did not feel a surge of some inchoate emotion that told us that at last we had a serious purpose to pursue as a nation? Who in those heady days and after did not feel that America and her people were better on the 12th than they had been on the 10th? Who in these months has not hugged a child closer, been nicer to a neighbor, thought more deeply about our place in the universe, been, quite simply, a better, more worthy, person than they had been? Who did not hear and respond to President Bush's summons to be once again a great people and to be steadfast in our defense and vindication of our too degraded culture?

And Dick Morris thinks that what we want right now is environmentalism, socialism, and the like? Dick Morris looks out across the vast American vista and he sees a people coming toward Washington with hands outstretched. A child of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s he knows them to be coming to make demands on government, to declare, like Bellow's Henderson the Rain King : I want, I want, I want... But the world has shifted out from under him. Those outstretched hands belong to people saying : I have, I have, I have, I have so much more than I need and I want so much to share. Some of the hands bear bread and some bear arms, but all seek, as Americans have so often before, to do for others, either to free or to feed the people of Afghanistan and beyond. They wait to be summoned to some great task, to be asked to go beyond themselves. It's unlikely this moment will last. It's unlikely they'll be asked to be great, to, for example, give up their dependence on government. But the opportunity is here. And all the Dick Morrises of the world can think to do is offer them a pay off?

Thank God the Age of Morris and Clinton is over. Good bye and good riddance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


Desire for Sons Drives Use of Prenatal Scans in China (ERIK ECKHOLM, June 21, 2002, NY Times)
In greater numbers than ever, China's villagers are using inexpensive prenatal scans and then abortion to prevent the birth of unwanted daughters and to ensure that they will bear a son, recent studies and census data show.

Through the last decade, a time of rapid economic growth, the gap between male and female births only widened, giving China the largest gender disparity among newborns of any country in the world. In pockets of the countryside the imbalance is staggering, with births of as many as 144 boys recorded for every 100 girls. [...]

Demographers predict serious practical effects for Chinese society as a result of the growing imbalance. The abduction of women in remote areas, for sale to villagers desperate for a wife, is already a chronic problem and could intensify.

Social scientists also speculate about the disruptive effects another decade or two from now, when there will be tens of millions of excess men in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion, unable to marry and likely to be concentrated on the bottom rungs of society.

At least the Times has finally noticed the dangers of abortion as a gender selection tool and its disproportionate impact on females, but one wonders whether it's mere naivetŽ or a more insidious political agenda that causes them to treat the issue as a phenomenon that's exclusive to China. Declining female birth rates are a global problem, one that's likely to accelerate as the developing world reduces its birthrates generally. Even today, in America, there is nothing to stop a couple from deciding to terminate for no other reason than that the child would be female. Such are the perverse consequences of women's rights. Freedom of choice may be their battle, but the ugly, nearly unmentionable truth of the matter is that abortion is causing an absolute decline in the ratio of women to men in the world, a decline that must eventually play out in the political sphere with consequences that are unlikely to favor the freedom of women. This is just one of the reasons that twenty years from now positions on abortion will have reversed themselves, with women generally opposed and men in favor.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


GERMANY ISN'T WORKING (Patrick Ruffini, 6/21/02)
Mickey Kaus has shown why welfare supports terrorism. But could it be that Europe's over-regulated labor markets do the same?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Playing Right Wing : The bizarre phenomenon of anti-soccer conservatism. (Sasha Polakow-Suransky, 6.20.02, American Prospect)
Conservative magazines such as National Review and The Weekly Standard would have us believe that by remaining indifferent to soccer, Americans are heroically resisting the onslaught of a sport that is "for bureaucrats, socialists and overbearing mothers." As Stephen Moore wrote in National Review in 1998, "I am convinced that the ordeal of soccer teaches our kids all the wrong lessons in life. Soccer is the Marxist concept of the labor theory of value applied to sports -- which may explain why socialist nations dominate the World Cup."

This type of analysis may be lent a superficial plausibility because of the well-known political gulf between the U.S. and Europe. Thus, The Financial Times recently attributed the new transatlantic divide to Bush's inability to communicate with European leaders when it comes to sports, namely soccer. But lo and behold, even the famously disinterested President Bush called U.S. coach Bruce Arena and the team just hours before they faced Mexico, telling a surprised squad, "The country is really proud of the team... A lot of people that don't know anything about soccer, like me, are all excited and pulling for you."

Indeed, Moore must be eating his words as his United States advance to the quarterfinals against those commie Germans, surrounded by other perennial reds like the South Koreans, the Spanish, and the Brits. In fact, to hear the right tell it, it would seem that the leader of the capitalist world has betrayed its values by engaging in a sport that -- like hockey or football -- could, god forbid, end in a tie.

Fair Ball (Franklin Foer, 06.20.02, New Republic)
With a little work, even a mediocre marketing mind could save American soccer from its Volvo-driving friends and give it street cred with Joe Six Pack. Some American exceptionalists suggest anything that didn't come across the Atlantic from Europe with the turn-of-the-century migration will never catch on with blue-collar America. But if that were really true, the British monarchy wouldn't dominate American tabloids, nor would there have been a British pop invasion. And if multinational corporations like Nike and Budweiser are bringing basketball to Europe and baseball to Latin America and Asia, there's every reason to believe that with their corporate investment in soccer, they could brand the game for the American working class. It would be a delicious, perverse twist on the caricature of the global market--not the Americanization of the world, but the
reverse. Let the honeymoon begin.

Despite the public perception of conservatives as prissy schoolmarms and bible-thumping Puritans, nothing more clearly distinguishes the Right from the Left than the latter's complete humorlessness. It's oft been noted--perhaps too often by me--that to a liberal life is a tragedy, to a conservative it's a comedy. There are several causes of this. The most important is that conservatives hold to the Judeo-Christian worldview of Man as Fallen. we believe that Man is sinful by his nature and that this capacity for evil precludes the possibility of ever perfecting the species or society. Liberals (like Libertarians) are utopians. They believe that Man is naturally good but that he has been corrupted by money and the artificial stratification of society that accompanies it. They believe in the possibility of perfecting the species once again and of perfecting society. Thus, the two politics, of Left and Right, diverge even at their conception of human nature and of the purpose of life.

Now humor is a difficult thing to define, but one would hope we could all agree that it by and large consists of our taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. Comedy occurs, always, at someone's expense. This is difficult enough for liberals, with their more tender hearts to accept--with their greater empathy they are naturally more deeply affected by the pain of others. But even worse, even as the fact that the bad things happen serves as a challenge to their utopianism, the fact that we all enjoy it when these bad things happen to others serves as challenges to their benevolent view of our nature. If we were truly "good" would we take such pleasure in observing the sado-masochism of the Three Stooges?

On the other hand, for a conservative these things serve merely serve as a confirmation of our dismal view of Man and of life. Pop in a Porky's movie and then try to tell us that mankind is perfectible. Heck, try to tell us that God wouldn't be justified in scrapping the whole mess and starting over.

And so, all great comedy is fundamentally conservative. There simply is no such thing as liberal humor.

All of which is by long way of bringing us to the great American soccer wars. Soccer has had a notoriously difficult time gaining a foothold in the American popular imagination. Despite millions of dollars invested, despite several attempts to start professional leagues, despite apparently hosting the World Cup (I read that somewhere, but I don't recall it happening), despite the participation in youth leagues of millions of our kids, despite Pele's personal ambassadorship to the U.S., despite all of this, we just don't care. Oh sure, there are many immigrants who still root for their native countries. For the common mass of Americans though--soccer just doesn't register.

But wait, there is another exception to this rule--liberals seem, one would assume because of their general Europhilia, to like the game also. Not only do they like it, but since they are disproportionately represented in the media, they keep telling us that we ought to like it to. And this has turned what would otherwise be a healthy conservative indifference to the matter into a perhaps overheated loathing of the game and everything it represents. Here's a little secret though, one that has, typically, gone right over the heads of the dour and pedantic Mr. Spocks on the Left. They're so serious about everything that they think we're serious, that we actually care enough about soccer to let it raise our ire. They don't even get the seemingly obvious point of the whole exercise--we're just yanking their chains.

Now, I've no inclination to try to excavate the whole tawdry episode, but I believe that one irony of the current cycle of psychic violence against the beautiful game is that it was actually initiated by a passionate defense written by a humorless geek (and I assure you I mean that as a term of affection) of our own. Writing in the pages of National Review, poor Robert Zeigler merely tried to convince conservatives that we should give soccer a chance. Of course, on its face this may seem a harmless enough thing to do, but Mr. Zeigler made one significant mistake; he tried to cast it as a political issue, even as an issue of American pride. That slander simply could not stand.

I'm sure many others must have done the same, but I know for sure that I picked up the cudgel and laid into this nonsense, which it seems should really be characterized as a thought crime. My own effort (SOCCER--NOT AMERICAN AND NOT CONSERVATIVE), inadequate as it was and focussed entirely on the political aspects of soccer, rather than on any general judgments about the game itself, still excited some of the most hostile reaction we've ever seen here. One somehow felt that one had blasphemed the Virgin Mary during the Inquisition.

The gently chiding, almost avuncular, quality of our remarks was soon demonstrated by the far harsher and much, much funnier essay that H. D.
Miller at Travelling Shoes soon posted : The Unified Field Theory of World Entertainment. I defy anyone to take what we'll call the Travelling Shoe challenge. Try reading that essay while eating your morning bowl of cereal, as I did. If you can get through it without laughing so hard you spit Cap'n Crunch all over your keyboard, I'll personally help set a car on fire when we lose to Germany, or whatever it is you soccer folk do for "fun".

But did these soccer fans and Eurocentric liberal policy wonks (but I repeat myself) appreciate the humor? Did they look upon it as good-natured ribbing? Please... The next liberal or European who can have a hearty chuckle at his own expense will be the first. Instead, they descended upon poor Mr. Miller like the wrath of Godot, with name calling, threats of EU sanctions, you name it. And now, in some kind of Soviet social realist counterattack, we get these twinned pieces in The American Prospect and The New Republic (the duplicative nature of the essays just the latest example of the two magazines morphing into one), telling us in deadly earnest of the real mistake that Americans in general are making by ignoring the sport and that conservatives and sports writers (again I repeat myself) in particular are making by attacking a game so beloved by the rest of the world. They warn, with the same historical determinism that foresaw the inevitable victory of communism, that conservatives stand like King Canute on the beach, roaring at the tide to stop. They see a future where we are engulfed by soccer fever and it is we opponents who are ajudged Un-American for resisting assimilation. With the crystal clarity of a Five Year Plan they forecast an America with futball regnant, the Right having sold FIFA the rope with which conservatism was hung and NFL football smoldering on the ash heap of history.

Boy, it looks like we really got their goat this time. And they wonder why we find them and life in general to be hilarious, rather than tragic?

Relax fellas. Put down your Little Red Books, kick off your Birkenstocks, grab a mineral water, and belly up to the bar. We want to beat the stinking Huns today just as much as you do. Somewhere in our cold, uncaring hearts we've got some yob in us too. It's time to put our foolish differences behind us and unite in that quintessential soccer emotion : hatred of the other guys. If, God forbid, the Fourth Reich should cheat their way to an unjust victory over those heroic American boys in short pants today, let conservatives and liberals alike gather in front of Pat Buchanan's house, where we'll torch his Mercedes. Let football be our common ground, not the new battleground of a house divided.

June 20, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 PM


Philippines rebel leader 'may be dead' (BBC, 21 June, 2002)
One of the leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebel group in the Philippines may have been killed in fighting with troops, military officials say.

They said reports from soldiers suggested Abu Sabaya was among several rebels killed in a clash in Sibuco, in the southern province of Zamboanga del Norte.

...but it sure gives you a vicarious thrill when He exacts it.

(Abyu Sabaya was responsible for the kidnapping of American missionary Martin Burnham, who was killed last week in a Phillipine Army rescue attempt.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


A big thank you to Ed Driscoll who sends word that C-SPAN'S American Writers will feature Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley, & the Conservative Movement on June 30th beginning at 3pm and on July 5th starting at 8pm. I've not yet dug down to the box of books that has God and Man at Yale, which made Mr. Buckley notorious at an early age. But we do have a review posted of my favorite of his books : The Unmaking of a Mayor. It recounts his run for mayor of New York in 1965 and should be required reading for anyone who seeks to understand American conservatism, the 1960s or just the strange dynamics of a political campaign, but it is sadly out of print. It's one of those books that I buy every time I see it used and then give away, like samizdata in the old USSR.

Regular readers will know, and likely be tired of the fact, that I revere Russell Kirk. His The Conservative Mind : from Burke to Eliot (1953) was one of the seminal attempts to demonstrate that there is a coherent, substantial and enduring body of conservative thought. The book came out at a time when not only was conservatism thought to be dead, some claimed it had never even existed. Emblematic of the Left's dismissal of what it saw as mere reaction was this passage from Lionel Trilling's The Liberal Imagination :

[I]n the United States at this time liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.... It is the plain fact [that] there are no conservative or reactionary ideas in general circulation...[only]...irritable mental gestures which seem to resemble ideas.

Kirk put paid to that foolish nation and the many like it with an immensely readable style and a happily quirky survey of the thought of conservative authors and politicians through the decades. (This book is in print in a very nice edition, though it looks like the Hardcover is back-ordered.)

There's much to recommend the book but I found two aspects of it particularly gratifying. First, there is an awesome consistency to conservative thought over the last two hundred years (he dates conservatism from Edmund Burke) and to an extraordinary, and somewhat depressing, degree, the concerns expressed those two centuries ago are identical to those of conservatives today. Moreover, the conservative critics have been consistently right (no pun intended). Their (our) message remains the same not because they are stuck in a rut but because liberalism just keeps trotting out new bad ideas to try and then watch fail, while conservatives warn them against the attempt. The other thing that one notices is that, contrary to popular (i.e., Left) opinion, the quality of the literature produced by the Right is every bit as good that which the Left cranks out, though admittedly less voluminous.

At any rate, with Kirk having laid the intellectual groundwork and Buckley beginning the nuts and bolts work of building a movement (National Review was founded in 1955), conservatism was launched as a fast rising force in American politics. Within ten years, as Rick Perlstein so brilliantly chronicles in Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001), conservatives had nominated their first presidential candidate. Though the rise to power from there was rather choppy, it seems fair to say that since 1976 it is conservative ideas that have completely dominated Republican politics and since 1980 it is conservative ideas that have dominated American politics. It is impossible to overstate the influence that these two men, especially Buckley, had on causing this about face.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM


Supreme Court Bars Executing the Mentally Retarded (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/21/02)
A divided Supreme Court reversed itself Thursday and ruled that executing the mentally retarded is unconstitutionally cruel.

The most immediate effect of the ruling will be in the 20 states that allowed execution of the retarded up to now. Presumably, dozens or perhaps hundreds of inmates in those states will now argue that they are retarded, and that their sentences should be converted to life in prison. [...]

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Though generally supportive of capital punishment, it does seem inhumane to execute someone who is so profoundly stupid as not to be able to comprehend the right or wrong of their own actions. Here though the Court did not limit its decision to those who are incapable of distinguishing, it instead said that retarded people might be more prone to act on impulse and so have some diminished culpability. This reasoning is unconvincing. Even the six justices who so ruled do not apparently say that this diminishment suffices to absolve someone entirely. It's difficult to see why it would be okay to imprison someone for life but not to execute them. If we truly believe them not to be fully culpable, then what is the basis for punishing them at all?

Even worse is the majority's stated belief that these executions should be banned because they are becoming unusual and because there's a developing public consensus against them. This effectively untethers the 8th Amendment provision against "cruel and unusual" punishment from history and from objective judgment and turns it into a kind of free-floating standard that means little more than what 51% of people say in an opinion poll. This essentially cedes a portion of the Bill of Rights to the Gallup Organization and is unworthy of a serious system of justice

There's a flip side to all this too. The mainstreaming of the retarded into society has gone way too far if we're allowing people who we can not hold morally accountable for their actions to roam the streets. For a society to function it is necessary for each citizen to accept responsibility for himself and his actions. If you can't do so, it seems fair to say that you can't be a full citizen with full civil rights. In order to protect such people and ourselves from the dire consequences that may flow from their uninformed actions--for instance, the defendant in this case, Daryl Renard Atkins, had "20 previous felonies on his record" when he committed the murder for which he was sentenced to death--it may well be necessary to incarcerate them in some way, shape, or form--most likely in state-run medical facilities--not as punishment but as a way of supervising them.

Here are :

The Opinion

Rehnquist's dissent

Scalia's dissent

William Sulik, who actually practices law, has some typically cogent comments on the Court's ruling.

Personal Problems : The Supremes ignore the Constitution in Atkins. (Richard W. Garnett, June 20, 2002, National Review)

I oppose the death penalty. To be clear, I accept the idea that the death penalty can serve as a deterrent; I am convinced that retribution is the justification and proper purpose of punishment; and I continue to believe in the reality and facticity of evil. Nevertheless, I have come to believe that the abolition of the death penalty could be an important step in building what Pope John Paul II has called a "Culture of Life," and that opposition to capital punishment can serve as a powerful witness to the transcendent dignity of the human person.

All that said, as a lawyer, law teacher, and citizen, I can only shake my head at Atkins v. Virginia, today's Supreme Court's decision outlawing the execution of persons with severe developmental disabilities. The Court's holding — an abrupt about-face from its 1989 Penry decision — means that even when such a person has been found competent to stand trial, convicted of capital murder (i.e., found beyond a reasonable doubt to have caused another's death with a culpable state of mind), and condemned to death by a sentencer who was given a fair opportunity to consider the moral relevance of the killer's disabilities — even then, the "standards of decency" currently embraced by a slim majority of Supreme Court Justices trumps the judgments of legislators, prosecutors, jurors, and voters.

Now again, I like this result. It strikes me as humane, if not democratic. I would vote for it as a legislator and campaign for it as an activist. But I also live under a Constitution.

The real majesty of conservatism lies precisely here, in the recognition that a political result may be desirable to you personally yet may still be contrary to the Constitution that we all agreed to live under and that this result is, therefore, forbidden until the Constitution is changed by democratic processes. It's early innings, but one has to be struck by the way that conservatives who would tend to favor an end to executions of at least the retarded are aggressively criticizing the decision that reaches that result. This is how a serious political philosophy functions : nobly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


'Enemy Combatant' Loses Right to Lawyer, Feds Say (NY Daily News, 6/20/02)
The government argued yesterday in a legal filing that U.S. citizens who are declared enemy combatants have no right to an attorney and that federal courts have no right to interfere.

The Justice Department is appealing a ruling by a federal judge in Norfolk, Va., allowing Yaser Esam Hamdi — a U.S.-born Saudi suspected of being a Taliban member — to meet with a public defender.

"There is not right under the laws and customs of war for an enemy combatant to meet with counsel concerning his detention," the Justice Department wrote in a 46-page document filed yesterday.

The filing goes on to say, "The court may not second-guess the military's enemy combatant determination."

"This is really an astounding assertion of authority," David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor, told The Washington Post.

So, "a reader", if you're looking in, Stuart Taylor seems to have had good info on this one. I'm fairly pro-military, but I don't see much harm in allowing a U.S. citizen to get a ruling on whether he's an actual belligerent. I'd not afford non-citizens the same luxury.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


Officials hope club 'comes to its senses' (Associated Press, June 20, 2002)
A South Korean's game-winning World Cup goal against Italy has set off a furor between his Italian club team and the Asian Football Confederation.

After Ahn Jung-hwan scored the overtime goal to eliminate Italy on Tuesday night, the owner of Perugia of the top Italian division said Ahn would be cut.

Heard this on the radio yesterday. These people make it really hard to like soccer. If your country loses you start burning and looting or take it out on immigrants. It's the official sport of the juvenile.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 PM


The Palestinian Death Knell (NY Times, 6/20/02)
While President Bush reworks drafts of a new Mideast plan, his agenda is being yanked from under him by delusional young Palestinians. For the second day in a row, Jerusalem yesterday witnessed the numbing routine of suicide bombing. And for the second day in a row, Mr. Bush's spokesmen said he was forced to delay his speech.

It makes sense for him to wait now, since the impact of the address would be lost amid the funerals, rage and retaliation. But the fact that the president delayed until this month to prepare to act has facilitated the ongoing descent into killing and the mutual infliction of pain.

I'm afraid I need help with this one. Why, after twenty years of banal rhetoric about not giving in to terrorism and not negotiating with terrorists, is everyone now saying that we should give the radical Palestinians exactly what they want, which is no Palestinian State? Why don't the US and Israel shove statehood down their murderous throats and let them have at one another, which seems to be what they fear most? Isn't every day that goes by without our unilaterally imposing a state a victory for the terrorists? Isn't the timing, immediately after an attack that was meant to prevent the President's announcement, actually perfect?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:25 AM


George Orwell is looking at you (Richard Lederer, June 20, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Over Fifty years ago, George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" was first published in The New Republic. Since then the article has become the most widely reprinted essay in our language. [...]

For a set of rules for plain talk and clear writing, it would be difficult to better these six offered in "Politics and the English Language." If we all followed these guidelines, our prose might not be as good as Orwell's, but it would certainly be to the point:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

It seems like we might lose some of the beauty and history of our language if we followed these rules too closely--metaphors, jargon, etc. can serve useful purposes and can reference earlier speech and writings in ways that it would be a shame to forsake. But the general rule, that we should seek to communicate what we mean as clearly as we possibly can, especially in the political arena, is one we should always bear in mind. It's worth considering whether the very difficulty that George W. Bush has in speaking may actually work to his favor with the common folk who think that they'd have trouble themselves and who resent elitist media types saying that it's a sign of stupidity.

As per M Ali Choudhury, here's a link to our Orwell Page, with more links than you can shake a stick at.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


There's a great section in Shep Messing's book, The Education of an American Soccer Player, about the 1972 Olympics. It's mostly memorable for his moving account of the effects of the murder of the Israelis on other athletes. But he was also in goal for our match against West Germany, a game in which he had 63 saves in a 7-0 loss. Yes, 63 saves. Hopefully we've improved a little since then.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


A Scholar Recants on his 'Shakespeare' Discovery (WILLIAM S. NIEDERKORN, 6/20/02, NY Times))
In 1995 Donald Foster, a professor of English at Vassar College, made a startling case for Shakespeare's being the author of an obscure 578-line poem called "A Funeral Elegy." After a front-page article about his methods of computer analysis in The New York Times--and after his reputation was further burnished by unmasking Joe Klein as the author of "Primary Colors"--the poem was added to three major editions of Shakespeare's works.

Now, in a stunning development that has set the world of Shakespeare scholarship abuzz, Professor Foster has admitted he was wrong. In a message dated June 12 and quietly left last Thursday on the Internet discussion group Shaksper (www.shaksper.net), he said that another poet and dramatist was the more likely author of the poem. He was joined in his recantation by Richard Abrams, a professor of English at the University of Southern Maine, who has been his close associate in the Shakespeare attribution. In their messages, both conceded the main point of an article in the May issue of The Review of English Studies by Gilles D. Monsarrat, a professor of languages at the University of Burgundy in France, a translator and editor of Shakespeare's works in French, and a co-editor of "The Nondramatic Works of John Ford."

The article compares the text of the poem with Ford's known work and concludes that the writing is Ford's. Professor Montserrat's method seems to derive from a close reading of the texts, rather than the kind of computer analysis Professor Foster uses.

Though Mr. Foster's book, Author Unknown : On the Trail of Anonymous, was great fun, it's impossible not to enjoy a human trumping a computer. It's like we just avenged Kasparov's loss to Deep Blue.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Bush Courts Carpenters Union in Effort to Build Labor Ties (Mike Allen, June 20, 2002, Washington Post)
President Bush, continuing his effort to erode Democrats' historical hold on labor unions, spoke yesterday to a cheering convention of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, where he was saluted for being more concerned about the members than about politics.

The carpenters group is one of several unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, that the White House has been courting throughout Bush's term. White House strategy documents list labor unions as one of the constituencies -- along with Latinos, suburban women and Catholics -- where Bush is working to "grow" his support.

Time for another round of ritual denunciations by libertarians and Ivory soap conservatives about how Bush is caving in to someone. He just keeps growing the party while they fixate on their own ideologically pure navels.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


FEC OKs Some Soft Money Exemptions (ASSOCIATED PRESS, June 20, 2002)
Setting the rules for fund raising under the nation's new campaign finance law, the Federal Election Commission is applying a ban on lawmakers' raising of large corporate and uniondonations so narrowly that even its top lawyer warned it would be easy to evade.

With one Democratic member joining three Republicans, the Federal Election Commission voted 4-1 late Wednesday that the only way a federal candidate or officeholder could violate the ban on raising soft money that takes effect in November would be by explicitly asking for such contributions.

It's a sad day when bureaucrats have to save us from the anticonstitutional actions of Congress and the President.

June 19, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 PM


Deal at Hand On Nominees (Paul Kane, June 20, 2002, Roll Call)
"We had a good conversation with Senator Lott yesterday," Daschle said Wednesday, referring to Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), "but we want to have a conversation with the White House to avoid further confusion."

Senate Republicans were more certain that a deal was in hand, so much so that some aides and Senators privately confirmed the deal's basic framework: 14 pending judicial nominations would be quickly confirmed, most likely before the Fourth of July recess, in exchange for the speedy confirmation of Jonathan Adelstein, a Daschle aide who has been recommended to fill a commissioner's spot on the FCC.

In democracy as in the making of sausage, you really don't want to watch the process if you have a weak stomach.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM


Lindh attorneys want CNN tape barred : Interview lacked Miranda warning (Edward Epstein, June 19, 2002, SF Chronicle)
Raising unprecedented questions about the role of media war correspondents, attorneys for John Walker Lindh asked a judge Tuesday to bar as evidence from his trial an incriminating, widely seen interview Lindh gave to CNN in December.

The San Francisco-based attorneys for the 21-year-old Marin County man charged with terrorism argued that the interview with CNN contributor Robert Pelton was coerced out of a frightened, wounded and dazed Lindh.

It's been awhile, but I was under the impression that you couldn't enforce the 5th Amendment provisions against non-governmental individuals and institutions. So, for instance, I could search your house without a warrant and even though I'd be subject to prosecution for trespass and burglary and whatever, if I turned over evidence of criminality that I found there to the government it would be admissible against you. It seems like it would be particularly hard to argue that a member of the press was in effect acting as an agent of government, because the press is specifically protected from government interference.

Also, mustn't there be some assumption that when you speak into a microphone and a camera that your communication will become public and is not protected?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 PM


Bid to Scare Moose Backfires in Alaska (Reuters, June 19, 2002)
A wildfire burning in Alaska's interior was ignited by state biologists using firecrackers to ward off an aggressive cow moose, officials said on Tuesday.

The 92,000-acre wildfire, which started last month and is burning spruce forest south of McGrath, was inadvertently started during a field study into elevated calf mortality.

The firecracker shells were being used to protect a staff member from an approaching moose, said Cathie Harms, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Speaking of effective use of our tax dollars...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


Black, Jewish congressmen to discuss support for Israel today (Shlomo Shamir, June 20, 2002, Ha'Aretz)
Black and Jewish congressman are planning to meet today in Washington to discuss a joint action plan that aims to halt the erosion of support for Israel by black congressmen.

Last month, a series of congress votes expressing support for Israel revealed how deep the erosion has gone when 20 members of the black caucus voted in favor--but 11 voted against and the rest abstained.

Oh, to be a fly on that wall...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM


What Would Bobby Say? Karl Rove Spins RFK to the Right (John Nichols, 06/06/2002, The Nation)
Rove's message in recent weeks has been an interesting one. He is telling Republicans that, as the party gears up for 2002 congressional and gubernatorial elections, its candidates must stop sounding so mean and greedy. At a May appearance before Republicans in Wisconsin, he explained that Republicans must "raise our sights and lower our voices."

Astute political observers will recognize this as a return to the "compassionate conservatism" that Rove used in 2000 to make Bush's right-wing stances more palatable to a country that stands well to the left of the GOP on most issues. With mid-term elections posing challenges and opportunities for the Bush White House, Rove is buffing up the mantra, suggesting that "compassionate conservatism" is now about shaping "a different kind of politics" that eschews the "blame culture" for a "responsible culture."

The message is that Republicans aren't about cutting needed programs in order to give tax breaks to the rich, said Rove. Rather, he explained, the point is "not to spend more or spend less, but to spend on what works."

If it wasn't Rove talking, that would be dismissed as the incomprehensible gobbledygook of pop psychology and political spin that it is.

I think Mr. Rove is wrong and that the GOP should call for spening less, but is saying that whatever we do choose to spend should at least be spent effectively really "gobbledygook"? I realize that The Nation would spend more and more, faster and faster, but do they truly not comprehend that we should try to spend wisely? No wonder the Left has ceased to exist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 PM


Hamas trying to bypass US (ERAN LERMAN, Jun. 19, 2002, Jerusalem Post)
The pattern of these terrorist horrors is becoming familiar, frighteningly so. It is not as if Hamas is not trying to strike at any target, at all other times. But again and again, large-scale operations designed to exact a heavy price in civilian lives, and thus push the levers of further escalation have been timed by the organization (which takes pride in planning its terrorist activities in line with its strategic vision) to coincide with major American moves.

Neither Arafat nor Assad, indeed, see much to hope for in the current American plans (which, in a sense, would bypass them both). In all likelihood, they see them as part of the effort to make the region less volatile, while the US gets serious about the business of deposing Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Hence their common interest, despite their visceral and mutual dislike, in keeping the fires of destabilization burning.

For so long as there is no Palestinian state, the Palestinians remain unified in their opposition to Israel, which serves to destabilize the region. Give the Palestinians a state--its borders dictated by Israel--and the instability will turn inwards as Arafat, Hamas and others fight over who gets to run the country. Statehood is inevitable, let it be on our terms and serve our purposes.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM


A Capitalist Primer : Upton Sinclair's realism got the better of his socialism (Christopher Hitchens, July 2002, Atlantic Monthly)
[T]hough it lives on many a veteran's bookshelf as a stirring monument to the grandeur of the American socialist and labor movements, The Jungle may also be read today as a primer on the versatility of the capitalist system.

People keep dismissing the point, but here's the latest evidence that Christopher Hitchens is drifting Right. He turns the only respected socialist novel into a paean to capitalism and it's revered Socialist author, Upton Sinclair, into a racist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Karzai seeks Israeli help to combat terrorism (Aslam Khan, 2002-06-19, Jang.com)
In a major development that holds ominous overtones for Pakistan and seeks the attention of foreign policy makers, Afghanistan has formally sought help from Israel for combating terrorism, The News has learnt. The request was put forth by newly elected Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky on the sidelines of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, a fortnight ago.

If true--and it seems wise not to take Asian and Middle Eastern news sources at face value--this would represent a further tightening of the noose around the Arabic Islamic World by the de facto Eastern Alliance of Democratic States (Israel, Turkey, Iran, India, Afghanistan, Russia, and the U.S.). It would also give us reason to believe that Hamid Karzai is serious about transforming Afghanistan into a real country and one oriented toward the West.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:31 PM


Abortion: A moral quagmire (Wendy McElroy, June 17, 2002, Enter Stage Right)
Abortion. The word alone causes civil conversation to flee the room. This is largely because the pro-choice and pro-life positions are being defined by their extremes, by those who scream accusations in lieu of arguments.

More reasonable voices and concerns, on both sides of the fence, are given short shrift.

For example, pro-life extremists seem unwilling to draw distinctions between some abortions and others, such as those resulting from rape or incest with an underage child. They would make no exception in the recent real-life case of a woman who discovered in her fifth month that her baby would be born dead due to severe disabilities.

On the other hand, pro-choice extremists within feminism insist on holding inconsistent positions. The pregnant woman has an unquestionable right to abort, they claim. Yet if the biological father has no say whatsoever over the woman's choice, is it reasonable to impose legal obligations upon him for child support? Can absolute legal obligation adhere without some sort of corresponding legal rights?

The only hope for progress in the abortion dialogue lies in the great excluded middle, in the voices of average people who see something wrong with a young girl forced to bear the baby of a rapist.

This is a very good essay from the invaluable Enter Stage Right. To the degree that pro-lifers are absolutists and cast all their arguments in the form of fire-and-brimstone moral judgments upon those who disagree with them they make it less likely that they'll ever achieve their goal, of saving lives. There's a visceral satisfaction in such purity, but if it leads to more dead then one has to ask if the proud feelings of the believer were really worth the lives lost. Many of those who were brought into the political process by concern over abortion were newcomers, so some political immaturity was to be expected, but their moral immaturity is less justifiable. There's nothing wrong with a political accommodation that advances your cause, even if it doesn't achieve everything you want. Politics is the quintessential arena in which you have to remember not to let the best be the enemy of the better.

On abortion this means that compromising in those areas that Ms McElroy mentions, like rape, incest and life of the mother, where support for abortion is strongest even among those who are generally opposed, can serve as a way to limit abortion in other areas, later term, sex selection, for birth control purposes, where opposition is the strongest. And the reality is that the situations that Ms McElroy expresses concern over are almost completely insignificant as regards the overall numbers of abortions. By giving some on these hot button issues, pro-lifers might be able to win legislative victories that would reach the far more common types of abortion.

If you can gain so much by giving up so little, yet find yourself unable to do so, aren't you in danger of becoming precisely the kind of unreasoning fanatic you're caricatured as?

Rather than engage in holier than thou absolutism, pro-lifers could become the kinds of democratic heroes, the free men, that Eric Hoffer tallked about in The True Believer :

Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect. The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

Of all people, it is we who should be aware that it is an imperfect world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM


Families don't want pilot punished (ALISON AULD, 6/19/02, The Canadian Press)
"He didn't do this on purpose," Maureen Decaire, whose son Cpl. Brian Decaire was injured in the attack, said from Winnipeg.

"He may have not followed procedure and quite possibility deserves to be punished for that. But do I want to see him

There are noble sentiments expressed here by genuine friends of the United States, but their compassion and understanding for the pilot don't absolve him of guilt for what looks to have been willful error. Collateral damage is a fact of war, but failure to follow the prodeures that seek to minimize that damage has to be punished. War's a serious business and there's fairly little room for sentiment.

US pilots will face friendly fire tribunal (Nicholas M. Horrock, 6/19/2002, UPI)

A joint military investigation has recommended that two members of the Illinois Air National Guard face a formal military hearing in connection with the deaths of four Canadian soldiers killed by a U.S. bomb while training in Afghanistan, government officials said Wednesday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM


2 More Squeal on FBI Lapses (Leo Standora, 6/19/02, Daily News)
Take a look at that headline before you read the next column by someone wondering why no one at Arthur Andersen or Enron revealed what was going on.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:28 PM


The Political Quiz Show
About your score:

Respondents with the most points (40) are 100 percent conservative; those with the least (0) are 100 percent liberal.

Take note: A higher number of points is not meant to imply a higher level of political consciousness! The system of accumulating points for conservative answers is simply a practical method for assigning politically left-to-right slots on the spectrum.

About the authors:

Victor Kamber is a veteran Democratic consultant and the president of The Kamber Group, a political consulting firm in Washington, D.C. Bradley S. O'Leary is a Republican consultant. Together they write the Kamber/O'Leary Report, a political newsletter.

It's one of those Internet tests--tells you where you fall on the political spectrum from Left to Right. They're wrong, of course, a higher score does show higher consciousness, though that may just be my 37 talking.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM


DWI Story Cost Bush Popular Vote (News Max, 6/19/02)
The eleventh hour campaign revelation that then-GOP presidential candidate George W. Bush had been arrested in Maine in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol gave then-Vice President Al Gore the boost he needed to win the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election, Gore's former campaign spokesman Chris Lehane admitted late Tuesday.

"Obviously, I think it did have an impact on the election," Lehane told WABC Radio's John Batchelor and Paul

I'm a fan of George W. Bush and can understand his desire to maintain a zone of privacy, that would include stupid things he did before he entered public life. But the way he handled this fairly harmless story was just astoundingly idiotic. You have to know that this stuff will come out sooner or later--the only thing you can control is when. By allowing it to come out when the Gore team decided the time was right, he put his own election in jeopardy and the hopes of all his supporters in a precarious position. That's irresponsible and had he lost it would have have been just.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


Here's a particularly moving tribute from the Post-Dispatch that Tony Kornheiser read over the air today Wherever we gathered, Jack Buck was there (Bernie Miklasz, 06/19/2002, St. Louis Post-Dispatch):
The great, familiar, famous voice has gone silent now. For decades, Jack Buck provided the soundtrack of the St. Louis summer. He brought baseball to life for generations of Cardinals fans. Each season he took us from April to October. He was our companion, our tour guide, our historian, our friend, the man we entrusted with this precious St. Louis tradition of baseball.

As several folks have pointed out, he was also the only great football broadcaster ever, his Monday Night games with Hank Stram far and away the best announcing football's ever seen (or heard).
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


Supremes Strike Down McCain-Feingold. (William Sulik, June 19, 2002, Blithering Idiot)
William Sulik, no idiot he, explains why, in light of yesterday's decision in the Staton case :
McCain-Feingold, with its restrictions and bans on political speech in the form of a 30 or 60 blackout period in advance of an election, its burdensome disclosure requirements, and its registration and permit requirements, is clearly unconstitutional and will be quickly quashed by the Court.

From his keyboard to Anthony Kennedy's ears.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


Book-Club Smarts in a Nutshell: Get Notes (KATE ZERNIKE, 6/19/02, NY Times)
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was a blockbuster book, spawning blockbuster sequels and a blockbuster movie. Next month, it will achieve that mark of a true classic: the publishers of SparkNotes, a CliffsNotes knockoff, will publish a study guide--also known as a cheat sheet--to the tale of the little boy with the lightning-bolt scar.

Moving far beyond "Macbeth" and "The Mayor of Casterbridge," Cliffs and a new generation of competitors are now racing to be the first to publish notes to contemporary titles like "All the Pretty Horses," "Snow Falling on Cedars," "Angela's Ashes" and "Cold Mountain."

The new selections reflect a change in the kind of books being taught in high school and college literature classes. But they also reveal a new kind of Cliffs user. The guides are now being produced for people who want to brush up before their book club, keep up in conversations with colleagues or at cocktail parties, or read the book--at least, some version of it--before they see the movie.

Like bleary-eyed students, some new readers are using the books as a supplement; others, as a substitute. [...]

The purists warn of missing out.

"The beauty of reading is coming away from it with an interpretation that you own," said Diane Waryold, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University. "When you're getting that through CliffsNotes or SparkNotes or whatever, you're not really taking the book and reflecting on it, and really reading it for what the author intended it to be read for."

Hard to see anything wrong with using such guides to steer you through a text you're finding difficult. I've found Spark Notes to be a big help even just in terms of getting the context of when an author wrote or what he was trying to do.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


Hall of Fame Broadcaster Buck Dies (Associated Press, June 19, 2002)
Jack Buck, who in nearly five decades behind a microphone became a St. Louis institution on par with the Gateway Arch and the Cardinals, died late tonight, son Joe Buck said. He was 77.

Buck started calling Cardinals games on radio in 1954, teaming first with Harry Caray, and for the last three decades with former Cardinals third baseman Mike Shannon. [...]

Throughout the Midwest, Buck's calls of Cardinals games made him a beloved figure. With each final out of a victory, he wrapped things up with his tidy, "That's a winner."

Buck chose to pause -- not speak -- when slugger Mark McGwire tied Roger Maris's single-season home run record in 1998. Then, he said, "Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud."

A whole group of great baseball broadcasters are reaching their final innings--Ernie Harwell, Vin Scully, Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner, etc.--and won't be with us that much longer. Jack Buck, for reasons I never really understood, became somewhat controversial towards the end of his national broadcasting career and was replaced by a bunch of interchangeable young yuppies, the rare exception being his own son, Joe.

One of the reasons that baseball has such a sense of continuity is because over the course of a lifetime you hear the same guy describe the exploits of successive generations of players. Last year I turned on a Mets game on the radio (we just barely get WFAN, at night only) and there was Bob Murphy, who's been doing games for every year the club has been in existence. Adding to the effect, they'd brought back the old Rheingold ads (My beer is Rheingold the dry beer...). It was like being displaced in time. For all I knew, I could have been picking up stray radio waves from 1969, when I used to sneak a radio to bed so I could listen to games from the West Coast. When he began talking about players it became obvious it was 2001, but it's the same voice and he's just as enthusiastic about Benny Agbayani as he was about Ron Swoboda, so the games, the players, and the years seemed to flow together. Thus does baseball, unique among sports, pluck at the mystic chords of memory.

When we lived in Chicago, we not only got Harry Caray on WGN-TV, but you could just barely tune in the Cards, Tigers and Brewers (with Bob Uecker) on the radio. You could twirl the dial and get some of the greatest voices in sports history. What a privilege it was just to listen.

We'll never listen to another Cardinals game without thinking about Jack Buck. He leaves us with a great gift because the memories we summon will tie us to our past in a way that too few aspects of modern life are capable of doing. Pardon me for a moment while I stand and applaud.

June 18, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM


What Price Valor? : Bravura displays of reproductive technology may shortchange the children: a review of Creating a Life by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Caitlin Flanagan, June 2002, The Atlantic Monthly)
[T]he playwright Wendy Wasserstein's famous pregnancy seems to be the very model of what Hewlett warns against: it was preceded by seven years of medical treatment, severely compromised Wasserstein's health, and necessitated a lengthy maternal hospitalization and an extremely premature cesarean delivery. The resulting baby girl weighed less than two pounds at birth and was hospitalized for ten weeks, during which she required a blood transfusion. But these miseries are presented not as cautionary tale but as triumph: Wasserstein was "remarkable and valiant" for never giving up the fight to become pregnant. Indeed, the most obvious question that such a pursuit prompts-whether it is in a child's best interest to have a mother who will be facing the challenges and travails of old age just as her offspring is entering adolescence-is never mentioned. Why? Because this is a book from the perspective of "high-achieving women," and the main impression we get of the type is that they are going to get exactly what they want, and damn the expense or the human toll.

It has nothing to do with the kids--it's all about the mothers. She probably gave her kid one of those Icelandic names : Wendydaughter.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 PM


How Congress Should Fight Terrorism -- And Avoid Martial Law (Stuart Taylor Jr., June 17, 2002, National Journal)
According to my sources (whom I hope are mistaken), administration lawyers are preparing to argue that the military has virtually unlimited power to detain, virtually incommunicado, for as long as the president chooses, not only these two but also you, me, the Muslim cleric down the street, and anybody else whom the president declares to be an "enemy combatant." In this view, the courts have no power to order a detainee to be released even if the detainee has compelling evidence that his arrest was a terrible mistake.

If that is the administration's position -- and it would be consistent with its so-far sketchy statements about the military detentions of Abdullah al-Muhajir (aka Jose Padilla), the Brooklyn-born suspected dirty-bomb plotter; and Yasser Esam Hamdi, another U.S. citizen -- the courts should reject it. But they should also recognize that presidential decisions on military matters are entitled to great deference. And the availability of the military-power option paradoxically reinforces the need for Congress to make the president's other option -- the civilian justice system -- more amenable to preventing terrorism.

The first reason to adopt new legislation is that, as I argued in my June 8 column, the current legal restraints on the government's investigative powers are unduly stringent, and are partly responsible both for our failure to prevent the September 11 hijackers and for our unnecessarily great vulnerability to future attacks. The second reason is that such legislation may be the only way to prevent the administration from drifting into ever-more-sweeping use of military power on American soil, perhaps including warrantless military searches, wiretaps, spying, and detentions.

This is a fair example of why Stuart Taylor is the best legal affairs journalist in America. He's a fierce civil libertarian but because he is able to take seriously the reality that the President of the United States has a primary obligation to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic, he is able to get past the simple bleating about due process and propose changes that will allow the process to remain due while also meeting the nation's need to stop terrorists.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM


15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense (John Rennie, June 17, 2002, Scientific American)
12. Nobody has ever seen a new species evolve.

Speciation is probably fairly rare and in many cases might take centuries. Furthermore, recognizing a new species during a formative stage can be difficult, because biologists sometimes disagree about how best to define a species. The most widely used definition, Mayr's Biological Species Concept, recognizes a species as a distinct community of reproductively isolated populations--sets of organisms that normally do not or cannot breed outside their community. In practice, this standard can be difficult to apply to organisms isolated by distance or terrain or to plants (and, of course, fossils do not breed). Biologists therefore usually use organisms' physical and behavioral traits as clues to their species membership.

Nevertheless, the scientific literature does contain reports of apparent speciation events in plants, insects and worms. In most of these experiments, researchers subjected organisms to various types of selection--for anatomical differences, mating behaviors, habitat preferences and other traits--and found that they had created populations of organisms that did not breed with outsiders. For example, William R. Rice of the University of New Mexico and George W. Salt of the University of California at Davis demonstrated that if they sorted a group of fruit flies by their preference for certain environments and bred those flies separately over 35 generations, the resulting flies would refuse to breed with those from a very different environment.

Yet, they'd still be fruit flies.

When he's not knocking down pure straw men, Mr. Rennie's responses are pretty much all this woefully inadequate. We can break this answer down this way :

(1) Well, no, they haven't.

(2) Or, they might have and we just don't know it.

(3) But suppose we take an absurdly cramped definition of speciation, one based on behavior rather than biology. If we use that as our standard, then scientists have been able to force some organisms to speciate. Which proves that evolution is a naturally occurring process, not guided by an intelligent being or beings.

He, of course, finishes his essay by saying that creationism and intelligent design aren't sciences. There at least he's correct. Unfortunately for him, neither is evolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


A Nation in Search of Its Mission (DAVID GERGEN, June 17, 2002, NY Times)
President Bush deserves praise for proposing to create a new architecture for homeland security, a reversal of his earlier position. And he will win acclaim if--in reversing his previous hands-off stance on the Middle East conflict--he settles differences within his team and produces a solid plan for that conflict. Too many presidents in the past have stubbornly clung to their ideas, refusing to adjust to changing circumstances and forcing the country to pay a cruel price. Remember Woodrow Wilson? Hoover? L.B.J.? [...]

Demands for sacrifice and a vision of what can come afterward are fundamental to wartime leadership. Mr. Bush can still demonstrate that leadership by linking present sacrifice with a better future in several ways. He can, for example, roll back his tax cuts and propose that the savings be redirected toward a broad social cause like improving the lives of children. If the war is about securing their safety, after all, why should we not be equally concerned about securing their health and education? Why not seize this moment to make the war about something positive, instead of allowing it to be focused exclusively on how we ward off the negative?

Declining deep into self-parody, David Gergen praises George W. Bush for not clinging to outmoded ideas, like Wilson and LBJ did, then trots out the precise outmoded idea that they clung to : big government social programs combined with war. (Hoover, sadly for him, had no war, so he just gave us the big government programs.) Hey Mr. Gergen, how about some new (old) ideas? How about we show we're willing to make sacrifices by cutting the budget by 25%, privatizing Social Security so that it can conceivably pay for itself, voucherizing education so that kids have a choice of who educates them, and providing poor kids with private Medical Savings accounts?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


They Bring Good Spin to Life : GE's televised promotion of the pro-life agenda. (Matthew Nisbet, 6.14.02, American Prospect)
The new and evocative commercial for General Electric's 4D Ultrasound imaging system, which has been appearing across broadcast and cable networks, opens with a saccharine rendition of Ewan McColl's 1965 love ballad "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." The song serves as background music for a slow motion close-up of a blonde-haired, green-eyed pregnant mother's loving gaze. Still in slow motion, the ad then cuts to the object of her adoration, a GE computer monitor displaying the three-dimensional real-time movements of a golden-hued fetus. Shifting back to the awe-filled mother, the camera pans out and her thirty-something, waspish husband's anxious face appears. The next cut reveals a medical technician running the ultrasound transducer over the pregnant woman's stomach, as the GE monitor in the foreground highlights the movements of the fetus.

The clincher comes when a soft male voice enters over the music: "When you see your baby for the first time on the new GE 4D ultrasound system, [pause] ... it really is a miracle." The ad then closes by juxtaposing the fetal profile with the profile of the newborn infant as the parents hold the baby joyously in their arms.

It's not difficult to understand why pro-life conservatives are using the word "miracle" to describe the free political advertising that GE has so generously provided.

I don't know if Mr. Nisbet has kids, but when you see an ultrasound "it" quickly becomes "he" or "she". It just isn't possible to objectify your child once you've seen him or her in that detail and as technology gets better the difficulty of maintaining that babies aren't human until you can hear them scream is going to get worse and worse for the pro-abortion forces.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM


Conservatives not satisfied with Bush's record (Ralph Z. Hallow, June 18, 2002, The Washington Times)
Besides his support for programs created during the Clinton administration, conservative lawmakers have criticized Mr. Bush for not standing up to Democrats and liberal Republicans in Congress on issues such as campaign-finance reform. [Rep, Robert] Barr, who insisted that "the Bush agenda is basically good," nonetheless said the president's failure even to threaten to veto campaign-finance regulation "was probably the greatest disappointment of the last year and a half."

This story reminds you of a movie where the troubled killer knows he's evil but fights his urges. The story always reaches a scene where he's holding a knife to his next victim's throat and begging : Shoot me before I kill again. Here's a bunch of legislators complaining that the President signed the legislation that they passed. Isn't it their own record they should be dissatisfied with?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM


Years After Vietnam, Father Rests in Peace : Daughters Bury Remains of Long-Missing Soldier (Susan Levine, June 13, 2002, Washington Post)
After more than three decades of waiting, of wondering what and where and how, his daughters buried Lt. Col. Donald E. Parsons on Friday with full military honors. They walked behind a horse-drawn caisson for the final journey to his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. They stood for the
sharp report of 21 gunshots and the moving simplicity of taps. They received from a commanding officer the American flag that had been draped over their father's casket, now folded into a sharp, taut triangle of mourning.

The casket contained little, though: A green Army uniform with all the appropriate bars of rank. And underneath the uniform, placed carefully within an Army blanket, two teeth.

Yet for those teeth, Stacy Parsons and Donna Willett were profoundly grateful. At last, they knew, their father was home.

Not until six years ago were the two meager and badly discolored relics recovered from the dense jungle where Parsons and six other soldiers had gone missing in action during the height of the Vietnam War. The discovery by a military search team was part random luck, part persistent investigation, part hard-sweat work. But confirming their identity took several more years, and so not until late 2000 did Willett pick up the phone one day in North Carolina to hear, "We have found your father's remains."

The other Brother served with the Old Guard at Arlington. There is nothing more humbling than to walk the rows of graves there and to think about the awesome sacrifice that others have made so that we could remain free. God bless you and yours, Lt. Col Parsons.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM


FIRES AND ECO-NUTS (CD Bloomer, Enter Stage Right : Musings)
Maybe I missed it. Where are the greenies? Where are the Gaia worshippers? Where are all the tree-hugging wackos? Where are all the eco-nazis? There are huge fires burning out west and the Earth-firsters have been pretty quiet.

All these kooks race to stand in line and shout louder than each other whenever a human being even thinks of intruding on the "pristine" wilderness areas that are now ablaze. They believe we should return these areas to their "natural" state -- let Nature take its course.

But now that Nature has chosen to burn these forests, I don't hear any complaints that human beings, as in real men and women, are interfering. No idiotic protests. No vapid news releases. Nothing.

This is a great point and raises another question : why aren't these people out there helping to fight the fires. They'll sit in a redwood for two years to keep a chainsaw from touching it, but they can't work a firehose?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


Bush Rejects Card as Homeland Security Chief (Mike Allen, June 18, 2002, Washington Post)
President Bush has rejected a proposal from several key advisers who urged him to name White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security if Congress approves the administration's plan, administration officials said.

If you know how to read the tea leaves, Washington offers no better spectacle than a high level bureaucratic knife fight and the recent contretemps between Andy Card and his rivals has been a thing of real beauty. We've previously seen how the White House planted the story about Karl Rove taking over the world, with one of the main reasons being to make conservatives think they were winning. Well, it looks like the acolytes of King Karl must have been enjoying those stories because the leak about Andy Card becoming the new Homeland Security Czar has all the earmarks of an attempted coup. No one, repeat no one, would willingly move from being Chief of Staff to take that job. Such a transfer practically defines downward mobility. As Chief you run the country, as Homeland Security Guard you'll barely even know what all your responsibilities are before the next attack hits, which you'll then be blamed for not stopping.

So this Card trial balloon was most likely an attempt by the conservatives to move Card out of the way so they could put a Rove ally in as Chief. But the speed with which it was shot down amply demonstrates that Andy Card is, contrary to his own reports of his imminent demise, still firmly in charge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 PM


Bush's Police State Kicks Into Gear (Ted Rall, AlterNet, June 13, 2002)
America may well be a safer place because Jose Padilla has "disappeared," to use the lexicon of Latin American death squads. But the manner in which this American has been stripped of his citizenship rights -- to a lawyer, to a speedy trial, to apply for bail -- is reminiscent of such totalitarian states as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. What the Bushies are doing to Padilla is an outrage and it could happen to any of us.

The legal basis for this action is a twisted joke. "Citizens who associate themselves with the military arm of the enemy government, and with its aid, guidance and direction enter this country bent on hostile acts, are enemy belligerents," ruled the Supreme Court in a precedent-setting case in 1942.

Now, admittedly I don't have the highly developed comic sense of this brilliant cartoonist, but am I the only one who fails to see the joke here? What would you call someone who is trying to nuke an American city on behalf of foreigners if not an enemy belligerent?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


Watergate Mystique : Will More Watergate Secrets Be Revealed? (Claire Shipman, June 17, 2001, ABC News)
Today, on the 30th anniversary of the infamous break-in, the mysteries surrounding the event that led to the resignation of an American president are every bit as tantalizing.

After all the hearings, all the headlines and all the cover-up, we still don't know whether Nixon actually knew about the break-in in advance.

But another mystery might be cracked much sooner: that 18½-minute gap in one of Nixon's infamous tape recordings at the White House

"We have decided that the time is right and appropriate to determine whether that conversation can be retrieved or recovered," said Karl Weissenbach, a Nixon tape archivist at the National Archives. The tapes were last examined in 1974. But since then, the technology used to decipher recordings has improved dramatically.

The 18½ minutes in question is part of Nixon tape 342, recorded on June 20, 1972, three days after the Watergate break-in. On the tape, Nixon discussed the incident for the first time with his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman. It is unknown whether the tape was deliberately or inadvertently erased for those 18½ minutes.

Do we have to wait thirty years before someone finally declares that Clinton wrote the Talking Points memo?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM


REVIEW : of Ulysses by James Joyce (Edmund Wilson, July 5, 1922, The New Republic)
It seems to me great rather for the things that are in it than for its success as a whole. It is almost as if in distending the story to ten times its natural size he had finally managed to burst it and leave it partially deflated. There must be something wrong with a design which involves so much that is dull--and I doubt whether anyone will defend parts of Ulysses against the charge of extreme dullness.

No review in the storied history of Brothers Judd has brought down more condemnation on our heads than our unfavorable reading of Ulysses. We'd wish you all a happy Bloomsday, but someone might think we actually cared. Instead Happy Waterloo Day.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


Several people whose opinions I generally respect seem to have been seduced by one line in the story below about Christian conservatives making common cause with representatives of Islamic countries on moral issues that come before international fora :
"This alliance shows the depths of perversity of the [U.S.] position," said Adrienne Germaine, president of the International Women's Health Coalition. "On the one hand we're presumably blaming these countries for unspeakable acts of terrorism, and at the same time we are allying ourselves with them in the oppression of women."

The particular issue here, as seemingly always, is abortion, which makes Ms Germaine's analogy especially appalling. I'd never seek to minimize the events of 9-11 but the killing of roughly 3,000 Americans on that day is spoken of endlessly. The unspeakable acts that occurred on that day were the roughly 3,800 abortion that took place as they do every day, totalling some 30 million since Roe v. Wade was decided. Even after eight years of Bill Clinton making abortion "legal, safe, and rare" there are over one million performed in the United States every year. Of course, we don't see film of these acts, the way we do of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, so we are able to maintain a substantial emotional distance from what is the equivalent of a daily 9-11.

This is not to say that all abortion is immoral or that it should be illegal in all cases. There's really no point in making the moral argument anymore. But there's a major geopolitical argument against our current abortion regime, one which directly implicates women and their righhs and which, paradoxically, finds "Women's Groups" essentially opposing women. This argument is that abortion is having a disproportionate impact on female fetuses because of the use of abortion for gender selection purposes. We are, in effect, using abortion to create a world in which women will be an ever decreasing minority. This must eventually result in a corresponding decline in their political power.

So as for Ms Germaine's analogy, of Christain and Islamic conservatives to the perpetrators of the 9-11 attacks, I believe it's unfair and inappropriate. A comparison to the Taliban, which was trying to impose a religious moral code would be closer to the truth, though maybe still a bit hyperbolic. If we seek to compare al Qaeda to one side in the abortion debate, it seems more accurate, though needlessly provocative, to choose the side that supports killing. And if we're going to discuss abortion in the context of the oppression of women, it seems only fair to judge more harshly the side that is actually specifically targeting females for death and thereby making their future oppression a near certainty.

I don't particularly mind being called Talibanish, so long as the caller recognizes their own kinship to Osama bin Laden.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:47 AM


KOREA REPUBLIC 2 : 1 ITALY (FIFAWorldCup.com, June 18, 2002)
Both the other Brother and Patrick Ruffini report that this result is surprising. I don't get it. South Korea would win a war with Italy in about an hour and twenty minutes. What's the big surprise that they won a soccer game in an hour and a half?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


On the Trail of Deep Throat (Rob Stafford, MSNBC)
Two more reasons that Patrick J. Buchanan makes a plausible Deep Throat : first, as I recall he was actually offered the job as head of the "Plumbers", but turned it down; and, second, the stated reason for his informing is that he was upset about the Nixon/Kissinger opening to China. If you combine the ethical considerations with the political considerations you have ample reason for someone to help bring Nixon down. An additional factor would be that Spiro Agnew, who was much more of a red meat conservative, would have taken over if Nixon had been brought down quickly.

Multiple Tongues : Who Was Watergate's Deep Throat? John Dean Nominates Four Candidates. (Howard Kurtz, June 17, 2002, Washington Post

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Thirty Years Later, Americans Still Believe Watergate Was Serious Matter : Nixon's image has never recovered (Lydia Saad, June 17, 2002, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE)
The political scandal that began 30 years ago with a break-in at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., and that culminated in the1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon, is still familiar to a majority of Americans, and is by and large viewed harshly.

When given the choice of two ways to describe the Watergate affair, 51% of Americans in a June 7-8 CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey opted for the more critical perspective: that it represented "a very serious matter" because of the corruption it revealed in the Nixon administration. A somewhat smaller number, 42%, chose the more forgiving option: that it was "just politics" of the kind "both parties engage in." These attitudes have changed little since Gallup first measured them on the 10th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, in 1982.

Americans' current judgment of Watergate is also very similar to what it was during the height of the controversy. A June 1974 Gallup survey asked the public virtually the same question as that described above and found 48% viewing the situation as very serious and 43% viewing it as "just politics." Only at the very beginning of the publicity surrounding the break-in did a majority of Americans believe Watergate was a case of run-of-the-mill political treachery.

Isn't the most remarkable part of this story the fact that even in the immediate aftermath of Nixon's resignation, a tacit admission of criminal conduct, 43% still thought it was just politics?

Meanwhile, the other interesting numbers from the poll are the ranking of the recent presidents. The JFK number is, of course, idiotic--if not for Lee Harvey Oswald he'd be ranked below LBJ. But the rest are spot on. George Bush, Sr. should be significantly lower than Reagan, but most of the respondents probably meant Jr. :


2002 Mar 18-20
(sorted by "approve") Approve--Disapprove

John F. Kennedy 83--7
Ronald Reagan 73--22
elder George Bush 69--26
Gerald Ford 60--19
Jimmy Carter 60--28
Bill Clinton 51--47
Lyndon Johnson 39--34
Richard Nixon 34--54

What would Reagan be at if he'd been assassinated in 1987? About 150%?

The estimable Dr. Weevil, who when last we heard from him was questioning the existence of the other Brother, goes inside these numbers and offers some fascinating perspective. Hard to believe he's from the People's Republic of Maine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Islamic Bloc, Christian Right Team Up to Lobby U.N. (Colum Lynch, June 17, 2002, The Washington Post)
Conservative U.S. Christian organizations have joined forces with Islamic governments to halt the expansion of sexual and political protections and rights for gays, women and children at United Nations conferences.

The new alliance, which coalesced during the past year, has received a major boost from the Bush administration, which appointed antiabortion activists to key positions on U.S. delegations to U.N. conferences on global economic and social policy.

But it has been largely galvanized by conservative Christians who have set aside their doctrinal differences, cemented ties with the Vatican and cultivated fresh links with a powerful bloc of more than 50 moderate and hard-line Islamic governments, including Sudan, Libya, Iraq and Iran. [...]

The alliance of conservative Islamic states and Christian organizations has placed the Bush administration in the awkward position of siding with some of its most reviled adversaries -- including Iraq and Iran -- in a cultural skirmish against its closest European allies, which broadly support expanding sexual and political rights.

U.S. and Iranian officials even huddled during coffee breaks at the U.N. summit on children in New York last month, according to U.N. diplomats.

But the partnership also has provided the administration an opportunity to demonstrate that it shares many social values with Islam at a time when the United States is being criticized in the Muslim world for its continued support of Israel and the nine-month-old war on terrorism.

As we bring greater pressure to bear on the Islamic world to reform its religious beliefs so as to allow secular politics and economics, it is also necessary to maintain the ethical core of Islam, lest Muslim nations become as demoralized as Europe. This is an extraordinarily difficult straddle, trying to balance individual freedom and moral responsibility, one which only the U.S. even approaches pulling off.

Teaching Tolerance: Tunisia School Offers a Moderate Exegesis of Islam (YAROSLAV TROFIMOV, June 17, 2002, The Wall Street Journal)

Youssouf Savane had a clear and common opinion about his faith when he came to study religious law four years ago at Zeitouna, an Islamic university that bills itself as the oldest in the world. Only Islam is the truth, he thought, and all other teachings are false.

Now, Mr. Savane is carrying back a different message to his native Mali, a predominantly Muslim West African country. "I know I was wrong," says Mr. Savane, a jeans-clad 24-year-old who studied such topics as comparative religion, Darwin's theory of evolution and Freudian psychoanalysis at Zeitouna. "Other religions are just as valid and have their own proofs."

Mr. Savane's words may be considered heresy in much of the Islamic world. But Zeitouna's 2,000 students, most of whom are preparing to become preachers at mosques or schoolteachers of Islam, are encouraged to think such tolerant thoughts. A rare but prominent exception to the fundamentalist trend sweeping the Arab world, Zeitouna is trying to bring Islam in line with modern society.

Zeitouna is at the center of the authoritarian Tunisian government's push to become a pioneer of pro-Western secularism in the Arab world -- and to keep home-grown, militant Islamist opposition at bay. Unlike in most Islamic countries, hardly any women in this nation of 9.6 million people wear a veil -- in fact, veils are prohibited in schools and government offices. Alcohol is widely available, mosques are locked up outside prayer hours, and birth control is actively encouraged. An army of topless European tourists -- a major source of revenue for the government -- occupies Tunisia's Mediterranean beaches.

This, for instance, seems to be a case of swinging too far in the direction of demoralization to really be healthy for the society in the long run. It would be a tragedy if the Islamic world becomes as debased as Europe without at least attempting the far more difficult task of becoming more like America first. If the only real choice that Muslims are offered is between a state like the current Iran or one like France, it is not self-evident Westernizing would make sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM


Jab at Israel by Ted Buoys Arafat Camp (NY Daily News, 6/18/02)
CNN founder Ted Turner won raves yesterday from an aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat after the billionaire AOL-Time Warner vice chairman accused Israel of terrorism.

"The Palestinians are fighting with human suicide bombers, that's all they have. The Israelis, they've got one of the most powerful military machines in the world. ... So who are the terrorists?" he told the Guardian newspaper.

Long one of the worst anti-Christian bigots in America, which has done little to sully his celebrity, Mr. Turner now wades into far more treacherous water with remarks that are at least anti-Zionist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


Don't Go Wobbly : Saddam must go. It's bad enough that India and Pakistan have nukes. (MARGARET THATCHER, June 17, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
The right strategy has been clearly enunciated by President Bush. America must speedily build a ballistic missile defense system which will afford protection against missiles launched from anywhere in the globe. The president has made progress in winning the argument for this policy. He deserves the fullest cooperation from all who stand to gain from it, including Britain.

We also have to isolate those rogue states that are seeking to develop (or have developed) WMD, and eliminate the threat they pose. Sometimes this will be possible by a mixture of diplomatic sticks and carrots. Iran, for example, was quite rightly classed by the president as part of the "axis of evil." It has a missile program which poses a threat to Israel's security--a threat that Iran's support for terrorism against Israel only magnifies. But this is part of a more complex picture. Iran is a theocracy which is edging toward democracy. At a certain point, the continuing growth of civil society in Iran may require its rehabilitation.

North Korea, on the other hand, is beyond reform. Diplomacy has little value. Indeed, North Korea has already been appeased too much. It is in the grip of a psychotic Stalinist regime whose rule is sustained by terror and bankrolled by those who buy its missiles. It is one of the few states that could launch an unprovoked nuclear strike. The regime must go, and I fear that it may not go peacefully.

Between Iran on the one hand and North Korea on the other, the list of rogue states will be the subject of continuing revision and debate. And in each case there will be a mix of policies appropriate to achieve our goal of removing the threat which these states pose.

That is also true of Iraq. I have detected a certain amount of wobbling about the need to remove Saddam Hussein--though not from President Bush. It is not surprising, given the hostility of many allies to this venture, that some in Washington may be having second thoughts. It is, of course, right that those who have the duty to weigh up the risks of particular courses of action should give their advice--though they would be better to direct their counsel to the president not the press. But in any case, as somebody once said, this is no time to go wobbly.

Saddam must go.

Much as we revere the Iron Lady, and as much sense as the rest of the column makes (particularly on Iran), there's something needlessly presumptuous about her implicit message that she needs to stiffen another Bush spine. Besides which, it's not terribly clear that it was a good idea that she got Bush pere to fight the first Iraq war.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


Lieberman Positions Himself Out Front : Presidential Ambitions Not Hidden (Jim VandeHei, June 18, 2002, Washington Post)
So far, Lieberman, the most overtly ambitious of the bunch, doesn't appear to be causing fellow Democrats any heartburn -- at least the ones not eyeing the presidency. Much of his work is before the microphones and cameras, either delivering speeches with a campaign flare or announcing new legislative ideas, few of which will be considered anytime soon. There's a common theme to virtually all of his legislative proposals: They contrast sharply with Bush's.

Often he plays to the party's base of union members, environmentalists and trial lawyers, three groups any Democratic presidential candidate must woo to be nominated. This was true with his speech in May calling for a repeal of some of Bush's most expensive tax cuts, in which he accused the president of a "leadership deficit."

He's playing to independents, too.

What's most revealing, and it points out the reason that a Lieberman candidacy would be a godsend for the GOP, is that he's not playing to black voters, who at this point are the core of the Democratic Party. The relationship between blacks and Jews has become so strained--as a Lieberman candidacy (especially if combined with an Al Sharpton candidacy) would demonstrate, that it may be the case that he can't risk appearing in front of major organizations because he would be booed. A candidate who by virtue of his very being turns off his party's base and who in so doing might drive another core constituency (Jews) into the eager arms of the opposing party is a disaster waiting to happen. So, please let it happen...

June 17, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


'In time of war, the laws are silent' : Rehnquist offers historical perspective (Los Angeles Times, 6/14/02)
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, reviewing the history of civil liberties during wartime, said Friday the courts are inclined to bend the law in the government's favor during a time of hostilities.

"One is reminded of the Latin maxim inter arma silent leges. In time of war, the laws are silent," Rehnquist said in a speech to federal judges meeting in Williamsburg, Va.

He cited as examples President Abraham Lincoln's suspension of the right to habeas corpus during the Civil War as well as the Supreme Court's willingness to uphold the internment of Japanese Americans and the secret military trial of eight Nazi saboteurs during World War II.

After the Civil War, the Supreme Court unanimously overruled the Union's use of a military trial to condemn several Confederate sympathizers in Indiana. And Congress later apologized for the Japanese internment, but long after the war was over.

"These cases suggest that while the laws are surely not silent in time of war, courts may interpret them differently then than in time of peace," Rehnquist said.

Though the internment of Japanese Americans is perhaps the worst moment in our nation's history, it is far easier for us to say that now than it might have been at the time. It is at least arguably true that such a grotesquerie, having once been undertaken by the government, should not have been overturned by the Court.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 PM


The Many Lives of Les Paul (Edward B. Driscoll Jr. , 6/17/02, Catholic Exchange)
To baby boomers, he's the name on their or their favorite guitarist’s instrument (as his recent commercial for Coors Beer made light of). To the previous generation, he’s a musician with a string of pop hits in the 1950s. And there are lots of older folks around who still remember his days from the 1930s, playing in Fred Waring’s Orchestra, and backing up Bing Crosby.

Clearly, while most people would be happy with one successful career, Les Paul is a man who can look back on several simultaneous lives.

Born Lester William Polfus on June 9, 1915 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, he began to teach himself not only the guitar, but electronic engineering when he was just a child. He later shortened his name to Les Paul (after a brief spell known as Rhubarb Red!) and played with big bands in the 1930s, such as Fred Waring’s outfit in the 1930s and with Bing Crosby in the 1940s.

Simultaneously, he also did much developmental work on the concept of the electric guitar. His electrical engineering skills led him to finally develop the electric solidbody guitar, designed initially to reduce feedback and increase the sustain of notes and chords.

There's something particularly appealing about that "designed initially to reduce feedback". Tell it to Hendrix.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


In bed with Chile's torturers : a REVIEW : of Pinochet in Piccadilly: Britain and Chile's Hidden History by Andy Beckett (Edward Marriott, This is London)
Pinochet's brand of freemarket capitalism--whatever the human cost--would prove particularly alluring to Margaret Thatcher. By the mid-1970s, with Britain looking increasingly fragile, admiring Right- wingers looked towards Chile as an example of how to revive a moribund economy. Thatcher's election in May 1979 introduced Britain, Beckett writes, "to the harsh Chilean formula of economic shock treatment, cuts in the welfare state, privatisation and anti-trade union legislation". And, come the Falklands War, the relationship was so robust that Chile gave support to Britain in the form of communications, information and refuge for its armed forces, a fact publicly acknowledged by Thatcher during Pinochet's arrest.

If I'm reading this review correctly, both its author and the book's author think that these were bad things. One might suppose that the fact the Chileans had a superior economic model to the Brits of the 1970s and that they were a steadfast ally during Britain's only serious military engagement of the last half century would count for something. Curiously though, when the Left complains of the "human rights" records of Rightist governments they never give them credit for elevating the standard of living of their citizens. Liberals apparently labor under the delusion that the average person would rather be starving under a "People's" government than well-fed under a conservative authoritarian regime.

Not to mention that though the Left may promise freedom it invariably delivers even greater oppression than the Right nor that, as Jeane Kirkpatrick explained twenty years ago in Dictatorships and Double Standards : Rationalism and Reason in Politics (1982) (Jeane J. Kirkpatrick 1926- ), Right wing regimes tend to evolve towards greater democracy on their own, because they leave in place the traditional institutions that democracy requires :

Traditional autocrats leave in place existing allocations of wealth, power, status, and other resources, which in most traditional societies favor an affluent few and maintain masses in poverty. But they worship traditional gods and observe traditional taboos. They do not disturb the habitual rhythms of work and leisure, habitual places of residence, habitual patterns of family and personal relations.

The Left on the other hand typically has to be removed by force, as we may (hopefully) be about to witness in Venezuela.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM


Our final word on the topic comes in the form of this email from a friend who was there :
Best line I heard from the gallery on Saturday: at 12, Craig Stadler chili-dipped a wedge shot from heavy rough short of the green...he slammed his club down in anger, taking out a huge chunck of sod that went flying onto the fairway.....the crowd went silent....when neither Stadler nor his caddy made a move to pick up the divot, someone behind the green yelled, "Don't worry about that Craig, it's just a public course..."

Yet it was supposedly the fans who were showing no class?

June 16, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


The Future Ain't What It Used to Be (Hank Parnell, 6/14/02, The Texas Mercury)
Hank Parnell has seen the future, and it doesn't seem all that appealing to me, nor to him, for that matter :
* "A good part of the world's economy will be bankrupted trying to 'forestall' a nonexistent problem: 'global warming.'" [...]
* "Starvation and hunger will increase worldwide as bans on genetically-modified foodstuffs are enacted."
* "Mortality rates will rise and lifespans begin to shorten as medical advances, especially those in the areas of stem-cell and cloning research, are
outlawed because of the fears of technophobes and religious fanatics." [...]
* "Government will become increasingly more invasive and intrusive." [...]
* "Finally, the "global economy" will collapse as governments go bankrupt from entitlement programs..."

But he also knows why we're headed toward this future :
[W]hile I believe humans are by nature delusion-prone, I also believe human delusionality has an adaptive survival value, else it wouldn't have evolved. To reiterate: all behavior, of plants, animals and humans—life itself—is selfish. The key question of human psychology was, to my mind, not asked by Freud, but rather by Nat Branden: "What is this belief/behavior doing for me?" And this is especially true of our delusions. Ridiculous, idiotic, or even insane as they sometimes (and often) appear to be, they are in the end doing something for us. Otherwise we wouldn't have them.

The great paradox though is that Mr. Parnell's vision and his belief can't both be correct. If all behavior is determined, as the sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists tell us it is, by biological forces beyond our control, by the blind and relentless drive of our selfish genes to preserve and propagate themselves, if reason and morality really are mere delusions that must yield to the iron laws of Darwinism, then it is simply not possible for us to behave in such a way as to threaten our own existence. Those who would seek to deny the existence of God and of the human soul and of free will and to yield up the explanations for human behavior on the altar of science can not then turn around and complain that said behavior is inimical to
our own interests. Either our behavior is a function of the biological imperative to survive and therefore can not lead to the kinds of dismal and fatal scenarios that Mr. Parnell imagines or else we retain some measure of control over our behaviors and therefore over human destiny and we may freely choose oblivion or we may choose another, better, way.

Personally, I believe the latter to be the case, but more than that, I believe that we must try to behave as though the latter were the case. Maybe someone will prove one day, as the science requires, that each letter that appears on this page appears not because my mind wills it so but because my selfish genes require it for their survival, in some way as yet unfathomable to our meager brains. But until that day, it seems to me a worthwhile endeavor to try to hold ourselves to certain moral standards to try to make our behavior conform as closely as possible with what we believe it should be rather than to assume that any way we behave can be excused because it reflects how things must be.

It also seems imperative to me for advocates of this kind of biological determinism to face the full implications of their beliefs. It was, for instance, an inability to accept such implications that turned Stephen J. Gould into a pariah within the evolutionary set. One implication that is a particularly bitter pill for us to swallow, and the one that Mr. Gould seems to have choked upon, is that genocide, rather than being one of the most horrific and evil acts of which humankind is capable, is instead a benefit to the species. For genocide to occur it must indicate that some ethnic subset of homo sapiens has become so diseased or debased as to represent a threat to the continued health and survival of the rest of us. The wholesale slaughter of the Jews by the Germans must not be freighted with unjustified moral significance, it should be seen merely as one gene pool taking prophylactic measures to prevent contamination by another. Ah, but it's here that things get really confusing, for what are we to make of the fact that the Americans, the British and the Russians then stepped in to preserve the last of the Jews, even at the expense of the Germans? Were the selfish German genes mistaken or did they serve their purpose, which must ultimately be our purpose, by reducing the Jewish population? Can both the exterminationist German genes and the preservationist American genes have been acting in the best interest of the survival of the species? Well, of course, there's the rub--the theory would require that yes indeed they both were.

In fact, when pushed to its final absurd limits, the theory requires that both a prospective murderer and the hero who takes a bullet for the intended victim be acting in the best interest of their genes. Both the killing and the saving of the target must be commanded by genes. And if the hero dies instead of the target, this too must be the work of the genes, for genuine altruism is an impossibility. The gene can never act against its own interest and its only interest is the survival and spread of its particular genetic code. The truest of the true believers are reduced to arguing that in that fraction of a second our "hero" was not thinking of saving the life of another, was not sacrificing his own life, but instead his genes recognized something about the target that made it likelier that they would be preserved if the hero died than if the target died. Perhaps they recognized a long lost cousin or a bastard brother or something. We may never know, but we can trust the science. The gene determined behavior can not lie.

Like the theory of free will which it replaces, the theory that all behavior is biologically determined is unfalsifiable. It explains everything. Every behavior is simply understood to contribute, in whatever unfathomable way, to survival. Like Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss we may say that this is the best of all possible worlds--because it is the one our genes have created. Man is simply along for the ride. This worldview is elegant, irrefutable, and I will readily confess (as perhaps I must) that it fills me with dread. But even if it is true, even if life is one vast Matrix or Truman Show, I will continue to cling to my delusions, to the hope that man can better his own lot, that we are moral beings, and that we are answerable for our behaviors--answerable to ourselves, to each other and to God. Quite honestly, I prefer a beautiful delusion to an ugly truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:33 PM


Seahorse Fathers Take Reins in Childbirth (Stentor Danielson, June 14, 2002, National Geographic News)
It's true that male seahorses never play catch with their children or help them with their homework. But they do outdo human dads on one count: Male seahorses undergo pregnancy and give birth to their sons and daughters.

The lucky stiffs probably get to stay home and eat bon-bons and watch tv while their wives go to work.

Happy Fathers' Day to those of you for whom it's applicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:15 PM


The Field Strikes Back at Woods (CLIFTON BROWN, June 16, 2002, NY Times)
[W]hat could have been a cakewalk for Woods has become a formidable challenge. Woods and Garcia will be paired together in the final group of a major championship for the first time, a pairing that will be both charismatic and a potential lightning rod for controversy.

Garcia became a target for the galleries today after his round on Friday, when he appeared to make an obscene gesture toward hecklers and complained later about the wet playing conditions. Garcia even suggested after Friday's round that had Woods been on the course that afternoon - he had teed off in the morning - the United States Golf Association would have halted play.

Although Garcia left a note of apology in Woods's locker today, hecklers do not always forgive and forget. But with a major championship at stake, both Woods and Garcia hoped that nothing outside the ropes would affect what happened inside them.

"I've said all week, there's nothing wrong with the fans showing enthusiasm, just as long as they're respectful," Woods said. "Sometimes, the fans have crossed the line, and that's unfortunate.

"It's also unfortunate Sergio made a mistake yesterday, and I think he's probably the first to admit that. That's the way it happens. The fans are charged up. The players are charged up. I just hope tomorrow the fans are excited but respectful, not only to myself and Sergio, but to all the players."

Two quick thoughts on the Open :

(1) That's the worst Tiger is capable of playing in a Major and he's still ahead by four. He'll win by ten.

(2) After all the rigamarole about the "People's Open", could these golfers and announcers stop whining about the "unruly" crowds. Hey fellas, grip it and rip it. The ball isn't even moving for cripes sake. Can you imagine Barry Bonds stepping out and asking the crowd to quiet down so he can concentrate on a 97mph fastball from Randy Johnson?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


Spain Suffers Again, but This Time Not in Vain (GEORGE VECSEY, June 16, 2002, NY Times)
Spain always suffers in the World Cup, and usually quite early, but tonight, at least, its suffering was not in vain.

Giving up a goal on a penalty kick in the 90th minute after a foolish foul by its captain, Fernando Hierro, Spain hung on to defeat Ireland, 3-2, on penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 tie in the first 120 minutes.

Penalty kicks? They decide their world championship games on penalty kicks? C'mon. Can you imagine the Yankees and D'backs being tied after twelve innings of a World Series game so the umps stage a Homerun Derby to decide the winner?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 AM


Ebonics and the Betrayal of Black Children (Nicholas Stix, June 17, 2002, A Different Drummer)
Consider an ebonics reader used by Profs. John and Angela Rickford:

"This here little Sister name Mae was most definitely untogether. I mean, like she didn't act together. She didn't look together. She was just an untogether Sister.

"Her teacher was always sounding on her 'bout day dreaming in class. I mean, like, just 'bout every day the teacher would be getting on her case. But it didn't seem to bother her none. She just kept on keeping on. Like, I guess daydreaming was her groove. And you know what they say: 'don't knock your Sister's groove.' But a whole lotta people did knock it. But like I say, she just kept on keeping on.

"One day Mae was taking [sic] to herself in the lunch room. She was having this righteous old conversation with herself. She say, 'I wanna be a princess with long golden hair.' Now can you get ready for that? Long golden hair!

"Well, anyway, Mae say, 'If I can't be a princess I'll settle for some long golden hair. If I could just have me some long golden hair, everything would be all right with me. Lord, if I could just have me some long golden hair.'"

Note that the foregoing lesson, which would be inappropriate for children of any age, was designed for seventh-graders!

The Brothers having grown up in the 'hood, speak a smattering of Ebonics as a second language and the Mother Judd, who was a school teacher, is truly fluent. But you can be darn sure that she made us learn the King's (or at least Noah Webster's) English first. Just as on the playground you need to be prepared to threaten to "Flapjack Rambo" somebody "upside they nappy head", in the classroom and the workplace you're better off not sounding like a character out of Uncle Remus.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM


Rand Scheme of Things : The movie 'Spider-Man' nimbly sidesteps the cranky objectivism of co-creator Steve Ditko (Richard von Busack, Metro San Jose)
There is a philosophical debate going on in Spider-Man that no one has addressed much in the reviews. Some critics have argued that the film resonates with a mass audience because of post-9/11 longings for a hero. That longing is stressed in the TV ads, in which a terrible sub-Journey anthem bays away as Spider-Man wraps himself around a flagpole.

Steven Winn of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "It's hard to watch Spider-Man's high-flying stunts ... and not register the vulnerability of those mighty Manhattan towers." Fair enough, and the New York locations function like a little vacation in themselves.

What's more interesting is the question of Spider-Man putting duty ahead of his own desire for riches and happiness, a choice that goes back to the origin story in the first issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. The incidents of the comic-book story are all there in the movie, with special attention given to doomed Uncle Ben, who tells his surrogate son that "with great power come great responsibilities."

This origin story was co-written by cartoonist Steve Ditko, and you wonder what he'd think of Uncle Ben's admonition today. Ditko, Spider-Man's reclusive co-creator, has been called the "J.D. Salinger of comics." The Los Angeles Times' Jordan Raphael recently profiled Ditko, who, as usual, refused to talk to the media. Ditko, a Pennsylvania-born cartoonist, illustrated and co-wrote 38 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man. In 1966, he quit the book, walking out on Stan Lee, the better-known writer and editor of Marvel Comics.

Recent communiqués from Ditko--as Raphael notes--show his current obsession with the mediocre masses dragging down the heroes of our world. "According to friends and former collaborators," Raphael writes, "Ditko's life has been heavily influenced by objectivism, the philosophy of rational thought and individual free will sketched out in Ayn Rand's novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

The thing I always found most interesting about Ditko is that his art was based primarily on drawing circles. Everything is rounded. On the other hand, Jack Kirby, the other great early Marvel artist, used mostly lines. Everything has an edge to it. They were succeeded by two other great artists, Frank Miller (lines) and John Byrne (circles). Similarly, over at DC, almost all representations of Superman tend to be rounded, while Batman is typically hard edged. There's a theory about comic book art lurking there somewhere.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


The Rest-of-the-World Cup : If there's a global tournament and we don't watch, does it still make a sound? JOEL STEIN, June 17, 2002, TIME)
There are just two things about the World Cup that prevent Americans from caring: it involves soccer and the rest of the world. We could get over the soccer part eventually--after all, it's kind of like the soccer we make our suburban children play, only without the goal scoring. But the global part just isn't going to happen. When I hear that Tunisia is playing Belgium for the crucial Group H runner-up spot, all I want is a map. The only way Americans are going to learn another country's name is if it attacks us.

Actually, with Israel not making the Cup, is there a country there that we'd notice had attacked us?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Deficit Likely Above $100B (AP, June 15, 2002)
The federal deficit probably will soar beyond $100 billion this year, Congress' top budget analyst says, escalating a problem that both parties hope to capitalize on in this November's elections.

In its latest monthly review of Treasury Department data, the Congressional Budget Office said Friday that this year's shortfall should ``end up well above $100 billion.'' The red ink for the fiscal year running through Sept. 30 would be the first since 1997.

Dan Crippen, director of the nonpartisan office, said the shortfall could near $150 billion. That is similar to expectations of Republican and Democratic analysts and of private forecasters.

So let's see if we have this straight? We've got a wartime deficit of about 5% of the overall budget. And later the article describes the dire effect of this :
In March, the budget office projected the cumulative surplus from 2003 through 2012 would total $2.38 trillion. With rising spending and reduced revenue, however, that figure now looks likelier to fall between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, Crippen said.

Am I missing something or don't those numbers suggest that the deficit is a minor and temporary phenomenon?

Opening A Trillion- Dollar Hole (David S. Broder, June 16, 2002, Washington Post)
Hey, David Broder just figured out where that extra Trillion dollars we're collecting is coming from : the estate tax. So we can give it back now and the budget will be balanced in those out years. (Though that doesn't seem to be the point of his essay.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


Why Card's Star Is On the Rise : Bush's chief of staff will play a greater role in president's plans (Howard Fineman, 6/13/02, Newsweek)
[Andrew] Card has been White House chief of staff from Day One. But until now he has had an unusually low profile for someone in such a lofty position. Three events changed that. One: Bush Best Buddy Karen Hughes announced that she is leaving, heading back to Texas for family reasons. Two: Card was quoted in the new issue of Esquire lamenting Hughes's departure, worrying aloud about the burdens he would have to shoulder and the turf battles he would have to fight with the other Bush Best Buddy, Karl Rove. Third: The president has shifted gears and proposed to create a Department of Homeland Security, a plan that had its genesis in Card's office, and that Card will now have major responsibility for shepherding into existence. All of which puts Andrew H. Card Jr. (everyone calls him "Andy") at center stage.

Card's profile is rising at a crucial time. Though Bush's approval ratings still float in the 70s, a run of popularity unprecedented in modern polling, he now faces a decisive moment in his tenure, when attention to detail is going to matter more than the basics of imagemaking and speech-giving, both of which Bush has taken to more expertly than critics (even friends) imagined when he took office in 2000.

On the one one hand, it's frustrating that it took a week for the press to figure out the real point of Andy Card's Esquire interview, which is that he's who Democrats have to go through to get things done. On the other hand, it's gratifying that it was a Colgate University alum who got there first.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Time in Advance : Preventive detention for "enemy combatants" (Jacob Sullum, June 14, 2002, Reason)
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz calls Jose Padilla, a.k.a. Abdullah al Muhajir, "a very dangerous man," and perhaps he is. But by locking him up indefinitely without bringing charges, the government is setting a precedent for preventive detention of any U.S. citizen whom the president decides to put on the country's enemy list. [...]

[T]he Justice Department never charged Padilla with a crime. After detaining him for a month as a "material witness," the government decided he was actually an "enemy combatant," so he was turned over to the Defense Department, which is now holding him at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, S.C.

According to The Washington Post, the transfer was necessary because prosecutors did not have enough evidence to indict Padilla. Now "investigators can continue seeking information from him with relatively little interference from a defense attorney."

Let us grant for the moment both that there is not enough evidence to charge Mr. Padilla and that holding him violates the Constitution. Does it follow that he should necessarily be freed? Does our concern for procedural niceties extend to the point where we will require ourselves to allow terrorists to continue their plotting until the point where we feel we have enough legal evidence to meet the high standards of proof of our criminal justice system? After all, even if we'd known everything we know now on the morning of September 11th, there still would not have been enough evidence to charge the hijackers with a crime (other than a few visa violations) until they began to take control of the planes.

It's hard not to see Mr. Sullum's kind of absolutist position as fanatical to the point of absurdity.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


President Broadens Anti-Hussein Order : CIA Gets More Tools to Oust Iraqi Leader (Bob Woodward, June 16, 2002, Washington Post)
President Bush early this year signed an intelligence order directing the CIA to undertake a comprehensive, covert program to topple Saddam Hussein, including authority to use lethal force to capture the Iraqi president, according to informed sources.

The presidential order, an expansion of a previous presidential finding designed to oust Hussein, directs the CIA to use all available tools, including:

* Increased support to Iraqi opposition groups and forces inside and outside Iraq including money, weapons, equipment, training and intelligence information.

* Expanded efforts to collect intelligence within the Iraqi government, military, security service and overall population where pockets of intense anti-Hussein sentiment have been detected.

* Possible use of CIA and U.S. Special Forces teams, similar to those that have been successfully deployed in Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Such forces would be authorized to kill Hussein if they were acting in self-defense.

The administration has already allocated tens of millions of dollars to the covert program. Nonetheless, CIA Director George J. Tenet has told Bush and his war cabinet that the CIA effort alone, without companion military action, economic and diplomatic pressure, probably has only about a 10 to 20 percent chance of succeeding, the sources said.

One source said that the CIA covert action should be viewed largely as "preparatory" to a military strike so the agency can identify targets, intensify intelligence gathering on the ground in Iraq, and build relations with alternative future leaders and groups if Hussein is ousted.

Just as the administration responded to the 9-11 attacks with all deliberate speed--shocking the Europeans who buy the caricature of President Bush as an immature gunslinger by waiting until forces were in place before commencing attacks--so it seems that action in Iraq is proceeding in a patient and thorough fashion. Time for another Weekly Standard editorial demanding immediate action, eh?

June 15, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


The Wealth of America-Part III (Mark Byron, June 13, 2002)
The basis for my economic philosophy rest between two Biblical pillars: the desire to help the poor and the acknowledgment of man's sinfulness. [...]

Helping the Poor- It's fairly clear that God wants the needy looked after. This leads many godly people towards a more socialist worldview, as they strive to help the poor by enlisting the government in the process. Jesus did say, "The poor you will always have with you," but the context was of worshiping Him while He was still here, not of the futility of helping the needy. Some level or redistribution of wealth is needed, and I'm not quite ready to go the libertarian route of letting charity and the private sector handle everything. We may debate how to help the poor and how much, but whether to help at all is not a valid question for the believer.

Though hesitant to delve too far into theology, which I know far too little of to speak with any confidence, I wonder if perhaps Dr. Byron does not put his foot wrong here. I'd note first of all the far too passive construction "God wants the needy looked after" which renders almost esoteric one of the core obligations that God imposes on us. God does not merely want, He commands : Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Yet the modern social welfare state allows us to fulfill this obligation at several removes. It allows us to "care" for our neighbors without love ever entering the equation. After all, what am I paying taxes for if not to house the poor, feed the hungry, etc? Haven't I shown myself to be concerned? Aren't the needy being looked after? And in paying these taxes, haven't I fully discharged my obligations, regardless of whether this system is, in the long run, in the best interest of the poor? Why need I be personally involved with the needy having already given them my money?

As in so many things, the clearest vision of the dangers of such a system belonged to Alexis de Tocqueville, who said the following in his brilliant Memoir on Pauperism :

[I]ndividual alms-giving established valuable ties between the rich and the poor. The deed itself involves the giver in the fate of the one whose poverty he has undertaken to alleviate. The latter, supported by aid which he had no right to demand and which he had no hope to getting, feels inspired by gratitude. A moral tie is established between those two classes whose interests and passions so often conspire to separate them from each other, and although divided by circumstance they are willingly reconciled. This is not the case with legal charity. The latter allows the alms to persist but removes its morality. The law strips the man of wealth of a part of his surplus without consulting him, and he sees the poor man only as a greedy stranger invited by the legislator to share his wealth. The poor man, on the other hand, feels no gratitude for a benefit that no one can refuse
him and that could not satisfy him in any case. Public alms guarantee life but do not make it happier or more comfortable than individual alms-giving; legal charity does not thereby eliminate wealth or poverty in society. One class still views the world with fear and loathing while the other regards its misfortune with despair and envy. Far from uniting these two rival nations, who have existed since the beginning of the world and who are called the rich and poor, into a single people, it breaks the only link which could be established between them. It ranges each one under a banner, tallies them, and, bringing them face to face, prepares them for combat.

We see the truth of this in many ways. Mr. Byron mentions Christ saying "the poor you will always have with you". But this is no longer true. To an astounding degree we no longer come in contact with the poor. They don't live in our neighborhoods. They don't ask us for money on street corners. We don't feed them or house them or clothe them ourselves. We've got government bureaucrats to deal with all these messy chores. We can fulfill our obligation without getting down in the muck, so why would we? I don't believe the lament of the Left that the wealth gap between rich and poor is getting worse, but I know that the physical gap has never been greater. I haven't so much as seen a truly destitute person since moving out of Chicago. I certainly don't have any regular contact with any one who is truly desperate.

I know, I know, I could go work at a shelter or a soup kitchen and see that I have neighbors in need. But don't I pay taxes so that someone else will do that for me? I recognize how selfish this is of me, how un-Christian. And I know that there are many good people, far better than I , who are out there every day doing good works. But how many of you, even the church goers among you, have any time recently come in significant contact with a poor person and helped them, with your own two hands? I suspect the answer may be : not too many.

Nor do I seek to needlessly condemn myself, nor the rest of you, for I do not think we're uncaring in this. We are merely men after all and having worked our three or four months of the year to pay our taxes, who's to say we aren't entitled to say we've done enough. We do not do less than for the poor than those who came before us. We are not cheap--we are more generous than any people have ever been. We are not become bad people. Rather, we are all of us products of a social structure that, under the guise of charity, has created a tremendous distance between ourselves and those we are commanded to love. And this is of course only one manifestation of how modernity establishes these barriers. Others include the break down of the nuclear family and of the extended family, the decline of churches, neighborhoods and voluntary associations, etc. Our lives are generally more atomized than they have ever been before; this just may be particularly noticeable as regards our interaction (or lack of such) with the poor. We share readily of our wealth; it is our selves that we are loathe to share. But, it is the self, not the purse, that is implicated in the commandment to love each other.

If we are too live up to the obligation that God imposes then, we will have to reverse this trend, will have to become less dependent on government and more dependent on one another. And note, it is not just the poor but the wealthy too who have become dependent. We too consume unemployment benefits and retirement monies and send our parents off to retirement homes and the like. And we get all of these benefits without so much as a please or a thank you, as largesse to which we're entitled. No one is grateful for a Social Security check; they think, perhaps rightly, that they earned it. And if they will receive more than they ever put in, well so be it. They paid their taxes--they want their money. And when I got my student loans, did I pause to consider how blessed I was or what duties it imposed on me? Not on your life. And when I lost my job and applied for unemployment, did I think : thank you, fellow citizens, for making this money available to me? Pshaw. I thought : finally I get back some of what I'm owed.

But imagine a different world, an older world : where our parents live with us in their later years; where I help my neighbor when his house burns down; where we don't just write our checks to the government and feel our obligations are fulfilled, but are thrust back upon each other and must help each other deal with life. Imagine that when I need help I have to ask for it and you have to either say yes or no, to me, knowing that next week it may be you who need help. Imagine the moral obligation this kind of interaction places upon me as the recipient and the moral weight you must reckon with if you say no. Imagine that the assistance the poor receive came from their friends and neighbors and fellow church members and other local institutions, all of whom were there offering help but at the same time keeping an eye open--imposing a duty on the recipient to do their best and to be equal to the assistance they've received. Imagine that you and I actually had to see how the other half live, the challenges they face, the hardships they have to overcome.

This world, let's be quite honest, is repellent to us. We don't particularly want a house full of family--we want our "space". We don't want to have to ask for help--we want someone to have to give it when told to. We don't want to be asked for help by some smelly homeless person or some white trash unwed mother--we want some agency with an acronym to deal with it. We don't want to have to go to church and to neighborhood groups and to PTA meetings and to Masonic Lodges and Bowling Leagues and all the rest, just to re-develop the network of community that once served where government now stands. We want to pay our taxes and be left alone, so very alone, in our own splendid isolation..

But as we look around us, at the nation we've become and at the kind of people we're becoming, mightn't it be time to ask ourselves if we're really well served by our distance from each other? Isn't it possible that the psychic and physical violence we increasingly find ourselves perpetrating against one another--from divorce to abortion to euthanasia to road rage to workplace and classroom shootings and all the myriad little ways in which our society has become routinely profane and abrasive and discourteous--is a function of this distance that we maintain from one another and that our current social structure, which enables us to depend on government instead of on each other, is a major contributor to the problem? Would I treat you in such a manner if I needed you, which, thanks to government programs, I don't?

Finally then, this leaves us to consider the possibility that both axes upon which we might graph the Byron Curve may in reality represent detrimental effects of government on our society. If every additional dollar we spend on social services ends up not merely being ineffective in alleviating the suffering of the poor but also distancing us further each from the other then we may have to reconsider the whole thing. If the overarching effect of social spending is to create a social structure in which the primary relationship is between the individual and his government, while destroying the sinews of pre-existing non-governmental relationships, we're in real trouble. Our best intentions (as reflected by the willingness to transfer money from the wealthy to the poor through the medium of government) may turn out to lead us into a world in which there is a high level of well-being (defined as a purely socio-economic matter) but where there is no love, for each of may depend solely on the government for our care and sustenance and one can't love a government. We may create a world that's filled to overflowing with joytrons, but which is devoid of Joy. Is not such a world the very approximation of Hell?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Clear message in Afghanistan: Listen to us (COLLEEN BARRY, June 15, 2002, Associated Press)
Afghans lined up behind microphones for a second day Saturday to air gripes, grievances and ideas about their nation's future as the tribal council to select a new government evolved into more of a national conversation than a decision-making body.

With the election of Hamid Karzai late Thursday as president of an 18-month transitional government, the loya jirga, or grand council, turned its attention to choosing a Cabinet and a 111-seat legislature.

But by midmorning, those subjects had not come up. Instead, delegates spoke on a variety of topics, and their message rang clear: Listen to us. [...]

"At the end of the loya jirga, you should not go home. Don't go to your provinces. Just stay here and have meetings and talk with me - three or four provinces at a time," Karzai said. "I have things to say to you, and I am sure you have things to say to me."

We'd do well not to get too starry eyed about this. We can't build a nation for the Afghan people and if they want more freedom and democracy it will be up to them to create the environment in which those ideals will flourish. But the point is that we've given them an opportunity to choose, one way or the other, peace or war, a new birth of freedom or more tyranny.

That's no small thing for one people to give to another.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM


When Navajos Fought Japanese for Ne-He-Mah : The new film "Windtalkers" celebrates the Navajo codetalkers with typical Hollywood overstatement. But the history of the real codetalkers is no less remarkable. (David Kahn, June 15, 2002, NY Times)
The idea of using Navajos to conceal the content of Marine messages came from Philip Johnston, a missionary's son who grew up on their reservation speaking the language. [...]

But Mr. Johnston saw that the 50,000-member Navajo tribe offered a sufficiently large pool of English- and Navajo-speaking young men. And he knew that no Germans, Japanese or Italians had studied the language, whose complexities defy both interception and interpretation. It includes sounds that don't exist in German, Italian, Japanese or English. For example, the word doc pronounced with a low tone means "not"; with a high tone, it means "and." And while English and Navajo distinguish between unvoiced and voiced consonants (f is unvoiced, v is voiced), Navajo also has ejective consonants, expressed with a burst of breath. An enemy wanting to decode messages in Navajo would first have to transcribe those unfamiliar sounds. But would the decoder know what to listen for and how to notate them?

Moreover, Navajo verbs have different grammatical modes to denote different points in time, among other things. A speaker must use one form if he himself was aware of the start of rain, another if he believes rain was falling for some time in his locality before he noticed it, and so on. The Navajo verb, one anthropologist has said, is "like a tiny imagist poem." Thus na'il-dil means "You are accustomed to eat plural separable objects one at a time." This linguistic and phonetic complexity makes the language not only difficult for non-Navajos to understand but almost impossible to counterfeit.

Mr. Johnston persuaded the Marines to let him demonstrate his idea. On Feb. 28, 1942, four Navajos living in the Los Angeles area were given five messages to send in Navajo. Although there were inaccuracies when a Navajo misheard the message, Maj. Gen. Clayton B. Vogel, commander of the Amphibious Force of the Pacific Fleet, realized the potential of the Navajos. He recommended to the commandant of the Marine Corps that they be recruited and trained for secret spoken communications.

By the beginning of May, the first 29 had been inducted, and they received basic training and were sent to Camp Elliott, Calif., to prepare as codetalkers. [...]

During the first 48 hours of the Iwo Jima landing, the signal officer of the Fifth Marine Division operated six Navajo radio nets, whose codetalkers sent more than 800 messages without error. It was a codetalker message that reported that the Marines had reached the summit of Mount Suribachi, where the famous flag-raising took place. The Japanese never interpreted a single message.

One of the most startling things you find when you read histories of WWII is what a huge advantage we had in both the Pacific and Europe because we cracked the Axis codes and they couldn't crack ours.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


British Adopt Iron Law of American Politics (Terence P. Jeffrey, 6/17/02, Human Events)
The Iron Law of American Politics is that the rightward-most candidate in any federal election will be demonized as an extremist by his rivals and by the liberal press.

A corollary is that it doesn't matter how far left the rightward-most candidate sits. If Leon Trotsky were running against Josef Stalin for President of the United States, Stalin would accuse Trotsky of being a rightwing extremist and the New York Times would echo the judgment.

Hence we get stuff like "Rick Lazio : Rightwing Extremist"
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


U. of I. students track down Deep Throat (Ron Grossman, June 14, 2002, Chicago Tribune)
As the 30th anniversary of Watergate nears, student investigators at the University of Illinois have concluded that Deep Throat, the White House source
who helped journalists unravel the greatest political scandal in American history, was most likely conservative commentator Pat Buchanan.

Since 1999, journalism professor William Gaines and his students have set about unmasking the elusive informant. Building on the work of their predecessors-and examining information ranging from thousands of pages of FBI records to interviews with members of the Nixon administration-this year's class unanimously fingered Buchanan, a White House speechwriter during the Watergate era.

A report of the University of Illinois investigation, "A Finders Guide to Deep Throat," was posted on the Internet late Friday.

Though I've long accepted their book editor's assertion that Deep Throat was a composite used for dramatic effect in All the President's Men, I actually hope this is true. I like Pat. He's gone a little daffy on us since he started running for president, but I think even at his populist xenophobic anti-corporate worst he's a patriot. He seems like exactly the kind of guy who would expose Nixon's wrongdoing.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Mourners pay respects to slain hostage Burnham (CNN, June 14, 2002)
Martin Burnham was killed last week during a firefight between the Philippine army and Abu Sayyaf rebels, who had been holding him and his wife hostage since May 27, 2001. Gracia Burnham, 43, was shot in her leg during the rescue and remains in a wheelchair. She returned home to Rose Hill on Monday.

A public memorial service for her husband is expected to draw more than 4,000 people Friday to the Central Christian Church in Wichita.

In the weeks before his death, Burnham asked his wife that his funeral feature a sermon by a Kansas City pastor, Clay Bowlin, and a special song, "Ashokan Farewell."

Here are the words to Ashokan Farewell (Words by Grian MacGregor) :
The sun is sinking low in the sky above Ashokan.
The pines and the willows know soon we will part.
There's a whisper in the wind of promises unspoken,
And a love that will always remain in my heart.

My thoughts will return to the sound of your laughter,
The magic of moving as one,
And a time we'll remember long ever after
The moonlight and music and dancing are done.

Will we climb the hills once more?
Will we walk the woods together?
Will I feel you holding me close once again?
Will every song we've sung stay with us forever?
Will you dance in my dreams or my arms until then?

Under the moon the mountains lie sleeping
Over the lake the stars shine.
They wonder if you and I will be keeping
The magic and music, or leave them behind.

In addition, here's a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-45), written while he was in a Nazi prison, CHRISTIANS AND UNBELIEVERS :

Men go to God when they are sore bestead,
Pray to him for succour, for his peace, for bread,
For mercy for them sick, sinning or dead:
All men do so, Christian and unbelieving.

Men go to God when he is sore bestead,
Find him poor and scorned, without shelter or bread,
Whelmed under weight of the wicked, the weak, the dead:
Christians stand by God in his hour of grieving.

God goeth to every man when sore bestead,
Feedeth body and spirit with his bread,
For Christians, heathens alike he hangeth dead:
And both alike forgiving.

In a letter of July 18, 1944, Bonhoeffer offered his own analysis of the ideas he was trying to develop in these verses. He explained to his correspondent :

The poem about Christians and Unbelievers embodies an idea you will recognize: 'Christians range themselves with God in his suffering; that is what distinguishes them from the heathen.' As Jesus asked in Gethsemane, 'Could ye not watch with me one hour?' That is the exact opposite of what the religious man expects from God. Man is challenged to participate in the sufferings of God at the hands of a godless world.

He must therefore plunge himself into the life of a godless world, without attempting to gloss over its ungodliness with a veneer of religion or trying to transfigure it. He must live a 'worldly' life and so participate in the suffering of God. He may live a worldly life as one emancipated from all false religions and obligations. To be a Christian does not mean to be religious in a particular way, to cultivate some particular form of asceticism (as a sinner, a penitent or a saint), but to be a man. It is not some religious act which makes a Christian what he is, but participation in the suffering of God in the life of the world.

This is particularly stern stuff for us, who live in an age when religion has pretty much been reduced to a glorified self-help program, a sickeningly shallow way to feel good about ourselves. Even the Christians are now heathens, interested in God only for what He can do for them. As one of the lessons of Bonhoeffer's life and death is the power of faith to quiet a tumultuous soul when events oppress us, so must another be that the experience of God is not a oneway street, where we take, take, take. He does not exist merely to comfort us and heal our petty personal wounds, like some sanctified version of Deepak Chopra. Our approach towards Him serves also, perhaps more importantly, to understand something of the world as it must appear to Him--with billions of souls, besides our own, beset on all sides by sin, crying out for help.

When Bonhoeffer spoke of a godless world he meant something to the effect that God is not an immediate presence to be turned to when we have problems, as He had seemed in earlier times, but that instead we must learn to help ourselves. Mightn't we also say that the world is godless in the sense that we are not willing to participate in the suffering of others in the here and now, but are so consumed with the self that we seek only an escape of some kind from this reality? Bonhoeffer summoned us to live in this world, filled as it is with sin and wickedness, rather than to pine for the next, to lift our gaze from our own navels and to see and feel the suffering of others around us.

The Burnhams obeyed such a summons and Martin Burnham gave his life. This must seem a tragedy to some people, a waste to others, maybe even crazy to a few. But turning again to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in The Cost of Discipleship, he said : When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die. For people with the courage of the Burnhams, the summons is no less compelling for the fate that may await. And for that we honor them and the memory of Martin Burnham.

Here's a poem by Geoffrey Hill in honor of Bonhoeffer that speaks to us of Martin Burnham too :

Christmas Trees

Bonhoeffer in his skylit cell
bleached by the flares' candescent fall,
pacing out his own citadel,

restores the broken themes of praise,
encourages our borrowed days,
by logic of his sacrifice.

Against wild reasons of the state
his words are quiet but not too quiet.
We hear too late or not too late.

Godspeed, Mr. Burnham.

N.B. : Black Robe (1985)(Brian Moore 1921-1999) is an exceptionally good novel and film about Jesuit missionaries in French Canada. There's also a good film about Bonhoeffer : Agent of Grace (2000) (directed by Eric Till 1929-).

June 14, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:21 PM


U.S. Dismantled by Poland, but Makes Round of 16 (Steven Goff, June 14, 2002, Washington Post)

(1) Any "sport" where you advance to the next round after a loss is inherently evil.

(2) No one will tell me the official rules for wilding. We just lost a World Cup game, right? Aren't I supposed to go out and kill one of the players or beat a convenience store owner or light a car on fire? Do I have to take out my anger on only Poles? Or will any minority do? Will no one tells us the ettiquette of Yobbism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


Japan heads rapidly down the drain. (Jane Galt, Live from the WTC)
Patrick Ruffini points out this post, to which I'd add one major thing. Ms Galt seems to have bought into one of the biggest canards about Japan as compared to the U.S., which is that the Japanese have a particularly high rate of savings. This was a favorite point of those who expected Japan to surpass us economically in the 1980s, but as Bill Emmott, and a very few others, pointed out at the time, comparisons of U.S. debt and savings rates to those in other countries are completely bogus because home equity is not taken into account. The bogosity has only worsened over the last decade because 401ks are not considered either. Thus, if you live in Japan and earn $40,000 a year (bear in mind these numbers are not intended to reflect reality) , pay $15,000 in rent, and save $1,000 a year, giving you a savings account with $10,000 in it, you are conmsidered a good saver. But if you live in America and earn $40,000, pay $15,000 on your mortgage, and put $5,000 in your 401k at work (which your employer matches at 50%), but save nothing in the bank, you are considered a bad saver. Now, on its face, you have indeed spent all your money and have no savings. But in reality, you may have built up $80,000 in equity in your house and may have another 80k in your 401k (even measures like the National Savings rate only measure what you put into retirement accounts, not the appreciation in value over time). You've "saved" far more money (four times your salary) than your doppelganger in Japan (one quarter of his salary). What's more, while his savings went into an unbelievably low interest savings account that is basically unproductive in economic terms, you bought stock and bonds with your 401k (basically lending the money to other people) and paid someone to build a house, etc., etc., etc. There are significant ripple effects from your massive savings and hardly any from his meager savings.

So the next time you hear some nitwit talking head rambling on about how Americans borrow too much and don't save enough, by all means take a look at your too large credit card debt and consider paying it down, but then take a look at your mortgage and your 401k statement and then throw something at the TV. Even if you break it, you can afford a newer, bigger, and better one. You're an American; you've got savings out the wazoo.

N.B.--the foregoing should be considered even more unreliable than the usual sketchy ranting posted here. I'm actually not at all sure that the numbers crunchers haven't yet compensated for their home ownership oversight, but I know that several years ago they hadn't. If I'm wrong please feel free to let me have it with both barrels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:30 PM


Fighting the Gay Right (RICHARD GOLDSTEIN, July 1, 2002, The Nation)
In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 66 percent of lesbians and gay men called themselves liberal and only 7 percent said they were conservative. Yet the loudest queer voices belong to homocons. Andrew Sullivan, Camille Paglia and Norah Vincent are the hot gay pundits, and they owe their success to liberal publications. Though Sullivan now claims he has been barred from writing for The New York Times Magazine (allegedly because he makes the new executive editor, Howell Raines, "uncomfortable"), for the past four years he has been the signature of that paper's interest in the gay community. Paglia regularly makes the rounds of hip publications, from Interview to Salon. Vincent is a creature of the
alternative press; she leapfrogged from the Village Voice to the Los Angeles Times. Though the gay left survives in progressive journals, and though some liberals (such as Detroit News columnist Deb Price) can be heard in the heartland, radical queers can't compete with homocons when it comes to major media. As a result, gay and lesbian commentary in America is skewed sharply to the right. It's as if the press had designated a foe of affirmative action like Ward Connerly to be the spokesman for his race.

There's something breathtakingly moronic about the phrase : "gay and lesbian commentary in America is skewed sharply to the right". First of all, by any measure of prominence and audience reached, you'd have to say that the traditional gay and lesbian Left--Rosie O'Donnell; Ellen deGeneres; Melissa Etheridge; etc.--remain overwhelmingly the public voice of America's gay community. With no disrespect intended towards these authors, if you added up every single person who's ever read a word that Andrew Sullivan, Camille Paglia and Norah Vincent have written, you'd have only a fraction of Rosie's viewing audience. All of America knows when Ellen's latest show gets canceled or when Rosie decides to end her's. But go out on a street corner and ask the next thousand people who walk by what they thought of Norah Vincent leaving the Village Voice and if two of them have even heard of her I'll give you $10.

Secondly, since this seems to be my week to defend conservatism from its friends, while we on the Right can value the assistance of able commentators like Andrew Sullivan and Camille Paglia, and can easily share the Republican Party with them, it is simply absurd to refer to them as Conservatives. Morality is a vital component of Conservatism. In the words, once again, of Russell Kirk :

[T]he essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions of humanity. Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors...; they are dubious of wholesale alteration. They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution : it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine. 'What is conservatism?' Abraham Lincoln inquired once. 'Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?'

Setting aside for the moment the question of whether the old Railsplitter was himself gay, it seems fair to say that you can not diverge so far from conservative ideology as homosexuality requires you to and still be a Conservative. If nothing else, it is monumentally hypocritical to say that you wish to preserve all of the moral traditions except for those that you have trouble measuring up to yourself, which should be disposed of post haste. It's worth mentioning that this article begins with a discussion of Pim Fortuyn, who was not merely gay but also an advocate of pedophilia. To refer to him as a conservative is objectionable in the extreme.

At any rate, I've addressed some of these issues more fully in a review of Mr. Sullivan's marvelous book, Virtually Normal. For now let us just assure Mr. Goldstein that the gay Left is still swinging the bigger microphones and he need not fear that the "homocons", as he so charmingly puts it, are taking over the public debate. We can only pray for the day when Andrew Sullivan's audience is the size of Rosie's, and vice

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM


U.N. Court Orders Reporter To Testify : Article Quoted Serb Accused of Genocide (Howard Kurtz, June 11, 2002, Washington Post)
There is no issue involving confidential sources. [Jonathan C. ] Randal argued instead, according to the ruling, that "journalists' independence would be undermined and journalists would have fewer opportunities to conduct interviews with officials with superior authority," and that "journalists would as a collective profession be put at risk of greater harm and danger."

Randal, now living in Paris, maintained that reporters should enjoy a qualified privilege against testifying in such tribunals, and that his account was of little importance in the trial.

But the prosecution contended that Randal's article "goes directly to the heart of the case against Brdjanin" and that the retired reporter is in "no danger."

In U.S. court cases, such disputes are sometimes resolved with a statement by the journalist that his article was accurate, which allows it to be introduced as evidence.

In this case, though, Randal's interview was conducted through a journalistic interpreter, identified only as "X." Brdjanin's defense team contends that Randal must be cross-examined.

There doesn't appear to be any First Amendment issue here--it's much bigger than that--it's a matter of sovereignty. At the point where we allow folks to start being hauled into these courts for marginal reasons like this testimony, then how we do we justify not letting them try cases against Americans--like Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, all of whom have been mentioned by Europeans as deserving of war crimes trials? Let's just nip it in the bud now and tell them : "no".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM


Judd's sense of perspective is well-grounded (CINDY PEARLMAN , June 14, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
We've nothing to add really--we just like the sentiment that the headline expresses.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM


Moving South, to the Domain of the Princes (JOHN TIERNEY, 6/14/02, NY Times)
In this column, Washington has generally played the role of the Great Satan. It is both the antithesis and the nemesis of New York. My favorite explanation of the New York-Washington relationship, not to mention the history of urban civilization, is the economist Brad DeLong's theory of merchants versus princes.

Cities have always been created by merchants, the peaceful deal-makers who flourish under the protection of a relatively hands-off prince. The city becomes cosmopolitan as the merchants import money and talent: entrepreneurs and artisans to create industries; artists and entertainers to serve the new class of patrons.

But the city's growing wealth and glamour eventually attract the age's most ambitious princes. Once these conquerors add the city to their empire, their taxes and decrees drive away the merchants and artists. [...]

Dr. DeLong's study did not include New York, but it is easy for a non-economist to spot a similar trend here in the last century. The city's population grew rapidly for the first three decades, doubling to nearly 7 million by 1930. But as Fiorello LaGuardia and Robert Moses consolidated their power and allied themselves with the rising New Deal princes in Washington, the growth slowed, and the population stagnated at 7.8 million from 1950 through 1970. It fell by 800,000 during the 1970's, when Washington's princes were working especially hard to rescue urban America.

Congress's "urban agenda" was scrapped by its Republican princes during the 1980's and 1990's, and Washington's benign neglect coincided with a rebound in New York's population. The merchants gained power, and today one of them is prince. If Michael R. Bloomberg is anything like Lorenzo the Magnificent, the city will prosper.

A couple of things recommend this column. For one thing, Mr. Tierney, unlike his colleague Paul Krugman, appropriately refers to "Dr. DeLong, an economist at the University of California at Berkeley". The non-political description is apt in this case because Mr. Tierney is citing him solely for his economic expertise, whereas it was wholly inappropriate for Mr. Krugman to portray Dr. DeLong as a mere economist when citing his favorable statements about Bill Clinton's economic policies--policies which Dr. DeLong himself takes credit for formulating.

Second, Mr. Tierney is a notorious thought-criminal, the libertarian in the NY Times' woodpile. In one hilariously hysterical profile, Libertarian Rhapsody, Chris Mooney, 9.10.01, American Prospect), it was even suggested that Mr. Tierney is some kind of ideological cancer growing on the Gray Lady :

What is this man doing at the Times? In seven years of writing "The Big City," Tierney has built a reputation as a provocateur whose journalistic sallies tend to target New York City's liberal elite. Underneath the urbane, whimsical-prankster sensibility, however, is a fairly straightforward ideological mission. Despite its title, Tierney's column is not entirely a reporter's notebook of random musings about Gotham. It's closer to a series of briefs for laissez-faire.

It will be interesting to see if he can bring a less credulous coverage of government to his new position in the Times's Washington bureau.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Ex-VP no airport VIP : Gore searched twice during Wisconsin trip (KATHERINE M. SKIBA, June 13, 2002, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Traveling to Wisconsin,...former vice president [Al Gore] was pulled aside for random security screening at Reagan National Airport before boarding the 7:15 p.m. flight to Milwaukee on Friday.

Passengers sharing Flight 406 were startled to hear Gore being told, "Sorry, sir, you have to go through extra screening," and to witness security personnel rifling through his briefcase and suitcase, a witness said.

"You're looking out and seeing Al Gore's unmentionables in his big, carry-on suitcase," said Mark Graul of Green Bay. "You could tell he was thinking, 'This is not happening to me.'

"He did not have a happy look on his face. Basically the whole plane boarded before they got through looking through his stuff.

"He patiently went through it and then took a seat in the front row with, I assume, an aide," Graul said. [...]

On Saturday afternoon, when Gore was leaving Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport, he was taken aside for some extra scrutiny at a Midwest Express gate before boarding a flight to New York, said Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera, who accompanied him during both checks.

Some of life's ironies--like that of a guy who tried using racial profiling as an issue to whip up minority voters getting this treatment because we refuse to use sensible profiling--are so rich, so amusing that one has to believe that God exists and that he has a sense of humor.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


Singer says ABC's Jennings gave him the boot : Country star says lyrics too controversial for July 4 special (CNN, June 13, 2002)
ABC's Peter Jennings gave the boot to country singer Toby Keith after deciding the lyrics of his hit song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," were too controversial for the network's July 4th special celebrating America.

At least, that's the version from the roughneck Oklahoma native. ABC, on the other hand, has said logistics and "a number of other factors" prevented the network from booking Keith for its three-hour special, being hosted by Jennings, who is Canadian.

It'd be nice if ABC were banning the song for its profanity rather than for its "controversial" message.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Davis' ad distorts Simon's S&L business record (Daniel Weintraub, June 13, 2002, Sacramento Bee)
"If he can't run an S&L," Davis asks, "how can he run California?"

Simon's business record is fair game. But this commercial is a cynical attempt by Davis to mislead ill-informed voters. While it is true that the savings and loan failed, the business went down only after the government broke its word to the investors. Simon is not the villain here. He is the victim.

Here's what happened.

We're stunned that a political candidate has distorted his opponent's background
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM


Bad Advice (Ian Frazier, December 1999, Outside)
Some years ago, on a camping trip in the pine woods of northern Michigan, my friend Don brought along a copy of an outdoor cookbook that appeared on the best-seller lists at the time. This book contained many ingenious and easy-sounding recipes; one that Don especially wanted to try was called "Breakfast in a Paper Bag." According to this recipe, you could take a small paper lunch sack, put strips of bacon in the bottom, break an egg into the sack on top of the bacon, fold down the top of the sack, push a stick through the fold, hold the sack over hot coals, and cook the bacon and egg in the sack in about ten minutes.

I watched as Don followed the directions exactly. Both he and I remarked that we would naturally have thought the sack would burn; the recipe, however, declared, "grease will coat the bottom of the bag as it cooks." Somehow we both took this to mean that the grease, counterintuitively, actually made the bag less likely to burn. Marveling at the "who would have guessed" magic of it, we picked a good spot in the hot coals of our campfire, and Don held the sack above them. We watched. In a second and a half, the bag burst into leaping flames. Don was yelling for help, waving the bag around trying to extinguish it, scattering egg yolk and smoldering strips of bacon and flaming paper into the combustible pines while people at adjoining campfires stared in horror and wondered what they should do.

Just posted our review of The Fish's Eye : Essays About Angling and the Outdoors (2002) (Ian Frazier 1951-). Those paragraphs alone make it worth reading.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM


Poll shows Americans' support for Israel in decline (Janine Zacharia, June 13, 2002, Jerusalem Post)
The number of Americans who believe the US supports Israel too much has climbed since last fall, according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Fifty percent of those polled said the US either supports Israel the right amount or too little. But 43% said the US gives too much support to Israel, a substantial increase from last October when the question was first asked. Then, only 29% said the US gives too much support to Israel and a larger majority 67% said support was about right or lacking.

"These figures represent a significant decline in a pro-Israeli point of view over the last eight months," an analysis put out by Gallup said.

When broken down by party affiliation, more of the Democrats polled (51%) than Republicans (36%) said US support for Israel is too great. Forty-two percent of Democrats said the support is about right or too little versus 59% of Republicans who said the support is about right or too little.

It's simply a fact of life in the modern Wilsonian world that if you have a large enough ethnic group gathered in one place they eventually get their own state. Israel should just yield to the inevitable, tell Arafat what his borders are and tell him if they wants more they have to take it through warfare, like any other nation.

Interesting how Republican Americans are now the bulwark of Israeli support abroad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


US artists damn 'war without limit' (Duncan Campbell, June 14, 2002, The Guardian)
A group of leading American writers, actors and academics have signed a statement strongly criticising their government's policies since September 11. It is an indication of a growing feeling that the administration is promoting its own agenda on the back of the attacks.

In a statement called Not In Our Name, the signatories say the government has "declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression". They also criticise the media for failing to challenge the direction the government has taken.

They include the musicians Laurie Anderson and Mos Def, the actors Ossie Davis and Ed Asner, the writers Alice Walker, Russell Banks, Barbara Kingsolver and Grace Paley, and the playwrights Eve Ensler and Tony Kushner.

Martin Luther King III, Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said and Rabbi Michael Lerner have added their names, making this the widest ranging group of opponents of government policy since September 11.

The word "leading" should sue for defamation of character. This is like an E List of washed up and never was celebrities. There are people here that Ed Wood might have turned down as passe. But why aren't Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul, and Mary on the list? Are they F list now?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


Bush blocks bid to save millions of lives (Geoffrey Lean, 02 June 2002, The Independent)
European governments have long suspected it. Environmentalists have long proclaimed it. But now there is clear evidence that President George Bush's environmental policy is indeed a load of crap.

For the United States is blocking an international plan to halve the number of people, two-fifths of the population of the planet, who have no sanitation. Some 2.4 billion people lack even a bucket for their wastes, and this is one of the main causes of world disease.

June 13, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


Why I'm not a conservative (Joseph Farah, June 13, 2002, WorldNetDaily.com)
Conservatives, by definition, seek to conserve something from the past--institutions, cultural mores, values, political beliefs, traditions.

What happens when a society moves so far from righteous values and freedom principles that there is little left to conserve?

That is where I believe America finds itself in the early part of the 21st century. Let me give you some examples of why:

* the breakdown of the institutions of marriage and family;
* the inability of many to distinguish between right and wrong;
* the consolidation of power in Washington and in the executive branch;
* the breakdown in the rule of law;
* the usurpation of power by unaccountable supra-national agencies;
* infringements on personal freedoms
* increasing vulnerability to weapons of mass destruction and government's unwillingness or inability to address such a basic concept of defense; [...]

I'm not a "conservative" because I see precious little left in this world worth conserving. Conservatives, from my experience, do not make good freedom fighters. They seem to think a victory is holding back attacks on liberty or minimizing them. They are forever on the defensive--trying to conserve or preserve an apple that is rotten to the core.

Mr. Farah is correct, he's not a conservative. In his desire to turn the clock back several hundred years at one fell swoop he truly is a revolutionary, a radical in much the sense that the Jacobins or the Bolsheviks were, confident of his own ability to remake the world, heedless of the consequences. To be a conservative, to believe in the value of the things that Mr. Farah ennumerates as desirable, is to know in your bones that revolutions like that Mr. Farah proposes are dangerous and undesirable.

His is the fanaticism that >Eric Hoffer described so well and set against the more moderate reasonableness of the healthy citizen of a free society :

Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect.  The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

For folks like Mr. Farah, the point is the fight itself, not freedom.

(via ESR : Musings)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:05 PM


Young authors shed light on 'Dumb Laws' (Deirdre Donahue, 06/13/2002, USA Today)
At first glance, you'd think the two authors of You May Not Tie an Alligator to a Fire Hydrant: 101 Real Dumb Laws might be lawyers. But Andy Powell and Jeff Koon are actually 18-year-old recent graduates from a Georgia high school. In addition to the book, the guys have also created a Web site, dumblaws.com.

Which pretty much goes to show you that even high school kids are smarter than our legislatures.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM

The American Prospect's Tapped notes a scandalous story but seems either oblivious or deceitful about its implications :

THE STORY THAT KEEPS ON GIVING. The Washington Post's James Grimaldi has put together a must-read story on how Enron operated in Washington to get $ 200 million in federal support for a 400 mile pipeline from Bolivia to Brazil through a pristine tropical forest. Turns out the Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC), which made the decision to support the pipeline, is actually charged with protecting the kind of forest that has now been all but destroyed.

They're absolutely right that the story should be read by everyone who cares about how bureaucracies become corrupted by the very industries they're supposed to oversee and for its heartwarming depiction of evnironmentalists being bought off by Enron. What's curious though is that both Tapped and Mr. Grimaldi present this episode as having taken place in some weird netherworld completely disembodied from the political universe. You'd think it would be worthwhile pointing out that this little caper occurred during the Clinton Administration. Surely if the Bush Administration were implicated that would have been a prominent feature of their coverage, with all the attendant nonsense about how Enron's unique relationship with George W. Bush game them unprecedented access to the administration and a shocking influence over decision-making. Of course, that whole storyline, central to the Left's coverage of the Enron mess, falls apart once you realize they had an identical relationship with the Clinton administration, so it's understandable these organs of the Left "omitted" or downplayed the unfortunate fact.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Steven den Beste replies to an inane and rather hateful post by Eric Raymond, listing ten reasons he's not liberal and ten reasons he's not conservative, but Mr. den Beste seems a tad confused about the fairly simple matter of what defines Conservatism.

Mr. den Beste says that : "[T]he terms 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' are nearly useless now. There isn't any consensus as to what they really mean, or rather the consensus for each has been created by their opponents as ugly caricatures. I gave up on both words a long time ago..." He chooses instead to call himself an Engineerist (we might call him a Pragmatist Libertarian) : "Engineerists are socially liberal, economically conservative and politically libertarian. " The Pragmatism is evident here : "We Engineerists are intensely pragmatic. We don't try to come up with overriding philosophies ("wealth is evil", "Government regulation is evil", "America is evil") and then judge everything based on it. Individual cases are taken as they come, and the only criterion for any given proposal is practical: will it work better than the alternatives?" The Libertarianism is evident here : "Social liberalism to me means tolerance of differences, a general attitude of leaving other people alone and not judging them just because they act in ways I would not. Social liberalism embraces the idea that left to themselves people will follow different paths, and this is a Good Thing."

He differentiates himself from Conservatives in one, all important, way : "I suspect that the majority of people would classify me as being more Conservative than Liberal, and that's part of the problem. There seems to be more than one kind of Conservative. In particular, there is a strain of Conservatism which is based on fundamentalist protestant Christianity, and as an atheist I find its policies intensely distasteful. A lot of the Eric's anti-knowledge, anti-liberty, anti-free-speech comes out of that lot, and I want nothing to do with them."

Now that's all well and good so far as eking out a personal political philosophy goes, but it reflects a serious failure to grasp the most fundamental tenet of Conservatism : all of Conservatism flows from the core belief that left to his own devices Man is sinful, acquisitive, and violent. Mr. den Beste refers to a strain of conservatism that is based on Christianity. This is far too parsimonious a claim. In fact, all of conservatism is based on the Judeo-Christian story of the Creation and of Man's Fall and the corresponding belief that Man, though he derives a certain dignity from his creation by and likeness to God, has a fatal flaw, a great predilection for evil.

To many people this makes conservatives seem overly pessimistic or anti-human. But what Mr. den Beste refers to as an "ugly caricature" of Conservatism is probably not a construct of its opponents at all, but is what Conservatives really believe. The glowering visage of Robert Bork proclaiming to people that we're on the road to Hell may seem deranged to non-conservatives, but for us it's Mother's milk.

It can come as no surprise then that most people prefer the Left's more comforting and flattering view of Man, expressed most ably in the writings of Rousseau and Marx, as having once lived in communal peace and harmony in the State of Nature and as capable of returning to such a blissful state if only the artificial structures of the capitalist economy--with its inherently unequal distribution of wealth--are removed. Libertarians too believe in Man as essentially "good", though they believe that it is the institutions of the State that have corrupted us--remove the State and return to paradise. The appeal of these philosophies is obvious, with their far more charitable views of mankind and their far more optimistic views of the future.

Mr. den Beste's belief that if people were left alone, to "follow different paths", it would be a "Good Thing", expresses just such a Utopian worldview. It is also utterly incompatible with conservatism in any of its various forms. In addition, it goes nearly without saying that an atheist can not be a Conservative, since atheism offers no basis for the human dignity and morality that inform conservatism. Those who would consider Mr. den Beste a Conservative do both him and Conservatism a disservice. Engineerism is not Conservatism. Mr. den Beste is not a Conservative. Why the confusion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 AM


The Best of Enemies? : Many people in Iran are now talking about and hoping for a reopening of relations with America. (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 6/12/02, NY Times)
Diplomats here insist that even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's hard-line spiritual leader, is no longer against relations with the U.S.--he can smell the mood here too and he knows how badly Iran's economy needs U.S. investment and trade--but he wants to find a way to do it whereby he, not the reformers, gets the credit and controls it, so that any U.S. opening doesn't end up as a boost to his political opponents. [...]

[I] don't know what the final outcome will be, but I do know this: If Secretary of State Colin Powell were to announce tomorrow that he was ready to fly to Tehran and put everything on the table--an end to sanctions, Iran's nuclear program, its support for Palestinian terrorists, diplomatic relations--he would light this place on fire.

You probably can't have Powell do it, because he's a dove and therefore suspect on the Right. But you could have Cheney--a certified hawk-- do it and there just doesn't seem to be any downside. America approaches the nexus of the Islamic Revolution with open arms, offers to let bygones be bygones and to work for a peaceful propsperous future in the region. If they say "yes" we all win. If they say "no", they show themselves incapable of rising to the moment, so they lose.

Great leaders are defined by their ability to envision that which seems impossible at the moment and then to achieve it. Ronald Reagan, our most visionary president, could imagine the possibility of Iran and America reconciled, but he failed in his effort to bring it about. Does George W. Bush have that same kind of vision, that capacity for greatness?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Like it or not, and I expect most of the people reading this don't like it, the New York Times is one of the most important and influential institutions in the world. It doesn't seem to be too much to say that the editor of the Times has more power than the leaders of most nations and more than many government officials--any one of whose lives he can destroy if he so chooses. Not quite as powerful, but still players, are the columnists for the Times. When they start grinding their axes it has an undeniable effect. So the Bush national security team must have puckered a bit when they read the following from Maureen Dowd, ten days ago in an essay subtly called Dump Dem Bums :

If it were not for Coleen Rowley's courage, Mr. Mueller and other Bush officials would still be insisting they couldn't possibly have known or imagined or hindered the terrorists' grand plan. And, of course, two months ago Rummy and Ari Fleischer were insisting that Al Qaeda was crippled and on the run.

Now we know the truth: The 9/11 terrorists could have been stopped, if everyone in the F.B.I. had been as hard-working and quick-witted as Special Agent Rowley. Or if the law enforcement agencies had not been so inept, obstructionist, arrogant, antiquated, bloated and turf-conscious--and timid about racial profiling. As The Economist notes, "There is a big difference between policemen picking on speeding black drivers and spies targeting Arabs who might harbor plans to set off nuclear bombs."

So now comes John Ashcroft, saying that everything will be fine because the F.B.I. has begun Googling and dropping in unannounced at the SuicidePilots.com chat room.

You'd have to be superhuman not to be worried about having the Dowdy one--her smarty-pants manner is designed to get under peoples' skins--coming after you on her broom. It's only human to react, right?

So when the Feds, just a few days after the Times calls for their heads, catch an al Qaeda guy who's planning to detonate a dirty nuclear bomb, you kind of have to expect that they're going to trumpet their achievement don't you? Apparently not. Here's Ms Dowd's take Summer of All Fears (MAUREEN DOWD, 6/12/02, NY Times) :

John Ashcroft's announcement that the military has in custody a bona fide Al Qaeda operative who was exploring how to set off a dirty bomb in D.C. or elsewhere was designed both to make our teeth chatter and our gratitude well up. Weren't we thankful that the Bushies were finally catching somebody and protecting us?

To maximize the drama of the moment, Ashcroft aides went into the Justice Department in the pre-dawn hours to prepare the attorney general to give the news live by satellite from Moscow. [...]

It's bad enough that the terrorists are using fear as a device. Does the Bush administration have to do the same thing?

The Islamic enemy strums on our nerves to hurt our economy and get power. The American president strums on our nerves to help his popularity and retain power.

Both the bad guys and the good guys are playing with our heads and ratcheting up the fear factor.

Isn't it interesting how the fear factor is a perfectly acceptable weapon when Ms Dowd wants to use it to pillory the administration, the incompetent bunch of boobs who are letting terrorists run amok, but it's unacceptable for them to mention anything fear-inducing when they prove her wrong? She wants to whip up the lynch mob, but then expects her targets to meekly accept their fate. Maybe her editor could explain to her that "with great power comes great responsibility" and among those responsibilities are that you not fault others for actions that you provoke and that you not accuse others of stepping over the line when they use methods you employ yourself.

Then again, does anyone edit the Times anymore?

Check out Oxblog for a far more elegant take on same. It's based on their 7 Immutable Laws of Dowd

1. Ashcroft never deserves credit.

2. Offering constructive solutions to problems, instead of whining endlessly about them, is a sign of weakness.

3. The People Magazine principle: all political phenomena can be explained with reference solely to caricatures of the personalities involved ("Dubya"
is stupid; "Poppy" is an aristocrat; Cheney is macho-man; etc.). Any reference to the common good or even to old-fashioned politicking is, like, so

4. It is much better to be cute than coherent. (Courtesy of VodkaPundit.)

5. Maureen knows best.

6. It is usually possible and always desirable to name-drop and name-call in the same sentence. (From, once again, the inimitable VodkaPundit.)

7. The particulars of my consumer-driven, shamefully self-involved life reveal universal truths. (From Sean Roche.)

June 12, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:28 PM


When in the Course Of Human Events : Why golf is the quintessential American sport. (THOMAS J. BRAY, June 11, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
[Golf] has long been an avid pastime of not just the rich and famous but the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. That's because, as the late economist Armen Alchian, an ardent golfer, liked to point out, golf is one of the most democratic--and capitalist--of games. Thanks to handicapping, everybody is equal on a golf course...

What the heck has happened to the Wall Street Journal editorial page that they'd let one like that slip by? You may as well just come out and endorse affirmative action and racial quotas--which after all just level the playing field. Handicaps democratic? You can just see Thomas Jefferson twirling his quill pen : "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal--or if they aren't, the USGA can fix that for them--..." What a bunch of Franco-egalitarian twaddle.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM


Davis' re-election proving to be tougher than it should have been (Dan Walters, June 12, 2002, Sacramento Bee)
Culbert Olson's political career was marked by two milestones. He was the first Democrat to be elected governor of California in the 20th century and the last governor to be denied a second term.

Olson's 1942 defeat at the hands of Republican Earl Warren culminated several years of declining popularity -- most tellingly among his fellow Democrats -- capped by a widespread belief that he had bungled a serious state budget crisis.

Gray Davis was the fourth and last Democrat elected to the governorship in the 20th century, exactly 60 years after Olson's 1938 victory. And as he seeks re-election this year, Davis confronts two Olsonlike problems: unpopularity, including a substantial erosion in his own party, and an immense budget crisis.

Mike Daley sends this column and questions the wisdom of the Simon campaign's decision to hold their advertising money in reserve until late in the campaign, hoping the press will do the Davis bashing for them. This does seem dubious because it allows Davis to define Simon in the voters' minds. Counting on "I'm not Davis" to be enough to carry you to victory is a pretty risky strategy.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Ed Driscoll links to a story about how al Qaeda planned to strike London on September 11th too. Wonder if Robert Fisk and his ilk would still oppose the war?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM


Back from the brink : America has won vital respite in India and Pakistan (Times of London, June 12, 2002)
Credit for the detente of the past few days must go to the Americans. The Bush Administration has been almost faultless in its handling of the most dangerous nuclear confrontation since 1962. Its envoys, notably the astute Richard Armitage, have bluntly warned Delhi and Islamabad of the dangers and won commitments to restraint. Co-ordinating their diplomacy with Europe, Russia and regional leaders, they have acted with calm and brutal insistence. The message has got through.

You can't help thinking that if Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton had been instrumental in averting this war we'd be hearing the jungle drums beating for Nobel Peace Prize consideration, eh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Is It OK To Hate Bush? : In which the president's carefully orchestrated dumb-guy shtick proves hollow and dubious (Mark Morford, June 7, 2002, SF Gate)
So then, please do not openly hate Mr. Bush or call him names or believe his decisions are all too often terribly detrimental to the progress of the human animal. He is too nice. He is too dumb. He is too nicely dumb, in a really smart way. Clever, isn't it? Aww, shucks.

This despicable column nicely expresses the schizophrenia that the Left has forced on itself by assuming that George W. Bush is a complete idiot. First of all, it's just not very nice in Left-wing circles to pick on the handicapped. Second, if he really is as stupid as they say then you can't really blame him for anything. It's kind of like when Bill Clinton flew home to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, the death row inmate who'd damaged his own brain trying to commit suicide. The guy was so incompetent that the story goes that he said he'd save the ice cream that came with his last meal "for later", just before he was led away to meet his maker. Even a capital punishment advocate can feel a twinge of guilt about that one, and many Democrats were repulsed..

If the Democrats though want us to believe that Bush is no smarter than Rickey Ray, then how can they convince us that he should be held responsible for the actions of his administration? And how can he be evil if he's that stupid?

Sometimes it's really hard to be so partisan, you know?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM


Hastings will listen to Burton on garage/Trustees may well reverse approval (Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross, SF Chronicle)
After five days of "positive" ads, Gov. Gray Davis unleashed the first in what will likely be a series of attack ads on Republican opponent Bill Simon--and with good reason.

There's a new poll floating around Sacramento that shows the embattled Davis trailing Simon by a whopping eight points.

The poll--which was of likely voters and paid for by the Democratic-friendly Service Employees International Union--found newcomer Simon at 42 percent to Davis' 34 percent.

Green Party candidate Peter Camejo came in with 5 percent.

It's catastrophic for an incumbent to be that far below 50% in a re-election bid--but I still don't see, in a state that's as Democrat heavy as CA, how Simon gets to 50%. The GOP should probably start buying ad time for the Green guy--get him to 10% on election day and Simon could win.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM


Why the U.S. Will Always Be Rich (DAVID BROOKS, June 9, 2002, NY Times Magazine)
America's history doesn't follow the normal life cycle of nations. American standards of living actually surpassed European standards of living around 1740. For about 260 years, in other words, America has been rich. And yet decline hasn't come; Gibbon would have nothing to write about here. American workers are still the most productive on earth, two-thirds more productive than our counterparts in Great Britain, for example. American technology is still the envy of the world, and her universities are the queens of learning. Three-quarters of the Nobel laureates in economics and the sciences over the past few decades live and work in the United States. Spending more on defense than the next 15 nations combined (while still devoting only around 3 percent of the G.D.P. to the military), America is now the undisputed great power of the globe. And as the Yale historian Paul Kennedy wrote recently in The Financial Times, never before in human history has the disparity between the world's greatest power and the next greatest power been so wide.

The reason America hasn't been corrupted by all its wealth is that in this country we have transformed the nature of money. If you have enough of it, and you are sloppy enough with it, and if you have a system that promiscuously sloshes it around from the deserving to the undeserving and back again so that there are great flows of wealth oozing all over the place and great tales of opportunity in every ear, then pretty soon money is no longer just a thing you hoard in the bank. Money has become the environment, and that changes the way it affects people.

Money in America has been transformed into abundance. In the realm of money, money is scarce. But in the realm of abundance, money is promiscuous. And this environment of abundance comes with its own psychology, morality, sins and virtues. It does not create the old corrupting patterns described by the philosophers. [...]

The environment of abundance accounts for the energy, creativity and dynamism that marks national life.

Mr. Brooks is a very entertaining writer but a remarkably shallow social critic as he shows here once again. In this case it would seem that he has rather badly confused cause and effect, for there are quite a few countries--the entire West--that enjoy abundance not all that dissimilar to ours and, while we remain fairly healthy, they face precisely the sort of decline that conservatives have warned about for two centuries. For instance :

Sir Alex Fraser Tytler :

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.

Alexis de Tocqueville :
[I]t is easy to see that the richer a nation is, the more the number of those who appeal to public charity must multiply, since two very powerful causes tend to that result. On the one hand, among these nations, the most insecure class continuously grows. On the other hand, needs infinitely expand and diversify, and the chance of being exposed to some of them becomes more frequent each day.

We should not delude ourselves. Let us look calmly and quietly on the future of modern society. We must not be intoxicated by the spectacle of its greatness; let us not be discouraged by the sight of its miseries. As long as the present movement of civilization continues, the standard of living of the greatest number will rise; society will become more perfected, better informed; existence will be easier, milder, more embellished, and longer. But at the same time we must look forward to an increase of those who will resort to the support of all their fellow men to obtain a small part of these benefits. It will be possible to moderate this double movement; special national circumstances will precipitate or suspend its course; but no one can stop it. We must discover the means of attenuating those inevitable evils that are already apparent.

Albert Jay Nock :
Burke touches [the] matter of patriotism with a searching phrase. 'For us to love our country,' he said, 'our country ought to be lovely.' I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savour and depth, and which exercises the irresistible attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored by its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.

Jose Ortega y Gasset :
My thesis...is this: the very perfection with which the XIXth Century gave an organisation to certain orders of existence has caused the masses benefited thereby to consider it, not as an organised, but as a natural system. Thus is explained and defined the absurd state of mind revealed by these masses; they are only concerned with their own well-being, and at the same time they remain alien to the cause of that well-being. As they do not see, behind the benefits of civilisation, marvels of invention and construction which can only be maintained by great effort and foresight, they imagine that their role is limited to demanding these benefits peremptorily, as if they were natural rights. In the disturbances caused by scarcity of food, the mob goes in search of bread, and the means it employs is generally to wreck the bakeries. This may serve as a symbol of the attitude adopted, on a greater and more complicated scale, by the masses of to-day towards the civilisation by which they are supported.

Note first of all that what most clearly separates the great voices of the Right from those on the Left is that the conservatives well understood that liberal democratic capitalism was going to create affluent societies. They knew that the system would work, at least to that extent--something which leftists from Marx to Nader have never been able to accept. Indeed, even today, when Francis Fukuyama has proclaimed that liberal capitalist democracy represents the end form of human government ("What we are witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.") and that pretty much any society that adopts it will achieve abundance, this idea has still been met with tremendous resistance.

But this idea brings us to the second important point of the conservative critique. The dire predictions above have basically come to fruition in most of the West--from Japan to Sweden--these countries have declining birth rates, swollen social welfare systems, high taxes, low productivity, rising crime rates, rising xenophobia, increased racism, etc., etc., etc. Rather than create permanently healthy societies, wealth (after a brief [200 years, as Sir Alex predicted] period of good times) has begun to destroy these nations--with much of Western Europe even sliding back toward racialist fascism. It is really only the U.S. that has resisted the downward pull of late stage democratic capitalism. So the question is why? And the answer obviously can't be its affluence.

Somewhere in some facet of our respective cultures, America diverges from the rest of the West. Something makes us fundamentally different. We still suffer many of the ills of the West--we too have a too large welfare state, though the smallest in the West; we too have too high taxes, though the lowest in the West; we too have population problems, though not as bad amongst the natives and we compensate by massive immigration; we too have experienced a decline in moral standards, but we remain deeply divided over manifestations of this problem like divorce, abortion, homosexuality, bio-engineering, cloning, etc.; we too have racial tensions and anti-immigrant sentiments, yet they have generally eased rather than gotten worse over the last two hundred years. It is not that we have escaped the worst effects of the revolt of the masses, but that we have put up a far stiffer resistance than the rest of the West. What is the source of this resistance?

The answer, the most obvious thing that differentiates American society from all the others of the developed world, is that unique among the nations of the West we have remained a profoundly religious culture. By most measures I'm aware of, America is in fact one of the most religious nations of the world, both in terms of belief and observance. For an astonishing look at why this matters, I'd direct you to the review of this book, Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World (2001)  (Robert P. Kraynak  1949-) , but even more so to the book itself. Here is the core of Professor Kraynak's argument :

The difficulty is that modern democracy's need for a religious basis is no guarantee that one is readily available. As disturbing as it might be for modern believers to admit, the critics of religion have a legitimate point: Christian faith is derived from a revealed book, the Bible, and from church traditions that are not necessarily liberal or democratic in their teachings. The Christian notion of human dignity, for example, is derived from the biblical idea that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. But it is not clear if the Bible's idea of the divine image in man--the Imago Dei--entails political notions like democracy and human rights, in fact, many great theologians of the past understood it to be compatible with kingship, hierarchy, or authoritarian institutions. The Christian view of human dignity is also qualified by a severe view of human sinfulness and by other difficult doctrines--such as, divine election, the hierarchical authority of the church, and the priority of duties to God and neighbor over individual rights. These doctrines are not always easy to square with democratic norms of freedom and equality, nor are they easily discarded without removing the core of Christian faith.

Thus, we must face the disturbing dilemma that modern liberal democracy needs God, but God is not as liberal or as democratic as we would like Him to be.  [Italics in original]

It should come as no surprise to us then that the nation that has remained most religious (and that means most Christian) has also had the most success in fending off the deleterious effects of democratic capitalism and the resulting affluence. It may be that only by remaining so religiously oriented have we managed to maintain things like : an abiding distrust of ourselves, a belief in our Fallen nature and resulting moral laws; respect for human dignity; an acceptance of hierarchy (as opposed to Europe's extreme egalitarianism); and some sense of other-directedness, that keeps us, on the one hand, from too selfishly demanding that government take care of us from cradle to grave and, on the other, keeps us more disposed toward viewing our spiritual relationship with God as the ultimate end of society rather than mere physical comfort (inner-directedness).

Of course, Mr. Brooks is not a conservative critic of America; he's a neoconservative, and, as such, probably doesn't believe any of this. But he seems to have gotten the warning of America's greatest critic exactly wrong. Alexis de Tocqueville famously said that :

America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

Mr. Brooks seems to think that the reverse is true, that we are a good society because we are great, because we have a whole lot of stuff. In this way his writings and opinions are symptomatic of the spectacular misunderstanding of American culture by intellectuals generally and must be deeply troublesome to anyone who cares to see America remain great, because in order to do so it must remain good.

What America requires is not self-congratulations about how wealthy and wonderful we are, these are mere products of a system that is increasingly threatened by that very wealth. What is needed is a careful tending of the roots of that system : school vouchers; faith-based social services; a reinvigoration of morality--restrictions on divorce, abortion, and sexual license; massive re-privatization of government, so that we return to dependency on each other instead of on government; etc.. If we do not do such things, we may find that we have not avoided but merely delayed the sorry fate that is consuming the rest of the West. It may be, as Edward Skidelsky has written that :

[T]he fate of liberalism is-in the precise sense the word-tragic. A tragic fate is one that proceeds not from external and accidental causes, but according to an inexorable internal logic. This is precisely the situation of liberalism. It must sever itself from its historical roots in Christianity, yet in doing so it severs itself from the source of its own life. Liberalism must follow a course that leads directly to its own atrophy. It must extirpate itself.

And that seems certain to be our fate if, like Mr. Brooks, we blindly congratulate ourselves on how great we are at the moment instead of trying to keep America good on into the future.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


A Partial Eclipse Over the Golden Gate Bridge (Credit & Copyright: Gerard Barkats, Astronomy Picture of the Day)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


The Inevitable Question: Is Shaq the Best? (Thomas Boswell, June 12, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
On the eve of the fourth, and perhaps final game of the NBA Finals, one question floats naturally to mind. With all that he has accomplished in the last three years, with all the improvement he has shown throughout his 10 NBA seasons, how close is Shaquille O'Neal to being the greatest center in basketball history?

In the series with the Kings, Shaq's bad toe had him moving so poorly that it looked like the Lakers were ripe to be knocked off, particularly by a team like the Nets with some big guys who can run. But the toe improved and Shaq started moving better and here's the stunning thing : because of his health problems he's playing right now at between 360 and 380 pounds. No one, ever, has combined that size with his relative speed (basketball center speed). He's Goliath and David--the biggest guy and the best weapon. Dayenu.

June 11, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 PM


REVIEW : of UNCIVIL WARS: The Controversy Over Reparations for Slavery by David Horowitz (ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ, LA Times)
David Horowitz, whose provocative ad against reparations for slavery generated a firestorm on college campuses during the spring of 2001, assures
the readers of "Uncivil Wars," his self-serving account of that controversy, that the book's "subject is not me, nor is it the advertisement that provoked such a reaction." He claims that the subject of his book is an idea: the "dubious idea of reparations" and, in a larger sense, "the intellectual vulgarities of American universities in an age of 'political correctness.'" This is a misleading characterization of "Uncivil Wars," which is, in fact, all about Horowitz and his in-your-face brand of confrontation.

Horowitz is a master in the art of overstatement. He describes professor Charles Ogletree as exhibiting "hostility to America generally and to white Americans in particular." Now I may lack some objectivity with regard to this accusation because Ogletree is my colleague at Harvard Law School, but in all the years I have known him, both as a student and as colleague, I have never heard him express anti-American or anti-white sentiments. Nor does Horowitz quote or cite a single word uttered by Ogletree, beyond his support for reparations, that would justify such a defamatory characterization.

Precisely because "Uncivil Wars" is a book about Horowitz and his style of inciting divisive and emotional reactions, its implications are somewhat limited. He does succeed in demonstrating that many students have thin skins, many faculty members limited vision and many administrators little courage when provoked by insensitive speech--and that such speech must be fully protected. He is naive to expect polite responses to his provocations. Provocateurs should not expect--as he apparently does--civil libertarians to rush to defend the substance of their views. Provocateurs shouldn't whine--as he does--when they succeed in provoking irrational responses.

Now, I'm not David Horowitz's biggest fan and I think Alan Dershowitz is loathsome, but surely I'm not the only one who thinks that Mr. Dershowitz just accidentally described one of his own books, am I?

These guys remind me of the old joke, you're stranded on a desert island with David Horowitz and Alan Dershowitz and you have a gun but only one bullet. who do you shoot? Answer : yourself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 PM


Why Hollywood relies on déjà vu films (Michael Medved, June 11, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Today, very few people can recall a stirring observance of Washington's birthday, or even explain the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day and Labor Day and the Fourth of July.

In fact, one of the few universal associations with Memorial Day is its traditional role in marking the beginning of the summer movie season--a milestone all but obliterated by Hollywood's jump-the-gun eagerness to roll out its latest wheezy, breezy, recycled offerings.

Many Americans may not have observed Memorial Day this year, but all America paid attention to the Star Wars release day--and some of us even took off from work for the occasion.

In a fragmented culture, we eagerly embrace such reassuring icons. For Hollywood, familiarity doesn't breed contempt, but instead inspires reliable profits.

I've long thought it would be kind of neat and socially useful if the networks established a tradition of showing certain films on certain days every year, the way NBC has done with It's A Wonderful Life or ABC has done with The Ten Commandments. Someone could show The Quiet Man on St. Patrick's Day, Gettysburg on the 4th of July, Groundhog Day, and so forth. There might be something worthwhile in providing the opportunity for the whole nation to share in these cultural artifacts on days when they mean something special, to share the experience with family, to spark conversations in the days that follow. It's a sad second best to our actually gathering in our respective communities to observe such occasions, but it's something.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Driving to work I just heard that it is 90 degrees down in Southern NH, 74 here in the Hanover/Lebanon area and 54 up in Berlin. A forty degree temperature range in a state as small as NH has to be a rarity.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


This above all (Balint Vazsonyi, 6/11/02, Washington Times)
In recent days and weeks, Rush's consistency has been getting him some harsh admonishment from callers and correspondents - the reason for this article. People are upset when he agrees with the president (he mustn't), and when he disagrees with the president (again, he mustn't).

The likely reason is that people have lost their footing. With every passing day, it becomes more difficult to countenance the president's wholesale abandonment of Founding principles in the name of election strategy. Should conservatives advocate that the administration do the right thing for America now, or obey Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment? And it is easier to vent one's frustration on a radio talk show host, than on the . Perish the thought.

Even Rush Limbaugh himself does not pretend that he's a particularly smart man. He's an ideologue (a fairly shallow one) and an entertainer (a great one). As such he has every right to tweak the administration and President Bush when he thinks they've strayed off the reservation. If all he did was serve as a mouthpiece for the GOP, his show would suffer for it.

However, there is a price to be paid when the conservative media decides that a president is not "conservative enough" for them. Bill Clinton was elected president in large part because conservatives, and I know and shall never forgive several of them, decided that George Bush's was not a presidency worth saving. Instead they voted for Ross Perot or Clinton (as Bill Safire famously admitted) or just stayed home. That too is a right, but the exercise of that right had consequences and those who "sent a message" to George Bush in 1992 must accept the responsibility for the eight years of Bill Clinton they got in exchange. So what precisely was the point of that message?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


Jews and the GOP: Dalliance or Alliance? (Jeff Ballabon and Ron Coleman, June 2002, Jewish World Review)
Unfortunately, it is premature to assume that this flirtation is leading to a serious courtship. We say this not because the GOP lacks sincerity or passion; the depths of Republican commitment to Israel could not better be demonstrated than by the fact that Israel's best friends in the House and Senate are from states with virtually no Jewish electorate or influence. For at least two decades prior to September 11, 2001, it has been an axiom in Washington that the further to the right one goes in the Republican Party, be it in the Congress or in the Administration, the more rock-solid the support for Israel. Painfully, some of politics' most maligned Christian conservatives, in fact have been Israel's best friends, precisely because they support Israel out of high conviction, and not as a political calculation.

Depressingly, most American Jews still appear to believe in an image of Christian conservatives based on one of two stereotypes, and often (however inconsistently) both: One is the majoritarian oppressor of Old Europe, and the other the straw-man parodies of American conservative Protestantism served up by the popular culture. Neither stereotype has anything to do with the genuinely philosemitic community of politically active, patriotic, conservative Christians that comprise much of America. For many of our Christian neighbors, the only question about the Jews is why on earth we aren't more Jewish - for they see in the Nation of Israel the nation chosen by G-d to convey His message to all the world.

If only the Jews saw themselves that way. We have overwhelmingly replaced our proud tradition and profound worldview with faddish "isms". We have raised successive generations of American Jewish children to be ignorant and dismissive of our history and heritage. The resulting product is a Jewish community that rejects the most fundamental underpinnings of our religion and all but the most tepid degree of spiritual commitment outright.

The authors make an important point here, that Jews do not feel uncomfortable with the GOP because it is too Christian, rather they feel uncomfortable with themselves because they are no longer religiously Jewish. Judaism has been reduced to a matter of identity rather than a matter of belief.

But it would seem that if Judaism is to endure and if the Jews as a people are to endure that they will have to undergo a Great Awakening, which will involve returning to the core beliefs of the religion. Perhaps more importantly they need to start having children. Population trends suggest that Jewish birthrates are so low that Jews may cease to exist as a recognizable and measurable demographic group even in countries like America and Israel will eventually just be swamped by arabs.

Both of these, admittedly massive, changes would tend to make Jews far more conservative on social issues than they are now and would make for a more comfortable fit with the Republican Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:12 PM


Fleischer: Bush Didn't Read Report (Las Vegas Sun, June 10, 2002)
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer fessed up: President Bush didn't actually read that 268-page Environmental Protection Agency report on climate change, even if he said he did. [...]

"Whenever presidents say they read it, you can read that to be he was briefed," Fleischer said, producing laughter.

And if the briefing was written, I bet he didn't read that either. Who, that has a life, would read a 268 page report from the EPA?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 PM


Kristol's Unwelcome Message (Richard Cohen, June 11, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
Much of Europe still sees [George Bush] as a unilateralist, the president who came into office determined to abrogate this or that treaty and who, either in word or manner, considered Europeans to be wimps.

What's more, the Continent is suffering from an inferiority complex. For years, it was so stingy with defense funding that its militaries were almost entirely ignored in the planning -- not to mention the execution -- of the war in Afghanistan.

Still, Europe cannot be ignored. Whether formally constituted as NATO (with the Russians?) or merely as a community of nations that shares our values, it has a role to play vis-ý-vis Iraq. Bush will never be able to assemble the alliance his father did for the Gulf War, but if only for appearances, America must not be seen as going it alone.

This column is frightening enough for the spectacle of Richard Cohen endorsing Bill Kristol's foreign policy, which resembles that of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper. But then take a look at those three paragraphs above.

(1) It's not an inferiority "complex" when you actually are inferior. It's a simple recognition of fact.

(2) The European militaries which couldn't even be of assistance against Afghan tribesman is suddenly going to play a vital role against Iraq, which by current low world standards has a decent military.

(3) Europe share our values? They're post-Christian, socialist, anti-immigration, anti-American, and the like soccer Which values do we share?

(4) "America must not be seen as going it alone", yet Europe sees us as going it alone and we're doing just fine.

Maybe Mr. Cohen should transfer to the NY Times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM


Calling Agent Frank Black: Anthrax, The Left's Dr. Strangelove, And TV's Millennium (Nicholas Stix, June 9, 2002, A Different Drummer)
Psst! The anthrax-laced letters that killed five people last fall, were sent by a home-grown, American terrorist. In fact, the killer — a heterosexual, Christian, white male wacko, if you'll excuse the redundancy — is a scientist who was doing contract work for the CIA, and who murdered five innocents on orders from the CIA. The feds have covered it all up. Pass it on.

I know who did it, because Barbara Hatch Rosenberg told me. Rosenberg is not only a tenured professor of microbiology at the State University of New York's College at Purchase — which alone obligates me to accept her every statement in a spirit of blind faith — but she is also the chairwoman of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Working Group on Biological Weapons, and FAS has posted a report of hers on its web site. And thousands of journalists in America, and across the world, have echoed her pronouncements. Who am I to question her authority? [...]

Barbara Hatch Rosenberg appears to be the white, socialist equivalent of black supremacist "scholar," Leonard Jeffries — a chaotic, incompetent, political hack, who under cover of tenure and the protection of political academic organizations, seeks to cause hysteria. According to a March 20 expose by journalist Cliff Kincaid, the founder of America's Survival, when the anthrax terrorist's victims started dying, Rosenberg immediately sought to exploit the attacks, in order to discredit our biological warfare defense program, and ultimately get it shut down. To succeed, Rosenberg saw the need to pin the attacks on a rogue, American scientist — the proverbial, "home-grown" terrorist.

Depending on whom she is talking to at any given moment, Rosenberg has a direct line to the FBI or no contact to the Bureau, and has had to do all her "profiling" on her own; the anthrax killer was trying to kill as many people as possible, or didn't want to kill anyone, and was merely trying to warn people of the dangers posed by our biological warfare defense program. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg has changed her story more often than Jesse Jackson did, when he led the Florida Disenfranchisement Hoax, following the 2000 presidential election. And as in Jackson's case, seeing in her a political ally, the mainstream media have uncritically echoed her wild, contradictory claims.

The moment I heard Rosenberg's claim that the anthrax murders were sanctioned by the CIA, and that the federal government had since orchestrated a cover-up, an alarm went off in my head. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg had snatched her story straight out of the Chris Carter (of X-Files fame) TV show, Millennium (1996-1999).

Mr. Stix offers an immensely amusing take on the weird convergence of conpiracy theory and warmed-over television plots.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


The Rove Doctrine (PAUL KRUGMAN, 6/11/02, NY Times)
If the past 18 months have been what policy looks like with Mr. Rove only partly in control, one shudders to think what comes next. For the most distinctive feature of Mr. Rove's modus operandi is not his conservatism; it's his view that the administration should do whatever gives it a political advantage. This includes, of course, exploiting the war on terrorism--something Mr. Rove has actually boasted about. But it also includes coddling special interests.

One of Bill Clinton's underappreciated virtues was his considerable idealism when it came to economic policy. The Berkeley economist Brad DeLong lauded Mr. Clinton's "record of being willing to take major political risks in order to do what he thinks is right for the country as far as international economic policy is concerned." What he had in mind was the way Mr. Clinton went out on a limb, defying the polls and reaching across party lines, to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, and the even bigger risks he took to rescue Mexico from its financial crisis in 1995. Like Mr. DeLong, I know some of the key players in both of those decisions, and I'm sure that they were taken on the merits: the Clintonites really, truly believed they were doing the right thing.

Mr. Krugman, it will surprise no one, has fallen for the planted story about the takeover of American government by Karl Rove (who it might be worth noting was not even informed about last week's "biggest reorganization of American government since Harry Truman" until the day it was announced). Pundits like Mr. Krugman were pretty much the target audience and can be relied on to trumpet their worries over the mounting conservatism of the White House, which should calm down the red-meat Right.

More surprising, since he's at least ostensibly an economist, is that Mr. Krugman fell for the idea of Brad DeLong as some kind of impartial observer of politics. The more obsessive political junkies among us fondly recall the humiliation Dr. DeLong brought upon himself when he posed as an expert witness for the Democrats during the Florida debacle. He was turned into a sweaty (I mean Spartacus levels of sweat), stuttering, laughingstock by Bush attorney Barry Richard. At one point, Dr. DeLong, who was proposing that absentee ballots be discarded in order to give Al Gore the lead, got off the memorable line : "Statisticians don't really like to deal with certainty." That's pretty bold for a statistician who was asking a court to disenfranchise voters.

At any rate, how much differently does Mr. Krugman's column read if you change this phrase "The Berkeley economist Brad DeLong lauded Mr. Clinton..." to this one "$500 an hour Gore advocate Brad DeLong lauded Mr. Clinton...". Somehow the centerpiece of Mr. Krugman's column seems less impressive, eh? It turns out that the disinterested second party to whom he turns for confirmation of his novel belief that the Clinton administration was bold, daring, and above playing politics with the economy is really just another paid political flak for the Democrats. Oops...

But wait, it gets better. If you check out Dr. DeLong's website, you find that he served in the Clinton administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Treasury for Economic Policy, where he humbly describes his duties as follows : "I worked on a remarkably large share of what the executive branch did between 1993 and 1995." So, in effect, Dr. Delong's quote might read : "I have a record of being willing to take major political risks in order to do what I think is right for the country..."

Does anyone edit the NY Times any more?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


The End of an Uncivil War (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 6/11/02, NY Times)
The historical mutual sneering between America's soldiers and its universities is coming to an end.

One of the scars from Vietnam was this reciprocal contempt, leading each side to despise a caricature of the other: redneck, baby-killing, misogynous storm troopers with the ethical sensitivity of Nazis; and arrogant, long-haired America-hating rebels, all wimps and probably mostly gay feminist Communists as well. [...]

Boomers like myself are, belatedly, shedding a vision of the military shaped largely by Vietnam and are beginning to realize that almost no American institution has such humanitarian potential as the armed forces.

While ice-hearted hawks helped cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Southeast Asia in the 1960's, mush-hearted doves helped kill--by failing to push for military force--hundreds of thousands in places like Rwanda in the 1990's.

This essay nicely captures the profound schizophrenic tendencies of a NY Times columnist trying to go straight. Mr. Kristof has been looking in the mirror lately and apparently not much liking what he sees there. In a recent column he boldly accepted blame on behalf of liberals generally for the opposition to criminal profiling that may have contributed to the events of 9-11. Here he nearly succeeds in accepting the blame on behalf of liberals for the vile way they have treated the military for the past forty years--but only nearly.

In the end he can't quite bring himself to shoulder the lion's share of the blame on this one. Note that the sneering and contempt were mutual and apparently mutually wrong, that both despised mere caricatures, and that the military is apparently solely responsible for the deaths that occurred in Vietnam, deaths which it is appropriate to compare to the genocide in Rwanda. All of this is ridiculous, if not slanderous.

As his own piece suggests, the liberals on campus richly deserved the contempt of the military, which has been perhaps the most important force for human rights in world history. He pretty clearly shows that the "caricature" of the Boomers was not a caricature at all but was accurate. They did hate America and its institutions, like the armed forces, did want the communist North Vietnamese to win, were feminists, and as he goes on to say later in the column, favored gay rights. The arrogance is evident in the column.

The comparison of Vietnam to Rwanda is particularly objectionable. In the first place, it was liberal icons like the Kennedy brothers and LBJ who started and escalated American participation in a shooting war in Vietnam. Second, though the war may not have worked out as we would have hoped, there's no evidence that those who pursued the war had anything other than good intentions--specifically, safeguarding the people of South Vietnam from a brutal communist takeover (here's a href=http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A18380-2002Jun8?language=printer>recent story about how those former allies actually feel about our military). The military was certainly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of these North Vietnamese aggressors and South Vietnamese terrorists, but it is liberals who must take exclusive blame for the hundreds of thousands of deaths which followed the North Vietnamese victory that they made possible. But most importantly, the people who perpetrated the Rwandan mass murders acted out of ethnic hatred. The nearly fifty thousand American military men who
died in Vietnam gave their lives for noble American ideals. What comparison can there be between the two?

Perhaps we would do well to consider Mr. Kristof to be embarked on the first tentative stages of a Twelve Step program :

1. We admitted we were powerless over liberalism - that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to [fellow liberals] and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

He's taken step one, but now he's struggling with steps four and five. This is entirely predictable. Addictions are extraordinarily hard to overcome and we have to expect backsliding. He deserves our admiration for embarking on the journey and our encouragement as he walks the tough road. But he also requires some tough love and today's column, in its refusal to accept full responsibility for one's own actions and its attempt to blame others, is an unfortunate sign of recidivism. Ah well, one day at a time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


Wholesale prices fall 1.2% in May (Japan Today, June 10, 2002)
Japan's domestic wholesale prices in May fell 1.2% from a year earlier for the 20th consecutive month of decline...

William Safire asked last week (or the week before) what stories we're missing now because we're so focussed on terrorism. Well, this story has been going on for some time now and not only are no journalists paying attention but Alan Greenspan doesn't seem to grasp it either. The bulk of Mr. Greenspan's career coincided with the late stages of the Cold War when the enormous expenditures America was making on its military and on Social Welfare programs combined with OPEC oil cutbacks to create a climate of persistent inflation. But as a result of this experience, he remains always poised to battle a monster that was slain almost twenty years ago now. Not only is there no inflationary pressure in the US economy, there is every reason to believe that the deflationary pressure throughout the world will continue to force prices down globally. There are several factors involved :

Population : there are less and less people in the developed world to chase goods, which makes them cheaper

Technology : we keep posting "surprising" productivity gains as businesses take ever greater advantage of computers and other technologies to accomplish tasks more efficiently.

Free Trade/Global Markets : the greater ease with which goods flow and the willingness of impoverished populations to work for little, put downward pressure on prices and wages respectively and the lower wages in turn help hold down prices.

Superabundance of Commodities : Malthus was simply wrong. We have more than enough food to feed the entire world and could provide more if prices weren't too low to make it worthwhile. We keep finding more oil, more precious metals, etc. For all the dire predictions we always hear from eugenicists, environmentalists, and the like, we never seem to actually run out of anything.

In sum, the specter of a prolonged downward spiral of deflation appears to be a far more likely problem than a surge of inflation. The Fed is fighting the last war (as it always does) and, in so doing, may be exacerbating the conditions that will lead us into the next.

June 10, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 PM


House Democrats to Sue Over ABM Treaty Pullout (Reuters, June 10, 2002)
A group of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives plans to file a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging President Bush's decision to withdraw from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, according to the office of Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

Speaking of Mr. Kucinich, here's the real reason he's dangerous...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


The Case Against Europe : The very things that Europeans think make their political judgment better than Americans' actually make it worse (Walter Russell Mead, April 2002, Atlantic Monthly)
The United States is too unilateralist, too religious, too warlike, too laissez-faire, too fond of guns and the death penalty, and too addicted to simple solutions for complex problems. So goes the European indictment of American society, and much of the U.S. foreign-policy elite accepts it at something close to face value. But populist nationalists-Jacksonian Americans, that is-don't.

The twentieth century taught Europeans and Americans different lessons. Europe learned that nationalism could lead to destruction; Americans learned that nationalism could bring safety and prosperity. Europe learned that bureaucratic welfare states and powerful trade unions were the only alternatives to bitter class warfare; Americans learned that government and unions were, at best, necessary evils. Europe learned that Christianity was an exhausted religion that could play no serious part in the contemporary world; Americans learned that personal religious faith was more necessary than ever.

One result is that the United States today is a much more traditional society than Europe. Especially in the "red" states, most of us still believe in God, the family, the flag, and the death penalty. Jacksonians neither trust nor take seriously anybody who doesn't believe in these things. Europeans think that anybody who believes all that crap is too stupid to make good decisions.

We posted a review of Mr. Mead's book Special Providence : American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World today.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


A Worm at the Core of Capitalism (Sebastian Mallaby, June 10, 2002, Washington Post)
[T]he new attack on business is not just about plutocratic greed. It is about the core principles of capitalism. Our system is supposed to reward people for producing stuff that others want. Enron and Adelphia and Tyco poison this system of meritocratic reward: Their bosses did well not because they served consumer needs, but because accountants lied about their records. When firms cheat like this, capitalism forfeits both efficiency and morality. [...]

Forget the dumb attacks on globalization and free markets. The real injustice is that firms are rewarded for lies and lobbying clout, rather than for producing honest goods and services. The scandal isn't capitalism, in other words. It's that capitalism has been corrupted.

Where the heck has Mr. Mallaby been for the past year? The system worked. The stock values of these companies have been savaged. They're worth pennies. The people who ran them are broke and on trial. You can fool the market for awhile, but it eventually catches up to you. Capitalism worked because capitalism works.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM


Democrats Should Sound Populist Themes This Year (Mort Kondracke, June 10, 2002, Roll Call)
A flood of corporate scandals--from Enron to Andersen to Tyco--plus more GOP tax cuts for the rich suggest that Democrats could profit this year by sounding populist themes.

Demagogic appeals to class warfare probably won't work any better than they have in the past. And Democrats have yet to link the Bush administration to any specific case of corporate malfeasance, even with Enron.

But polls persistently show that the public believes that Bush is too beholden to corporate America, and that Congressional Republicans are even more so. So there's every reason for Democrats to say: We can clean up this mess better than the GOP.

Polling by the Democracy Corps indicates an opportunity for Democrats if they employ populist themes. Eighty-five percent of voters agreed with the statement that "too many people in powerful positions are acting irresponsibly, hurting ordinary people, and they are not being held accountable for their actions."

The Democracy Corps is headed by liberals James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum, who urged Vice President Al Gore to emphasize "the people versus the powerful" theme in the 2000 race against Bush.

That's one option for Democrats in 2002, though it's been criticized recently by journalist Joe Klein as "aggressive, pessimistic and unsubtle."

The alternative I'd favor is being put forward by Lieberman, who identifies himself as "pro-business" but proposes to reform corporate America to
benefit "the new investor middle class" that's been "reeling in the ruins of Enron."

What's gotten into Mort? This column is patently absurd. The Democrats can't run as the party of higher taxes because the voters don't like taxes. They can't run as the anti-business party because they're dependent on political contributions from business. Senator Lieberman in particular would have to be insane to try such a strategy. His constituents are the beneficiaries of a healthy share of the cuts and his campaigns are funded by businesses like Arthur Andersen. Mr. Lieberman is many things, but I see no evidence that he's suicidal.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 PM


And Another Thing... (KATHA POLLITT, June 10, 2002, The Nation)
What if a woman ran for President who had great progressive politics except for one thing--she believed that any man accused of rape or sexual harassment should be castrated without a trial? How many progressive men would say to themselves, Oh well, she's got great positions on unions, the environment, the death penalty, and all the rest, and besides, women really like her, so she gets my vote! Ten men? three? two?

Of course, no progressive woman would ever put this crazy notion forward. Our hypothetical candidate would understand all too well that she couldn't propose to kick men in the collective teeth and expect them to vote for her. Back in the real world, however, this is precisely what some progressives apparently expect women to do for Dennis Kucinich, whose anti-choice voting record was the subject of my last column. Besides numerous e-mails thanking me for "outing" him and two or three upholding the "human rights" of the "itty bitty zygote," I heard from a few readers like Michael Sherrard, who urged "liberals" to "get over their single-issue abortion orthodoxy." Instead of asking women to give up their rights, why not pressure Kucinich to support them? To get that "broad based multi-issue progressive movement" Sherrard wants, Kucinich is the one who needs to get real, to face the demographic truth that without the votes, dollars and volunteer labor of pro-choice women and men, no Democrat can win the White House. His anti-choice votes may suit his socially conservative Cleveland constituents, as his supporters claim, but America isn't the 10th Congressional District of Ohio writ large.

What Kucinich's fans may not understand is that for pro-choice women, abortion is not just another item on the list. It goes straight to the soul. It is about whether society sees you as fully human or as a vessel for whom no plan or hope or possibility or circumstance, however desperate, matters more than being a nest for that "itty bitty zygote." As I've written before, despite the claims of "pro-life feminists" and "seamless-garment" Catholics, progressive social policies and abortion rights tend to go together: Abortion bans flourish where there are backwardness, poverty, undemocratic government and politically powerful patriarchal religion, where levels of education, healthcare and social investment in children are low, and where women have little power. Instead of asking women to sign over their wombs for the cause, progressives should demand that "their" politicians add abortion rights to their agenda. No progressive would vote for someone who opposed unions or wanted to bring back Jim Crow. Why should women's rights matter less? It's disgusting that the AFL-CIO supports anti-choice politicians--as if their members aren't getting (or causing) abortions in vast numbers--and it backfires, too. In Pennsylvania's Democratic gubernatorial primary, pro-choice centrist Democrat Ed Rendell trounced anti-choice labor-endorsed Bob Casey Jr., 56 to 44 percent.

A few things seem worth mentioning here. First, her analogy makes absolutely no sense. Without delving too deeply into the moral issues here, it seems fair to characterize the pro-life position as follows : a fetus is a human being and has human rights which may take precedence over a woman's right to control her body. This position requires women to accept responsibility for a prior act, their impregnation. She compares this to a position which would say that a man's right to control his body must yield following a simple accusation that he has done something wrong. this position does not require that a prior act have occurred for which the man must take responsibility. A more apt, though still inexact analogy would be to compare the pro-life position towards a woman's control over her body to a position which would allow men who are convicted of rape to be castrated. At that point we'd have two policies that each hold people morally accountable for what they do. I suspect the pro-castration candidate would fare quite well with both men and women.

Second, note the dismissive term she uses to describe the fetus : "itty bitty zygote". Whom we wish to kill we must first dehumanize.

Finally, she gets one big thing right. Abortion really has nothing to do with privacy or health or any of the myriad excuses that are offered for allowing it. Abortion is primarily an assertion of power on the part of women--a statement that they wield the power of life and death over someone. There is no greater power that we humans have over one another and the right to exercise it is an awesome thing. As such it must be the defining issue for "feminists", because it more than anything else conveys the sense of empowerment that is at the core of the movement. Presumably the insistence on the exercise of this power--which is so much at odds with the rest of women's politics and their general desire for physical and economic security for even the weakest members of society--is simply a function of the immaturity of the movement and will be relaxed and even reversed once they gain confidence that they are truly equal to men politically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM


Children's TV Catches Up With How Kids Watch (JULIE SALAMON, June 9, 2002, NY Times)
Parents who read to their children have always known that they could sit still for long stretches if a story interested them. But the realization didn't sink in with television programmers until the advent of the VCR, which showed that preschoolers could watch movies they liked over (and over) again. Newer shows like PBS's "Arthur" and "Clifford" and Nickelodeon's "Rugrats" and "SpongeBob SquarePants" became hugely popular, even with very young children, by relying on continuous stories.

Now "Sesame Street" has changed, too, in a recasting that is both subtle and radical. Big Bird, Elmo, the Count and Cookie Monster haven't had personality transformations, nor have they stopped counting, teaching the alphabet, singing and goofing around with famous guests. But since February, the start of the show's 33rd season, they are appearing in a much smaller number of longer and more comprehensive segments, usually 10 an hour.

Instead of dispersing one story throughout the hour, broken up by numerous unrelated sequences (the way commercials break into shows), stories are kept intact with an uninterrupted beginning, middle and end. The rest of the show resembles a kindergarten class schedule, with distinct subjects appearing at predictable times in a familiar way.

In the old format, a story about Telly's tuba getting broken might be 10 to 12 minutes long, but it would take 45 minutes to tell, with breaks for skits about the letter "M" or the number 3. Now the entire tuba tale is told in the designated "storytime" slot.

Less fun for parents, perhaps, but more appealing to preschoolers. "Children are able to understand a well-structured story a lot better than we believed they could in the late 1960's," said Daniel Anderson, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, who has been a consultant to both "Sesame Street" and "Blue's Clues." In fact, he said, "having many short segments reduced interest in the show." So the charming but peripatetic skits on "Sesame Street," designed to keep children watching - and to entertain their parents - actually confused and ultimately annoyed preschoolers.

Another thing became apparent to researchers at "Sesame Street": many children don't mind watching alone - or at least they have grown accustomed to doing so. This undercuts another founding notion of "Sesame Street," that parents and children would be watching together. In the video age, parents have fewer qualms about popping in a tape to divert their children while they jump in the shower (or watch another show on the family's second or third television).

"Kids today are born into a media-saturated environment, so they're starting young with screen time," said Rosemary Truglio, the vice president of research and education for "Sesame Street." "Working moms have increased, so kids are watching while parents are getting ready for work or while they're already in day care. It's hard to imagine lots of co-viewing."

In his book The Tipping Point (which Ms Salamon mentions later in the piece), Malcom Gladwell has some (perhaps mildly unintentionally) hilarious stuff about childrens' television. Here's part of my review of his book :

He says that one of the things that makes a fad take hold is the "stickiness" of the idea behind it. He discusses this stickiness factor in the context of children's television. He starts with Sesame Street, which was apparently developed to conform to every single inane child rearing and educational theory that had been dreamed up at the time of its creation. The show was then rigorously test marketed to kids to see of the theories worked. It will come as no surprise that they turned out to be mostly wrong. For instance, in the initial versions they segregated humans from the Muppets, having been told that children could not separate fantasy from reality. This would surely have been news to Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, and Stan Lee. So then they showed the program to kids and found that they only paid attention when the Muppets were on screen and completely ignored the segments with live actors. Duh? Or take the creators of Blue's Clues, who had the revolutionary insight that they could just take one episode of the show and then broadcast it every day for a week, because--are you ready for this ?--kids don't mind repetition. In fact, they like it and learn better from it. Have any of these people ever had a kid ? Do you know a kid who doesn't want to read the same book over and over and over again? Here again, this cutting edge, revolutionary, radical, whatever you care to call it, social science merely proves that the traditional intuition of conservatives is right : we've done things the same way for thousands of years because they work, and no half-baked theories dreamed up by a bunch of pointy headed intellectuals in a lab are likely to improve upon them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:38 PM


Mob Boss John Gotti Dies at Age 61 (RICHARD PYLE, Jun 10, 2002, Associated Press Writer)
John Gotti, who swaggered, schemed and murdered his way to the pinnacle of organized crime in America only to be toppled by secret FBI tapes and a turncoat mobster's testimony, died at a prison hospital Monday. He was 61.

When Gotti moved to take over the Gambinos, they were the biggest and most powerful of the city's five Mafia families, with 300-plus "made" members, 2,000 "associates" and fingers in every pie, including the garment district, garbage hauling, construction, extortion and loan sharking.

He took charge by murdering Castellano, who had angered Gotti and others with, among other things, his ban on drug trafficking. By some accounts, Gotti feared Castellano was plotting to eliminate him, so he carried out a pre-emptive strike.

Gotti and Gravano watched from half a block away as a hit squad in matching raincoats ambushed Castellano and his driver outside a Manhattan steakhouse on Dec. 16, 1985. They then cruised brazenly past the scene to make sure the pair were dead.

In 1985 we were just recently out of college, and still quite stupid. A couple of guys from Grand Rapids, MI came to visit Manhattan for New Years Eve. They called Sparks (the steakhouse mentioned above) and asked for a table in the "non-shooting section". The maitre d' told them that such humor was "not appreciated". Actually, I thought it was pretty damn funny.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


Darwin would love this debate (Bruce Chapman and Stephen C. Meyer, 6/10/02, The Seattle Times)
Which option ("A" or "B") represents your view?

"A. Biology teachers should teach only Darwin's theory of evolution and the scientific evidence that supports it."

"B. Biology teachers should teach Darwin's theory of evolution, but also the scientific evidence against it."

Only 15 percent of adults nationally, according to a 2001 Zogby poll, agree with "A," while 71 percent agree with "B." (Not sure: 14 percent.)

Some, like Mindy Cameron ("Theory of 'intelligent design' isn't ready for natural selection" column, June 3), would prevent students from hearing scientific evidence that challenges Darwinism. Cameron suspects that critics of Darwinism — especially those that advocate the alternative theory of intelligent design — want to place "the Christian God in science classrooms in America's public schools."

Others — like Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education, a Darwin-only advocacy group — deny the existence of any scientific debate. Scott states that "I don't know of any evidence against evolution."

Yet, last fall, 100 scientists, including professors from institutions such as MIT, Yale and Rice, published a statement questioning the creative power of natural selection. Many of these scientists see evidence that points to an intelligent design of life.

So what's going on? Is there scientific evidence challenging Darwinian evolution? Is there evidence pointing to intelligent design? If so, should public school science students learn about such evidence?

It's amazing how much the Darwinists have come to resemble the Christian literalists who once opposed them. The denial that evidence contrary to evolution/natual selection should be discussed, or even that it exists, cloaks them in the same kind of purblind certitude for which Bishop Ussher was so justly derided.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Fire Somebody, Dubya (Arnold Ahlert, New York Post)

This blessedly honest headline sums up a good deal of what passes for punditry these days. George W. Bush could prove he's in control and a serious leader if he just nails a scalp to the wall. It doesn't much matter whose or why--Norm Mineta, George Tenet, Robert Mueller, would all do. Of course, such a firing would have absolutely nothing to do with 9-11 or with improving our security. It would just give the lynch mob a good old-fashioned visceral thrill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM


Panel Questions New Agency's Powers Senators Worry That Proposal Doesn't Give Department Control Over Information-Gathering (Bill Miller, June 10, 2002, Washington Post)
President Bush's plan to create a Department of Homeland Security doesn't go far enough to prevent the kind of intelligence lapses that took place before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee said yesterday.

Bush's proposal to merge all or parts of 22 federal agencies into a homeland security structure does not give the head of the new department control over those who gather intelligence for the FBI, CIA and other agencies, the senators said. Instead, the department will be treated as a "customer" of the various intelligence agencies and use the information it gets to analyze threats and decide how to respond, they said.

"It doesn't address . . . the intelligence problems that we have," said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the committee's ranking Republican. "The homeland security director and his office will be a consumer of intelligence. Will they make some decisions? Sure. But I understand they will not be gatherers of intelligence. That's very key."

The committee's chairman, Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), said that the CIA and FBI, which are not moving into the proposed department, "don't talk very well to each other" and that

The new department is inevitably going to be given intelligence gathering capabilities, most likely taken from the FBI and CIA. By not including this in the original proposal, the administration makes the inevitable and necessary look like a huge concession and a sign of their willingness to compromise. It also enables them to fend off other Congressional changes that they don't want : "Well, look, we gave you the whole intelligence deal, but we can't yield on this." You have to admire the way they structure their proposals as negotiating vehicles, rather than as exact blueprints of what they want. The former often gets you much closer to your ideal than the latter.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Wider Military Ties With India Offer U.S. Diplomatic Leverage (CELIA W. DUGGER, June 10, 2002, NY Times)
When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrives here this week, he will have the ear of India's senior political leaders in a way that would have been hard to imagine for most of the past three decades.

Military cooperation between India and the United States has remarkably quickened since Sept. 11, with a burst of navy, air force and army joint exercises, the revival of American military sales to India and a blur of high-level visits by generals and admirals.

The fledgling relationship between American and Indian military leaders will be important to Mr. Rumsfeld in talks intended to put to rest fears of war between India and Pakistan.

"We can hope this translates into some influence and trust, though I don't want to overstate it," a senior American defense official said in an interview on Thursday. "I don't want to predict this guarantees success."

The American diplomatic efforts yielded their first real gains on Saturday when India welcomed a pledge by Pakistan's military ruler to stop permanently the infiltration of militants into Kashmir. India indicated that it would soon take steps to reduce tensions, but a million troops are still fully mobilized along the border--a situation likely to persist for months--and the process of resolving the crisis has just begun.

India has linked the killing of civilians in Kashmir to a Pakistan-backed insurgency there and has presented its confrontation with Pakistan as part of the global campaign against terrorism.

India itself made an unstinting offer of support to the United States after Sept. 11, and Washington responded by ending the sanctions placed on India after its 1998 nuclear tests. With that, the estrangement that prevailed between the world's two largest democracies during the cold war, when India drew close to the Soviet Union and the United States allied with Pakistan, has eased.

India, for decades a champion of nonalignment, seeks warmer ties with the United States in hopes of gaining access to sophisticated military technology and help in dealing with Pakistan.

From the start of President Bush's term, some influential officials in his administration saw India as a potential counterweight to that other Asian behemoth, China, whose growing power was seen as a potential strategic threat.

But since Sept. 11, the priority has been terrorism. The United States is hoping its deeper military and political ties with India will give it some measure of leverage to prevent a war between India and Pakistan that could lead to a nuclear holocaust and would play havoc with the hunt for Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

We still eagerly await the spate of think pieces that delineate how the US, Israel, Turkey, Russia, and India have formed a de facto West Asian alliance of democracies. I'm sure they're coming--right after ten more weeks of coverage of the French parliamentary elections.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Iran's Next Revolution : America needs a strategy for toppling the ayatollahs. (MICHAEL A. LEDEEN, June 8, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
The legitimate desires of the Iranian people have been acknowledged by President Bush. Yet we still have no Iran strategy. There is no coordinated public policy, such as radio and television broadcast in Farsi, a sustained condemnation of the "mullahcracy" by our own leaders, and material assistance for those leading the freedom movement inside Iran. It is hard to imagine that the Iranian people require enormous support to rid themselves of their meddlesome priests, and, unlike the challenge in Iraq, one can readily envisage a successful regime change in Tehran without dropping a single American bomb or firing a single American bullet.

All we have to do is act in keeping with our national tradition of fighting tyranny. If the regime in Iran is brought down with our help, it will demonstrate to the Islamic world that radical Islamist regimes, whether Sunni (Afghanistan) or Shiite (Iran), ruin their countries and alienate their people, who prefer America to the mullahs. Is this not what the war against terrorism is supposed to accomplish?

Ronald Reagan's greatness lay in good measure in his ability, almost alone among his contemporaries, to see that the Soviet Union was not powerful and permanent but decrepit and tottering on the brink of collapse. His determination that all that was required to topple the Evil Empire was concerted pressure from the West made his vision a reality.

It seems at least possible, maybe even likely, that we find ourselves in a similar position today, vis a vis Islam. Many tell us that the Islamic world is incapable of reform--their reasons for saying this are sound mind you, and grounded in the ideology of Islam--but it seems worthwhile taking a chance on the idea that if we just apply steady pressure the whole system can be transformed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:22 AM


Character takes center stage in New Jersey race for Senate (Liz Trotta, June 10, 2002, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The cloud over the senator hangs so heavily that New Jersey's retired Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who had a rocky relationship with his former colleague, went on television to offer some advice on how to clear up the ethical questions: Take a lie-detector test. [...]

A poll conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee shows Mr. Torricelli with a five-point lead over Mr. Forrester, at 44 percent to 39 percent. Half of those polled said they would prefer a new senator.

But [David Rebovich of the Rider Institute for New Jersey Politics] doubts that such sentiments will be enough.

"It will really be tough to unseat Torricelli," Mr. Rebovich said. "New Jerseyans have become reconciled to his legal problems. It's a rough-and-tumble state, and voters may think it's just more of the same."

New Jersey has become increasingly Democratic in recent years — Republicans have not won a U.S. Senate race since 1972 — and Mr. Torricelli is hoping to make party control of the Senate a central issue of his campaign.

This is a perfect example (Paul Wellstone in MN and Lary Landrieu in LA would be others) of one of those races where if historical form for midterm elections holds Mr. Toricelli will sneak through, but if President Bush nationalizes the elections it will be a GOP upset.

June 9, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 PM


Defectors From North Korea Tell of Prison Baby Killings (JAMES BROOKE, June 10, 2002, NY Times)
On a cold March day, the bleak monotony of a North Korean prison work detail was broken when a squad of male guards arrived and herded new women prisoners together. One by one, they were asked if they were pregnant.

"They took them away in a car, and then forcibly gave them abortion shots," Song Myung Hak, 33, a former prisoner, recalled in a interview here about the day two years ago when six pregnant prisoners were taken from his work unit in the Shinuiju Provincial Detention Camp. "After the miscarriage shots, the women were forced back to work."

More and more escapees from North Korea are asserting that forced abortions and infanticide are the norm in North Korean prisons, charges the country's official Korean Central News Agency has denounced as "a whopping lie."

In 2000 and 2001, China deported thousands of North Korean refugees, with many ending up in North Korean prison camps. People who later managed to escape again, to China and South Korea, say that prisoners discovered to be pregnant were routinely forced to have abortions. If babies were born alive, they say, guards forced prisoners to kill them.

Earlier defectors from North Korea say that the prohibition on pregnancy in North Korean prisons dates back at least to the 1980's, and that forced abortions or infanticide were the rule. Until recently, though, instances of pregnancy in the prisons were rare.

China's deportations of thousands of illegal migrants from North Korean in recent years has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of pregnant women ending up in North Korean prisons. Defectors, male and female, are reviled as traitors and counterrevolutionaries when they are returned to North Korea. But women who have become pregnant, especially by Chinese men, face special abuse.

"Several hundred babies were killed last year in North Korean prisons," said Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, a private group based in Brussels. Mr. Fautre said that over the last 18 months, he and his volunteers had interviewed 35 recent escapees from North Korean camps.

Of the 35, he said, 31 said they had witnessed babies killed by abandonment or being smothered with plastic sheets. Two defectors later described burying dead babies, and two said they were mothers who saw their newborns put to death.

"This is a systematic procedure carried out by guards, and the people in charge of the prisons — these are not isolated cases," Mr. Fautre said in a telephone interview. "The pattern is to identify women who are pregnant, so the camp authorities can get rid of the babies through forced abortion, torture or very hard labor. If they give birth to a baby alive, the general policy is to let the baby die or to help the baby die with a plastic sheet."

Thankfully they're only fetuses, otherwise this might seem barbaric, even evil.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 PM


Civil (Libertarian) War? (James Ostrowski, Lew Rockwell.com)
What ultimately can a natural rights libertarian say about Lincoln, secession and slavery? The South had the right to leave in peace; slavery is and was morally wrong; though force may be rightly used to end slavery - after all other means for ending slavery have failed - such force must be strictly limited to accomplishing that end and must not violate the rights of third parties by means of taxation, conscription or mass murder; the Union's invasion of the South, involving as it did taxation, inflation, conscription, confiscation, destruction and the mass killing of non-slave holders, and not having been initiated for any libertarian purpose widely understood at the time, must be condemned as a moral outrage; had an effort been made at the time to free slaves throughout the United States (including the District of Columbia, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri and Maryland) that did not purport to violate the rights of innocent third parties, or accomplish any evil goals such as expanding the power of the central state, libertarians at the time should have supported it; alas, no such movement existed; thus, any attempt to pretend that the Union?s invasion of the South was a moral cause to end slavery and did not have numerous other and evil goals, the accomplishment of which plagues us today, is an absurd exercise involving the libertarian endorsement of illibertarian means and ends then and continuing.

Gee, where would Francis Fukuyama have gotten the idea that Libertarians might have supported the right to keep slaves in mid-19th Century America.

Sean Hackbarth is curious about this phenomenon too

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 PM


Vietnamese teacher executed for child rape (The Associated Press, June 7, 2002)
A teacher convicted of raping six elementary school students has been executed by firing squad, a court official in Vietnam's central highlands said Friday.

Nguyen Van Phu, 37, was sentenced to death in 1999 for raping six of his students, aged 8 and 9, over five days in 1997. He sexually molested another six students, the official said on condition of anonymity.

If nothing else it would solve the problem of repeat offenders.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Burger Heaven (JASON EPSTEIN, June 9, 2002, NY Times Magazine)
A simple hamburger barely a half-inch thick, slightly charred at the edges and rare inside, embellished with only ketchup and a neat slice of Bermuda onion on a four-inch bun, awakens in me memories as compelling as those aroused by Marcel Proust's famous madeleine. My hamburger, however, evokes not the salons of Paris but a lakeside shack in Maine at dusk amid the August hum of crickets. To recall the fragrant pine walls and the hand-lettered sign on the canoe paddle above an immaculate screen door, as if painted fresh every day, fills me even now with vivid longing.

Macnamara's shack occupied a well-lighted grass plot between the lake and the dirt road to Augusta in the village of Winthrop, where I spent a few boyhood summers during the war. That August we toiled until dusk in the hot fields picking snap beans that we stuffed into burlap sacks and tossed onto trucks for the cannery, which shipped them to the soldiers overseas. On Friday, when we were paid, still in our bib overalls and shoeless at the end of the day, we would paddle our canoes into town to spend our wages on hamburgers, Nehi and frozen Milky Ways. Our leftover nickels went into Macnamara's jukebox: Vera Lynn, Artie Shaw, Harry James. We were 14 that summer, our front teeth as yet too big for our sunburned faces, but we were old enough to paddle confidently home across the lake after dark. Convinced of our righteous cause, certain of victory and proud of our war work in the fields, we ate our hamburgers in the hazy twilight, under the bare bulbs strung over Macnamara's counter with its neat arrangement of ketchup bottles and pickle jars.

How could I have known then that my memory of those evenings would survive the century and provoke a lifelong search to recapture the fugitive joys fixed in mind's wandering by those hamburgers, joys that in the coarseness of youth I squandered as indifferently as the few dollars I earned in the bean fields? [...]

The Perfect Burger
3 pounds ground chuck, preferably chicken steak or blade steak, not more than 20 percent fat
6 four-inch Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse white rolls or Amy's Bread rolls
2 large sweet onions
2 ripe tomatoes
6 leaves of Boston or iceberg lettuce.

1. Heat a seasoned cast-iron grill pan over a high flame for five minutes. Meanwhile, place the meat in a bowl and knead lightly. (Disregard experts who warn that kneading will produce a dry burger. Kneading will not have this effect on chuck cooked rare or medium rare, but it will keep the meat from falling apart. Leaner cuts will be dry whether or not you knead them.) Divide the meat into six portions and shape burgers. Do not season.

2. Add burgers three at a time to pan leaving space between them. After four minutes lift burgers from pan with pair of tongs and turn by 90 degrees. After two minutes turn burgers over. The grill marks will form an attractive tick-tac-toe matrix. Meanwhile, toast rolls. In about five minutes meat will be medium-medium rare. Add sweet onion, tomato and lettuce on roll's bottom half. Add burger. Top with other roll half. Serve with ketchup.

NOTE: You may also broil burgers under a medium flame. The timing will be the same but you will sacrifice grill marks.

Yield: 6 servings.

The title's redundant.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


The Bogus Lincoln Quote Kevin Phillips Fell For (Matthew Pinsker, 6/3/02, History News Network)
Editor's Note: A generation ago Thomas Bailey proposed that the history profession maintain a computer database of historical myths so that scholars could avoid repeating hoary stories their colleagues had exposed as fakes. Alas, nobody took up Bailey's suggestion (which remains a good one!) and the myths continue to pile up like a long bad car wreck.

The latest writer to end up on this highway junk heap is Kevin Phillips. Just a few pages into his new book, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich, Phillips regales the reader with a fabulous quotation from Abraham Lincoln that illustrates perfectly the theme of the new work. It's the kind of quote an author dreams of finding. You can just imagine how delighted Phillips was when he came across it. It's not just political parties that want to get right with Lincoln.

Unfortunately, Phillips was bamboozled--as was Paul Kennedy, who cited the quotation in a positive review of the book featured in the Los Angeles Times. The quote's long been known to be a fake, but as Matthew Pinsker pointed out in an essay published by the History News Service in 1999, it's taken in everybody from Newsweek's Jonathan Alter to Warren Beatty. And of course, it's made the rounds on the Internet. [...]

The bogus quotation reads as follows:

'The money power preys upon the nation in times of peace, and it conspires against it in times of adversity. It's more despotic than monarchy. It's more insolent than autocracy. It's more selfish than bureaucracy. . . . Corporations have been enthroned, and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working on the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the republic is destroyed.'

The embarassment of sharing an alma mater with Mr. Phillips obligates me to help clear up his mistakes--no one can account for his increasingly bizarre opinions.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:32 AM


Tonga says its court jester took nest-egg (Andrew Gumbel, 08 June 2002, Independent)
The kingdom of Tonga is not amused. It entrusted its fortune--admittedly a meagre fortune--to the official court jester and promptly lost it in a string of bad investments.

The jester, a Californian investment adviser with a sideline in "wellness" cures, insists he made an honest mistake, but the Tongan government believes he has been laughing all the way to the bank, and is suing to try to recover the money.

Jesse Bogdonoff first became chummy with King Taufaahau Tupou IV as an account manager at the Bank of America in San Francisco. That was where the Tongan leader had parked $26m (about £18m) in government revenues.

Mr Bogdonoff was soon being wined and dined in the Pacific islands and given the official title of court jester. Entrusted with the kingdom's nest-egg, equivalent to half of Tonga's annual income...

...somehow you just know it gets ugly from there, huh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM


AIDS Talk Costs Job : Ahern Asked To Leave Rowland's Office (CARRIE BUDOFF, June 7, 2002 , Hartford Courant)
Nancy Ahern, a New Haven alderwoman, abruptly resigned Thursday from her job as a constituent service aide in Gov. John G. Rowland's office after allegedly making what AIDS activists characterized as inappropriate comments about the spread of the disease.

Rowland's chief of staff, Dean Pagani, called Fred Hammond, executive director of the Interfaith AIDS Ministry of Greater Danbury, to apologize for the comments Ahern apparently made to Hammond during a phone conversation a day earlier.

It was during that phone call that Ahern blamed the spread of AIDS in Connecticut on minority men and homosexuals, Hammond said. She also said prevention programs are ineffective and would be eliminated, he said. Ahern was returning a call that Hammond's group made to Rowland's office regarding funding for AIDS prevention programs. [...]

"I am very happy she is no longer there so her views won't be affecting other people any longer," Hammond said. But what he would really like to see is more money put into AIDS prevention programs, Hammond said.

The failure of the Federal government to profile young male Arab students may have cost 3000 lives on September 11th. The failure to profile homosexual men and target efforts to prevent the spread of AIDs at the gay community may have cost tens, even hundreds, of thousands of lives. To take only the most obvious example, C. Everett Koop became a liberal icon telling gay men to go ahead and have sex as long as they used a condom, despite the notoriously higher failure rate for condoms during anal sex. this misinformation was the result of trying to treat heterosexuals and homosexuals identically, rather than focussing on the at risk group.

But here we are twenty years into the gay men's health crisis and you can still lose your job for stating the obvious? And we wonder why government bureaucrats walk around on eggshells when it comes to special interest and minority groups...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM


FBI Tried for Years to Stifle Dissent, Records Show (Associated Press, June 9, 2002)
The FBI, working covertly with the CIA and then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, spent years unlawfully trying to quash the voices and careers of students and faculty members deemed subversive at the University of California, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. [...]

Reagan intended to mount a "psychological warfare campaign" against subversives, file tax evasion and other charges against them, and do anything else the state could to restore moral order, Herbert Ellingwood, Reagan's legal affairs secretary, told the FBI in a request for confidential information about people on campus. [...]

In 1985, when the FBI released some documents about Reagan, a Reagan spokesman said he had only a "very minor" involvement with the bureau when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. But the records obtained by the Chronicle reveal who it was that Reagan and his first wife, Jane Wyman, named during a 1947 meeting with FBI agents: Larry Parks ("The Jolson Story"), Howard Da Silva ("The Lost Weekend") and Alexander Knox ("Wilson"). Each was later called before the House Un-American Activities Committee and blacklisted in Hollywood.

Cripes, even Reagan's spokesmen think they need to deny he was a whistleblower?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM


U.S. Opens Doors to Tribal Allies From War Long Ago and Far Away : Montagnards Flee Vietnam for North Carolina and Special Forces Friends (Manuel Roig-Franzia, June 9, 2002, Washington Post)
Dem and Gyik got lucky. They were away from home last February when the soldiers, the ones with the pistols and the electric batons, marched into their village in the lush central highlands of Vietnam.

Their luck gave them time. Time to slip soundlessly into the jungle. Time to run. Time to get out of Vietnam.

"We were like rabbits," said Dem, who spoke with the aid of an interpreter. "We crawled in holes."

Dem and Gyik, cousins from the village Plei Klan, joined an anguished and clandestine procession. They traveled through the jungle by night with 26 other Montagnards, a name meaning "Mountain People" given to indigenous tribes of the central highlands, tribes renowned for fighting alongside U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War.

They fled a Vietnamese government crackdown on Montagnards who participated in demonstrations demanding freedom of religion and a return of homelands they say have been illegally seized for conversion into massive rubber and coffee plantations. The journey that began in Plei Klan led Dem and Gyik to a Cambodian refugee camp and finally, after months of diplomatic wrangling, to the international resettlement agencies that ferried them last week to North Carolina.

Montagnards have been settling in North Carolina since the mid-1980s, drawn by the high number of U.S. Special Forces officers who live in the state. More than 3,000 Montagnards now live in North Carolina, according to relief agencies, the largest concentration outside Vietnam.

But never have so many come at once. More than 900 Montagnards, including 200 children, are scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks. Each night brings another planeload, greeted warmly by volunteers and crowds of their countrymen at airports in Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro.

Their arrivals are bittersweet. For years, they fought to stay on their land; now they are resigned to leaving it behind.

And so we skim off the cream of yet another culture.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 AM


GOP wins more backing from black clergy : Pastor turns Republican, supports Perry (JOHN WILLIAMS, June 8, 2002, Houston Chronicle)
For the second time in two years, an African-American minister from Houston took center stage Saturday at a Republican event.

The Rev. C.L. Jackson of Houston's Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church provided a show of support for Gov. Rick Perry by announcing at the Republican State Convention that he is switching parties.

To the cheers of some 8,500 party stalwarts, Jackson said that his two days at the convention convinced him that he now is a Republican after years of being a Democrat.

You'd think the black clergy and religious blacks in general would be an area where the GOP could make some inroads.

June 8, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM


Bush Approval Drops to Post-9/11 Low : But still high historically (David W. Moore, June 7, 2002, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE)
The poll also shows that the decline in Bush's approval comes from Democrats and independents, but not Republicans. Forty-nine percent of Democrats express approval, down 10 points from last week. Independents show a seven-point decline, from 75% at the end of May to 68% today. Republican approval is at 96% in the current poll, off one point from last week but just above the average level since March.

A related study shoiws that all 4% of the dissatisfied Republicans either write for The Weekly Standard or Reason or have their own blog.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


Notable Moments for Kennedy Clan (AP, June 08, 2002)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM


The GOP must win the Hispanic vote. Here's how (Linda Chavez, June 6, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Recent polls suggest that [Republic Gov. Rick] Perry is winning handily among non-Hispanic whites but trails [Democrat businessman Tony ] Sanchez among Hispanic voters by 37 percent to Sanchez's 58 percent. So is it time for the GOP to give up on its Hispanic strategy? Certainly not -- but it could use some fine tuning, and the
Perry-Sanchez race will provide important lessons on the best way to attract Hispanics to the Republican Party in other states as well. [...]

Although Perry's Hispanic numbers don't match Bush's in 1998, they are still surprisingly strong. After all, Perry faces not only the first Hispanic to win the gubernatorial nomination of a major party in the state, but one who spent almost $20 million in the Democratic primary, which bought his opponent, Sanchez, nearly universal name recognition.

Yet Democrat Sanchez isn't doing as well as you might expect. In fact, he's doing better among black voters in the state than he is among Hispanics. Some 67 percent of black
voters indicated on a recent poll that they favor Sanchez, almost 10 percent higher than Sanchez's share of the Hispanic vote.

All of which suggests that maybe some Hispanic voters don't so much vote for Republican candidates as they do against certain kinds of Democrats, even if they happen to be Hispanic.

In almost every case where Republicans have done well with Hispanic voters, the Democratic candidate was left-leaning. Although Sanchez is frequently described as a
conservative businessman -- he donated heavily to President Bush's campaigns for governor and president -- he ran as the more liberal candidate against another Hispanic in the Democratic primary, former state attorney general Dan Morales. What's more, Sanchez especially tried to outflank Morales on the language issue.

One of the main complaints you hear from conservatives who don't want the party to appeal to minority voters is that it will require too many compromises with our own beliefs. That's a legitimate concern. It would be a mistake to merely pander for votes. But if we truly believe in our own ideas, don't we have to assume that they have appeal across racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines? Suppose winning a significant portion Latino vote doesn't require us to change our ideas much at all, but merely to change the attitude we take towards these voters. What do we really have to lose by making them feel wanted?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


OBIT : Dee Dee Ramone (Daily Telegraph, 08/06/2002)
Dee Dee Ramone married Barbara Zampini in 1997. He was found dead by his wife on Wednesday at the house they shared at Hollywood. Investigators at the scene said they had found "drug paraphernalia", and his death was being attributed to a possible drug overdose.

In an interview published 18 months ago, Dee Dee Ramone said: "I'm really lucky I'm still around. Everybody expected me to die next . . . But it was always someone else instead of me."

No, they won't show this, will they?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


My friends, there sits before you a broken man, a shattered man, an empty shell of a once proud pontificator, the desiccated husk of a formerly haughty know-it-all. For I have been duped in precisely the way I always attack others for being, have fallen like Robert Shaw in The Sting, like Chamberlain at Munich, like Newt for Clinton, like the Weekly Standard for McCain, like Marian the Librarian for Harold Hill... I, my friends, am a fool. I have no excuses to offer you, no justifications, no factors that mitigate against my credulousness. I just bought the story hook, line, and sinker. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa...

I refer, of course, to the recent interview that White House Chief of Staff Andy Card gave to Esquire. Here's how the NY Times characterized the story :

Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, is anguished over the announced departure of the presidential adviser Karen P. Hughes, saying she had been an essential counterweight to Karl Rove, a hard-charging and more ideological adviser, according to Esquire magazine.

In extensive remarks in the magazine's July issue, Mr. Card said Ms. Hughes's departure would deeply disrupt a tenuous balance of power among President Bush's closest associates. "Listen, the president's in a state of denial about what Karen's departure will mean, so is the first lady, and so is Karen herself," Mr. Card told Esquire.

"The whole balance of the place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush, is gone, simply gone," he said. "My biggest concern? Want to know what it is? That the president will lose confidence in the White House staff. Because without her, we'll no longer be able to provide the president what he needs, what he demands."

Mr. Card's remarks are notable not only for what they reveal about the personal and ideological conflict within the senior White House staff, but also because so few Bush advisers have been willing to talk openly about internal matters in the highly disciplined Bush White House.

And, like a classic mark, I accepted this at face value. Like many others, I was eager to see this as one of those David Stockman moments, when the innards of the White House accidentally get splattered across the front page. I opined that this was the kind of disloyalty that the Bush's couldn't stand and that Mr. Card had likely just signed his own death warrant. What a gullible poltroon I am, having failed to apply all of the most basic techniques required in reading between the lines of a story.

First, when you read a story in which someone within an administration reveals something hush-hush about the administration the most important thing to keep in mind is what purpose is served by the revelation. Who benefits from a story that says that ultra-conservatives now control the White House and that the only thing standing between the Republic and the reactionaries led by Karl Rove is Andy Card? The answer is, of course, that three men are served well by the story : Karl Rove, Andy Card, and George W. Bush.

After all, what are the main problems on the President's plate right now. The war is taking care of itself. The major domestic initiatives all passed. The economy isn't exactly humming, but it's at least waddling along. All the President really has to deal with right now is getting through this Fall's budget negotiations with the Democrat Senate and quieting some inside-the-beltway unrest on his Right flank. To do the first he needs Andy Card, to be seen as The Man. To do the second he needs Karl Rove to be seen as The Man. Mr. Card's interview makes both appear to be the case.

Mr. Card will, after all, be the one who negotiates the final budget deals, not the President himself and certainly not Karl Rove, a mere political advisor. And what do Mr. Card's comments do?--they put him in a position to tell the Democrats : "Hey look, my offer's the best you're gonna get. Turn me down and you're dealing with the real whackos back at the White House." In one fell swoop, Andy Card has become the most important man in Washington, as far as Democrats are concerned. He's their Great White Hope.

Meanwhile, even as he stands at 70+% in the polls, Mr. Bush faces criticism from neoconservatives, libertarians, and the most doctrinaire of movement conservatives for not being enough of an ideologue, for compromising on school vouchers and free trade and for not attacking Iraq on September 10th. The voices being raised against him are few in number, but they are influential in Party circles and, particularly in the cases of Bill Kristol and Rush Limbaugh, they are loud. So a story that "reveals" the White House to being falling into the clutches of a gang of crypto-conservatives serves to counterbalance these complaints. Suddenly, Karl Rove is no mere consultant, he's the eminence grise who will work his wily ways and secure conservative victories, regardless of the moderate public face of the administration.

And what of President Bush? He's got King Karl to keep the red-meat Republicans quiet and he's got Andy to deal with the Democrats. All this strategy requires is that he be more interested in the bottom line than what goes on above the fold. If all three of these guys just want the administration to succeed, the interview is explicable, even savvy, and this seeming breech of what has otherwise been remarkable message discipline and loyalty among the senior staff can be seen as a remarkable instance of that discipline and loyalty as the three key players take a short term press hit that yields long term strategic gains. Of course, if Card really was freelancing, and was serious in what he said, then it's time for the Night of the Long Knives.

If the latter, I'll be sorry for Mr. Card as he's led to the woodshed, but it will assuage some of my embarrassment. If the former, I must learn to live with the fact that I bought this con like a blue state yokel purchasing the Brooklyn Bridge from a red state hustler. Mea culpa...mea culpa...mea maxima culpa....

Plan Was Formed in Utmost Secrecy : Final Proposal Came From 4 Top Bush Aides; Most Others Out of Loop (Dana Milbank, June 7, 2002, Washington Post)

Veterans of the Clinton administration expressed grudging admiration. Could this have been kept secret in the Clinton White House? "Quite honestly? Unlikely," said David Leavy, spokesman for the National Security Council under Clinton. "They have a very small loop in terms of top-line information, and that allows them to control news flow in a way you have to admire."

On [April 23], White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., Ridge, White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales and Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. convened their working group to create the cabinet-level entity. They relied on a few other top aides, including Card deputies Joseph Hagin and Joshua Bolten. [...]

Even some of the most senior Bush aides, including counselor Karen P. Hughes, political strategist Karl Rove, Fleischer and speechwriter Michael Gerson, didn't join the process until last week, officials said. As of Wednesday, officials said, fewer than 20 aides had knowledge of the plan. [...]

[Deputy Communications Director Jim] Wilkinson said it was a triumph of the White House's no-leak strategy. "The president makes the news and calls the plays -- we just run the plays he calls," he said.

Note how Andy Card did the deal and Hughes and Rove didn't even know about it? Note how tightly the info was held? Note how massively the Esquire interview conflicts with the picture of White House operations?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM


Bush's Big Speech : It was the one at West Point, not the one on homeland security. (Fred Barnes, 06/17/2002, Weekly Standard)
Every so often a presidential speech excites the Washington press corps and generates extravagant coverage. The West Point address did not. That distinction went to Bush's brief talk to the nation on June 6 proposing a vast, new Department of Homeland Security. The next day, the Washington Post had four front-page stories on the subject, plus tease lines pointing to two more pieces inside the paper. The West Point speech got one story. The problem was few reporters understood the message of the West Point speech or, in the jargon of Bush aides, "broke the code." Yet it was an extraordinarily significant speech, far more so than the TV address.

What was so important about it? A senior White House aide has a one-word answer: "Preemption." This is both a word the president had never used before and a strategic concept he hadn't fully articulated. Bush touched on it in his State of the Union address last January, saying he will not allow terrorists or nations that harbor terrorists to become a threat to America. "I will not stand by as peril grows closer and closer," he said then. The president told aides he wanted to be more "explicit" at West Point, and he was. "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," he declared in the speech. Instead, America will take "preemptive action when necessary." Bush didn't single out Iraq by name, but that's the country he believes already threatens to hand weapons of mass destruction to terrorists or to take action itself. So the speech had a message: Flare-ups may occur in other parts of the world, but the United States won't be distracted from the imperative of military action to remove Saddam Hussein in Iraq. [...]

A phenomenon of presidential speeches is that comments which begin as mere talking points sometimes wind up as policy. This is quickly becoming the case with Bush's belief that Islamic countries must inevitably embrace democracy. In his State of the Union address, he made a fleeting reference to America's support for people who advocate democratic values, "including in the Islamic world." Bush and his advisers were surprised this line drew little attention. He elaborated on it at West Point, and again the Bush camp was surprised at the meager press attention. "The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation," he said. "Mothers and fathers and children across the Islamic world, and all the world, share the same fears and aspirations." I doubt if Bush made this point when Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia visited him in April. But if he keeps saying it, it will become an issue he'll have to pursue with Arab leaders, probably after Saddam Hussein is ousted.

I'm perfectly willing to acknowledge there's a significant amount of wishful thinking going on here, but you get the feeling that if we're all just patient, things are going to work out the way we want them to.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


The Wiffle Effect : Wiffle ball goes big time-well, not so big (Lee Green, June 2002, The Atlantic Monthly)
If the phrase "organized adult Wiffle ball" has a slightly ludicrous ring to it, that's because we invariably associate the white plastic sphere with childhood, backyard fields, and quirky ground rules. A one-hopper off the tool shed was a double, a shot over the boxwood hedge was a home run, and a foul ball into the fenced province of the neighbors' dog meant the game was over.

That version of the sport still exists, fostering, as one enthusiast's Web site puts it, "the ruining of America's backyards." But in the mid-1990s isolated groups of adult players-usually in their twenties or thirties-discovered on the Internet that plenty of others out there shared their passion. Adult tournaments have been around for years, particularly in the Northeast, where the Wiffle tradition runs long and deep, but competitive adult Wiffle ball has now grown into a thriving subculture of self-described "touring pros," structured competitions, cash prizes, and slick playing fields. Forget the boxwood hedges; these guys swing for low, Fenway-green outfield fences eighty to 110 feet from home plate. And forget those plastic Wiffle bats, too. "That little yellow bat just doesn't cut it today, especially against the pitchers you're facing," says Mike Palinczar, the organizer of two annual tournaments in Trenton, New Jersey, and one of the game's premier pitchers. "If you're up there with a yellow bat, you might as well give up." Today's players wield sturdier plastic or aluminum bats (including one manufactured by Palinczar) with names like Ledge Sledge, King Stick, and Wiffle Pro. A carbon-graphite model, the Moonshot, sells for $120.

There aren't ten soccer players in the world who throw a wiffle ball any better than your mother.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 AM


Fears over US-S Korea match (BBC, 8 June, 2002)
Around 5,000 police will be present at the game South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has been advised not to attend his country's World Cup football match against the United States for security reasons.

Authorities are worried that anti-US protests may erupt at the game, especially if the South Korean side loses.

So all week we've been hearing about how stupid Americans are for not appreciating this beautiful event, where all the World's cares are forgotten and rivalries are played out on the greensward. Here it turns out that if we beat S. Korea they'll lynch their president? Why couldn't we have had that policy in effect here for baseball when the Americans lost to the Toronto Blue Jays?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM


Sallow George Is No More Callow George : Be nice to Stephanopoulos, he's a good egg. (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, June 7, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Mr. Stephanopoulos does have a clear advantage over many others in his chosen field. Unlike Mr. Donaldson and Ms. Roberts, he has experience--and rather recent experience at that--of working at the highest levels of government. This is not unlike having a former player or coach calling "Monday Night Football" in the announcer's booth.

The problem would be that only three former athletes or coaches have ever added anything to our understanding of the sports they cover : Hank Stram, Tim McCarver, and John Madden. It remains to be seen whether Mr. Stephanopoulos is more of a Madden or more of a Joe Garagiola.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Jewish Web site sparkles, starves (Lou Marano, 6/1/2002, UPI)
Binyamin Jolkovsky is a man with a mission.

For five years the 33-year-old has produced his high-quality conservative Web site, Jewish World Review, from a Brooklyn attic on a wing, a prayer and three or four hours' sleep a night. Will he be able to make it financially viable before his health gives out?

Jolkovsky's wife, a systems analyst in Manhattan, has given him a deadline to pay himself a salary. Maybe some day he can even hire an assistant. Testimonials to Jolkovsky's editorial skills come from far and wide, but fundraising is another matter. [...]

"There's no ad revenue coming in, and that's the model we've been using," he said. "We're about to make an emergency appeal, and it depends on how the readers respond."

If you do nothing else worthwhile today, click through to JWR and subscribe to the free daily mailing. Help a brother whose wife thinks his website should pay him a salary...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


In Washington, Mixed Reviews for Homeland Department : Unions Say They Will Oppose Consolidation; Critics Say Reorganization May Not Be Effective (Ellen Nakashima and Edward Walsh, June 7, 2002, Washington Post)
...union leaders who represent government workers announced they will oppose it...

Further proof, if any was needed, that government em[ployees should not be allowed to unionize--these folks would rather keep their jobs than streamline the security apparatus.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 AM


Sex Differences in the Brain : Men and women display patterns of behavioral and cognitive differences that reflect varying hormonal influences on brain development (Doreen Kimura, June 2002, Scientific American)
Men and women differ not only in their physical attributes and reproductive function but also in many other characteristics, including the way they solve intellectual problems. For the past few decades, it has been ideologically fashionable to insist that these behavioral differences are minimal and are the consequence of variations in experience during development before and after adolescence. Evidence accumulated more recently, however, suggests that the effects of sex hormones on brain organization occur so early in life that from the start the environment is acting on differently wired brains in boys and girls. Such effects make evaluating the role of experience, independent of physiological predisposition, a difficult if not dubious task. The biological bases of sex differences in brain and behavior have become much better known through increasing numbers of behavioral, neurological and endocrinological studies.

It says much about the politicization of everything that we actually require science to tell us for certain what any mildly observant person should know beyond a shadow of a doubt, thaty men and women are different. But if you want to see just how deranged political correctness can be, check out what this quack did to this poor kid.

June 7, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 PM


IMPATIENCE IS NOT A FOREIGN POLICY (Patrick Ruffini, 06.07.02)
It's just not in the Democrats' nature to feign a profoundly alien neocon foreign policy critique when what they'd really rather be talking about domestic policy. The only one who would is Joe Lieberman, and does anyone seriously think he'll be nominated, especially when Gore has shown he can skate through just fine pretending September 11 never happened? The protestations of Matt's misguided friend notwithstanding, most of the serious foreign policy ideas of the last decade have been thought out by conservatives working in the Bush Administration or near it. During the campaign, all Gore had a shadowy, reclusive foreign policy adviser named Leon Feurth. At least Gore has that. John Kerry and John Edwards have even less. Furthermore, Democratic primary voters don't vote on foreign policy, so this speculation all becomes highly academic once you step out of the bipartisan neocon-warblogger-Likudnik world we inhabit. By far the more likely scenario is that the Dems will just muddle through their foreign policy, hoping the war ends soon, rather than launching some grandiose right-wing attack on President Bush.

Despite a few wobbly moments this week--he's actually threatening to root against the U.S. in that Korean Kickball Tourney if we face the Italians--Patrick Ruffini redeems himself with an excellent post that puts paid to the delusion that a Democrat could run to President Bush's right on the war.

Here's all I'd add :
This last bit is particularly important as a domestic political consideration--and don't we all in the darkest secret parts of our hearts enjoy the domestic politics more than even the geopolitics?

Without being overly cynical, you have to wonder if last night's speech isn't in good part aimed at the midterm election. Debate and legislation of this new Department will suck all the air out of every domestic initiative and keep Congress tied up on what is fundamentally a Republican issue.

Democrats, as you say, don't have their heart in this but have to weigh in on it and be seen to be cooperating. Meanwhile, all the stuff they want to talk about--Social Security, Medicare, pensions, etc.--gets shunted to the side or else they look like they're blocking this "important national security issue". You can just see Trent Lott : Gee Mr. Daschle, we'd love to talk about parts per billion of chromiocyclamate being released into the air, but we were actually in the middle of "the most important government restructuring since the American Revolution"...

Even if that's not the intent, that's one of the effects, isn't it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


The Bush doctrine makes nonsense of the UN charter : In a chilling u-turn, the US claims the right to strike pre-emptively (Jonathan Steele, June 7, 2002, The Guardian)
The cluster of Israeli F-16s took off in desert sunshine on one of the most daring missions of modern times. Flying low through Jordanian, Saudi and Iraqi airspace they reached Baghdad little more than an hour later. The gleaming dome of Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak was easy to spot. The Israeli pilots released their bombs and within 80 seconds the plant was a pile of ruins.

The world was outraged by Israel's raid on June 7 1981. "Armed attack in such circumstances cannot be justified. It represents a grave breach of international law," Margaret Thatcher thundered. Jeane Kirkpatrick, the US ambassador to the UN and as stern a lecturer as Britain's then prime minister, described it as "shocking" and compared it to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. American newspapers were as fulsome. "Israel's sneak attack... was an act of inexcusable and short-sighted aggression," said the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times called it "state-sponsored terrorism".

The greatest anger erupted at the UN. Israel claimed Saddam Hussein was trying to develop nuclear weapons and it was acting in self-defence, which is legal under Article 51 of the UN charter. Other countries did not agree. They saw no evidence that Iraq's nuclear energy programme, then in its infancy and certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency as peaceful, could be described as military, aggressive or directed against a particular country. In any case, pre-emptive action by one country against another country which offers no imminent threat is illegal.

The UN security council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Israeli raid. The US usually vetoes UN attempts to censure Israel but this time Washington joined in. The Reagan administration even blocked deliveries of new F-16s to its close ally. There was an element of hypocrisy in the condemnation of Israel, at least in the US. Reagan sent the F-16s a few months later. But policymakers and ordinary people around the world clearly sensed that Israel's pre-emptive strike took us all to the top of a slippery slope. If pre-emption was accepted as legal, the fragile structure of international peace would be undermined. Any state could attack any other under the pretext that it detected a threat, however distant.

Since then we have begun to slip down the slope.

Left incredulous, I had to read this column several times to be sure it wasn't a joke, but it is apparently Mr. Steele's point that even with what we know in retrospect it was a bad thing for Israel to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons--that in fact it is always a bad thing for nations to strike preemptively. He goes on to argue that even our actions in Afghanistan this past fall were technically illegal. If this is what international law consists of then the sooner we repudiate it entirely the better.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Look at Key Senate 2002 Races (The Associated Press, June 7, 2002)
A look at 10 states that could be critical in deciding whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate after the 2002 elections.

Here's how they rank them :


ARKANSAS: Incumbent Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson vs. Democrat Mark Pryor, state attorney general.

COLORADO: Incumbent Republican Sen. Wayne Allard vs. Tom Strickland, a former U.S. attorney

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Sen. Bob Smith or Rep. John Sununu vs. Governor Jeanne Shaheen

TEXAS: Democrat Ron Kirk vs. Attorney General John Cornyn

NORTH CAROLINA: Elizabeth Dole vs. Erskine Bowles


IOWA: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin vs. GOP Rep. Greg Ganske.

MINNESOTA: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone vs. Norm Coleman, former mayor of St. Paul

MISSOURI: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan vs. Jim Talent, a former member of Congress who narrowly lost the governor's race in 2000.

SOUTH DAKOTA: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson vs. Rep. John Thune.

GEORGIA: Incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland vs. either Rep. Saxby Chambliss or state lawmaker Bob Irvin

In a normal mid-term election, you'd expect several of the weak GOP incumbents to get knocked off and the dubious Democrat incumbents to pull through. What the war does is make all the incumbents somewhat safer--because of peoples' more positive feelings towards government and a reluctance to rock the boat too much. So the really interesting races are the open seats and there you have to think that the fact that Texas is a Republican state will carry Cornyn through and the Clinton baggage may prove too much for Bowles to shake in what remains a conservative, though not necessarily Republican, North Carolina.

What remains to be seen is whether President Bush can translate his personal popularity into support for his party. In the past couple cycles where popular presidents had this kind of opportunity Reagan chose not to put his prestige on the line and Clinton, despite his poll numbers in 1998, was considered a liability by Democrat candidates. For Bush to make a decisive difference this time he'd have to first of all make the effort and second of all have a set of new proposals for which he could claim he needed GOP assistance in Congress. Both of these steps are far more daring than anything the President or Karl Rove seem willing to attempt. They seem willing to settle for winning re-election in 2004, which means that the significant portions of Bush presidency may effectively be over by the end of this year, just as the Reagan presidency (with the exception of tax reform) was over by the end of 1982.

It is still, of course, well worth retaining appointment power (particularly where the judiciary is concerned) and oversight of regulation and wielding the veto pen, so it is not a complete waste to simply seek to keep power. Yet, these ambitions are far too niggardly. They betray a willingness to settle for competent mediocrity. Even though there are real political dangers involved in such a course, it would be heartening to say Bush and company aim high and stake their careers on real reform : privatization of Social Security; Medical Savings Accounts; flat tax; school vouchers; drastic downsizing of government--to no more than six cabinet offices; etc. Aim high and try to win big. It worked in 1994, on the electoral level, if not the legislation level. If they tried it again and won Congress while retaining the presidency they could even get some of the stuff done. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

GOP Looks to Shift Power in Senate : Republicans Aim to Gain Power in Senate Contests, Where Democrats Hold One-Vote Lead (The Associated Press, 6/07/02)

Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a physician, says Republicans "have more patients" but Democrats "have more in intensive care" referring to Democratic incumbents in Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota.

In addition to those three states, Republicans are looking at Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in Georgia. Democrats have their eye on Republican incumbents in Arkansas, Colorado, New Hampshire and Oregon.

The battle for control has shifted, with Republicans adjusting their target states and Democrats looking forward to the retirement of four Republican incumbents in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Texas.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM


U.S. Hostage Dies in Philippines Rescue Attempt : One Filipino Hostage Also Killed When U.S-Trained Soldiers Strike (Jim Gomez, June 7, 2002, The Associated Press)
U.S.-trained troops raided a Philippine hideout Friday to end a year-long hostage crisis, freeing one American but triggering a gunfight that killed her husband.

A third captive was also reported shot, but soldiers on the scene said they had not found her body.

Martin Burnham, a missionary from Wichita, Kan., was killed by a gunshot during the raid near the town of Siraway, said Gen. Narciso Abaya, the Philippine deputy military chief of staff.

Gracia Burnham was being operated on in a military hospital in the southern city of Zamboanga, said Maj. Gen. Ernesto Carolina, commander of Philippine forces in the south.

"She's here already," Carolina told reporters. "She is being operated on. It's a gunshot wound. She's talking. She's out of danger."

Abaya said Ediborah Yap, a Filipino nurse kidnapped shortly after the Burnhams, was shot in the rescue operation and died of her wounds. However, troops at the site said they had not found her body.

Four of the kidnappers were killed and several soldiers wounded, Abaya said.

Philippine officers said U.S. helicopters, part of a 1,000-strong contingent of U.S. troops advising Filipinos fighting the Abu Sayyaf, were retrieving more wounded from the clash scene.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no U.S. troops were directly involved in the raid and that the American counterterrorism training program in the Philippines would continue.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Burnham family--would that they could have been rescued with no loss of life.

Still, this is good news from the larger perspective. Nine months ago we were all stunned to see that radical Islamic terrorism had a global reach--today we see that Western anti-terrorism has the same reach and a more powerful fist with which to strike.

June 6, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


Incumbent Mass. Sen. Kerry has no major party challenger (Associated Press, 6/06/02)
Sen. John Kerry's only Republican challenger failed to qualify for the ballot Wednesday, leaving the incumbent Democrat with no major party opposition.

That's just humiliating for the GOP.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


Democrats' Old Habits Resurfacing in Plans to Win Congress (Ronald Brownstein, June 3, 2002, LA Times)
Something old. Something old.
Something old. Something old.

And, incidentally, something new.

That is what congressional Democrats have produced in the five-point plan they are taking to voters for this year's midterm election. In case you missed it, Democrats last month produced a five-point message card meant to show the priorities they would pursue if given majorities in the House and Senate this fall.

It's a document Walter F. Mondale would have felt comfortable distributing. [...]

Four of them are long-standing party priorities: protecting Social Security and opposing Republican efforts to partially privatize it; creating a prescription drug benefit for seniors under Medicare; increasing spending on education; toughening enforcement of clean air and clean water laws. The something (relatively) new is a pledge to "provide real pension protection" in the wake of the Enron Corp. collapse.

Leave it to the Democrats--they come up with their own Contract with America and it was apparently written in 1930.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


The Future of 'History' (Stanley Kurtz, June & July 2002, Policy Review)
This is Samuel P. Huntington's moment. The world of cultural and religious strife anticipated by Huntington in his much-discussed (and widely excoriated) book, The Clash of Civilizations, has unquestionably arrived. Yet whether we might also someday see an alternative world - the global triumph of democracy envisioned in Francis Fukuyama's brilliant work, The End of History and the Last Man - is also a question that seems very much before us as we contemplate what it would mean to 'win' the war in which we are engaged. The question of our time may now be whether Huntington's culture clash or Fukuyama's pax democratia is the world's most plausible future. [...]

[T]he resolution between Fukuyama and Huntington is still in doubt. Huntington was right about a conflict in the offing between the Middle East and the West. But we still don't know whether that clash is just the beginning of a long-term civilizational stand-off or a stimulus to democracy's and capitalism's final and successful push to establish themseleves around the world.

Mike Daley recommended this terrific essay that contrasts and compares two books I like very much and have reviewed previously : The Clash of Civilizations and The End of History and the Last Man.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 PM


True Confessions : a review of Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative by David Brock (Jane Mayer, June 27, 2002, The New York Review of Books)
In March of 1992, a sensational investigative report by an unknown journalist was published in a little-read magazine. Though it wasn't clear at the time, David Brock's article, "The Real Anita Hill," which appeared in the American Spectator, marked the beginning of one of the nastiest decades in American political history.

Okay, at the urging of Tapped, I had every intention of reading this review. This despite the fact that both of the books that I've read by Jane Mayer--Landslide : The Unmaking of the President, 1984-1988 and Strange Justice : The Selling of Clarence Thomas--and her Linda Tripp expose for The New Yorker, were absurdly partisan and paranoid Lefty hatchet jobs, not unlike those Brock used to be paid to be paid to write for the lunatic Right. But the above is the first sentence of her review and I defy anyone who was conscious during the second half of the 20th Century to read that line without laughing aloud.

We'll set aside McCarthyism, the struggle between civil rights activists and segregationists, Vietnam, Watergate, Central America, the Bork hearings, etc. We'll even grant her, for the sake of argument, that the 1990s were especially nasty. But how, in the name of all that's holy, can you claim that the nastiness of the '90s begins with the expose of Anita Hill, rather than with the testimony of Anita Hill?

Let's recall, after all, that the entirety of Ms Hill's brief against Mr. Thomas was that he asked her out, admired her endowment, asked if she'd seen a particular porn flick, and quoted The Exorcist to the effect that there was a pubic hair on his Coke can (a pickup line that I've always found surprisingly ineffective). He never touched her. Never threatened her. Never retaliated against her. In fact, he wrote her recommendations and helped her find new positions. If everything she said is true it would leave us with a diminished impression of Mr. Thomas's manners and no reason whatsoever to believe he's unfit for the bench. Yet she, despite the help he had provided, participated in an attempt by liberal special interest groups to derail his nomination.

Still, Ms Mayer would have us believe that the nastiness began only when Ms Hill's own background became an issue the next year? This is self-pitying Left victimology at its most repellant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


President to Propose Department of Homeland Security (Office of the Press Secretary, June 6, 2002, White House)
The Organization of the Department of Homeland Security

The Department of Homeland Security would have a clear and efficient organizational structure with four divisions:

Border and Transportation Security
Emergency Preparedness and Response
Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection

Great, just what America needs, more bureaucracy. The only way it would make any sense is if you put the FBI, CIA, Coast Guard, INS, ATF, etc. under the control of this Department.

Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation (Office of the Press Secretary, June 6, 2002, White House)

Attacks-Bush Glance (The Associated Press, 6/6/02)

President Bush's proposed Department of Homeland Security, if approved by Congress, would draw from the budgets and jurisdictions of eight current
Cabinet departments or Cabinet-level agencies, including:

--Justice Department: ...would lose the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Office of Domestic Preparedness and the Domestic Emergency Support Team, as well as the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center. [...]

--Treasury Department: ...would lose the Customs Service and the Secret Service. [...]

--Transportation Department: ...would lose the Coast Guard and the fledgling Transportation Security Administration. [...]

--Health and Human Services Department: ...lose all workers doing bioterrorism research, preparation and response. [...]

--Agriculture Department: ...lose the Plant Health Inspection Service and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. [...]

--Energy Department: ... lose the nuclear incident response team and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [...]

--Commerce Department:...lose the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office. [...]

--Defense Department: ...lose the National Communications Systems division. [...]

--The General Services Administration: ...lose the Federal Computer Incident Response Center and the Federal Protective Service. [...]

--The Federal Emergency Management Agency, now an independent agency, would be folded into the new department's emergency response and preparedness division.

That's a start...but it's truly bizarre that the new agency got no intelligence gathering capability. Why not make the FBI just a domestic intelligence service--targeted solely at terror and subversion--and the CIA a foreign intelligence service--detailed to study only threats to U.S. security--and put both in this new Department?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:31 PM


The emerging confused GOPer? (Matt Towery, June 6, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Several weeks ago, this column suggested that political insiders were noticing evidence that the 2002 election cycle might be much like the one of 10 years ago. The 1992 national election brought to the polls many voters who viewed the country as adrift.

Now top GOP political strategists reportedly are beginning to get seriously worried that the mistakes of elections past might be getting ready for a repeat performance now, in this age of more rapid and sophisticated political communications.

On Monday, Matt Drudge informed the army of visitors to his Web site what conservative icon Rush Limbaugh had already told his own loyal legions -- that conservatism had apparently been "hijacked." While Limbaugh's comments were primarily reserved for the Bush administration's apparent flip-flop on the issue of global warming -- Bush now says it's a man-made problem -- top Republican strategists reportedly have more to worry about than just a government report that spells out the believed human causes and future negative effects of an environmental phenomenon that Bush once refused to even acknowledge.

The Republicans are concerned that other Bush-led initiatives, such as his siding with Senate Democrats over amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens, and his flirtation with a massive and aggressive build-up of the IRS, are new potential sources of alienation of the far right. [...]

Significantly, Bush's strong approval ratings have been coming not only from the traditional Republican voter, but also from moderate Democrats, whom this column identified last March as "Bush Democrats." The question now appears to be whether the administration's apparent move to the center -- or as some might suggest, left of center on issues such as global warming -- will further strengthen his appeal to these otherwise traditional Democratic voters, many of whom indicated in our March poll that they would likely support Bush in 2004.

Even if Bush continues to pick up crossover support from Democrats, will his recent actions keep Republicans excited about their party's congressional candidates this fall -- most of whom are unlikely to garner many traditional Democrat votes?

It used to be easy for Republicans to hold Democrats in contempt--we were the ideologically pure, and therefore tiny, party. They were the vast agglomeration of special interest groups that a presidential candidate had to pander to. While we cleaved unshakably to a few set principles, nearly all anti-government in some shape or form, they seemed always to be on the verge of being cloven by wrangling between the Naders, the Sister Boom-booms, the Jesse Jacksons, the various Kennedys, the union bosses, etc.. They were a sloppy mess--we were a tidy little clique of clean cut
dweebs of whom Phyllis Schlafly could be proud. Of course, they just happened to control the government for seventy years--that was the one big advantage of cobbling together all those disputatious groups. So while we sneered, they ran America.

Now there's a chance, and only a chance mind you, that the GOP might be able to return to the majority party status that it enjoyed from the Civil War until the Depression. We might get a chance to undo some of the damage left over from the New Deal, the Great Society, and the Cold War. We might be able to reduce the size of government and return power and responsibility to individuals. We might...we might...we might...

But a really interesting phenomenon is taking hold within the party : its activists and ideologues seem to be more interested in maintaining ideological purity than in governing, more concerned with strict adherence to conservative dogma than with the types of compromises that could actually put into effect certain aspects of the conservative program. So rather than attract Hispanic voters, whose ethos of hard work, emphasis on the importance of family, and belief in Catholicism should make them natural conservative voters, the old liners in the party want to fight immigration tooth and nail. Rather than win the education issue, the zealots would rather have vetoed the Education bill because it didn't have vouchers. Etc., etc., etc....

A small but significant group of inside the Beltway operatives and pundits seems determined to enforce ideology even if it means Republicans remain a minority party. These people would rather be always right about their ideas and never achieve anything than to compromise on occasion and win great victories. They are horrified at the fact that the Party has begun to appeal to voters outside the Republican mainstream. They see poll numbers in the 70s and all they can make of it is that their previously private preserve is being infiltrated by unbelievers. (One is reminded of Yogi Berra's comment about a fashionable night spot : No one ever goes there anymore, it's too crowded.) Like the Jacobins of France or the Bolsheviks of the Soviet Union, these folks seem to want to see the revolution eat its own. And when the last tumbrel rolls away from the last guillotine and the last boxcar rolls away from the last reeducation camp, who will have won?--not the conservative/libertarian ideologues, but the Democrats. The lasting monument of this brand of Rightist fanaticism will be the authoritarian Welfare state, which they'll never have compromised with, but whose final victory they'll have assured. How odd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Bush Aide Reveals Worry Over Loss of Adviser (CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS, June 6, 2002, NY Times)
Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, is anguished over the announced departure of the presidential adviser Karen P. Hughes, saying she had been an essential counterweight to Karl Rove, a hard-charging and more ideological adviser, according to Esquire magazine.

In extensive remarks in the magazine's July issue, Mr. Card said Ms. Hughes's departure would deeply disrupt a tenuous balance of power among President Bush's closest associates. "Listen, the president's in a state of denial about what Karen's departure will mean, so is the first lady, and so is Karen herself," Mr. Card told Esquire.

"The whole balance of the place, the balance of what has worked up to now for George Bush, is gone, simply gone," he said. "My biggest concern? Want to know what it is? That the president will lose confidence in the White House staff. Because without her, we'll no longer be able to provide the president what he needs, what he demands."

Mr. Card's remarks are notable not only for what they reveal about the personal and ideological conflict within the senior White House staff, but also because so few Bush advisers have been willing to talk openly about internal matters in the highly disciplined Bush White House.

The Bush family values loyalty above all other virtues. Going to the press to complain about a matter like this is pretty nearly suicidal. Time to start looking for a new Chief of Staff.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


Bush Should Keep Faith to Himself (Robert Reno, June 4, 2002, Newsday)
Someone must tell President George W. Bush that there are reasons why the Founding Fathers separated church and state and that one of them was that they wanted to avoid the faith-based bickering that drenched Europe in blood after 1517 and eventually led to a conflict known as the Thirty Years' War.

Or someone might tell Mr. Reno that the Founders believed so little in this "separation" that in the very first pronouncement by the newly instituted Federal Government, the Father of our country had this to say :
[I]t would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

But then maybe Robert Reno knows more about this stuff than George Washington, who merely presided over the Constitutional Convention, did.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Engaging Iran, slowly (Amitai Etzioni, 6/04/02, Christian Science Monitor)
Iran now tops the State Department's list of seven terrorist-sponsoring states. After 10 days in Iran--four cities, 60 interviews--I have little doubt that the United States is better off engaging Iran, as it does China, rather than trying to isolate it, as it does Iraq.

Regrettably, it is also clear that President Bush's axis-of-evil speech stopped most Iranian reformers cold. Since that address, the reformers' often valiant struggle (some were in jail, some were shot) for a more liberal Islam suddenly seemed unpatriotic, as Iran expects to be attacked by the US sooner or later.

Although the reformers' support is widely based (they have repeatedly won more than 70 percent of the vote), the mainspring of their support is anticlerical, protesting the long list of dictates the unpopular mullahs have imposed on everything personal - from dating to drinking.

However, I did not find any among the scores of Iranians openly criticizing the hard-liners who did not view themselves as patriotic Iranians. Hence, for now, the reformers feel they must lie low. "We don't want to be seen as weakening our nation when under siege," one of their key leaders told an American visitor.

This is particularly disconcerting as Iran, a non-Arab country, was on its way to becoming easily the most liberal nation in the region.

Including Iran in the Axis seems like the one significant misstep the administration has made thus far. Iran could be a windfall, we needn't shake the tree and surely don't need to cut it down. (How's that for an extended metaphor?)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Must journalists choose job or patriotism? (Robert Jensen, June 5, 2002, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
"Are you an American first, or are you a journalist?"

Unfortunately, that question -- posed to a journalists' meeting in Salt Lake City in April by distinguished newsman Bill Kovach -- is necessary after Sept. 11, as the few who dared critique the rush to war were attacked for being insufficiently patriotic. Too many journalists responded to the post-9/11 hyper-nationalism by waving the flag, literally and figuratively.

For those of us who saw two of America's leading journalists disgrace themselves and their "profession" on PBS thirteen years ago, that question has long been answered. Here's an account from MediaWatch (April 1989)
In a future war involving U.S. soldiers what would a TV reporter do if he learned the enemy troops with which he was traveling were about to launch a surprise attack on an American unit? That's just the question Harvard University professor Charles Ogletree Jr, as moderator of PBS' Ethics in America series, posed to ABC anchor PeterJennings and 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace. Both agreed getting ambush footage for the evening news would come before warning the U.S. troops.

For the March 7 installment on battlefield ethics Ogletree set up a theoretical war between the North Kosanese and the U.S.-supported South Kosanese. At first Jennings responded: "If I was with a North Kosanese unit that came upon Americans, I think I personally would do what I could to warn the Americans."

Wallace countered that other reporters, including himself, "would regard it simply as another story that they are there to cover." Jennings' position bewildered Wallace: "I'm a little bit of a loss to understand why, because you are an American, you would not have covered that story."

"Don't you have a higher duty as an American citizen to do all you can to save the lives of soldiers rather than this journalistic ethic of reporting fact?" Ogletree asked. Without hesitating Wallace responded: "No, you don't have higher duty... you're a reporter." This convinces Jennings, who concedes, "I think he's right too, I chickened out."

Ogletree turns to Brent Scowcroft, now the National Security Adviser, who argues "you're Americans first, and you're journalists second." Wallace is mystified by the concept, wondering "what in the world is wrong with photographing this attack by North Kosanese on American soldiers?" Retired General William Westmoreland then points out that "it would be repugnant to the American listening public to see on film an ambush of an American platoon by our national enemy."

A few minutes later Ogletree notes the "venomous reaction" from George Connell, a Marine Corps Colonel. "I feel utter contempt. Two days later they're both walking off my hilltop, they're two hundred yards away and they get ambushed. And they're lying there wounded. And they're going to expect I'm going to send Marines up there to get them. They're just journalists, they're not Americans."

Wallace and Jennings agree, "it's a fair reaction." The discussion concludes as Connell says: "But I'll do it. And that's what makes me so contemptuous of them. And Marines will die, going to get a couple of journalists."

That is a well deserved contempt.

Here's another version of the tale >from The Atlantic (courtesy of Mr. Ali)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


David vs. Goliath : N.J. Relishes Underdog Role Against Defending Champs(Washington Post, June 5, 2002)
The New Jersey Nets have used what they perceive as an overall lack of respect as fuel all season.

Now, with a best-of-seven meeting with the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals beginning Wednesday, New Jersey has more doubters to conquer. The Nets are playing in their first NBA championship series against the most dominant team of this era. Few give them a chance.

At first I foolishly thought that this article was going to agree with me that the Nets should be favored over the Lakers, just as David had to be favored over Goliath, but, alas, once again this metaphor gets butchered.

Forget everything you've ever been told about David as an underdog and think of him as Indiana Jones in the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the giant scimitar-wielding Arab confronts him in terrifying fashion, only to have Indy whip out a pistol and shoot the big lug. That's all the story of David and Goliath really boils down to is the resort to superior technology to defeat a seemingly more powerful foe. The sling was long recognized as one of the most lethal and, because of its range, effective weapons of ancient times. It is only the fact that the slingshot has become a plaything for growing boys that allows us to misunderstand this story so badly.

So now we are come to the NBA Finals. The point of the metaphor in this case is that where Shaq obviously calls to mind Goliath, because of his sheer size, the possibility also exists that the Nets are better armed, have superior weaponry in this battle, and should therefore be favored.

Or they might get swept--but, contrary to popular opinion, that won't be a case of Goliath beating David. It'll just mean that the Nets aren't very good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Rove is already preparing for the next presidential election--still more than two years away`King Karl' Gets Ready Preparing for the 2004 elections (Howard Fineman, 6/03/02, Newsweek)
The next presidential election is two-and-a-half years away, but White House insiders, led by political guru Karl Rove, have sketched the outlines for 2004 even now. [...]

In a controversial speech last winter, Rove said that Bush's much-lauded role as leader of the war on terror would help GOP candidates this fall. Little noticed was Rove's insistence that they'd have to sell a domestic agenda as well. In fact, the White House is pursuing a two-tiered strategy to keep the House, win back the Senate and set up Bush for 2004. At splashy campaign-trail events around the country, Bush woos swing-voting moderates by talking about education, child care and job training. Rove, meanwhile, works on the interests of the conservative base. The wish list for the rest of 2002: a welfare-reform bill that encourages marriage; new "faith based" charity legislation that would establish a fund to teach churches how to win federal social-services contracts, and Senate confirmation for 11 federal appeals-court judges-all of them conservative favorites of the cultural right.

Get the judges confirmed and this may be the best first two years any president has ever had.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 AM

DUH? :

Computer Glitch May Change Findings (JOHN HEILPRIN, June 5, 2002, Associated Press)
Scientists revising a study of tiny pollution particles from diesel engines and power plants found a computer glitch that might mean less health risk than previously thought and could delay new federal rules.

Research by investigators at Johns Hopkins University's biostatistics department indicates the software used for the study of 90 large American cities was overestimating the rise in the typical mortality rate.

The study is just one of more than 100 the Environmental Protection Agency is examining as it prepares to issue regulations next year. But the software in question could be a problem because it is used by many of the studies, agency spokesman Joe Martyak, said Wednesday.

So minimal risks become virtually nonexistent?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


Economically Incorrect : The real reason Bill Maher got canned. (Matthew Nisbet, 6.3.02, American Prospect)
Last week, ABC officially announced what many industry watchers had expected for several months: The late-night talk show Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher would be canceled, and replaced in the fall by a new entertainment program hosted by Comedy Central's Jimmy Kimmel. When the news broke, most media reports pegged Politically Incorrect's demise on Maher's "unpatriotic" remarks in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Yet while there's some truth to the notion, this interpretation ignores other, more powerful market forces that have worked to replace an important televised forum of political dissent with the latest incarnation of "must-sleaze" TV.

Strange how when conservatives ask them to clean up television, we're told it's a business and the market decides. But when that skunk Maher's show tanks, liberals shriek about him being censored. This essay gets it mostly right, though the author seems to think PI was some kind of public service program.

June 5, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 PM


US plans for post-Saddam Iraqi government (Eli J. Lake, 6/5/2002, UPI)
The United States is drawing up extensive and detailed plans for a post-Saddam Hussein government in Iraq, intending to fund Iraqi exile organizations to draft legislation for a transitional regime and establish formal relationships with Arab governments.

Documents obtained exclusively by United Press International reveal the State Department plans to allocate $410,000 over the next year to the Iraqi Jurists Association. One aim of the group according to a State Department summary of their activities is to "focus on the drafting of key legislation and legal decrees, to be readily available to a post-Saddam administration."

The chairman of the organization Dr. Tariq Ali Saleh, a former civilian and military judge in Iraq, told UPI Wednesday, "Our organization has done a lot of work regarding many investigations into the many crimes of the Iraqi regime, for the next phase we will do transitional justice."

A State Department budget justification for an organization called the "Iraqi National Movement" -- formed this year -- says the group of primarily Sunni exiles intends to "liaison with governments in the region." Indeed, that document reveals that U.S. funding "will specifically support an INM representative in Syria, travel to the Middle East for meetings with the Iraqi expatriates and regional governments, and media outreach, focusing on Arabic language TV, radio and printed media outlets."

Looks like the Afghanistan blueprint : make sure there's a functioning opposition capable of taking over, then destabilize the regime. It won't happen as fast as Bill Kristol demands, but it makes sense.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 PM


Brains: Good, Bad, and Modified (Glenn Harlan Reynolds, 06/05/2002, Tech Central Station)
You can control the brain chemistry of large, unconsenting populations with less sophisticated technologies if you get enough government involved. In fact, we're already doing that at the behest of many in public schools, for what else is it when children, usually boys, who in a prior age were simply regarded as unruly are now given Ritalin and other medications intended to change their classroom behavior by changing their brain chemistry? While professional doomsayers and White House committees study the ethics of cloning, millions of American children are--and this is not alarmism, but literal truth--having their minds controlled by the government, with surprisingly little debate. Why the disparity in attention?

Mark this day down in your calendar, for today a pig flew, a cat slept with a dog, and hell froze over--or at any rate, Instapundit put aside his vendetta and became a Fukuyamist for at least a day. You see, while the good Professor and his fellow clonophiles have seized on the fairly minimal discussion of cloning in Mr. Fukuyama's book, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of The Biotechnology Revolution, it is far more concerned with precisely what Mr. Reynolds is getting at here : the way in which biotechnology generally is being used to alter human nature and the political consequences that may have for liberal democracy and for the species. Mr. Fukuyama even discusses the example of Ritalin, at some length, in making his argument that such technologies are dangerous exactly because we are using them to control essential features of mankind. In the case of Ritalin, as both Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Fukuyama suggest, drugs are being employed to quiet down naturally rambunctious children, mostly boys.

Actually, Mr. Reynold's libertarian distrust of government leads him astray in one important respect and it is perhaps an indicator of why he underestimates the dangers of cloning and genetic engineering. He treats the overprescription of Ritalin as some kind of attempt by government to control minds. In reality, it is not government, but we who are doing this. It is first of all parents, second of all pediatricians, and only third of all government--in its most benign form, that of teachers and principals--who
are engaged in this genuinely frightening process. These are, of course, the three groups in society that we would expect to be most protective of the young, but they are instead drugging them into submission. Mr. Reynolds' mistake here is the classic libertarian one of assuming Man to be basically good until his essential goodness is corrupted by government. (Similarly, the Left assumes Man to be basically good until corrupted by acquisitive urges and capitalist economic systems). But as Judeo-Christianity has been teaching us for thousands of years, we are born sinners and are perfectly capable of so treating even our own children. We should hardly be surprised that having aborted some 30 million kids over the past three decades, parents are also showing themselves willing to exercise neuropharmacological control over the ones they decide to raise.

Mr. Fukuyama also makes the point that this is a form of control that we seem all too eager to exercise over ourselves. He cites Prozac in particular, as a drug that people increasingly use to take the rough edges off of their own personalities and cope with the challenges of life. Some of the folks being prescribed drugs like prozac may be incompetent at the time, but many more are consciously and rationally choosing to have their brain chemistry altered. This is certainly no government action.

Cloning and genetic engineering and other non-drug related biotechnologies enter into this equation because it seems inevitable that what folks are trying to do with drugs they will try to do with genes and because these changes, unlike those induced by drugs, will be permanent. It's bad enough that adults are turning young boys into pliable zombies--imagine a future where males never snap out of this state. Mr. Reynolds is worried about the notion that people may not be consenting to these kinds of controls, but what of an age when consent is taken away from you before you're even born. You can stop taking Ritalin eventually, but where do you go when you are bred for a certain level of lassitude?

The most important thing to realize here is that there's something attractive about such a future. If much of the violence that surrounds humankind is a function of the way the male brain works and we can reduce that violence by changing those brains, many will find this an acceptable trade off. Similarly, advocates of genetic manipulation like to present a beneficent image of a mankind stripped of horrible genetic defects, but, given such power, aren't we also likely to engineer away other troublesome aspects of the human condition--first excess energy, violence, depression, stupidity and the like, but then homosexuality, laziness, fatness, and other traits that parents may simply not want in their children. After all, even Rosie O'Donell when it came time to select a sperm donor did not accept the first available tube; she selected that of a healthy, intelligent, blonde, athletic, white guy. For all the cant about accepting everyone the way they are, we all want our kids to be "perfect"--and perfect isn't likely to be like you and it sure as heck isn't me. Perfect may ultimately prove to be a kind of being that is so different from us that it won't even be recognizably human. And in that post-human future what happens to our social arrangements--especially our system of government?

Mightn't it be the case that we'll eventually succeed in creating that basically "good" being, one with no propensity to sin and violence, but in the process we'll have robbed him of the drives and desires that make freedom so precious to us? These post-humans could be free in ways that we can't, because they'll be far too docile to be a threat to each other. Theirs will be the freedom of the sheep--bland, boring, unproductive, meaningless. Government, which is fundamentally instituted to protect us from ourselves, will no longer be necessary. The libertarian utopia will be arrived. But the price we'll have paid will be too horrible to contemplate.

This is just one of the warnings that Mr. Fukuyama sounds in his book. Thankfully, Mr. Reynolds seems to have finally gotten past his own focus on cloning and he's apparently turning his attention to the broader threat being heralded by bioethicists--that we may destroy human freedom, and maybe even humanity, as we apply biotechnology to ourselves. Here is ground that conservatives and libertarians can defend together. Are we all Fukuyamists now?

Professor Reynolds responds, but appears not to comprehend the import of his own essay. On the one hand, he decries the use of Ritalin on school age boys (which he still seems to think is some kind of government plot--the kids must all be orphans) and suggests that such neuroscientific controls might easily be used to "make us love Big Brother", but on the other hand, in this response, he claims that "Neuroscience abuses, despite the lack of Ethics Establishment scrutiny, are largely nonexistent". What is the dosing of millions of non-consenting boys with a mind-altering drug if it's not an abuse of neuroscience? And what is Mr. Reynolds doing in sounding the alarm about this abuse if not joining Mr. Fukuyama in nattering nabobbery? He may find the company he's now keeping to be disconcerting, but he's still singing from the same Ethical Establishment hymnal as Mr. Fukuyama.

Unfortunately, Mr. Reynolds is correct that thus far the exclusively conservative nattering has been "useless". It's all to easy for libertarians and the Left to dismiss such ethical concerns as religious dogma, Luddism, and fear of science. As the Professor's column reflects, folks aren't either reading Mr. Fukuyama closely or listening to what he has to say. They've pigeon-holed him as the guy who's afraid of cloning and wants to stop science, which saves them having to actually address the political points he raises. But, perhaps, now that we see some common ground emerging, conservatives and libertarians can achieve together what conservatives have failed to accomplish on our own, sensible limitations on the use of science to affect fundamental changes in human nature, changes which pose a threat to the political freedoms that both camps treasure, whatever our differences on other issues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


A Unified Field Theory of World Entertainment (H.D. Miller, 6/05/02, Travelling Shoes)
The majority of the world outside of the United States thinks soccer is entertaining, thus proving that the majority of the world is populated by people who have diminished expectations of what entertainment should be. [...]

This entertainment gap is perfectly reflected in the differences between American and European sports. Football is plainly superior to Futbol. (Hell, Fooseball is clearly superior to Futbol.) Soccer is so boring that the fans have to resort to creating their own violence and mayhem in the stands as an anedote to the boredom induced by the glacial pace of the game. Yet when your basic English soccer hooligan is exposed to the controlled violence and mayhem of NFL football, he loves it, even as he behaves himself in the stands. How else to explain the fact that the annual NFL pre-season game in Wembley Stadium in London always sells out to 85,000 football-crazed Englishmen?

Everyone knows that the spectacle of a 300 pound, defensive end, hepped-up on pain-killers and anabolic steriods, bearing down on a multi-million dollar quarterback's blindside at a 4.4, 40-yard pace, with malice in his heart, is infinitly more entertaining than watching some wussified midfielder trip over his own feet and feign an injury in the hopes of getting a free kick. There should be a congressional investigation into the negitive effects of soccer on the youth of America. The sport teaches the worst sorts of values: always pretend you're hurt, someone may notice; always tattle on your opponents, they may get punished; always complain about the weather and the fans, it'll give you an excuse if you lose. The rest of the world should follow our example and make it mandatory that boys quit playing soccer as soon as girls are no longer able to compete on an equal basis, about age 13. Few American boys play soccer past age 13, and soccer is the quintessential tomboy's sport. Look at how American women have dominated the sport internationally.

Sarcasm, sexism, jingoism, and it's a screamin' hoot--what more could you want in an essay. Plus all the annoying soccer nerds will go after Mr. Miller now and leave us alone.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


Outrage at Christian `victims' book (Rory Carroll, June 6 2002, The Guardian)
A new book which claims that Christians are the victims of worldwide persecution has stirred controversy amid accusations that it minimises the Holocaust and demonises Islam.

The author, Antonio Socci, claims that the untold story of the 20th century is the murder of 45 million Christians, mostly at the hands of communist and Islamic regimes, and that massacres continue to this day.

One is reminded of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer :
When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


Ralph Nader tells government buyers to use Linux, release Microsoft source code (Scott McCollum , June 5, 2002, WorldTechTribune)
Ralph Nader, the self- styled consumer advocate, multi-millionaire champagne socialist and Green Party presidential candidate that stole votes away from Democrat Al Gore, blasted the Bush Administration for supporting the “Microsoft monopoly” because Federal workers use Microsoft Office products.

Most Federal Government computer and software purchases were made in 1998-1999 during the second term of the Clinton Administration.

Nader, whose letter to the Office of Management and Budget, pressured the Bush Administration to require Microsoft to make its proprietary formats work smoothly with products from Apple, IBM and other rivals. This demand will probably be easy for the Bush Administration to meet since Microsoft Windows, Office and hundreds of their software products already run smoothly on Apple and/or IBM products. Nader’s major demand in the letter to the OMB was that the Bush Administration purchases the rights to Microsoft’s software and releases it into the public domain. Once in the public domain, the Microsoft code would be swallowed into the Linux software code, a free Unix-like operating system cobbled together over a period of ten years by students, hackers and other computer hobbyists.

I'm not sure why he wants the Feds to buy the rights--seems like a certain windfall for Microsoft shareholders--but this seems like an appropriate remedy for Microsoft's years of monopolistic and anticapitalist crimes.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Former Astronaut Warns Against Weapons In Space (PAUL MARKS, June 5, 2002, Hartford Courant)
The United States should not let heightened concern over national security since Sept. 11 accelerate the drive to base weapons in space, former astronaut Sally Ride said Tuesday.

That includes the space-based antimissile defense sought by the Bush administration as a shield against nuclear attack, Ride said during an interview after speaking at a conference of engineers at the Hartford Civic Center.

"You run the risk of creating more harm than good," she said. [...]

Although scores of nations have satellites in orbit, Ride said none has placed a weapon in space. But military strategists envision a new breed of weaponry that might someday use space-based lasers or particle beams against satellites or targets on Earth. In a just-released study for the Air Force, the nonprofit RAND Corp. think tank mentions possible development of space lasers, kinetic-energy weapons fired from space and space-based conventional weapons that would let an attacking nation strike more quickly and accurately.

The RAND study cautions that smaller nations might develop space weapons as a challenge to U.S. military strength.

This actually seems like an area where we should go ahead and develop offensive weapons, then announce that we are unilaterally imposing a non-proliferation regime--that is, if anyone else tries putting weapons in space we'll take them down. It may be that a Star Wars missile defense shield is unworkable, the problems associated with shooting down multiple moving targets and decoys insurmountable (though I don't understand why), but it shouldn't be that hard to knock out enemy satellites and space-based weapons, which would essentially be sitting ducks for our vastly superior technology.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Connerly Initiative Promotes Racial Balkanization (Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich, 6/04/02, LA Times)
No, seriously, that's her name.

June 4, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 PM


Say It Ain't So, George (James K. Glassman, 06/03/2002, Tech Central Station)
By accepting the basic premise of extreme environmentalists, the president will ultimately be forced to accept the major content of the same treaty that he rejected a little over a year ago as "fatally flawed": the Kyoto Protocol, signed by then-Vice President Al Gore in 1997 but never ratified by the U.S. Senate, which instead rejected it before signing by a 95-0 vote.

Bush's about-face, however, fits a pattern. One by one, he has abandoned the principles that attracted conservatives to him in the first place : [...]

Free Trade: In order to protect inefficient steel producers and try to win votes in Rust Belt states, Bush agreed to protective tariffs against imports. At every turn now, his attempts to get Europeans and Asians to drop their trade barriers are being met with (accurate) cries of hypocrisy.

Farm Bill: [...]

Spending: [...] Surpluses have turned to deficits in the years ahead.

Campaign Finance: In the wake of the Enron scandal, Bush signed a new campaign-finance law that would hurt his own party, enhance the power of organized labor and liberal special interests and limit free political choice.

Education: To get his education bill passed, Bush dropped the most important reform: vouchers. [...]

Conservatives: Bush's base is becoming demoralized.

It's conceivable that Mr. Glassman is a competent economist--though the title of his last book, "Dow 36,000", leads one to be skeptical--but this is a ludicrous piece of political analysis. Mr. Glassman is (I believe) a Libertarian, so we probably shouldn't expect him to be attuned to conservative sensibilities, but one assumes he can read and no one who can read can possibly lend any credence to the notion that the conservative base of the Republican Party feels betrayed by George W. Bush. First of all, the President is in the 70%s in general approval, so even independents and some Democrats must still like him at least a little. But even more remarkable, among conservatives he's been measured as high as a statistically unheard of 100%--pollsters routinely support he has the strongest support among his base that they've ever measured. They also, in no uncertain terms, dismiss these grumblings about Bush by "conservative" pundits as an inside the Beltway phenomena. So Mr. Glassman's story is destined from the start to be nonsensical, and he doesn't disappoint.

Let's go through his complaints :

Global warming : Mr. Glassman's assertion that President Bush "will ultimately be forced to accept the major content" of the Kyoto accords is nearly demented, as his own phrasing reflects. We can't pick and choose which parts of its contents we like. It's a treaty--we can sign or not sign. If we rewrite it in Congress then it has to be renegotiated with the entire world (which is the whole point of Fast Track authority). There is no way the treaty could get through the Senate as is--republicans will filibuster it. So let the Democrats propose their own version--with limitations placed on cars, drivers, nearly every industry, etc. There's a winning political strategy, eh? There's a reason the original vote was 95-0--it's political suicide to vote for it.

Free Trade : Sure, we'd all prefer that he not have imposed new steel tariffs but this action, already fairly minor, pales to true insignificance when you consider that he just won the "Fast Track" trade promotion authority that eluded Bill Clinton for eight years. You really have to be rigidly doctrinaire to be unable to look past the collateral damage and see that a major battle was just won.

Farm Bill : The farm bill sucks. It's also very popular. It's chump change in the overall budget. It was inevitable. It's good politics--since farm states are Republican by nature. and it's easily correctable if the GOP wins back the Senate.

Spending : we spend too much money. But our debt is the smallest of any developed nation and even if we run a deficit this year or next it will be an incredibly small proportion of our GDP. Most importantly, after almost 80 years of deficits, we still have no idea how much they affect the economy, or even if they affect it at all. The economy boomed while Reagan ran up deficits. It boomed while Clinton and Congressional Republicans did away with them. Then it tanked when we achieved surpluses. Interest rates (and inflation) plunged during the Reagan spending binge--then rates went up when we achieved the surplus. There's just no evidence that shows a brief period of deficit spending during a time of war has any deleterious effect on the economy.

Campaign Finance Reform : This is the silliest portion of Mr. Glassman's column. I'd agree if he made only a point about the principle involved--the CFR is unconstitutional and the president who signed it and every member of Congress who voted for it should be impeached. That's not going to happen though, is it? The bill, though vile, is popular.

But more than that, directly contrary to what Mr. Glassman says, it is a huge boon to the GOP in general and to President Bush in particular. It is going to lead to bloodletting among Democrats, who have trouble raising hard money. Accordingly it leaves the GOP with a huge fund raising advantage. And from the President's perspective, the spending limits it imposes means that his Democratic opponent in 2004 will have blown through a huge portion of their money by the end of the primaries and the National Party will not be able to spend soft money on ads during the summer. So he'll have months to himself, during which he can define his opponent and the race. Added to the greater ease with which an incumbent can engineer free press coverage, it means it is almost impossible for the Democrat to compete with him in terms of getting their respective messages out. Now, I'll acknowledge that this is an anti-democratic effect, but it's also what the Democrats demanded. Hopefully after the disaster of their 2004 race they'll be willing to scrap the law.

Education : As was reported several weeks ago, President Bush used the budget process to cut spending in this new bill that he didn't want in the first place and to fund voucher programs that the Dems don't want. Now that may not survive in the final appropriations bills, and it's somewhat dubious ethically, but it suggests he's got his eye on the ball.

As importantly, by just getting whatever bill he could through the Senate--which it may come as news to Mr. Glassman that we conservatives no longer control--Mr. Bush has erased the Democrats advantage on the issue of education--an advantage they've enjoyed for decades. Clearly somebody, be the Republican, Democrat, or Independent, liked the bill even if it was awful.

Conservatives : Here it might have been helpful if Mr. Glassman had looked at what Mr. Bush hasn't done. By this time in their presidencies, Reagan, Bush I , and Clinton had all raised taxes--Bush II hasn't. George W. Bush hasn't compromised on Cuba. He hasn't compromised on abortion. He hasn't compromised on cloning. He hasn't stopped talking about his religious beliefs. He hasn't been implicated in a scandal. On the core political issue--taxes--and the social/moral issues that drive conservatism--the principles by which conservatives measure him--Mr. Bush has kept the faith. This gives him enormous leeway to do things like tarriffs or bloated budgeting or whatever. He's yielding on issues that while they may upset libertarian purists, don't much bother conservatives. He's also holding firm on issues that keep conservatives very happy (though they too upset libertarian purists--for instance : cloning). No wonder Mr. Glassman is so upset. Many libertarians are upset; it's difficult to see why that's a problem for the president though, because they have nowhere to go. Their presidential candidate gets less than 1% of the vote and Democrats are much worse on all these issues. As always, when push comes to shove, most of the libertarians will grin and bear it. And to opine that Mr. Bush is in trouble with his base is just foolish. Conservatives have drunk the Kool-Aid on this one.

White House Warns on Climate Change (John Heilprin, June 4, 2002, Associated Press)

President Bush dismissed on Tuesday a report put out by his administration warning that human activities are behind climate change that is having significant effects on the environment.

The report to the United Nations, written by the Environmental Protection Agency, puts most of the blame for recent global warming on the burning of fossil fuels that release carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the environment.

But it suggests nothing beyond voluntary action by industry for dealing with the so-called "greenhouse" gases, the program Bush advocated in rejecting a treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 calling for mandatory reduction of those gases by industrial nations.

"I read the report put out by the bureaucracy," Bush said dismissively Tuesday when asked about the EPA report, adding that he still opposes the Kyoto treaty.

Maybe we can just blame the 24 hour news cycle for the way people overreact to these stories.

Global Heat or Heavy Raines? : Yesterday's environmental disturbance may have been caused by human intervention (Mickey Kaus, June 4, 2002, Slate)
It certainly got the bloggers worked into a hot lather.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


A Cold Warrior's lessons for the Middle East (Amity Shlaes, June 4, 2002, Jewish World Review)
With his new plan to drive Cuba towards freedom with human rights demands, George W. Bush is taking a page out of the old cold war book. His support for the continued embargo, his requirement for freer trade unions and his demand for free elections resemble the carrot-stick approach laid out by the Helsinki Accords for the Communist east. But can the cold war's lessons also be applied to the west's central problem, the Middle East?

Yes indeed, says at least one party on the scene -- Natan Sharansky, Israel's deputy prime minister. Mr. Sharansky is pushing a reform plan for the Palestinians. Our great mistake in the Middle East over the past decade, he says, is failing to recognize the truths of the old superpower stand-off.

"The surprising thing is that after such a unique victory, this lesson was fully abandoned and ignored" when it comes to the Middle East, he says.

[Mr. Sharansky argues that] it is important not to underestimate the yearning for democracy among Palestinians and other Arabs. The subtext of the current western view, he says, is that Arabs do not necessarily want democracy. He recalls that the Nixon administration made the same sort of cultural argument: "that Russia is not built for democracy; that for 1,000 years we [Russia] never had democracy" -- except briefly -- and so on. This
argument is a convenient excuse for inaction. But Palestinians are like anyone else: given a chance at freedom, they will stop becoming suicide bombers. [...]

Yet Sharansky opposes instant elections for the Palestinian people. Instant elections in a society of fear such as that led by Mr Arafat would be a sham, he says, just as they were in the fearful Soviet Union of the mid-1970s. Instead, the US and those Arab states that recognize the state of Israel should establish a new democratic authority, with Israel's only input being a veto on documented terrorists' participation.

For three years, this coordinating body would work, dismantling refugee camps, teaching democracy, fostering a freer press. Just as Germany and Japan had to undergo a process of political and economic rehabilitation, says Mr. Sharansky, so must the Palestinians. "Elections are in the end of this period." [...]

The west is in part responsible for Palestinian despair and Arab suffering under dictators, he concludes. "We, the leaders of the free world, are betraying our own principles --- that all people are equal and that all people deserve to live in freedom and democracy." In other words, only if we learn the cold war's lesson of action can we avoid a conflict as long and terrible as that one.

Natan Sharansky is one of the genuine heroes of the 20th Century, for leading the fight against communism from within the USSR. It would be truly remarkable if he were to also become one of the heroes of the 21st, by fighting authoritarian Islam from within the Middle East. But he, unlike far to many, seems to understand the lessons of that earlier fight--including the all important realization that democracy is no panacea for societies as sick as these.

This is the most worthwhile column I've read on the Middle East in quite some time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM


Social Security Issue Rattling Races for Congress (ROBIN TONER, June 4, 2002, NY Times)
No other issue is generating more scrambling in this year's Congressional elections than Social Security and what Democrats assert is the looming threat of privatization. Consider the House race in this slice of northern Indiana, where the Republican candidate, Chris Chocola, issued a solemn warning recently to the local Rotarians meeting at Honkers Restaurant.

The Democrats are plotting to "scare seniors," Mr. Chocola, a 40-year-old businessman, told the hushed breakfast crowd. He read from an intercepted e-mail message — circulated far and wide by top Republicans in Washington — that features one Democratic aide chortling to another that "bashing Republicans" on Social Security "is sooo fun." Mr. Chocola concluded, "This is everything bad about politics, part of the reason people are so cynical."

Around the country, Republicans are launching similar pre-emptive strikes, with remarkable intensity for this early in the campaign, against the attacks they know are coming. Democrats have reassumed, with gusto and more edge than they have shown in years, their favorite role in a midterm election: The Guardians of Social Security.

Unlike global warming or tariffs or Iraq, Social Security privatization is an issue that matters to our future as a nation and Republicans, specifically George W. Bush, should stake their careers on it. Precisely because it is considered to such a dangerous issue for the GOP they can make huge hay out of having the "courage" to address it at all. They can give all those sickeningly self-serving speeches that begin : "I know this may cost me the election, but..." Then they just launch into a spiel--which polls show that most Americans already agree with, even older ones--about how our generations can't leave future generations to labor under the burden of a system that's gone haywire... Though patently disingenuous in presentation,
this position has the great advantage of being true. It's not courageous, it's merely commonsensical to turn the power of the markets loose on a retirement system that is headed for bankruptcy unless we do something.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


Gun Show Fantasies (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 6/04/02, NY Times)
[G]un shows are incredibly common--there are 4,500 of them a year in the United States--and constitute one loophole in the war on terrorism that the Bush administration refuses to plug. [...]

Of course this isn't primarily an issue of international terrorism, but rather an urgent public health crisis: guns kill one American every 20 minutes. Even since Sept. 10, six times as many Americans have died from guns as from international terrorism.

Thankfully Nicholas Kristof has returned to more typical NY Times form; his most recent columns had been so sensible I feared becoming a fan.

Have you ever wondered about the way liberal columnists and activists view the lethality of guns as something that should trump their constitutional protection, but where the lethality of homosexuality (40,000 new AIDs infections per year) and of abortion (well over one million per year) are concerned suddenly our "civil rights"--though they're nowhere to be found in the written text of the Constitution--are paramount?

I'm perfectly willing to accept rational limitations on constitutionally enumerated civil rights, if the Kristofs of the world are similarly willing to accept limitations on the "rights" they fabricated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM


Clone tissue transplant success (BBC, June 2, 2002)
Scientists have successfully used cloning technology to grow tissues for transplant in cows which will not be rejected.

A US team have been able to engineer miniature kidneys and small "patches" of heart tissue from cloned cells and successfully test them in cows.

They said that the fact that the sophisticated immune system of the cow did not reject the tissue provides hope therapeutic cloning could also be carried out on humans without rejection.

But the technique is unlikely to be used in humans because legislation prevents organs being removed from mature foetuses.

Here's your slippery slope : if you can abort a nine month old fetus for no reason at all (partial-birth abortion), why can't you abort it to harvest a potentially life-saving organ? Why should the Courts require that the former be allowed, as a right, but forbid the latter? What coherent moral argument can be made for so differentiating between these two fetuses?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


Evolving dispute aptly summed up : a review of Dawkins vs. Gould : Survival of the Fittest By Kim Sterelny ( Carlin Romano, May. 26, 2002, Philadelphia Inquirer)
The core tenet of Gould's work on evolution remained simple: While natural selection explains much evolutionary change on every biological level from gene to individual organism to species, it can't explain everything that has happened to "life" since, so to speak, its birth. Chance and other factors also play a role. [...]

Readers curious about the logic of Gould's positions on evolution will find Kim Sterelny's Dawkins vs. Gould a brisk introduction. By pitting Gould against England's Richard Dawkins, perhaps his closest peer as a controversial public ideologist on evolution, Sterelny, a New Zealand philosopher, both exploits the real-life "punch-up" evolutionary biology
has become over the last 20 years and outlines its conceptual dimensions. The book's jacket copy understandably emphasizes the matchup's "tale-of-the-tape" clash.

"Dawkins," it asserts, "author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchman, conceives of evolution as a struggle between gene lineages; Gould... sees it as a struggle between organisms. For Dawkins, the principles of evolutionary biology apply just as well to humans as they do to all living creatures; for Gould, however, this sociobiology is not just ill-motivated, but wrong, and dangerous. Dawkins' views have been caricatured, and the man painted as a crazed reductionist, shrinking all the variety and complexity of life down to a struggle for existence between blind and selfish genes. Gould, too, has been falsely represented by creationists as rejecting the fundamental principles of Darwinism..." [...]

Dawkins, for example, argues that selection "fundamentally acts on lineages of replicators"--mainly genes--while Gould believes selection "usually acts on organisms in a local population." Gould believes that "there are important patterns in the large-scale history of life that have no selective explanation," while Dawkins thinks most evolutionary patterns "are accumulations over vast stretches of time of microevolutionary events."

One of the interesting ways in which Darwinism resembles a religious belief is that believers in evolution try to minimize the seriousness of this dispute, lest the rigor of the criticism that the two sides wield against one another be seen to have undermined the whole structure.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


Backbone of England : without immigration, life in London and in many other places would no longer be possible (Andrew Gimson, 6/01/02, The Spectator)
Large parts of our economy would collapse, and we would be greatly impoverished, were we not managing to recruit huge numbers of workers from abroad. It follows that we should take pride, or at least a modest pleasure, in our ability to attract able and energetic people to our shores, especially since within a generation most of them become British. Yet this amazing success is reported as if it were a crisis, a desperate failure, a breakdown of law and order, a disaster for those of us who already live here.

Here's a thought that should make the anti-immigration types tremble : as Western nations require more and more of these immigrants to do our scut work and to fund our retirements, we're likely to end up competing with each other for their services. You'll have Italy offering immediate citizenship and relocation costs and what not, while France offers early retirement and limited hours, and we offer free college educations for their kids and forty acres and a mule or whatever. Pim Fortuyn may be better off dead.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 AM


The Osbournes Turn America Into the Land of Oz (Andrew Ferguson, 5/14/02, Bloomberg)
Like most entertainments beloved of Baby Boomers, 'The Osbournes' pretends to challenge its audience while affirming the prejudices that its audience holds most dear. Leave aside the ancient 'Ozzie and Harriet.' A more instructive comparison is with a hugely popular documentary series, 'An American Family,' which aired in 1973 on PBS, in the backwash of the 1960s counterculture.

The show was a precise reversal of Ozzy's. It too depicted the day-to-day home life of a real family, the Louds, who by all outward appearances lived the American dream: prosperous, attractive, well-dressed, decorous -- what we used to call normal.

As the series unfolded, however, America watched this typical family dissolve in divorce, drugs and sexual dysfunction. The moral of the story was unmistakably countercultural: Bourgeois 'normality' was a sham, a flimsy cover for quiet desperation.

Thirty years later, 'The Osbournes' delivers the same countercultural message, from the opposite direction. Polite behavior, decorous speech, personal tidiness are all inessential trappings of bourgeois convention.

Having released themselves from such old-fashioned constraints, the Osbournes touch depths of familial harmony that more conventional families like the Louds could only pretend to. The Louds were 'normal' and suffered terribly. The Osbournes are 'abnormal' and live happily. So what's the point of being 'normal'?

That countercultural message was untrue in 1973 and it's untrue today. The old-fashioned constraints weren't signs of hypocrisy; they were markers of civilization, enshrining the best tendencies of human behavior and ennobling the common life.

Should have known that the most underrated columnist in America would have dealt with the bat-biter in dispositive fashion.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM


The end of the book? : The rise of interactive multimedia technology is widely regarded as the death knell of the printed word, although some charge that interactive multimedia are "a solution in search of a problem"--they do everything that books do, only more expensively. There are good reasons why this "revolution" will not happen, and good reasons why it shouldn't. (D. T. Max, May 31, 2002, Jewish World Review)
When I had first called Wired's co-founder, Louis Rossetto, in the summer of 1993, I got through to him immediately, and he had, if anything, too much time to speculate about the shape of things to come. Several months later I had to go through a secretary and a publicist for my interview, and once I arrived, I was made to wait while more-urgent calls were put through. What happened in the interim is that the information highway became a hot subject. Rossetto was now every media journalist's and Hollywood agent's first call.

What I wanted from Louis Rossetto was his opinion on whether the rise of the computer culture that his magazine covered would end with the elimination by CD-ROMS and networked computer databases of the hardcover, the paperback, and the world of libraries and literate culture that had grown up alongside them. Was print on its way out? And if it was, what would happen to the publishers who had for generations put out books, and to the writers who had written them? Or was there something special about the book that would ensure that no technical innovation could ever supplant it? Would the book resist the CD-ROM and the Internet just as it has resisted radio, television, and the movies?

Twenty years ago, when his book, Megatrends, came out, I saw an interview with John Naisbitt. He was asked whether he thought computers would replace books and newspapers. His response was that while computers could reproduce the text, they could not reproduce the tactile sensation and the comforting rituals, like reading your newspaper at the breakfast table. That seems intuitively correct.

But a couple years ago they had a fascinating exhibit at our local library. It showed these computer displays that essentially duplicate paper. They're thin films that will hopefully one day feel feel like paper to the touch and will eventually have a kind of passive display that will be lit by available light, just like any page of a book or newspaper that you are reading. Of course, the great advantage is that with a little bit of memory connected, your one or several pages would allow you access to an unlimited amount of reading material.

Would these developments mark the end of the book? Only, in a strictly literal sense; in fact, we'd be making technology fit our desire for the traditional and the familiar. That was actually one of Mr. Naisbitt's trends :

From technology being forced into use, to technology being pulled into use where it is appealing to people.

Maybe he was on to something, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM


The Trailer's Travails : Mobile, charming, everywhere--and still trashed. (STUART FERGUSON, May 24, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Mobile homes are everywhere, although often subjected to slander and condescension. In Toby Young's recent memoir of Manhattan's club scene ("How to Lose Friends & Alienate People"), he notes that calling someone "trailer park" was a term of abuse during his time on the party circuit. And it isn't just urbanites who feel this way. "In
the popular mind," says John Fraser Hart, "trailers are synonymous with violence and sex. If a crime happens anywhere else, nothing is said. But when one is committed in a trailer, the media let you know."

Mr. Hart, a professor of geography at the University of Minnesota, has written a fascinating book, with Michelle J. Rhodes and John T. Morgan, called "The Unknown World of the Mobile Home," to be published next month by the Johns Hopkins University Press. Will it prompt a radical rethinking on this important subject? We can only hope so.

Mr. Hart and his co-authors visited parks and "single sites" from Delaware to California. They learned that the mobile-home landscape is as varied as humanity itself. "There was one trailer park in Florida I drove into and turned around and drove out of as fast as possible--I got a hunch that two or three rifles were pointed at me," Mr. Hart says in an interview. "But some parks are suitable for millionaires."

Mr. Hart's field of study (if you will) is the geography of rural areas, and he long noticed that mobile homes are ubiquitous. He and his colleagues found that their research and number-crunching support this view. Seven percent of Americans live in a mobile home; in 2000 mobile homes accounted for about 30% of new single-family dwellings sold, and
most of these (about 95%) won't be moved once they are in place. In 1990 it was estimated that 56% of mobile homes were single-sited on the owner's property or on rented land. The rest were in parks.

That's a lot of people luxuriating in the pleasures of mobile-home living. And yet the abuse continues. The 1980 Housing Act stipulated that "the term mobile home be changed to manufactured housing in all federal law and literature." But federal statutes can't change perceptions with the stroke of a pen. The stigma comes from the past.

I feel it safe to assume that I'm one of the few people ever to live in a mobile home while attending law school. I liked it. (The trailer that is--not school.)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


As Cash Flows, Republicans Win, Survey Says (Thomas B. Edsall, June 3, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
The survey of donors, described by Clyde Wilcox of Georgetown University, John C. Green of the University of Akron and four others, found that 15 percent of the respondents said they would capitalize on the higher contributing limits.

These "expanded givers" were decisively more Republican -- including more men -- and were wealthier than the entire sample.

"Expanded givers tend to be wealthy, middle-aged businessmen" who support tax cuts, are disproportionately strong Republicans and strong conservatives. Their increased participation "is likely to intensify the existing, upper-status bias of the donor pool and reduce the representation of women," the authors wrote in the magazine Public Perspective.

Five percent of the donors surveyed said they will reduce the amounts they give, generally to voice their opposition to increased political spending. These "reduced givers" are far more Democratic than the expanded givers.

Don't get me wrong, I still think it's unconstitutional and that every one who voted for it should be impeached, along with President Bush for signing it, but at the end of the day he's just a politician--how could he resist? Saddam's Republican Guard would practically have to be goosestepping down Pennsylvania Avenue for an incumbent Republican to lose a presidential race with these Campaign Finance rules in effect.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Top Saudi imam sees conspiracy (Paul Martin, 6/03/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
Saudi Arabia's top Muslim cleric has called on the Islamic world to unite against a worldwide conspiracy of Hindus, Christians, Jews and secularists threatening Islamic moral values.

Okay, it's Islam vs. the world. You're outnumbered four or five to one. You're surrounded. And you're technologically backwards. How ya lookin' ? Mightn't there be a better way?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 AM


Whither Hillary? (Eleanor Clift, MSNBC)
Hillary is establishing her bona fides as a centrist, which is where elections are won when the country is as divided between the two main parties as we are today. She rebuffs all talk about a presidential run for now and is focused on New York. But watch what she does, not what she says. This is a woman who knows how to keep her options open, and she's doing it very well.

Ms Clinton is to centrism as her husband was to fidelity.

June 3, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 PM


India-Pakistan War Would Ruin Bush's Foreign Policy Image (Morton Kondracke, June 3, 2002, Roll Call)
If India and Pakistan plunge into nuclear war, it would not only be an historic catastrophe--with millions of lives lost and the nuclear taboo broken--but it would also be an historic embarrassment to the United States.

Estimates of as many as thirty million dead and he's worried about us losing face? Is there nothing any more that's too important for us to sit around and parcel out political blame? I like Mort, but this column is the real embarrassment. Just sit back and contemplate that title for a minute...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


The Soccer Gap : What conservatives are missing. (Robert Ziegler, May 31, 2002, National Review)
The most-watched sporting event in the world has begun, and most of my fellow conservatives in America are going to miss it.

While some of you no doubt are thinking that the Super Bowl and World Series are both months away, the event I'm referring to is the World Cup of Soccer, watched by an estimated 3.5 billion people around the world, including millions in the United States, almost all of whom are apparently liberals.

As a movement conservative and rabid fan of the beautiful game (that's soccer, by the way), I find myself as something of a de facto missionary for the sport to the political and cultural right. What is it about soccer that makes it (in America) the nearly exclusive domain of liberal sports fans? [...]

The main drawback to soccer for "traditional Americans" is that it is a game requiring some patience to appreciate. Baseball, the thinking man's game, has been affected by this national attention-span deficit to some degree... [...]

Americans have typically come up with their own games to dominate. We invented football (even taking "soccer's" proper name and redefining it to an almost Orwellian degree), basketball, and baseball and made those our major sports. To the degree that these are played and/or followed elsewhere, they are American exports. While baseball is popular in Japan and parts of Latin America, and basketball in Europe and Australia, they are still "American" games first and foremost. Soccer will never be that. In fact, American football in part began, as legend has it, when a game of "soccer" became too boring, prompting a player to pick up the ball and begin running with it, and the rest is gridiron "pointyball" history.

Golf and tennis are also "foreign" in their origins, but they are not linked as closely to their international roots as soccer, and at any rate already had made deep inroads in the American cultural establishment by the early 20th century.

Mr. Zeigler seems to have made a significant mistake here by not analyzing the politics of the game itself. The real reasons conservatives hate soccer appear to be unsurprisingly related to the fact that it simply isn't conservative.

Here, for instance, is the great Russell Kirk's list of the qualities that characterize the Conservative Mind :

(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 leveling lead to despair, if enforced by positive legislation. [...]

(4) Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected, and that economic leveling 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.

If we put soccer through this mill we find that :

(1) Divine Intent : when He made us in His image, he obviously intended that we use our hands.

(2) Variety and Mystery : In soccer you chase the ball--kick the ball--chase it again--score once in awhile--start over. So where's the variety and mystery? every game is identical.

(3) Equality : soccer is popular in schools precisely because it requires no skill. Every doofus on the school yard can run around and kick a ball. It's no surprise all the socialist countries love the game.

(4) Property : you can't even pick the stinkin' ball up so there's no such thing as possession. Even the fans don't get to keep the foul balls. All you really need to know about soccer is that little kids don't bring their mitts to the games.

(5) Tradition : American soccer tradition, is an oxymoron.

(6) Change and innovation : give it another two or three hundred years and maybe we'll accept the game. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are in first and all's right with the world.

In the words of Albert Jay Nock :

As a man of reason and logic, I am all for reform; but as the unworthy inheritor of a great tradition, I am unalterably against it. I am forever with Falkland, the true martyr of the Civil War,--one of the very greatest among the great spirits of whom England has ever been so notoriously noteworthy,--as he stood facing Hampden and Pym. 'Mr. Speaker,' he said, 'when it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.'

Mr. Zeigler proposes a change that is not necessary.

Kevin James has posted an excellent response in defense of soccer from a Kirkian perspective.

We're Stealing Their Game (Robert J. Samuelson, June 4, 2002, The Washington Post)

I have bad news for everyone else: The United States will win the World Cup. Maybe not this year, but the triumph is closer than the rest of the world thinks. We are becoming a soccer-playing and, to a lesser extent, soccer-loving country. We may not convert others to our vocabulary -- our soccer is their "football" -- but we're going to beat them at their own game.

This will be shocking. It is one thing for us to flaunt our military and economic power, to spread McDonald's and Madonna around the world. It's quite another to trespass on everyone else's special preserve. After religion--or before it--soccer is the world's passion and obsession.

If you took the the whole second round of the NBA draft, the guys who either won't make teams or won't play, and made them the U.S. World Cup team, wouldn't we win it every year? It's not like we waste our best athletes on soccer--these are the guys from High School who didn't have enough hand-eye coordination to play a real sport. When we do win it--and I don't see why that shouldn't be this year--it will be as a distant afterthought to all the games we actually follow. It'll get the TV ratings of a WNBA game. That really will be embarassing for the rest of the World.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:53 PM


GOP Scores In Photo Flap (John Bresnahan, June 3, 2002, Roll Call)
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but political controversy, apparently, is worth a lot more.

To be specific, a minimum of $1.4 million, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The two GOP campaign committees touched off a political firestorm two weeks ago by offering donors a three-photo set of President Bush for $150--including one shot of Bush phoning Vice President Dick Cheney from Air Force One on the afternoon of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - if they contributed to an upcoming fundraising dinner.

Democratic leaders immediately slammed the decision by the two Republican campaign arms to use the Air Force One photo as a "grotesque"and "disgraceful " exploitation of a national tragedy, and government watchdog groups such as Common Cause denounced the move as a ploy to gain "partisan advantage" from the outpouring of public support for the President since the the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Initially stung by the outcry, the NRCC dropped Bush from its other ad and mail efforts, at least for the near term, and Senate Democrats suggested that any money raised through the use of the photo should go to charity instead of into Republican coffers.

But the resulting media melee also helped drive up demand for the photos, according to GOPofficials.

The NRCC and NRSC have sent out "thousands and thousands" ofcopies of the photo set, dramatically more than the roughly 1,000 they had originally planned on distributing.

One Republican source estimated that between 3,000 and 6,000 copies of the photo set have been sent out since the news of their availability first broke in mid-May.

Good to see this stupid fracas blow up in the face of the Democrats.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


Bush Administration Blames Humans for Global Warming (Tom Doggett and Chris Baltimore, June 3, 2002, Reuters)
The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time in a new report that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will increase significantly over the next two decades due mostly to human activities, but again rejected an international treaty to slow global warming.

The report released by the Environmental Protection Agency was a surprising endorsement of what many scientists and weather experts have long argued -- that human activities such as oil refining, power plants and automobile emissions are important causes of global warming. [...]

Environmental groups said the new U.S. report was a major reversal by Bush administration on the link between global warming and human activity.

"(The report) undercuts everything the president has said about global warming since he took office," said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust. [...]

The administration repeated in the report that voluntary measures to control emissions taken by polluting U.S. companies are the best way to slow the growth of emissions that are believed to cause the earth's atmosphere and oceans to warm.

Thirty years ago, Richard Nixon, a liberal disguising himself as a conservative, told civil rights groups to watch what his administration did, not what it said. He then proceeded to enforce school busing rulings and to expand the social welfare state, while all the while talking like a redneck. But liberals couldn't process Mr. Nixon's message so they deposed him.

Today we have a conservative president disguised as a moderate (or a "compassionate" conservative) and some conservatives seem determined to make the same mistake with him that liberals made with Nixon. Who the hell cares what the administration says about global warming and its sources as long as they refuse to join the Kyoto accords? The environmentalists are running around declaring victory after the administration announced it was still rejecting the global warming treaty--are conservatives just as incapable of distinguishing actions from words? Man, we really are the "stupid party", huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:15 PM


Ruling cleric warns Iran 'on the brink of explosion' (WORLD TRIBUNE.COM, June 3, 2002)
A key Iranian ruling cleric has warned that the Islamic republic is on the verge of a popular uprising that could topple the regime.

"The people are very dissatisfied, and they are right to be so, and I swear to God that the society is on the brink of explosion," said Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, the deputy Speaker of the Assembly of Experts

The 72-member Assembly of Experts is regarded as the highest consultative body in the Islamic republic. It is the only group to which Khamenei is responsible, according to Middle East Newsline.

Amini urged the regime to listen to the people. The cleric said not even the Islamic republic can rule by force. "If this discontent increases, as is the case, society and the regime will be threatened. No regime can maintain itself in power by force."

I believe--though hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong--that it was Milton Friedman who said that by the time the Federal Reserve notices a trend it has probably already been taken care of by the market, so they should really do the opposite of what the trend suggests. That is to say : if the Fed notes an uptick in inflation the natural impulse is to raise interest rates; but the market will have already corrected for the uptick and put on deflationary pressure; so the Fed should really cut rates. It seems to me that this rule holds true in nearly all human affairs. We're so slow on the uptake that by the time a problem becomes significant enough for us to take notice, it has probably peaked and headed back downward.

Today's case in point would be fundamentalist Islam, which we suddenly see as a threat to the West even as it seems to have entered its final, though violent, death throes. Iran's revolution is twenty years old now and it is over--stick a fork in it--turn out the lights the party's over--get a toe tag--done. And considering the enormous advantages that Iran started out with--thanks to the modernizing and Westernizing of the Shah--it may represent the best case scenario for the radical Islamist experiment. These twenty years of precipitous decline and the angry demands of its people for a return to Western ways may be the best that the fundamentalists can hope for. Not much is it?

The attacks on 9-11 were enough to get any people riled up and move them to irrational action. Our threats and curses and demands were entirely understandable given the context of the horrific murder of 3,000 fellow citizens. But it is time to step back and take a more mature and realistic look at the Islamic world, which far from being a rising threat to our way of life, is a despondent and confused region facing massive disruption as it transitions, almost overnight and quite unwillingly, from an authoritarian and premodern culture towards liberal capitalist protestant democracy. It's hardly surprising that the prospect of this complete revolution in Islamic life should terrify the Muslim world. Many of the certainties by which people have lived their lives for fourteen centuries have been proven wrong and, in order to survive and thrive in the modern world, Islam will have to reform itself in previously unimaginable ways. But that process is already underway and we need to make sure that we help it along, rather than needlessly turn this whole mess into a contest of us vs. them and ruin the chances for a relatively peaceful reform from within.

We've obviously had a complicated and often fractious relationship with Iran over the course of the last fifty or so years. But it's time to let bygones be bygones and to stand ready to help if the people of Iran are willing to be helped.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:01 PM


Ripping Ted Rall : To Afghanistan and Back: A Graphic Travelogue by Ted Rall (Reviewed by Orrin Judd, The Texas Mercury)

This'll save you the trouble of buying the book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


Denmark defends tough migrant laws (Graham Jones, 5/30/02, CNN)
Denmark's government says its controversial crackdown on immigrants will merely bring it into line with other EU nations and dismissed charges it was selling out to the far-right.

The Danish parliament, the Folketing, staged heated debate on the package of tough immigration laws on Thursday and is set to vote them through on Friday, with the centre-right government relying on votes of the right-wing anti-immigrant Danish People's Party (DPP). [...]

Meanwhile, in London on Thursday the British government announced a tightening of immigration laws, forbidding rejected asylum seekers from launching an appeal within the country.


The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883

Which shall we choose?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:59 PM


Senator hits Bush's 'pre-emptive' plan (Joyce Howard Price, June 3, 2002, Washington Times)
A key Senate Democrat said yesterday that she's disturbed by President Bush's call for "pre-emptive military strikes" against nations or groups that threaten this country.

"I think this is a predicate for an attack on Iraq, and I'm very concerned about it," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "I think it would be a terrible mistake for the United States unilaterally to attack Iraq and to do so without any congressional authorization," she said yesterday on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

Mrs. Feinstein was responding to remarks by Mr. Bush Saturday in a commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., when he said "unbalanced dictators" must be stopped before they develop weapons of mass destruction or provide them to terrorist groups. The president said the United States must "take the battle to the enemy, disrupt its plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge."

On CNN, Mrs. Feinstein said such a move would go beyond the authority Congress granted Mr. Bush after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

If we launch a ground invasion of Iraq, the Senator is absolutely right that the administration needs Congressional approval. But for any other type of pre-emptive strike it would be deranged to seek approval first. Are we going to have Senators debate whether we launch a cruise missile attack on al Qaeda positions in Pakistan? Or suppose we know where one of Saddam's plants is where they're working on a weapon of mass destruction--do we go ask Ms Feinstein before we blow the place up?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


Conventional wisdom down the tubes (Paul Greenberg, June 3, 2002, Jewish World Review )
[R]ick Perlstein's new and delicious book about Barry Goldwater...begins with some of the now hilarious post-mortems after Senator Goldwater's landslide defeat in the 1964 presidential election. For anyone who savors political irony, they make a delicious smorgasbord of opinionation:

"He has wrecked his party for a long time to come," opined The New York Times' resident sage, Scotty Reston. Four years later, Richard Nixon would recapture the White House for the GOP. Mr. Reston was only continuing The Times' long-standing tradition of tin-eared political analysis, which persists to this day.

Then there was Richard Rovere in The New Yorker: "The election has finished the Goldwater school of political reaction." The New Yorker's talent for political prognosis hasn't changed much, either.

We heartily second Mr. Greenberg's endorsement of this terrific book : see our review here Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (2001) (Rick Perlstein  1969-) (Grade: A)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 AM


Japan's new debt warning (Heather Stewart, June 1, 2002, The Guardian)
Japan's government debt was slashed to a lower grade than Botswana's yesterday, as its central bank stepped into the foreign exchange markets in a desperate bid to save its recession-hit economy. [...]

[Moody's] issued a statement saying that Japanese government debt, which hit 135% of GDP at the end of March, would soon "approach levels unprecedented in the postwar era in the developed world", adding that reformist prime minister Junichiro Koizumu's policies would not be sufficient to reverse the situation.

Recall, if you will, that just about fifteen years ago Japan was held up to us by liberals as the very model of how a developed nation's economy and society should be structured--with central planning; an emphasis on heavy industry and manufacturing; permanent job security; population growth slowed to zero; a thorough social welfare net; etc..

Meanwhile, America chose a different path--allowing what Joseph Schumpeter called capitalism's waves of "creative destruction" to wash through our economy, radically downsizing many industries and haphazardly letting the free market dictate a switch from a manufacturing economy to an information economy; resisting the extension and even contemplating the privatization of government services; adding to the population both by fairly steady birthrates and by massive immigration, etc.

And today America remains not only history's most successful economic and military power but the only developed nation in the world that is capable of balancing its budget. Are intellectuals ever right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Watch out, kids, it's a trick. On second thought, don't watch, kids: it's a trick. : Smoking out 'The Osbournes' message (BARRY SAUNDERS, June 1, 2002, Raleigh News and Observer)
[P]arents seem to have discovered that when it comes to preventing the tykes from toking up, honesty is the best policy. Exhibit No. 1 in that new policy is Ozzy Osbourne.

"The Osbournes" is the top-rated show in MTV's history and probably the weirdest. If you've seen some of the music network's previous offerings--such as a leering, geriatric Jerry Springer hosting a spring break beach party -- you know the show had to beat a lot of schlock to take that title. The "reality" family series, which features the aging (and not gracefully aging, either) rocker at home, has thrust Ozzy back into the spotlight he shared 30 years ago when he was a drugging, boozing frontman for the heavy metal band Black Sabbath.

While most teens who watch "The Osbournes" may think they're simply viewing a funny, dysfunctional family -- a family that makes everyone else's look normal -- astute viewers will see the show for what it is: an hour-long anti-drug screed. That's what makes watching it so insidious if you're a teen and an act of genius if you're a parent.

You know, it'd be great if tv worked that way--show your kids what a hash these people have made of their lives with sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll and they'll straighten up and fly right. It doesn't. Instead kids say : "Hey, this guy's been a total burn out for thirty years and he's still got his own tv show and a pretty cushy life. So what if he's a stumbling, mumbling, slobbering moron--he's rich and he's famous. Sign me up."

June 2, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Mate Check : Humans Still Follow Ancient Mating Urges (Lee Dye, May 23, 2002, ABCNews.com)
New research shows that a woman is most likely to fantasize about someone other than her spouse or current sex partner during the brief period each month when she is ovulating. The hormones that surge through her body, telling her that she has become fertile again, also cause her to look about and see if there's a better source of good genes for her offspring than the guy who just sent her roses.

And men somehow sense that change, so they pick that time to send flowers, or call the wife to see if she's really at work, or wherever she's supposed to be.

...which would explain why so many kids are conceived after couples watch Denzel Washington movies, but have you ever met a straight male who's that aware of a female's mental processes?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:29 PM


INTERVIEW : Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline by Richard Posner (C-SPAN's Booknotes, 8pm & 11pm tonight)
If you too are a political junkie, a show like this is sort of our version of "Who shot J.R.?"
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM


Dump Dem Bums (MAUREEN DOWD, June 2, 2002, NY Times)
If the spirited Nancy Drew had grown up, she would probably have ended up a dispirited whistle-blower.

That's what happens to women of ingenuity and integrity in macho organizations - from Sherron Watkins at Enron to Coleen Rowley at the F.B.I. - who piece together clues and ferret out criminal behavior and management cover-ups.

First, their male superiors tell them to shut up. And if the women point fingers anyhow, they end up being painted by their status-quo colleagues as wacky, off-the-reservation snitches with dubious futures.

Here's what it means to be Mo Dowd : on November 25, 2001, she took conservative straight white Christian male John Ashcroft to task for racial profiling when he detained Middle Eastern immigrants after the 9-11 attack. Six months later she thinks he was an idiot for not racially profiling Arabs prior to 9-11, as a young woman in the FBI recommended. That kind of whiplash-inducing reversal would be fine if, like her colleague Nicholas Kristof earlier this week, she had the moral courage to acknowledge that liberal caterwauling about racial profiling, like that of the NY Times editorial page, had contributed to what she now decries as "timidity" by the FBI and the Justice Department. As Mr. Kristof said :
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.

The timidity of bureau headquarters is indefensible. But it reflected not just myopic careerism but also an environment (that we who care about civil liberties helped create) in which officials were afraid of being assailed as insensitive storm troopers.

So it's time for civil libertarians to examine themselves with the same rigor with which we are prone to examine others.

Unfortunately, like the evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Ms Dowd's mirror doesn't actually reflect a potentially blemished image back when she looks in it--instead it serves only to flatter her vanity and assure her that she remains the "fairest one of all".

In Search of Makeovers (Mary McGrory, June 2, 2002, Washington Post)

I feel sure my old friend Elliot Richardson would salute Coleen Rowley, the general counsel of the Minnesota FBI office who blew the whistle on the constipated thinking of her superiors. Like Richardson, she risked a job she loved to tell the truth.

The Minnesota office was on to Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now in a Virginia jail awaiting trial as the "20th hijacker" in the September plot. The G-men were thwarted in their attempt to search his computer, Rowley wrote: Everyone phrased the request so obtusely that it invited rejection. This reluctance has struck Washington dumb: The FBI has slapped a phone tap on just about anybody whose views rankled.

Rowley couldn't persuade the CIA's terror specialists to give Moussaoui the once-over either.

You didn't think that Mary McGrory, the grand old dam of the columnists, was going to let that whipper-snapper Mo Dowd steal a march on her did you? Compare this impassioned defense of Coleen Rowley, who mysteriously couldn't get anyone to investigate Moussaoui as a terrorist, with Ms McGrory's own condemnation--Bungling on the 9-11 Prisoners (Mary McGrory, February 10, 2002, Washington Post)--of the Feds for investigating a not dissimilar suspect after 9-11 :
Tony Oulai was caught up in the great dragnet that followed Sept. 11. He has been whisked around six U.S. prisons since the day he was picked up at a Florida airport and screeners found a stun gun and flight manuals in his luggage. In one jail, he alleges, he was beaten. The administrator of the Baker County (Fla.) Detention Center retorts, as a denial, that the facility has TV and microwave ovens in every cell. The Justice Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service are involved because Oulai overstayed his student visa. They refuse all comment, even on a secret document obtained by The Post that exonerates Oulai from any involvement in the events of Sept. 11.

Boarding a plane with an expired visa, a stun gun, and flight manuals? And Ms McGrory can't understand why he was being detained? Maybe Ms Rowley should have written her a memo, huh?

On closer look, Rowley memo ignores Constitution (JONATHAN TURLEY, May 31, 2002, Houston Chronicle)

Rowley's criticism of the FBI largely turns on disagreement over the meaning of probable cause. Rowley insists that there was probable cause to secure a search warrant for Moussaoui's computer and personal effects. FBI headquarters disagreed, and it was right.

On Aug. 15, 2001, Moussaoui was arrested by the Immigration and Nationalization Service on a charge of overstaying his visa. At that time, the Minnesota office only had an "overstay" prisoner and a suspicion from an agent that he might be a terrorist because of his religious beliefs and flight training. If this hunch amounted to probable cause, it is hard to imagine what would not satisfy such a standard.

I happen to believe that profiling is a useful law enforcement tool and I'd be lenient about "probale cause" where someone fits a profile. Do their columns lionizing Ms Rowley mean that Ms Dowd & Ms McGrory think so too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


Knockouts, Butterfly, Bayway : with Robert Anasi (Kurt Andersen, NPR : Studio 360)
Kurt Andersen and writer Robert Anasi look at the spectacle of boxing and the sport's fascination for choreographers, painters, writers, and filmmakers.

Mr. Anasi's book, The Gloves : A Boxing Chronicle (2002) (Robert Anasi 1966-), is an outstanding account of his experience in New Yorks Golden Gloves Tournament at age 33. See our review here. You can listen to an audio of this show here.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


Bomb Saddam? : How the obsession of a few neocon hawks became the central goal of U.S. foreign policy (Joshua Micah Marshall, Washington Monthly)
To anyone who's followed foreign affairs for the last couple of decades, the names of the neoconservative hawks will be familiar--or, if you're a
liberal, chilling. Their eminence grise is Richard Perle, who serves simultaneously as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, a heretofore somnolent committee of foreign policy old-timers that Perle has refashioned into a key advisory group. Of all the hawks, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz probably has the most powerful job inside the Bush administration. A dozen others hold key posts at the State Department and the White House. Most are acolytes of Perle, and also Jewish, passionately pro-Israel, and pro-Likud. And all are united by a shared idea: that America should be unafraid to use its military power early and often to advance its interests and values. It is an idea that infuriates most members of the national security establishment at the Pentagon, State, and the CIA, who believe that America's military force should be used rarely and only as a last resort, preferably in concert with allies.

The neocons have been clashing with the establishment since the 1970s. Back then, the consensus view among foreign policy elites was that the Cold War
was an indefinite or perhaps even a permanent fact of world politics, to be managed with diplomacy and nuclear deterrence. The neocons argued for
deliberately tipping the balance of power in America's direction. Ronald Reagan championed their ideas, and brought a number of neocons into his administration, including Perle and Wolfowitz. Reagan's huge defense buildup and harsh, even provocative, rhetoric contributed significantly to running the Soviet military-industrial complex into the ground.The president went for the Hail Mary pass--whatever the dangers--and it worked.

During the Gulf War, the hawks urged President George H.W. Bush to ignore the limits of his U.N. mandate, roll the tanks into Baghdad, and bring down Saddam Hussein's regime. Bush sided with the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell (the embodiment of the establishment, who had advised Bush against liberating Kuwait), and left Saddam in power. The neocons have been saying I told you so ever since.

In the 1990s, as the Balkans descended into civil war, this same establishment urged President Clinton to proceed with caution. After several years of carnage, Clinton finally broke with the experts and launched air strikes against Bosnia, then Kosovo. Many conservative Republicans criticized Clinton at the time, but the neocons, despite their loathing for the president, supported his efforts. And rightly so: American action ended the bloodshed and brought stability to a key region of Europe with practically no loss of American life.

Again and again, for more than two decades, the neocon hawks have called it right. But they've gotten a lot wrong, too. Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, they portrayed the U.S.S.R. as a menacing giant about to overwhelm us, when in fact--we now know--it was already headed for collapse, and its downfall had more to do with its own terminal rot than anything America did. They cheered on (and in some cases aided) bloody proxy wars in Central America and Africa that did little to hasten the Soviets' demise, but plenty to brutalize entire populations and tarnish America's image abroad.

Somehow Mr. Marshall manages to get wrong both much of why the neocons were right and most of why they were wrong. As for where he says they were right--Iraq and Bosnia--it seems apparent that these were two foreign adventures that we'd have done well to steer clear of. Both involved our attacking regimes that were de facto allies in the struggle with radical fundamentalist Islam and neither really involved our national security interest. The only even marginal argument for intervening in either case might have been to protect the flow of oil from Kuwaiti fields, but suppose that Saddam had been allowed to take and keep those fields--big deal? What was he going to do with the oil, other than sell it to the West?

On the other hand, they were, of course right in urging the U.S. to renew its efforts in the Cold War in the 70s and this will eternally redound to their credit. Further--contrary to Mr. Marshall's assertion--the various proxy wars of the 1980s worked brilliantly and were instrumental in bringing the Cold War to an end. In the 50s and 60s the Soviet Union had sponsored proxy wars--Korea and Vietnam--that threw the US and her allies on the defensive and wreaked a tremendous cost in the American domestic sphere (even though we did manage to fight those wars to draws). But in the 80s, the US turned the tables--from Afghanistan to Angola to Nicaragua--and showed that it was equally as capable of putting the USSR on the defensive (and in fact the communist governments of Afghanistan and Nicaragua proved untenable). The great advantage of this policy is that it cost almost nothing in terms of US blood and fairly little in dollars--in effect, it exacted no cost at home and could thus have been pursued indefinitely.

But the neocons were again proven wrong in their fundamentals as the Communism proved to be a far weaker foe than they had anticipated (though their ally, Ronald Reagan had understood this quite clearly). They were surprised when the bonus to this policy proved to be that where American democracy had shown itself to be quite resilient even in the face of fighting these kinds of bloody stalemates, communist Russia proved incapable of handling such setbacks, perhaps for ideological reasons as much as anything (as Marxist historicism inexplicably reversed course). It seems fair to ask whether they aren't making exactly the same mistake again in regards to radical Islam. Just as they wildly overestimated Saddam's military capabilities in the run up to the first Gulf War, so too they appear to be overestimating the threat that Islam poses to the West in general--and once again their error seems to be related to an underestimation of their own ideas and an overestimation of their opponents ideology.

It seems increasingly evident that the American system of liberal capitalist protestant democracy, what Francis Fukyama referred to as the "final form of human government, is such a powerful and relentless creator of wealth that no other form of government can compete with it in the long term. Mere patience and a return to these principles would probably have sufficed to win the Cold War and would more than likely eventually triumph in a showdown with Islam, which, like communism, is incapable of satisfying the material desires of its populace. Further, again like communism, Islam interprets its own failures vis a vis the Judeo-Christian West as a historical impossibility--representing as it does a negative judgment upon Islam by Allah--and this will in all likelihood create an eventual breakdown of the authoritarian nature of Islam, just as a similar paradox has created the breakdown of Chinese communism.

All of this history offers us a few lessons which we seem determined not to learn. First, and most important, despite the feelings of vulnerability that were induced by the 9-11 attacks, we have never been in a stronger geo-political position. We have the strongest economy in the history of mankind and there may never have been a moment in human history when the mightiest military power enjoyed such an absurd technological advantage over its rivals, an advantage which continues to grow. Realistically, there are no significant external threats to the United States and therefore fairly few to our allies. The greater dangers are internal--from declining populations to burdensome social welfare nets to environmental Luddism.

Second, fundamentalist Islam (hopefully, as Rand Simberg and Tom Friedman suggest, it's just Wahhabism, the Saudi variant of Islam, that's the problem) is quite simply doomed. Under pressure from a burgeoning and dissatisfied populace; assaulted by the liberalizing pressures of globalization; incapable of competing in the global economy because of its totalitarian nature; authoritarian Islam may already be in the midst of its death throes. The relative success of more Westernized Islamic nations like Tunisia, Turkey, Bangladesh, etc., suggests that Islam may be compatible with more secularized government. Meanwhile, the failure, after just twenty years, of the Iranian Revolution and the rising demands of its people for economic and political liberalization and improved relations with America, suggest that Islam's future will be found in the West, not by turning further inward.

Third, these differences within Islam offer us a chance to pursue a variety of tactics, short of all out war against Islam. Obviously, our greatest priority should be to assist the already Westernizing nations of the Islamic world. Their success stands as testimony to the possibility that all of the Islamic world can enjoy higher standards of living without having to jettison their religious beliefs entirely. Our first step should be to remove all trade barriers with such nations and to offer them developmental assistance and political alliance. NATO is no longer worth a tinker's dam, but an Alliance of Mediterranean and Indian Ocean Nations (which would include non-Islamic nations like the US, Israel, India and Russia) could be an important bulwark of liberty and a model of Western/Islamic cooperation.

Next, we should encourage nascent democratic movements within countries like Iran, Palestine, Jordan, etc.--with a goal, not of making them just like us, but of getting them more firmly on the road to liberalization, even if they may ultimately settle on monarchies or Islamic republics, or whatever. Even where official government or the positions they take may be anathema to us, we need to be able to look beyond them to see what their own people are saying. So, though Yassir Arafat or the mullahs in Iran may be beyond the Pale, we need to see that the people of Palestine and Iran are themselves demanding reform and democratization and recognize that they may even by our allies against their own current governments.

Third, the rapid success of the Afghan battle plan along with those earlier models from the Cold War), suggests that where we determine that it is necessary to force a regime change, the most effective means of doing so may be by means of proxy war. In places like Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc., where we find the dictators to be intolerable, we should be training and arming insurgencies, training and educating potential civilian leadership for the next regime, applying determined political and economic pressure, and preparing the way for the application of air power and use of Special Forces when push comes to shove.

Finally, we need to recognize that these different categories are inherently unstable and that different nations may move from category to category and need to be treated differently at different times. Perhaps most difficult, we must be mature enough to accept that failures along the way may be worthwhile failures. It may be that Islam is just incapable in the long run of the kind of Westernizing reforms of which we're speaking and that some kind of apocalyptic war between the Abrahamic faiths is inevitable. Even if this is true--and I don't think it is--the effort to avoid such a war and to redeem Islam is still worth making. Or, on a smaller scale, it might be that after aiding the reformers in Iran we'd see a clampdown by hard-liners and Iran would return to being a genuine enemy. So be it. But while we have an opportunity why not try to exploit it? Or it might be that an uprising against Saddam would fail utterly and we would be required to do the fighting ourselves, even to the point of a massive commitment of ground troops. Okay, we can do that. But why do it until it is proven necessary?

Certainly in the wake of 9-11 it was comforting to court the notion of declaring our ownjihad against Islam. But however viscerally satisfying this might be, it represents a disappointing lack of faith in our own beliefs. We celebrate the desire for freedom, the value of democracy, and the basic human urge to improve one's lot in life : do we really think that Muslims do not share these dreams? Before we decide that Islam is incompatible with liberty, let us join the struggle of those Muslims who are already fighting for the idea of freedom within Islam. The worst that could happen is we'll fail together and even then, there'll still be plenty of time to start killing each other.

War of Ideas (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, June 2, 2002, NY Times)

Frankly, I hope Saddam Hussein disappears tomorrow. But even if he does, that's not going to solve our problem. Saddam is a conventional threat who can be eliminated by conventional means. He inspires no one. The idea people who inspired the hijackers are religious leaders, pseudo-intellectuals, pundits and educators, primarily in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which continues to use its vast oil wealth to spread its austere and intolerant brand of Islam, Wahhabism.

But here's the good news: These societies are not monoliths, and there are a lot of ordinary people, and officials, inside both who would like to see us pressing their leaders and religious authorities to teach tolerance, modernize Islam and stop financing those who won't.

Too bad President Bush has shied away from this challenge. [...]

[A]merica and the West have potential partners in these countries who are eager for us to help move the struggle to where it belongs: to a war within Islam over its spiritual message and identity, not a war with Islam.

The Triangle Offense : How Bush is winning the war over going to war with Iraq (William Saletan, May 29, 2002, Slate)

For the past decade, hawks, doves, and moderates have debated whether to use force or persuasion to change the behavior of the Iraqi government. Last week, the moderates scored two apparent victories. Military officials disclosed that they had dissuaded the Bush administration from attacking Iraq until at least winter, and diplomats at the United Nations Security Council boasted to the New York Times that they were undercutting American hawks by pushing to resume weapons inspections in Iraq.

It looks like another triumph of triangulation: The doves want to lift sanctions against Iraq; the hawks want an invasion; and the moderates win by splitting the difference. But before you can triangulate, somebody has to set up the triangle. That's how the hawks, led by President Bush, are winning the war over going to war. They've pushed American and global expectations so far toward military conflict that those who want to dissuade or undercut them have to shift positions in order to keep up. The middle is moving to the right.

Roughly speaking, the last three presidencies offer three models for dealing with international conflict. In the Clinton model, the United States mediates disputes among countries pursuing their own agendas. In the George H.W. Bush model, the United States seeks support for its own agenda but ultimately accepts the limits of international consensus. In the Reagan model, the United States pursues its own agenda whether others like it or not. George W. Bush is basically following the Reagan model.

This is the counterargument to those who think W's gone wobbly.

REVIEW : of The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein by Sandra Mackey (Paul William Roberts, Washington Post)

Far from being the indictment of Saddam Hussein that its author presumably intended, The Reckoning is ultimately a savage indictment of Euro-American exploitation of the Middle East, and the indefensible meddling in its affairs that continues and has no clear objective beyond self-interest. If for no other reason than this, the book is indispensable reading for anyone with an opinion on world affairs.

A model of blame the West hysteria.

Patrick Ruffini has some further thoughts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM


Bush can take comfort from friends in unlikely places : Of all Europe's leaders, Putin is the most attuned to the American agenda (Tim Hames, Times of London, May 30, 2002)
Every account, American or European, of this visit has highlighted the differences between the Russian episode and the time spent in Germany, France or Italy. Most of the explanations that have been put forward for this trip of two halves are, though, patronising and trivial. It is suggested that while fearless European leaders aired their disagreements with the President publicly, Vladimir Putin did so privately. It is claimed that Russia scored with the Americans largely because its protest movement is in its infancy. And it has been heavily hinted that once Mr Bush was obliged to stay up past his preferred bedtime for several nights running, a sense of irritation overwhelmed him.

There are three rather more relevant factors at work here. The first is that, after a period of considerable internal pain, Russia has come to acknowledge what the end of the Cold War implies for this continent. The second is that Russia, precisely because of its own experience, has a more acute understanding of what September 11 meant to Americans than most Europeans have mustered. Finally, again perhaps because of the recent past, Mr Putin can appreciate the scale of the change that is occurring in US foreign policy.

Europeans tend to regard the phrase 'American foreign policy' as an oxymoron. They dismiss it as incoherent and inconsistent and hold three elements responsible. These are the inexperience in overseas affairs of most incoming US Presidents (as if Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and Jean-Pierre Rafarrin, the latest French Prime Minister, were all Professors of International Relations before assuming office); the institutional battles within the US executive between the State Department (good in Eurothink), the Pentagon (bad) and the White House (confused); and finally the malign impact of a Congress full of insular hicks beholden to lobby groups (Irish-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Polish-Americans) who serve to distort policy outcomes.

Boy, the Europeans are having an awful lot of trouble adjusting to their own insignificance, huh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM


Defense Secretary : The peculiar duplicity of Ari Fleischer (Jonathan Chait, 05.30.02, New Republic)
[W]hat Fleischer does, for the most part, is not really spin. It's a system of disinformation--blunter, more aggressive, and, in its own way, more impressive than spin. Much of the time Fleischer does not engage with the logic of a question at all. He simply denies its premises--or refuses to answer it on the grounds that it conflicts with a Byzantine set of rules governing what questions he deems appropriate. Fleischer has broken new ground in the dark art of flackdom: Rather than respond tendentiously to questions, he negates them altogether.

Interesting how folks like Mr. Chait practically worshipped Clinton flak Mike McCurry for doing the exact same stuff, suggesting that it's less the quality of Ari Fleischer's obfuscations than the quality of he for whom Fleischer obscures that's the problem here.

June 1, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM


Graying Now, McCarthyites Keep the Faith (DAVID OSHINSKY, June 1, 2002, NY Times)
Today, there is no street or building named for McCarthy, no sign commemorating his birthplace or career. His likeness does not appear in a large mural of local celebrities that hangs in the public library (and includes Harry Houdini, the author Edna Ferber and John Bradley, one of the marines who raised the flag at Iwo Jima).

Even the bronze bust was moved from the courthouse to the historical society after mild protests over the indignity of seeing McCarthy's face in a hall of justice. Like a figure from the Stalin era, he was airbrushed from history.

Bringing him back was a gamble, but museum officials were looking for something to lure visitors. Attendance at the Outagamie Museum had sagged during the late 1990's; Houdini was no longer a big draw. "We needed something fresh," said Kim Louagie, the museum's curator. "We wanted a local subject worthy of serious attention, something that was relevant to the community and likely to get people through the doors."

McCarthy was the obvious choice. Ms. Louagie said consensus quickly formed about taking a local angle. She researched the senator's life, gathered artifacts, and sent a draft of the script to numerous cold war scholars, including this writer, for fact-checking and comments. The exhibition emphasizes the regional connection, the story of McCarthy's Wisconsin roots. There are photos of him as a smiling farm boy, a high school student voted "most lovable man" in his class, a rugged boxing instructor at Marquette University, a hard-working circuit court judge.

Though careful to note McCarthy's reckless, often dishonest behavior in both Wisconsin and Washington, the exhibition's focus is on the personal tragedy of his squandered potential rather than the national tragedy he helped create. There is much here, for example, about the exaggeration of his military record during World War II and his mud-slinging campaigns for political office, but little about his role as a powerful Senate committee chairman and even less about the victims of his red-hunting abuse.

"Had I produced this exhibit in Chicago or New York, "I would have used a wider brush," Ms. Louagie said, explaining the emphasis.

So far, "Joseph McCarthy: A Modern Tragedy," which opened in January and is scheduled to run for two years, has avoided the backlash that undermined other recent exhibitions devoted to controversial subjects, like the National Air and Space Museum's atomic bomb fiasco, "Enola Gay." This may have as much to do with Appleton's physical isolation as the exhibition's remarkably evenhanded tone.

Even if a supporter of HUAC, the Black List, and the various Red Scares, one has to condemn Joe McCarthy, not just for acting dishonrably, but for tending to discredit the anti-Communist movement. It was the righteousness of his cause that made his tactics so heinous, because unnecessary as much as because unprincipled. Had he simply conducted his investigations in a responsible and professional manner, he'd have served his country and his cause far better.

That said, the reason the exhibit doesn't stir controversy the way the Columbus and Enola Gay observances did is because it celebrates the values of middle America, which were anti-Communist and pro-McCarthy, just as they are (one would think unsurprisingly) pro-Discovery of America and even pro-Hiroshima. Controversy plaqued those earlier projects when the people putting them on tried to tell us that Columbus was evil and the atomic bombings immoral. Never mind the truth of those accusations--which seems minimal--folks just don't want to hear it. Bully for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


No little people--just big headaches in ``Midgetville'' (WAYNE PARRY, June 1, 2002, Associated Press)
Greg Scott had heard the rumors: Somewhere in northern New Jersey, a colony of angry, shotgun-toting midgets lives in tiny houses under a bridge overpass, wreaking their terrible vengeance on intruders.

So he did what countless others have been doing for years. He went to see it for himself.

"I heard that it was founded by Ringling Brothers Circus to harbor their performing midgets," Scott said.

Scott said he heard an apocryphal tale of a man who drove through the area in search of the elusive little people, but couldn't find any.

"He began to honk his horn, trying to coax one out, but then the unthinkable happened," Scott said. "All the midgets, naturally disgruntled from all the abuse they received, rushed the car from their houses, and trashed it with baseball bats."

It's been like this for decades on Norwood Terrace, a tiny crescent-shaped road where many of the houses are indeed smaller than usual. And although none of the residents are dwarfs, the tall tales continue to draw carloads of late-night joyriders who speed along the narrow roadway, usually with the headlights off and the horn blaring, tossing beer bottles and eggs at the tiny homes and screaming things like "Wake up, you ... midgets!"

When I worked on the NJ Gubernatorial campaign in 1985, we went to every county fair (all 21) and the state fair. At one--I think Monmouth Country or Ocean County--the Democratic Party booth (yes, I worked for a Democrat--I hated Tom Kean) was next to the freak show booths. One had a two-headed goat. One had some kind of mutant chickens. But the one closest to the Democrats had a menagerie of Haitian midgets. So you'd be standing there, with the candidate shaking hands and chatting people up, while in the background you'd be hearing this continual tape loop : "Tiny people! See the tiny people! Haitian midgets! See the Haitian midgets!" Over and over and over and over again. It was like something out of an Ed Wood film.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Castro Rejects Bush Democracy Ideas (AP, June 01, 2002)
Speaking before hundreds of thousands of people in a drenching rain Saturday, President Fidel Castro said the democracy President Bush wants to see in Cuba would be a corrupt and unfair system that ignores the poor.

Like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro could alleviate the suffering of his people by the simple expedient of letting them vote.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM

Does life offer any greater pleasures than a day on which France, the Celtics, and the Yankees all lose?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM

U.S. OUT OF U.N. :

Syria Takes Over U.N. Security Council Presidency (IRWIN ARIEFF, 5/31/02, Reuters)
Syria, which has been using its perch in the Security Council to keep a spotlight on Israeli attacks on Palestinians, assumes the council's rotating presidency on Saturday for the first time since 1970.

I fondly recall the days when we on the Right were considered extremist nuts for wanting to get out of the UN. What self-respecting democrat could want to stay in it now?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 AM


U.S. Military Must Pay for Abortion of Fetus With Rare Disease (The Associated Press, 6/01/02)
A federal judge has ordered the U.S. military to pay for the abortion of a fetus that was developing without a brain.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Gertner ruled Thursday that the government could not refuse to pay for the abortion on moral grounds. But the decision applies only to fetuses with anencephaly, a condition in which the baby has no brain and survives for only a few days.

[M]aureen M. Britell, whose husband was in the military when she had an abortion at New England Medical Center in 1994...was covered by the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Service, known as CHAMPUS. A 1970s law bans federal funding of most abortions, and CHAMPUS does not pay for abortions unless the mother's life is in danger.

Though generally opposed to using tax dollars for abortions, this seems like a reasonable ruling.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


New Finds Worldwide Support Flood Myths (Brian Handwerk, May 28, 2002, National Geographic News)
Deep in the waters of Cabo de San Antonio, off Cuba's coast, researchers are exploring unusual formations of smooth blocks, crests, and geometric shapes. The Canadian exploration company that discovered the formations, Advanced Digital Communications, has suggested that they could be the buildings and monuments of an early, unknown American civilization.

Many scientists are skeptical of any theory that might tempt people to draw a parallel with the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Geologist Manuel Iturralde, however, has stressed the need for an open mind while investigations of the site continue.

"These are extremely peculiar structures, and they have captured our imagination," said Iturralde, who is director of research at Cuba's Natural History Museum. Iturralde has studied countless underwater formations over the years, but said, "If I had to explain this geologically, I would have a hard time."

In his report on the formations, Iturralde noted that conclusive proof of man-made structures on the site would reinforce some oral traditions of the Maya and native Yucatecos. These people still retell ancient stories of an island inhabited by their ancestors that vanished beneath the waves.

Iturralde makes it clear, however, that just because no natural explanation is immediately apparent, it doesn't rule one out. "Nature is able to create some really unimaginable structures," he said.

Further research is scheduled to take place over the summer. Data thus far has been collected using sonar scans and video. The structures are buried under 1,900 to 2,500 feet (600 to 750 meters) of water; collecting samples from the granite blocks and the sediment in which they are imbedded is the next step.

Such samples could yield the important clues to the origins of these strange structures, and perhaps alter our view of North American ancient civilizations, the researchers say.

Heard about this on NPR yesterday--apparently the New Age quacks are all over this like ugly on an ape, thinking that these are some kind of mystical structure. Don't they realize it's definitive proof of Noah's flood?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Economic Production Best in 19 Years (Jeannine Aversa, May 31, 2002, Associated Press)
A crucial ingredient in the economy's long-term vitality, productivity, turned in its best performance in almost two decades during the first quarter of the year as hard-pressed companies produced more with fewer workers.

Productivity--the amount of output per hour of work--soared at an annual rate of 8.4 percent in the January-March quarter, after a strong 5.5 percent growth rate in the previous quarter, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The latest figures show that last year's recession didn't derail healthy productivity gains seen in the late 1990s and bodes well for keeping the nation's economic recovery on solid footing, economists said. [...]

In the long run, productivity gains are good for workers, for the economy and for companies, whose profits took a hit during the slump.

Gains in productivity allow companies to pay workers more without raising prices, which would eat up those wage gains. Productivity gains also permit the economy to grow faster without triggering price inflation. If productivity falters, however, pressure for higher wages could force companies to raise prices and thus worsen inflation. [...]

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has said he remains bullish about the long-term prospects of productivity growth.

He and other economists have suggested that the strong productivity gains seen in the late 1990s were more than a passing fluke related to the economic boom and big investments by companies in productivity-enhancing computers and other high-tech equipment. Rather, those gains, may reflect a more lasting change involving how companies are managed and structured and put technology to use. [...]

With strong productivity growth keeping a lid on inflation, economists said the Federal Reserve has the luxury of leaving short-term interest rates unchanged at 40-year lows through the summer.

At first blush it may seem that interest rates are unusually low, but we've had other periods (some extended) when they were just as low. Considering these technology driven productivity gains, the basically balanced federal budget, the deflationary pressures created by the globalized economy (with its freer flow and readier development of raw materials and the willingness of foreign workers to accept lower wages), and the 1% overstatement of the inflation rate that occurs because the basket of goods used to measure the rate is so outdated it is actually likely that interest rates are now, and have been for several years, far too high. This may seem impossible but Japan has hit zero with its interest rates at times in recent years and still hasn't been able to lend money. Similarly, when you see a car company offering zero % financing plus cash back, you're really being offered a negative interest rate--that is you are being offered money to borrow
money. Fed Chairman Greenspan seems to understand this at certain times but to be terrified of the idea at others--an understandable condition for a central banker whose adult years coincided with the horrendous inflation brought on by Great Society and Cold War spending. Right now he needs to be cranking rates down to turn this tepid recovery into the kind of boom that could help the rest of the world's embattled economies.