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August 31, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 PM

WHY TAKE BAGHDAD? :

Urban War, the Right Way : Baghdad Needn't Be Another Mogadishu. American Troops Are Up to the Task--but Is the Public? (Mark Bowden, August 302002, LA Times)
Reports that Saddam Hussein is hoping to lure invading U.S. armies into protracted street battles in Baghdad have prompted visionsof American soldiers caught in a nightmarish 360-degree urban battlefield--"Black Hawk Down" redux.

Given that his military is estimated to be only one-third as strong as the one routed by allied armies 11 years ago, Hussein's best hope against an invading American force would be to exact enough casualties to wear down support for the effort in the U.S. or frighten off support for such an invasion before it began.

Toward that end, the nightmare of the 1993 battle of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, depicted in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down"might help convince Americans and their lawmakers that the cost of going to war against Iraq would be too high. But, in fact, the kind of urban fighting that members of Task Force Ranger faced in 1993 would little resemble such fighting in Baghdad.

The mission in Mogadishu was a limited, light-infantry assault, a lightning raid meant to capture unharmed several lieutenants of Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid. The whole purpose was to get into the city and get out quickly. The mission turned into protracted street fightingonly when Somalis were able to down two Black Hawk helicopters, forcing the soldiers on the ground to stay and rescue the chopper crews. An assault on Baghdad would come with heavy force and would be designed to defeat an entrenched enemy. It would involve a large contingent of footsoldiers supported by armor and precision air support. Task Force Ranger fought without the aid of tanks or AC-130 Spectre gunships because the
Clinton administration had declined to authorize these weapons. The full force of the U.S. conventional arsenal would back any move on Baghdad. The Rangers, Delta Force, SEALs and Air Force commandos trapped in Mogadishu numbered only about 160 men. Any force employed to attackBaghdad would be many times larger and linked with ready replacements and reinforcement. The most valuable armored tool in such an assault would probably not be a tank but a bulldozer.


Here's the question though: why take Baghdad? Especially if Saddam is going with a turtle strategy, sucking in his head and limbs and hiding in a "tough" shell, why not just take the rest of the country, giving us free reign to clean up his weapons sites and denying him access to his oil, surround Baghdad and tell the folks we'll leave when they send him out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM

TURNING JAPANESE (via The Edge of England's Sword):

EU's recovery may have been washed away (Anatole Kaletsky, August 29, 2002, Times of London)
[W]hile Britain has been saved from the euro, at least for the time being, by the operation of democracy and the good sense of voters, the rest of Europe is looking less and less fortunate on both counts. Europe is bouncing along the bottom of a deep economic slump and can no longer hope to export its way out of trouble by selling luxury goods to a super-charged American economy. Meanwhile, Germany, which is now perennially Europe’s weakest, as well as its largest, economy, is being sucked into a deflationary whirlpool similar to the one that drowned the postwar economic miracle in Japan.

Yet there seems to be little hope that either democracy or good sense will come to the rescue. To understand this grim diagnosis, we must focus on Germany, whose dysfunctions and blunders have been primarily responsible for Europe’s economic woes since the late 1980s. [...]

Europe will need some much more decisive economic leadership if it is to avert long-term stagnation and quite possibly a Japanese-style crisis. Nobody in Germany seems fit to provide it.


The analysis here is of a kind with much of the European coverage of their economic and social situation, which is to say it gnoores most of the real problems because the solutions are too distasteful to discuss in polite society. Forget the Eu, the euro, monetary policy, etc., etc., etc, and consider these questions : has there even been a case of a nation or group of nations sustaining a rising economy at the same time as its population was both in real decline and relatively aging? Between the lack of young workers, the rising demand for government services by a graying population, and a continent wide move towards a large centralized bureaucratic state, is there any reason to believe that Europes economies can do anything but decline?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:55 PM

BACH WHO? :

Michael Jackson duped at MTV Awards (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 31, 2002)
Michael Jackson has received so many awards during his career, he apparently mistook a birthday gift from MTV as another accolade.

Britney Spears presented Jackson with a birthday cake at Thursday night's Video Music Awards. Before introducing him, the 20-year-old Spears gushed that she considered Jackson to be the "artist of the millennium."

When Jackson came out, he was presented with a cake and a statuette in the shape of a treble clef. He then said he never dreamed he'd be getting an "Artist of the Millennium" award, and went on to thank several people, including his mother.

"When I was a little boy in Indiana, if someone had told me as a musician I would be getting the artist of the millennium award, I wouldn't have believed it," Jackson said.


Thriller ain't exactly the Brandenburg Concertos, Mr. Bubbles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM

BODY BLOWS :

Bush, the man of steel, is humbled by a $4bn battering from the WTO (Leo Lewis, 01 September 2002, The Independent uk)
In 1908, Andrew Carnegie, the Scot who was then America's biggest steel tycoon, was facing a tense Senate hearing on hefty US import tariffs and the prospect of a trade war with Europe. "Take back your protection; we are now men and we can beat the world at the manufacture of steel," he thundered.

Nearly a century later, the biggest names in US steel appear to find themselves on rather shakier ground. Despite having spent decades extolling the glories of globalisation, the US has suddenly found its steel industry the simultaneous victim and abuser of free trade. The US is swamped with cheap eastern European imports, and as a last resort the Bush administration has fallen back on the blunt instrument of protectionist tariffs.

In keeping with tradition, the US steel industry maintains its access to Washington's ear. With a move that stunned those who had not read the story in The Independent on Sunday predicting it, President Bush clearly demonstrated that fact in March when he announced a series of tariffs on steel imports – some as high as 150 per cent. The motive was obvious: nearly 30 US steel companies had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since 1998, and more would surely follow unless something were done. With mid-term elections looming in November, the steel industry did not have to work hard to remind Mr Bush of the dangers of mass lay-offs in Ohio and New Jersey.

But over the last 10 days, Mr Bush has been forced into some serious backtracking. As the official complaints and threats of retaliation have rained in from around the world, Washington has grudgingly exempted around a quarter of steel imports from the tariffs. Sniffing victory, some of the larger European producers optimistically believe that a complete reversal could now be close.


This is a well deserved butt-whipping of a column aimed at US protectionism. The only two things to point out are that the European steel industry is in fact illegally subsidized and that the tax break in question was not implemented on the watch of the current administration. Other than that, Mr. Lewis gets in a number of shots that I'm afraid we just have to take. Hopefully now that the steel tariffs have served their purpose by helping him win Fast Track Trade Authority, Mr. Bush will have sense enough to discard them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 AM

SPEAKING OF CONSERVATIVE HUMOR :

The Conservatives have hardly ever had it so good (Andrew Gimson, The Spectator)
Pessimism among Conservative candidates, extending to anguished doubt about their deficiencies as public speakers and their general ability to stay the course, is nothing new. As Chips Channon asked himself in his diary for 20 February 1934:

"Am I wise to embrace a Parliamentary career - can I face the continued strain? James Willoughby told me today that he nearly gave up his Parliamentary campaign in November, as he just could not stand the ordeal of speaking: when he confessed this to his agent, the man replied, 'Don't let not speaking well dishearten you: I have known candidates who could not even read.'"

We must all hope that in its restless quest to mirror the British people, the Conservative party will launch a drive to increase the proportion of its candidates who cannot read, but at least it already possesses an impressive number who cannot speak particularly well.


Not only is this column laugh out loud funny, it's also very wise on the need for Tories to return to first principles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM

CONDI'S COMP (via Ben Domenech) :

LOOMING LARGENT (The Weekly Standard)
Largent embodies the conservative combativeness of the Republicans elected to the House in the class of 1994. He's a fervent opponent of abortion, gay rights, gun control, and the National Endowment for the Arts. On economic issues, he introduced legislation to scrap the tax code, he'd like to phase out Social Security, and last year he strongly opposed raising the minimum wage. He's also devoutly religious. In a speech following his 1995 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he thanked "my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" and said, "Football is what He gave me the physical gifts to do for a time, but my faith really defines who I am, as a husband, a father, and a man." Ralph Reed, the Christian Coalition's former executive director, calls Largent "the genuine article."

But there are other traits that distinguish Largent from the rest of the House. Before he ran for Congress in 1994, he had never sought public office. During his athletic career, he scarcely followed politics beyond listening to radio broadcasts by Focus on the Family's James Dobson. That, and the birth of his first child in 1979, got him interested in public policy. But serving as an elected official never crossed his mind. "I didn't even know what 'GOP' stood for when I got to Washington," he says.

Political inexperience explains Largent's distaste for the wheeling and dealing that most people in Washington accept as a fact of life. When it was learned last year that Rep. John Boehner, who holds the number-four slot in the Republican leadership, had been distributing campaign contributions from tobacco companies on the House floor, Largent was appalled. He remonstrated personally with Boehner and even considered running against him in the House GOP's leadership elections.

Largent also possesses something found in few members of Congress: star quality. Since he came to Washington, People has twice named him one of its "Fifty Most Beautiful People in the World," and even a reporter for the New York Times gushed recently that Largent "looks like a male model and is so friendly he might be mistaken for a flirt."

Largent's glamour, particularly in the macho environment of the House, stems from his 14 years with the Seattle Seahawks. And he wasn't just any player: He was featured on a Wheaties box, and when he retired he had caught more passes than anyone else in pro-football history. He was selected for the Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible.

These qualities have won Largent a devoted following, particularly among conservatives, and made him popular on the fund-raising circuit. He attended about 50 events on behalf of other Republicans during his first term, and he looks out for his friends. When Gingrich canceled a fund-raiser for Rep. Mark Souder, a conservative Indiana Republican, after Souder voted in January 1996 against reopening the government, Largent called Souder the next day and said he'd come to the district for an event.

Souder, not surprisingly, is a Largent booster. So is Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, who says Largent "is one of handful of guys I would trust my life with." His zeal for the Oklahoman is such that he wants him to run for president in 2000, though Largent has responded "coolly." "Other people's ambitions for Steve are greater that Steve's ambitions for Steve," Souder notes. Indeed, Largent told me he is "honored and humbled" people would want him to run for president, but says he doesn't think it's "realistic." "It's not an aspiration I have," he says, though he allows that "miracles do happen."


Mr. Largent is precisely the kind of candidate who presents a stumbling block for a Condoleeza Rice Presidency. If you are a Republican because you are conservative, you can trust a Steve Largent to, more often than not, share your view on an issue. Ms Rice is too much a tabla rasa for us to have such faith and as she fills in the slate she's bound to alienate people. The difficult balancing act she has to perform over the next few years is to begin to speak out on some non-foreign policy issues and, in doing so, either embrace conservative positions or explain coherently why she doesn't embrace them. She needn't necessarily toe the party line, but she'll have a tough time in the primaries if she's out of step with the party faithful on social issues like abortion, cloning, gay marriage, affirmative action and school vouchers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM

METAL JAZZ? :

Alex Skolnick Trio
Last night on on their overnight Jazz Show, our local NPR affiliate played a cut from Goodbye To Romance: Standards For A New Generation by the Alex Skolnick Trio. It was Aerosmith's Dream On, but these guys play a jazz version of it. Apparently there are also covers of tunes by Black Sabbath, KISS, and The Who on the disc. It was at least intriguing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM

IS CASTRO DONE YET? :

Totally Uncooked (PEGGY ORENSTEIN, September 1, 2002, NY Times Magazine)
Cooked food has not passed Klein's lips in five years -- that means not only meat but also vegetarian staples like pasta, rice and beans, which are not tasty in their natural state. Since, like most raw-foodists, he is also vegan, he abstains from dairy and eggs. Even tofu is taboo, because the soybeans it is made from are cooked. ''I've never felt better,'' Klein says. He sleeps less, has more energy. He even eats less. Although he does a two-hour ashtanga yoga workout each morning, he subsists on about 800 calories a day, which most nutritionists would consider starvation level. (The recommended daily allowance for an active adult male is 2,900 calories.) Raw-foodists claim, however, that uncooked calories metabolize more efficiently -- although there is no evidence for this. When I suggest that vegans I've met often look sickly, he shrugs. ''What we perceive as healthy may to a certain extent be socially determined,'' he says. ''They may have been very healthy and just looked weird to you.'' Klein himself is gaunt, though his arms are enviably muscular.

Klein is among a growing number of people who believe that eating uncooked ''living foods'' extends youth and staves off disease -- who, in some cases, consider cooked food tantamount to poison. Heat, they maintain, depletes food's protein and vitamin content and concentrates any pesticides. More important, it destroys a food's natural enzymes, which, enthusiasts claim, facilitate digestion; to absorb cooked food, they say, the body must use up its own limited supply of enzymes. By helping the body retain enzymes, a ''living foods'' diet supposedly delays aging, boosts energy and prevents or cures virtually all life-threatening diseases. ''In nature, all animals eat living foods,'' wrote the raw-foods pioneer T.C. Fry, who died six years ago at a relatively youthful 70. ''Only humans cook their foods, and only humans suffer widespread sicknesses and ailments.'' He also wrote, ''All the diseases of civilization -- cancer, heart disease, diabetes -- are all directly attributable to the consumption of cooked food.''

The raw-foodist subculture is a mix of alternative-health types, spiritual seekers and the aggressively trendy. (Celebrity devotees include Demi Moore and Angela Bassett.) Many people turn to the movement after struggling with chronic illness or obesity. Numerous Web sites peddle juicers, suggest recipes and offer testimonials that read like conversion experiences. ''It was about two years ago, at the height of my suffering from deadly cancer, that I was introduced to the raw-food diet, which completely changed my life,'' proclaims one of the faithful on rawfood.com. There are potlucks in Little Rock, festivals in Portland, conferences in Boston, tropical retreats in Bali. A small library's worth of ''uncookbooks'' have been published, and there is a movement afoot to pressure the Food Network into producing a raw-foods show.

It would be easy to dismiss raw cookery as kookery, and many do. But the rise of raw also reflects something about America's current mood. Extreme dietary regimens tend to crop up during times of crisis as a simple fix for society's ills. Amid the wave of social reforms in the 19th century, Sylvester Graham (of cracker fame) linked vegetarianism -- and home-baked bread in particular -- to spiritual salvation. A short time later, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of cornflakes, promoted a regimen of ''biologic living,'' which, in addition to some visionary ideas about diet and exercise, included five daily enemas and radium therapy.

Living-food gurus similarly promise not only better health but also increased wealth, spiritual enlightenment and inner contentment -- something that, these days, many of us find in short supply. In fact, by serving up equal parts fashion and phobia, raw-foodists may have hit on the ideal cuisine for an anxious time. ''In American life today, there's a lot we can't control,'' says Barbara Haber, author of ''From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals.'' ''But everyone has control over their own intake. We can't control terrorism, but we can make sure we don't eat anything cooked.''


While mildly sympathetic to folks who feel the world today is beyond their control, might I suggest an alternative way of asserting control that involves food but that's much more fun? Try doing what the wife and I do: when you go to the store today to pick out a steak, give it a name, the name of someone you hate, maybe Osama bin Laden. Then, rather than eating it raw, barbecue it. Barbecue it with flames leaping up. Barbecue it until the outside is black and crusty. Than hack it up with a sharp knife and woof it down. This sort of symbolic anthropophagy may not reflect any better mental health but it sure as heck tastes better than raw macaroni.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM

GOLDEN BALL AND CHAIN :

We infants in men's clothing (Leonard Pitts, Jr., August 30, 2002, Jewish World Review)
They tell me the modern marriage is a partnership, a concept with which I have no disagreement. What I struggle to understand is why, where the family purse is concerned, my partner's vote carries so much more weight with me than my own. Am I really so much more likely to be seduced by useless gadgetry? Lose my mind at the promise of more watts per channel? Fall in love with a pretty faceplate?

Don't answer that.

"When I get married," my son announced, "I'm going to say, 'Look, baby, I'll buy whatever I want to buy.'"

"No you won't," I told him.

And my cocky son, who never believes anything I say, who thinks I know nothing about anything, considered that with a rueful smile.

"Yeah," he said, "I know."


The wife actually argues that we should rent movies rather than just buy the DVD. Women...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 AM

THE TIMES, IN DEFENSE OF BAD BUDGETING :

Tax Cuts, Again (NY Times, August 31, 2002)
[T]he overriding problem with more tax cuts is the cost. The proposals Mr. Bush is looking at are expensive. This week the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the recession, combined with increased spending and the cost of the 2001 Bush tax cuts, had vaporized all but $1 trillion of the 10-year, $5.6 trillion surplus projected less than two years ago. It would be unconscionable for Mr. Bush to propose any tax cuts without explaining how they will be paid for over the long term. A case can be made for some tax-cutting now, but only if the huge tax cuts scheduled to take effect several years from now for the wealthiest Americans are repealed.

Why is a budget that projects the government taking one trillion dollars more than it needs from the American taxpayers any better than one that projects the government taking one trillion less than it needs? Aren't both simply bad budgets? In fact, given that we had a rising economy while we ran deficits but plunged into recession as soon as we started running surpluses, isn't it time to consider the possibility that the surplus is part of the problem? Mustn't there be some deleterious effect on the economy when government takes more of our hard-earned money than even it can spend, when, in effect, government removes the vital free market mechanism of allowing taxpayers to determine how to spend those dollars? Who cares if we give tax breaks to left-handed eggplant growers in Wyoming; just give the money back to the people, any people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM

THE BROTHERS JUDD LIBERAL HUMOR CHALLENGE :

This was the week that, for some reason, everyone finally realized that the Left is humorless :
Bubble Wrap: The Nation vs. The Weekly Standard (John Powers, LA Weekly)
AS FAR BACK AS I CAN REMEMBER THE NATION HAS been the journalistic lodestar of the American left. Now, in its 137th year, the magazine is on a commercial roll. Its subscriptions have risen steadily in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks. Its finances may actually break even (a miracle in the world of political magazines). And its publishing adjunct, Nation Books, is raking in money from two hot titles: Gore Vidal's Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace and Forbidden Truth by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume DasquiÈ. Indeed, everything's going so well that I feel kind of churlish in pointing out what most on the left are unwilling to say: The Nation is a profoundly dreary magazine.

Just compare it to another thin, ideologically driven rag, The Weekly Standard, a right-wing publication currently approaching its measly seventh anniversary. A few months ago, I began putting new issues of each side by side on an end table and, to my surprise, discovered that while unread copies of The Nation invariably rose in guilt-inducing stacks, I always read The Weekly Standard right away. Why? Because seen purely as a magazine, The Standard is incomparably more alluring. As gray and unappetizing as homework, The Nation makes you approach it in the same spirit that Democrats might vote for Gray Davis -- where else can you go? In contrast, The Standard woos you by saying, "We're having big fun over here on the right."

And in some undeniable sense that's true. Back in the '60s, the left was the home of humor, iconoclasm, pleasure. But over the last two decades, the joy has gone out of the left -- it now feels hedged in by shibboleths and defeatism -- while the right has been having a gas, be it Lee Atwater grooving to the blues, Rush Limbaugh chortling about Feminazis or grimly gleeful Ann Coulter serving up bile as if it were chocolate mousse, even dubbing Katie Couric "the affable Eva Braun of morning television." (Get your political allegiances straight, babe. Katie's the Madame Mao of morning television. You're Eva Braun.)


Right-Wing Envy : Do you have it? (Jack Shafer, August 29, 2002, Slate)
While the right seeks converts, trying both to persuade and entertain, the left spends its journalistic energy policing the movement. Imagine The Nation running a weekly column about nothing, called "Casual," as the Standard does. Also, conservative journalists are more likely to allow readers to enjoy a magazine article without strong-arming them into signing the ideology oath that seems to come packed with most lefty journalism. For instance, when the Standard's David Brooks profiled "Patio Man," the acquisitive consumer who haunts Home Depot looking for things to buy, he both laughed at its subject and exalted him without fear of contradiction.

Of course, lefty journalism needn't turn right to improve itself. But Powers hints that the source of The Nation's illness is the Stalinist impulse to prescribe proper attitudes toward culture, art, and journalism. A Nation writer who, say, wants to use humor or wit to make his point mustn't abuse gays, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Ralph Nader, foreigners, women, the infirm, working stiffs, Indians, Mohammed (but Jesus is fair game), whales, or any cultural stereotype. This leaves him just one angle from which to compose his point: Stupid White Men. Such is the state of left journalism that Michael Moore has made a career out of painting and repainting this mono-mural.

How the anything-goes drug-and-sex party that the cultural left threw in the '60s segued into an Amish wake featuring stern readings from the joyless work of Barbara Ehrenreich, the scoldings of Todd Gitlin, and the catechisms of Richard Goldstein is anybody's guess. Would Emma Goldman dance with these folks? Or would she make a beeline for the house on the right, which looks like a brothel in comparison to the one on the left? I await the Powers sequel.


Who's more miserable - the far right or the far left? (James Lileks, Rants)
The former is likely to wash its hands of the modern world, lament how things have gone to hell since the Brits stopped shoving civilization down the ululating maws of Wogland, and announce that you're all welcome to your polyglot mishmash - I'll be over here getting smashed on port and reading Patrick O'Brien novels. But at least they seem dedicated to enjoying life on their own terms; if they're cultural conservatives, they retire to their version of Heston's apartment in "The Omega Man," surrounded by the remnants of Western glory, keeping to themselves, and venting their spleen now and then by burping off a few rounds at the moaning zombies outside in the darkened park.

The hard left, on the other hand, demonstrates all the symptoms of anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure - there's a rancid bitterness, a pissy miserablism that makes you feel very, very sorry for them.


All of them are, of course, correct, but Mr. Powers and Mr. Shafer and several of the folks who have commented on these stories make one major mistake in their analysis: because they are Leftists themselves or in some of the commentators cases reformed Leftists, they are forced to assume that this represents a change of some kind. Typically they harken back to the 60s when the Left was "fun". Mr. Shafer for instance refers approvingly, and apparently with a straight face, to the "anything-goes drug-and-sex party that the cultural left threw in the '60s". Surely at this late date there's no one left who really thinks that was fun, is there? You'd have thought the Clinton Presidency, where we got to see what the children of the 60s had turned into, or the Robin Wright character in Forrest Gump would have put the final nail in that coffin. It's entirely typical of the time that the genuinely humorous art it produced all makes fun of the Left's pretensions and heaps scorn upon the "party". One thinks in particular of Tom Wolfe, who in essays like Radical Chic made it clear that hat was fun about the 60s parties was not to be at one but to contemplate the participants. Even Hunter S. Thompson, who we still tend to think of as a defender of the 60s party, apparently understood even at the time that the joke was on him and the rest of the partiers. At the end of his book Hell's Angels, after a several hundred page paean to the care free biker gang spirit, those same bikers beat the living hell out of him. The whole text is revealed to have been an elaborate joke at his own expense. And that is the proper point to take away from the 60s: the partiers were not the perpetrators but the butt of all the truly amusing jokes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

YOU CAN'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER :

In Those Days, Too, Blood and Sex Could Make a Best Seller (EMILY EAKIN, August 31, 2002, NY Times)
In 1796, a 20-year-old Oxford University graduate named Matthew Lewis published "The Monk," a Gothic shocker unlike anything English society had ever seen. The novel told a lurid tale of sex and murder involving a Roman Catholic priest: Ambrosio, the revered head of a Capuchin monastery in Madrid, rapes and stabs Antonia, a local beauty of noble descent, in the crypt of the convent next door. The macabre nature of his crime is conveyed in graphic detail. The priest drugs her with an opiate so powerful that she is presumed dead and carted off in a coffin to the crypt, where, as soon as she revives, he forces himself on her and then finishes her off with two dagger blows to the heart. In an earlier fit of lustful frenzy, he also strangles her mother.

A succès de scandale 200 years ago, the novel is being reissued this month by Oxford University Press with a terrific new introduction by Stephen King. By dressing the book in a 1950's-style noir cover - featuring a shrouded monk in sinister silhouette and the title in ghostly, backlit typeface - Oxford seems to be trying to have it viewed as a precociously modern work. [...]

When Lewis dashed off the book in 10 weeks while working at the British Embassy in The Hague, the Gothic novel was just a few decades old. Its progenitor, most scholars agree, was Horace Walpole, the author of the mildly spooky romance "The Castle of Otranto" (1764) and one of the first novelists to abandon all pretense to moral instruction in favor of sheer entertainment. Walpole's celebration of romantic love and fondness for vengeful ghosts and moldering castles became hallmarks of the Gothic.

"If this new genre had an Elvis Presley, it was Walpole," [Stephen] King writes. "Then came Matthew Lewis, the genre's first punk, the Johnny Rotten of the Gothic novel."


If you pick it up because of the Mickey Spillane-style cover you're going to be disappointed. It defies reading.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:47 AM

VOUCHERS NOW, PART 472 :

Lesson Plans for Sept. 11 Offer a Study in Discord (KATE ZERNIKE, August 31, 2002, NY Times)
"For some kids, school may be the only place they have where they can find a listening ear," said Jerald Newberry, director of the Health Information Network for the [National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers' union], which produced the lesson plans.

The criticism to the lessons on tolerance, Mr. Newberry said, is thinly veiled bigotry. "If you boil down the concerns of the opposition, what I would call the far right, ultimately it boils down to is: `I am not comfortable with my child being in school with someone who's different. I want to keep my child surrounded by people who are identical to me. The world is getting too diverse, and I'm scared.' " [...]

Among what Mr. Newberry called "100 gentle lessons" in the N.E.A. curriculum is one where middle school students make color wheels to relate color to how they feel. A tolerance lesson suggests talking to high school students about their definition of "terrorist." How many times in defining it, the curriculum asks, do the terms "Muslim" and "Middle East" come up, and how does that compare with the characterization of Japanese-Americans who, as the students learn, were sent to internment camps in World War II?

The N.E.A. Web site also included a link that urged teachers to avoid blaming Muslims for the attacks.


Actually, Mr. Newberry, I'm not comfortable with my child being in a school with a fact-warping, America-hating, self-loathing nitwit like you. Who do you think we should blame for the attacks, Zoroastrians?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM

GOOD VIBRATIONS LINGER :

Lionel Hampton, Jazz Great, Dies at 94 (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 31, 2002)
Lionel Hampton, the vibraphone virtuoso and standout showman whose six-decade career ranked him among the greatest names in jazz
history, died Saturday. He was 94.

Hampton, whose health was failing in recent years, died of heart failure at Mount Sinai Medical Center at about 6:15 a.m., said his manager, Phil Leshin.

``He was a great man, a sweet, nice, gentleman, and one of the greatest musicians this country has ever produced,'' Leshin said. ``He's influenced thousands of musicians around the world.''

Hampton worked with a who's who of jazz greats, from Benny Goodman to Charlie Parker to Quincy Jones.

Hampton and pianist Teddy Wilson were the black half of the fabled quartet with Goodman and drummer Gene Krupa that in 1936 broke the racial barriers
that had largely kept black musicians from performing with whites in public.


He played at our High School and was not only great but seemed like a genuinely sweet man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 AM

DONAWHO? :

'DONAHUE' DEBUT DRAWS FEW VIEWERS (DON KAPLAN, August 28, 2002, NY Post)
The ratings for TV vet Phil Donahue's new talk show are almost too low to track.

The ratings for "Donahue" scored a .1 rating last Friday - that means fewer than 136,000 viewers nationwide were tuned in during MSNBC's hour-long 8 p.m. talk show.


Never mind the specific delusion that there would be an audience for Donahue at this moment in our history, when Western Civilization is under attack. Consider the general question of whether there's really much of a market for news with an openly Leftwing slant. Ann Coulter put it well in her Booknotes appearance :
COULTER: Oh no, no one in the entertainment world is going to watch this show.

LAMB: Why not? [...]

COULTER: If they watched the show they'd all be conservatives. Did you see that NPR listeners, something like 72 percent are conservative? And you remember from your own show here when you just had open lines, it was all conservatives calling and you had to set up a liberal line. If liberals paid attention to politics, they'd all be conservatives.


For years before blogging came along, I used to send out pretty much all the same type stories that we link to now. One of the folks on the mailing list, a liberal, asked what the point was. I told him that I didn't think it was possible to be an intelligent person and actually know what's going on in the world and remain a liberal.

August 30, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM

HAPPY CIVILIZATION DAY :

Charlie Chaplin's Long Nightmare Has Finally Ended: This Labor Day no one is celebrating workers. (DANIEL HENNINGER, August 30, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
What's perhaps most interesting about the American workforce as we welcome a Labor Day weekend is just how little interest there is in the subject. Ever since the Industrial Revolution began to funnel families to big-city jobs, popularizers and theorists have obsessed over the culture of work.

Some weeks ago I saw a restored print of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," a fantastic 1927 movie in which an all-powerful capitalist runs a magnificent futuristic city with lumpen workers who toil below ground at horrid, perpetual-motion machines. Ten years later in "Modern Times," Charlie Chaplin's Everyman is still enslaved to the metal monsters.

Some 30 Labor Days after that, nothing much had changed. In 1955 the coal miner in Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" can't afford to die because "I owe my soul to the company store." It sold two million copies and every kid in America was singing it. But the definitive gloss on work in America appeared the next year with publication of William H. Whyte's "The Organization Man." For the purposes of contemplating the evolution of paid effort on Labor Day in the 21st century, it's still worth reading Whyte's vision:

"The corporation man is the most conspicuous example, but he is only one, for the collectivization so visible in the corporation has affected almost every field of work. Blood brother to the business trainee off to join Du Pont is the seminary student who will end up in the church hierarchy, the doctor headed for the corporate clinic, the physics Ph.D. in a government laboratory, the intellectual on the foundation-sponsored team project, the engineering graduate in the huge drafting room at Lockheed, the young apprentice in a Wall Street law factory. They are all, as they so often put it, in the same boat." In Whyte's world, work had at least evolved from hell to purgatory.

Today we have Dilbert, the first labor theorist in all history with a sense of humor. I say this is progress.


We should scrap Labor Day and instead commemorate the attacks, with church services, concerts, and patriotic observances. This would serve as a permanent reminder that our freedoms have been paid for with blood and that many in the world would like to extract a higher toll. But it should be a day of thanksgiving, a day when we recognize and celebrate the values that were attacked on 9-11 and refresh our vows to defend them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:41 PM

SPEAKING OF RIBBENTROPP... :

Germany Announces New Shift Away From U.S. Over Iraq (STEVEN ERLANGER, Aug. 30, 2002, NY Times)
If the United States attacks Iraq, Germany will pull out its specialized nuclear, chemical and biological warfare unit from Kuwait, the German defense minister said in an interview published today.

The conservative challenger in the electoral fight to be Germany's next chancellor, Edmund Stoiber, said today that he would do the same in the case of a unilateral American attack on Iraq, but only after consultations with European allies.

The new German position marks another shift away from Washington in the heat of a German election campaign that the chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, is trying to turn toward questions of peace rather than unemployment.

The unit, consisting of six specialized Fuchs tanks and 52 soldiers, is designed to detect the use or presence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and then try to destroy them. The unit was sent to Kuwait as part of Germany's contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom, the war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban that followed the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.


Saddam and Schroder...perfect together....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM

CRANK UP THE SOX' MIRACLE COMEBACK :

Baseball: Deal Reached, Strike Averted (Reuters, 8/30/02)
Major League Baseball players reached a new labor agreement with team owners in 11th hour talks on Friday, narrowly averting a strike that had threatened to damage the sport for years to come.

This is how it must have felt on the day the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact was announced...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 AM

FOLDED UP IN THE PAPER TIGER :

China's Governance Crisis (Minxin Pei, September 2002, Foreign Affairs)
In retrospect, the 1990s ought to be viewed as a decade of missed opportunities. The CCP leadership could have taken advantage of a booming economy to renew itself through a program of gradual political reform built on the rudimentary steps of the 1980s. But it did not, and now the cumulative costs of a decade of foot-dragging are becoming more visible. In many crucial respects, China's hybrid neo-authoritarian order eerily exhibits the pathologies of both the political stagnation of Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union and the crony capitalism of Suharto's Indonesia.

These pathologies -- such as pervasive corruption, a collusive local officialdom, elite cynicism, and mass disenchantment -- are the classic symptoms of degenerating governing capacity. In most political systems, a regime's capacity to govern is measured by how it performs three key tasks: mobilizing political support, providing public goods, and managing internal tensions. These three functions of governance -- legitimation, performance, and conflict resolution -- are, in reality, intertwined. A regime capable of providing adequate public goods (education, public health, law and order) is more likely to gain popular support and keep internal tensions low. In a Leninist party-state however, effective governance critically
hinges on the health of the ruling party. Strong organizational discipline, accountability, and a set of core values with broad appeal are essential to governing effectively. Deterioration of the ruling party's strength, on the other hand, sets in motion a downward cycle that can severely impair the party-state's capacity to govern.

Numerous signs within China indicate that precisely such a process is producing huge governance deficits. The resulting strains are making the political and economic choices of China's rulers increasingly untenable. They may soon be forced to undertake risky reforms to stop the rot. If they do not, dot communism could be no more durable than the dot coms. [...]

Many in the Bush administration view China's rise as both inevitable and threatening, and such thinking has motivated policy changes designed to counter this potential "strategic competitor." On the other hand, the international business community, in its enthusiasm for the Chinese market, has greatly discounted the risks embedded in the country's political system. Few appear to have seriously considered whether their basic premises about China's rise could be wrong. These assumptions should be revisited through a more realistic assessment of whether China, without restructuring its political system, can ever gain the institutional competence required to generate power and prosperity on a sustainable basis. As Beijing changes its leadership, the world needs to reexamine its long-cherished views about China, for they may be rooted in little more than wishful thinking.


As is so often the case among foreign policy professionals, this article seems to be worried about the last crisis rather than the next. We all know how this one ends: communism can never, even when it attempts to weld itself to capitalism, provide the kind of decent life that citizens ultimately demand. The question is not: can this current political regime endure? Of course it can't. The question is: can this China endure a regime change? Absent a totalitarian, or at least authoritarian, central government, willing to use ruthless force to keep the State together, how can a nation of over a billion people of varied backgrounds, spread out over a massive geography, be made to cohere and be made to function efficiently? One seriously doubts that it can.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 AM

THE MEN WITH THE MEAT AXES :

Neo-Con Is Not a Keanu Reeves Fan Convention (Bobby Allison-Gallimore, 8/29/02, Caffeinspiration)
Although the definition of a neo-con as opposed to a conservative is no doubt blurry, especially with the swelling of the neo-con ranks, I wonder if the answer lies somewhere in the vicinity of this hypothesis: could the distinction involve a belief by neo-cons (perhaps carried over from their former days as liberals) that successful implementation of their policies would result in a net gain for society, whereas conservatives feel that successful policy implementation can only result in slowing down the rate of society's inevitable loss, rather than resulting in any gain.

Those pesky neocons are proving harder to nail down than Jell-o., but Mr. Allison-Gallimore brings up one of the most important features of neoconservatism and one that mitigates against their being considered conservative at all. They retain a rationalist belief that they can perfect society through proper implementation of government policy. The great vivisection of rationalism is to be found in Rationalism in politics (Michael Oakeshott, Cambridge Journal, Volume I, 1947) :
The general character and disposition of the Rationalist are, I think., difficult to identify. At bottom he stands (he always stands) for independence of mind on all occasions, for thought free from obligation to any authority save the authority of reason'. His circumstances in the modern world have made him contentious: he is the enemy of authority, of prejudice, of the merely traditional, customary or habitual. His mental attitude is at once sceptical and optimistic: sceptical, because there is no opinion, no habit, no belief, nothing so firmly rooted or so widely held that he hesitates to question it and to judge it by what he calls his 'reason'; optimistic, because the Rationalist never doubts the power of his 'reason (when properly applied) to determine the worth of a thing, the truth of an opinion or the propriety of an action. Moreover, he is fortified by a belief in a reason' common to all mankind, a common power of rational consideration, which is the ground and inspiration of argument: set up on his door is the precept of Parmenides--judge by rational argument. But besides this, which gives the Rationalist a touch of intellectual equalitarianism, he is something also of an individualist, finding it difficult to believe that anyone who can think honestly and clearly will think differently from himself.[...]

The conduct of affairs, for the Rationalist, is a matter of solving problems, and in this no man can hope to be successful whose reason has become inflexible by surrender to habit or is clouded by the fumes of tradition. In this activity the character which the Rationalist claims for himself is the character of the engineer, whose mind (it is supposed) is controlled throughout by the appropriate technique and whose first step is to dismiss from his attention everything not directly related to his specific intentions. This assimilation of politics to engineering is, indeed, what may be called the myth of rationalist politics. And it is, of course, a recurring theme in the literature of Rationalism. The politics it inspires may be called the politics of the felt need; for the Rationalist, politics are always charged with the feeling of the moment. He waits upon circumstance to provide him with his
problems, but rejects its aid in their solution. That anything should be allowed to stand between a society and the satisfaction of the felt needs of each
moment in its history must appear to the Rationalist a piece of mysticism and nonsense. And his politics are, in fact, the rational solution of those practical conundrums which the recognition of the sovereignty of the felt need perpetually creates in the life of a society. Thus, political life is resolved into a succession of crises, each to be surmounted by the application of reason'. Each generation, indeed, each administration, should see unrolled before it the blank sheet of infinite possibility. And if by chance this tabula rasa has been defaced by the irrational scribblings of tradition-ridden ancestors, then the first task of the Rationalist must be to scrub it clean; as Voltaire remarked, the only way to have good laws is to burn all existing laws and to start afresh.


This stands in sharp contrast to the portrait of the conservative he draws in his other great essay, On Being Conservative (1956):
A man of conservative temperament draws some appropriate conclusions. First, innovation entails certain loss and possible gain, therefore, the onus of proof, to show that the proposed change may be on the whole expected to be beneficial, rests on the would-be innovator. Secondly, he believes that the more closely the innovation resembles growth (that is, the more clearly it is intimated in and not merely imposed upon the situation) the less likely it is to result in a preponderance of loss. Thirdly, he thinks that an innovation which is in response to some specific defect, one designed to redress some specific disequilibrium, is more desirable than one that springs from a notion of generally improved condition of human circumstances, and is far more desirable than one generated by a vision of perfection. Fourthly, he favours a slow rather than a rapid pace, and pauses to observe current consequences and make appropriate adjustments. And lastly, he believes occasion to be important: and, all other things being equal, he considers the most favourable occasion for innovation to be when the projected change is most likely to be limited to what is intended and least likely to be corrupted by undesired and unmanageable consequences.

It comes as little surprise to read in Irving Kristol's own Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea that he personally rejected On Being Conservative when Oakeshott presented it to him for publication in the journal Encounter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM

GET BUSINESS OFF THE PUBLIC TEAT :

W.T.O. Will Allow Europe to Impose Record Sanctions Against U.S. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 30, 2002)
The World Trade Organization on Friday ruled that the European Union can impose trade sanctions of up to $4 billion against the United States in a tax dispute, the biggest penalty it has ever allowed.

The sanctions are 20 times the amount levied in any previous WTO dispute. Experts say their potential effect on EU-U.S. trade would be so serious that the ruling will likely prompt a new compromise between the two sides.

The result is a big victory for the EU, which had requested the $4 billion amount. The United States claimed the award should be less than $1 billion.

The WTO considered the request from the EU after ruling last year that a system of tax breaks for companies from the United States was an illegal subsidy and violated international trade rules.


Considering that we didn't even dispute that the subsidies were illegal we deserve whatever we get. This is an extraordinary opportunity for Republicans, who are too stupid to take it. They should go to McCain and the Democrats and say: draft a list of every corporate tax break and subsidy you want to get rid of and we'll do it. We'll also get rid of the Commerce Department, the Small Business Administration, Export-Import Bank, etc.--every program and department that is set up primarily to benefit business. No tit for tat, no gimmicks. Just simplify the laws and treat business no better than we did poor people in Welfare Reform. Tell 'em, to sink or swim on their own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM

SO I SAY, WELCOME, TO THE BOOMTOWN :

Japan recovers from recession (Charles Scanlon, 30 August, 2002, BBC)
The Japanese economy has recovered from one of its worst recessions but it remains heavily dependent on growth in the United States.

The latest figures show gross domestic product was up by 0.5% in the three months to June.


Is it really a recovery when the growth number is the size of an accounting error? Here's the important thing to keep in mind: there's not a single factor that would lead one to believe that the Japanese economy will recover, ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM

A FAVOR, PLEASE :

BE A DATA POINT! (Patrick Ruffini, 08.29.02)
Since I'm going away for Labor Day and I'm unlikely to post anything from the road, I thought I'd put this out there when it might get a few extra eyeballs. It's a poll — my first effort to get a clear picture of political attitudes in the Blogosphere, among readers and authors alike. Crunching crosstabs is like crack to me, and I want some good, solid data. How many ultra-liberal women are defense hawks? I'll tell you, but first I need a meaningful sample to know. Please take this, no matter how meaningless or unthinking you think your answers might be. Thanks!

We'd appreciate it if folks could take a minute, it truly takes no longer, and complete Mr. Ruffini's survey. The numbers should be revealing and Mr. Ruffini is just the man to do something useful with them. Here's a prediction: 80%+ will be white, male, libertarian, pro-war, but at least a third of those will pick Gore in '04 to reveal their contempt for Mr. Bush's positions on steel and cloning.

August 29, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM

HEADS OR TAILS? :

What are we doing here? (Dr. Abraham Twerski, M.D., August 29, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Just what are we doing here? What is the purpose of existence? Is it to "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die?," as the prophet Isaiah asked? It is not necessary for spiritual man to know the purpose of his existence, but it is essential that he think about it and search for it. If one concludes that he has no, purpose in life, that is his privilege, but as a human being he must exercise the unique human capacity to at least contemplate whether there is a purpose to life or not.

This is necessary because this search is crucial for self esteem-a necessary prerequisite for a person to maintain his emotional health. Self esteem requires a sense of having value or worth. Generally we value things for their function or for their aesthetic value. Of these two choices, man is not merely a decorative ornament, so we are left with contemplating our function: Just are we for? To be without a purpose would be devastating to our self esteem.

Now for the big question. Can you have purpose in life without postulating a Creator? To speak of one's ultimate purpose one has to assume that there is an ultimate purpose for the entire universe; a universe where each person has an individualized role. For the Universe to have a purpose there must have been some Intelligence that brought the Universe into being in order to fulfill that purpose. In a Universe that came about spontaneously and happened to evolve in such a way that after billions of years man appeared on insignificant earth, man can hardly be considered to have a purpose.


...and that, to me, is an intolerable thought. I know many people who are unable to believe in a Creator because their reasoning precludes it. I know several who believe in a Creator because they've had a personal experience of Him. I, on the other hand, have to admit I've never had a moment where I thought that I could truly perceive the Creator. But, even if applying it backwards, I find "reasoning" a sufficient means to arrive at the necessity of His existence. Because a life without purpose and without morality would be a horrible and ugly thing and because purpose and morality are only possible if there is a Creator, I choose to believe in Him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM

MORE EAKINS :

The Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins (1875) (Jonathan Jones, August 3, 2002, The Guardian)
Artist: Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), one of the greatest American painters, an artist of severity, of 19th-century sobriety, who never seemed to doubt that his was a moral vocation. [...]

Subject: Eakins approached Dr Samuel D Gross (1805-84) with his idea for a portrait in the operating theatre at Jefferson Medical College. Gross was an innovative surgeon and champion of surgical intervention. This operation - to save a gangrenous leg by removing pus - is one he pioneered.

Distinguishing features: It is Gross's face that holds you, his forehead caught by light from above, a glowing white star fringed with silver and grey, and the black pits of his eyes, their darkness only heightened by the light. He has paused for a moment to explain a detail of the procedure to the students all around him in the shadows of the theatre. The painting does not freeze the moment so much as expand it infinitely: there is a massive, grand stillness to this imposing canvas in which you contemplate with awe the dominating, dignified figure of the surgeon, all in black, except for the shocking shining red blood on his right hand as he holds the scalpel like a pen, or perhaps a palette knife.

What is Gross thinking?


As the husband of a doctor I can practically guarantee you he was thinking the following: "Boy, I hope they have the fried chicken basket in the cafeteria today."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM

PEACE IN OUR TIME :

If Churchill were alive today, he would strike at Saddam (John Keegan, 29/08/2002, Daily Telegraph)
The odour of appeasement that permeates the Western world has apparently driven President George W Bush to seek strength by studying the career of Winston Churchill.

Depressed by the warnings of his father's old friends against taking action against Iraq, he is looking for support in the life story of the supreme anti-appeaser. Churchill's refusal to be silenced by the peacemongers during Hitler's rise to power, a refusal all too painfully proved right when war came, sets an example President Bush finds reassuring.

If Churchill was right about Hitler, he seems to be asking, how can America be wrong about Saddam Hussein, a dictator who is on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons, a power Hitler never possessed?

The parallel is compelling, particularly to Americans, among whom Churchill, son of an American mother, continues to be venerated as perhaps he never was in his father's country.

But how right was Churchill?


It's interesting that the great military historian John Keegan, who I'd understood to be fairly skeptical about the war, should weigh in now in favor. but I wonder if he's not missing an important point here. If Churchill were alive today, he'd be in the wilderness, unwanted by an appeasement minded populace. For sixty years now Neville Chamberlain has been kicked up one side of the Atlantic and down the other by politicians, columnists, journalists, and historians who insisted that they'd have known that Hitler had to be stopped early. The underlying mesage of the scapegoating of Chamberlain has been that when the moment came again to either strike at a megalomaniacal dictator bent on murdering millions or to backdown in the face of his bellicose threats that we'd all demonstrate that we'd all learned our lesson. Bunk!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM

ONE NATION, UNDER THE UN :

France speaks out against US war plan (BBC, 29 August, 2002)
Mr Chirac told a meeting of French diplomats US threats ran counter to France's notion of collective security based on co-operation between states, respect for the law and the authority of the UN Security Council.

The "authority" of the UN Security Council? Boy, if the leader of one of Europe's major "conservative" parties really thinks that the UN is sovereign over the national security of his own state then there's just no hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM

HAUNTED BY JAMES :

Great Eakins Exhibit Finally Shows Up-With Nude Swimmers! (Hilton Kramer, August 29, 2002, NY Observer)
The great Thomas Eakins exhibition, which was reviewed here when it opened last fall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (see The New York Observer for Oct. 15, 2001) has now come to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It hardly needs saying that everyone with an interest in the art of painting will want to see it. Even if you've already seen the exhibition in Philadelphia-or in Paris, where it has been shown in the interim-it's worth revisiting the show at the Met. Some paintings that were not available when the show opened in Philadelphia are now included in the Met's version. One of them is Swimming (1884-85), a painting of nude young men that the literary scholar F.O. Matthiessen once appropriately compared to the frank sexual imagery in Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself."

Eakins' fine portrait of Whitman is also in the exhibition, and the parallel interests that united the painter and the much older poet have frequently been noted. Yet I have sometimes wondered if a very different American writer, Henry James, might not provide an ampler perspective on the famous troubles that Eakins faced in the course of his Philadelphia-bound career.

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) and Henry James (1843-1916) belonged, after all, to the same American generation. They were, in fact, the greatest artists of that American generation in their respective fields of endeavor. And while neither appears to have taken even the slightest interest in the other's work, they had a lot more in common than is usually recognized.


My two favorites are The Gross Clinic and the fabulous Baseball Players Practicing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM

IT'S MORNING IN AMERICA (MOURNING IN EUROPE) :

Half a billion Americans?: Demographic forces are pulling America and Europe apart. If the trend goes on, it will fundamentally alter America's position in the world (The Economist, Aug 22nd 2002)
America's census in 2000 contained a shock. The population turned out to be rising faster than anyone had expected when the 1990 census was taken. There are disputes about exactly why this was (more on that shortly). What is not in doubt is that a gap is beginning to open with Europe. America's fertility rate is rising. Europe's is falling. America's immigration outstrips Europe's and its immigrant population is reproducing faster than native-born Americans. America's population will soon be getting younger. Europe's is ageing.

Unless things change substantially, these trends will accelerate over coming decades, driving the two sides of the Atlantic farther apart. By 2040, and possibly earlier, America will overtake Europe in population and will come to look remarkably (and, in many ways, worryingly) different from the Old World.

In 1950, Western Europe was exactly twice as populous as the United States: 304m against 152m. (This article uses the US Census Bureau's definition of "Europe", which includes all countries that were not communist during the cold war. The 15 countries that make up the European Union are a slightly smaller sample: they had a population of 296m in 1950.) Both sides of the Atlantic saw their populations surge during the baby boom, then grow more slowly until the mid-1980s. Even now, Europe's population remains more than 100m larger than America's.

In the 1980s, however, something curious began to happen. American fertility rates-the average number of children a woman can expect to bear in her lifetime-suddenly began to reverse their decline. Between 1960 and 1985, the American fertility rate had fallen faster than Europe's, to 1.8, slightly below European levels and far below the "replacement level" of 2.1 (the rate required to keep the population steady). By the 1990s American fertility had rebounded, rising back to just below the 2.1 mark. [...]

European commissioners are fond of boasting that the European Union (EU) is the largest market in the world. They claim an equal status with the United States in trade negotiations as a result. Some also think that, because of this parity, the euro will one day become an international reserve currency to rival the dollar.

But assume, for a minute, that Americans remain, as they are now, about one-third richer per head than Europeans. The high-series projection implies that America's economy in 2050 would still be more than twice the size of Europe's-and something like that preponderance would still be there even if you assume that by then much of Central and Eastern Europe will have joined the EU. The balance of global economic power would be tilted in fundamental ways. With 400m-550m rich consumers, the American market would surely be even more important to foreign companies than it is today. And if so, American business practices-however they emerge from the current malaise-could become yet more dominant. [...]

The geopolitical impact is fuzzier, but still powerful. At the moment, America's political connections and shared values with Europe are still strong, albeit fraying. But over time, America's ties of family and culture will multiply and strengthen with the main sources of its immigration-Latin America chiefly, but also East and South Asia. As this happens, it is probable that it will also pull American attention further away from Europe. [...]

If Europeans are unwilling to spend what is needed to be full military partners of America now, when 65-year-olds amount to 30% of the working-age population, they will be even less likely to do more in 2050, when the proportion of old people will have doubled. In short, the long-term logic of demography seems likely to entrench America's power and to widen existing transatlantic rifts.

Perhaps none of this is altogether surprising. The contrast between youthful, exuberant, multi-coloured America and ageing, decrepit, inward-looking Europe goes back almost to the foundation of the United States. But demography is making this picture even more true, with long-term consequences for America's economic and military might and quite possibly for the focus of its foreign policy.


If you never read another article we post here, read this one. In a relatively short space it reveals why the Atlantic Century is over, why Europe is through, why the U.S. is an inevitable hegemon, why we don't any longer have common interests with former allies but do with former non-aligned states and may with former foes, why immigration is vital, why abortion kills countries, why Social Welfare systems are timebombs, etc., etc., etc.. As an added benefit, it suggests I'm not as big a crank as I may seem.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:44 PM

ALMOST KAJAGOOGOO :

Heath happy with 'Jenny' but doesn't dwell on relationship (MIKE LACY, Aug. 29, 2002, Knight Ridder Newspapers)
Tommy Heath is shy. Very shy. He says at least half of the people in the Oregon Electric Co. office where he works as a computer
"geek" consultant doesn't know him as the rest of the world does. It's not that he's embarrassed. But unless someone needs to know he's also the leader of Tommy Tutone, the band with one of the biggest hits in the 1980s, he simply doesn't mention it. [...]

In 1982, the song 867-5309/Jenny off his second album, went to No. 4 on the charts. But it had No. 1 effects. It pretty much changed the telephone industry when it caused cities all over the country to discontinue the number because of repeated calls looking for "Jenny." In fact, it is still not a listed number on the Coast. Rick Stewart with Bell South said the number is used only for outgoing calls for "a large company" in the area. [...]

"I'm proud to be a one-hit wonder. I'd rather be a three-hit wonder, but it's better than being a no-hit wonder."


I swear the lead singer from A-ha drives the ice cream truck in our neighborhood; he's very animated.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM

EH? :

A war only the White House wants (ERIC MARGOLIS, August 25, 2002, Toronto Sun)
Israel has been trying for 20 years to get the U.S. to go to war against the Arabs and Iran, knowing this will permanently enlist America's vast wealth and power in its cause, and permanently alienate the U.S. from the Islamic world.

If ever the United States needed real friends, it is now. And real friends like Canada, Germany and France are trying to deter the empty, misguided George Bush and his hijacked cabinet from committing an outright aggression that risks plunging the Mideast into chaos, or even nuclear war.


Note the clever construction there? The Israelis (for which read Jews) aren't real friends, like the Canadians, French? & Germans?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:26 PM

NOT REMNANTS :

COLLEGE BOARD DROPS BOMBSHELL (CARL CAMPANILE, August 28, 2002, NY Post)
The people who administer the SAT exams dropped a bombshell yesterday by suggesting high schools nationally are inflating students' grades.

The College Board noted that the percentage of students given grades of A-minus or better jumped to 42 percent this year from 32 percent in 1992.

At the same time, the SAT scores of students with the higher grades dropped.


Gee, and we thought turning education into a self-esteem factory would produce smarter kids...NOT!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM

THE GOLDEN AGE OF BLAX :

Getting Whitey : "The white is being paid back for years of portraying blacks in movies as simple, shiftless, and stupid, although occasionally faithful and brave as well" (David Denby, August 1977, Atlantic Monthly)
The eagerness of urban black audiences for movies with black casts, stories, and themes, and particularly for black heroes, exemplars of racial pride, has created the first situation of guaranteed profit for commercial film makers since the 1940s. Recent genres like the youth film, the drug-addict cycle, and the revisionist Western have failed after a few box-office successes, or failed altogether, but at the moment, any film which shows blacks facing down whites in violent confrontations (the more corpses the better) is going to do quick and heavy business in the big cities. From large studios like MGM to fly-by-night outfits that barely exist on paper, everyone is struggling to get a few black movies into the theaters before the bottom falls out of the market; within the next year as many as two dozen features for the black audience should be released-some directed by whites, but most of them made by young blacks experienced in stage and television directing, still photography, film acting, and documentary. [...]

What has already appeared is of immense importance in the history of mass culture, even if it is aesthetically null. The film makers, whether white, or black, have sensed the audience's rage and its mood of revolt against insulting images of blacks in past movies and against the white man in general. The black cinema has discovered the profitability of revenge: the desires to make money and to erase a legacy of racial humiliation coincide perfectly in a cinema whose moments of purest audience joy consist of black men and women responding to white racism by killing oppressors. Movie audiences always wanted heroesfor fantasy release or just the basic pleasure of watching beautiful physical action, but this may be the first time an audience has demanded physical heroism in order to confirm an emerging sense of identity. The mood in the theaters is festive, alternating between admiration and mockery. If a white person wanders into one of these movies, he will have the novel experienceof complete exclusion...


Saw the movie Soul Man in a theatre where I was the only pigmentally-challenged viewer. C. Thomas Howell dresses up in black face to get into Harvard as a minority. At one point he gets on an elevator and an older white woman, the only other person on board, visibly panics and clutches her purse to her bosom. Folks started shouting at the screen: "That happens! That's happened to me!" The crowd reactions ended up being better than the film.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM

GO ALL THE WAY :

Have Evolutionary Explanations Gone Too Far? (Jeremy Stangroom, Philosophers.net)
Dylan Evans began by noting that science has always had to face down its detractors. 'They sit, Canute like, on the sands of obscurantism, shouting in vein at the advancing tide of knowledge. "Get back! Come no further! Leave me this little piece of unexplained territory!" Thankfully, science takes no notice. The Promethean spirit that animates scientific enquiry, that terrifying curiosity that inhabits the human soul, always proves stronger than the fear of knowledge that opposes it.'

He pointed out that when evolutionists first suggested, sometime before Darwin, that humans had descended from non-human species, they were the target of this kind of reactionary criticism. However, in the case of evolution, the criticism has not gone away. Evans noted that 'although the evidence for evolution is overwhelming today, there are still those who ignore it. Over half the US population still believes in the literal truth of Genesis. Thankfully, the population in the UK is somewhat more enlightened on this matter. Few people here seriously doubt that we evolved from other life forms. But even in the UK, there is still a widespread reluctance to take this idea to its logical conclusion, namely, that our minds are just as much the product of evolution as our bodies. This is Canutism. The new Canutes admit that the tide has come further up the shore. Science has already claimed the human body as its own, they recognise, but please don't let it claim the human mind.'

But, he insisted, it simply isn't possible to separate out the body from the mind. 'What is the mind after all, if not the activity of the brain? And what is the brain, if not a biological organ, the product of evolution like any other organ?

'Unless we want to fall back into a long discredited Cartesian dualism,' he insisted, 'we must admit these simple facts. The mind, like the body, is the product of millions of years of natural selection and historical accident. This means that there simply must be some kind of evolutionary psychology. The only real question is how to go about doing it.' He concluded, therefore, that it wasn't the case that evolutionary explanations have gone too far, rather they haven't gone far enough.


One of the enchanting things about most believers in evolution is precisely that they can't face going all the way. To accept that all human behavior is determed by evolution is more than they can face. Thus does their residual religious faith trump their scientific rationalism and make them quite lovable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM

THE FOUR Rs :

Retrograde on School Choice (Nathan J. Diament, August 22, 2002, Washington Post)
Organizations such as the ACLU, the American Jewish Congress and the NAACP properly pride themselves on fighting religious, racial and ethnic bigotry wherever it is found. Thus it is deeply troubling that in their determination to thwart school choice programs, these champions of equality would resort to invoking state constitutional provisions whose lineage lies in the sullied era of 19th-century bigotry against Catholics.

I am referring to the "Blaine Amendments" adopted in many states in the late 1800s. One of these -- in Florida -- was the basis on which a trial judge recently struck down the state's school choice program at the behest of "civil liberties" organizations.


The Democrats remain the party of rum and rebellion and now they're retrograde on vouchers. But the GOP is now the party of Romanism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM

EUGENECISTS, TAKE NOTE :

Like dad, Lockbaum versatile on field (Steve Wieberg, 08/22/2002, USA Today)
Baseball ranks, oh, fourth or so among Gordie Lockbaum Jr.'s sports priorities. Behind track. Behind wrestling. And not surprisingly, behind football.

The name of the just-turned-13-year-old Worcester, Mass., shortstop, whose team plays tonight in the Little League World Series' U.S. semifinals, may ring a bell. His dad, Gordie Sr., is a member of college football's Hall of Fame, a two-way star at Holy Cross who was third in the 1987 Heisman balloting.


If he wasn't likely to go to the dread Holy Cross it might be possible to root for him.

August 28, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 PM

I DON'T CARE IF THEY EVER COME BACK :

The Baseball Strike for Dummies (GREG COUCH, August 28, 2002, Chicago Sun Times)
So you haven't been paying attention. Not really. Not to all those tedious details about sliding scales and straight pools and luxury taxes. You know baseball players might go on strike Friday, and likely will have their chauffeurs walk the picket line.

Players are averaging $2.4 million a year. Why walk? Owners say the salaries are so high they can't afford them. Why keep offering them?

If this isn't resolved soon, then everyone around the fax machines, water coolers, smoking areas will be griping and you're going to have to keep quiet. So here's a quick look at the basics of this dispute.


Kill the current major leagues and start over with the guys in the minors. The game will be fine in ten years and only a select group of us will still care. It'll be like a cult for us Omega Men.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM

ESTRICH, AS IN OSTRICH :

Now she admits her duplicity. (Media Research Center, 8/28/02)
Bill Clinton defender Susan Estrich conceded during a Saturday appearance on FNC that she had "defended the indefensible" in explaining away as irrelevant to his job performance Bill Clinton's personal behavior.

Recalling her many media appearances post-Lewinsky, Estrich expressed regret: "I mean I've done it. I've said 'Oh, sex with an intern, oh big deal, you know. I don't care, you don't care, what could be better'....I sat there for years and I did that, in the hopes that it would finally go away and, you know, Bill Clinton would become Jimmy Carter and we could all live happily ever after."


There was something deeply disturbing not only about watching decent people like Susan Estrich defend him, but even more so about watching the three Senators who we thought had souls--Lieberman, Moynihan, & Kerrey--vote to keep the guy in office. What a dark moment for a once great party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM

I BET MOBY'S A PSEUDONYM TOO :

REVIEW : of Fatboy Slim : Live on Brighton Beach (JOSH HATCHER, Relevant)
When somebody got the bright idea to plop [Norman] Cook in his hometown, in front of 40,000 dancing fans, they got what they anticipated, a masterpiece of house music. It has all the feel of a live performance, but with the flawless presentation that someone might expect from studio work. Even a few humorous moments when the police had to interrupt the concert to announce that the tide was coming in and amidst a booing crowd encouraged them to move to safety.

Norman? And I thought his real name was Fatboy...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 PM

HE PUTS THE CRETIN IN CHRETIEN :

Chrétien: Hamas Isn't a Terrorist Group (Stephen Brown, August 26, 2002, FrontPageMagazine.com)
It was another shameful Canadian moment.

Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chrétien added to his dismal record in the war on terrorism when his government just recently published a list of seven outlawed terrorist organizations in Canada. The murderous Hamas organization was not among them.

The Prime Minister has excused himself by saying that Hamas has a charitable wing that runs schools and hospitals in the Gaza strip and West Bank; only its military wing, he says, should be sanctioned.


What the heck kind of standard is Mr. Chretien adopting here? Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all ran schools and hospitals but they also killed what? fifty million people?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:43 PM

POPULISM ISN'T POPULAR :

Why Democrats Must Be Populists : And what populist-phobes don't understand about America. (John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira, September 9, 2002, American Prospect)
[Al From and Mark Penn] believe that while populist appeals help with the Democratic base, they hurt Democratic chances among upscale voters -- whom From calls "new-economy swing voters" and whom Penn has labeled "wired workers." They blame Gore's loss in key border states such as Missouri on the defection of these voters, and warn that if Democrats persist in pressing populist themes in November 2002, they will lose those states again.

But this argument doesn't stand up. If you look at Gore's poll ratings before and after his speech at the Democratic convention, his support shoots up among the very voters whom the DLCers believed were cool to such populist appeals. According to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Gore's support increased 12 percent among voters who make between $50,000 and $75,000 per year (and by 19 percent among independents, according to the Gallup poll). If you look at the final results, Gore did relatively well among upscale voters, particularly those with high levels of education. Where he slipped precipitously from Clinton's margins in 1996 was among white working-class voters.

Take From and Penn's example of Missouri. In downscale north and southeast Missouri, where the term "wired workers" would provoke quizzical glances, Clinton had won white working-class voters by 50 percent to 38 percent in 1996, but Gore lost them by 60 percent to 38 percent, a huge 34-point swing. By contrast, Gore won upscale new-economy St. Louis County -- the high-tech suburban area to the west of St. Louis -- by 51 percent to 46 percent. Gore lost Missouri in the working class north and southeast, not in the affluent St. Louis or Kansas City suburbs.

Gore lost these working-class voters primarily because his populist appeal and his defense of Social Security could not overcome the Republican wedge issues of 2000: Democratic support for gun control and the shadow cast by the Clinton scandals over Gore's character. In an extensive post-election poll conducted by Gore's pollster Stanley Greenberg, white, non-college-educated male voters, who swung sharply from Clinton in 1996 to Bush in 2000, cited Gore's "exaggerations and untruthfulness," his "anti-gun positions" and his "being too close to Clinton" as the prime reasons for voting against him. College-educated white male voters who opposed Gore, meanwhile, overwhelmingly cited Gore's untruthfulness.

From's and Penn's fears that populism will drive away upscale voters stem in part from their misunderstanding of populism. They are fond of saying that other Democrats are living in the past, but this is a case where the DLCers are. Their model of populist advocacy is the 1930s, when populism did appeal primarily to a working-class electorate. They can't conceive of well-to-do, college-educated populists. But populism's leaders have historically been drawn from the well-to-do and the college-trained. During the early 20th century and again today, populist themes have resonated among upscale as well as downscale voters.


There's a strange disconnect in this essay as the authors argue in favor of economic populism but against social populism, without even seeming to recognize that they're doing the latter. This is an entirely predictable trap that Leftists continue to fall into, misapprehending Man as a primarily economic being. What they are asking for though is that Democrats try to cobble together an inherently unstable coalition that requires a socially liberal pitch to economic elites and an economically liberal pitch to the very poor. The problem is that both pitches tend to turn off the middle class, while the rich, though absorbed by guilt and self-loathing, are well aware that economic populism won't help the poor and the poor are generally hostile to the lax morality of the upper classes. (This last is something that Charles Murtaugh has been pondering.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM

A TIME FOR BUSINESS AS USUAL? :

10-year surplus shrinks further Democrats say tax cut to blame (Jim Drinkard, 8/28/02, USA TODAY)
The nation's 10-year budget surplus, projected at $5.6 trillion just 18 months ago, has all but disappeared because of lagging tax collections and increased spending to counter terrorism, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that it will be 2006 before the government emerges from annual deficits, a year later than the White House projects.

For the period 2002 through 2011, the cumulative surplus would amount to just $336 billion if current spending policies continued and tax cuts expired as scheduled in 2010, the non-partisan agency said. If the tax cuts were renewed, as appears likely, the surplus would disappear.


This begs the obvious question : why are we still budgeting for a surplus during a time of war and recession? It certainly appears to be a time to get serious about returning money to the taxpayers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM

HAWKISH DOVE :

U.S. Keeps War Pressure on Iraq, Says Case Strong (Stuart Grudgings, August 28, 2002, Reuters)
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Wednesday that Washington was confident it could convince skeptical allies to back military action against Iraq, and would be "moving forward" at the right time.

Armitage said in Tokyo he believed the United States had a compelling case to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and could win enough international support, despite signs of growing opposition from friends and rivals alike. "We believe that we will ultimately able to make a compelling case and, in the course of time, will be moving forward," Armitage told a news conference in Tokyo.

"It is our view that an Iraq left unattended is a threat to its neighbors and a threat to ourselves."


Mr. Armitage has been widely portrayed, along with his boss, Colin Powell, as one of the angels on George W. Bush's shoulder, whispering, "Peace"; while Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz whisper, "War", in the other ear. Mr. Armitage may well oppose the war, but he sure doesn't sound like someone who has trouble justifying one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM

GUILTY AS CHARGED--VOX CLAMANTIS IN DESERTO :

Who's more miserable - the far right or the far left? (James Lileks, Rants)
Who's more miserable - the far right or the far left? The former is likely to wash its hands of the modern world, lament how things have gone to hell since the Brits stopped shoving civilization down the ululating maws of Wogland, and announce that you're all welcome to your polyglot mishmash - I'll be over here getting smashed on port and reading Patrick O'Brien novels. But at least they seem dedicated to enjoying life on their own terms; if they're cultural conservatives, they retire to their version of Heston's apartment in "The Omega Man," surrounded by the remnants of Western glory, keeping to themselves, and venting their spleen now and then by burping off a few rounds at the moaning zombies outside in the darkened park.

We almost never link to James Lileks (or InstaPundit or Andrew Sullivan for that matter) because one assumes that anybody who'd bother reading us will have already visited them--we're well aware of our lowly place in the Great Chain of Being. But Drew Craft forwarded this and took such undisguised, and well-justified, glee in the image of cultural conservatives as resembling The Omega Man that we can't resist. This was one of the Brothers' favorite movies when we were kids, shown on WWOR Channel 9 with sufficient frequency to earn cult classic status for most kids who grew up in the Tri-State area, and we accept the comparison with no little pride.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM

THE WHIPPIN' ENDED YEARS AGO :

The End of the Age of Inflation (Robert J. Samuelson, August 28, 2002, The Washington Post)
The Age of Inflation is ending the way it began: quietly. Along with the Cold War, the rise and fall of inflation has been a defining event of the present era --
but one that is overlooked, because inflation receded so gradually that almost no one appreciates its historic significance. For four decades, Americans rode the inflation roller coaster up and down with huge economic, political and social consequences. It shaped how we live, affecting everything from the rise of political conservatism to yesterday's stock market frenzy and today's housing boom.

The inflation roller coaster, as measured by the consumer price index, proceeded from a meager 1.4 percent in 1960 to a peak of 13.3 percent in 1979 and then coasted down. In 2001, it was 1.6 percent. On the way up, Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 -- a pivotal political moment -- stemmed heavily from an anti-inflation backlash. People despaired at the double-digit onslaught, which disrupted all sense of order and predictability in everyday life. No one could know from week to week the prices of food, clothing or almost anything.

Lenin once said that "the way to crush the bourgeoisie [the middle class] is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation." In America, that process discredited government, which people blamed for inflation's ravages.


Personally, I think Mr. Samuelson may be the best columnist in America, certainly the best economic columnist. But it's simply inaccurate to say that the end of inflation has been overlooked, as a general matter. It's true that it's taken the mainstream--which is to say, liberal--press quite a while to figure it out, but conservatives like Jack Kemp, Larry Kudlow, Bob Novak, Newt Gingrich, etc., have been criticizing the Fed for keeping interests rates artificially high for years now. In fact, here's what perceptive Fed critics were writing 18 months ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM

CONSISTENT IN CAROLINA :

Cuckoo in Carolina (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, August 28, 2002, NY Times)
The ruckus being raised by conservative Christians over the University of North Carolina's decision to ask incoming students to read a book about the Koran--to stimulate a campus debate--surely has to be one of the most embarrassing moments for America since Sept. 11. [...]

As a recent letter to The Times observed, the problem with the world today is not that American students are being asked to read the Koran, it is that students in Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim lands are still not being asked to read the sacred texts of other civilizations--let alone the foundational texts of American democracy, like the Bill of Rights, the Constitution or the Federalist Papers.

The fact that they ignore such diverse texts is the source of their weakness, and the fact that we embrace them is the source of our strength. What we should be doing is driving that point home, not copying their obscurantism. [...]

America will always be a strong model for how a nation thrives in the modern age, as long as our culture of curiosity, free inquiry and openness endures. And the Arab Muslim world will continue to struggle with modernity as long as 12th graders in public schools there are never challenged to read Genesis, Luke, Job and Psalms over their summer vacations.


When a columnist who, though you may disagree with him often, you respect and think is reasonably intelligent gets a story as wrong as Mr. Friedman gets this one it's awfully hard to avoid the feeling that he's intentionally mischaracterized the situation in order to score political points. The alternative, that he's a dunderhead, simply seems implausible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM

OUR THROAT, SADDAM'S FEET :

Iraq Speech by Cheney Is Criticized by Schroder (STEVEN ERLANGER, August 28, 2002, NY Times)
Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany has criticized the speech on Monday by Vice President Dick Cheney, saying that it signals a mistaken shift in American aims regarding Iraq.

In an interview broadcast tonight on RTL television, Mr. Schroder said the goal of the Bush administration no longer seems to be to persuade Iraq to allow unconditional arms inspections by United Nations experts. Instead, he said, the American goal seems to be to remove Mr. Hussein by military means regardless of whether inspections occur, which he says will undermine the chance of getting Iraq to allow the inspections.

"If the aim changes now, then it's one's own responsibility," Mr. Schroder said. "If somebody is to be removed with the aid of a military intervention, you can hardly convince him to let inspectors into his country. It's the change of aim that is the mistake."


The insipidities of the German Chancellor, fresh from his unilateral attack on freedom fighters who'd seized Iraqi soil, remind one of Winston Churchill's assessment of the Germans : The Hun--he's always either at your feet or at your throat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM

RED IN TOOTH AND CLAW :

Soaring City Slickers : Birds of prey are being reintroduced to U.S. cities. Will they stay? (Jennifer Uscher, 8/26/02, Scientific American)
The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a bird that more than any other symbolizes North America's wide-open spaces and vanishing unspoiled wilderness, is now the newest avian resident of New York City. In June 2002, the city's Parks Department teamed with the Earth Conservation Corps to transplant four eaglets to a tree house in Inwood Hill Park on the northern tip of Manhattan in the hopes that, after the birds are released, they will one day return to nest in the city.

Though other birds of prey have been successfully reintroduced in U.S. cities, some local biologists and birdwatchers have doubts about the project, charging that the area is not remote enough from human activity and that the Hudson River, where the eagles will soon fish, is still dangerously polluted. They wonder whether the eagles will adapt to urban life as well as other raptors, including red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) and peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus), and will soon be seen soaring over midtown’s skyscrapers on their seven-foot wingspans.


It was great when they reintroduced the peregrine falcons in NYC and all the animal lovers were all dewy-eyed. Then the things started swooping down and snatching pigeons in front of people and ripping them apart on ledges outside office windows and folks realized what predators actually behave like. The sudden descent of ambivalence was palpable and immensely amusing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM

GOD BLESS BILL KRISTOL :

Canadian model of healthcare ails : Report ranks Canada's state-funded system near the bottom among industrial nations. (Eric Beaudan, August 28, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor)
When Bill Clinton attempted to reform US healthcare in 1994, his administration often touted Canada's publicly funded, universal access system as a model to be emulated. As it turns out, the Canadian system may be crumbling under its own weight.

Despite spending nearly C$100 billion (US$64 billion) per year on healthcare--the most per capita among countries that run a similar system--a study released last week by the Fraser Institute, a public-policy think tank in Vancouver, shows that Canada ranks only slightly higher than Hungary, Poland, and Turkey in the quality of service its citizens receive.

Canada is the last industrialized nation to rely solely on government funds for its core healthcare system. There's an emerging view that it, too, may abandon a system that has long been a symbol of its national identity.

"We are no longer the model," says Michael Walker, executive director of the Fraser Institute. "When you consider that equal access in a country as spread out as Canada would require a greater number of physicians and diagnostic equipment, we're clearly headed in the wrong direction."


Here's how The Newshour describes Bill Kristol's role in killing the Clinton Health Care Plan :
December 2, 1993 - Leading conservative operative William Kristol privately circulates a strategy document to Republicans in Congress. Kristol writes that congressional Republicans should work to "kill" -- not amend -- the Clinton plan because it presents a real danger to the Republican future: Its passage will give the Democrats a lock on the crucial middle-class vote and revive the reputation of the party. Nearly a full year before Republicans will unite behind the "Contract With America," Kristol has provided the rationale and the steel for them to achieve their aims of winning control of Congress and becoming America's majority party. Killing health care will serve both ends. The timing of the memo dovetails with a growing private consensus among Republicans that all-out opposition to the Clinton plan is in their best political interest. Until the memo surfaces, most opponents prefer behind-the-scenes warfare largely shielded from public view. The boldness of Kristol's strategy signals a new turn in the battle. Not only is it politically acceptable to criticize the Clinton plan on policy grounds, it is also politically advantageous. By the end of 1993, blocking reform poses little risk as the public becomes increasingly fearful of what it has heard about the Clinton plan.

For stopping us from heading in the disastrous direction outlined in the article above, if for nothing else, Mr. Kristol is a conservative hero, neo or no.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM

RCs AND NEOCONS :

Meanwhile, Paul Cella, wonders where Roman Catholics--like Michael Novak, Richard John Neuhaus, and Paul Johnson--fit in with the neocons. For the proposition that they are such he cites the following : Capitalism and the Human Spirit (Michael Novak, Spring 2000, Public Interest) :
I doubt that neoconservatives have (or ever had) a creed, but I am willing to commit myself to the truth of the following propositions: Economics is fundamental, and yet prior to economics is politics; prior to politics is culture; and at the root of culture lies formal public worship, embodying beliefs about God and man in dramatic form (cult, in its primary sense).

We'd first note that even Mr. Novak assumes he's one of the first to craft a set of foundational propositions for neoconservatism. Second, those he drafts are not actually neoconservative but rather theoconservative. In placing Man's relationship to God at the center of his philosophy rather than Man's relationship to the State, he falls into a rather traditional conservative category. There's no neo there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM

THE YOUNGER PODHORETZ WEIGHS IN :

Here's John Podhoretz's response to our query about the organizing principles of neoconservatism :
I think my reply would be : Go soak your heads.

We're assuming that's the rough equivalent of : "I know of none".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:24 AM

MORE ON MAUREEN :

I'm With Dick! Let's Make War! (MAUREEN DOWD, August 28, 2002, NY Times)
I was dubious at first. But now I think Dick Cheney has it right.

Making the case for going to war in the Middle East to veterans on Monday, the vice president said that "our goal would be . . . a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized and protected."

O.K., I'm on board. Let's declare war on Saudi Arabia! Let's do "regime change" in a kingdom that gives medieval a bad name.

By overthrowing the Saudi monarchy, the Cheney-Rummy-Condi-Wolfy-Perle-W. contingent could realize its dream of redrawing the Middle East map.

Once everyone realizes that we're no longer being hypocrites, coddling a corrupt, repressive dictatorship that sponsors terrorism even as we plot to crush a corrupt, repressive dictatorship that sponsors terrorism, it will transform our relationship with the Arab world.


Well, the good news is she made it through a column without mentioning W's physique. The bad news is she's had some kind of weird moodswing--joining several others at the suddenly hawkish Times--and now recognizes that war may be justified merely by the repressive nature of the regime in question. She's also put the cart before the ass by suggesting we should take out Arabia before Iraq. All in good time Ms Dowd, all in good time...

August 27, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM

CONDI PLAYS IN C :

Walking in faith (Condoleeza Rice, August 4, 2002, Washington Times)
Although I never doubted the existence of God, I think like all people I've had some ups and downs in my faith. When I first moved to California in 1981 to join the faculty at Stanford, there were a lot of years when I was not attending church regularly. I was traveling a lot. I was a specialist in international politics, so I was always traveling abroad. I was always in another time zone. One Sunday I was in the Lucky's Supermarket not very far from my house ÷ I will never forget ÷ among the spices and an African-American man walked up to me and said he was buying some things for his church picnic. And he said, "Do you play the piano by any chance?"

I said, "Yes." They said they were looking for someone to play the piano at church. It was a little African-American church right in the centerof Palo Alto. A Baptist church. So I started playing for that church. That got me regularly back into churchgoing. I don't play gospel very well--I play Brahms --and you know how black ministers will start a song and the musicians will pick it up? I had no idea what I was doing and so I called my mother, who had played for Baptist churches.

"Mother," I said, "they just start. How am I supposed to do this?" She said, "Honey, play in C and they'll come back to you." And that's true. If you play in C, people will come back. I tell that story because I thought to myself, "My goodness, God has a long reach." I mean, in the Lucky's Supermarket on a Sunday morning.


As Mike Daley who sent this said, forget VP, she should be President one day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM

HERE'S A GREAT TAP DISCUSSION :

The American 100 (Mark Byron, 8/25/02)
After seeing the fun some bloggers had with the BBC's top 100 Britons in history, let's look at an American 100, the top 100 Americans that have shaped 2002 America the most, for good or bad. Or, to understand American culture today, these 100 biographies best tell the story of America.

The first glaring omission I note is, no Secretariat. One trembles though to think how many hours you could spend hashing this out and how many beers you could quaff in the process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM

NEOCON UPDATE :

An alert reader informs us that David Horowitz touches on neoconservatism, which he declares dead, in an essay today : American Conservatism: an Argument with the Racial Right (David Horowitz, FrontPageMagazine.com, August 27, 2002)
The two most prominent theoreticians of neo-conservatism announced its death some time ago, because it had always defined the defection of a group of New York liberals from liberalism over its failure to stay the course in fighting the anti-Communist battle during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War, neo-conservatism--at least in the view of its founders--has become indistinguishable from conservatism itself.

I have never identified myself as a "neo-conservative" because belonging to a younger political generation I did not share some of the social attitudes of the neo-conservative founders. Since attitude is fundamental to some conservative perspectives, I have preferred to define my own. To be a conservative in America, from my perspective, then, is to defend where possible and restore where necessary, the framework of values and philosophical understandings enshrined in the American Founding. This should not be taken to mean a strict constructionist attitude towards every clause of the documents that constitute the Founding. If the framers of the Constitution had presumed to see the future, or had wanted to rigidly
preserve the past, they would not have included an amendment process in their document.

My brand of conservatism is based on a belief in the fundamental truth in the idea of individualism; in the idea of rights that are derived from "Nature's God" and therefore inalienable; in the conservative view of human nature and the philosophy of limited government that flows therefrom; and in the recognition that property rights are the proven foundation of all human liberties.


As is not seldom the case, Mr. Horowitz appears to be both wrong and self-absorbed. It's hard to see what the "National Greatness" types are if not neocons and, contrary to Mr. Horowitz's assertion, conservatives don't get to "define their own" attitudes. The phrase "my brand of conservatism" is in and of itself an oxymoron. His elevation of the Constitution to a level of primacy, for example, reveals him to be still too enamored of government, and his "nature's God", though (or because) derived from Jefferson's Declaration, is too ambiguous too know what God he's talking about. Here he makes a rather fundamental error, assuming the Constitution and the Rights it enshrines to be the end that conservatism seeks. In fact they are mere means through which conservatives seek the freedom to create decent lives, relatively free of government interference, lives that accord with Judeo-Christian principles.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM

THE SAUDI LINE--DON'T BLAME US; BLAME THE JEWS :

Check out the differing opinions John Hockenberry got from a Saudi official and from a family member in this piece : A Saudi apology for Sept. 11 (John Hockenberry, 8/25/02, MSNBC)
Prince Khalid Al-Faisal is governor of Asir Province. A third of the Saudi hijackers grew up here.

John Hockenberry: “Is there some aspect of Saudi life that would encourage well-to-do, educated, young men, to do these kinds of things? Bin Laden is one.”

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal: "The only problem is the Palestinian problems."


As opposed to this :
John Hockenberry: "Do you believe they are dead, in your heart?"

Salah Al-Shahiri [brother of 9-11 hijackers Walid and Wail Al-Shahiri]: "For me? Yes."

John Hockenberry: "You do? You carry that around in your heart, right? That's a terrible burden?"

Salah Al-Shahiri: "As for myself, yes."

Salah's truth bears no resemblance to the official line from the Saudi royals--that the hijackers were religious zealots seeking revenge for the Palestinians.

John Hockenberry: "Were your two brothers religious?"

Salah Al-Shahiri: "No. Not in the way one might imagine."

John Hockenberry: "But your brothers didn't march in the streets and work day and night to free the Palestinians? Did they?"

Salah Al-Shahiri: "No."

John Hockenberry: "No. Did they talk about getting U.S. military troops out of the kingdom?"

Salah Al-Shahiri: "No."

John Hockenberry: "No. So it looks like your two brothers were brainwashed."

Salah Al-Shahiri: "Yes."


You know, if the Sauds were consciously trying to turn us into enemies they couldn't do a better job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM

THE BROTHERS JUDD NEOCON CHALLENGE :

Practically everyone who's weighed in on neocons has noted the near impossibility of pinning down who is one or what they stand for, other than not being avowed liberals anymore, being hyper-patriotic and support for Israel. So here's a challenge for our readers : try to enunciate the organizing principles of neoconservatism. By which we would mean not the three or four issues on which they hold opinions, but the four (or so) rules they'd apply if faced with a question of first impression or four questions they ask in seeking to form a policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM

OPPOSITE! :

Fear of a free fall : The Federal Reserve fights an unknown: the specter of deflation (NOAM NEUSNER, 8/26/02, US News)
For a quarter century, Federal Reserve policymakers have trained their sights on a single goal: making sure prices don't rise too much. Now, they need to be sure they haven't overdone it. Inflation, which used to be the Fed's chief nemesis, has evaporated amid a U.S. recession and global overcapacity. Prices for everything from butter to recycled glass to golf clubs are falling, triggering fears of a deflationary spiral. [...]

As their inaction suggests, the Fed governors aren't exactly ready to panic over deflation. For now, they may be right. Excluding food and energy costs, prices are rising at a 2 percent annual rate, and certain items–such as medical care and higher education–continue to get more expensive. But that's because consumers have little choice; you can't get an Ivy League education or American-quality medical care in Sri Lanka.


Be sure they haven't overdone it? They forced the economy into either recession or mere non-growth by raising interest rates into the teeth of a deflationary cycle. That's how the Great Depression was caused. Is that what we need before they realize they're fighting a problem, inflation, that was defeated twenty years ago and that with the end of the Cold War and the globalization of the economy shows no sign of returning in the near future?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM

ONE TOUGH BLOOM :

How democracy is preserved (Amitai Etzioni, August 27, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Social scientists who study the conditions under which democracy is lost have little to work with.

Democracy – once firmly established – has almost never been lost because of internal developments (as distinct from because of occupation by an invading force).

The one notable exception is the Weimar Republic. What happened there is subject to a much contested literature. However, most agree that following the defeat of Germany in World War I, the people's pride was deeply shaken, and they felt further threatened by massive unemployment and hyperinflation. The Weimar government, weakened by squabbles among numerous parties, corruption, and scandals, was unable to muster an effective response. As a result, "too many Germans did not regard it as a legitimate regime," writes E.J. Feuchtwanger in his book "From Weimar to Hitler."

In short, inaction in the face of threats, not excessive action, killed the Weimar Republic.


At some point, as we realize that America has just about the most stable government the world has ever seen, we'll need to consider whether our democracy is really the oh so delicate blossom of our rhetorical imaginations or whether it's actually a rather resilient weed-like growth that can withstand repressions ranging from the New Deal/Great Society to the Japanese Internments/Red Scares without suffering too much permanent damage. That doesn't mean that we should let our guards down when such repressive movements rise up, rather that we might seek to understand them as understandable and inevitable reactions to unusual circumstances.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN :

What Denmark can teach America about dealing with Muslims --- and what we ignore at our own risk (Daniel Pipes and Lars Hedegaard, August 2002, Jewish World Review)
For years, Danes lauded multiculturalism and insisted they had no problem with the Muslim customs - until one day they found that they did. Some major issues:

* Living on the dole. Third-world immigrants -- most of them Muslims from countries such as Turkey, Somalia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Iraq -- constitute 5 percent of the population but consume upwards of 40 percent of the welfare spending.

* Engaging in crime. Muslims are only 4 percent of Denmark's 5.4 million people but make up a majority of the country's convicted rapists, an especially combustible issue given that practically all the female victims are non-Muslim. Similar, if lesser, disproportions are found in other crimes.

* Self-imposed isolation. Over time, as Muslim immigrants increase in numbers, they wish less mix with the indigenous population. A recent survey finds that only 5 percent of young Muslim immigrants would readily marry a Dane.

* Importing unacceptable customs. Forced marriages - promising a newborn daughter in Denmark to a male cousin in the home country, then compelling her to marry him, sometimes on pain of death - are one problem. Another is the vocal intent to kill Muslims who convert out of Islam.

* Fomenting anti-Semitism. Muslim violence threatens Denmark's approximately 6,000 Jews, who increasingly depend on police protection. Jewish parents were told by one school principal that she could not guarantee their children's safety and were advised to attend another institution. Anti-Israel marches have turned into anti-Jewish riots. One organization, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, openly calls on Muslims to "kill all Jews ... wherever you find them."

* Seeking Islamic law . Muslim leaders openly declare their goal of introducing Islamic law once Denmark's Muslim population grows large enough - a not-that remote prospect. If present trends persist, one sociologist estimates, every third inhabitant of Denmark in forty years will be Muslim.


Good immigration policy is surprisingly easy to draft, as these problems indicate. First immigration must be understood as a privilege, rather than a right. Then you simply require immigrants, in any number, to accept certain obligations in exchange for the privilege. Such policy might look something like this :

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM

CYA :

The Right Way to Change a Regime (JAMES A. BAKER III, August 25, 2002, NY Times)
The only realistic way to effect regime change in Iraq is through the application of military force, including sufficient ground troops to occupy the country (including Baghdad), depose the current leadership and install a successor government. Anyone who thinks we can effect regime change in Iraq with anything less than this is simply not realistic. It cannot be done on the cheap. It will require substantial forces and substantial time to put those forces in place to move. We had over 500,000 Americans, and more soldiers from our many allies, for the Persian Gulf war. There will be casualties, probably quite a few more than in that war, since the Iraqis will be fighting to defend their homeland. Sadly, there also will be civilian deaths. We will face the problem of how long to occupy and administer a big, fractious country and what type of government or administration should
follow. Finding Saddam Hussein and his top associates will be difficult. It took us two weeks to locate Manuel Noriega in Panama, a small country where we had military bases.

Unless we do it in the right way, there will be costs to other American foreign policy interests, including our relationships with practically all other Arab countries (and even many of our customary allies in Europe and elsewhere) and perhaps even to our top foreign policy priority, the war on terrorism.


What does anyone realistically expect bureaucrats like Baker, Colin Powell, and Brent Scowcroft to say about overthrowing Iraq? "Okay, you're right, we completely screwed the pooch in '91. We should have maintained a no-fly policy over the entire country and aided the Kurds and Shiites and Saddam would be gone now." Those aren't the kind of admissions that people often make about the defining moments of their careers. It's forty years later and old Kennedy hands still pretend that the Cuban Missile Crisis, as a result of which we became an effective guarantor of Castro's regime, was an American victory. Thirty years from now, even after Saddam has been gone for twenty nine years, Jim Baker will still be regaling folks with the story of how wise it was to leave Saddam in place after the First Gulf War.

August 26, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM

NO ONE LISTENED TO HERR STOIBER :

When the Terror Began : Thirty years later, the hostage drama that left 11 Israeli Olympians dead seems even more chilling and offers grim reminders to today's security experts (Alexander Wolff, August 26, 2002, Sports Illustrated)
With security tossed aside, the Olympics became one big party. Mimes, jugglers, bands and Waldi, the dachshund mascot, gamboled through the Village, while uncredentialed interlopers slipped easily past its gates. After late-night runs to the HofbrŠuhaus, why would virile young athletes bother to detour to an official entrance when they could scale a chain-link fence only 6 1/2 feet high? The Olys learned to look the other way. A police inspector supervising security in the Village eventually cut back nighttime patrols because, as he put it, "at night nothing happens." Early in the Games, when several hundred young Maoist demonstrators congregated on a hill in the Olympic Park, guards dispersed them by distributing candy. Indeed, in a storeroom in the Olympic Stadium, police kept bouquets of flowers in case of another such incident. Hans-Jochen Vogel, who as mayor had led Munich's campaign to land the Games, today recalls the prevailing atmosphere: "People stood on the small hills that had been carved out of the rubble from the war. They could see into some of the venues without a ticket. And then this fifth of September happened. Nobody foresaw such an attack."

Nobody except Stoiber.


Though this is an infuriating story, one of the most remarkable differences between then and now is that then we truly thought the world was slipping beyond our control, whereas now we view the terrorist threat as merely another problem that we'll deal with in due course. If you didn't live through them it must be hard to imagine that sense of desperation that pervaded the 70s. Meanwhile, the restoration of American confidence is the signal contribution of Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM

THE PROSPECT OF A BOMBING CONCENTRATES THE MIND :

The Secular Society Gets Religion (FELICIA R. LEE, August 24, 2002, NY Times)
From the recent Supreme Court decision supporting vouchers for religious schools to a lower court objection to the phrase "one nation under God" in the pledge of allegiance to wrangling over cloning, stem-cell research, euthanasia and genetic engineering, religion has been re-entering the public arena in complex and unforeseen ways.

The flirtation between the secular and the sacred has traditionally set off alarm bells among American academics, who have often regarded any intrusion of religion into politics as dangerous. In the last century, intellectual giants like John Dewey and Sigmund Freud dismissed religion as infantile and predicted an increasingly secular modern society. In his book "Human Nature and Conduct" (Henry Holt, 1922), Dewey said of religion, "It has been petrified into a slavery of thought and sentiment, as intolerant superiority on the part of the few and an intolerable burden on the part of the many."

But lately a growing number of social scientists, philosophers, historians and other scholars are trying to account for the energetic re-entry of religion into the public sphere, and some are viewing it with as much delight as distress. [...]

When it comes to the American public, both liberals and conservatives have often displayed deeply contradictory attitudes about the relationship between religion and politics, Professor Heclo pointed out, and many are skeptical about the sincerity of politicians' religious statements.

A Gallup Poll last year, for instance, showed that 82 percent of Americans thought of themselves as Christians, 10 percent belonged to other faiths and 8 percent were atheists or agnostics, Professor Heclo said. But they also said no dogma, religious creed or denominational commitment guided their beliefs. On the other hand, while majorities were willing to support a black, Jewish, female or gay presidential candidate, only 48 percent said they would vote for an atheist.


Sort of the 800 pound gorilla that's been sitting around the room post-9/11 is that the events of the day had a quite salutary effect in getting folks to reexamine their lives, however temporarily. The evidence is necessarily anecdotal, but it suggests that many people, when they did so, found a hollowness at the center of the lives they'd created for themselves. It comes as little surprise then that folks would turn to spiritual matters, traditions, and rituals to try and give their lives a depth and a heft they were lacking, to reknit their connections to the past, to one another, and to God. Hard to imagine how this can be other than a good thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM

CHANNELING HANK PARNELL :

The Spirit of Mars : the power to dream is what makes being human so much fun (John Carter McKnight, August 26, 2002, Space Daily)
For nearly a century Mars has been the blue screen onto which we project, in scientific speculation as well as literature, two powerful concepts: the West and the Other. Looking at the sequence of imagined Marses (see the previous edition of this column, "Barsoom's Legacy"), we [see] the evolution of American hopes and fears. In turn, these projections continue to shape the meaning of Mars for us.

Any attempt to advocate Mars exploration and settlement must be grounded in an understanding of the nuances of those memes of West and Other in our culture today. Central to Americans as motherhood and apple pie, they define the boundaries of the possible.

We find these memes expressed in both the Mars novel and the Western. The two have a common heritage in the pulp magazines of the early decades of the last century. Indeed, one of the great pulp writers, Edgar Rice Burroughs, published in both genres. His first novel, A Princess of Mars, literally began in the Wild West of Arizona before shifting to Mars.

This linkage still continues, down to the latest entries in each genre. Few might think to combine Paul McAuley's biotech Mars novel The Meaning of Life with Dreamworks' animated Western, Spirit, Stallion of the Cimmaron. Yet together the two works absolutely nail the zeitgeist, highlighting current views of the meaning of the West and the Other, with clear implications for Mars exploration.


Do you think his real name is "John Carter" McKnight?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM

AMERICAN HERO :

My cousin, the code-breaker (Pat Buchanan, 8/26/02)
Fifteen years ago, after I had written a memoir of growing up in Washington during the war and postwar, which traced my father's roots back to Okolona, Miss., and from there to Northern Ireland and Scotland, I received a note from Meredith Gardner.

He, too, he said, had been born in Okolona, and he informed me that we were cousins. The great counter-spy added that he now lived in the same condominium where I had lived in the early 1970s. It is to my eternal regret that I did not drive over to Connecticut Avenue to meet this American hero of the Cold War.


He sounds like a very cool guy. Maybe he could have told us if Pat was really Deep Throat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM

THAT'S HOW THEY GOT TO BE STEREOTYPES :

Interview: Stereotypes of homosexuals (Steve Sailer, 8/22/02, UPI)
Q: What are some stereotypes about homosexuals that you've found not to be true?

A: One of the embarrassing facts from social psychology is that most stereotypes are true, in the only sense that stereotypes are ever true: on average.


We like experts who confirm all our preconceived notions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM

NOT ANNOINTED :

GOP May Feel Generation Gap in N.H. Primary (Helen Dewar, August 26, 2002, Washington Post)
A few months ago, many Republicans thought Sununu was a sure bet to defeat Smith, citing polls that showed the younger man with a substantial lead in the primary and a better chance of defeating Shaheen in November. Several polls showed Sununu defeating Shaheen but showed Smith losing to her.

Now many observers say the tenacious, well-financed Smith appears to be back in the game, though few go so far as to describe him as the favorite. Smith says he pays no attention to opinion surveys because he has never won a poll or lost an election. But others, including some Democrats, say they think the momentum is going Smith's way.

"You can hear it, feel it, shifting toward Smith," said Arnie Arnesen, a former Democratic gubernatorial and congressional candidate who served as her party's commentator during a WNDS-TV debate in Derry, N.H., this month. "We tend to like the disruptive mavericks up here."

Smith "has had a lot of people in New Hampshire rolling their eyes, but he makes a good case that he's in a good position to help the state," said Fred Bramante, Arnesen's Republican counterpart during the debate. Bramante was referring to the seniority and committee positions that Smith says are worth millions of dollars in highway and other funds to New Hampshire, an argument that rankled the Union Leader but appeals to those receiving the federal funding.

Smith's edge from the start has been his supporters' fervor, which reflects the emotional intensity the senator brings to his causes. Sununu's support might be broader, but it appears less intense. "If the turnout is low, Smith has a really good chance of winning," said UNH's Andy Smith. "If the turnout is high, then Sununu probably wins."


The political battlefield is littered with the corpses of candidates who ran on their own inevitability and nothing else.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:05 PM

SATURDAY MORNING FUN/SUNDAY MORNING VALUES :

Unless you have kids you're unlikely to have any idea what joyous news this is Jonah : A VeggieTales Movie.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM

SLAP SCHTICK :

Slap-happy comment can't be taken seriously (MARY MITCHELL, August 22, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
For a moment, Charles Barron must have forgotten where he was. The city councilman from the East New York/Brownsville Section of Brooklyn was one of several speakers at last weekend's Millions for Reparations March in Washington, D.C.

Barron, who shared the stage with polished orators including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Conrad Worrill, leader of the National Black United Front, and U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who has kept the reparations issue alive for more than a decade, made comments that stirred up indignation among whites.

Most white people can't possibly follow where Barron was coming from when he told the protesters: "I want to go up to the closest white person and say, 'You can't understand this, it's a black thing' and then slap him, just for my mental health."

I'm sure just about every black person within hearing distance, including those watching the march on TV, cracked up.


As long as we're laughing about such things, perhaps it's appropriate to mention how much he deserves to have someone "go upside his nappy head", as we used to say in the 'hood.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM

VERDICT FIRST, THEN THE TRIAL :

A High-Tech Lynching: ABC News, The FBI, And The Greendale School Myth (Nicholas Stix, August 14, 2002, Toogood Reports)
Are the FBI and the elite media interested in catching the right guy, or the right-wing white guy? In the case of the terrorist who
last fall murdered five people and made 13 others ill via anthrax-contaminated letters, the feds and Big Media have decided that it would be expedient to railroad scientist Steven J. Hatfill, and have engaged in collusion towards achieving that end. The only problem is, that no one has produced one iota of evidence tying Hatfill to the crime. And so, the media and law enforcement have subjected Hatfill to the death of a thousand cuts, via incredible leaks, innuendoes, irrelevancies, and even outright fabrications. Apparently, Hatfill's tormentors seek to make an eventual trial a mere formality, or perhaps even drive their victim to an act of such desperation, as to make a trial unnecessary.

This in one of the strangest stories of recent years and Mr. Stix has been all over it like white on rice since day one. Hopefully the guy did it because otherwise what's been done to him is shameful. And Mr. Stix raises our doubts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM

SHOW ME WHERE RAPE IS FORBIDDEN BY THE CONSTITUTION :

POOR ENVIRONMENTALISTS. (Tapped, 8/26/02, The American Prospect)
Okay, time for for some classic -- and completely unscientific -- pop psychologizing. Tapped has developed the armchair theory that beating up on The New York Times has come to rival obsessive Clinton-bashing in the conservative psyche. Times bashing, after all, has all the standard characteristics: it's obsessive, it's repetitive, it's quibbling, it's scandal-mongering. Indeed, because the day-in, day-out criticism is frequently so completely out of proportion to the paper's various offenses and betrays such a strong animus, it makes one inevitably sympathize with the Times -- which, despite its inarguable shortcomings, is not exactly evil incarnate. Kind of like Clinton.

Well, yeah, except that Bill Clinton--according to the testimony, much of it uncontradicted, of various women (Ms Broaddrick, Ms Ward Gracen, Ms Willey, Ms Jones, to name a few)--is a rapist and a serial assaulter of women. That may not, in the minds of the American Prospect, rise to the level of impeachability, but it certainly makes him an incarnation of evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM

PRIVATIZING FOREIGN POLICY :

Saudis paid terrorists $200 mil., suit says (Chicago Sun-Times, August 26, 2002)
Saudi Arabian princes paid Osama bin Laden and the Taliban $200 million to spare targets in the oil-rich Persian Gulf state, according to court papers from the recent $1 trillion lawsuit filed by 900 relatives of Sept. 11 victims, the New York Post reported Sunday.

The suit, filed Aug. 15 against members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and Islamic charities, alleges the payoff funded al-Qaida terror training in Afghanistan, the Post said.

According to the paper, the lawsuit alleges the deal was hammered out in two meetings between top Saudi princes and officials from al-Qaida, Pakistan and the Taliban.


Here's an example of what we meant when we said that this lawsuit may remove control of the American/Saudi relationship from the hands of the State Department's Arabists. And this, one suspects, is just the beginning....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM

THE TRAGEDY OF GENERAL EISENHOWER :

If you've the time and the inclination, I posted a review of Carlo D'Este's terrific new biography of Eisenhower over at Brothers Judd Classic. I had an epiphany when reading its final pages (it only goes through the War) and would be interested in feedback from y'all. The thought occurred that far from being a triumph, Eisenhower and America's victory in WWII represents a uniquely American tragedy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM

WHAT MAKES A NATION GREAT? :

IN DEFENSE OF THE NEOCONS (Patrick Ruffini, 8/25/02)
Neoconservatism is both more diverse and expansive than Orrin imagines it to be. The peculiar brand of McCainite "national greatness" belief he correctly attacks is pretty much limited to Kristol, Brooks, and a few hangers-on. I would argue that its very authenticity is brought into question by Brooks, perhaps the most consumeristic public policy writer in America today. As one who celebrates the marked benefits commercial capitalism has brought us, how is he in any position to bemoan the avariciousness of business interests when they are brought to bear on the political system? Even Charles Krauthammer, whom Orrin singles out as archetypical of neoconservative belief, has a view of government that is diametrically opposed to the incoherent "national greatness" ideology of Kristol and Brooks. He goes so far as to say that public apathy breeds smaller government and is thus healthy for the political process.

[...] Traditionally, the neocon obsessions have been with foreign policy and social issues usually lacking a sharp moral dimension, such as welfare, education, and race relations. It is on those issues that the neocons have led us in new and innovative directions — strongly opposing the Soviet Union, questioning Great Society social programs with their perverse incentives towards dependency, and espousing a color-blind ideal. The neocons have also been fairly liberal on immigration, and the GOP is now leaning on the work of pro-immigration neocons like Ben Wattenberg and Michael Barone to shape party ideology.


Mr. Ruffini, as one would anticipate, makes some excellent points here, but I'm not sure he ever refutes the main points of the original essay. Firstly, while the crusade against radical Islam has certainly become the focus of the administration, George W. Bush has cast it in theoconservative terms, rather than neoconservative, with continual references to evil and the starkly Manichean vision of a war between good and evil. More importantly though, to the neocons at least, it seems unlikely that this conflict will last for terribly long. The Middle East appears to be on the verge of an implosion, one which may occur even if we leave the region entirely. This has become the most effective argument against war with Iraq, not that war would be wrong but that it would be superfluous. Between the economic situation there, the growing power of the Kurds in the North, the efforts of the expatriate Iraqi opposition to form a coherent and cohesive alternative to Saddam, and seemingly reliable reports about the demoralization and dissatisfaction of the Iraqi military, it looks like Saddam is living on borrowed time. He certainly can't threaten his neighbors much, because if he tried to deploy his army he'd risk mutiny and rebellion from within his own country. So what should be the neocons easiest sell for the next step of the "national greatness" project has already hit a snag. It still seems probable that we'll take Saddam out, but it is not a given and should we do so it will be because he's evil not because he's any real military threat.

August 25, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM

BURN TO SHINE :

Though painfully aware that this recommendation will be of rather limited utility, one nonetheless feels compelled to offer it, if for no other reason than as an act of gratitude to the artist : should you ever happen to find yourself compelled to drive alone from Boston to NH in a brand spankin' new Suburban with the rear window shot out, Burn to Shine by Ben Harper is a particularly fine disk to crank up until your floorboards vibrate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:28 PM

SO TRUE :

Wild boy : Spandau Ballet did more than provide a soundtrack for XR3i-driving Essex casuals in the 1980s. At least that's what Gary Kemp, the band's creative force, tells Paul Lester (The Guardian, August 23, 2002)
Gary Kemp is a man on a mission. He wants to force a reappraisal of Spandau Ballet, to rescue them from retro-kitsch hell and show that they were more than the sum of their recent appearances on I Love The 1980s TV nostalgia-fests and School Disco compilations.

The former guitarist and songwriter for the band that epitomised that decade has just assembled a three-CD anthology called Reformation. It will, he hopes, challenge the assumption that Spandau Ballet were establishment-toadying clothes horses who served as prototypes for today's anodyne pop idols Gareth Gates and Will Young.


We're still waiting for the Kajagoogoo reappraisal...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:20 PM

IS HE SERIOUS? :

Is He Up to It? (Jim Hoagland, August 25, 2002, Washington Post)
Those who predict that Bush 43 will not come up with an effective diplomatic strategy to support a new gulf war may be dealing in a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Bush cannot show that he has convinced Colin Powell of the wisdom of his Iraq strategy, how can he convince the nation and the world? That is the question that needs to be asked openly and debated clearly, not in sub-rosa fashion.

This sentiment seems ridiculous. Is Colin Powell really the measure of geopolitical wisdom in the modern world? More generally, does any president really have to convince a subordinate that something is proper? It might be helpful here to recall that when Harry Truman wanted to recognize the new state of Israel he was vigorously opposed by Secretary of State George Marshall, who even Powell's fans would have to admit was a man of far greater accomplishment. General Marshall even threatened to resign. But Truman did what he thought was right and history has vindicated his judgment. If General Powell feels similarly strongly about the need to preserve Saddam Hussein, let him resign when the decision is made to go to war. There's no dishonor in acting on your beliefs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM

OBJECT IN BINOCULARS IS EXACTLY AS CLOSE AS IT APPEARS TO BE :

Birders Journal: Attack of the Flying Goshawk (Robert Winkler, August 23, 2002, National Geographic News)
Taking a step or two more, I froze to the piercing cry—klee, klee, klee, klee!—of a northern goshawk. Finally, my eyes caught a large bird of prey spreading two broad, stiff wings. But it was not preparing to escape. This bird's object was attack.

The goshawk dropped from its perch and shot straight at me, somehow streaking through the trees without stirring a branch. Its battle cry crescendoed as it veered off only feet from my head, landing on a branch that gave me an unobstructed view.

I focused my binoculars on this imposing hawk, the incarnation of wildness. In the genus Accipiter—short-winged, long-tailed hawks that prey heavily on other birds—females are larger than males. The robust bird filling the glass of my binoculars was undoubtedly a female. She bristled with wild energy, glaring at me with orange eyes made fiercer by a broad white eyebrow stripe. Now and then, she flinched. The blue jays still dove at her.

Klee, klee, klee, klee!—she came at me again. I ducked reflexively as this formidable raptor with a four-foot wingspan swooped down on me at, by my estimate, 30 miles an hour.


Maybe the eagles really would have carried Gandalf away?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM

SO MUCH FOR BUSH THE PROTECTIONIST :

Administration plans to push ahead with free trade (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, August 25, 2002, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The administration said Friday that it plans to push ahead to complete free trade negotiations with Chile, Singapore, Central America and Morocco now that Congress has given President Bush the negotiating authority he needs to strike agreements.

One of the most important skills to develop in watching politics is the ability to filter out the true signal from the background noise. The traditional press isn't very good at it, so it's no surprise that bloggers aren't either, but this is an issue on which bloggers displayed a lack of even a basic understanding of the political process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM

TRICK OF THE LIGHT :

Riding the Light in Wyoming (VERLYN KLINKENBORG, August 25, 2002, NY Times)
Sometimes I think the West is just a trick of the light.

A really nice, short essay

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM

FLY :

The Dixie Chicks Keep the Heat on Nashville (BILL FRISKICS-WARREN, August 25, 2002, NY Times)
In the early 1990's, the Dixie Chicks were a cowgirl revival troupe playing for tips on the Texas dance hall circuit. By the end of the decade, they were Nashville, and pop, superstars. Their albums "Wide Open Spaces" and "Fly" sold more than 10 million copies each. They won a clutch of Grammys. Their 2000 tour grossed more at the box office than those of Bruce Springsteen and Britney Spears. Most striking of all, the Dixie Chicks achieved success not by cleaving to the conservative dictates of the country music industry but by taking risks that could just as easily have been big mistakes.

The three women — Natalie Maines and the sisters Emily Robison and Martie Maguire — cultivated their own sense of fashion, favoring post-punk, neo-hippie styles over the more conventional ensembles worn by their female counterparts. They insisted on playing their own instruments instead of employing the usual session musicians. They played banjo (Ms. Robison) and fiddle (Ms. Maguire), instruments often dismissed as quaint by country radio programmers. They sang about dicey topics like "mattress dancing" and doing away with an abusive spouse. Displaying a "love it or leave it" attitude like that of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and the other "outlaws" of the 70's, the Dixie Chicks reinvigorated the moribund Nashville music scene of the late 90's.

"Home," the album they'll release on Tuesday on their new Open Wide Records label, an imprint of Sony Music, is likely to shake up and challenge the Nashville establishment further, suggesting that it has lost touch with its roots.


How many times in music history has a genre's biggest crossover act been one of its most innovative? Or is it always so?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM

THE SKY IS GRAY :

Odds pile up against Republican defeat of Californian governor (Christopher Parkes, August 24 2002, Financial Times)
Although the campaigning season usually begins after Labor Day, Bill Simon, the cash-strapped, Republican neophyte, has been under the gun since the spring primary, in which he beat Richard Riordan, the moderate former mayor of Los Angeles and the president's personal choice.

Mr Simon did not so much beat Mr Riordan: rather he was hand-selected by the wily Mr Davis, who saw the self-proclaimed "proud conservative, pro-life" businessman as a far more delectable dish.

After a primary campaign dedicated entirely to bashing Mr Riordan, Mr Davis quickly turned his arsenal on the hapless Mr Simon, who helpfully shot himself in the foot - repeatedly.

Working with his fourth campaign manager, last week he saw his support crew depleted by a dozen because he could not afford to pay them. Now his proudest claim - to be the experienced, successful businessman California needs - has been turned against him.


Having always found silly the idea that a Republican could win this race, I think this article tries overhard to place blame and find novel reasons for the inevitable.

August 24, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM

NOT THAT MUCH ANARCHY! :

Sacco and Vanzetti Put to Death Early This Morning (NY Times, Aug. 23, 1927)
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti died in the electric chair early this morning, carrying out the sentence imposed on them for the South Braintree murders of April 15, 1920.

Sacco marched to the death chair at 12:11 and was pronounced lifeless at 12:19.

Vanzetti entered the execution room at 12:20 and was declared dead at 12:26.

To the last they protested their innocence, and the efforts of many who believed them guiltless proved futile, although they fought a legal and extra legal battle unprecedented in the history of American jurisprudence.

With them died Celestino f. Madeiros, the young Portuguese, who won seven respites when he "confessed" that he was present at the time of the South Braintree murder and that Sacco and Vanzetti were not with him. He died for the murder of a bank cashier.

The six years of legal battle on behalf of the condemned men was still on as they were walking to the chair and after the current had been applied, for a lawyer was on the way by airplane to ask Federal Judge George W. Anderson in Williamstown for a writ of habeas corpus.

The men walked to the chair without company of clergy, father Michael Murphy, prison chaplain, waited until a minute before twelve and then left the prison.

Sacco cried, "Long live anarchy," as the prison guards strapped him into the chair and applied the electrodes. He added a plea that his family be cared for.


Which begs the obvious question : if you believe in anarchy how can you complain about the legality of your execution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM

JUST KEEP STIRRING THE POT... :

Deep Iraqi involvement in killing of arch-terrorist Abu Nidal (Douglas Davis, 8/24/02, The Jerusalem Post)
A widespread investigation by Jane's World Insurgency and Terrorism has revealed deep Iraqi involvement in the killing of Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, whose death from several gunshot wounds was announced in Baghdad on August 16.

The conclusion is based on the sources of the London-based journal in Ramallah, Amman, Beirut, Baghdad, London and Washington.

According to the journal, the assassination is an indication of the mounting pressure on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the US ponders military plans to curtail his rule.

Any such moves, notes the journal, would involve anti-regime elements inside Iraq playing an important role in turning the tide against the Saddam: "He has therefore moved to eradicate those dangerous elements, both as a preemptive measure to protect his position and as an example to other prospective internal enemies still at large."


There's really no bad reason to kill Abu Nidal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM

THEY'RE LIKE GIGANTIC CHICKENS ON CRACK :

Starving emus hit Australian crops (Kathy Marks, 18 August 2002, Independent uk)
Mobs of famished emus are wreaking havoc in the Australian Outback, crashing through fences and devouring crops as they flee the country's worst drought in decades.

Some farmers have had just enough rain to plant one crop, only to watch their annual income disappear into the emus' capacious bellies. The towering, flightless birds can eat 2lb of grain a day. They have migrated south in their thousands, laying waste to large tracts of agricultural land.

The problem is so serious that farmers are calling for a widespread cull of emus, which are a protected species and appear on the national coat of arms alongside the kangaroo. Hungry kangaroos are also invading farming country, but emus are more destructive and compete with livestock for food.


They make good boot leather.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM

FATAL, OR MERELY FATUOUS, ATTRACTION? :

Treadmills of His Mind (Maureen Dowd, 08/25/2002, The New York Times )
I don't know enough about what the president is up to on Iraq. But I know too much about what the president is up to on a run.

"It's interesting that my times have become faster right after the war began," Mr. Bush tells Runner's World in an exclusive interview. "They were pretty fast all along, but since the war began I've been running with a little more intensity. It helps me to clear my mind."

So the bad news is: we haven't caught Osama. The good news is: W.'s times have improved.

"Usually I run six days a week," the magazine's leggy cover boy expounds.


Ms Dowd's obsession with W's fitness is becoming truly frightening and it's rather unprofessional. Imagine for a moment that William Safire began mentioning in his column how attractive a female politician looked and did so over and over again. Would the Times really stand for such a thing? You can see the Safire column now : "As I sit in my office, eating Chubby Hubby, and watching a continuous loop tape of Benzhir Bhutto, I'm struck both by what a bad leader of Pakistan she'd make and by how shapely her body is." How many such mentions of her physique before he was called into Howell Raines's office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 PM

BASEBALL'S ANNUS HORRIBILIS CONTINUES :

Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm Dies (AP, Aug 24, 2002)
Knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm, the first reliever elected to the Hall of Fame and the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter against the New York Yankees, has died.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM

GRAY LADY DOWN :

New York Times under fire over stance on Iraq (Stephen Robinson, 24/08/2002, Daily Telegraph)
Leading hawks in Washington who back a military attack on Iraq have turned their guns on the New York Times, charging that America's most influential newspaper is deliberately distorting its news coverage to undermine the case for war.

There have been rumblings of concern within the Bush administration and rival sections of the press for some weeks, but the dismay has broken into the open with some trenchant criticism this week of alleged appeasement of Saddam Hussein.

The New York Times, reflecting the views of its predominantly liberal, metropolitan readership and editorial staff, has long been hostile to the Bush administration and to Mr Bush's presidential candidacy in 2000, with its leaders and star columnists almost unanimously hostile - and frequently scathing - about him and his circle.

But the charge is now more serious that the paper's news columns have been turned into propaganda instruments of the anti-war party.


They're certainly free to choose sides if they wish to become an advocacy paper, but they should do so openly. Why doesn't Howell Raines just disavow objectivity as an ideal since he seems uninterested in it in practice?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM

Torricelli's Support Ebbs After Rebuke (LEDYARD KING, Gannett News Service, August 24, 2002)

A poll this month by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and Torricelli's own polling show the race a tie. In Quinnipiac's polling, Torricelli's job approval rating has dropped from 41 percent in March to 28 percent in August. [...]

After spending more than $1 million on ads this month apologizing to constituents, Torricelli said this week that he is "quite confident" about re-election because his progressive views on gun control, abortion and the environment resonate among New Jersey's suburban base.

"Because I made some mistakes, New Jersey is not going to elect Doug Forrester," he said. "This state is a tax- cutting, pro-environment, pro-education, pro-choice, pro- gun control state and I reflect what I think are the views of most middle-income people in New Jersey, Democrats and Republicans."


First of all, the GOP should force some tax cutting votes in Congress this Fall and make the Senate Democrats kill them. Make the Toricellis and Landrieuxs put their votes where their mouths are.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM

THE SICK MAN IS EUROPE :

Swiss malaise : Why Europe is sick at its coreM (Paul Erdman, Aug. 22, 2002 , CBS.MarketWatch.com)
[T]poster boy for the economic malaise that is increasingly enveloping Europe is its former star performer, Switzerland.

The pillars of that country's unique post-World War II prosperity are today crumbling, one after another. What that country may end up with is a socialist state devoid of entrepreneurship, behind the curve in technology, burdened with an aging population and declining educational standards. As if this were not bad enough, as a result of revelations of Swiss cooperation with the Nazis during World War II, and its continuing practice of using bank secrecy to attract dirty money from every crooked corner of the world, it is a nation that is also increasingly regarded as amoral, a pariah.


It's not possible to exaggerate just how serious the decline of Europe may be. It is a sign of lunacy that people have recently been moving money from American stock exchanges to Europe. America may have had a tech bubble but the belief that the EU has a future is itself a speculative bubble fueled by irrational exuberance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM

IN-HOUSE WARMONGER AT THE TIMES :

The Loyal Opposition (BILL KELLER, August 24, 2002, NY Times)
The last time America dispatched soldiers in the cause of "regime change," less than a year ago in Afghanistan, the opposition was mostly limited to the people who are reflexively against the American use of power. There were pundits who whispered "quagmire" and allies whose applause for the effort was one-handed, but the outright opposition came from isolationists, the doctrinaire left and the soft-headed types Christopher Hitchens described as people who, "discovering a viper in the bed of their child, would place the first call to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."

These fringes are again aroused against intervention in Iraq, but the chorus this time is much bigger. This time the casus belli is murkier, resting not on the harboring of mass murderers but on the novel (for America) doctrine of pre-emption, and on a threat whose urgency may be unknowable. This time the potential for something going badly wrong is far greater. Iraq is different, moreover, because much more clearly than Afghanistan it is not a war of containment but a war to radically alter the status quo — both by removing a menace to civilization and, though this goal is undeclared, by creating a pocket of democracy in a region where democracy is an unsettling prospect to many of our friends, let alone our adversaries.

This time, therefore, reluctance flourishes in the heart of the establishment, if the establishment can be said to have a heart.


From its title, which fairly begs to be read sarcastically, to its dismisssal of those who opposed the Afghan War to its questioning of the business interests that might make a guy like Brent Scowcroft oppose action against Saddam, this is the most virulently pro war piece we're likely to see from a NY Times employee, other than Safire, who doesn't count.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM

EMBRYO-YO : :

Embryo fight 'may undermine law' (BBC, 24 August, 2002)
The body which regulates fertility treatment in the UK has criticised an attempt by two women to prevent former partners from ordering the destruction of their frozen embryos.

Natallie Evans and Lorraine Hadley are challenging a law which says both parties must consent to the storage and use of embryos created by IVF.

Their lawyer says destroying the embryos will rob them of the chance to have children.

But Ann Ferudi, from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, said the current rules state both parties must give their consent before the treatment can go ahead.

She said: "If this challenge were to be successful it would undermine many of the principles around which the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was based.

"People have to give their express consent to treatment and the challenge could affect the way the act is interpreted."

Both Ms Evans and Ms Hadley say embryology law means both parties must consent to the embryos storage and use, and say their case could have broad implications for other couples on IVF treatment.


Principles? If a law forbids you to carry an embryo to term that was created for that purpose maybe the law's the problem, not the women challenging it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM

QUOTH THE RAVING :

US terror suspect 'beaten in custody' (Emma Simpson, 24 August, 2002, BBC)
For the first eight months Mr al-Marabh was held in a special unit at New York's Metropolitan Detention Centre, along with, he said, 40 other detainees.

Speaking from custody elsewhere in the state, he told me he was held in isolation and went on hunger strike in protest against his confinement in a tiny cell.

"It was like nothing worse than hell and I did five times hunger strikes, asking for a lawyer, for a judge," said Mr al-Marabh.

He says that he was punished for his hunger strikes, forced to sleep on a urine soaked mattress for 10 days, without enough water to wash himself.

He also alleged that he was beaten twice.

The first incident, he said, was last November.

"On 7 November they beat me, they hid everything and then they refused to take any notes, they crack my finger and they beat my head.

"It's been too hard, I've been taking medication. My brain is not functioning any more, I forget a lot and I get shocks at night because they used to bang the door and they never let us sleep."


So he's been on medication, can't remember things, and his brain isn't functioning anymore, but the BBC quotes him in its headline?

August 23, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 PM

CAN JEWS BE CONSERVATIVES ? :

We got an especially thoughtful email from David Cohen, which he's kindly given his permission to post.

In your neo-con post, you raise three questions that are of particular interest to me: what does it mean to be Jewish in America? What beliefs define political conservatism in the US? Can there be Jewish conservatives?

The first question is difficult, mostly because Americans don't like to talk about the issues that must be discussed to appreciate the place of Jews in America. For example, we almost never say out loud that the fundamental basis for American culture is Christianity and that the United States is a Christian nation. On one level, the truth of this proposition is self-evident: most Americans believe in God and most believers -- by far -- believe in the divinity of Jesus. Moreover, this understates the influence of Christianity in American life, for even many of those who don't think of themselves as Christians, and I'm simply going to ignore the differences between the various Christian sects, are culturally Christian, celebrating Christmas and Easter, even if they don't otherwise pay attention to the religious calendar. They try to pass this off as secular American culture, but this just proves my point -- American culture is based upon Christianity.

Indeed, the general assumption in American culture is that people are Christian, albeit secular Christians. For example, the secular calendar is simply the religious calendar hidden behind a series of vapid phrases like Spring Break, Winter Vacation, the Holidays, etc. Television shows have Christmas episodes in which characters who have not theretofore shown any religious inclinations are shown celebrating around a tree and singing carols to the newborn king. It is true that, in a sort of naive balancing, Christmas is linked with Hanukah (and Ramadan and Kwanzaa) but even the prominence of Hanukah, a relatively minor holiday that falls in the winter and, fortuitously, included a tradition of giving small amounts of money to children, is almost entirely a culturally Christian phenomenon. (That is, Jews wouldn't make too much of it if they weren't surrounded by celebrating Christians.) Until recently, it was very common for non-Christians to be wished Merry Christmas in December, a well-wishing, by the way, that only a churl could resent and which I much prefer to the vapid and fundamentally dishonest "Happy Holidays."

Moreover, despite the somewhat desperate attempts to paint the Founding Fathers as deists, the history of the discovery and settlement of North America and of the ideological, political and military foundation of the United States is the history of a self-consciously Christian enterprise. Quite a bit is owed, of course, to the English Enlightenment, but it is impossible to imagine either the Enlightenment or the writing of the Constitution without the Protestant reformation with, among other things, its ultimate emphasis on congregationalism -- with apologies to our Anglican friends -- and on the direct relationship between the individual and God.

There is, obviously, more to say on this subject, but you are not, I think, someone who needs a great deal of convincing. So, having established that ours is a Christian nation, we must now ask whether a Jew can truly be an American. There are plenty of people who say no. I say yes. But my answer is largely solipsistic: I feel myself to be fully an American, and since I cannot directly experience your Americanism or that of other Jews, I am left with my conviction. You can just take me word for it.

But if my word will not suffice, my conviction is not entirely untestable. Jews have been American citizens for as long as there has been a United States. George Washington, no less, said that Judaism is no bar to citizenship, and who am I to argue with him. I owe no allegiance to any foreign prince or potentate and while I wish Israel well, it is more because of what I believe as an American than what I believe as a Jew. Indeed, the things I believe as an American fully support my American identity: I was created equal to any other man, I, too, have been endowed by my creator with inalienable rights, the government of the United States was created to secure my rights. None of these tenets rise or fall because I am a Jew.

Moreover, the mere fact that America is a Christian country implies a role for the Jews. The relationship between Christianity and Judaism is, of course, complex and the historical relationship between Christians and Jews has, let us understate, been troubled. But Jesus was a Jew. Mary was a Jew. Many of the church fathers were Jews. There could not have been a new testament without an old. In fact, I fully believe that one reason for the difference in America's relationships with Judaism and Islam is that, for Christianity to be true, Judaism must also be true, but Islam cannot be.

Finally, Jews form a part of American life. We have served in the military, we vote, we participate in public debate, we serve in Congress and the Courts and by so doing we, along with and inseparable from all other Americans, have made the country what it is. America would not be America without Jews, just as blacks, whites, Asians, Christians, railroad workers and dime novelists could not be removed without the whole becoming lesser.

Discussions of religion are difficult; reconciling all the difference strains of conservatism to come up with an American Ur-conservatism may be impossible. Contemporary American conservatism, after all, almost spans the entire political spectrum of 18th century Britain, with both (classical) Liberals and Tories being called conservative. The best I can do is set out my own lists of beliefs that conservatives must hold. I have not attempted to show their derivation, because that I think is a separate question and would require a long disquisition into Burke, Kirk and Hayek that I don't feel like taking on right now. Not all people who call themselves conservatives may agree with all of the following statements, but I wouldn't accept as conservative anyone who does not believe the following:

*Human nature has not changed from Adam to Eminem and is not trustworthy.

*Power corrupts.

*Each individual should be allowed as much sovereignty over his person and property as possible, and free choice should only be curtailed when necessary to protect others from substantial, tangible and immediate harm.

*Man's ability to reason is severely flawed because he cannot see all of the ramifications of his actions.

*Traditional societal arrangements, while not perfect, reflect a historical genius for stability that must be respected and should be changed only when absolutely necessary.

If this statement of principles is correct -- and I'd be glad to hear about additions or subtractions -- then I see no reason that Jews can't be conservative. Some of these do depend, at least for me, on religion as a basis, but I see nothing here that can only be derived from Christianity.

Nevertheless, traditionally Jews in the United States have been liberal and the idea of a Jewish conservative has been rejected by both conservatives and Jews. It has always been something of a mystery to me that, after the Holocaust, Jews weren't almost cognitively suspicious of big centralized government and, for that matter, zealous supporters of the Second Amendment, but there you are. I think there are a couple of reasons for the Jew's historic avoidance of conservatism. First, Judaism in America is urban and urban populations tend more towards liberalism. Second, most Jewish immigrants came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries from eastern Europe, where the governments were implacably hostile to Jews and to be a dissident was to be a socialist. Third, given the nature of Christian/Jewish relations in Europe, it is perhaps natural for Jews to avoid a philosophy that is, in part, defined by its Christian roots. To the extent that modern conservatism derives from English liberalism, well, not many Jews came here from England. Finally, conservatism tends to be associated with country clubs and a WASP elite from which Jews have been excluded, another reason for alienation.

However, with changes in conservatism, particularly the semitophilism of the evangelical Christian right, and changes in Jews, mostly through increased assimilation, Jews are becoming more and more conservative. This is, in part, why I think the reasons you give for the rise of neoconservatism are a little too reductive. Israel, military might and bourgeois values are important, but I think the neocons can agree with most if not all of my conservative tenets.

This is not to deny that part of the reason for the movement of Jews to conservatism is because of Israel. Two quick stories will make my point. Last weekend I got together with a friend of mine, Muslim, born and raised in the US with Egyptian parents and now working in London. We were discussing the middle-East and he complained about American policy being skewed by all the "right-wing Jews". When I objected that I was the only right-wing Jew he knew, he confessed that by right-wing he meant Zionist. I think there is a good amount of truth here. Second, I was just listening to Rush Limbaugh in my car when an ad came up for the Forward. The ad was clearly pitched to conservatives. I'm certain that five years ago, it did not occur to the Forward to advertise on Rush Limbaugh.

Both of these stories illustrate the power of Israel's current predicament to help Jews identify with conservatism. But it is equally important to note that situation in the middle-East has equally driven non-Jewish conservatives to support Israel. In other words, the importance of Israel's current situation is that it demonstrates, to Jews and to conservatives, the power and truth of conservative thought. This demonstration is responsible for moving both Jews and conservatives closer together. Israel shows the strength of democracy, it shows the failure of socialism and it shows that there is evil in the world that neither answers to reason nor rewards faith in the innate goodness or perfectibility of man. If Israel is right, than liberalism is wrong.

So more and more Jews are open to conservatism. There is nothing inherent in conservatism, at least as I've defined it, that prevents Jews from being true believers. Will their (our) conservatism look in all aspects like that of the paleocons or theocons. Of course not, not least because some paleocons and theocons will define conservatism as not being open to Jews. But can conservative Jews make common cause with Christian conservatives? Absolutely. Is this Jewish conservatism any less conservative than Christian conservatism? I think not.

David Cohen



Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM

SAY IT AIN'T SO, BERNIE :

Deconstructing Osama : Bin Laden is still popular in the Arab world. Why? (BERNARD LEWIS, August 23, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
The role of the Middle Eastern Robin Hood, unlike his Western prototype, is not to rob the rich and give to the poor, though some such expectation may lurk in the background; it is rather to defy the strong and to protect--and ultimately avenge--the weak. For Osama bin Laden and his merry men, the Sheriff of Nottingham is their local potentate, whichever that may be. The ultimate enemy, King John, lives far away, as he has always done--in Constantinople and Vienna, London and Paris, and now in Washington and New York.

This vision, comforting though it may be to those who hold it, is flawed at both ends. King John was not a democrat, and Robin Hood was not a terrorist. We live in a different world, and at a different level of reality. Those who cherish such delusions will sooner or later suffer a painful but salutary awakening.


It's terribly disappointing to see the great Bernard Lewis totally biff the meaning of the Robin Hood legend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM

EVENTS ARE IN THE SADDLE AND THEY RIDE THE NEOCONS :

What is a Neocon? (Derek Copold, 8/18/02, The Texas Mercury)
The label 'neoconservative' has become something of a muddle. At one time it referred to an ex-leftist, someone who had rejected his youthful dalliance with socialism or, more often, communism. Not any more, these days a neoconservative can be anyone, regardless of background. For now, the question of how this came to be is immaterial; I only note that it is so. To be a neoconservative, all one need do is subscribe to a certain set of ideas and positions about foreign and domestic policy. [...]

[I]f a public figure favors an activist, Wilsonian foreign policy, strives to create a sense of national and moral purpose along 'traditional' lines through centralized means, and generally opposes attempts to restrict immigration, then he is a neocon.


Friend Copold has written a provocative, though I think not entirely accurate column here, on the nature of neoconservatism. What I believe to be missing is an appreciation of the vast difference between neocons and theocons, a divide that has been most spectacularly illustrated in a colloquium in the pages of the magazine First Things--The End of Democracy?; in the split over the 2000 Presidential nomination, with theocons supporting George W. Bush, while neocons went batty for John McCain; and in the desperate attempts (and failures) of neocons to muster an anti-cloning argument devoid of any religious bases.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

MY WHAT BIG EARS YOU HAVE :

Jealousy Trouble? Measure Your Lover's Ears (Reuters, Aug 22, 2002)
If you are worried about jealousy ruining your love life, here's the latest scientific advice: try measuring your partner's ears. Or feet.

Researchers have found that asymmetrical people are more likely to be jealous in love than those who are symmetrical.

Scientists have long shown that people whose faces and bodies are the same on both sides are considered more attractive and have an easier time attracting mates.


The wife'll be happy to know the left ear is exactly the same length as the left foot and the right ear and foot only differ by a quarter inch.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM

ANCHORING THE VAST WASTELAND :

Out There : Windswept, inept, Ashleigh Banfield hits the road. (TUNKU VARADARAJAN, August 22, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Every Monday to Thursday, from 10 to 11 p.m. EDT, MSNBC thwacks its viewers on the head with a cudgel called Ashleigh Banfield. Ms. Banfield was recently described by Vogue as "the anchor who is changing the way we watch the news." She has, the magazine continued, created "a new genre of broadcasting--a kind of raw, take-you-there, experiential reporting." I'm not sure what Vogue meant by that last bit of molasses, but my translation reads, Unprepared, verbose and incapable of complex analysis.

What we have here is the exaltation of the ditz.


We like her; plus, this is kind of a double standard. No way is she any ditzier than Rather, Brokaw or Brian Williams.

August 22, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM

IF YOU SEND AN IRAQI SOLDIER INTO THE DESERT ON A MOTORCYCLE, DOES HE COME BACK?

U.S. accused of rigging war game : Defeat of 'Iraq' ensured (Jan Cienski, 8/21/02, National Post
The quality of U.S. preparation for a possible attack on Iraq is being called into question by a retired Marine Corps general who says recent military games -- the largest ever held by the Pentagon -- were rigged to ensure the forces posing as the Iraqis would lose.

The games were "almost entirely scripted to ensure a [U.S. military] 'win'" said General Paul Van Riper, commander of the opposing "Red" forces, who quit in disgust halfway through the exercise.

He told the Army Times newspaper he was concerned the U.S. would send troops into combat using doctrine and weapons systems based on false conclusions drawn from the war games. [...]

Instead of using radios to send orders, which the Blue forces could intercept, Gen. Van Riper relied on motorcycle couriers.

When the Blue fleet sailed into the Persian Gulf, Gen. Van Riper sent apparently harmless small planes and boats into the area. After the Blue commander issued an ultimatum to surrender, Gen. Van Riper issued his attack orders via the morning call to prayer broadcast from his country's mosques.

His unconventional forces wreaked havoc on the Blue fleet and sent much of it to the bottom. The officials in charge had to halt the exercise and "refloat" the Blue fleet to allow the games to continue.


This is patently absurd. After the USS Cole explosion there are no harmless boats and who would allow any planes other than our own to fly in a war zone?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:07 PM

LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING :

Ehrlich reaches out to blacks with fund-raiser at nightclub : Effort to woo Democrats gaining ground, some say (Tim Craig and Sarah Koenig, August 22, 2002, Baltimore Sun)
In an effort to broaden his appeal in the black community, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. staged a fund-raiser and rally last night at a downtown Baltimore nightclub in an attempt to win over traditionally Democratic voters.

He even sang "Ain't No Stopping Us Now" as several hundred people, most of them African-American, ate Swedish meatballs and chicken wings at the $100-a-ticket event.

Ehrlich, the expected Republican nominee, and his running mate, Michael S. Steele, the Maryland GOP chairman, told the crowd at Hammerjack's they intend to fight for black voters as they take on likely Democratic nominee Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.


Hopefully they're serious and plan on fighting for black votes every day, not just once in awhile at staged events.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM

EUTHANASIA, YES! :

Joan Baez Serenades Tree-Sitters (AP, 8/22/02)
Folk singer Joan Baez delivered a surprise serenade to two environmental activists who have spent months perched in towering redwoods owned by Pacific Lumber Co. [...]

The 61-year-old singer dropped by Monday to offer her support. She made a similar visit to Humboldt County in 1999 to meet Julia "Butterfly'' Hill, who spent two years in a redwood she dubbed "Luna."


Cutting these trees down would be a mercy killing at this rate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM

I AM GEORGE BAILEY... :

My late husband is a real diamond geezer (Tim Reid, August 23, 2002, Times of London)
DIAMONDS may be a girl's best friend, but now you can turn your best friend into a diamond.

A company in Chicago claims that it has developed a process for turning cremated human remains into diamonds that can be worn as jewellery.


...now, officially, worth more dead than alive.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM

THIS'LL MAKE YOUR SKIN CRAWL :

Michael Jackson adds 3rd child, recycles name (The Associated Press, August 22, 2002)
The latest thriller from Michael Jackson: Word is he has a third child.

People magazine reports that Jackson has a 6-month-old boy, whom he calls Prince Michael II. He reportedly introduced the baby to his magician friends Siegfried and Roy backstage at their Las Vegas show on July 30.


Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:57 PM

APRES W QUE? :

REACHING OUT WORKS (Patrick Ruffini, 8/20/02)
Mr. Ruffini has a typically sage take on the surprisingly good poll numbers for the GOP among Latino voters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:50 PM

RESTORING OUR REASON TO LIVE :

Hasbro restores 'Kung-Fu grip' (AP Online, 8/21/02)
Hasbro hopes to grab toy collectors by restoring the legendary "Kung-Fu grip" to some new GI Joe action figures, the toy company announced Wednesday.

Hasbro introduced the gimmick in 1974, to capitalize on the popularity of the martial arts craze of that era.

Kung-Fu grip was created by making the clenched hands of the soldier dolls out of soft rubber with individual fingers, which let the figures "squeeze" objects or the limbs of other toys.


The younger among you won't care a whit, but the elder among us are rejoicing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM

TRIED FOR WHAT? :

Embassy Gunmen To Face German Judge (AP, August 21, 2002)
Five men who barricaded themselves inside the Iraqi Embassy and took Baghdad's acting ambassador and other diplomats hostage are believed to be Iraqis and had all applied in the past for asylum in Germany, authorities said Wednesday.

What precisely was their crime? They took over a building that is on the sovereign soil of one of the world's worst dictators. They should get a parade, not a trial.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM

WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE PARODY :

Paris prosecutor probes Jewish Web site's hate call (MSNBC, 8/22/02)
The Paris public prosecutor has launched a probe of an extremist Jewish Internet site which published a list of French personalities it deemed ''anti-Israeli'' and urged readers to attack some of them.

As part of its continuing, and largely successful, effort to turn itself into something resembling a Saturday Night Live skit, France will now investigate hate speech by Jews rather than the numerous anti-Semitic incidents and statements that have become commonplace there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM

BONZO VS. BABY :

Jerry was a man - are they? (Ross Mackenzie, 8/21/02, TownHall.com)
The headline arrested the eye: "Is a Chimp a 'Person' With a Legal Right to a Lawyer in Court?" And the mind went immediately to Robert Heinlein's 1947 short story, "Jerry Was a Man." [..]

The world's richest woman learns that trusted chimpanzees in a made-to-order animal factory are treated as slaves, and once past their usefulness on the production line are ground into dog food. She adopts an aging chimp named Jerry, and on his behalf files suit to establish his "humanity."

The grounds? Primarily, that he can make literal and moral judgments, long deemed the separator between men and beasts. Given Jerry's demonstrated ability to distinguish between right and wrong, the court judges Jerry to be a man - thereby saving him from the grinder.

In the real world, Heinlein's science-fiction queries apply with even greater force.

Do traditional man-beast distinctions still apply? What is an animal and what is a man? What are our humanity-related obligations to animals? Do chimps have rights - and if so, what sort?

Jerry was a man. Are chimps?


Once you determine that a human fetus isn't entitled to be considered a human being and doesn't deserve human rights--contrary to thousands of years of Judeo-Christian teaching that human dignity derives from our being created in God's image--then questions like this become fair game.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 AM

MODERATE OR MOVE ON :

For Black Politicians, 2 Races Suggest a Rise of New Tactics (LYNETTE CLEMETSON, August 22, 2002, NY Times)
The defeat of Representative Cynthia A. McKinney in a Democratic primary on Tuesday--the second loss this summer by a prominent black House incumbent to a more moderate black challenger--carries implications for black politicians, and perhaps others as well, that go far beyond any single Congressional district. [...]

Many political experts said today that the victories of the two challengers showed that successful black candidates no longer had to rely solely on rhetoric and tactics of the civil rights era.

"The black electorate is increasingly well-educated, more entrepreneurial, business-savvy and politically moderate," said Jarvis C. Stewart, a
Washington lobbyist and major Democratic fund-raiser. "Many who were not raised in the era of the civil rights movement don't relate to or see the benefit in polarizing politics."

Still, it was the money from campaign contributors motivated by a single issue--one not directly related to problems and concerns in the candidates' districts--that allowed the challengers to get out their messages, a fact that has caused resentment from some black politicians.

"I definitely have some feelings about any outside group exerting this kind of influence in a race, and I've been receiving angry calls from black voters all day, saying they should rally against Jewish candidates," said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Texas Democrat who is the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.


Hard to see how anybody--other than the incumbents themselves and the special interests that support them--loses in this situation. The black community gets more moderate leadership, more concerned with the 21st Century than the 19th. Republicans in Democrat dominated districts get some say in who represents them. And the wedge being driven between blacks and Jews may move Jews toward the GOP which is their more natural home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM

FEAR OF THE MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS :

Author sued over Islam 'insult' (BBC, 22 August, 2002)
Prize-winning French novelist Michel Houellebecq is being sued by four Islamic organisations in Paris after making "insulting" remarks about the religion in an interview about his latest book.

The action against Mr Houellebecq, 44, is being launched on 17 September by plaintiffs including Saudi Arabia's World Islamic League and the Mosque of Paris.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector, Paris mosque Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris mosque, said Muslims felt insulted by comments in the novel Plateforme, in which a character admits to a "quiver of glee" every time a "Palestinian terrorist" is killed.

The author's lawyer, Emmanuel Pierrat, said the case is "very similar" to that of British novelist Salman Rushdie - and has said that Mr Houellebecq could be assassinated. [...]

[I]t is an interview with the literary magazine Lire during last year's launch of the book that prompted the legal action.

'Obscene words'

Mr Houellebecq reportedly said in Lire that reading the Koran is "so depressing" and that Islam is "the stupidest religion".


The scary thing is that under French law they'll likely win. Recall that last year a retired general was tried as a "war apologist" for not beating his breast enough about Algeria in his memoirs.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM

KILLS BUGS DEAD :

Europe must just love Tom DeLay's speech on war with Iraq (Sean Hackbarth, 8/21/02, The American Mind)
Our kids inexplicably demanded they be allowed to watch Bob the Builder rather than Tom DeLay's speech on C-SPAN yesterday. Luckily Mr. Hackbarth has the dope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM

I'M TAKING MY BALL AND I'M GOING HOME :

Lennon quits after death threat (BBC, 22 August, 2002)
Northern Ireland's Neil Lennon has confirmed his retirement from international football after receiving a death threat prior to the friendly against Cyprus.

Lennon, who was due to captain the side, received the threat from a paramilitary group shortly before kick off and decided to pull out of the match on Wednesday evening.


Further proof, if any was needed, that soccer is only marginally a sport. Guys like Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron used to get death threats by the bushel basket, but they never quit.

August 21, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM

HALLELUJAH! :

Scientists find way to 'type with eyes' (Steve Connor, 22 August 2002, Independent uk)
Computer scientists have devised a method of "typing" without a keyboard using clever software that creates words and sentences using eye movements alone.

Two Cambridge University researchers have shown that their invention does not result in eye-strain, is just as fast as conventional typing and results in fewer mistakes.

David Ward and David MacKay, physicists in the university's Cavendish Laboratory, are making the software freely available in the hope that computer firms will use the idea, which promises to revolutionise technology for the disabled.

In a study published today in the journal Nature, the scientists say that the system, which monitors the gaze of the user's eye to type up to 34 words a minute, is faster and more reliable than similar "on-screen" keyboards that rely on eye movements.

The software works by following the eye with a tracker and camera as it runs along a list of letters arranged in alphabetical order on the screen. When the eye fixes on a letter, the computer offers a series of intelligent choices about what the next letter should be.

Dr Ward and Dr MacKay say that it is like choosing a desired piece of text from an enormous library of books on a shelf. Instead of choosing each letter in turn, writing becomes like a navigational task.


For someone who types by the Biblical method--Seek, and ye shall find--this is great news.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM

LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE! :

Saudis Plan to Sue U.S. Over Sept. 11: Lawyer (Tehran Times, 8/22/02)
A group of Saudis plan to sue the U.S. government and media organizations for the alleged psychological and financial damage they suffered in the aftermath of September 11, their lawyer said on Wednesday.

"Tens of Saudi nationals seriously plan to file lawsuits against U.S. government, civil and media entities, the majority of whom are students who had been attending American universities and were forced to leave," Saudi Lawyer Katib al-Shamri said. [...]

Hundreds of Saudis have been questioned by U.S. authorities investigating the attacks.

Washington has named 15 Saudis among the 19 hijackers.

Shamri, a member of an international legal committee set up to defend detainees at a U.S. base in Cuba, also called on the United States to allow families of more than 100 Saudi nationals held there to visit their sons.

The prisoners were captured in the U.S.-led war against Al- Qaeda, blamed for the September 11 attacks, and against the taliban government that sheltered them in Afghanistan.

"Most of the Saudi detainees are innocent and were carrying out charity and humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

Others are very young and were fooled," Shamri said. He called on U.S. authorities to charge the detainees or release them.


Bring it on, baby. Just wait'll all this stuff gets aired out in open court, there'll be nothing left of the relationship with Saudi Arabia, no matter how many Arabists there are in the State Department.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM

IT AIN'T METE, IT'S EMOTION :

Reparations in Disrepair: It may be a good cause, but you wouldn't know it from the latest demonstration on the Mall. (Alex P. Kellogg, 8/19/02, American Prospect)
Chances are that August 17, 2002 won't go down in history as a particularly pivotal day for the pro-reparations movement. Not only did the Millions for Reparations Rally -- held on a small patch of the Mall immediately in front of the nation's capital for seven hours -- fall well short of a million participants. The event also indicated why formal legal channels, rather than popular demonstrations or legislative action, may be the best way for the descendants of America's slaves to pursue compensation for centuries of slavery and discrimination in the United States.

One of the most jarring aspects of the rally was the alarming rhetoric flowing from center stage. "I heard black people get happy on pay day," shouted Hashim Nzinga, the national chief of staff for the New Black Panther Party. "Well it's pay day!" he continued excitedly, before introducing Malik Zulu Shabazz, the 34-year-old party chairman. Shabazz's group, it should be noted, has been denounced by members of the original Black Panther Party and its heirs for some of its more reactionary views and anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Shabazz followed Nzinga's stereotype-laden comments with a bit of race baiting: "You've heard of pin the tail on the donkey? Well now it's time to pin the tale on the honkey!" Then Shabazz suggested that it was also time for his adherents to "pass the ammunition" and get ready for battle. Shabazz closed his speech with a plug for a new rap CD he'd just released. [...]

As a reparations supporter, I was highly disappointed by all the grandstanding and racially charged rhetoric spewing forth from the main stage. For the first time in my life, I saw where the argument against cries of victimhood from within the black community could have some validity. [...]

To the central question of the afternoon -- namely, "how much they owe us" -- the answer generally came back as some nebulous, astronomical and amorphous amount, oddly enough often invoked as an actual paycheck (something more mainstream reparations advocates have cautioned against).


This is an unusually honest bit of nitwittery, but the idea that the legitimate economic case for reparations was crowded out by racial denagouguery completely misses the point. There is no economic case. By any measure you can come up with you have to conclude that, in purely economic terms, blacks have benefitted greatly by being brought to America. As a legal matter, there just are no economic damages in the case.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM

THE AXIS OF GOOD HITS HOME :

Indian-Americans help unseat US lawmaker (CHIDANAND RAJGHATTA, AUGUST 21, 2002, Times of India)
The African American incumbent (Rep. Cynthia McKinney) was not shy of expressing her opinion on the subcontinent either--mostly ill-informed repeats made at the behest of the Pakistani and Khalistani lobby, according to Indian-Americans.

A sample: The Indian government is responsible for terrorism against its own people. It engineered the massacre of bus passengers in Kashmir and the blowing up of a passenger airliner.

Community leaders said she recorded that kind of "unsubstantiated nonsense, usually peddled by disgruntled and discredited conspiracy theorists," in the Congressional Record.

But it was when she began talking about the imminent breakup of India because of its "17 different separatist movements" that the Indians of Georgia lost it for her and banded together.

One prominent activist sent out an e-mail to 3400 Indian-Americans in the area reporting her remarks (under the subject line "Balkanisation of India advocated by Rep. Cynthia McKinney") and urging them to work for her opponent, a local judge named Denise Majette.

Led by a prominent dotcommer in the area, they were soon holding fund-raisers for Majette, who like McKinney is also African-American. They chipped in with $20,000, although much larger sums came in later from Middle East groups--the Jews backing Majette and Arabs and Muslims supporting McKinney.

Indian-Americans contributed in other ways too. Several volunteers worked full week for Majette's campaign. She was invited as the chief guest for an Indian-American beauty pageant. A motel owner turned his electronic billboard next to the main highway into her campaign sign.

It was much after the Indian-American effort began that the Jewish lobby rolled into town. But the two sides joined hands for a phono-thon and pooled other resources for the campaign.


We've been following how the developing alliance of the U.S., Russia, Turkey, India, and Israel has effectively surrounded the Islamic world in a chokehold. It's interesting to see how a Judeo-Indian alliance may have helped defeat pro-Arab Representative Cynthia McKinney right here in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM

HISTORY'S OVER :

Democracy's Quiet Victory (JOSHUA MURAVCHIK, 8/19/02, NY Times)
A remarkable chain of events in recent months offers cause for cheer amid the bleak headlines of violence and economic distress. It suggests that democracy is completing its triumph as a global norm, endangering the remaining pockets of authoritarianism.

A decade ago, Samuel Huntington coined the label "third wave" for the trend of democratization that had begun in Portugal in 1974. The first wave had lasted from the American revolution until the breakup of empires at the end of World War I; the second followed from decolonization after World War II. Each of these waves was followed by an ebb tide as fascism spread over Europe in the 20's and 30's and Communism and forms of autocratic socialism took hold in the third world in the 60's and 70's.

Mr. Huntington's metaphor invited expectations that the third wave, too, would recede. Something quite different has happened. Sure, many of the former Soviet republics are stuck in dictatorship. But more telling is the case of Argentina, where the politicians are dithering as the economy collapses, yet the generals have made no move to reclaim power - or the situation in Eastern Europe, where former Communists fill the statehouses yet no one tries to undo democracy. Freedom House reports that the number of freely elected governments in the world has continued to climb, reaching 121 of the world's 192 independent countries this year.

Democracy has become an expectation, its claims hard to resist.


Perhaps the main reason not to go to war with Saddam, though none of the opponents seem to recognize it, is that states like Iraq are doomed anyway. And not just Iraq but Palestine, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia too. May as well throw in Communist China too while we're at it. The combination of their inability to satisfy the material wants of their peoples and the fact that, thanks to the telecommunications revolution, those same people can see exactly how much abundance free nations enjoy, must eventually destabilize these governments to the point where they can not tamp down domestic unrest. George W. Bush has already demonstrated one of our greatest weapons when he simply wrote off Yassir Arafat. We should adopt a similar attitude towards all these countries, an air of disdain for the temporary dictatorship they labor under and an eager anticipation of the inevitable day when they will be free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM

BLUE STATE FUN :

Queer “Settlers” Land on Berkeley Starbucks, Analogy to Israeli Colonists by QUIT! (SF Indy Media, August 18, 2002)
About 25 queer settlers descended on a downtown Berkeley Starbucks on Saturday, August 17, claiming Berkeley as “a city without people for people without a city.” The group, organized by Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), posted a banner proclaiming the reclaimed cafŽ “Queerkeley – A Prophecy Fulfilled.”

They also erected homes (transformed “Palestinian civilian homes reclaimed from another street theatre action), lawn furniture, and signs reading, “It Works In Palestine, Why Not Here?” and “It’s Ours Because We Say So.” [...]

The group selected Starbucks for the location of their first settlement in Berkeley because Starbucks founder and CEO, Howard Shultz, is a major supporter of the Israeli state and the corporation has become the prime target of an international boycott of corporations with ties to Israel. “Since Mr. Shultz clearly believes it is okay for one group of people to grab land belonging to another and say they have a right to it, we figure he won’t mind if we take some of his,” a QUIT leaflet explains.


Of course if they tried to forcibly settle in an Islamic state they'd be persecuted for their sexuality.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM

TREES DIED, THAT THIS INSIPID COLUMN MIGHT LIVE :

Coup De Crawford (Maureen Dowd, August 21, 2002, NY Times)
We used to worry about a military coup against civilian authority. Now we worry about a civilian coup against military authority.

It's the reverse of the classic movie "Seven Days in May," about gung-ho generals trying to wrest power from an "appeasing" president. In "Thirty-One Days in August," gung-ho presidential advisers try to wrest power away from "appeasing" generals.

In the 1964 movie, the generals' code for their military coup was a bet on the Preakness. In the 2002 version, W. signaled his civilian coup by telling an A.P. reporter his vacation reading was "Supreme Command," a new book by Eliot A. Cohen, a conservative who favors ousting Saddam. In his book, Mr. Cohen attacks the Powell Doctrine and argues that civilian leaders should not defer to "the fundamental caution" of whiny generals on grand strategy or use of force.


Note though the one thing that's stayed the same even forty years later--it is conservatives who are evil. If the generals want to fight communism, they're evil conservatives. If the politicians want to fight radical Islam, they're evil conservatives. It is only, and ever, the appeasers who are the good guys. In fact, this column seems to argue that the Constitution and civilian authority over the military should take a back seat to appeasement. What a strange hateful little woman...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM

BROTHERS JUDD v. 3.0 :

The blessed Other Brother is nearing completion of a major redesign of the Brothers Judd book review site. If you get a chance today and have the time and inclination to check it out, we'd be very appreciative of your feedback. Some features may not be operative yet--some message boards and the search engine aren't fully functional--but especially in terms of design and ease of navigation we could use your help. Thanks and thank you Stephen, for all the work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM

TIME KEEPS ON SLIPPING... :

Real Time : The pace of living quickens continuously, yet a full understanding of things temporal still eludes us (Gary Stix, August 13, 2002, Scientific American)
The essence of time is an age-old conundrum that preoccupies not just the physicist and philosopher but also the anthropologist who studies non-Western cultures that perceive events as proceeding in a cyclical, nonlinear sequence. Yet for most of us, time is not only real, it is the master of everything we do. We are clock-watchers, whether by nature or training.

The distinct feeling we have of being bookended between a past and a future--or, in a traditional culture, being enmeshed in the Great Mandala of recurring natural rhythms--may be related to a basic biological reality. Our bodies are chock-full of living clocks--ones that govern how we connect a ball with a bat, when we feel sleepy and perhaps when our time is up.

These real biorhythms have now begun to reveal themselves to biologists. Scientists are closing in on areas of the brain that produce the sensation of time flying when we're having fun--the same places that induce the slow-paced torpor of sitting through a monotone lecture on Canadian interest-rate policy. They are also beginning to understand the connections between different kinds of memory and how events are organized and recalled chronologically. Studies of neurological patients with various forms of amnesia, some of whom have lost the ability to judge accurately the passage of hours, months and even entire decades, are helping to pinpoint which areas of the brain are involved in how we experience time.

Recalling where we fit in the order of things determines who we are. So ultimately, it doesn't matter whether time, in cosmological terms, retains an underlying physical truth. If it is a fantasy, it is one we cling to steadfastly. The reverence we hold for the fourth dimension, the complement of the three spatial ones, has much to do with a deep psychic need to embrace meaningful temporal milestones that we can all share: birthdays, Christmas, the Fourth of July. How else to explain the frenzy of celebration in January 2000 for a date that neither marked a highlight of Christ's life nor, by many tallies, the true millennium?

We will, nonetheless, continue to celebrate the next millennium (if we as a species are still around), and in the meantime, we will fete our parents' golden wedding anniversary and the 20th year of the founding of our local volunteer fire department. Doing so is the only way of imposing hierarchy and structure on a world in which instant messaging, one-hour photo, express checkout and same-day delivery threaten to rob us of any sense of permanence.


I know we're all supposed to feel really pressed for time nowadays, but just consider for a moment how many more hours a day our forefathers had to work just to provide food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their families. It's humbling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM

WE GOT ISSUES :

A legacy of questions from this heroic Pope (William Rees-Mogg, August 19, 2002, Times of London)
There are several potential difficulties, which will not be resolved in his reign but will eventually have to be resolved. There are issues from the Second Vatican Council still to be decided, and issues which arise from the global cultural changes to which he attaches great importance. [...]

Above everything else, there is the question of the rights of women, the most profound of all the human rights claimed in the second half of the 20th century. Unusually, John Paul II seems unsure of his own mind on this issue. He moved one step forward in 1995, with his sympathetic letter to the Beijing World Conference on Women, but two steps back with Ad Tuendam Fidem (In the Defence of the Faith) with its commentary by Cardinal Ratzinger. That document attempted to put 'definitive' but 'non-infallible' teachings, such as those which reject the ordination of women, outside the boundaries of discussion. For Cardinal Ratzinger, there seems to be no such thing as loyal disagreement.

That dam will not hold. In the 19th century a great pride of 'Pio Nono'` Catholicism was that Catholic doctrine and practice never changes, and has never changed. The truth is the opposite. The faith is constant, but from the earliest days, certainly since the time of St Ambrose and St Augustine, the Church has been in a continuous process of reform and development. If it had not been it would long since have died.

That process will inevitably continue. Pope John Paul II is a great Pope, an heroic Pope, a man of compassion and grace, from my perspective perhaps the greatest leader I have ever met. But his judgment will not decide how the Catholic Church may develop in the 21st century any more than Pius IX could have stopped the hand of John XXIII when he took the critical decision to call the Second Vatican Council. Even in Rome no generation can bind the conscience of its successors.


Lord Rees-Mogg redeems himself for last week's anti-Rumsfeld lunacy with a nice piece on the Pope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM

NEITHER :

Mr. Coffee? Mr. Freeze Dried? : DiMaggio or Williams: Pick One (Allen Barra, August 21 - 27, 2002, Village Voice)
Both Ted Williams (San Diego area) and Joe DiMaggio (San Francisco Bay area) were Californians, among the first great Far Western ballplayers. They were the two greatest everyday players in the game from the late '30s to 1950. DiMaggio-cool, aloof, controlled, and dignified-was often referred to as "the Cary Grant of baseball," though considering his shyness and taciturnity, Gary Cooper probably would have made a more appropriate comparison. Ted Williams-taller and rangier than Joe, open and volatile-was more like John Wayne, though given their respective war records, it would be fairer to say more like the characters Wayne played. They were friendly competitors, the greatest stars of the oldest and most bitter rivals in American professional sports. The answer to the question "Who was the most valuable?" might well be an answer to the question "Who was the greatest player of all time?"

That, of course, is just silly. Babe Ruth was as good a hitter as Williams and a better fielder and baserunner (until late in his career). But he was also a Hall of Fame level pitcher before he switched to playing the field full time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM

NO COMPLAINT :

He Made Our World Universal, Chaim Potok : 1929-2002 (Ari L. Goldman, Jerusalem Report)
Potok spoke more clearly and more directly to me than Bellow or Roth or Malamud. I didn't know Nathan Zuckerman or Alexander Portnoy. They didn't go to my yeshivah or hang out in my shul. They weren't from my world. But Danny and Reuven and Asher were.

Potok showed us that we could make literature out of our own lives. Here was the shul, there was the bais medrash, here was the rebbe, there was the stickball game. Is that my father or Reuven's making Kiddush? Is that my mother or Danny's lighting Shabbos candles?

Bellow, Roth and Malamud's characters walked away from Judaism, but Potok's characters were destined to struggle. They could neither break away nor stay. They had to forge their own way and, most important, their own faith.

One of my favorite Potok vignettes comes from "The Book of Lights," which was published in 1981 and was based on the author's years as a United States Army chaplain in Korea in the 1950s. The main character, again a struggling Jew, comes upon a Buddhist religious ceremony and asks with wonder: "If that is sacred, then what is it that we do? And if what we do is sacred, then what is this that they are doing?"

It is the kind of moment that many of us have experienced when going beyond the borders of our own faith. Potok's ability to portray that moment was just one of the reasons why his books found an audience beyond the struggling yeshivah boys like myself who felt liberated by his writing.


And what made Mr. Potok such a great author is that you didn't need to go to yeshiva or shul for Danny and Reuven to affect you.

August 20, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:57 PM

CALVIN 1, RUSH 0 :

So today on the Rush Limbaugh show, a guy named Calvin called in and he had an excellent idea that Mr. Limbaugh dismissed too brusquely. Calvin suggested that we that we need to know what Saddam's been up to since he kicked weapons inspectors out of Iraq and that we need a good provocation to get folks to support an attack on Saddam. Perhaps most perceptively he suggested that we combine these two things and just go ahead and send an inspection team to Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM

BLACK QUEEN :

Blitzed by Russia's pawn star : She's 18 years old, dark-eyed, raven-haired - and a grandmaster. Nigel Farndale takes on Alexandra Kosteniuk, the pin-up of world chess (Daily Telegraph, 14/08/2002)
Not long (enough) ago, the editor of the Telegraph bullied me into facing three overs from Shoaib Akhtar, the world's fastest bowler. The object of the exercise was that I, possibly the world's feeblest batsman, should describe what it is like to have a hard leather object hurtle towards you at 100 miles an hour. On Wednesday, in a similar spirit, the editor arranged for me to play a game of chess with Alexandra Kosteniuk, the women's World Vice-Champion - that is, the second best female chess player in the world.

The 18-year-old Russian recently took a game off the legendary Anatoly Karpov; she has been playing since she was five, when her father gave up his military career to coach her full-time; and she became a grandmaster at the age of 14 (indeed, she has written an autobiography called How I Became Grandmaster at Age 14).

All you need to know about me is that I can bat much better than I can play chess.


I've got no problem with smart, beautiful women. The wife and Margaret Thatcher are both smarter than me and both snappy items. But a fab babe who can whip you in chess is too much...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM

ARE THE EUROPEANS STILL DEMOCRATS? : :

Democracy takes a back seat (Kirsty Hughes, 14 August 2002, Open Democracy)
The prospects for engaging Europe's citizens in the debate on the future of the Union are still hostage to the power politics of the member states.

The real risk is that democracy is going to get short shrift both in the European Union (EU) Convention and in the 2004 Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). This, of course, is not the declared aim. But in a little noticed comment to the Convention in April, Giscard d'Estaing bluntly asserted that while "people often say that Europe must be closer to its citizens, this is not exact - Europe must be more understandable by its citizens."

Nor is Giscard's approach unfamiliar in Brussels, where the patronising view is often heard that if only the public understood the EU better, they would support the EU and its institutions much more. The opposite may well be true; if the public had a better view of its inter- and intra-institutional wrangles and machinations, they might well be seriously appalled.


There's a current vogue in Europe for calling the United States the great threat to global democracy. But the real question confronting the Atlantic Alliance is about Europe's commitment to democracy. Is it possible to reconcile the movement towards European Union, a government by unelected bureaucrats, with the Western tradition of representative democracy? And if Europe no longer believes in democracy, if it is to be governed once again by elites, then it may be time to ask ourselves if our interests have not inevitably begun to diverge?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM

HOPEFULLY A VICTIM'S FATHER WILL MEET HIM AT THE GATE WITH A .45 :

Police scrambling to block early prison release of confessed serial killer (PAM EASTON, Aug 18, 2002, Associated Press)
The murders were as random as they were vicious: stabbings, hangings, stranglings, drownings. The women didn't know each other or the hooded man who, according to one survivor, enjoyed the killing so much he was "clapping and dancing."

Police eventually caught up with Coral Eugene Watts but couldn't connect him to the savage crimes in Texas and Michigan.

Desperate to close the cases, prosecutors agreed to a plea bargain. In 1982, Watts admitted he killed 13 women - "They had evil in their eyes," he said - but he went to prison for burglary with intent to commit murder.

He was sentenced to 60 years, and prosecutors, police and the judge thought that was enough.

Now, a quirk in the Texas legal system may short-circuit their intentions. Mandatory release laws aimed at relieving prison crowding require Watts' be discharged on May 8, 2006, unless he loses good behavior credits that he has accumulated in prison. He will be 52.

Watts is believed to have killed dozens of women, and authorities in Texas and Michigan are scouring old files, archives and evidence folders for any shred that might tie him to an open case for which he didn't receive immunity in the plea.

"Everybody knows he is going to kill again," said Houston police Sgt. Tom Ladd...


Couldn't figure out whether "burglary with intent to commit murder" is a capital offense, though since this guy pled to it one doubts it. But cases like this one are why even skeptics like us find it hard to oppose capital punishment. The uncertainty of probation and other such elements makes the finality of execution seem necessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM

FLAME ON :

Iran's Annual Inflation Rate Hits 15.9 Percent (TEHRAN TIMES, 8/20/02)
The Consumer Price Index (Inflation Index) in Iranian urban areas reached 199.8 points by end of Khordad (June 20) this year. It indicates an annual inflation rate of 15.9 ending in Khordad.

According to figures issued by the Central Bank of Iran (CBI), the CPI average in the first three months of this year reached 196.4, showing 12 percent increase compared to a year before.


This is a story to watch because hyperinflation could be the match that sets the Middle Eastern tinderbox afire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM

"NEVER EXPECTED" ? :

Experts Scale Back Estimates of World Population Growth (BARBARA CROSSETTE, August 20, 2002, NY Times)
Demography has never been an exact science. Ever since social thinkers began trying to predict the pace of population growth a century or two ago, the people being counted have been surprising the experts and confounding projections. Today, it is happening again as stunned demographers watch birthrates plunge in ways they never expected.

Only a few years ago, some experts argued that economic development and education for women were necessary precursors for declines in population growth. Today, village women and slum families in some of the poorest countries are beginning to prove them wrong, as fertility rates drop faster than predicted toward the replacement level - 2.1 children for the average mother, one baby to replace each parent, plus a fraction to compensate for unexpected deaths in the overall population. [...]

As a result, United Nations demographers who once predicted the earth's population would peak at 12 billion over the next century or two are scaling back their estimates. Instead, they cautiously predict, the world's population will peak at 10 billion before 2200, when it may begin declining.


Conservatives and neoconservatives (Ben Wattenberg for one) have been sounding the alarm about the pending population implosion for at least twenty years now. and the thing to keep in mind is this : there are innumerable instances of countries growing their economies while their population explodes, but to the best of my knowledge we know of no case where a country has been able to sustain economic growth while its population declines. We need only look at Japan to see what happens when even a modern industrialized nation stops growing its population. Economic decline follows, just as surely as night follows day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM

N-SYNC :

MIDDLE EAST POLITICS IN THE NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE RACE (W. James Antle III, August 20, 2002, Enter Stage Right)
[O]ne of the main reasons I didn't bring up this whole mess in my article - even though I suppose it could have bolstered my case that conservatives should stick with Smith - was that stating the criticisms of Sununu and then defending those who make them against charges of ethnic politics would have bogged down the entire piece when I did't really think it was necessary to make my point. I don't question Sununu's patriotism or loyalty. I would not even classify him as "anti-Israel." But I would say that Smith's votes on certain issues that relate to the Middle East and immigration policy are more to my liking and more in synch with the views of most conservatives.

The "whole mess" that Mr. Antle refers to is questions about how John Sununu, Jr. has voted on Israeli/Palestinian issues, a question that we reaised here : LIKE FATHER LIKE SON? His point is valid; it can become a kind of "When did you stop beating your wife?" question if people keep asking if Mr. Sununu is anti-Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:49 PM

SACCO NOT SOCKO :

Murder for Mature Readers: Palestine's Comic Book (Lewis A. Fein, August 20, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Walk into a comic store and childhood memories refresh themselves: muscular displays of heroism by Superman, acrobatic elegance from Spiderman and vigilante justice by Batman. But, between the angular sketches of Captain Marvel or the melodic toughness of Mighty Mouse, exists a more sinister - a purposefully less innocent - comic book -- Joe Sacco's Palestine (only now recently mass marketed among mainstream booksellers as an abridged version of his earlier propaganda).

Yet, Sacco's interpretation is not a legitimate counterpoint to, say, Art Spiegelman's "Maus," the critically acclaimed Holocaust memoir. And, even though Spiegelman himself offers positive reviews for Sacco's work, such praise - praise limited to one's artistic abilities and liberal theology - is beside the point: Spiegelman chronicles history with an artist's precision; Sacco reinvents truthful facts with a denier's deliberate blindness.


Gay characters? Pro-Palestinian? What the heck has happened to comic books?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 PM

LOOKING INTO THE KRISTOL BALL :

Bush's Summer Reading List Hints at Iraq (Dana Milbank, August 20, 2002, washington Post)
Looking for signs about President Bush's thinking on an Iraq attack? Check out his vacation reading.

This vital intelligence comes from an interview with the industrious Associated Press reporter Scott Lindlaw, who went on a brush-clearing, pickup-riding, sweating-and-bleeding tour of the Bush ranch outside Waco last week. The president disclosed that he has been reading "Supreme Command," a new book by Eliot A. Cohen, a neoconservative hardliner on Iraq with the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

In his reading choice, Bush seems to be following the advice of Bill Kristol, the arch-neoconservative who has been using his Weekly Standard magazine to chide Bush for being too soft on Saddam Hussein. It is Kristol's blurb, after all, on the back cover of Cohen's book suggesting: "If I could ask President Bush to read one book, this would be it." Former Quayle man Kristol, suspected of playing puppeteer to a number of hawkish officials in the Bush Pentagon and National Security Council, appears to have added the marionette-in-chief to his act.


You can just see the headlines in France and the Middle East : Shadowy Jewish Svengali Controls Bush's Mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM

TODAY'S BEST STORY, EXCEPT... :

A List of Guests Throws Light on the Bush Style (ADAM NAGOURNEY, August 19, 2002, NY Times)
There are many ways to judge how different President Bush is from the man he succeeded in the White House. One is where this president chooses to spend his vacation: on the dry and secluded flatland of his ranch near here, a cultural world away from the white-wine swillers of Martha's Vineyard, as Mr. Bush put it last week in a tart put-down of the island where Bill and Hillary Clinton spent their summers.

But an equally revealing contrast came in the form of a list, issued by the president's aides Friday night, of the 160 friends, family members and supporters who have enjoyed overnight stays in the White House in the first 20 months of this Bush administration.

If Mr. Clinton's overnight list spoke volumes about his presidential style--from the glamour of his guests to the ignominy of the use of the Lincoln Bedroom as a fund-raising tool--the Bush list, like his choice of this sleepy furnace of a town as a getaway spot, suggests just how low-key and unostentatious Mr. Bush has sought to appear. [...]

Mr. Clinton's guests recall ambling evenings filled with an assortment of dignitaries, intellectuals and celebrities, often going late into the night. It was not unusual to see Mr. Clinton lead guests to the White House mess for a late-night snack and for some intense discussion on any one of a number of weighty problems.

By contrast, Mr. Bush keeps his nights short and simple: dinner by 7, coffee on the Truman Balcony and bed by 10, with a decided preference for smaller groups than was common under Mr. Clinton. The evenings are notable, a few of Mr. Bush's guests said today, for their lack of pretension or gravity. Several said that except for the agents outside the room, they could have been having dinner in almost any dining room in America.

"Anyone who puts on airs and tries to get puffed is going to get punctured mighty quickly," David Sibley, a Republican former Texas state senator and a close friend of Mr. Bush's who has stayed both at the White House and at Mr. Bush's ranch here, said by cellphone as he headed for church this morning. "Whether it's his house in Dallas or it's the White House, they are very much the host and hostess."


Overall this is a nice assessment of the very different lifestyle that the Bushs have brought to the White House, but what's with the "sought to appear"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 AM

THE GREAT ABSENCE :

Pope Says Modern Mankind Is Usurping 'God's Place' (Frank Bruni, August 19, 2002, NY Times)
Pope John Paul II, at the highlight event of a profoundly emotional visit to his native land, told a crowd of at least two million Poles here today that mankind was going dangerously astray by letting scientific advances and cultural liberalism eclipse God's will.

"Frequently man lives as if God did not exist, and even puts himself in God's place," the pope said, using his homily during an outdoor Mass of breathtaking dimensions to make the most pointed and topical remarks of his three-day homecoming.

"He claims for himself the Creator's right to interfere in the mystery of human life," he added, speaking in Polish and referring to a range of issues that clearly included abortion, cloning and euthanasia. "Rejecting divine law and moral principles, he openly attacks the family."

The blame for this, he went on to say, lay partly with "the noisy propaganda of liberalism, of freedom without truth or responsibility." [...]

In his homily, he deplored the way that modern civilization, in his view, "wishes to determine life through genetic manipulation and to establish the limit of death."

He said people were trying "to silence the voice of God in human hearts" and to "make God the great absence in the culture and the consciences ofpeople."


It's quite common to read in libertarian and leftist defenses of things like cloning that the opposition of Christians and other conservatives is a function of our fear of the new. That's quite accurate. I for one do fear that the world they seek to make will be a loathsome place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM

INGRATE! :

ALL FOR GORE IN 2004 : We'll take Al Gore's populist schtick again if that will prevent the self-righteous, warmongering Joe Lieberman from running for president in 2004. (David Corn, August 16, 2002, AlterNet)
Lieberman, the Senator from Connecticut who was Gore's ticket-mate, has pledged he will not enter the 2004 fray if Gore does. But if Gore demurs, Lieberman is ready to pounce. And who -- except the DLC and Mrs. Lieberman -- wants that?

Let me first note some Lieberman positives. He has tended to have a strong record on environmental matters. He recently joined with Republican Senator John McCain to introduce legislation that would set up an independent commission to investigate intelligence failures related to Sept. 11 -- a move that was a slap in the face of the congressional intelligence committees, which rarely go far enough in investigating and overseeing the intelligence agencies. He can, at times, be a sharp opponent of the Bush Administration. (He called Bush's recent photo-op economic confab "more of a valley than a summit.") And he has kept the flame of Enron alive -- though barely -- as chairman of the governmental affairs committee, which is investigating the Enron mess (but not as quickly as many Democratic partisans would prefer.)

Yet none of that compensates for Lieberman's negatives. There's his self-righteous and quasi-censorious opposition to explicit music, movies and television shows. There's his self-righteousness about most things. There's his warmongering. (He recently called for Congress to grant Bush the authority to remove Saddam Hussein and leave it to Bush and the Pentagon to decide how to do that.) And there's his coziness with the DLC. But what moves me to alter my position on a Gore sequel is Lieberman's ingratitude.


One would imagine that two years ago at this time Mr. Corn was writing about what an ingrate Al Gore was being by running away from the Clinton record.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM

IT USED TO BE OUR PASTIME TOO :

Japan's national pastime (Marvin Olasky, 8/20/02, Townhall.com)
Barring a minor miracle, American Major League Baseball players and owners are hurtling toward an Aug. 30 strike date. But here at Koshien Stadium, baseball life goes on for the fervent fans of the Hanshin Tigers.

Fans at this 55,000-seat ballyard wear karate gi (robes) and headbands in the yellow and black Tiger colors. White-gloved cheerleaders lead the crowd in vibrant chants and rollicking songs. Fans learn different songs for each home team batter and greet favorites with homemade banners. One fan greeted a player from the United States with a huge banner made up of many American flags.

And fans sing the Hanshin fight song, "The Wind of Mount Rokko." Here's a rough translation of one stanza: "Powerful bats and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times/ Trained with every discipline here at Koshien/ Crowned with constant victory glorious, matchless feat/ Always proud, invincible Hanshin Tigers/ Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Hanshin Tigers/ Hooray, Hooray, Hooray, Hooray." Some children learn the song before they learn Japan's national anthem.


Perhaps the best thing that could happen to baseball is a three or four year shutdown that would destroy it as a viable television entertainment and rid the game of money. Get it back down to sixteen teams with no playoffs, just the World Series. No national tv contract. No Nike ads. No homerun derby. Just baseball.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 AM

WE SHALL NOT SEE HIS LIKE AGAIN :

Yeager To Retire From Military Flying After October Airshow (Leigh Anne Bierstine, Aug 19, 2002, Space Daily)
Aviation legend retired Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager visited Edwards Aug. 12 and 13 to chat with airmen around the base and to prepare for his opening flight at the Edwards 2002 Open House and Air Show Oct. 26. [...]

Reflecting on his 60 years of flying, Yeager said he has been "very, very lucky" in being afforded the opportunity to fly military aircraft for six decades. After retiring from the Air Force with more than 34 years of service, including in World War II and Vietnam, he continued flying as a consultant test pilot here, logging time in the F-15 and the F-16 Falcon as well as other aircraft.

However, it appears Yeager's time flying military aircraft may be coming to a close after his approaching open house mission.

"I have decided that during the open house and airshow I'll make a sonic boom in the F-15, but sixty years is long enough for me to be flying military airplanes," Yeager said.

The retired general is quick to point out that he is not giving up flying all together. He plans to continue flying P-51 Mustangs and various light aircraft.


Perhaps it's not fair to him, but whenever we think of General Yeager we'll see Sam Shepard striding out of the shimmering desert after that terrifying crash in The Right Stuff.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM

The Greatest Conversationalists of All Time : From the salons of Paris to the villages of Hawaii, ten

Great conversationalists are often, but not always, great talkers. The men and women honored here stand out for the way they fostered great conversation—as brilliant speakers, as powerful listeners, or as figures who masterfully facilitated the exchange of ideas. Drawing upon the wisdom, skill, and joie de vivre they brought to the simple act of talking, we can all learn a thing or two about the art of conversation.

SOCRATES (469-399 B.C.E.)
THE SEVEN SAGES OF THE BAMBOO GROVE (circa 250 C.E.)
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546)
CATHERINE DE RAMBOUILLET (1588-1665)
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772-1834)
GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946)
CARL ROGERS (1902-87)
LUBA PETROVA HARRINGTON
BILL MOYERS
INDIGENOUS PEOPLE


We'll go with :

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM

WHAT COURT? :

Bush's Court Crusade (Tom Malinowski, August 16, 2002, The Washington Post)
Writing in Foreign Affairs magazine at the start of the 2000 Presidential campaign, George Bush's future national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, promised a "disciplined and consistent foreign policy that separates the important from the trivial." It is becoming hard to square that commitment with the Bush administration's strange and single-minded crusade against the International Criminal Court. [...]

Of course, the administration will argue that this is necessary to protect Americans from a rogue international court. But even if the ICC does go badly wrong, the most powerful nation in the history of the world surely will have the resources to defend itself against 18 judges in Holland who will have no army, police or independent enforcement power. The unlikely possibility that someday, somewhere, some American might be investigated by this court is no reason to threaten allies in the middle of a war, or to sanction fragile democracies whose success is important to America.

Privately, many administration officials see this. But they seem trapped by their anti-ICC rhetoric, unable to end a reckless quest that has done more to hurt America than it could ever do to undermine this court. Those who share the president's original, more pragmatic world view must somehow get this message through: It's time to stop sacrificing the important to the trivial. The ICC tail must stop wagging the dog of American foreign policy.


Don't know about your local paper, but in the one here this column appeared amidst numerous others and letters all announcing that an American attack on saddam Hussein would be completely unjustified under International Law. So here are two questions for "human rights" activists, like Mr. Malinowski, and other supporters of the ICC :
(1) If not Saddam, who?

(2) If not America, who?


If Saddam Hussein is not precisely the kind of person who should be hauled before an International Criminal Court then who should be? And if the internationalist community isn't serious about going and getting such criminals then what's the point of the Court? And, realistically, if the United States doesn't go get such people then who will? After all, the only reason Slobodan Milosevic is on trial at The Hague is because the United States finally intervened in the Balkans. Left to their own devices, the European nations, who are the most vociferous supporters of the ICC, showed absolutely no stomach for even stopping Milosevic from killing people, never mind for arresting him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM

TELL IT TO HARVEY :

The logic of empire : The US is now a threat to the rest of the world. The sensible response is non-cooperation. (George Monbiot, August 6, 2002, The Guardian)
As the US government discovers that it can threaten and attack other nations with impunity, it will surely soon begin to threaten countries that have numbered among its allies. As its insatiable demand for resources prompts ever bolder colonial adventures, it will come to interfere directly with the strategic interests of other quasi-imperial states. As it refuses to take responsibility for the consequences of the use of those resources, it threatens the rest of the world with environmental disaster. It has become openly contemptuous of other governments and prepared to dispose of any treaty or agreement that impedes its strategic objectives. It is starting to construct a new generation of nuclear weapons, and appears to be ready to use them pre-emptively. It could be about to ignite an inferno in the Middle East, into which the rest of the world would be sucked.

The United States, in other words, behaves like any other imperial power. Imperial powers expand their empires until they meet with overwhelming resistance.

For Britain to abandon the special relationship would be to accept that this is happening. To accept that the US presents a danger to the rest of the world would be to acknowledge the need to resist it. Resisting the United States would be the most daring reversal of policy a British government has undertaken for over 60 years.

We can resist the US neither by military nor economic means, but we can resist it diplomatically. The only safe and sensible response to American power is a policy of
non-cooperation. Britain and the rest of Europe should impede, at the diplomatic level, all US attempts to act unilaterally. We should launch independent efforts to resolve the Iraq crisis and the conflict between Israel and Palestine. And we should cross our fingers and hope that a combination of economic mismanagement, gangster capitalism and excessive military spending will reduce America's power to the extent that it ceases to use the rest of the world as its doormat. Only when the US can accept its role as a nation whose interests must be balanced with those of all other nations can we resume a friendship that was once, if briefly, founded upon the principles of justice.


Notorious idiot George Monbiot is the latest Brit ready to go to war with the U.S. The most amusing thing about his column, besides the conceit that we'd even notice if Britain pursued a policy of noncooperation, is the notion that all it would take to get rid of Saddam and bring peace in Palestine is for Britain to buckle down to some serious diplomacy. What colour do you suppose the sky is in Mr. Monbiot's world?

August 19, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM

WHO'S FUNDING THESE STUDIES? :

Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder(Ananova, 18th August 2002)
A new study has established that beauty may be in the eye of the beer holder rather than the beholder.

Scientists in Scotland say they have found proof of the so-called "beer goggles" effect, following a study involving 80 students.

The researchers wanted to measure the phenomenon by which members of the opposite sex become more attractive as one drinks more alcohol.

They discovered that men and women who have drunk a moderate amount of alcohol find the faces of the opposite sex 25% more attractive than their sober counterparts.


Duh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM

IGNOBLE NOBELIST :

Mandela to observe Fatah leader's trial (Jonathan Steele, August 15, 2002, The Guardian)
In a major embarrassment to Israel, Nelson Mandela has agreed to observe the trial of a Palestinian leader formally indicted yesterday on charges of murder and terrorism.

A lawyer for Marwan Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian legislative council and secretary general of the Fatah movement in the West Bank, revealed he had been in South Africa last week to invite the former president to the trial.

"He said he was enthusiastic about coming," Khader Shkirat said. He quoted South Africa's most famous political prisoner as saying: "What is happening to Barghouti is exactly the same as what happened to me. The government tried to de-legitimise the African National Congress and its armed struggle by putting me on trial."


Mr. Mandela's continual pronouncements on Palestine prove you can let the terrorist out of prison but you can't get the terrorism out of the prisoner.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM

FOR THIS THEY NEEDED A STUDY? :

Moms and dads differ on kid's pain (Peggy Peck, 8/19/02, UPI)
A study from Finland suggests mothers and fathers react differently to a child in pain -- dads are more likely to think the child should suffer in silence, while moms tend to reach for the baby aspirin.

"Generally, fathers were more likely to think that children could be faking pain and they were also more likely to think that children should learn to live with the pain," [Researcher Paivi] Kankkunen said in an interview with United Press International. She added that both mothers and fathers also thought "boys should be encouraged to tolerate the pain without pain medication." Parents also said it was more acceptable for boys to engage in risk-taking play that might result in injury, but were less likely to support such activities by girls.


In related news, the sun will rise tomorrow.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM

IN THE HANDS :

Slaughter's 'Dash' gave Cards a winning hand in 1946 (Dick Heller, 8/19/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
Fifty-six years later, it remains one of the signature plays in baseball history - at least for those who care about baseball history.

Oct. 15, 1946, Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals tied 3-3 in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series. Enos "Country" Slaughter is on first base for the Cardinals with two out when Harry Walker bloops an apparent single to left-center field.

Running on a 3-2 count, Slaughter takes off before the ball is hit. He should advance only to second base on the weak hit, but the quick start enables him to turn the corner toward third.

Center fielder Leon Culberson, subbing for the injured Dom DiMaggio, does not have a strong arm, but he gets to the ball and makes the relay to shortstop Johnny Pesky. With his back to the infield, Pesky does not see Slaughter recklessly rounding third and heading home. He wheels around and hesitates - and with that, Slaughter scores the winning run of the 43rd World Series, sliding home well ahead of Pesky's hurried throw to catcher Roy Parmelee. [...]

Said Dom DiMaggio, whose defensive prowess in center field equaled that of big brother Joe: "I was sitting in the dugout after leaving the game, and we tried to get Culberson to move over [toward left] a little more because Walker was a notorious left-field hitter. Leon really did nothing wrong, but if he had been playing over a little more, it might not have gotten to that point. I often wonder, 'If I had been out there, would we have won?'"


William Sulik sent this especially good column about Enos Slaughter. To be a Red Sox is to believe that when the key moment comes we'll always have a Leon Culberson there rather than a Dom DiMaggio. In fact, there's a popular theory in New England this Summer : the possibility of a baseball strike is entirely dependent on the position of the Sox in the standings. If the Sox are out of the playoffs the strike will be avoided. If they get hot and catch the Yankees the strike is a certainty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM

LIKE FATHER LIKE SON? :

Keep Mr. Smith in Washington (W. James Antle III, August 19, 2002, Enter Stage Right)
Some species eat their young. Do conservatives eat their elders?

The question comes to mind in the race for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire. Sen. Bob Smith, a two-term senator with three terms in the House prior to that, is facing a Republican primary challenge from Rep. John Sununu, son of the former governor and chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush. Both men are conservatives, although Sunnunu tends to emphasize economics and Smith tends to emphasize social issues. But Smith has consistently been an outspoken defender of so many conservative causes that it makes you wonder why a conservative challenger is running against him at all, much less one who has been endorsed by National Review.

Smith has been a leader in challenging wasteful government spending. He has fought battles against policies and agreements that compromise U.S. national sovereignty. He is unapologetically pro-life and a tireless defender of the Second Amendment. Smith, a former high school teacher first elected to Congress in 1984, considers himself a political disciple of Ronald Reagan.

Yet many conservatives openly hope for his defeat.


This is a pretty good overview of the odd GOP primary here in NH. But I'd dispute that last notion and add one thing. It's not so much a matter of conservatives hoping that Bob Smith loses--he actually, despite his brief flirtation with a third party, remains personally popular. But Mr. Antle is right when he later says that there's a feeling that Mr. Sununu will have an easier time beating Jeanne Shaheen in the general. If Mr. Smith loses that will likely be the chief reason, rather than any dissatisfaction with his political stances.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM

THE SUN NEVER SETS ON THE SAUDS :

This weekend we offered a couple of doubts about H.D. Miller's recent assertion that the Sauds' reign in Arabia is more stable than it appears from here. He has now been gracious enough, despite being in the middle of moving, to respond.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM

Here's a link to the shark photo, for those being brought here by Google searches :

BRUCE BITES BIRD BOGUS :
Shark "Photo of the Year" Is E-Mail Hoax (Stentor Danielson, August 15, 2002, National Geographic News)

A photograph that has been circulating on the internet showing a shark leaping out of the water to attack a helicopter, is a fake. The composite image, which claims to be National Geographic's "Photo of the Year," was spliced together from a U.S. Air Force photo taken near San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and a photo of a shark from South Africa.

Still a cool photo (they've got it posted if you follow the link above).


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM

BLAME AMERICA FIRST :

NEA delivers history lesson (Ellen Sorokin, 8/19/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The National Education Association is suggesting to teachers that they be careful on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks not to "suggest any group is responsible" for the terrorist hijackings that killed more than 3,000 people.

Suggested lesson plans compiled by the NEA recommend that teachers "address the issue of blame factually," noting: "Blaming is especially difficult in terrorist situations because someone is at fault. In this country, we still believe that all people are innocent until solid, reliable evidence from our legal authorities proves otherwise."

But another of the suggested NEA lesson plans — compiled together under the title "Remember September 11" and appearing on the teachers union health information network Web site — takes a decidedly blame-America approach, urging educators to "discuss historical instances of American intolerance," so that the American public avoids "repeating terrible mistakes."

"Internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Arab Americans during the Gulf War are obvious examples," the plan says. "Teachers can do lessons in class, but parents can also discuss the consequences of these events and encourage their children to suggest better choices that Americans can make this time."


You know, the Jesuits used to say : Give us the child and we'll give you the man. Why do we continue to turn our children over to public schools whose ideology has gradually become antithetical to Western Civilization?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:12 PM

CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR :

Democrats Worry About Iraq as Issue : Debate on War Seen as Diversion From Economy (Dan Balz, August 19, 2002, Washington Post)
Iraq is emerging as the wild-card issue of the 2002 election, with Democrats nervously watching a growing debate over whether the United States should launch a war to oust President Saddam Hussein, fearful that it could shift attention away from the economic issues that now dominate their agenda.

History suggests that the issue of possible war with Iraq will have little influence in the outcome of November's midterm elections -- particularly if there is no military action before the election. But in a post-Sept. 11 environment, history may not be a reliable guide. As Democratic pollster Peter Hart puts it, the "push-pull of American politics in 2002 has been between patriotism and pocketbook."

If patriotism is dominant in November, Democrats have reason to worry. With public concern over pocketbook issues rising, Democrats have been optimistic about their chances of gaining House and Senate seats in November. Now they are assessing what impact possible military action -- or even an intensified debate about it -- might have on voters' attitudes. [...]

Democrats face a dilemma on Iraq, arguing that a public debate about whether to go to war is in the national interest while knowing that the issue could work more to the benefit of Republicans. The call for more debate comes mainly from Democratic leaders and those with an eye on running for president in 2004. Rank-and-file candidates appear more interested in keeping voters focused on the economy. [...]

Democrats like the lay of the land they see now, sensing opportunities that did not exist a few months ago. But they know things could change quickly.

"What will make 2002 so interesting," pollster Hart said, "is that it is a year that started out on a very flat plain and then got twisted upside down and came into this period of the summer with a clear dynamic. The question is will we go into the last 100 days with a brand new dynamic -- and that we don't know."


If politics has one rule that's more basic than any other, it's this : don't get your party on the wrong side of an issue that polls 66-33. Any question on which 2/3rds or more of the American people can actually agree on an answer is going to end up resulting in the answer they choose, whether sooner or later. And that's roughly where Americans break down right now on the question of whether war with Iraq is justified. That's despite years having gone by without a provocative action from Saddam and despite our being almost a full year removed from the emotional response to 9-11. Democrats then, whose call for a "debate" is a thinly veiled attack on the idea of the war itself, not only find themselves drawn to the "wrong" side of this issue but have to hope that Saddam and al Qaeda both behave themselves, otherwise that poll differential could hit 80-20 or even higher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM

GIVE US JAMES M. OR JIM, NOT JAMES :

We received a charming e-mail recently from a fellow who posted a devastating critique of our (my) rather shallow Henry James reviews to the JAMESF-L mailing list. Haunted by guilt, as befits a Jamesian, at the surreptitious nature of his attack, he sent a copy. It reads in part :
A Blog Takes On Henry James (Casey Abell)
[I] happened to have landed on a blog called The Brothers Judd when I followed a link on some political topic. This site offers a rather conventional blog, but it also features something interestingly titled "Book Reviews."

Hm, did HJ [Henry James] land among the reviews? I clicked the Book Reviews link and found The Turn of the Screw among the list of recommended books. The Judd Brothers (who after a very short while seemed to consist only of Orrin Judd) gave the book a B rating on an A to F scale. That's really pretty good by his exacting standards, as I discovered when I clicked on The Turn's link. Seems that Mr. Judd doesn't have much good to say about a whole lot of books. Joyce's Ulysses receives an "F times googolplex" rating, and a lot of other works with imposing reputations get trashed almost as badly.

And it also seems that Mr. Judd isn't bothered by the hobgoblin of little minds. Despite his recommendation of The Turn as "just a good creepy little tale," he also thunders: "This revival of Henry James has to stop. I can not put this any more plainly: his books are not good." HJ's most famous and best-selling book must be a glaring exception to this anathema.

Even within his review of The Wings of the Dove, Mr. Judd can't seem to remember what he wrote a few paragraphs ago. He praises The Wings for "a terrific plot set up," which he describes in enthusiastic detail. But just a couple paragraphs later, he calls the book worthless from page four on. Maybe he thought the entire plot was set up in the first three pages. Maybe he just watched the movie.

Mr. Judd's objection to James looks to be mostly political. His harsh words on the novelist: "What is there that a repressed (or closeted) homosexual,who loathed his own country, has to tell us, that we need to hear?" I thought that the ancient bigotry against James for his expatriation and eventual naturalization in Britain had died off in the 1930s. But some folks cling to old prejudices. As for the homosexuality charge, it continues to amaze me that some people judge authors on what they are supposed to have done (or not done) with their genitalia. Judging writers on what they wrote rather than on who they f***ed (or didn't f***) appears to be a more reasonable approach.

Mr. Judd also refers to James's works as suffering from "twisted emotional dementia." But somehow the author of such demented works receivedseventieth birthday greetings and handsome testimonials (a golden bowl, Sargent's portrait, Derwent Wood's sculpture) from some 270 friends. Maybe they were all demented, too. I wonder how many will celebrate Mr. Judd's seventienth.

It's plain that Mr. Judd has read, at the most, three books by James: The Ambassadors, The Wings of the Dove, and The Turn of the Screw. I doubt that he's even aware of the enormous range of HJ's fiction, criticism, travel writings and social essays, though that doesn't stop him from pronouncing all of HJ's books bad - except for the book Mr. Judd likes, which happens to be the one book most casual readers know Henry James by.

A final thought: Mr. Judd once again demonstrates what an interesting psychological test The Turn is. A glance at his blog shows that Mr. Judd lands far to the right on sociopolitical issues. Sure enough, his interpretation of The Turn follows what I have called Option One: the ghosts are real and are corrupting the "potentially wicked" children. That's exactly the interpretation you would expect from an arch-conservative secure in his ideology. It's the mirror image of Option Five (the governess is evil, the ghosts don't exist, the kids are blameless) which was presented a few years ago in the Henry James Review by a high-school teacher with an ideology as far left as Mr. Judd's is far right.

Sure, it's not a perfect correlation. But a critic's reaction to The Turn often tells us more about the critic than about the story. Edmund Wilson was the most famous example, but countless others have followed.


All of his criticisms seem valid at a glance. I do recommend Turn of the Screw (available on-line here) but have never read anything else by Mr. James that was not excruciating. The experience of reading him is so unpleasant that I've not delved much deeper that his most famous story and a few novels. As I said in my review, Wings of the Dove has the makings of a great noir--James M. Cain, Jim Thompson, or any number of other great American writers would have worked wonders with the set up--but Mr. James squanders it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM

DING DONG :

Ruthless Palestinian militant reported dead : Abu Nidal dies under ‘mysterious circumstances’ in Baghdad home (MSNBC, August 19, 2002) 
Palestinian guerrilla commander Abu Nidal, one of the world’s most wanted men, has been found dead in his Baghdad home with gunshot wounds, Palestinian sources said on Monday. Over the last three decades Abu Nidal earned a reputation as the most ruthless of all Palestinian guerrilla commanders and his terror group carried out attacks against Western targets as well as moderate Palestinians.

ABU NIDAL, 65, a sworn enemy of Yasser Arafat and any Palestinian leader who sought accommodation with Israel, led a dissident Palestinian militant organization high on Washington’s list of groups considered terrorist.

It was blamed for attacks in 20 countries in which hundreds of people were killed or wounded, mostly during the 1970s and 1980s.

A senior Palestinian official said Abu Nidal had died under “mysterious conditions” and it was unclear whether he was killed or committed suicide.


In a related story, meteorologists reported there was a palpable lessening in the stench of evil that hangs over Baghdad today. The forecast calls for further clearing.

August 18, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:09 PM

FRANKENFISH MUST DIE :

State officials begin to poison snakehead : Three ponds with "alien" fish treated (The Associated Press, August 18, 2002)
Maryland officials took steps Sunday to rid the state of the notorious snakehead fish by choking the Chinese natives with oxygen-killing herbicides.

"This is the beginning of the end for the snakehead fish," said Heather Lynch, Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman. "Time is up."


Why does the confidence with which she says that make one suspect the northern snakehead will become as ubiquitous as sunfish in a few years?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM

PRETZEL ILLOGIC :

Why Isn't Fast Track . . . Faster? (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, August 18, 2002, NY Times)
This month, he won a hard-fought battle when Congress narrowly approved a bill that gives the administration "fast track" authority to forge big agreements to lower trade barriers. The law prohibits Congress from tinkering with the deals - it can only ratify or reject them - and most trade experts say it is essential for establishing American negotiating credibility. [...]

The trouble is, the United States has created more problems by its own recent backsliding. By drastically increasing subsidies, the new farm bill has strengthened protectionist forces in Europe, where subsidies are much higher. [...]

The United States, one of the world's most open economies, generally benefits from an expansion in global trade. [...]

Supporters of the Bush administration, and even some foreign trade diplomats, say the president needed to compromise his free-trade instincts on both farm products and steel to win passage of fast track, known officially as Trade Promotion Authority. No country wants to waste time hammering out an agreement only to be forced to negotiate again with Congress.

"The passage of T.P.A. was essential," said Matthew Baldwin, a senior policy adviser to Pascal Lamy, the European Union's top trade negotiator, referring to fast-track authority.

But many trade experts wonder whether President Bush paid too high a price to pacify protectionists. [...]

Despite the complaints, most countries are desperate to gain greater access to the giant American market. Mr. Bush may have sullied his free-trade credentials when he capitulated to steel producers and farm groups, but many foreign diplomats say they have no choice but to keep seeking the best deal they can get.

As one diplomat in Geneva put it: "We don't like what they did on steel, and we don't like the farm bill, but we just have to deal with it."


Is it possible to contradict the premise of your own article any more frequently and forcefully than that? The story is supposedly about how the compromises the administration in order to get the trade bill through may have crippled the negotiations in advance, but Mr. Andrews then goes on to show that our negotiating partners have higher levels of protection, that the ones Mr. Bush added may have been necessary to get the bill through a reluctant Congress, that the bill was vital, and that we're such a huge market that despite all the grumbling folks have no other option than to go along with us anyway. So what the heck is the point of his story? Shouldn't it instead be a piece about how cannily the administration played the issue? Oh no, wait, it's the New York Times. Never mind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM

WHEN DOES THE DVD COME OUT? :

REVIEW : of Possession (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
[T]he movie is not a serious examination of scholarship or poetry, but a brainy romance. In a world where most movie romances consist of hormonal triggers and plumbing procedures, it's sexy to observe two couples who think and debate their connections, who quote poetry to each other, who consciously try to enhance their relationships by seeking metaphors and symbols they can attach to. Romance defined by the body will decay with the flesh, but romance conceived as a grand idea--ah, now that can still fascinate people a century later.

It's a great book; glad to see they didn't butcher the film.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM

BRIAN, IS THAT REALLY YOU? :

BOOKNOTES : The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall (C-SPAN, August 18, 2002, 8pm & 11pm)
Looks like a change of pace for tonight's show.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM

WEDGE ISSUES :

Saudis Cry Foul over U.S. Sept. 11 Lawsuit (Fahd al-Frayyan, August 18, 2002, Reuters)
Several Saudi banks and Islamic charities named in a lawsuit by families of Sept. 11 victims vehemently denied Sunday any role in funding terrorism and blasted the case as an attempt to extort Saudi wealth abroad.

The suit has sparked rare calls by commentators and newspapers in the kingdom to review traditionally strong Saudi-U.S. ties. Saudi Arabia has yet to comment officially.

Offended that the lawsuit named members of the royal family, including Defense Minister Prince Sultan -- the third highest official in the kingdom -- many Saudis accused Washington of putting pressure on the Gulf Arab state to make it conform with U.S. policies on Iraq and the Middle East.


Once you start digging around in these guys' files you never know what you're going to find and then things may get really ugly. It could be that this lawsuit will be the determining factor in separating U.S. and Saudi interests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM

REDEEMING NEVILLE :

The elusive case for a US-Iraq war (Helena Cobban, August 15, 2002, CS Monitor)
For any US President, the initiation of war against another country is momentous. If the aim of such a campaign is, as President Bush states on Iraq, the revolutionary goal of bringing about "regime change," then the stakes are even higher. Before he launches this campaign, Mr. Bush must seek the formal backing of Congress. And he must spell out clearly not just his goals in Iraq, but also his precise casus belli, or his reasons for voluntarily taking the country - and the world - into this war.

President Saddam Hussein's record as a repressive, totalitarian ruler is unquestioned. But it does not provide a valid reason to wage war against him and Iraq.


Why isn't that a valid reason? Obviously we aren't required to go to war against every repressive totalitarian, but given our 20th Century experience with totalitarians, why isn't the fact that they oppress and murder their own people, and more often than not become a threat to their neighbors, sufficient? Why do we hold up the appeasement of Hitler at Munich as one of the tragic errors in human history if we don't believe we have a right to do anything about such men until they attack us?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM

SAYANORA :

The Last Words (Christopher Orlet, March 2002, Vocabula)
With few exceptions, the last words of history's great players have been about as interesting and uplifting as a phone book. We may expect pearls of profundity and motivational aphorism from our expiring artists, philosophers, and world leaders, but more often we are left with dry-as-dust clichés. But is it fair to expect deep insights into life's mysteries when the dying clearly have other things on their mind - hell, for instance, or unspeakable pain? [...]

Ironically, it may have been a few forgotten scribblers who delivered history's best exit lines. Has anyone departed the scene better than minor English playwright Henry Arthur Jones, who, asked whom he would prefer to sit with him during the evening, his nurse or his niece, replied, "The prettier. Now fight for it." Or actor Edmund Gwenn's terse "Dying is easy. Comedy is difficult." And you have to admire the single-mindedness of purpose in the last words of French grammarian Dominique Bouhours: "I am about to - or I am going to - die; either expression is used."

Here's a site with a bunch more : Last Words

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM

A SECOND ACT? :

The Secret History: Whatever happened to Donna Tartt? (Boyd Tonkin, 21 May 2002, The Independent)
Beyond any doubt, the [new] book will surprise readers who expect more of the Tartt recipe as before. She has disclosed that "when I was writing this book I was thinking very much about Stevenson, whom I love, very much about Treasure Island and the pirates". She has called it "a book about children - but not for children. It's a... scary book about children coming contact with the world of adults, in a very frightening way." The ride will be scary, perhaps, for Bloomsbury's shareholders as well.

At least Tartt has made it to this second hurdle. The story of modern American literature is littered with promising names who fell after the first. In 1952, Ralph Ellison shocked white society with his exposure of the black plight in Invisible Man, only to slide into a bruising life-long tussle with the sequel, left uncompleted at his death in 1994. No book in publishing history has ever sold faster than Gone With The Wind, which Margaret Mitchell followed up with... precisely nothing. In 1960, Nelle Harper Lee from Alabama produced one of the 20th century's best-beloved novels, To Kill a Mockingbird. Then she settled back into small-town seclusion, writing nothing more (unless, that is, you're prepared to credit the fascinating notion that she had a hand in the true-crime classic In Cold Blood by her childhood playmate, Truman Capote).

It could be something in the humid Southern air that mocks the Yankee urge to endless productivity.


The prospect of Stevenson filtered through The Secret History raises expectations even higher than they would normally be for a novel that's taken ten years. Let's hope she can pull it off.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM

FIRST, DO NO HARM :

Aloofness Puts Bush on Right Side of History (James P. Pinkerton, August 15 2002, LA Times)
What did you think of President Bush's Waco economic forum? The media didn't think much of it. All day Tuesday, CNBC anchors could barely report on
the event without smirking. Just hours after it ended, Slate.com's headline gibed, "Fake Forum." The next day, the Washington Post's "analysis" was headlined this way: "A Sunny Thing Happened at the Bush Forum / Tough Economic Issues Get Little Attention."

The overall gist of the reportage is that Bush is so detached from ordinary Americans that his reelection-minded advisors felt they needed to stage a show to fool people into thinking he really does care.

But maybe detachment is not so bad. Maybe it's what we need.

History proves that leaders who kept their eyes on the fundamentals of economic growth did a lot better than those who tried to micromanage every problem. [...]

The success of the economy depends on the noninterference of politicians. That was the great insight of 18th century French economists, who saw that kings and queens weren't helping by meddling.

So they came up with the economic equivalent of sang-froid, which is laissez faire, or "let people do as they choose." And two centuries of economic history proves that the cool detachment of the state--leaving people the space to figure things out for themselves--is superior to warm-and-fuzzy intervening.


Well, one pundit got it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM

THE FERTILE SOIL :

The poisonous Protocols : Umberto Eco on the distinction between intellectual anti-semitism and its popular counterpart (The Guardian, August 17, 2002)
Intellectual anti-semitism as we now know it originates from the modern world. In 1797, Abbé Barruel wrote his Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire du jacobinisme to show that the French revolution was a plot of the Knights Templar and the freemasons. Later it was an Italian, Captain Simonini, who suggested to him that it was above all the perfidious Jews who were acting behind the scenes. It was only after this point that the argument surrounding international Jewry began, and the Jesuits seized on it as an argument against the sects of the Carbonari. The controversy raged throughout Europe, but found its most fertile soil in France, where Jewish finance was now identified as an enemy to defeat. The controversy was certainly fuelled by Catholic legitimism, but it was in secular, political circles that the ill-famed Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion slowly took shape. These were then published in Russian Tsarist circles and were finally used by Hitler.

The Protocols were a rehash of serialised fictional material, and prove their own unreliability, since it is hardly credible that "the baddies" would reveal their fell purposes so blatantly. The Elders even declare that they intend to encourage sport and visual communication to dupe the working class (a passage more reminiscent of Berlusconism than Judaism). Nevertheless, though rough and ready, this was intellectual anti-semitism.


It is when, as now, intellectual and popular anti-Semitism coincide that they become truly dangerous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM

DOING YOUR ENEMIES' BIDDING :

If We Must Fight . . . (Zbigniew Brzezinski, August 18, 2002, washingtonpost.com )
There is a right and a wrong way for America to wage war. Obviously, if it is attacked, America must respond with all its might. The same is true if an ally is
attacked. But the issue becomes much more complex if a threat, but not an attack, is involved. America must then consider carefully the consequences of its actions, both for itself as the world's preeminent power and for the longer-term evolution of the international system as a whole.

The United States may have to go to war to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq because the potential nexus between conspiratorial terrorism and the weapons of mass destruction that Hussein is said to be producing cannot be blithely ignored. But war is too serious a business and too unpredictable in its dynamic consequences -- especially in a highly flammable region -- to be undertaken because of a personal peeve, demagogically articulated fears or vague factual assertions. [...]

Ultimately what is at stake is something far greater than Iraq: It is the character of the international system and the role in it of what is, by far, the most powerful state. Neither the White House nor the American people should ignore the fact that America's enemies will, whatever happens, do everything possible to present the United States as a global gangster. Yet without a respected and legitimate law-enforcer, global security could be in serious jeopardy. America must thus walk a fine line in determining when, in what circumstances and how it acts as such in initiating the use of force.


If we're going to be portrayed as a "global gangster" regardless of what we do, then why not follow the most efficient course of action, rather than trying to appease our enemies? And if Saddam is continuing his drive to produce weapons of mass-destruction then what can this phrase mean "what is at stake is something far greater than Iraq: It is the character of the international system"? How many Israelis would have to die in an Iraqi attack before Iraq became more important than the "character" of the "international system"? Maybe most importantly, if the "character" of that system is such that we leave a Saddam in place when we have justification and means to dispose of him, then is it a character we should seek to preserve?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM

ARMEY MAKES THE MAJORS :

Armey May Be Leaving, but Isn't Going Quietly (ADAM CLYMER, August 18, 2002, NY Times)
The Bush White House does not appear seriously bothered by Mr. Armey's recent comments. After all, they hardly compare to what he said when the president's father decided to back tax increases in 1990: "I think the president's been victimized by bad advice from the people that work for him, and, frankly, I'm disappointed that he doesn't understand that the better alternative for the American people is to have fiscal responsibility and disciplined spending patterns in Washington."

They certainly do not compare to his answer when asked if he would have resigned if he had been caught in an affair with an intern, as Mr. Clinton was. He said resignation would not have come up because "my wife would have been standing over my dead body and she would have been saying, `How do I reload this sucker?'


People often wonder why Republicans "moderate" even their most closely held beliefs once they get to Washington, a phenomenon that conservatives refer to as "catching Potomac Fever". Here's a pretty good example of why going wobbly is so attractive. In the 18 years he's been in the House the NY Times probably hasn't printed two favorable sentences about Dick Armey. But all he had to do was wonder aloud about the need to attack Saddam Hussein and suddenly he gets a puff piece like this from no less a source than Adam Clymer himself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

CHANGE IS BAD :

Harwell's Small Talk Will Be Sorely Missed (William Gildea, August 18, 2002, The Washington Post)
Ernie Harwell is an American treasure. He is an inventor (a bottle-can opener, a World Series "fact wheel"). He's an actor, having appeared in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Paper Lion." He was a Marine in World War II. As a boy, he delivered newspapers on a route that included the home of Margaret Mitchell, who wrote "Gone with the Wind." He shot a hole-in-one, he had a racehorse named after him, he sang a duet with Pearl Bailey. He was baptized in the Jordan River. All of that is in his
1985 autobiography "Tuned to Baseball," an out-of-print gem. But he didn't tell us those parts. They were included in a delightful foreword written by his wife, Lulu. Ernie and Lulu have been married 61 years, and he believes they're going the distance. "She's getting used to me," he said.

From at least NJ to IL you can tune in Tigers games at night, and whether in the car or in your bedroom with a radio clandestinely hid beneath the covers, you can hear Ernie Harwell. Or at least you can for a few more months. Then Mr. Harwell too will be gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM

CAN WE AFFORD ANY MORE "TRIUMPHS"?

But What's The Legal Case For Preemption? (Bruce Ackerman, August 18, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
Among other things, the first Gulf War was a triumph for the rule of law. Before the United States fired a single shot, the president had gained the formal
approval of both the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. Congress. In waging war against Saddam Hussein, he was not invoking some novel presidential doctrine. He was enforcing the U.N. Charter's explicit prohibition against any state using force to cross another's border. In intervening to reverse Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, he was upholding a central tenet of modern international law.

The first President Bush has often been derided for lack of vision, but these actions created a precedent that gave legal substance to his "new world order." In the aftermath of the Cold War, Bush was establishing the principle that America could deal with threats to world peace without recourse to an imperial presidency. He was inaugurating a new era in which major wars were not to be launched by presidential fiat, but only after the considered approval of representatives of the nation and the world.

The second President Bush has surrounded himself with advisers who condemn this vision as a harmful delusion. It is not enough for them to correct his father's mistake in failing to march on Baghdad; it is no less important to destroy the checks and balances his father constructed on the road to war. In the face of the father's multilateralism, the son is constructing a double unilateralism -- freed from the restraints of the Security Council abroad and Congress at home, the imperial presidency claims the authority to strike preemptively at any danger.


Suppose for a moment that the U.S. had imposed no-fly zones over Nazi Germany in Spring 1945 and enforced them for over ten years but hitler remained in power in August of 1956. Would we consider this a "triumph"? Or perhaps Hitler is too inflammatory a figure, and Nazi Germany too extreme. Suppose that instead of nuking Japan we'd just imposed a blockade on the home islands and in 1956 still found ourselves with a fascist government in control. Would this be a "triumph"? These examples may seem far-fetched, but suppose we'd had to go to some international governing body to get permission to invade the German homeland or to bomb Japan, would the Soviets have granted such permission?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM

BLACKLISTING AND BERTIE, NUKE & LOUISE :

Writer blacklisted for wartime blunder : Wilson insisted on burying the hatchet and knighting PG Wodehouse shortly before his death (John Ezard, August 16, 2002, The Guardian)
The humorous writer PG Wodehouse finally got a knighthood only a few weeks before his death at the personal insistence of the then prime minister, Harold Wilson, it emerged yesterday.

Wilson disregarded the disapproval not only of his own honours committee but of his foreign secretary, James Callaghan, files released yesterday by the public record office show.

They disclose that a similar history of enduring hostility over Wodehouse's radio broadcasts as a prisoner in Nazi Germany destroyed earlier moves in 1967 and 1971 to honour him as one of the greatest humorous writers of the century.


Unlike the cases of Ezra Pound or Jane Fonda, the indiscretion of P. G. Wodehouse has always seemed sad and even somewhat silly rather than sinister. Here's how George Orwell characterized the unfortunate affair in his essay : In Defence Of P. G. Wodehouse (George Orwell, 1945)
WHEN the Germans made their rapid advance through Belgium in the early summer of 1940, they captured, among other things, Mr. P. G. Wodehouse, who had been living throughout the early part of the war in his villa at Le Touquet, and seems not to have realised until the last moment that he was in any danger. As he was led away into captivity, he is said to have remarked, "Perhaps after this I shall write a serious book." He was placed for the time being under house arrest, and from his subsequent statements it appears that he was treated in a fairly friendly way, German officers in the neighbourhood frequently "dropping in for a bath or a party."

Over a year later, on 25th June 1941, the news came that Wodehouse had been released from internment and was living at the Adlon Hotel in Berlin. On the following day the public was astonished to learn that he had agreed to do some broadcasts of a "non-political" nature over the German radio. The full texts of these broadcasts are not easy to obtain at this date, but Wodehouse seems to have done five of them between 26th June and 2nd July, when the Germans took him off the air again. The first broadcast, on 26th June, was not made on the Nazi radio but took the form of an interview with Harry Flannery, the representative of the Columbia Broadcasting System, which still had its correspondents in Berlin. Wodehouse also published in the Saturday Evening Post an article which he had written while still in the internment camp.

The article and the broadcasts dealt mainly with Wodehouse's experiences in internment, but they did include a very few comments on the war. The following are fair samples:

* "I never was interested in politics. I'm quite unable to work up any kind of belligerent feeling. Just as I'm about to feel belligerent about some country I meet a decent sort of chap. We go out together and lose any fighting thoughts or feelings."

* "A short time ago they had a look at me on parade and got the right idea; at least they sent us to the local lunatic asylum. And I have been there forty-two weeks. There is a good deal to be said for internment. It keeps you out of the saloon and helps you to keep up with your reading. The chief trouble is that it means you are away from home for a long time. When I join my wife I had better take along a letter of introduction to be on the safe side."

* "In the days before the war I had always been modestly proud of being an Englishman, but now that I have been some months resident in this bin or repository of Englishmen I am not so sure. ... The only concession I want from Germany is that she gives me a loaf of bread, tells the gentlemen with muskets at the main gate to look the other way, and leaves the rest to me. In return I am prepared to hand over India, an autographed set of my books, and to reveal the secret process of cooking sliced potatoes on a radiator. This offer holds good till Wednesday week."

The first extract quoted above caused great offence. Wodehouse was also censured for using (in the interview with Flannery) the phrase "whether Britain wins the war or not," and he did not make things better by describing in another broadcast the filthy habits of some Belgian prisoners among whom he was interned. The Germans recorded this broadcast and repeated it a number of times. They seem to have supervised his talks very lightly, and they allowed him not only to be funny about the discomforts of internment but to remark that "the internees at Trost camp all fervently believe that Britain will eventually win." The general upshot of the talks, however, was that he had not been ill treated and bore no malice. [...]

There is an old saying that if you throw enough mud some of it will stick, and the mud has stuck to Wodehouse in a rather peculiar way. An impression has been left behind that Wodehouse's talks (not that anyone remembers what he said in them) showed him up not merely as a traitor but as an ideological sympathiser with Fascism. Even at the time several letters to the press claimed that "Fascist tendencies" could be detected in his books, and the charge has been repeated since. I shall try to analyse the mental atmosphere of those books in a moment, but it is important to realise that the events of 1941 do not convict Wodehouse of anything worse than stupidity. The really interesting question is how and why he could be so stupid.


It may be appropriate never to forgive a traitor, but as human beings we have to allow people to be merely stupid, so long as their intent is not evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM

FOG OF FRIEDMAN :

Fog of War (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, August 18, 2002, NY Times)
It's the first rule of warfare: never launch a war that you can't explain to your people and the world on a
bumper sticker. If it requires an explanation from a Middle East expert on CNN, you're on the wrong track. The Palestinians could never explain why they were killing Jews to end an occupation that the U.S. and Israel were offering to end through diplomacy. There is only one bumper-sticker phrase that can explain such behavior: "Death to Israel." And if that is their real strategy, then a war to the death it will be. If it's not, then what have they been up to?

Attention President Bush: What is your bumper sticker for justifying war with Iraq? I've heard a lot of different ones lately: We need to pre-emptively attack before Saddam deploys weapons of mass destruction. We need to change the Iraqi regime to give birth to democracy in Iraq and the wider Arab world. We need to eliminate Saddam because he is evil and may have been behind 9/11. We need to punish Saddam for not living up to the U.N. inspection resolutions.

All of these are legitimate rationales, but each would require a different U.S. military and diplomatic strategy. If the Bush team is serious about Iraq, it needs to zero in on one clear objective, produce a tightly focused war plan around it and then sell it - with a simple bumper sticker - to America and the world. If the Bush administration's different factions - which are as divided as the Palestinians' - can't do that in advance, they shouldn't move.

When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there - just ask the Palestinians. But when you're talking about an unprovoked war to dismantle a government half a world away, any road just won't do. You need a clearly focused end, means and rationale.

Because we certainly don't want to pick up a newspaper two years from now and read that there was just a heated meeting of Bush advisers about what the war in Iraq was supposed to be about.


Okay...it's a tad disturbing that it's taken multiple Pulitzer winning, Middle East expert, columnist to the cognoscenti, Tom Friedman this long to figure out that the point of the Second Intifada is that the Palestinians don't just want their own state they want Israel. But surely he can fgure out the bumper sticker for the Second Gulf War just by reading his own column. If not, let's help him : Death to Saddam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM

ART MADE EASY :

St John the Baptist, Caravaggio (1602) (Jonathan Jones, August 17, 2002, The Guardian)
Distinguishing features: The body of Saint John slices through the surface of this painting. Flashes of brightly lit flesh - on his neck, shoulder and legs - seem to shear through the dark canvas.

It is a painting torn apart by light and sexuality. Something is very wrong. And something is wrong, too, with art historians' desire to see Caravaggio as a conservatively Catholic painter who used realism to intensify an orthodox message. He is nothing of the kind here. This painting is heterodox - perhaps not theologically, but aesthetically: its effect is not pious. Even at the level of iconography, something is askew: why does this Saint John hug a horned ram when his symbol is supposed to be the lamb? Horny beasts are figures of lust.

Stranger still is the way the boy looks directly at us, with a saucy grin on his flushed face. It is a breach of all decorum, setting up a destructive tension. He seems to laugh at his own pretence, as he curves his body to mimic one of Michelangelo's male nudes. The crumpled sheet and blanket suggest a bed in the artist's studio, not the wilderness implied by an afterthought of vegetation in the foreground.

Sensuality and religiosity are the two poles of Renaissance art. By putting them together, Caravaggio disturbs and reinvents the idea of painting itself; he discovers in painting a violent, untamed authority.


There's a neat feature at the Guardian that I'd not noticed before. Each week Jonathan Jones has a brief essay about a Portrait of the week, with a little bit about the artist, the work, and the influences that produced it. Each links to a an online version of the work in question. here's where you can find the Caravaggio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:29 AM

CRAVEN REVIEW :

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce - in lieu of review (The Guardian, May 12 1939)
Mr Joyce's Finnegans Wake, parts of which have been published as "Work in Progress", does not admit of review. In 20 years' time, with sufficient study and with the aid of the commentary that will doubtless arise, one might be ready for an attempt to appraise it. [...]

One might imagine that Mr Joyce had used his great powers deliberately to show the language of a schizophrenic mind. He alone could explain his book and, I suppose, he alone review it.


What a cop out! That's the review of someone who hated the book, as any honest reader must, but is afraid that their peers will praise and he'll be embarrassed. How hard would it have been to just admit the book's unreadable?

August 17, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 PM

MAUREEN BECOMES ELECTRA :

Junior Gets a Spanking (Maureen Dowd, 8/18/02, NY Times)
Oedipus, Shmoedipus.

Why cite a Greek hero when we can cite the president's favorite British hero?

In "Goldmember," Austin Powers has "Earn Daddy's Respect" on his To Do list. So the teary but still groovy spy confronts his prodigal father, played by Michael Caine.

"Got an issue?" Daddy breezily responds. "Here's a tissue."

Tissue issues between the two Bush presidents spilled into public view on Thursday when that most faithful family retainer, Brent Scowcroft, wrote a jaw-dropping op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal headlined "Don't Attack Saddam."

Mr. Scowcroft gave the back of his hand to conservatives' strenuous attempts to link Saddam to 9/11.

Bellicose Bushies have yet to offer a sustained and persuasive rationale for jumping Saddam, beyond yammering about how "evil" he is, as if he had a monopoly on that.


First of all, let me just say this again--following upon her series of essays on what good shape George W. Bush is in physically--how "buff" he is--Ms Dowd, who characterizes herself as sitting around gorging on junk food and watching George W. workout videos when she writes about the man, here offers an essay in which she imagines him being spanked. It's getting to the point where the psycho-sexual drama that throbs through her head is consuming more and more of Ms Dowd's column inches and makes one wonder if her musings might be better suited to the Village Voice than to the Gray Lady.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM

BUT THEY ACTUALLY SLEPT :

Overnight guests at the Bush White House (CNN, August
17, 2002)
Anne Armstrong, former ambassador to Britain, and Tobin Armstrong
Andi Bernstein
Tom Bernstein and wife and Henry, Samuel and Lee Bernstein and Amy Plummer
Roland Betts and wife and Jessica and Margaret Betts
Heather Marcus Bein
Texas state Sen. Teel Bivins
Will Bivins
Ken Blasingame
Susan Block
Mary Brice
Barbara Brock
Jan Bullock
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell and wife
Alice Carrington
Dianne Cash
Jane Clarke (spelling uncertain)
Trillon Clarke
Kate Clark
Ben Crenshaw and wife
Lee Cullum
Tiffany Gauthier Divis and Paul Divis
Anne DeBois
Michigan Gov. John Engler and Michelle Engler
Don Etra and wife and Harry, Dorothy, Anna and Jonathan Etra
Former Texas state Sen. Ray Farabee and wife
Suzy Fields
Chandler Ford
Carolyn Franklin
Debbie Francis
Brad Freeman
Kinky Friedman
Billy Gammon and wife
Regan Gammon
Tony Garza
Larry Gatlin and wife
Adelaida Gonzalez
Albert Hausser and wife
Janet Heyne
Arizona Gov. Jane Hull
Katherine Idsal
Sydney Kilgore
Texas House Speaker Pete Laney and Nelda Laney
Sara Lea
Richard and Jane Levin
June McGuire
Karen McClure
Mark McKinnon and wife and family
Richard Manoogian and wife
Muggsie Mallory
Donald Margo and wife
Susan Montgomery
Johnny Morris
Lynn Munn
Tom Zenner and wife
Jennifer Myers
Janet Neath
Bill Nelson and wife
Charlie and Keith Nelson
Joe O'Donnell
Joe O'Neill and wife
Deanna Ortiz
Betty Osborne
New York Gov. George Pataki and Libby Pataki
Marge Petty
James Powell
Tom Perini and wife
Ashley Rankin
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and Michele Ridge and family
Susan Ritchey
Tamara Rogers
Deedie Rose
Gov. John Rowland and Patricia Rowland
Penny Royall
Scott Sayers and wife
Tom Schieffer, ambassador to the Czech Republic, and Susanne Schieffer
Jan Schneider
Cathy Schoellkopf
Mary Gay Shipley
Texas state Sen. David Sibley and wife
Eric Steinfeldt and wife
Salle Stemmons
Emily Summers
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Hope Taft
Kimberly Teague
Margot Thomas
Clara Walmsley
Mike Weiss and wife
Peggy Weiss
Pam Willeford
Jean Works
Dr. Charlie Younger and wife

The first thing that jumps out at you about this list is that, unlike FDR and Eleanor, JFK, LBJ, and Bill Clinton, it seems unlikely that George or Laura Bush made the "beast with two backs" with any of the guests.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM

BRUCE BITES BIRD BOGUS :

Shark "Photo of the Year" Is E-Mail Hoax (Stentor Danielson, August 15, 2002, National Geographic News)
A photograph that has been circulating on the internet showing a shark leaping out of the water to attack a helicopter, is a fake. The composite image, which claims to be National Geographic's "Photo of the Year," was spliced together from a U.S. Air Force photo taken near San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and a photo of a shark from South Africa.

Still a cool photo (they've got it posted if you follow the link above).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:27 PM

GOTTA LEARN TO WALK (AGAIN) BEFORE YOU CAN RUN (AGAIN) :

Suddenly Tories are asking: who is John Galt? The answer is: bad news (Michael Harrington, The Spectator)
According to the Daily Telegraph, a number of Conservative MPs and candidates are seriously planning to establish a breakaway right-wing party influenced by the ideas of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, first published in 1957. Rand is one of those strange but intriguing figures who used to hang around in the intellectual underworld of the 20th century and never entirely went away. She is still a hero on the libertarian Right in the United States, but it is rare to hear her name in English Conservative circles.

It's encouraging to see any sign of life in Britain's otherwise moribund Tory Party, even if it's just an enthusiasm for Randian libertarianism. But they might be better advised to return to Burkean first principles and try to restore the moral fiber of the nation, before bestowing freedom upon an atomized and demoralized people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM

UNFATHOMABLE :

In the Footsteps of Heyerdahl (Richard Poe, August 16, 2002)
WHEN THOR HEYERDAHL died in April, the mass media fell oddly mute. Some readers told me that they learned of the great Norwegian explorer's death only a week later, by reading my eulogy on the Internet.

Such apathy seems hard to fathom. Every schoolboy once read Kon-Tiki and dreamed of conquering the waves as Heyerdahl had done. Perhaps, imbued with the modern philosophy of "safety first," today's journalists no longer wish to encourage such dreams.

Media apathy has likewise greeted Dominique Goerlitz - Heyerdahl's apprentice and heir apparent.

On July 20, this 35-year-old German schoolteacher landed in Alexandria, Egypt, after sailing 1,164 nautical miles in two and a half months, on an ancient Egyptian-style reed boat.


One of the first grown-up books that I ever read, when I was eleven, was Thor Heyerdahl's Ra Expedition. There was a terrific movie about the Ra, which probably is what got me interested in the story, of just such a papyrus reed boat that Heyerdahl and crew sailed across the Atlantic to show that Egyptians could have reached the Americas. Then I read the copy of Kon-Tiki that my Dad had and which, serendipitously, he would have read right around when he was eleven also. Do boys not read these books anymore? What a shame.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:32 PM

NOISY SUMMER :

DDT for West Nile? (Steven Milloy, 8/16/2002, Washington Times)
West Nile virus has killed seven people in Louisiana this year, two in Mississippi and at least 145 people in six states have been infected. A 12-year old Wisconsin boy died last week of mosquito-borne encephalitis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says West Nile virus is in the U.S. to stay. The virus may now be found in 37 states, including every state from Texas to the Atlantic.

CDC Director Julie Geberding called West Nile virus an "emerging, infectious disease epidemic" that could be spread all the way to the Pacific Coast by birds and mosquitoes.

Louisiana has been monitoring the virus since 2000 and has one of the most active mosquito-control programs in the country - and yet is the state with the highest death toll.

It's time to bring back the insecticide DDT.


Thanks, Ms Carson.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM

CREEPING SCOWCROFTISM :

Why I oppose an attack on Iraq (Gerald Kaufman, The Spectator)
It was Cato the Elder who uttered the anathema, "Delenda est Carthago" - Carthage must be destroyed. While I do not advocate that Baghdad literally must be destroyed, I have for years believed that Saddam Hussein is one of the most dangerous men in the world. He launched a war against Iran which left millions dead. He annexed Kuwait, killing, raping, looting. He launched lethal Scud-missile attacks against Saudi Arabia and Israel. He has murdered and tortured countless Iraqi citizens, using chemical weapons to do so. He is intent on developing weapons of mass destruction; indeed, if the Israelis had not destroyed his Osirac nuclear reactor, he might well by now have nuclear capacity. He has violated a score of United Nations Security Council resolutions. If anyone on this planet can be categorised as a menace to world peace and equilibrium, it is Saddam Hussein.

When I was shadow foreign secretary I supported first the Security Council-authorised sanctions, and then the air and ground war against Saddam that brought about the liberation of Kuwait. I led (most of) the parliamentary Labour party into the Commons division lobby in support of these actions. In the 1997-2001 Parliament, as a government backbencher, I supported this country's participation in the air war against Iraq following Saddam's expulsion of United Nations weapons inspectors. I think it would be a blessing for the world if Saddam were removed from office and replaced by a regime that rejoined the world community. I have over a dozen years rejected the arguments - if they can be dignified by such an epithet - of those such as Tam Dalyell who have opposed military action against Iraq (as well as military action to liberate the Falkland Islands, military action in Kosovo and military action to remove the Taleban and root out al-Qa?eda in Afghanistan).

So, presumably, to be consistent, I should be at the forefront of those urging President Bush to attack Iraq as soon as possible, and should be pressing Tony Blair, of whom I am an ardent supporter, to line up with Bush in any military action he may take. I am afraid it is not as simple as that.


There are perfectly reasonable arguments available for not going to war with Saddam. Among them are that he's not a genuine threat anymore or that we can get rid of him without having to invade, etc... But there's something almost deranged about the formulation "I think it would be a blessing for the world if Saddam were removed from office", but "I oppose an attack on Iraq". Try shortening it--"I oppose a blessing for the world"--and explain how it makes any sense.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 PM

HEY, RIDLEY, YOU GOT ANY BEEMAN'S? :

Air-breathing jet flies at 5,000mph (Roger Highfield, 17/08/2002, Daily Telegraph)

Aviation has entered the era of the hypersonic jet after an air-breathing engine exceeded 5,000mph.

The "hypersonic ignition" by the scramjet is one of the most important milestones in aviation since the sound barrier was broken in 1947. The technology could slash the cost of launching satellites, which rely on huge supplies of oxygen on board.

It also raises the possibility that, one day, passenger aircraft could fly from London to Sydney in a few hours.

The first detailed analysis of data from the launch last month in Australia shows that the scramjet, which has no moving parts, had reached 7.6 times the speed of sound (Mach 7.6). Hypersonic travel starts at Mach 5.


Yeah, but did the pilot have any busted ribs?

MORE :
*NASA "Hyper-X" Program Demonstrates Scramjet Technologies


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM

LEATHERFACE, COME HOME! :

'Texas chainsaw' murder suspect to be extradited (Times of London, August 16, 2002)
District Judge Timothy Workman, sitting at Bow Street Magistrates Court in Central London, agreed to a request by the US Government that Dr Robert Kleasen, 69, should be sent back to Texas for a retrial for the murders of Gary Darley and Mark Fischer. [...]

Kleasen was found guilty of murdering Mr Fisher and spent two and a half years on death row in Texas before his conviction was quashed. He was originally acquitted on appeal in 1977 because of an illegal search warrant. [...]

Kleasen is thought to be the inspiration behind the horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The day after the two victims went missing, a band saw in a taxidermist¹s shop, to which Kleasen had access, was found to contain human tissue and hair on its blade.


Even the basic story may not be as bizarre as this sidebar : Profile: Robert Kleasen (Times of London, August 16 2002)
In the early 1970s he was expelled from the Mormons for battering a young Mormon woman in Denmark and from Lebanon after attempting to enlist in the Palestine Liberation Army.

Imagine that; there was a time when it may have been possible to be too nutty to be a Palestinian terrorist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM

DEUTSCHLAND UBER ALLES! :

Germany's blueprint for labour reform (BBC, 16 August, 2002)
Unemployment and the economy are the key battlegrounds of Germany's election, and a commission of experts has fuelled the debate by presenting its blueprint for creating more jobs.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has already promised to back the proposals, which he hopes will give him an advantage in next month's election, but it is unclear when they might become law. [...]

Some of the report's more radical suggestions - including plans to cut unemployment benefit - have been watered down following union opposition. [...]

Under the current benefits system, unemployed people can receive 67% of their former salary for up to 32 months and then 57% of their salary for an unlimited period.


That is just freakin' absurd. Why would you do your job if you can get 2/3rds of your salary for not doing it?.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 AM

HOUSE OF THE SETTING SAUDS :

Why the Sauds Will Stay, Part Two (H. D. Miller, August 14, 2002, Travelling Shoes)
[N]o matter how angry the American street, no matter how bad the demographics, no matter how bad the deficits, or the per capita income, or the ridiculous, gold-plated lifestyles of the princes, the House of Saud will maintain control as long as the American government supports them. And the Americans aren't leaving the Sauds to fend for themselves anytime soon. So get that idea out of your head. [...]

Most of the regular reasons cited [for "why the Americans aren't leaving the Sauds to fend for themselves."] have at least some measure of truth: Oil is important. The personal relationship between the Bushes and the Sauds carries some weight. The Arabists in the State Department have a voice. The military is used to working with the Sauds. All of this things matter to some extent

But the most important reason why the Sauds aren't leaving, is that the U.S. government, at all levels and all branches, hates, hates, hates uncertainty.


Now, far be it from me to argue with Mr. Miller. He actually knows whereof he speaks while I'm merely overly read. And casual reading is no substitute for genuine knowledge. But I couldn't help noticing three stories over the past few days that, in addition to problems that Mr. Miller has already addressed, seem to lay out a potential road map for how we'd get to the point where the U.S. government would disfavor Saud stability :
Difficult times for Saudi Arabia : Saudi Arabia's oil revenues are shrinking (Frank Gardner, 11 August, 2002, BBC)
The country's biggest problem is the economy - there simply are not enough jobs to go around.

A huge portion of the national budget is swallowed up by civil service salaries, often for people who put in two hours work a day in token jobs that contribute little to the economy.

Meanwhile, oil revenues are shrinking in real terms, while the population is growing at nearly 4% a year.


Saudis 'should reconsider US ties' (BBC, 16 August, 2002)
A Saudi newspaper close to the government has called for a review of the kingdom's long-standing and close relationship with the United States.

9/11 families sue Saudi princes, firms (MSNBC NEWS SERVICES, 8/16/02)
Relatives of some of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack filed a $100 trillion class-action lawsuit Thursday against Saudi officials and institutions, charging that they financed Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

THE SUIT, modeled after action filed against Libya in the Pan Am Flight 103 disaster, seeks to cripple banks, charities and some members of the Saudi royal family, as well as gain vengeance for the families of those who perished, the plaintiffs said.


So, if we add together all of the various problems confronting the Sauds, here's what we get :
(1) Succession problems--elderly and ill rulers and a plethora of ambitious princes has been a recipe for unrest since the first king took his throne.

(2) Political differences among the princes : there seem to be two (at least two) broad factions within the Saud family, one that's pro-Western, the other more closely aligned with radical Islam.

(3) The decline of oil : whether quickly or gradually, oil is destined to decline in importance and therefore in value. Vast reserves of oil in Russia and Central Asia and new technologies and fuel standards in the developed world are going to inevitably hammer the Sauds, who depend on oil revenue to fund their kingdom and make it palatable to the people of Arabia.

(4) Privatization of American foreign policy : between the rising chorus of anti-Saud rhetoric in the American media and the massive lawsuit filed by 9-11 families, private citizens are poised to become such an irritant to Saudi/American relations that the official views of our State Department just won't matter much anymore. It's easy to dismiss the potential effects of this lawsuit, but the information that could be brought forward, as we saw in things like the Libya suit, the tobacco suits, and the MicroSoft trial, might be enormously embarrassing. In addition, it could become impossible for Saudi princes and government officials to travel in the West for fear of being hauled into U.S. courts to answer subpoenas.

(5) Regional instability : It certainly seems like Arab leaders have made an implicit promise to their people, one that it has been possible to believe in since the Oslo Accords, that the Palestinian/Israeli conflict would be settled fairly soon and in Palestine's favor. This promise seems increasingly dubious. Not only that but Israel seems to have become more radicalized over the past year or so and more willing to use force against its enemies. This is on display now in Palestine but could soon be evident in Lebanon, Iraq, perhaps even Syria in the not too distant future. At the same time the United States appears intent on affecting a regime change in Iraq, quite possibly through force, and is applying pressure for regime change or reform from Egypt to Pakistan. Besides proving humiliating to the Islamic world in general, these kinds of impositions of Western will upon Muslim governments must call into question the permanence of all such regimes and make revolutions which are now unthinkable at least appear plausible.


Any one of these trends might be possible to deal with if you're the autocratic ruler of Saudi Arabia and possible to ignore if you're a State Department Arabist. Even a few of them converging might still be survivable and explain-awayable, for the King and the bureaucrat respectively. But can we really say with any degree of confidence that a Saudi Arabia that is being buffeted by dynastic, economic, and regional unrest at the same time that it is growing alienated from the U.S. and its oil is losing its importance to us, will still be a regime that we will seek to prop up? Recall that all of this may be occurring against a backdrop of a domestic press here in America that's growing hostile to the Sauds and potentially a widening war between America/Israel and Islam. Given all of this, wouldn't it take a pretty strong government to withstand these negative forces and is there anything that should lead us to believe that the kind of oppressive kleptocracy that the Sauds maintain in Arabia is such a strong government? Despite the inestimable Mr. Miller's assurances, I have to say, I have my doubts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM

BILLIONS IN TRIBUTE, BUT NO APOLOGY :

Thousands To Rally for Reparations : Apology Also Sought For Slave Descendants (Manny Fernandez, August 16, 2002, Washington Post)
Thousands of African American activists plan tomorrow to bring their demands for reparations from the U.S. government for centuries of slavery and racism to the Capitol, where hundreds of slaves toiled during its construction more than 200 years ago.

"They owe us," said Lewis Andrews, a rally organizer, reciting the official theme of the Millions for Reparations rally. "We built this, but what do we get?"

Organizers said they want to focus national attention on the burgeoning reparations movement and call for compensation to the descendants of slaves for their unpaid labor and the untold horrors of bondage, the legacy of which organizers say is responsible for many of the social and economic ills facing some African American communities today.

"We're talking about a crime against our person, a crime against humanity that has gone unpaid," said Andrews, 55, a minister with the Temple of the Black Messiah in Baltimore.

Reparations advocates want the government to make good on its promise of 40 acres and a mule, made to newly freed slaves after the Civil War. For many, the modern-day equivalent of the famous pledge should include financial compensation as well as the establishment of institutions such as schools and hospitals, land and an official apology from U.S. leaders for the government's sanctioning of slavery.


I'm pro-reparations. Give every black person in America the monetary equivalent of forty acres and a mule and in exchange end all racial preferences and ban everyone who receives the one time handout from making claims for any other government benefits during their lifetimes. that seems fair and like a good way to put black claims and white guilt behind us. In the completely absurd and artificial game of racialism this would be nothing more than a mildly expensive form of one-upmanship for white folk. It would provide an ideal response for when we get Mau-Maued : "Sorry, we settled that debt. We're all even now. Remember that forty acre and a mule deal?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM

REMOVE PAGES 352-58 AND INSERT THIS NEW ESSAY ON ALGORITHMS : :

Sen. Clinton preparing for potential presidential race (Associated Press, August 16, 2002)
Hillary Rodham Clinton has begun building a national political organization, softening her liberal image and taking a lead role in Democratic criticism of President Bush - steps toward a potential campaign to become the first woman president.

Former President Clinton speaks about his wife's run for the presidency as a matter of ``when,'' not ``if,'' say people who have discussed it with him. Several of her associates said she is eyeing 2008 as the year to run.


She's running in '04. She has to have been impressed by the warm reception she got from the Democratic Leadership Council's recent presidential candidate beauty contest, where she was by all accounts the star. The surest sign that it's gone to her head is her recent statement :
I thought, as I obviously believed, that you know, the Clinton-Rubin economic policies that worked so well during the '90s really do work well in global economy.

There was a famous incident in the Soviet Union in 1954, after Lavrenti Beria was executed, where the editors of the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia sent out an expanded article on the Bering Strait and told people to cut out certain pages from the "B" volume and replace them with the new insert. The point of course was not that there was anything new to say about that august body of water, but rather that the government wanted Beria's laudatory biography removed from the record. In much the same way Hillary Clinton now seeks to airbrush her husband's vice-president, and her increasingly likely opponent in the '04 primaries, from our history.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:28 AM

HE'S NO JESSE :

A Fire Born of the Mexican Revolution (GRACE GLUECK, August 16, 2002, NY Times)
ALTHOUGH its title suggests a drowsy history textbook, "The Epic of American Civilization," a mural by the Mexican painter José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949) in the Baker Library at Dartmouth College here, has a throbbing vitality that keeps viewers' eyes wide open. Punctuated by doors, windows and other architectural bits and pieces as it runs the 92-foot length of the basement reserve reading room, the 26-panel fresco is densely packed with symbolic figures and stagy events. A blend of myth, history and contemporary comment, much affected by premonitions of the pending World War II, it aptly conveys Orozco's dour, apocalyptic vision of human fate.

The rhythmic orchestration of this montage excited the interest of Jackson Pollock, among other artists, and its thunderous presence has helped it serve, for better or for worse, as a role model for the development of public art in the United States. A narrative that pairs the legend of Mexico's founding by Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god represented by a feathered serpent, with images from the Eurocentric period that began in the New World with the 16th-century Spanish conquest of Mexico, the mural was Orozco's most ambitious venture in the United States. (He had done two earlier murals, one at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., the other at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.) Aside from its grim world view, the Dartmouth fresco reveals Orozco's dual artistic involvement, with Mexico's heritage and with the modern-art movements of the 20th century.

At the time (1932), Dartmouth's commissioning of a mural by a "revolutionary" Mexican artist made waves. There were accusations of extravagance, considered inappropriate during Depression days. (Over two years, the artist received $10,000, including expenses.) There were chauvinistic protests against giving the commission to a foreigner, particularly one of leftist political views. And there were outcries over the strong social commentary in the planned work, as opposed to, say, an amiable depiction of New England scenery.

To its credit, Dartmouth rose above these protests, with the help of an art faculty that saw the aesthetic and humanistic strengths of the Mexican mural movement and - not least - of the Rockefeller family, some of whom were alive to the art world's interest in things Mexican. (Nelson A. Rockefeller, a 1930 Dartmouth graduate, wanted Diego Rivera to do the job, although in 1933 he fired Rivera for including Lenin in a mural at Rockefeller Center and had the portrait removed.) Now, nearly 70 years after the Dartmouth mural's completion, the college's Hood Museum of Art has mounted "José Clemente Orozco in the United States, 1927-1934," a show of the artist's work during his second visit to this country, including the two years devoted to the mural.


Geez, I always assumed a student--and not a very talented one--did it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM

THE DEVIL'S DUE :

The African exception : Experience in one sub-Saharan country shows that overseas aid is not the only prerequisite for growth (The Economist, Mar 28th 2002)
WHICH country has had the fastest growth in income per person over the past 35 years? A few hints: it's not an East Asian "tiger", such as South Korea or Singapore, nor an oil-rich Gulf state, nor China or the United States. The answer is Botswana, a landlocked former British colony in a region marked by poverty. [...]

Botswana serves as a useful case study in getting the details right. Sadly, this defies simple prescriptions. Some on the political left might attribute Botswana's success to egalitarianism. Not quite: inequality there is as severe as it is in Colombia or Brazil. Those on the right would like to point to a laisser-faire regime. Wrong again: the government spends a hefty 40% of GDP. [...]

Perhaps Britain's most valuable legacies, besides the English language, were the law and contract procedures. [...]

Wealthy and secure, the elite pursued sensible policies, such as a customs union with South Africa, and a currency pegged to the rand. [...]

Botswana's experience suggests that poor countries must try to align the incentives of the elite with those of the masses, much as companies in rich countries try to tie managers' rewards to those of shareholders. It also backs the view of Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist, who has proposed a stronger approach to land titling in poor countries. Where countries receive aid, Botswana's experience suggests that profitable goals include better courts and legal systems; and that one good use of cash is to fight diseases.


The authors here seem rather confused about "those on the right". One of the central beliefs of conservatism has long been that Law and order is a prerequisite for freedom. The "laisser-faire" of which the article speaks is appropriate, for example, within the context of an American system, a republic, which as John Adams said is "a government of laws, and not of men". But it is this recognition that the orderly administration of the law must precede freedom that has frequently led conservatives to support authoritarian regimes as a transitional form on the way to eventual democracy. It seems unlikely that any conservative would be as surprised as are the authors that Botswana's legacy of British law has played a central role in making it an exception to Africa's general decline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM

WRATH OF KHAN :

'Curse' of Genghis Khan's secret tomb strikes again (Damien McElroy, 17/08/2002, Daily Telegraph)
A legendary curse that has protected the tomb of Genghis Khan from discovery for 800 years appears to have struck again after an American expedition that
claimed to have located the grave abruptly pulled out of Mongolia.

The whereabouts of the remains of the 13th century warlord who united the tribes of Mongolia before conquering territory from Russia to China is one of archaeology's last great mysteries.

According to legend, the tomb will never be found.

The Genghis Khan geo-historical expedition obtained a permit from the Mongolian government in June to dig at Oglogchiin Kherem, 200 miles north of the capital, Ulan Bator.

But the mission, organised by a former gold trader, Maury Kravitz, and a University of Chicago historian, John Woods, suddenly ended this month after encountering a string of unfortunate "accidents". [...]

Before his death in 1227 Genghis Khan supposedly gave out elaborate orders to ensure that the grave was never discovered.

According to one account, 1,000 foot soldiers were killed at the site to prevent them disclosing the site.

When 800 more soldiers returned to Karakorum, the ancient Mongol capital, they too were slaughtered. Some say that thousands of horses were raced over the grave to obliterate any trace of the burial.


We're thinkin' movie...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 AM

ARMEY VS. ARMY :

As previously noted, the Times story of the other day seems to be far less than first meets the eye : Top Republicans Break With Bush on Iraq Strategy (TODD S. PURDUM and PATRICK E. TYLER, August 16, 2002, NY Times). But the one interesting comment from a Republican who actually is a Party leader was House Majority Leader Dick Armey's :
"My own view would be to let him bluster, let him rant and rave all he wants," Mr. Armey said. "As long as he behaves himself within his own borders, we should not be addressing any attack or resources against him."

Now, from what I could recall from memory, Mr. Armey has opposed most American interventions in recent years and the White House response to his remarks seemed to jibe with the idea that this was something we'd expect of Mr. Armey, rather than some radical break with his past and with the administration. And his own spokesman suggested that Mr. Armey even had to be coaxed into supporting the initial 1991 war against Iraq : Bush mum on plan for attacking Iraq (Dave Boyer, August 10, 2002, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
Armey spokesman Terry Holt said the majority leader's remarks are "consistent with where he was in 1991," prior to the U.S.-led invasion in the Persian Gulf war. He said Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney called Mr. Armey and made the case to him, and the lawmaker eventually supported the administration's decision to go to war. Mr. Armey believes "the bar is very high when you go to war," Mr. Holt said.

Curiosity piqued, I took a necessarily haphazrd Google around the 'net to see what else I could find out about the new darling of the normally internationalist Left. Here are a few highlights.
The U.S. can't go it alone (Bob Mccord, November 05, 1999, Arkansas Times)
The defeat of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty by the Senate was scary. [...]

It's not the only evidence of isolationism among Republicans. They voted against sending troops to Kosovo, they stopped draft registration, they refuse to pay the dues the nation owes the United Nations, their budget bills cut foreign aid by 14 percent and they won't agree to pay for negotiating the peace settlement in the Middle East. One of their leaders, Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, said: "I've been to Europe once. I don't have to go again."


Freedom, Responsibility and Foreign Policy (Dick Armey, Remarks as prepared for delivery before The School for Advanced International Studies, June 19, 1997)
I'm not sure this is appropriate for this august institution, but let me begin by telling a story from Spy magazine. Spy, as you know, is a journal run by truly sick individuals that I of course have never read. Well, one day a few years ago some prankster at Spy decided to call members of Congress and quiz them on foreign issues. These interviews generally went well until he asked, "Congressman, what do you think of U.S. policy concerning the Republic of Freedonia?" As all of you know, Freedonia does not exist -- except as the fictional country in the movie The Mouse that Roared. Unfortunately, that did not stop several members from offering their considered opinion on the subject anyway. "I think our policy there needs thorough reexamination," and so on. Very embarrassing.

For the record, if they had asked me that question, I would have cheerfully admitted I don't have a clue about Freedonia or a lot of other places for that matter. I have never made any pretense to expertise in international affairs. In my previous lifetimes as an economics professor and a member of the loyal minority in Congress, I could have told you more than you'd want to know about price theory and capital gains differentials (and probably did). But to this day I'd be lucky to even give you the current name of Zaire -- I mean, Congo.


Statement by Rep. Dick Armey on Authorizing the Deployment of U.S. Troops to Kosovo (Delivered on the House Floor, March 11, 1999)
Mr. Speaker, we do have an enduring interest in a peaceful Europe. What happens in the Balkans is important to our security. We must do all we reasonable can to prevent further killing and suffering in these troubled lands.

But I cannot in good conscience support the proposed deployment we're debating today. I believe it has been poorly considered and is unlikely to achieve our desired ends.

I make this objection on purely practical grounds. Its central flaw is that depends on negotiating an agreement with the Serbian dictator -- the very man who is responsible for the Balkan horrors in the first place. He is a brutal killer, and we can have no confidence that he or his followers will respect any agreement that might be reached.

On the other side, will be the Kosovar Liberation Army, a new formation with little experience in these matters. Its cause may be noble, but there's little reason to hope its leadership will be able to discipline its members. The agreement will, after all, come far short of their desire for true independence.

Our troops may thus find themselves opposed by freelance opponents on both sides of this brutal conflict, opponents undisciplined by any central authority. The resulting bloodshed may produce events that are far more destabilizing than those the Administration fears today. This could be another Somalia.

For these and other reasons stated today I believe this deployment is unwise and must be opposed.

Mr. Speaker, we need to take a fresh look at our policy towards the world's outlaw governments -- not just in Serbia, but in Iraq, North Korea and elsewhere. These rogue regimes, are without question, the greatest security threat we face today.

The Administration response to them has been haphazard containment efforts, loose arms control arrangements, or other negotiations.

Containment and negotiation, however, can do little to solve the underlying problem--the very existence of these regimes.

What we need is a new version of the Reagan Doctrine of the 1980s. A policy that seeks not to contain these regimes -- but to replace them with democratic alternatives.

Last year, Congress began to shape exactly such a policy towards Iraq with our passage of the Iraq Liberation Act. We need to consider similar legislation for other rogue states including Serbia. [...]

The lesson of the Cold War should be clear: True peace, justice and security come not from negotiating with inhuman regimes, but transcending them. Even the most enduring dictatorship can melt before the power and ideals of the United States.


THE BOOMERANG EFFECT (Justin Raimondo, September 20, 2000, Antiwar.com)
The lies of politicians often come back to haunt them, but rarely has a brazen fib boomeranged so quickly. The Bushies may have thought that Warner-Byrd was dead and buried, but rumors of its death turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. Looks like it's been resurrected by those mischievous House Republicans, who restored it to their version of the 2001 military appropriations budget. The measure would cut off money for nearly 6,000 United States ground forces in Kosovo by April 1, unless Congress votes for an extension - and once again the Bush camp is trying mightily to drive a stake through its heart. The House and Senate versions of the budget must be reconciled before Congress adjourns for the year, and this is the last sticking point. "We feel pretty strongly about it," said Representative Dick Armey of Texas, the House majority leader. "The question is, how long will we have people over there, and when will we have a clear definition of what they're doing?" With the same fine appreciation for legalistic hairsplitting displayed by our current President, Bush and his advisors are reiterating their "legislative overreach" argument - but not too loudly, in the hope no one will take notice, the House Republicans will capitulate in the end, as usual, and the whole issue will go away.

Bush on Spot as G.O.P. Pushes to Pull : Out G.I.'s From Kosovo (ERIC SCHMITT, 9/15/00, NY Times)
House and Senate negotiators are fighting over a deadline for withdrawing American troops from Kosovo, renewing a clash with President Clinton and putting Gov. George W. Bush on the spot again, since he lobbied Senate Republicans to drop a similar provision earlier this year.

At issue is a proposal to cut off money for nearly 6,000 United States ground forces in Kosovo by April 1, forcing their withdrawal unless Congress authorizes an extension.


Two Texans demand strings on funds to IMF (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, MARCH 13, 2000 )
Two Texas Republicans trained as economists have wedged a lever under the world's financial architecture.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Irving and Sen. Phil Gramm have had enough of the International Monetary Fund's efforts to control the world's finances.


US CONGRESS SPLIT OVER REPORT ON IMF, WORLD BANK REFORMS.
The report of the US congressional advisory commission chaired by economist Allan Meltzer calling for a sharp contraction in the IMF and the
World Bank unleashed a strong bipartisan reaction in Congress yesterday, reports the Financial Times (p.7). The report was released at a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday, says the story, noting that two leading Republican congressmen-House speaker Dennis Hastert and House majority leader Dick Armey-had earlier called a press conference to welcome the report. But it was attacked by Democratic lawmakers.

House minority leader Richard Gephardt said the Meltzer report "illustrates an extreme neo-isolationist attitude" towards the Fund and the Bank. "Instead of proposing thoughtful reform, the report takes a slash-and-burn approach."

The political impact of the report is not clear, but the welcoming of it by Armey, a longstanding IMF critic, suggests that the Republicans may try to use it to attach further conditions on the IMF as they consider legislation that would help fund a debt relief initiative for the poorest countries.


Say what you will about Mr. Armey, but that looks like a pretty consistent and principled record of isolationism to me and one on which he's been right more often than not, including one could argue in his initial opposition to the First Gulf War. Particularly notable on this list of issues is that, with the exception of Iraq, it seems likely that he's taken the exact opposite position to the editors of the NY Times on every one. Odd, isn't it, that, while Mr. Armey hasn't budged, the Times and others on the Left have suddenly seen the wisdom of the Leader's--how did Dick Gephardt put it?--"extreme neo-isolationism"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 AM

RED RAIDERS OF THE CHENANGO VALLEY :

Exception to the Rule : Kenny Gamble becomes just the seventh Colgate player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (BUD POLIQUIN, August 09, 2002, Syracuse Post-Standard)
The truth of the matter is that this type of thing rarely happens at Colgate University, where the library has properly been a bigger attraction through the years than the football field.

To be sure, many fine athletes have passed through Hamilton on their way to the real world, but for the most part they've ended up in boardrooms and courts of law and think tanks. There are, however, exceptions to most rules, and Kenny Gamble is one of them.

Oh, he got his degree from Colgate, all right. And he's currently an Indianapolis-based sales director of national accounts at OnField Apparel Group, a division of Reebok
International Ltd. But along the way, Gamble evolved into the greatest of all Raider running backs and unwittingly became an immortal. You've heard, certainly, of Red Grange a Walter Payton and Bronko Nagurski and Bo Jackson and all those other giants who so brilliantly lugged footballs for their schools on Saturday afternoons. Well, Kenny Gamble Colgate's Kenny Gamble - is about to join them on the mountaintop because during monies scheduled for this weekend in South Bend, Ind., he'll be
inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

And if for some reason you fail to recognize just how big a deal this is, consider that only six other Raiders in their 113-year football history are
in the Hall. And the one who play, most recently, a tackle named Danny Fortmann did so 67 years ago.

[His] talent got him into the National Football League where Kenny played for three seasons (1988, '89 and '90) with the Kansas City Chiefs before the effects of a broken foot made a civilian of him. But it was those 57 touchdowns he scored for Colgate ... and the career per-game rushing average of 124.2 yards he crafted while with the Raiders ... and the 13 NCAA Division I-AA records he set while in Hamilton that will rightfully land Gamble, along with eight others, in the Hall of Fame on Saturday
Gratified? Absolutely, Kenny Gamble - 37, married and the father of a son and two daughters - is all of that. But surprised? Nah. Not with Holy Cross' Gordie Lockbaum, a peer, having been previously inducted. And intimidated by the names (Butkus, Staubach, Dorsett, Gipp, etc.) with which he'll forever be linked? No way.

''I am not enamored with that,'' Gamble said. ''I'm just not. Maybe because I played pro football, I'm hardened a bit. They're just people. They're not gods.''

They are, though, unique. And soon, Kenny Gamble will officially be so, too. And Colgate - not very used to all the hoo-ha - will be buttons-popping proud. Earl Abell and Ellery Huntington and Belford West played for the Raiders during the second decade of the last century. And Ed Tryon and John Orsi and Fortmann were all finished in Hamilton by 1935. And now, all this time later, here comes Colgate's next Hall-of-Famer. The seventh. And perhaps the best.


I'm a huge Kenny gamble fan, but as it happens I knew Ed Tryon a little--he was in the same class as our grandfather ('26)--and I think you'd have to give him the nod as Colgate's greatest player. In 1925, when Colgate was still a legitimate football power, he was an All-American, led the nation in scoring and led the team to an undefeated season. Reunions were amusing because men in their sixties would gather at his feet like kids. He was still a hero to them and a very nice man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 AM

WHIZ KIDS :

What to do with 9/11 hijackers' remains (CNN, August 16, 2002)
Among the human remains painstakingly sorted from the Pentagon and Pennsylvania crash sites of September 11 are those of nine of the hijackers.

The FBI has held them for months, and no one seems to know what should be done with them. It's a politically and emotionally charged question for the government, which eventually must decide how to dispose of some of the most despised men in American history.


Personally, I'd like to see the remains shipped to Kohler to be mixed into their porcelain for a few specially commissioned Pentagon urinals.

August 16, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 PM

CLUB MED VS. CLUB FED :

IRAQ SECOND THOUGHTS. (Tapped, 8/16/02, American Prospect)
While Bush wines and dines his rich buddies in Texas, things are not looking so good for the administration's war plans. Colin Powell is reportedly meeting with former secretary of state (and Iraq attack doubter) Henry Kissinger, while Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Papa Bush, lashed out against the current Iraq strategy on yesterday's Wall Street Journal op-ed page (subscription only) arguing that an invasion of Iraq would "seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counter-terrorist campaign we have undertaken." Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) has been expressing doubts as well and now Dick Armey has joined the chorus. Perhaps a genuine debate is finally underway. Tapped hopes that the president will take notice when he comes back to Washington from his vacation.

That last sentence reminds us of one of the subtle but defining differences between liberals and conservatives. Have you ever noticed how Republicans never complain about Presidents taking vacations, Congress being out of session, or even (of ever honored memory) government shutdowns. But Democrats seem to think the Earth will stop rotating if Washington is not infested by the political class. Here's the difference between a liberal and a conservative--conservatives like George W. Bush but think the nation is well served by having him on vacation; liberals loathe him but wish he was at his desk in the Oval Office, doing something, doing anything, just "governing".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM

REDIFINING NO FREE PRESS :

News Conference Ends in Melee As Press Refuses to Pay Islamists (MARC CHAMPION, August 16, 2002, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
As news conferences go, this one sounded promising.

"The Satanic Alliance and the Islamic response," proclaimed the top line of an invitation resembling a circus flier.

It added: "The most radical leaders of the Muslim community gather to give their uncompromising Islamic stance on the U.S. crusade against Muslims."

But Thursday's news conference at London's Euston Plaza hotel turned into a standoff between two uncompromising and uncomprehending worlds -- before ending in a melee of overturned furniture and squealing car tires as the Islamists made their getaway from a frustrated press corps.

The problem? The Islamists wanted to charge a £30 ($47) entry fee, and the journalists refused to pay. Two Scotland Yard detectives sent to monitor the event balked as well. [...]

By the end of a two-hour standoff, in which the Islamist leaders were left to talk among themselves, the atmosphere was hostile. A polite hotel request for the 40 or 50 journalists to make room for the Islamists to make a quick exit was met with laughter. "Move tighter together lads," said one journalist. "We're going to charge them 60 quid [pounds] each to get out."


Qiao Yang sent this and at first I thought he must have gotten it from the Onion or something

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM

What Arabs? :

Don't Attack Saddam : It would undermine our antiterror efforts. (BRENT SCOWCROFT, August 15, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
The United States could certainly defeat the Iraqi military and destroy Saddam's regime. But it would not be a cakewalk. On the contrary, it undoubtedly would be very expensive--with serious consequences for the U.S. and global economy--and could as well be bloody. In fact, Saddam would be likely to conclude he had nothing left to lose, leading him to unleash whatever weapons of mass destruction he possesses.

Israel would have to expect to be the first casualty, as in 1991 when Saddam sought to bring Israel into the Gulf conflict. This time, using weapons of mass destruction, he might succeed, provoking Israel to respond, perhaps with nuclear weapons, unleashing an Armageddon in the Middle East. Finally, if we are to achieve our strategic objectives in Iraq, a military campaign very likely would have to be followed by a large-scale, long-term military occupation. [...]

Possibly the most dire consequences would be the effect in the region. The shared view in the region is that Iraq is principally an obsession of the U.S. The obsession of the region, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If we were seen to be turning our backs on that bitter conflict--which the region, rightly or wrongly, perceives to be clearly within our power to resolve--in order to go after Iraq, there would be an explosion of outrage against us. We would be seen as ignoring a key interest of the Muslim world in order to satisfy what is seen to be a narrow American interest.


Not sure how I missed this in the first place, but reading Patrick Ruffini's comments made it stand out. Having already theorized that Israel will nuke Iraq after Saddam's "likely" use of WMD--neither of which is a possibility that should be dismissed--and that this will unleash "Armageddon", why would the war be expensive, what exactly are we going to occupy for years, and what Muslim world is Mr. Scowcroft speaking of in later paragraphs? It's perfectly legitimate to worry about this becoming a generalized war of the West (America and Israel) against Islam and about our side resorting to nuclear weapons rather than trying to invade and subdue the entire region, but realistically if this does come to pass, what will remain of the Arab Middle East when the smoke clears? One doubts there will be much, which makes the rest of General Scowcroft's essay rather pointless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM

THE SELECTIVELY POROUS WALL :

Save the Bigots : How to decry persecution by practicing it. (William Saletan, August 9, 2002, Slate)
The assignment to UNC students asks them to read parts of Approaching the Quran: The Early Revelations, translated by Michael Sells. In a set of study questions, the students are asked, among other things, what themes are conveyed by various Quran excerpts; whether the virtues and vices emphasized in the excerpts are skewed or incomplete; what "problems or benefits" arise from reading and discussing a text in a foreign religious tradition; and what would happen if more Americans read the book. [...]

[Conservatives] say that by assigning a Muslim text, UNC "promotes" Islam, "discriminates" against other faiths, and violates the constitutional requirement of "neutrality" toward religion. Glover isn't anti-Muslim; he says he's just trying to stop UNC from pushing "a one-sided pro-Islamic reading requirement" in "an obvious attempt to put a positive face on what many people believe to be a very evil religion." And what exactly makes the assigned book unduly pro-Islamic? According to Glover, the book's flaw is that it "leaves out any mention of other passages of the Koran in which Muslim terrorists find justification for killing non-Muslims." [...]

What do these complaints add up to? Let's see: The university is coercing students by requiring them to write about why they don't want to write about any of the open-ended questions the university asked them to write about. The assigned reading (never mind the 19 optional readings) is unconstitutionally pro-Muslim because it's insufficiently anti-Muslim. And it's insensitive not just to require such reading, but to allow it.

This is what "intimidation," "discrimination," and "sensitivity" have come to. Words that once accurately described cross burnings, housing covenants, and slurs are now being used to describe the superficial emotional wounds that come from living and debating in a free society. This dilution is being perpetrated not just by the left but by the right as well.

Conservatives often complain that many leftists practice censorship in the name of defeating it. That's true. But the hypocrisy goes both ways. Religious bigotry isn't gone. It just goes by the name of religious freedom.


This column seems deeply disingenuous, for surely Mr. Saletan knows that the core case against the reading is far simpler and more reasonable than those he spins out. The question is : would there be any objections to a public school requiring students to read Christian texts? If not, then by all means allow what seems like a worthwhile exercise in learning about Islam. If so, then why the double standard, unless it comes from anti-Christian bigotry?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM

DOES MUSIC HAVE A RACE? :

Elvis led way in copying black music (Kevin L. Carter, Aug. 16, 2002, Philadelphia Inquirer)
As we pause from our busy lives to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, it must be noted that as creative and influential as this brilliant-but-tragic man was, he does not deserve to be called, as he is by so many, the King.

Sure, Elvis was a figure of transcendent influence in pop music. He was, at least in his earlier years, an electrifying performer. He is known for the ability he had to combine disparate elements of black and white Southern music (country, blues, rockabilly) into a driving, compelling and, most of all, popular style.

But that, ironically, is one of the problems.

Since the dawning five centuries ago of this multiracial amalgam we call American culture, the same patterns have emerged. All people have created wonderful works of art, but too often in the case of music that comes from mixed African and European roots it has been this way: blacks create, and whites discover, rob, buy or steal, then market and profit from the creations.


You know, he's right. I'd never looked at it that way before. It's ridiculous to call Muhammed Ali the "Greatest" when he was merely an inerloper in a white man's game. And there's no way that Michael Jordan can be the best basketball player ever--that honor is reserved for Bob Cousy or somebody--because he really just made a white sport popular by blackening it. Well....you see where this kind of thinking leads, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM

TOP REPUBLICANS? :

Top Republicans Break With Bush on Iraq Strategy (TODD S. PURDUM and PATRICK E. TYLER, August 16, 2002, NY Times)
Leading Republicans from Congress, the State Department and past administrations have begun to break ranks with President Bush over his administration's high-profile planning for war with Iraq, saying the administration has neither adequately prepared for military action nor made the case that it is needed.

These senior Republicans include former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft, the first President Bush's national security adviser. All say they favor the eventual removal of Saddam Hussein, but some say they are concerned that Mr. Bush is proceeding in a way that risks alienating allies, creating greater instability in the Middle East, and harming long-term American interests. They add that the administration has not shown that Iraq poses an urgent threat to the United States.


Gotta love the Times; if these guys were top Republicans don't you think maybe they'd have jobs? Until last week, the Left wanted to try Kissinger for war crimes, now he's the voice of reason and moderation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:52 PM

WE WON'T BE FOOLED AGAIN :

Rethinking the unthinkable, amid Iraq fears (Bradley Burston, Ha'aretz)
Beset by a proverbial 10 plagues of military, economic and social woes, Israel is feverishly preparing for the specter of the real thing: an ancient, extinct disease that could be reincarnated by scientists and delivered by the cutting-edge of Saddam Hussein's arsenal.

And if the specter of a smallpox attack were not enough, Israelis awoke Wednesday to a new mega-worry: the knowledge that the Atomic, Biological and Chemical warfare gas mask kits that every Israeli has kept squirreled away in back cupboards since Saddam rained Scud missiles on the Jewish state in the 1991 Gulf war is lacking what may be a crucial defense against the effects of nuclear fallout.

For six weeks in early 1991, Israelis became accustomed to carrying the kits everywhere they went, some decorating the small cardboard boxes as fashion statements or with stickers declaring defiance of the Iraqi president, who retaliated for attacks on Baghdad by then-president Bush with missile salvos against Tel Aviv. [...]

Various doomsday scenarios have been put forward for as to the possible effects of a smallpox attack on the Jewish state. Although no one knows for certain either if reconstituted smallpox could actually be delivered as a weapon - or whether it even exists, except in nightmares - experts have suggested that the highly contagious, lethal disease could devastate Israel's population, and migrate far afield to wreak havoc on the world at large.


Somehow, one finds it unlikely that Israel will hold off on retaliating this time. Nor should they.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM

TEMPUS FUGIT :

'We are asking God for US to attack Saddam' (Daily Telegraph, 16/08/2002)
[D]angers aside, people in Shoresh, all Kurds, appear unanimous in hoping that, the obvious risk aside, the current situation does not last much longer. Farouk, 20, said: "We are asking God for America to attack Saddam. All of us will stand against Saddam."

Seems like only a week ago the accepted wisdom was that the Kurds were blissfully happily with Saddam and opposed a U.S. attack, or maybe that was only in the NY Times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM

THIN STEAK :

The Right Flank : The Steak That Soaks Up Flavor (Russell Cronkhite, August 14, 2002, The Washington Post)
I defy you to find a better cut of beef for a quick weeknight marinade and a turn on the grill than flank steak. Many a night I've picked up a flank steak after work and had it sizzling on the grill by dinner time.

Flank steak has an extremely loose grain so it can readily absorb the flavors of a favorite marinade or spice rub in as little as two hours. Not only is flank incredibly marinade-friendly, but its near perfect thickness means it can be grilled quickly over high heat to ensure a well-seared, crispy exterior without sacrificing a tender, juicy interior. The timing is perfect in that the steak manages to pick up a slightly smoky aroma but there's no fuss with indirect grilling.

My only complaint about flank? It is so closely associated with grilling that it can be difficult to find during non-summer months. What a shame. Even when tossed under the broiler, flank is virtually failproof.

But just in case, here are a few flank insider tips...


The recipes and hints that Mr. Cronkhite provides are all well and good, but we used to just soak 'em in Catalina Dressing overnight and pop 'em on the grill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM

NOT EPHEMERAL :

Brothers : On Opening Day, You Remember the Gifts that Even Time Cannot Take Away (Andre Dubus, Oct. 8, 1997, Salon)
At a baseball game in Fenway Park, I feel like a boy, watching grown men on a playing field, and watching grown men and women in their seats in boxes and the grandstand, and faceless bodies across the field in the bleachers; watching them watch, cheer, eat, talk, drink; watching them go up and down the steps, for food, drinks, or the restrooms. The sound of the crowd is steady, the calls of roaming vendors rising higher, as the cries of certain people do: those who yell at umpires, players, managers and those who call to the players, Good eye; you can do it, as if they -- we, I do it -- had been infielders years ago, when the voices of infielders were part of the game, calling to the pitcher, Come babe, come boy, we used to say in spirited voices, our bodies poised, our weight on our toes, our gloves ready. During ballgames at Fenway Park, strangers talk to each other about the game; people cheer when one catches a foul ball; vendors standing on steps hear an order from someone sitting in the middle of the row; the buyer hands money to someone in the next seat, who passes it on; the paper and coins move from hand to hand to the vendor who places in these hands popcorn, hot dogs, peanuts, beer, soft drinks. Sometimes at Mass I think of Fenway Park, for at Mass there is the same feeling of good will: People are there because they want to be, and I feel among friends who share a passion.

For me, baseball is real in a deeper way than much of what I do. I do not begin a baseball season hoping the Red Sox win a pennant and the World Series. I enjoy each game. Next day I wait with excitement for the game on television that night or afternoon. Then I watch what happens and what does not happen in a moment. I rarely concentrate on a moment of anything but writing and exercise and receiving Communion. Yet watching a game I do. A batter steps out of the box, looks to his left at the third-base coach; the coach moves his hands, touches his arm, his chest, his face, his cap; the batter steps to the plate; the catcher's right fingers signal to the pitcher; the pitcher shakes his head; a runner on second creeps away from the base, glancing at the shortstop and second baseman; the catcher signals again, the pitcher nods, brings up his hands, kicks, throws. I watch the ball, and the batter. The ball is moving 93 miles per hour, but there is time for me to focus on it, maybe hold my breath, enough time so that it feels like waiting; then I am amazed: the batter not only hits the ball, but times his swing so well that he pulls it, a line drive right of the third baseman who somehow has time to dive for it, but he does not touch it; he is lying on the ground, the ball hits the grass a hundred feet behind him, as the left fielder sprints toward it, to stop it before it bounces and rolls to the fence.

The reality I am watching is moments of grace and skill, gifts received by men who do not turn away from them, but work with them for the few years they are granted. One spring the batter will not be able to hit a fast ball, the pitcher will not be able to throw one; the gifts are gone, as if they existed independent of men, staying with one for a time, then moving on to another, a boy in the womb, and when he is in elementary school you can already see that he has it.

A Zen archer does not try to hit the target. With intense concentration he draws the bow and waits; the target releases the arrow, and draws it to itself. A few summers ago, during an All-Star Game, retired pitcher Steve Carlton visited the television broadcasting booth. One of the announcers askedhim if hitters had ever intimidated him. He said he had ignored the hitters and played an advanced game of catch with his catcher. "It's an elevated form of pitching," he said. I have told this many times to young writers, and have also told them that Wade Boggs watching a pitch come to the plate, starting his stride and swing, probably does not know his own name, for his whole being is concentrating on that moving white ball. I could have said this about any good hitter, or fielder, or pitcher: men whose intense focus on a baseball burns their consciousness of the past and future into ashes blown quickly up and away from the field. This happens over and over in a game, and these moments are so pure they may be sacred; and they are not ephemeral; they seem so, because they exist in Time; but so did my friend Jim Valhoul; a river took his life, but it did not take the life he lived.


The entire story, by one of our greatest short story writers, is online. It's terrific.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM

WE CAN DEBASE ANYTHING :

A Flawed Crusade for Holocaust Justice : a review of THE VICTIM'S FORTUNE Inside the Epic Battle over the Debts of the Holocaust By John Authers and Richard Wolffe (Neal Sandler, Business Week)
Fifty years after the end of World War II, a small group of American Jews launched a campaign to resolve one of the most complex issues of the Holocaust: the plundering of the property of European Jewry by the Nazis and their accomplices. In time, the aggrieved would win some monetary redress and a good deal of publicity for their cause. But as John Authers and Richard Wolffe show in The Victim's Fortune, what began as a crusade for justice led quickly, and perhaps inevitably, to an unseemly squabble over money and representation. The authors, both of the Financial Times, have provided a well-written account of a fascinating, convoluted set of events.

An interesting review--it sounds like the book makes some of the same points that folks have made in the Comments section about the ugly battle for repayment of Holocaust debts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:51 AM

HOPEFULLY, AL DOESN'T SPORT FISH :

Big Money, Big Fish Reel 'Em in at White Marlin Open (Angus Phillips, August 11, 2002, washingtonpost.com)
Recession? What recession?

If Alan Greenspan needed reassurance on the struggling U.S. economy, he should have come to the beach last week to grab a glimpse of the 29th White Marlin Open, where a record 402 gleaming offshore fishing boats chased prize money in the millions.

That's right, millions. On registration day last Sunday, organizer Jim Motsko, who started the Open in 1974 as a local contest with 57 entries and $20,000 in guaranteed prizes, was so busy processing entries he barely had time to come up for air. At day's end he tallied up the proceeds and found that anglers from the Carolinas to New York had ponied up a staggering $2.1 million in entry fees and "calcutta" wagers, much of it in cash.

"Don't worry," he said when a visitor keenly eyed haphazard piles of bags and boxes in the registration tent, "it's already deposited in the bank."

All around was a scene of beer-drinking merriment and fiscal excess.


Doesn't mean we don't need a rate cut...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM

A RAIN KING WORLD :

Why Martha 'needs' more (Amitai Etzioni, 8/13/02, CS Monitor)
A study by social scientists Frank Andrews and Stephen Withey found that the level of one's socioeconomic status had meager effects on one's "sense of well-being" and no significant effect on "satisfaction with life as a whole."

Other studies show that while at low incomes the amount of income does correlate strongly with happiness, the correlation soon levels off after a comfortable level of income is attained. Even more to the point, economic growth does not significantly affect happiness. Social psychologist David Myers reports that while after-tax income (adjusted for inflation) almost doubled between 1960 and 1990, nearly the same percentage of Americans were "very happy" during this time (35 percent in 1957 and 32 percent in 1993).

People who understand this phenomenon tend to engage in voluntary simplicity; they scale down consumption, engage in do-good activities in their spare time (which expands as they realize they need not bring home clients and stuffed briefcases), and enjoy families and friends more.

In extreme cases, people quit their high-paying, high-stress jobs, move to the countryside, and pick up carpentry or gardening. In less extremecases, people cut back on their hours, move to part-time jobs, or retire relatively young. Still others scale down purchases of prestige items.

There is no evidence that those who adopt the voluntary simplicity culture are less prone to commit white-collar crimes; however, so far none of those who were caught include a single one of those postmodern, moderate hippies.


Thankfully the new Suburban should protect me from hippie accusations as I squire the kids around.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM

Today's word of the day from Wordsmith is interesting :

valorize (VAL-uh-ryz) verb tr.

To maintain the price of a commodity at a high level through government action.

[From Portuguese valorizar, from valor (value, price), from Medieval Latin, from Latin valere (to be strong).]

Valorizing is, in fact, price-fixing by government. A few other words that derive from the same root (wal-) are valence, valiant, valid, value, avail, and convalesce.

"This leads to a tendency for realized earnings to fall below the level that would validate or re-valorize the capitalized values of corporate equities and debt service costs."
James Ronald Stanfield and Michael Carroll, The Monopoly Capital School And Original Institutionalist Economics, Journal of Economic Issues (Reno, Nevada), Jun 1997.


August 15, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM

WHAT THEY MISS WHEN THEY FLYOVER :

At Iowa State Fair, Bush and Democrats Argue About Economy (Dan Balz and Mike Allen, August 15, 2002, Washington Post)
Food seemed to be the fair's main attraction, and the candidates indulged. Gephardt and Harkin met outside the pork producers' tent for a quick news conference to denounce Bush's plan to let younger workers put some of their Social Security taxes into private accounts, then flipped 16-ounce pork chops for television crews.

Nearby, Vilsack and his wife, Christie, munched on what she called "a walking pork chop," a unique cut with the meat removed from a portion of bone so that it resembles pork on a stick. "I wanted to tantalize you with this," the governor said, and before they left, Gephardt and Harkin were chewing on them, too.

Atop a small tractor along the midway sat Lynn Smith, wearing a green skirt, white gloves, work boots and blond wig that only partially hid his salt-and-pepper beard. He was part of the eight-man team of "square-dancing tractors," a popular attraction from Nemaha, Iowa. More popular than the president? he was asked.

"I'm sure it's us," Smith said. "He came to see us, didn't he? That's what he came for."


A walking pork chop and a fried Milky Way while you watch the square-dancing tractors and you're pretty much ready to meet your Maker--I mean, what's left?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM

ALERT NERO WOLFE :

Peruvian orchid sparks an uproar : Botanists are calling it a spectacular find: It's the Phragmipedium kovachii, a new orchid discovered in the Peruvian Andes in May. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/14/02)
"IT'S A RICH, brilliant red purple. Big, round, well-shaped - it apparently has no odor - and one flower per stem seems to be the rule," said John Beckner, curator of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Orchid Identification Center in Sarasota, Fla.

"This is a sensational-looking flower, in other words," Beckner said.

Michael Kovach, a nursery owner in Virginia's Fauquier County, came upon the orchid on a mountainside where an Indian family was selling flowers. On June 5, he walked into the Orchid Identification Center with a dried and pressed specimen. [...]

Researchers at the center immediately set about drawing, describing and naming the flower, with help from Ricardo Fernandez of the Museo de Historia Natural in Lima, Peru. The findings were published in the center's scientific journal, Selbyana, on June 12. It was on the center's Web site June 18.

The next morning, Selby's spokeswoman Ilene Denton said she was amazed to find at least a dozen email messages from orchid lovers as far away as the Netherlands, Japan and New Zealand.

"It's been quite a stir," she said.

"It has huge commercial potential. It already has the orchid world in an uproar," Beckner said.

Not all of it is good.


The orchid people make the Scrabble players seem stable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM

AN EVOLUTIONARY THEORY THAT WORKS :

Robot Teaches Itself Flying Skills in Three Hours (Reuters, August 14, 2002)
A robot has taught itself the principles of flying -- learning in just three hours what evolution took millions of years to achieve, according to research by Swedish scientists published on Wednesday.

Krister Wolff and Peter Nordin of Chalmers University of Technology built a robot with wings and then gave it random instructions through a computer at the rate of 20 per second.

[A]fter three hours the robot discovered a flapping technique -- rotating its wings through 90 degrees, raising them, then twisting back to the horizontal before pushing back down.

"This tells us that this kind of evolution is capable of coming up with flying motion," said Peter Bentley, an evolutionary computer expert at University College, London.


Yes, if sentient beings give you wings you'll figure out how to use them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM

SOMEBODY WAKE THE VP :

Giving the Country the Business (Mary McGrory, August 15, 2002, Washington Post)
President Bush's economic forum summary was a convention speech without the balloons.

It was full of applause lines and it had a villain -- in this case a balky, spendthrift Congress. Bush offered a minimalist solution: Just hang in and trust the American people. It wasn't much of a prescription for an ailing market, sinking stock prices and a meltdown of public confidence in the lords of the boardrooms. CNN kept switching to another California kidnapping and memories of Elvis. [...]

While Bush was assiduously taking notes at Waco, Cheney didn't try very hard to suppress a yawn. He just doesn't enjoy vaudeville in the middle of the day. Who could
take seriously a forum that produced an idea of having the robber barons band together and "self-police" their ranks? Bush was enthusiastic about it.


The modern political age offers so few genuine moments that you have to treasure the one's it does offer up. This idiotic, Clinton-esque economic summit reminds of one of the great moments, the campaign stop in 1992 where Bush pere told a group of NH employees : "Message : I Care." That is all this dog and pony show was supposed to convey too. There's something heart-warming about the contempt that Bush and Cheney showed for a staged production that they clearly understood to be a publicity stunt rather than a serious attempt to brainstorm about the economy. Even more cheering is the realization that people like Mary McGrory actually believe that these forums can be useful. If you've ever had to sit through one, you'll know nothing could be further from the truth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM

THE ASCENT OF MASHIE NIBLICK :

World according to Golf (Steve Sailer, 8/14/02, UPI)
Why does modern man (and, to a lesser extent, modern woman) spend so much money building golf courses? Why does the modern American golf course appeal
so strongly to the male eye? [...]

Surprisingly, as I found out during a conference on evolution and human behavior held in the beautiful countryside west of Moscow, a number of scientists now believe that a love of golf course-like landscapes may be hardwired by evolution into many human brains.

[Dr. Irenaeus] Eibl-Eibesfeldt suggested that people, especially men, find such well-watered grasslands appealing because they were suited to our hunter-gatherers ancestors, who evolved on the grassy savannas of East Africa hunting big game.

Another lecturer at the conference, Linda Mealey, an evolutionary psychologist at Minnesota's College of St. Benedict, speculated, "Golfing seems to substitute for hunting in many men these days."


Before we get too carried away, if we accept evolution, the landfills we build must also fill some such purpose, as must a Wal-Mart, and tract housing. All behavior must be a product of, or must still serve, some survival function, both the building of a golf course and its opposite, say paving it and turning it into a parking lot . It's stories like this one that really show how infinitely plastic and therefore absurd is the theory when pushed to its logical conclusions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM

THE DEFLATING UNIVERSE :

Credit Crunch Time : Cash-strapped businesses are what's ailing this economy. (Larry Kudlow, 8/15/02, National Review)
The classic solution to a deflationary problem such as this is to pour new cash into the economy. Immediately following the terrorist attacks on September 11, the Fed seemed to be appropriately stepping up their creation of new money. Not surprisingly, economic recovery took hold nicely in last year's fourth quarter and this year's first.

Lately, however, the Fed has lapsed into its historic obsession with short-term interest rates. Instead of lowering the fed funds rate this week - a move that would have allowed it to buy Treasury bills and inject more cash into the financial system - the Fed decided to hold the rate at 1.75%. The rate has been at this "low" level since November, but the Fed mistakenly believes that a low and steady fed funds rate infers an easy cash policy. Paradoxically, this rate-targeting led to a significant decline in the Fed's cash-creating operations right when businesses needed the money the most.

[O]ur central bank must get in on the corporate-stimulus act. The Fed must relinquish its interest-rate targeting, let the fed funds rate go where it goes, buy back Treasury bills, and get a substantial amount of fresh money moving toward cash-strapped businesses in need of a boost. Higher prices for gold and industrial commodities will tell the government bank if they are succeeding.


This seems sound other than his lingering "gold-bug" tendencies. One wonders though if the coming population implosion and the globalized economy may not make inevitable a long term deflationary trend? With ever less people chasing goods that are produced more and more efficiently and with prices continually getting hammered by competition from everywhere on Earth, where would the upward pressure on prices come from?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM

PERFIDIOUS ALBION? (via Letter from the Olde Countrie) :

George is nuts about Saddam's soft centre (Rod Liddle, August 14, 2002, The Guardian)
If we were to scout around for a country deserving of our expensive bombs we might apply five or six entirely pragmatic criteria. First, does the country possess weapons of mass destruction? Second, is its ideology aggressively hostile to our interests? Third, does it threaten the sovereignty or security of any part of Britain or a British dependency? Fourth, does it threaten our trading interests? And finally, is it inherently unstable or an inherently destabilising influence in an area where Britain has political interests?

These are, I would suggest, pretty objective criteria and if you apply them to Iraq the case for military action is, at best, highly questionable. In at least two of the above categories, the US fits the bill rather better than Iraq which, you may argue, demonstrates either the paucity of my tests or the irrationality of international relations.

Obviously, I am not suggesting that we bomb Washington, desirous though some in this country may be for a "regime change".


It appears the Independent is not alone in thinking there's little difference between Iraq and America. But let's take a look at the two rogue nations according to Mr. Liddle's criteria :
(1) WMD : Iraq and the US both have them, though only the US can deliver them globally.

(2) Ideology : Both Iraq, which believes in Saddam, and the US which believes in the continued relevance of Western Civilization, do indeed have ideologies that are hostile to Britain's, assuming it still has one.

(3) Sovereignty : This is a moot point because Britain is busily transferring its own sovereignty to the EU. Britain will soon be nought but the province of Franco-German bureaucrats.

(4) Trade : This too is a moot point because the British economy is in such decline they aren't likely to be a significant trading power for long.

(5) Stability/Interests : This is half-moot, because Britain has no foreign interests any more, indeed appears to have no interests beyond dole checks and National Health. As to the second part of the question, obviously Iraq is inherently unstable but it is no longer much of a destabilizing influence in the Middle East, nor can it be so long as Israel and America exist to contain it. On the other hand, America is--as it has always been, but never moreso than now--a hugely destabilizing force in the world. Whether in its role as Promised Land or Crusader State; whether serving as a Shining City on a Hill or confronting totalitarianism; whether pursuing a Hamiltonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian, or Wilsonian foreign policy; or whether just exporting our culture--America serves as an example of what government looks like at the End of History; stands ready to help when called upon; and is not hesitant about intervening when necessary. In each and every one of these ways America stands as a continuous and awesome threat to enemies of freedom in every nook and cranny of the globe--from South Korea and Taiwan, whose freedom we effectively guarantee; to Afghanistan, whose freedom we restored; to Japan and Germany, whose freedom we created; to Cuba and Vietnam and China, whose freedom we futiley, but nobly, tried to defend and even today stand ready to help revive. So, yes, America is a significant and enduring destabilizing influence, in a world too much beset by tyranny.


Mr. Liddle appears to be correct that it is America which deserves British bombs, not Iraq. But he left a few fairly important points out of his calculus. First, can Britain deliver them? Not bloody likely. Two, has Britain the will to fight America? Don't be silly--Britain wouldn't even take on Slobodan Milosevic until we were there to hold their hands and talk them through it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM

MY COUNTRY 'TIS OF THEE :

Deep-fried candy bar a new twist on old junk (Mark Brown, August 15, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
One of the hot items at the Illinois State Fair this year is a deep-fried candy bar.

They freeze a Snickers, Butterfinger or Milky Way, coat it with the same batter they use for the funnel cakes and then drop it in hot grease for a minute or so.

The result is scary, messy and slides down the hatch faster than you might expect.

The problem comes when it hits bottom and you come to the sudden realization that you've just swallowed a whole candy bar in about the time it takes to lick your fingers.


Why's that a problem?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 PM

BLECRABS :

Scrabble champ is word perfect (Paige Wiser, August 15, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
How you you spell fear? In the world of Scrabble players, it's C-A-P-P-E-L-L-E-T-T-O. "If you ask Scrabble experts who's the one player they fear most sitting across from, it's Brian Cappelletto," says John Williams, executive director of the National Scrabble Association.

"He's mastered all aspects of the game. He knows all the words, he's got the right mental approach. And he's actually one of the better groomed players."


That grooming bit is more unusual than you may realize--these are someodd folk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM

THE STUPID PARTY STRIKES BACK :

Too clever by half (Michael Barone, 8/14/02. US News)
The Republicans have come up with a clever way to use the Social Security issue. Unfortunately for them, it is, as the British used to say, too clever by half. [...]

Despite the favorable polls, many Republicans are deathly afraid of being attacked on Social Security. They know that the Social Security issue has worked for the Democrats in the past. They are not confident that individual investment accounts will work for them now, and they are pretty sure that "privatization" will work against them. [...]

Some Republicans respond to the issue by making the positive case for individual investment accounts. Others swear they are against "privatization." And now a few, cleverly, are trying to turn the Democrats' words against them...


As Mr. Barone ably points out, the GOP, by referring to Democrats' plan to invest the Social Security Trust Funds in the stock market as "privatization", may be deflecting criuticism of their own privatization plans in the short term, but is damaging the cause of privatization in the long term.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM

WALK LIKE A DUCK :

Saudi Arabia gives US the cold shoulder (Michael Evans, August 15, 2002, Times of London)
RELATIONS between the United States and Saudi Arabia have deteriorated so far that the Saudi Arabians are no longer considered allies, senior diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Saudi Arabia, once the indispensable cornerstone of US policy in the Arab world, has refused to co-operate with the war on terrorism or support President Bush’s plans to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. According to the sources, it has handed over no Intelligence of any value about the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation, which has roots in Saudi Arabia.

The final “stab in the back” for Washington was the decision to ban American bombers from attacking Iraq from Saudi airbases. That has soured relations to such an extent that the country from which America launched its 1991 invasion of Iraq is now being excluded from discussions about a post-Saddam era.

Even Syria, which in public is opposed to an attack on Iraq and has been engaged in trade and arms deals with Baghdad, is talking secretly to the Americans and the British about the role that Damascus may play in the region if Saddam is overthrown. A Syrian delegation is understood to have had discussions with British officials in London this week.

British diplomatic sources said that the Saudi ruling elite was immersed in a “dynastic battle” and was so concerned about survival that the key figures were afraid of taking any decision that would be interpreted by the people as being pro-Western and anti-Arab. It had become increasingly difficult to find anyone with sufficient clout and influence in Riyadh “to talk about anything”. [...]

“There may be no political decision yet, but militarily the US has made enough preparations to attack Iraq any time, without using any facilities in Saudi Arabia, other than Saudi airspace. It is assumed that the Saudis would not go as far as denying over-flight rights,” the sources said.


At the end of the day is there any difference between being an enemy and acting like one?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM

CANDLE AND THE WINDBAG :

It's Gloves-Off Time for an Angry Arthur Miller : Arthur Miller has always held America to a higher moral standard than it has ever achieved. So perhaps it's no surprise that with his new play, "Resurrection Blues," he's getting fed up at last. (Bruce Weber, 8/15/02, NY Times)
Arthur Miller has always held America, hopefully and critically, to a higher moral standard than it has ever achieved. So perhaps it's no surprise that now, at 86, he's getting fed up at last. His new play, "Resurrection Blues," which is having its premiere production through Sept. 8 at the Guthrie Theater here, is a bitter comedy about the world that the American century wrought, and it essentially says that we have bollixed things up so badly that a Messiah has no chance; God has fled. That the deity in the play (who may or may not represent the Second Coming) keeps changing his name--at one point it's Ralph, at another Frederico--allows Mr. Miller to save his most meaningful yuk for the end.

"Goodbye, Charlie," a chorus of characters says to him, gazing at the sky as they ostensibly witness his departure and fade from the stage themselves.

This is, actually, among the gentler and more resonant jokes in Mr. Miller's indignant and disappointingly unpersuasive work. Creeping into a number of unsatirical speeches is the playwright's plaintive unhappiness with the world he sees in the latter days of his life. As someone asks rhetorically, "Wouldn't you gladly resign from the human race if there was another one to belong to?"


It seems worth noting that the "higher moral standard" that Mr. Miller most wanted America to measure up to was Socialism and that had he and his fellow travellers had their way one of the things that we'd not have bollixed up in the 20th Century was the Soviet Union--which would still be around oppressing all of Eastern Europe. What the heck was Marilyn thinking?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM

Bush, in Shift on Egypt, Links New Aid to Rights (Peter Slevin, August 15, 2002, Washington Post)

The Bush administration will oppose any additional foreign aid for Egypt to protest the Egyptian government's prosecution of human rights campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim and its poor treatment of pro-democracy organizations, administration sources said yesterday.

The Ibrahim case makes it "impossible" for the administration to contemplate extra money for Egypt, according to a White House official who said President Bush will soon advise Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in writing of his decision. Existing aid programs will not be affected.

Bush's decision to criticize Mubarak and connect Egypt's human rights performance to economic aid is a notable shift in policy toward a longtime ally considered essential to U.S. efforts to calm the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.


If you've been paying any attention for the past year how can President Bush telling an Arab dictator that it's time to start democratizing still come as a surprise?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM

THE EASTERN WORLD, IT IS EXPLODIN' :

Opposition group says it shot son of Hussein (Khaled Yacoub Oweis, 8/15/2002, Reuters)
''Qusay [Hussein] was an obvious target for assassination, '' said a spokesman for the [Iraqi National Congress opposition group], which is based in London and includes most of the opposition factions.

''He is the second man in command in Iraq, a war criminal who cleansed prisons and put down revolts brutally,'' the spokesman added.

Qusay Hussein heads the Republican Guards, Iraq's best trained and equipped army unit entrusted with the protection of the president. He has been promoted to the regional command of the Baath party and touted as a possible successor to Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi National Congress spokesman said Qusay Hussein was wounded in the arm when a gunman shot at his motorcade in the Mansour district on Aug. 1. Iraqi security forces clashed with the attackers, who fled the scene, he added.

''The national resistance carried out the operation in the heart of Baghdad's security district. Knowing Qusay Hussein's whereabouts shows that the regime is penetrated,'' the spokesman said.


Take an already paranoid regime; mix in talk of the Kurds leading a Northern Front assault; add rumors of war from the United States; sprinkle in a periodic assassination attempt or cruise missile barrage; bring to a boil....

August 14, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM

OF DUST THOU ART :

Coveting a clone : Families facing infertility, death of loved one turn to cloning (Julia Sommerfeld, 8/13/02 MSNBC)
When Katherine Gordon's teenage daughter died in a car accident five years ago, she became obsessed with the idea of cloning her child's genes. Cristina and Vince Revert are both infertile and see cloning as the only way they can have a child who is genetically related to them. And Liz Catalan, who suffers from premature ovarian failure, wants to bear her own child but refuses to use another woman's egg--preferring to raise her own later-born identical twin.

PEOPLE LIKE Liz Catalan are not narcissists out to populate the world with their likeness. Their motivations of love and loss are a far cry from the bioengineering nightmares depicted in science fiction novels and movies.

They are simply among a small but passionate group who, due to infertility or the loss of a loved one, feel that human cloning technology would fill some void in their lives.


Ms Sommerfeld's point about narcissism seems precisely wrong. Cloning is being sold as a kind of morally neutral medical procedure that has little or nothing to do with reproduction and the psychological desires of potential parents, but these folks seem fairly typical of the real reasons people support cloning. It's not really about healing the sick but about "filling voids" in the lives of the healthy and about our selfish desire to duplicate ourselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 PM

ALGER'S FOLLY :

We got an email from Joseph Alexander Norland at Dawson Speaks asking if we'd let readers know about the following petition :
TIME TO INVESTIGATE U.N. ABUSES
We, the undersigned, petition the Government of the United States to form an independant commission of inquiry to determine how the United Nations has violated its Mandate, abused its power and resources, engaged in racism and anti-Jewish acts, and supported Islamic terrorism against the free world. We would also like this commission to determine if and how this organization can be rectified, and if such an organization in its present state deserves to exist at the American taxpayer's expense.

Since we think the U.N. should be thrown out of the U.S., we're down with that. If you agree with the petition go check out what Mr. Norland has to say.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 PM

CONTAGION :

Arab anger limits US battle strategy : Arab allies--including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia--are increasingly critical of US plans for attacking Iraq. (Philip Smucker, 8/14/02, The Christian Science Monitor)
Arab opposition to a US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein is growing so significantly that it may change the shape of potential US plans to launch an attack against Iraq, Western and Middle Eastern analysts say. [...]

Nabil Osman, a senior adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, insists that a US-led attack against Iraq could plunge the entire region into chaos and provide what he calls "ammunition to terrorists."

"The ongoing violence in Palestine and Israel has created one big headline in the region: It reads: 'Injustice!' and Washington should not ignore that," he says. "If the US wants to safeguard its own interests it must address these tensions first - especially if it wants to be seen as an honest peace broker in the region."


Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost : Military plans repulse even European allies (Ellen Hale, 8/14/02, USA TODAY)
In the shock wave that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many Americans found themselves asking why so many people in Muslim countries hate the United States. But the anti-American sentiment has turned into a contagion that is spreading across the globe and infecting even the United States' most important allies.

In virulent prose, newspapers criticize the United States. Politicians ferociously attack its foreign policies, especially the Bush administration's plans to attack Iraq. And regular citizens launch into tirades with American friends and visitors.


It seems difficult to draw any other conclusion from all the stories like these two than that one of the main sources of anti-Americanism is anti-Zionism, if not actual anti-Semitism. The calls we hear to settle the Palestinian issue before dealing with Saddam seem to be nothing more than demands that we reign in Israel and tell them to give in to Palestinian demands. After all, it's not as if we hear Arabs and Europeans telling Arafat to stop the bombings of innocent civilians in Israel. Why should we take their avowed concerns over "tensions" in the region seriously if they themselves are doing nothing to alleviate them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM

THE WAGES OF TRIBALISM :

REV. AL'S POLL VAULT (DEBORAH ORIN, August 14, 2002, NY Post)
A shocking new poll shows Al Sharpton looms as a player in Democratic presidential politics who could become the new Jesse Jackson, although Al Gore remains the favorite by a mile.

Gore is way ahead, at 41 percent, and no one else hits double digits in the battle for the 2004 nomination to challenge George W. Bush - but Sharpton is doing as well as any other Democratic wannabe.

Sharpton runs even with House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and 2000 contender Bill Bradley - all at 5 percent - and just 1 point behind Gore's 2000 running mate, Joe Lieberman, at 6.

He also tops Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota (3 percent) and the pundits' favorite, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who drew just 2 percent in the Zogby International poll of likely Democratic primary voters nationwide.


The Democrats can't continually play the race card without running the risk that sooner or later blacks will actually want a place at the Party table. If they do nominate a moderate/conservative (for a Democrat) like a Joe Lieberman, it would not be at all surprising to see Al Sharpton run as an Independent or maybe even a Green. He could draw votes from blacks and other disaffected minorities and from the far Left. That's not a winning recipe, but it might be George Wallace/John Anderson/Ross Perot territory, and that's serious bad news for the Dems. Alternatively, he can make the Democrats publicly Mau-Mau him and that too is bad news for a party that learned under Bill Clinton that it can win if it runs to the Right in the general election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM

ATLANTIC CITY CANTOS :

Susan Sarandon blasts George W. (Jeannette Walls, August 14, 2002, MSNBC)
Susan Sarandon has added her voice to the growing chorus of celebs who are criticizing George Bush post-9/11. The "Stepmom" star is in Edinburgh, Scotland, where she's performing in a theater production inspired by the terrorist attacks, and she's had some frank words about the political climate in America. [...]

"We're not supposed to talk about how there might have been something leading up to this, that it could have been prevented, or that our actions have ramifications," Sarandon said. "We're living in a lock-down in terms of information and a certain point of view, and if you challenge that point of view, you're anti-American."

While the sentiments aren't likely to endear Sarandon to the White House, they were applauded overseas, where the increasing likelihood of a U.S. attack on Iraq has been received coolly, to put it mildly.


One has to admire the courage of Ms Sarandon, who might well be our generation's Ezra Pound.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:39 PM

HUBBLE VS. HUMBLE :

In the Beginning ... (DENNIS OVERBYE, July 23, 2002, NY Times)
It has always been easy to make fun of cosmologists, confined to a dust mote lost in space, pronouncing judgment on the fate of the universe or the behavior of galaxies billions of light-years away, with only a few scraps of light as evidence.

"Cosmologists are often wrong," the Russian physicist Lev Landau put it, "but never in doubt."

For most of the 20th century, cosmology seemed less a science than a religious war over, say, whether the universe had a beginning, in a fiery Big Bang billions of years ago, or whether it exists eternally in the so-called Steady State.

In the last few years, however, a funny thing has happened. Cosmologists are beginning to agree with one another. Blessed with new instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope and other space-based observatories, a new generation of their giant cousins on the ground and ever-faster computer networks, cosmology is entering "a golden age" in which data are finally outrunning speculation.

"The rate at which we are learning and discovering new things is just extraordinary," said Dr. Charles Bennett, an astronomer at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

As a result, cosmologists are beginning to converge on what they call a "standard model" of the universe that is towering in its ambition. It purports to trace, at least in broad strokes, cosmic history from the millisecond after time began, when the universe was a boiling stew of energy and subatomic particles, through the formation of atoms, stars, galaxies and planets to the vast, dilute, dark future in which all of these will have died.

The universe, the cosmologists say, was born 14 billion years ago in the Big Bang. Most of its material remains resides in huge clouds of invisible so-called dark matter, perhaps elementary particles left over from the primordial explosion and not yet identified.

Within these invisible clouds, the glittery lights in the sky that have defined creation for generations of humans are swamped, like flecks of foam on a
rolling sea. A good case can be made, scientists now agree, that the universe will go on expanding forever.


This is a long but very interesting article, with cool pictures. Let me preface this by admitting that I don't understand the science at all, but what strikes me about all this is just how little we know. If I could analogize, we seem like characters in the middle of a novel who have become conscious of the fact that we are fictional creations. We've managed to trace our way back to the opening words of the book, but have no idea what lies beyond there or how they got there. We can make informed speculations about where the plot of the book is taking us, maybe even anticipate the most likely ending, but can't be certain and don't really have a clue what happens after it ends. And the most important thing about it all is that everything we know or think we know is contained by the covers of the book. We don't know the author or even if there is one. We don't know if there are other books--one more book; tens of books; trillions of books... We don't know whether the book is a fantasy, a history, a morality play, or whether it was typed by those monkeys in the old probability example who eventually type Hamlet by accident. We know, in a very real sense, practically nothing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM

A GODSEND FOR THE GREENS :

Nuclear energy reduces greenhouse effect: OECD agency (Agence France-Presse, Aug 05, 2002)
Nuclear power helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and should be seen as a useful tool in the fight against global warming under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, according to a study by an OECD agency.

"A comprehensive analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from different electricity generation chains shows that nuclear power is one of the least carbon-intensive generation technologies," according to the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

Without nuclear power, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power plants in countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development would be one-third higher, the report said.

"This is an annual saving of 1,200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or about 10 percent of total CO2 emissions from energy use in the OECD," the NEA wrote in its report.


So we'll anticipate a big outcry from the environmentalists demanding a transition to nuclear power, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM

WHERE DOES THE PLANNING PART COME IN? :

Girls Link Their Use of Family Planning Clinics to Keeping Parents in the Dark (JULIE FLAHERTY, August 14, 2002, NY Times)
Most girls under 18 would stop or limit their use of sexual health services at family planning clinics if their parents had to be told they were seeking prescribed contraceptives, a new survey shows. Among the 950 sexually active girls ages 12 to 17 who were surveyed at Planned Parenthood clinics in Wisconsin in 1999, 47 percent said they would stop using the clinic entirely and 12 percent more said they would stop or postpone testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including H.I.V.

If the folks at these clinics really counsel children as young as 12 about how to have sex and don't report them to their parents, they should be prosecuted. If they tell them they're competent to make decisions about the life and death of their babies, they should go to prison. These are girls who we don't let drive a car, drink, or smoke, but these folks tell them it's okay to get an abortion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM

GRANDPA DIED IN HIS SLEEP...DESPITE THE SCREAMS OF THE PASSENGERS :

A Growing Transportation Gap : As Americans live longer, the number of years they are able to drive is shrinking--and causing a problem that needs to be addressed by society. (JANE E. ALLEN, August 5 2002, LA TIMES)
Hundreds of thousands of Americans are outliving their ability to drive, a new study has found, leaving them dependent on others to provide rides for several years.

"Hundreds of thousands of older people quit driving each year and must turn to alternative transportation," said Dan Foley, a biostatistician at the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., and lead author of the study. "I don't think sufficient attention has been paid to the transition from driver to non-driver in the aging population."

Nearly 10% of the nation's drivers today are older than 65. The aging of the baby boomers and an increase in the number of female drivers is expected to yield a growing population of older Americans living longer than they hold a driver's license.


Which misses the real point, that people are driving long past the age when they are competent. Moreover, this problem will just get worse as more folks live longer and it may prove difficult to solve through normal legislative channels because the elderly will be the dominant cohort in the population, able to dictate the law to the younger minority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM

ALL THIS AND HAIR SHIRTS TOO :

Next time you see a monk, thank him. (Jim Zebora, August 7, 2002, Stamford Advocate)
Those called to the contemplative life have throughout history done wonders for modern civilization:

They preserved centuries of literature and art.

They created the modern sciences of genetics and aerodynamics.

They invented reading glasses.

They made beer.

That's right. Back when the world was a much grimmer place, they made a lot of it.

In monasteries and abbeys throughout Europe, and wherever the monks' missionary work would take them, a small brewery was often part of the original plans, along with residential cells for sleeping, a refectory for eating meals, and of course, a sanctuary for prayer.

Without monks, the craft of brewing might not have survived the dark ages, and certainly cognizant of that fact, the folks at Labatt USA in Norwalk are celebrating the 850th anniversary of the Abbey of Leffe in Belgium, where Leffe beer was first brewed.


They had books and beer--how grim could it have been?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 AM

ABOUT TIME :

Kino International Presents : Fritz Lang's Metropolis
Fritz Lang is one of the great film noir directors--Scarlet Street and The Big Heat are especially good-- though, with the exception of the classic "M", which was the first German film to use sound, you seldom see his flicks on TV much anymore. And it's likely that his most enduring influence on Hollywood comes from a picture, Metropolis , that was a disaster of "Waterworld" proportions, nearly bankrupting the film studio that produced it and failing to make money. A silent dystopian epic, Lang's art design for the futuristic film, particularly the use of massive Art Deco sets has influenced nearly all science fiction films since and music videos by folks like Madonna.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM

THE FOURTH WORLD? :

DISPATCH FROM AFRICA : 'Renaissance' for continent? : Massive initiative offers hope for poor but invites skepticism (Anthony C. LoBaido, August 11, 2002, WorldNetDaily.com)
A new initiative by the world's economic powers to revitalize Africa has become the hottest topic on the continent.

The Group of Eight most industrialized nations is launching The New Partnership for Africa's Development, or NEPAD. The initiative has raised the hopes of many Africans but also invites skepticism. Does NEPAD signal a "renaissance" for Africa's poor or is it merely a tool of the West to tightenits grip on Africa's natural resources?

The continent is awash with challenges, gripped by AIDS, colonization by communist China, civil wars, corporate raiders, mercenaries, dictators,self-induced famine, Marxism and radical Islam. The post-colonial era clearly has failed all Africans.

The recent peace initiative in Sudan is faltering. Civil war rages in Madagascar and Liberia. Congo seethes with instability. A second genocide in Rwanda is possible. Togo has had three decades of dictatorial rule. Zimbabwe and Cameroon have held some of the most fraudulent elections in modern history.

Many wonder how to turn Africa back towards the prosperity and stability it enjoyed under white colonial rule. Since the 1950s, respect for human rights generally has declined. Foreign aid accounts for 50 percent of Africa's budget and 75 percent of its infrastructure. Africa comprises 1 percent ofworld economic output, less than Belgium.

Cyclical drought, increasing water scarcity, urban drift, poor education, matriarchal tribalism, a shortage of high tech workers, massive migration toSouth Africa and economic inequality are storm clouds on the African horizon which have no quick fix.

According to a report issued by the Institute for Global Dialogue, a branch of the German Social Democracy Party, by the year 2020, Africa as awhole will exist under one of five possible scenarios. These scenarios are conflict and corporate control, unstable markets driven by globalization, a slow and continued slide into decay and anarchy, the breakup of African states into smaller units each struggling for survival, or regional renaissance led by a new visionary leadership of Africans.


Man, this is depressing. Is there any sign of hope for Africa?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM

GOOD ROCKIN' TONIGHT :

Rockabilly? It's Alive and Kicking, Daddy-O : Survivors from the rockabilly era and their next-generation disciples gathered at Damrosch Park on Sunday afternoon to show that their music can still kick. (JON PARELES, 8/13/02, NY Times)
Survivors from the rockabilly era and their next-generation disciples gathered for the Red Hot Rockabilly Party at Damrosch Park on Sunday afternoon to show that their music can still kick. From the 1950's came Narvel Felts and Jack Scott, two singers who had not performed in New York City for decades, along with two more frequent visitors, Wanda Jackson and Billy Lee Riley. They shared the four-hour Lincoln Center Out of Doors concert, with Rosie Flores, the Persuasions, Lee Rocker (formerly of the Stray Cats) and Rocky and Billy Burnette, the sons (respectively) of the rockabilly pioneers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette.

The younger musicians, by and large, played rockabilly as a style they respected and doted on, an idiom of guitar twangs and vocal yelps salvaged from a bygone era. But Mr. Riley, Ms. Jackson and Mr. Felts sang their old songs as taunts, crows of triumph, moans of heartbreak and cackles of lust, barely less immediate than they were when they were recorded. For them, rockabilly was not just a fond memory but a continuing insurrection.


Narvel Felts was still cranking out hits in the mid-70s. In particular, I think he recorded the most successful version of Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM

WHY? :

A Comic Book Gets Serious on Gay Issues : A character in DC Comics's "Green Lantern" series did something few characters in comic books do: he revealed he was gay. (GEORGE GENE GUSTINES, 8/13/02, NY Times)
In the world of DC Comics, Kyle Rayner is Green Lantern, possessor of an emerald ring, one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. He uses it to right wrongs and keep the residents of New York City safe.

His ring, however, is powerless to cope with the deadlines he faces in his civilian job as a freelance cartoonist. That's when Terry Berg, a teenage intern assigned to keep Kyle on track, entered the picture.

In April last year, eight months after his introduction to the supporting cast, Terry did something few characters in comic books do: he revealed he was gay. In "Green Lantern" No. 154, which will go on sale in September, Terry is spotlighted in the first half of a two-part story about a downside of being proudly out. He will be the victim of a gay bashing. While the comic book industry over the years has introduced gay and lesbian characters, this is the first major story line involving a gay central character of a mainstream comic book.


You know, I read comic books for almost twenty years and no one ever had sex--well, okay, the married folks, like in the Fantastic Four, presumably did. Do we really need them so sexualized that you've got gay teenagers? Isn't there a comics code authority anymore?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM

ADDING MORALLY BANKRUPT TO COSTLY & INEFFECTIVE :

Portugal assesses its softer approach to drug users : A year ago Lisbon decriminalized drug use. Views differ on whether the policy is effective. (Sara B. Miller, August 08, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor)
In the shadowy labyrinth of cobblestone streets around this port city's 12th-century cathedral, heroin addicts have long been selling drugs and shooting up.

Police had hoped that the narcotics-infested neighborhood would change after Portugal's decision to decriminalize the use of all drugs. But a year after the sweeping initiative took effect, they say the scene, and their jobs, have changed little. [...]

Portugal, a main gateway for drugs entering Europe, has among the highest per capita rates of hard drug use in the European Union, with an estimated 80,000 heroin addicts in a population of 10 million. Decriminalizing drug consumption was intended to attack the problem at its source: With users given treatment and education instead of jail time, police could devote more time and resources to catching traffickers.

While an evaluation to be released later this month by the nation's Institute for Drugs and Drug Addiction points to some positive results over the past year, the frustrations, and the cost of the program, have some critics urging cutbacks.

"One of the most important things Portugal has learned this year is the importance of dissuasion," says Elza Pais, the president of the government-run drug institute.


Hard to see how legalization dissuades anyone. In fact, it does the opposite--conveying a cultural imprimatur.

August 13, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 PM

SPARE US THE "MY STARVING PEOPLE" SCHTICK, HUH? :

IDF intelligence: Arafat's wealth estimated at 1.3 billion US dollars (THE JERUSALEM POST INTERNET, Aug. 13, 2002)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's personal wealth is estimated at some 1.3 billion dollars, the head of military intelligence, General Aharon
Zeevi Farkash, disclosed during a meeting of the Knesset's Security and Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday, Itim news agency reported.

Apparently, folks will pay you well for killing Jews.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM

BRING THE SMELLING SALTS FOR BOB NOVAK :

Kurds offer territory for Iraq attack (CNN, August 13, 2002)
A prominent Iraqi Kurdish opposition leader said Tuesday U.S. military forces would be "welcomed" at areas in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to stage attacks against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Jalal Talabani, founder and secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that after weekend meetings with top Bush administration officials, he and other Iraqi opposition leaders are convinced the United States is now serious about ousting Hussein.

"I explained to the United States officials here that the Iraqi opposition, Kurds included, ... have tens of thousands of armed people," Talabani said.

"We have more than 100,000 (Kurdish resistance fighters), and Syria also has tens of thousands. These forces can liberate Iraq with the support of the United States, with cooperation and coordination with American forces. This is all second, of course, with allowing the United States and facilitating any work that the United States wants to use our area until we stay there."


This makes the NY Times coverage of the war over the past couple months almost completely incomprehensible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM

SUBSTANDARD :

Fool's Gold : The economy's in chaos. The world's a mess. So why are gold prices stagnant? (Mark Lewis, August 13, 2002, Slate)
Gold is supposed to be the ultimate hedge against financial disaster. As such, it tends to attract investors from the paranoid fringe, the sort who invested heavily in canned goods and bottled water before Y2K and who keep a few Krugerrands buried in the backyard to be bartered for food when the world goes to hell and "fiat money" becomes worthless. This doomsday cult aside, gold is the realm of the hardheaded pessimist, who studies the many ominous portents currently on display and concludes, not unreasonably, that things may get a lot worse before they get better. Many people are very nervous these days--yet gold thus far has failed to take off into the stratosphere. What gives?

A comforting answer would be that the long and painful decoupling process finally is complete, and the link between gold and money is now severed.


Isn't the real problem with gold that it is just like any other commodity and their prices have all been falling for decades, as the great Julian Simon most spectacularly demonstrated when he made his famous wager with that colossal quack Paul Ehrlich. As Ron Bailey tell's it in his book, Ecoscam: "In October 1980, Ehrilch and Simon drew up a futures contract obligating Simon to sell Ehrlich the same quantities which could be purchased for $1,000 of five metals (copper, chrome, nickel, tin, and tungsten) ten years later as 1980 prices. If the combined prices rose above $1,000, Simon would pay the difference. If they fell below $1,000, Ehrlich would pay Simon. Ehrlich mailed Simon a check for $576.07 in October 1990."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM

THE REAL THREAT :

Benizri reconvenes council to boost Jewish birth rate (Anat Cygielman, 14/08/2002, Ha'aretz)
The Public Demographic Council will convene next month, after four years of inactivity, to formulate its recommendations as to what the government can do to promote an increase in the Jewish birth rate. [...]

The council was established in 1966, after a government decision to "create an atmosphere in which large families were encouraged." That decision also called for "restraining artificial pregnancy terminations." The council has been criticized in the past for some of its recommendations, including anti-abortion propaganda.


How can you criticize them for anti-abortion propaganda? If Israel's Jews don't drastically boost their birth rates--which I believe are currently below replacement rate, as they are for Jews here in the U.S.--then they may as well just give the country to the Palestinians now, because the days of Judaism are numbered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM

FED BASH :

Give Greenspan's Fed Its Share of the Blame (William Greider, August 13, 2002, Washington Post)
For most of the past 20 years, the central bank continued to fight the last war -- inflation -- and did so by restraining economic growth artificially. Its brake produced many years of higher unemployment than was necessary, thus ensuring stagnant or falling real wages for ordinary working people. [...]

In the run-up to the current debacle, Greenspan's first pivotal error occurred back in 1996, when he and other Fed governors first recognized a price bubble forming ominously in stock markets. Then-governor Lawrence Lindsey (now the president's economic adviser) urged the chairman to act promptly. Raising margin rates would tighten stock-market borrowing -- the easy credit investors use in a speculative binge -- and ring a loud warning bell for giddy investors. But Greenspan waved off Lindsey's prescient plea. A few months later, the chairman did speak once of "irrational exuberance," but the markets reacted badly. He dropped the subject. [...]

But Greenspan's second great error was joining the celebration himself. He suggested that rising productivity had opened a glorious new era of ever-upward prosperity. His ebullient remarks sounded very similar to the self-congratulations expressed by the Federal Reserve in the late 1920s. Then and now, the Fed's happy talk excited stock-market plungers, large and small.

The third error was the Fed's belated attempt in early 2000 to get some control over frenzied events -- an error because it did so by hammering the real economy with interest-rate increases, rather than restraining the financial system directly. Greenspan claimed to detect a phantom price inflation in goods and services. Actually, the only price inflation was in the stock market. The obvious injustice was punishing the many for the excesses of a relative few, driving the broad economy into recession in order to calm down the out-of-control financial system.

Greenspan overdid it and was compelled to reverse himself abruptly, cutting interest rates dramatically to revive economic activity. Having cut rates so deeply, the Fed is now dangerously close to zero -- that is, to running out of arrows. Yet Wall Street once again is clamoring for a big rate cut to salvage the deflating stock market. This time Greenspan should ignore the bankers and brokers and allow the stock market to find the "bottom" on its own. The Fed and the White House should prepare a substantial, well-timed package of monetary and fiscal stimulus designed to kick-start the real economy of goods and services. Financial markets will follow.


William Greider, whose Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country is the best popular book ever written about the Fed, gets more right than wrong here. The first error he speaks of is more technical than I'm capable of discussing intelligently. The second error he cites is actually probably true and may eventually be proven to be one of the main reasons (along with globalization/free trade) why there is no inflation. But the third error he cites is exactly right. The Fed kept raising interest rates as if inflation were right around the corner when in fact we were in a long deflationary cycle. In effect, the Fed caused this economic slowdown.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM

FORTY-SECOND BOYD :

How Col. John Boyd Beat The Generals (Martin Edwin Andersen, 08/13/2002, Insight)
Col. John Boyd, his biographer Robert Coram reports in his well-written book, had a speech he often gave to those who, like the fighter pilot himself, found that doing right did not always mean doing well. Known as the "To Be or To Do" speech, Boyd used it to rally flagging spirits of apprentices who, until they became involved as one of his Acolytes, had appeared fated to climb the highest rungs of conventional success. The tenets of this speech reflected both his spirit and values:

"One day you will come to a fork in the road. And you're going to have to make a decision about what direction you want to go." [Boyd] raised his hand and pointed. "If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments." Then Boyd raised the other hand and pointed another direction. "Or you can go that way and you can do something — something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won't have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference." He paused and stared. "To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That's when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?"


A fascinating profile of the kind of guy who's all too rare in any bureaucracy but who truly matters in the military.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM

THE FRIGHTENING IRRELEVANCE OF THE ACADEMIC LEFT :

The Scary Relevance of William Randolph Hearts's "Gabriel Over the White House" (Deborah Carmichael, History News Network)
William Randolph Hearst...brought his political message to millions of moviegoers in 1933 with his Cosmopolitan Films' production of "Gabriel Over the White House." Collaborating with scriptwriter Carey Wilson, Hearst himself wrote some of the politically charged oratory of President Hammond (Walter Houston).

Opening archival footage lends a documentary character to the film, introducing the new president on inauguration day. It is quickly revealed that President Hammond, a pleasure-loving and pliable politician, has gained the presidency through the support of party leaders. These leaders remind him regularly of the many favors he owes them. He answers to political shysters and not the American people suffering through the Great Depression.

After a life-changing event--a nearly fatal auto accident caused by his own reckless driving--this fictional president experiences a spiritual and political epiphany guided by the archangel Gabriel (present in the form of a soft musical leit motif). A transformed President Hammond, who now resembles Abraham Lincoln physically and spiritually, acts rapidly to rid the nation of an unseen enemy--rum-running gangsters. Invoking his position as commander in chief, he adjourns Congress, disbands his Cabinet, institutes martial law, and after conviction by a military tribunal, orders death by firing squad in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty for the bootleggers who have threatened the stability of the country. Hammond further
eliminates domestic problems by forming a CCC-like program. He gets foreign debts repaid by bullying world leaders with a display of military might. The problem of returning to a constitutional government is neatly solved as Gabriel, an angel of both vengeance and mercy, kills off President Hammond, who returns to his former self after completing the rescue of his country. [...]

Both the United States Congress and American allies around the globe seem to have little choice but to agree to commander in chief Bush's requests. Loud disagreement would appear to be anti-American. Unlike the fade-out of a Hollywood film, the threats our nation faces cannot be so easily resolved. George W. Bush faces far-reaching decisions and may feel like President Taft who wrote, "the whole government is so identified in the minds of the people with [the president's] personality, that they make him responsible for all the sins of omission and of commission of society at large." We can hope that Gabriel continues to hover over the White House.


Setting aside the author's implicit message that George W. Bush should be killed when all this is over, one has to wonder if these people even live in the same country as the rest of us, as they decry our loss of fundamental civil liberties. Ms Carmichael's comparison of our current situation to a B-movie about a fascist takeover of the American government is spectacularly over the top. So much so that it makes anything serious she might have to say awfully hard to listen to--we're laughing too hard to hear her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:54 PM

CONSERVATIVE - THEOLOGY = NEO :

Beware the Neocons (David Harsanyi, August 13, 2002, FrontPageMagazine.com)
As war with Iraq becomes an inescapable reality, a "peace-loving" contingent of pundits have momentarily transferred their assault from the phantom Religious Right to a new, more sinister group, calling themselves neoconservatives.

Forget 50 years of neoconservative political, social and economic thought; forget Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and Nathan Glazer; forget Ronald Reagan whose neocon-influenced foreign policy won the Cold War. From now on, just think of them as warmongers. Stereotyping can be a complicated business, but anti-war pundits have mastered its intricacies, distilling intellectual movements into trouble-free critique: neoconservatives are duplicitous right wingers, prodding the United States towards war to a.) advance our colonial gains b.) facilitate the racist Israeli government's subjugation of defenseless Arabs and c.) wag the dog for oil fetishists George Bush and Richard Cheney.

Joseph Sobran has described neocons as "former liberals, mostly pro-Israel and anti-Communist Jewish intellectuals."


Ann Coulter had a good line on Booknotes the other night when she asked why we always read about this scary "Religious Right" but there are no similar stories about the "Atheist Left". One of the delightful things though about necons replacing the Religious Right as targets of liberal wrath is that one of the leading lights of neoconservatism, Norman Podhoretz himself, wrote a book, My Love Affair With America : The Cautionary Tale of a Cheerful Conservative, that is basically a self-congratulatory piece about how he single-handedly saved conservatism from the "anti-American" Religious Right. Even the subtitle is intended as a dig at conservatives who belief that the decline of morality in America is cause for despair.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:41 PM

CARTHAGO DELENDA EST :

The GOP’s Iraq Problem : Republicans stand in the way of decisive war with Iraq. (William R. Hawkins, 8/13/02, National Review)
In his history of the Punic Wars, Brian Caven describes the change in strategic thought that took place in Republican Rome in the 2nd century B.C., "Moderation had been the keynote of Rome's traditional foreign policy, and as a result there was hardly one of her defeated enemies whom she was not obliged to fight at least a second time. The opinion was gaining ground that Rome had been too generous in the past." Rome then changed its strategy from limited to total war, destroying both Carthage in North Africa and Corinth in Greece, and placing their lands under the rule of friendly regimes. Centuries of peace in those regions followed.

The Bush administration is displaying a similar strategic change. Even before September 11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had unveiled the concept of "decisive warfare" defined as the ability to march on an enemy's capital and impose fundamental political change. At an August 16 briefing, Wolfowitz compared the doctrine to that of "unconditional surrender" in World War II. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have focused their attention on Iraq with the same determination the great Roman Senator Cato the Elder showed Carthage 2,150 years ago.


From whence comes our motto, though we mean it to apply more broadly, to all enemies of protestant capitalist democracy [note that all are lower case].

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM

QUOTH THE CRAVEN--"NEVERMORE" :

Bush's Plan For Social Security Loses Favor : Some GOP Candidates Resist Partial Privatization (Jim VandeHei and Juliet Eilperin, August 13, 2002, Washington Post)
President Bush's campaign to allow Americans to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in the stock market is losing support among Republican congressional candidates, as Wall Street's sinking prices reinforce worries about the proposal.

Amid sharp attacks by the Democratic Party, several GOP incumbents and challengers are coming out against Bush's plan for partial privatization of the popular, taxpayer-funded retirement program. Fueling the shift is the stock market's recent plunge, which has reminded voters of the risks of investing in stocks, rather than in other financial instruments that guarantee safe but modest returns.


This seems to be a nearly unteachable lesson, but it is when party members start to retreat from their own ideas that they go down to defeat. Social Security is a particularly good example of an issue where no amount of groveling is going to convince people that the Republicans suddenly favor it, so why not have the courage of your convictions? Once you bail out on reform you just confirm the attacks of the Democrats--that the reform was a bad idea--without gaining any advantage for yourself, because if the question comes down to who's a safer guarantor of the existing system the answer is, of course, your Democrat opponent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:40 AM

OF PLIGHTING TROTHS AND DODGING TAXES :

What a Good Marriage Can't Do : If the Bush administration truly wants to promote marriage, it should start by providing tangible financial assistance to families that need it. (FRANK FURSTENBERG, 8/13/02, NY Times)
We don't need government programs to convince people like the mothers in the Baltimore study that marriage is good for them. The children of the teenage mothers in the Baltimore study were far more reluctant to marry at younger ages, though most say they do want to get married someday. Still, many of these women are wary of entering matrimony until they find a man who offers them some prospect of economic support and won't "act like another child," as one woman explained to me. These children have higher expectations of marriage than did their mothers. They watched their parents try and fail, and they don't want to repeat their mistakes.

What will it take for them to feel confident that they won't? Certainly, more than weekend workshops telling them that marriage will make them happier and healthier. They know that lack of commitment is not the reason most marriages don't work. Their parents were plenty committed, but they faced huge problems supporting their children.

If the Bush administration wants to help women like these, it should reconsider its proposal and get down to the hard work of creating the economic and social conditions that will support marriage for the less advantaged: child care subsidies, paid parental leaves, cheaper health insurance for low-income families and other programs to help support them.


Rather than creating more government programs and passing all these other costs along to industry, why not just waive taxes for married couples below a certain income--maybe $300k per year? Then you'd have Republican support for sure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM

KILL THE MANATEE :

License plate brouhaha is about ideology, not free speech (John Leo, August 13, 2002, Jewish World Review)
Florida has sold more than 40,000 license plates carrying the tag line "Choose Life." Five other states have decided to offer them, too. Others were planning to, until they got bogged down in lawsuits brought by the major pro-abortion groups, chiefly the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

These groups argue that states offering these plates are violating the First Amendment by engaging in viewpoint discrimination -- allowing an anti-abortion message but not a countermessage from the abortion rights side. They also argue that the plates are a church-state violation, because the words "choose life" are found in English translations of the Bible.


Just give them their own "Choose Death" plate and be done with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM

THERE'S LIFE IN THE OLD GIRL YET :

Engineer looks to human brain for new technology (LISA RATHKE, Aug 7, 2002, Associated Press)
In searching for new ways to advance computers, engineers are looking to man's gray matter for inspiration. And while comparing the two, they often wonder why a computer can't act more like a brain.

For IBM senior technologist Kerry Bernstein, the technological possibilities are astounding.

His curiosity was piqued five years ago as he chatted with a neurosurgeon at his local gym.

Martin Bednar, then head of neurosurgery research at the University of Vermont, explained to him how neurons and the brain work. In exchange Bernstein talked to him about how transistors and chips works.

"And it hit us like a freight train simultaneously that in fact the underlying physics is the same," Bernstein says.

"So that begged the question: If the underlying physics is the same, have both systems been evolving toward the same solutions to compute problems?"

Yes, they have.

But the brain naturally had a better way.


At least we're still ahead for now....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM

FINGERS CROSSED, BUT EYES OPEN :

No Democratic tide (Michael Barone, August 13, 2002, Jewish World Review)
In a column in the July 18, 1994, issue of U.S. News, I wrote that there was a serious possibility that Republicans would capture control of the House in November. It was, so far as I know, the first article in the national press that foresaw that year's Republican victory. The article cited five non-scandal-plagued Democratic incumbents who trailed Republican challengers in media or partisan polls. It's unusual for incumbents to trail in polls and a sign that a party is in trouble when competent incumbents are behind.

Today, amid much talk-cheerful talk by Democrats, pessimistic talk by Republicans-that issues of corporate wrongdoing are going to help the Democrats, there is no evidence, at least yet, of any such tide. Except for districts where incumbents have been forced to run against each other by redistricting, the number of House incumbents trailing challengers in publicly announced polls is zero. The closest thing is a Republican poll showing Minnesota's Democratic Rep. Bill Luther ahead 35 to 34. But Luther underperformed in 1998 and 2000, and is running in a mostly new district.

Five senators have trailed in publicly announced polls, but there is no partisan trend; they include Democrats Tim Johnson (S.D.) , Paul Wellstone (Minn.), Jean Carnahan (Mo.), and Republicans Tim Hutchinson (Ark.) and Bob Smith (N.H.) . (Smith's primary opponent, Rep. John Sununu, runs better.) In other Senate races, no recent polls show significant changes.

All this is not to say that there won't be a Democratic trend by November. It does say that one hasn't appeared yet.


Mr. Barone is one of the best political reporters in the country and is particularly adept at reading polls and following local races across the entire country, so this is somewhat comforting. But Republicans have to face the reality that with an electorate that's still fairly evenly divided between the two parties, the miserable historic record of mid-term elections for the party in the presidency, a nation that's at war after an unanticipated attack, and an economy that's badly underperforming expectations, they are likely to lose the House and lose a few seats in the Senate. Mr. Barone's numbers suggest that the losses can be contained, but if the GOP should somehow manage to stand its ground it would be extraordinary, would possibly even signal the beginning of a realignment back to the kind of dominance by conservatism that was the pre-Depression norm in America and there's very little indication that such a thing is happening in the country at large.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM

DUMBO KICKS OUT THE JAMS :

Thailand's musical elephants (Phil Mercer, 13 August, 2002, BBC)
Phong is one of Thailand's exceptional young musicians.

At the age of four, he plays the renat - a xylophone-like Thai instrument - and his paintings have sold to visitors from around the world.

A remarkable achievement, especially considering Phong is an elephant, living at a conservation centre near the northern Thai town of Lampang. [...]

The animals' keepers - or mahouts - said they love their music.

But for many foreign visitors, such as Matt and Becky from London, this heavyweight orchestra can be a bewildering experience.

"It was very good, very good," said Matt. "But totally bizarre, yeah. It was probably the maddest thing I've ever seen."

"It was very strange. The elephants were all banging away. It's probably the worst music I've ever heard but it was done by elephants so it was really
lovely," added Becky.


Now that's what you call qualified praise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM

SO WHEN'LL NIKE SIGN HIM :

Ghetto Superstar : Maurice Ashley -- Harlem's grandmaster sets a new chess standard (Robin McDowell, SportsJones)
Eliot Majors, age 9, slides his queen diagonally across the chessboard, then inexplicably halts one square short.

Check.

Several watching youngsters groan.

"Nooo!" cries one, clutching his chest, and falls to the ground in dramatic disbelief. Maurice Ashley, age 34, removes his dark sun glasses and his leather jacket. "You sure you want to do that?" he says.

It doesn't take long for a group of kids to gather round. At the Harlem Chess Center, Ashley is treated by the young players with respect usually reserved for professional athletes or rap stars. He's got star power. He is after all, a grandmaster, a title shared by only 500 others in chess including Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov.

The difference is, Ashley is black, and the only black to have achieved that rank. You might say he's done to chess what Tiger Woods did for golf or what, three decades ago, Arthur Ashe did for tennis.


Back in the 80's when Shelby Lyman and Edmar Mednis used to do a show for PBS where they'd analyze the World Championsip matches, they' try to get kids interested by having youngsters on the show. So there was a young girl, she may even have been Judit Polgar and a black kid, who I think was from the team that Mr. Ashley coached, the Dark Knights. It was great when the kid would denounce some move that Kasparov or someone had made and Mednis would politely
disagree at first, but as the kid refused to budge you could see that Mednis just wanted to strangle him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM

COUNTRY'S TIME :

"Country" Slaughter hit .300 in 19-year career (Associated Press, August 12, 2002)
Enos "Country'' Slaughter, the hustling Hall of Famer who made a "Mad Dash'' home to win the 1946 World Series and then tangled with Jackie Robinson the next year, died Monday at age 86. [...]

Slaughter is best remembered for his "Mad Dash'' from first base that scored the winning run for the Cardinals against the Boston Red Sox in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the 1946 Series.

With the score tied at 3-3, Slaughter opened the bottom of the eighth inning with a single. Two outs later, he was still on first base. With Harry Walker at bat, Slaughter took off for second on what he said later was nothing more than an attempted steal.

Walker hit the ball over short and into center field. With Slaughter steaming around second base, Leon Culberson fielded the ball. Third base coach Mike Gonzalez tried to stop Slaughter as Culberson relayed the ball to Johnny Pesky. Slaughter ran right past Gonzalez.

Pesky held the ball for an instant and then hurried his throw to catcher Roy Partee. Slaughter slid past the tag for the deciding run.

"On that particular play, he outran that ball the last 10 yards,'' Musial said. "He just outran it. It was an exciting play and won the Series for us.''


Sadly for Slaughter he was one of the many Southern whites in baseball at the time Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier (Harry Walker's brother, for instance, was "Dixie" Walker) and was identified with the resistance, particularly after he spiked Robinson, whether intentionally or not. That kept him out of the Hall of Fame for twenty years.

August 12, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM

WHO HAS TO FIT WITH WHOM HERE? :

Muslims in Western Europe : Dim drums throbbing in the hills half heard : Is there something about Islam that makes it impossible for Muslims to fit into western, liberal societies? (The Economist, Aug 8th 2002)
One broad conclusion is clear. Pim Fortuyn was wrong: nothing in Islam makes it impossible for Muslims to fit into West European society, as the successful integration of many thousands already attests. In particular, he was wrong to think Islam was necessarily, and therefore immutably, intolerant. It is true that some Muslims are intolerant of homosexuality and treat women badly, but homosexuality was a crime in most western countries until recently, and women did not have full voting rights in Britain until 1929. In France they were not allowed to sign cheques until 1962. Given time, and effort on all sides, most Muslims will lose their censoriousness, as well as their insistence on marrying
within their communities. And anyway, how many Catholics would still prefer their children to marry a Catholic rather than a Protestant?

This reasonably good overview of Islam in Europe manages to completely miss the most important point. Given current rates of reproduction and immigration and the need for young workers, which will force ever greater immigration, the question really isn't whether Muslims can fit into European society but whether they'll allow Europeans to remain Westernized after they take over. It's kind of frightening that even in a story like this which is intended to be a bracing look at the problem they've still got their heads buried in the demographic sand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM

NEXT! :

Beyond Baghdad: Expanding Target List...Washington looks at overhauling the Islamic and Arab world (Roy Gutman and John Barry, Newsweek)
While still wrangling over how to overthrow Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration is already looking for other targets. President Bush has called for the ouster of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat. Now some in the administration—and allies at D.C. think tanks—are eyeing Iran and even Saudi Arabia. As one senior British official put it: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.”

While that last statement is a product of testosterene-driven stupidity rather than rational strategic thought, this essay more than answers Bob Novak's below.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 PM

SUSPICIOUS MINDS :

Rapper Chuck D Praises Elvis Legacy (AP, Aug 12, 2002)
Public Enemy frontman Chuck D derided Elvis Presley on the group's 1989 anthem "Fight The Power," but it turns out his feelings for Presley are a little more complicated than the song suggests.

"As a musicologist — and I consider myself one — there was always a great deal of respect for Elvis, especially during his Sun sessions. As a black people, we all knew that," the rapper said.

"My whole thing was the one-sidedness — like, Elvis' icon status in America made it like nobody else counted. ... My heroes came from someone else. My heroes came before him. My heroes were probably his heroes. As far as Elvis being 'The King,' I couldn't buy that."


Of course, if Elvis were a teenage boy today, he'd be singing Fight the Power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM

YOU WILL BE MINE ALL MINE :

The Rev. John McCloskey : The Catholic Church's K Street lobbyist. (Chris Suellentrop, August 9, 2002, Slate)
In late July, a tiny item in the Washington Post announced some surprising news: Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican and former United Methodist best known for his opposition to cloning, converted to Catholicism on June 27. But just as notable as Brownback's conversion was the man who performed it, the Rev. John McCloskey. Brownback is the third political celebrity to convert to Catholicism under McCloskey's guidance—the other two were journalist Robert Novak and economist-commentator Lawrence Kudlow. The priest, who operates out of Washington's Catholic Information Center a couple of blocks from the White House, has made himself a spiritual K Street lobbyist.

What's he lobbying for? Souls, but also the soul of the Catholic Church. In addition to his trifecta of high-profile conversions (plus a fourth, the former abortion doctor Bernard Nathanson), McCloskey has become one of the nation's most prominent priestly pundits, espousing his doctrinaire conservatism (in matters of faith, not politics) on Meet the Press, The O'Reilly Factor, Crossfire, NPR's All Things Considered, and Tim Russert's hourlong CNBC show. He chats on television with Greta Van Susteren, Paula Zahn, and Tony Snow and is quoted by USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. Like all good advocates, he's relentlessly on-message: The Catholic Church, he says, will be revitalized by a traditionalist return to its roots, not through liberalization.

It's a two-pronged strategy: Bring in conservative evangelical Protestants like Brownback while at the same time casting out liberal Catholics of all stripes. McCloskey is the anti-Garry Wills, telling American Catholics who dissent from some church teachings why you aren't a Catholic. "A liberal Catholic is oxymoronic," he says. "The definition of a person who disagrees with what the Catholic Church is teaching is called a Protestant." [...]

McCloskey is a native Washingtonian, an Ivy Leaguer who graduated from Columbia and a former Wall Streeter who worked at Citibank and Merrill Lynch. As a result, he travels comfortably in elite circles, and his ministry is focused on them: on young priests and seminarians (the intellectual elite in many Catholic communities), on college students at elite universities and "strong countercultural" Catholic institutions, and on "opinion-makers and people of influence." The self-described supply-sider has a top-down strategy to transform the culture, too. He wants to turn Blue America into Red. As McCloskey wrote in an essay last year for Catholic World Report, "[I]n the first several centuries of Christianity the Gospel was most successfully preached not to the poor and the outcasts, but rather to the prosperous middle classes and educated upper classes in the cities."

That focus on elites is a hallmark of Opus Dei, the conservative Catholic society to which McCloskey belongs. As James Martin put it in the Jesuit weekly America, "Opus Dei is the most controversial movement in the Catholic Church today." It's fiercely evangelical and fully devoted to the pope and the Catholic hierarchy.


Is it really true that in the Catholic Church proselytizing and believing in the Church hierarchy are now considered "controversial"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM

SENDING THE ANCIENT MARINER AN ALBATROSS :

GOP sends Bowles a message via Tammy Wynette (Charlotte News and Observer, August 12, 2002)
In a bit of political theater, the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington last week shipped a copy of Tammy Wynette's album, "Stand By Your Man," to Erskine Bowles, a Democratic Senate candidate in North Carolina. The 1968 album contains the hit single by the same name.

The gesture followed news reports that Bowles, a former White House chief of staff, had been embracing the economic achievements of the Clinton administration on the campaign trail. Bowles has avoided mentioning his former boss in most other contexts.


Of course, Mr. Clinton is more famous, or infamous, for crooning another Tammy Wynette hit. Supposedly--I think it's in First in His Class by David Maraniss--back when they were all in still in Arkansas, he sang "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" in front of Hillary and a young Chelsea at some holiday function.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM

THE UNKINDEST CUT :

Jackson endorses McKinney : Lawmaker's views about Sept. 11 cited (Rick Badie, August 12, 2002, Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Calling Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) a "cutting-edge politician," the Rev. Jesse Jackson on Sunday urged voters to send her back to Washington.

"Georgia would do well to see her in office," Jackson told reporters after delivering an hourlong sermon at Ben Hill United Methodist Church in Atlanta. "I appreciate the work of Cynthia McKinney, whether it be work in Africa or asking tough questions about what we did or did not know about September 11."


Cutting edge? If she's the cutting edge of black politics then they are doomed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM

THEY MADE'M AN OFFER THEY COULDN'T REFUSE :

Devdas 'funded by gangsters' (BBC, 12 August, 2002)
Indian police are investigating allegations that Devdas - the most expensive Indian film made - was funded by gangsters.

Producer Bharat Shah is alleged to have received Mafia funds to make the film and dragging the picture into the ongoing controversy surrounding the Indian film industry's links with the underworld.

The £6.7m (500 million rupee) epic has been Bollywood's biggest hit of the year and has done well overseas, especially in the UK where the film took £70,000 on its opening day.


The last thing the movie industry needs is a gang war between Bollywood mobsters and Hollywood's gay mafia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM

WHAT HATH MR. OTIS WROUGHT? :

Space elevator takes off (BBC, 12 August, 2002)
Taking a lift into space may sound like science fiction but scientists are meeting in Seattle to discuss how to build such an elevator.

Seattle-based company High Lift Systems is looking into the idea, backed by a $570,000 grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The company is holding a two-day conference to discuss the technology and funding and hopes to begin construction within the next few years.

"Technology is now catching up with science fiction. It should be taken pretty seriously," said Brad Edwards of High Lift Systems.

"The technology's not quite here, but in the next couple of years the technology could be ready to consider construction of the first space elevator."

The concept is simple. The elevator is essentially a cable, attached at one end to an ocean-going platform.

At the other end it is connected to a satellite, in orbit 35,000 kilometres above the Earth.


Great--can't you just see airline pilots weaving between the cables?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM

JUST NOT PBS FARE :

CHARLIE'S SONG (Bob McManus, 8/11/02, NY Post)
There stood Charlie Daniels at 48th Street and Sixth Avenue Friday night, a man with a message.

A message that needs hearing.

Charlie's a country fiddler, mostly, and up on stage he looks the part: A great shaggy bear of a fellow with his cowboy hat and intricately engraved, hugely oversized belt buckle.

Regarding 9/11, the first anniversary of which looms, Charlie Daniels gets it.

This speaks to why he was at 48th and 6th Friday, outside the headquarters of Fox News Channel, performing his current hit - the proudly patriotic, overtly political "The Last Fallen Hero."


The Last Fallen Hero
Oh the cowards came by morning and attacked without a warning
Leaving flames and death and chaos in our streets
In the middle of this fiery hell brave heroes fell

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM

THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS LEADS THE PEACE PARTY :

Bush hears war naysayers (Robert Novak, August 12, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
While Saddam Hussein's raving from Baghdad built war fever in Washington last week, calming forces worked behind the scenes. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage have had a heart-to-heart talk with President Bush about the difficulties of initiating war with Iraq. Other influential voices were cautioning against an imminent attack to drive Saddam from power.

The climate is not propitious for a major U.S. military initiative. Official opposition from Germany, Saudi Arabia and Jordan underlined the isolation of American power. A deteriorating situation in Afghanistan builds the one-war-at-a-time argument. The steadfast Republican voices of Jack Kemp and Brent Scowcroft urge restraint. So do members of Congress from both parties, with House Majority Leader Dick Armey last Thursday warning against an unprovoked attack on Iraq.

None of this erases George W. Bush's commitment to change the regime in Baghdad. Nor does it dilute the immense influence of Vice President Dick Cheney, who broke his silence last week to warn against permitting Saddam to develop weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, there was a palpable muffling of American war drums.


A couple folks asked about this column today and whether it means George W. Bush is wobbling. But Mr. Novak is notoriously pro-Arab and anti-Zionist--to the point where Syria's vile dictator Hafez al-Assad gave him and former partner Rowland Evans (Jody Powell and the other Carterites used to call them "Errors" and "No Facts") an exclusive interview years ago--and this seems like little more than an attempt to change the terms of the debate to protect another Arab dictatorship. There's nothing wrong with opposing the war but seeing Mr. Novak side with those he's called the "striped pants crowd" and the "cookie pushers" of Foggy Bottom is immensely amusing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM

A FEMALE CATHOLIC IMMIGRANT? :

Mother Teresa of Calcutta has been voted the greatest Indian since the country's independence in 1947 in an Indian magazine survey (BBC, 12 August, 2002)
Top ten Indians
Mother Teresa
Jawaharlal Nehru
Vallabhbhai Patel
Indira Gandhi
JRD Tata
BR Ambedkar
Dhibhai Ambani
Sachin Tendulkar
Jayaprakash Narayan
Atal Behari Vajpayee

She was the only one on the list not an Indian by birth, led the tally in most of the states in India and across all age groups in the survey carried out by leading English-langauge magazine, Outlook.


When in doubt, go with the saint.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM

PRE-EMPT THIS :

Israel prepares for Iraqi strike 'at any moment' (WORLD TRIBUNE.COM, August 12, 2002)
Officials said the government has prepared a series of plans to defend against and retaliate for any Iraqi missile attack on Israel. They said the plans were discussed and endorsed by the United States.

"Israel should be prepared to face an Iraqi attack at any moment," Israeli Science Minister Matan Vilnai said.

Israel's plans include the deployment of additional assets to defend against any Iraqi missile attack. Officials said Israel wants to deploy two Arrow-2 missile defense batteries, Middle East Newsline reported. [...]

A military statement said the second Arrow-2 battery is being deployed as part of a multi-year test program. The statement said the deployment was planned "a long time ago."

The officials said Iraq could decide to preempt any U.S. attack on the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with a missile barrage against Israel. They said such an Iraqi attack could be aimed at foiling U.S. plans to use Jordan and Gulf states as launching pads for a military campaign against Baghdad.


Considering that Israel withstood SCUD attacks in the last war without responding, who'd blame them if they decided to pre-empt Saddam instead of waiting for him to try to pre-empt the U.S.? And if he does launch missiles at Israel again, especially if he puts gas on them, wouldn't a nuclear response from Israel be justified?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM

IMPEACHMENT TIME AGAIN :

Productivity Strong Despite Revisions : 2nd-Quarter Gain At 1.1% Annual Rate (John M. Berry, August 10, 2002, Washington Post)
Productivity gains slowed with economic growth in the second quarter, but in the past year, the amount of goods and services produced for each hour worked rose a very strong 4.7 percent, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The department also revised productivity figures back to 1999 based on new estimates of the gross domestic product released last week by the Commerce Department. While productivity gains were lowered for 2000 and 2001, analysts said the new numbers still confirm a substantial improvement in the trend of productivity growth beginning in the late 1990s.

Productivity in the private non-farm portion of the economy increased at a 1.1 percent annual rate April through June, after a remarkable surge at an 8.6 percent rate in the first three months of the year.

"Some may read this as a sign that the productivity revival is faltering," said economist Gerald D. Cohen of Merrill Lynch & Co. in New York. "But productivity accounted for all the GDP growth in the second quarter and is up 4.7 percent during the past year, more than double the rate of GDP growth."

Cohen said that based on his firm's forecast for the economy in the second half of this year, productivity should rise at about a 4 percent annual rate.


If the Fed doesn't cut rates tomorrow they should be impeached. This kind of continued productivity growth, coupled with our massive imports of goods from abroad, and the stability of wages along with the decline in stock values, has to be having a hugely deflationary effect on the economy. We keep being able to make more and more goods in the same time (productivity), are able to buy goods from others cheaper than we used to make them here (imports), aren't getting paid more (wages), and have less wealth than we did two years ago (stock declines). Where in the name of all that's holy does the Fed think inflationary pressures are going to come from? Sure, if there's a war in the Middle East there'll be a spike in oil prices, but that's completely artificial and will be temporary. In fact, once Saddam, the mullahs in Iran, and the Sauds in Arabia are gone, these countries will have to ramp up production drastically to pay for rebuilding and revitalizing their economies. Somebody needs to tell Alan Greenspan it's not 1973 anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:27 PM

WHEN WILL GERRY ADAMS BE SITTING NEXT TO MILOSEVIC?

Colombia mortar attack rebels 'IRA trained' (Frank Khan and Susan Garraty, Irish Independent)
IRA-trained Colombian rebels were responsible for the mortar attacks that killed 21 people last week, security forces in the South American country said last night.

"There is no doubt that behind these attacks is the training of the IRA," said General Reynaldo Castellanos, a divisional commander, in the capital Bogota. [...]

Three Irishmen, James Monaghan, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley, arrested a year ago, are awaiting trial in October accused of training Marxist guerrillas in the use of explosives and urban terrorism. They have denied links with Farc.

Since February, the Farc guerrillas have taken their 38-year war from the countryside into the cities.

Their most audacious urban operation yet was unleashed last Wednesday when they fired mortars at the presidential palace just as the new president, Alvaro Uribe, an Oxford-educated right-winger, was being sworn in.

Colombian and British security experts said the Farc operation had all the hallmarks of the IRA, and brought to mind the mortars fired at No 10 Downing Street in 1991.

"It seems to be a classic IRA operation," said a former British army officer, a bomb disposal expert who specialised in IRA mortars.


The Oval Office carpets have been cleaned since Bill Clinton left, so most of the evidence that he was there is probably gone. But will anything ever cleanse the stench of evil that Yassir Arafat and Gerry Adams left behind in the White House?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM

THAT REALLY YOU, BILL? :

Let's take him out : The threat to the world posed by Saddam Hussein's rule of terror is too great to ignore any longer. There is only one solution military action (William Shawcross, August 1, 2002, Guardian)
The new archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said that it would be immoral and illegal for the British to support an American war against Iraq without UN authority. King Abdullah of Jordan has warned against an attack on Iraq, saying it would open a "Pandora's box" in the Middle East. The prospect of war against Iraq has provided a field day to anti-Americanism. I would argue that, on the contrary, the illegality is all on the side of Saddam Hussein. The real immorality and the greatest danger is to allow this evil man to remain indefinitely in power, scorning the UN and posing a growing threat to the world. Tony Blair is both brave and right to support American demands for a "regime change" in
Iraq.

What's shocking about this column is not the sentiment, but the sayer. William Shawcross after all is most famous as a left wing author of Sideshow : Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia, which essentially argued that pre-emptive strikes into Cambodia were war crimes. Even in his last book, Deliver Us From Evil, he was making the case for using humanitarian assistance to solve global conflicts, rather than force and, at one point in the Salman Rushdie affair, he implied that he thought paperback publication should be delayed because the book had upset people. For him to be arguing now for a pre-emptive war against Saddam is fairly remarkable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM

TOUGH ASSIGNMENT, EH? :

The Sept. 11 Symphony : Why New York asked composer John Adams to commemorate 9/11 (Adam Baer, August 8, 2002, Slate)
By Sept. 19, 2002, many Americans will know John Adams. On that day, the San Francisco-based composer--who's known for tackling American political themes in his controversial operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer--will hear the premiere of his 9/11 eulogy, On the Transmigration of Souls, at the opening-night gala of the New York Philharmonic, the orchestra that commissioned him to write a piece commemorating last year's attacks. America at large will have already seen Adams in any number of magazine pieces and perhaps listened to him and some of his work on Peter Jennings' 9/11 special. He will be, despite his luck of sharing a name with a famous ex-president, a recognizable
personality, officially linked to the Zeitgeist of our nation. And throughout it all, he'll remain a composer of so-called serious music.

Not since the days of Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein has a classical-music composer been so primed to ascend to the highly visible position of America's musician laureate. In fact, to many American fans of concert music, Copland's folksy and brilliant populist works (Appalachian Spring, Rodeo, Fanfare for the Common Man) still signify what America sounds like--even though Copland died in 1990 and hadn't written a note of that brand of Americana for decades before that.

Now, though, new American music is about to get a jump-start. Adams represents a chance for Americans to hear serious but accessible work--nodisrespect to strong composers like the lauded John Corigliano of Red Violin fame and celebrity minimalist Philip Glass--and say: That's American Music. That's my culture. (Translation: I have a culture, and it's not just about slutty teen pop stars and rappers formerly known as Puffy.)


Have to admit that I'm not much of a fan of most modernist classical composers (yes, I know, that's a contradiction in terms). The one John Adams piece with which I'm somewhat familiar is Nixon in China, which is accessible, but which is most appealing because it's hilarious, not the effect one would think Adams was aiming for when he wrote it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM

WHERE FAR LEFT MEETS FAR RIGHT : ANTI-SEMITISM (via Reductio Ad Absurdum) :

Internal conflict for progressive American Jews : Worries about anti-Semitism are resulting in torn feelings about politics (Glen Martin, July 29, 2002, San Francisco Chronicle)
Right after the planes smashed into the World Trade Center, San Francisco State University Professor Laurie Zoloth returned from anEast Coast visit by a uniquely American and prosaic conveyance -- a Greyhound bus.

Her traveling companions were neurologists and fellow academicians, all embarked on an unexpected continental road trip because the nation's airindustry had been paralyzed by international terrorism.

It was an exhilarating interlude, said Zoloth, director of the university's Jewish Studies Program -- a genuine journey of discovery, one that planted seeds of change in the way Zoloth viewed herself, her religion, the nation, the world.

"We spent the entire trip talking about neurology and brain function, about free will, about the essential elements of good and evil," recalled Zoloth, a woman with a facile tongue and a sense of humor that rides the balance between dry and absurd.

"I was tremendously gratified by what I saw as we drove across the country, " Zoloth said. "Everywhere we went there was enormous solidarity, the sense that we were all in this thing together."

But that all changed when Zoloth got back to San Francisco State -- a historically liberal school in what is arguably the nation's mostliberal city.

Here, she found that the climate for progressive Jews such as herself was suddenly different.

"I was horrified," Zoloth said. "First, a senior member of the faculty, a person I consider both bright and thoughtful, approached me with a theory that was making the rounds -- the CIA and Mossad had collaborated on the bombing and had given Jews working in the (World Trade Center) towers advance warning. She allowed she considered it a credible theory. I was stunned."

At that point, said Zoloth, "I remembered thinking: 'This is different. This is really bad.' "


As It Happened One Night makes abundantly evident, on a bus you see the real America. As this article shows, in SF you don't.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM

MUST BE ONE BIG PROSTATE :

Moving Target : With the Harvard Flak Behind Him, Cornel West Heads to Princeton. And He's Ready to Give His Critics Plenty to Talk About. (C.J. Gunther, 8/09/02, For The Washington Post)
In October, Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, shattered the bubble of exclusivity surrounding the school's most rarefied breed, the University Professor, when he chastised [Cornel] West for his extracurricular activities. Then in November, the bad news West received came from his doctor: An aggressive cancer had been found in his prostate. In December, it was the news media: When word of his contretemps with Summers leaked to the press, it ignited a firestorm in the media about race, respect and whether West deserved what he'd achieved. West suddenly became a symbol of the ugly racial debates that still lurk beneath the surface of a seemingly civil society. And there were the marital problems, the divorce proceedings and, in January, the prostate surgery.

When he emerged in April from his physical and emotional recuperation, he stunned Harvard by announcing his resignation and his intention to bolt for Princeton, which had courted him for more than a year and where he will begin teaching later this month.


"Stunned"? Larry Summers asked him to perform the duties of his job. Mr. West said no. Does anyone really think Mr. Summers was stunned or sorry to see him go? Has anything in recent years done more to rehabilitate Harvard's sorry image than Mr. West leaving it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM

SIGNS OF THE TIMES' DETERIORATION :

The United States Babylonian Adventure : The New York Times' anti-Iraq war crusade (Stephen Hayes, August 11, 2002, San Francisco Chronicle)
Will the fragile U.S. economy head into a full tailspin if President Bush makes good on his promise to oust Saddam Hussein? The New York Times evidently thinks the answer to that question is "yes."

Here's their lead from the other day: "An American attack on Iraq could profoundly affect the American economy, because the United States would have to pay for most of the cost and bear the brunt of any oil price shock or other market disruptions, government officials, diplomats and economists say."

The thrust of the Times piece -- wars cost money -- is obvious enough. So why publish it on the front page? As Andrew Sullivan noted, the Times "anti- war coverage is getting really intense now. We've had the Powell puff piece, the Powell editorial, the cover piece on why the Kurds fear a war and now a piece on how the war will hurt the economy."


Mr. Hayes clears up some of our confusion over the Times' Kurd coverage--apparently the paper's been so politicized that the passions of the editors now drive the "news" coverage. Since they oppose the war, they'll print anything that so much as hints it might be a bad idea. Dispassionate or more reasoned analysis and factual presentations may sneak in too, but they don't get the full Times' fanfare.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM

THE IRON IS HOT :

If truce gauntlet thrown, will PM pick it up? (Bradley Burston, 12/08/2002, Ha'aretz)
The militant Islamic Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Fatah may be close to curbing their deadly strikes against civilians in Israel, but with signs of early elections in the Jewish state and a hawkish image to burnish, will - or can - Ariel Sharon rise to the diplomatic challenge of a calming trend? [...]

If Hamas consents to such an understanding, "I believe we are speaking of a total halt to attacks on civilians within the state of Israel," said Arab MK and ex-senior Arafat advisor Ahmed Tibi. He said the powerful Islamic organization could give its answer in a matter of days.

The draft document coincided with an unprcedented paroxysm of internal criticism within Arafat's Palestinian Authority. In recent days, ranking Palestinian officials have begun speaking out against the institution of the Authority itself. West Bank and Gaza natives like Fatah lawmaker Fares Kadura have proposed dismantling the PA altogether, arguing that Arafat's current leadership lineup - which led the PLO from the Palestinian diaspora until signing peace deals with Israel in 1993-4 - placed self-perpetuation over the plight of their hard-hit constituents. The calls for breaking up the PA came from quarters as high-profile as Hanan Ashrawi, long a prominent spokeswoman for the Authority.

Asked when Hamas might signal its agreement to the document, Tibi told Army Radio: "They are closer than they have ever been in the past." He said that Hamas had helped word the document, "and I believe it is a matter of days until they will give their answer regarding the substance."

The draft document includes a clause endorsing Palestinian independence within the 1967 borders, an apparent departure for Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and is explicitly dedicated to an Islamic Palestine encompassing the borders of present-day Israel as well as the territories.


The key to any negotiation is that at the point it begins one side or the other has already won. Sharon has his little victory. The attacks on Palestine worked--terrorist violence has lost its popularity because the response is so formidable. The US's delegitimation of Arafat has succeeded--people are finally asking why their own leaders have done so little to improve everyday life instead of focussing on Israel as the culprit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM

OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK :

Stagnant Wages Pose Added Risks to Weak Economy (LOUIS UCHITELLE, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
Although the recession has ended, the wages of more than 100 million workers are still stagnant, endangering the consumer spending that sustains the fragile recovery.

The stagnation in total wages paid to the nation's employees outside of government is now a year old...


One assumes from the fact that the most recent report said that wages had risen and from the way Mr. Uchitelle has to exclude government employees from his analysis that these government employees are enjoying fairly substantial wage increases even in the midst of deflation, economic slowdown, and belt-tightening in the rest of the economy. Why?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM

THE SPIRIT OF '76 :

MC5 classic still has plenty of kick to it (Jim DeRogatis, August 11, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
In August 1968, there was only one rock band that dared to perform against the first Mayor Daley's wishes at the protests outside the Democratic National Convention. When the police moved in, the tear gas rained down, the billy clubs swung, and the band paid the price for its convictions, taking its lumps and losing all of its equipment.

But while survivors of that day grant that the political rhetoric of the time now seems a bit idealistic (if not downright laughable), the ideals remain laudable.

"The MC5 not only talked about revolution, we believed it," guitarist Wayne Kramer told me a few years ago. "The part about destroying the government and taking over and shooting it out with the pigs and all that--that didn't work. But the other part about the concept of possibilities, the revolution of ideas--that has changed the world."

Indeed, the power of those ideas remains undiminished on the group's greatest album, its 1968 debut, "Kick Out the Jams."


Of course the ideals as applied to American society were ridiculous too, but where they were laudable was as applied to the pop music industry. Perhaps you had to be around then to comprehend just how pretentious rock music had become by the late 60s/early 70s, from the late Beatles to the Who to Yes to the Moody Blues to "concept albums" like those of Rick Wakeman to Led Zeppelin and the excutiatingly self-indulgent Stairway to Heaven, rock and rollers had mistaken the adulation of children for an indicator that their music was "important".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 AM

RUM BULL :

A man with a gift for making enemies (William Rees-Mogg, August 12, 2002, Times of London)
Donald Rumsfeld still has important support on the conservative wing of the Republican Party, particularly among “deep fried” conservatives from the South. Now, however, he has made the cardinal mistake for any member of an American Cabinet. He has come out in criticism of the President’s own policies.

Any President worth his salt insists on the Administration being loyal in public, whatever arguments may have taken place in private. All Presidents remember how Truman sacked General Douglas MacArthur, a commander in the field. Last week a Palestinian delegation were visiting Washington. That they were there at all showed that the President wanted to retain at least some semblance of America’s role as the even-handed broker of peace in the Middle East. From Israel, Ariel Sharon stepped up his propaganda against Yassir Arafat, calling him the head of a “murderous gang”. Sharon’s abuse of Arafat is not wholly unjustified; nor, unfortunately, are Arafat’s counter-criticisms of Sharon.

Donald Rumsfeld could not restrain himself from joining in this argument. He made the mistake of joining in on the side of Sharon, not on that of George W. Bush. Rumsfeld referred to the “so-called occupied territories”; he also said that “focusing on settlements at the present time misses the point”. The policy of the President is to create a separate and independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories. He considers that Israel, in the meantime, should take no further steps to expand settlements in the occupied territories. This does not make the President a dove in Middle Eastern
policy, only a realist. [...]

President Bush cannot yet get rid of Rumsfeld. This is not only because he shares some of his views — as he does — or because of Rumsfeld’s continuing support in a section of the Republican Party. It is because his removal would be seen as a victory for Saddam Hussein. All his other enemies would be quite pleased, but the United States would have been seen as flinching in the face of Iraq. That is something which cannot be allowed to happen. Donald Rumsfeld may be a problem for the United States, at present he looks to be an insoluble one, though he will begin to feel the pressure of other people’s disappointed expectations. Heaven help him if the Republicans lose the House of Representatives in November.

And what about the war? It is essential to keep up the pressure on Saddam Hussein’s dangerous regime. It may well prove to be necessary to go to war to forestall his development of weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, if the US has to live with a choleric Secretary of Defence, so be it.


Is this guy completely delusional? Is there a more popular man in government, including the President and Colin Powell, than Donald Rumsfeld? Here's a little yardstick that foreign olumnists might use : when Saturday Night Live, Letterman, and Leno are on someone's side, and are laughing with them, not at them, their job is safe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 AM

TURN OUT THE LIGHTS...THE PARTY'S OVER :

Going, Going ... Gone (Tim Keown, 8/07/02, ESPN the Magazine)
The possibilities were limitless. Mark McGwire could turn his name into a commodity, his image into a series of trinkets, his life into a string of appearances. Mark McGwire, Inc. He could take the time-honored farewell tour, be carted around the country like a traveling museum piece, human memorabilia, a walking item from the Home Shopping Network. He could enter the land of the perma-grins, with a gift and an ovation in every city. Hey, what do you know -- another recliner! Laughs and handshakes all around. It's been done before.

But McGwire has always treated public ostentation the way a WorldCom exec treats a visit to a congressional hearing. So it's perfect that he would just up and disappear. No sign, no trace. Retirement by fax. He long ago lost control of his public persona, which had turned him into a human ink blot, allowing everyone to see what they want when they want. A bigger-than-life, bigger-than-the-game crown had been forcibly stuffed onto his head, and resistance was futile. Disappearance might have been his only chance. [...]

For years he built and fed his body to maximize its ability to hit home runs. It earned him 583 career homers, a strip-mined psyche and injuries unique to the heavily muscled. He overdeveloped his body, hit 70 homers and gained the national adulation that coincides with breaking a hallowed record. And then, in the end, he dealt with the humiliation of hitting .187 and striking out nearly 40% of the time. His body failed him. And the questions he always endured and never enjoyed didn't stop. In fact, with the issue of steroids in baseball gradually pushing its way to the forefront since the discovery of androstenedione in McGwire's locker in 1998, the questions he might have faced had the potential to turn from fawning to accusatory.

If creating and upholding a legend wasn't satisfying during the good times, why suffer through the bad? He would never be allowed to be a solid, productive player, a guy out there helping his team with 30 homers and 75 RBIs. The legend made that impossible. He didn't enjoy it when the attention was resoundingly positive, and he knew poor performance wouldn't divert the attention elsewhere. The questions would simply mutate, from "Can you do it again?" to "Why can't you do it anymore?"

The closest he comes to the legend now is to drive the Mark McGwire Highway, a stretch of I-70 that runs past Busch Stadium. He slips into town, visits his in-laws and plays golf with clubhouse assistant Kurt Schlogl. If it doesn't interfere with golf, he'll have lunch with La Russa, Jocketty and head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg. The only sign of him in Busch Stadium -- aside from the thousands of McGwire T-shirts and replica jerseys in the stands -- is the "62" sign just beyond the leftfield fence, signifying the landing spot of his record-breaking homer. But St. Louis hasn't forgotten him. When it was revealed that McGwire had taken one of his surreptitious trips to town during mid-June, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch said, "If our editors knew that, we'd be on a stakeout." [...]

"I love the way he's managed to stay away," says Tino Martinez, McGwire's replacement at first base. "That's the way it should be done. Just go off and be who you want to be. It's an inspiration. It's a pure thing. He didn't play the game for the fanfare, and he didn't leave the game looking for it."


So few people today have sense and dignity enough to walk away from the easy money that celebrity offers if you're willing to make a spectacle of yourself--it's great to see someone who's done it and who's at peace.

August 11, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM

BEN, THE TWO OF US NEED LOOK NO MORE :

The Brain as User Interface (Samuel K. Moore, 8/02, IEEE Sectrum)
Recent experiments have shown that direct control of prosthetic limbs by the brain may be less difficult to achieve than was supposed. In early May, neuroscientist John Chapin and his colleagues at a Brooklyn, N.Y., medical center used a wireless receiver and electrodes implanted in a rat’s brain to steer the rodent anywhere they wanted it to go. About a month later, bioengineer Andrew Schwartz of Arizona State University (Tempe) announced a method to quickly train a small number of cells in a monkey’s brain to accurately control the 3-D movements of a dot on a monitor.

The SUNY effort’s offspring has been popularly dubbed "roborat," and at least in some respects it beats its mechanical cousins. Suppose the need is to remotely guide a small robotic system through collapsed buildings to search for survivors. In pure robotics, this is a tough job, requiring a lightweight, low-power, agile, and controllable system that can circumnavigate obstacles with ease. But remotely guided rats carrying wireless video cameras fit the bill nicely.


There's the basis for a great flick here with a secret agent and his suicide-bombing rat going to Baghdad to get Saddam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM

I BELIEVE THE CHILDREN ARE OUR FUTURE :

Mideast Teenagers Answer Questions (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, August 11, 2002)
The violence between Israelis and Palestinians -- bombings, assassinations, incursions -- makes peace in the Middle East seem elusive at best.

Still, peace is what many say they want more than anything. They include Nada Dajani, a 17-year-old Palestinian, and Maya Zamir, a 15-year-old Israeli.

The two young women were among a group visiting a camp in Maine this month in search of understanding between the two sides, and perhaps even solutions. Their two-week session, which ended Sunday, was the work of Seeds of Peace, a nonprofit, nonpolitical organization that helps young people from regions of conflict learn peacemaking skills. Camp activities included group discussions and an adventure challenge in which campers learned to rely on and trust each other.

Some U.S. students posed questions for Nada and Maya at the AP's request. The Americans are participating in the Help Yourself Programs at Wisconsin's Beloit College -- a long-term program that helps minority and low-income youth prepare for college. Workshops they have attended included discussions on the Middle East. [...]

From Benjamin Butz, age 15:

Q: Do you see an end to the conflict? [...]

Maya: I hope the conflict will be solved so that my children in the future will not need to suffer. For this conflict to end, there needs to be an agreement between the two sides. But for this to happen, both sides need to want the peace with all their heart. I know that I want the peace with all my heart and soul so I can live in peace with my fellow campers not only in camp but also in our countries. [...]

Nada: I want to live in peace more than anything. I think that I can live with Jews under a Palestinian state. But as long as they want an Israeli state for their own and we want to retrieve our Palestinian state, there will not be an exit unless we were to divide the land into two states.


First let me confess that I rearranged those answers, but Mike Daley sent this and even though he'd warned me I still had to read Nada's answer a couple times to convince myself it says what it seems to say. That's a teenage girl at a peace camp essentially saying that Israel has to be taken over by Palestine before she'll live with Jews in peace.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM

GREAT BRIDGE, A GREAT BOOK :

First Chapter of The Great Bridge by David McCullough (Denver Post)
The way he had designed it, the enormous structure was to be a grand harmony of opposite forces - the steel of the cables in tension, the granite of the towers in compression. "A force at rest is at rest because it is balanced by some other force or by its own reaction," he had once written in the pages of Scientific American. He considered mathematics a spiritual perception, as well as the highest science, and since all engineering questions were governed by "simple mathematical considerations," the suspension bridge was "a spiritual or ideal conception."

His new bridge was to be "a great avenue" between the cities, he said. Its over-all width was to be eighty feet, making it as spacious as Broadway itself, as he liked to tell people, and the river span would measure sixteen hundred feet, from tower to tower, making it the longest single span in the world. But of even greater import than length was the unprecedented load the bridge was designed to bear - 18,700 tons.

The long river span was not to be perfectly horizontal, but would bow gracefully, gently upward. It would pass through the tower arches at an elevation of 119 feet, but at the center it would be 130 feet over the water. This, as Roebling pointed out, was thirty feet higher than the elevation fixed by the British Admiralty for Robert Stephenson's Britannia Bridge over the Menai Strait, built nearly twenty years earlier. Before long, sailing ships would be things of the past, he declared. His bridge therefore would be no obstruction to navigation, only possibly "an impediment to sailing." As it was, only the very largest sailing ships afloat would have to trim their topmasts to pass beneath the bridge.

But because of the great elevation of the river span and the relatively low-lying shores, the rest of the bridge, sloping down to ground level, would have to extend quite far inland on both sides to provide an easy grade. The bridge would have to descend back to earth rather gradually, as it were, and thus the better part of it would be over land, not water. Those inland sections of the bridge between the towers and the two anchorages were known as the land spans, and were also supported by the cables, by suspenders and diagonal stays. The ends of the bridge, from the anchorages down to ground level, were known as the approaches. In all, from one end to the other, the Great Bridge was to measure 5,862 feet, or more than a mile.


Don't know if maybe it's being republished or something, but the Denver Post has the first chapter posted online. If you've never read the book, it's terrific.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM

CRACKER? :

Suspicious minds : Even now, many African-Americans have an ambivalent relationship with Elvis Presley (Rene E Graham, 8/11/2002, Boston Globe)
Ilva Price was about 10 years old the first time she heard Elvis Presley's voice, pouring from her father's car radio in East St. Louis, Ill. She can't recall the song, can't recall whether it was a ballad or a rocker. What she remembers is how his voice, that smoldering rumble of a voice, made her skin tingle.

''I don't know why, but I just loved his voice,'' Price said. ''His sound just did something to me.'' It also did something to Price's father, who quickly turned off the radio and glared at his daughter.

''He got angry, and said I shouldn't be listening to that music,'' Price said. ''And that was that.''

Her father didn't need to say anything more. Long before Price ever heard Presley, she'd heard relatives talk about the singer. They called him a ''cracker'' who stole his musical style from black people, claimed it as his own, and then cursed them. Presley, they said, hated black people.

Twenty-five years after his death, that sentiment remains tangible for some African-Americans who still view with disdain the continued canonization of Elvis Presley as a cultural savior. For nearly a half-century, Presley has been hailed as the man who, with a growl and a twitch, shook this nation out of its conformist 1950s malaise.

Yet there remains a nagging belief that Presley, Mississippi-born and raised in the segregated South, disliked black people, although he was clearly influenced and inspired by their music and culture.

''It was something you heard, then it was something you just felt,'' said Price, who now lives in West Memphis, Ark., just across the Mississippi River from Memphis. ''And everybody knew about that comment, of course.''


It's kind of jarring to read that folks called him a "cracker" but then accused him of racism for using a racial epithet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 AM

THE GAMES MUST GO ON :

Israelis Remember Victims of 1972 Olympics Massacre (Patrick Vignal , August 11, 2002, Reuters)
Relatives of the 11 Israelis killed at the 1972 Olympics choked back tears in a memorial service Sunday near the scene of a crime that shocked the world.

"Time, they say, heals every wound but the scars will remain forever," Israel's ambassador to Germany Shimon Stein told 25 family members of the victims of the massacre standing in the rain.


Why is it do you suppose that the Europeans feel compelled to try and prosecute an Augusto Pinochet for the human rights violations of his government but support the political aspirations of Yasar Arrafat and the PLO, who were responsible for such horrors as The Munich Massacre?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM

THE SURLY BONDS :

Reagan's Condition Said to Be Worsening (New York Daily News, August 11, 2002)
Former president Ronald Reagan, 91, is steadily slipping in his terminal battle with Alzheimer's disease, according to close friends and former associates.

Sources close to the 40th president report that Reagan's mental deterioration has accelerated in recent months.

"He no longer knows who Nancy is," said one source, referring to Reagan's wife of 50 years. "Some days he seems to recognize her as someone who's familiar, but most of the time she's just a blank to him."

Until a few months ago, Reagan's physical condition had held steady, even as his mental faculties continued to decline. But that is no longer the case. He disclosed on Nov. 5, 1994, that he had Alzheimer's.

"He's becoming more difficult to deal with," a source close to the family said. "Both his physical and his mental problems have gotten worse."


One realizes that the day is coming, but is still unprepared for his death. Perhaps he seems young to us still because we were young when he led us. Perhaps it is that we never really saw him grow old. It is his beloved Nancy who has had to deal with his aging and his descent into dementia. For both their sakes we hope the pain ends soon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM

SOMETHING TO GO WITH YOUR WATERMELON :

Lend Me an Ear (JASON EPSTEIN, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
By the early 1920's, word of eastern Long Island's rich soil, along with the news that the railroad now linked this farmland to world markets, spread to the potato farmers of Eastern Europe. Many soon settled on Long Island and transformed what had been small-scale vegetable farming into the industrial production of potatoes. Potato fields may still be seen here and there in the backcountry of eastern Long Island's villages, interspersed amid shallow-rooted, multimillion-dollar subdivisions. But most of the remaining arable land of the rich outwash plain is now devoted to vineyards, fruit orchards, tree farming and vegetable production for the many local farm stands whose abundant varieties of tomatoes, peppers, melons, lettuces, peaches and berries offer intense joy throughout the summer, to say nothing of the apples and squashes of September and October.

The villages that compose the towns of Southampton and East Hampton are famous for their corn, but in fact, the farmers in the area grow the same kinds of hybrid corn everyone else does, including inedible ornamental varieties (Indian corn) for Thanksgiving. If anything accounts for the corn's special quality, it may be the glacial topsoil. But more likely it's just that the modern hybrids are designed for sweetness -- and taste even better when enhanced by the sea air and the incredible light. All that is required for a summer feast is to toss a dozen shucked ears into boiling water. But with a little more effort, the same ears can achieve transcendence.


When we were kids our parents used to take us to Corn & Watermelon Festivals. That's pretty much all they served--roasted corn in the husk, big boiling vats of corn, and mountains of melon--though one supposes there was beer for the adults. Us kids, meanwhile, would spit watermelon seeds and smack each other over the head with the rinds, which break with a pleasingly comic effect and do fairly little permanent damage (I assume). Corn, watermelon, a sickening thwack rising up from your brother's skull...what a great country...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 AM

SAY HEY! :

There have been only two geniuses in the world, Willie Mays and Willie Shakespeare.
-Tallulah Bankhead

Forget the Numbers, There's Only One Mays (William Gildea, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
Mays was one of the sluggers, but he stood apart from them as well. Even Joe DiMaggio, who was not famous for giving pats on the back, said that Mays was as close to perfection as could be reached in a ball player.

Mays led the National League in slugging percentage five times, but do you always think of him first with a bat in his hand? It would be fitting if you do, since a poll of managers in the 1960s rated him by far the game's best clutch hitter. But he always was seen in different ways. Roger Angell, for one, was fascinated by his base running, and wrote of him rounding a base and "sinking into full speed" like a "skier in midturn down some steep pitch of fast powder. Nobody like him."

In the field or at the plate or on the bases, Mays offered the beauty of limitless possibility. He played with what Einstein and Branch Rickey called an "ebullience." He laughed. Not remembering everyone's name, he called to others, "Say hey!" As a young player, he played stickball with kids outside his rooming house in Harlem after he had come home from a game at the Polo Grounds, as if he couldn't get enough baseball.


By the time I was old enough to follow baseball, in 1969, Willie Mays was on the backside of his great career--he'd have been 38 by then--and the Giants only came to town a couple times a year anyway, so we never got to see him much. By the time, a few years later, that he came to the Mets, he was an ineffably sad sight. You could almost see his brain send commands to his body but the body could no longer respond. So the Willie Mays I choose to recall is the one from the writings of Willie's Time (Charles Einstein), Roger Angell, and Red Smith and the one we all know from this indelible image. Then a few years ago ESPN dug up the old Homerun Derby series and showed it. It was great to see guys like Mays, Aaron, and Mantle when they were in their prime. With Mays you really got to see what sportswriters were talking about, as he seemed like a bundle of barely contained energy, ready at any time to do something amazing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM

LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER :

BOOKNOTES : Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right by Ann Coulter (Brian Lamb, 8pm and 11pm August 11, 2002, C-SPAN)
If there are two more contrasting personalities in American political life than that of Brian Lamb and that of Ann Coulter, I can't think of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM

ACROSS 110TH STREET :

Birth of a Genre: The Black Hero Who Talks Back (HAL HINSON, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
In the beginning, there was "Sweetback." As Melvin Van Peebles explains in "Baadasssss Cinema," Isaac Julien's definitive new documentary about the history of blaxploitation films, the idea for "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" rose up in him out of a long-festering sense of frustration over what he was seeing on the screen.

"The cause I had," Mr. Van Peebles proclaims between puffs on a cigar just slightly smaller than a Louisville Slugger, "was giving black folks a sense of self that had been stolen from us. And that's how I made `Sweetback.' "

The film, about a pimp who stays one step ahead of a racist gang of cops, opened first in Detroit, on March 31, 1971, at the Grand Circus Theater, then two days later at the Coronet Theater in Atlanta - the only theaters in the country that would show it. At the time, there were no black-owned theater chains. Also, the Motion Picture Association of America had given the film an "X" rating, which meant that most theater chains wouldn't book it, primarily because most newspapers wouldn't sell advertising space to an X-rated film.

However, once Mr. Van Peebles discovered that the ratings committee was made up entirely of white men, he immediately began marketing the film as "Rated `X' by an All-White Jury."

Those first audiences probably didn't know that they were watching a movie that would launch countless imitations, spark a revolution in the motion-picture business, and open the floor for a cultural debate that rages to this day.


Here's our Brothers Judd Blaxploitation Guide (which I''m ashamed to admit has not been updated in several years).

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM

BACK DOOR TORT REFORM :

Tax Bill Exceeds Award to Officer in Sex Bias Suit (ADAM LIPTAK, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
A police officer in Chicago who won a sex discrimination and harassment lawsuit against her employer may face a tax bill larger than her award.

Under federal tax laws, she is responsible for paying taxes on a $300,000 award and almost $1 million in lawyers' fees and costs.

"She loses every penny of the award," said her lawyer, Monica McFadden, "plus she will end up owing the Internal Revenue Service $99,000." [...]

Ms. McFadden said that the tax laws will result in fewer civil rights cases.

"It has an enormously chilling effect," she said. "I have to advise a person coming to me that it is entirely possible not only that any award they achieve will go to the Internal Revenue Service but that they will owe the Internal Revenue Service money."


The chilling effect is an excellent thing, with the tort system having run amok, but surely it's time for Congress to address the problem in a more rational manner. If only the Democrat Party wasn't a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Trial Lawyers' Association...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 AM

"I WILL NOT BE IGNORED!" :

Cheney Stays in the Picture (MAUREEN DOWD, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
Republicans had been worrying about the health factor - not that Mr. Cheney's was getting worse but that Mr. Bush's was getting better.

The more buff the president grew, the more party solons fretted that he was frittering away time in the gym that could be better used formulating clear policies in a roiling time.

Last week, the president had his best checkup ever, with doctors swooning over his lissome lipoprotein, taut triglycerides, sleek homocysteine, A-plus C-reactive protein levels and thin body fat.

In a city where being a grind is better than being a glamourpuss, suspicion falls on those who are too modish or too toned. Are they spending more hours cross-training than studying the Law of the Sea Treaty?

So it is with the president. He looks too good.


Am I the only one who's starting to feel uncomfortable about Maureen Dowd's obsession with how good George W. Bush looks? She went on about it at even greater length in this essay, Hans, Franz & W. (Maureen Dowd, 23 June, 2002, New York Times), where she also revealed that she sits around sucking down junkfood while watching the President on TV. Enquiring minds want to know, is she on the verge of turning into W's own personal version of Rupert Pupkin?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM

ASSIMILATE OR ELSE :

18: The Coming Battle for Immigrants : The ability to absorb foreigners could determine whether nations in the industrialized world will grow or stagnate (Stephen Baker, AUGUST 26, 2002 , Business Week)
Due to plunging birth rates, the number of children under 15 has shrunk by 23% in Europe since 1970. And the shift will continue. There still are four working-age people to support every European aged 65 or older. In a few decades, predicts the U.N. Population Div., that number will fall to two. The pattern is just as dramatic in Japan and Korea, and to a lesser degree in the U.S. A few decades hence, big developing nations like China, Russia, Brazil, and Thailand also will see a surge of retirees. By 2050,
the average age of the world is expected to rise from 26 today to 36. In Spain, the average age by mid-century should hit 55.

The economic implications are huge. Who will do the work in geriatric societies? Who will support the burgeoning class of pensioners? And what will happen to growth? After all, in addition to productivity, a rising labor force is the key ingredient of economic expansion. Harbingers of a stagnant future already are seen in Japan, a nation that seems content to live off its savings, and in Italy.

Wealthy nations have another choice: to import workers on an unprecedented scale. That's essentially what the U.S. has been doing for the past two decades as the baby-boom generation matures. The U.S. takes more than 1 million immigrants annually, including illegals. That is one key reason economic growth has averaged 3.7% a year for the past decade. Immigrants have supplied crucial technical and scientific talent, founded thousands of Silicon Valley startups, and helped hold down prices by filling low-wage jobs.

If the rich nations other than the U.S. choose to keep immigrants out, they will have to achieve radical gains in productivity to keep their economies from hitting a wall. According to one estimate, Europe must boost its productivity by two-thirds before 2020 just to keep its economy from shrinking. But that requires investment in labor-saving machinery and new plants. "And who will invest in these countries if their markets are shrinking and they won't have an adequate labor supply?" asks Paul S. Hewitt, co-author of a
two-year study of the economic impact of global aging by the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington.


This story is from a Business Week issue on 25 IDEAS FOR A CHANGING WORLD. An awful lot of awfully smart people, mainly libertarians and Leftists, seem completely unwilling to face the magnitude of this problem which, at a minimum, we should be confronting by limiting abortion; encouraging marriage and larger families; and a greater emphasis on citizenship and traditional Western Culture in our schools. We need to produce more kids of our own and do a better job of teaching our own kids and the children of immigrants what it means to be an American.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM

WHA' HAPPN' ? :

Forced to Move, Kurds Hope for Hussein's Ouster (JOHN F. BURNS, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
Creating an Arab majority on the great Mesopotamian plain north of Baghdad is not a new policy for Iraq. Nor is it an innovation by Mr. Hussein, who, like all Iraqi leaders since the state's founding in 1921 is an Arab, from the Sunni sect of Islam, to which most Kurds belong. But Mr. Hussein, especially since his 1991 gulf war defeat and the creation of the Kurdish enclave, has accelerated efforts to drive minorities out, and bring Arabs in, to the region that sits atop some of the world's greatest oil reserves.

To resist Mr. Hussein's enforcers is to risk severe punishment, including execution, according to Kurdish refugees and human rights organizations. So the Siddiqs took care to say nothing provocative when the men with the truck arrived. The children were coached not to cry or ask questions, and above all to say nothing derogatory about Mr. Hussein.

"If you say anything, they will shoot you," said Mr. Siddiq, 38, an electrician who owned a repair shop in Kirkuk. [...]

According to United Nations figures, more than 800,000 people have fled north into the Kurdish enclave since 1991, nearly a fifth of the enclave's population of 3.6 million. But Kurdish refugee organizations say that about 250,000 of those who have moved were forced out after rejecting "Arabization," like the Siddiqs.

Rizgar Ali, a Kurdish official responsible for assisting the resettlement of Kurds in the enclave, cited official Iraqi figures that show that Kurds constituted 54 percent of the population of Kirkuk Province in 1954, compared with only 25 percent now. Meanwhile, he said, Arabs have risen to more than 50 percent of the population from less than 10 percent. [...]

Some were then stripped of all property and moved from the northern area into the Arab heartland of Iraq. Other families have been told that their changed status makes them only "second-class Arabs," and that their homes and jobs are to be given to "genuine Arabs" who are moving north under policies that provide subsidies to Arab migrants. [...]

[A]t the Barda Qaraman refugee camp, more than 100 Kurdish families struggle to get by without sanitation, and some, like the Siddiqs, without even a tarpaulin for shelter. They say they wish only that Mr. Bush will make good on his pledge to get rid of Mr. Hussein.

"We hear the good news about George W. Bush on the Voice of America every night, that he's going to shoot Saddam Hussein, and it's all we talk about," Mr. Siddiq said. "We believe Mr. Bush can carry us back to Kirkuk. But can you tell him, please, to hurry up?"


Is it just me or does this story not completely contradict Mr. Burns' own front page piece from a month ago : Kurds, Secure in North Iraq, Are Cool to a U.S. Offensive (JOHN F. BURNS, July 8, 2002, NY Times) :
[W]hile an American-led military campaign to topple Mr. Hussein holds out the possibility of making their freedoms more secure, the Kurdish leaders, backed by almost every Kurd who discussed the issue, said Washington would be asking them to put all they have gained from their decade of autonomy at risk of a fresh Iraqi offensive.

"We are not ready to take any risks, and if we are not sure of the outcome of any step, then we are not ready to take that step, because we are not sure of improving our circumstances," Massoud Barzani, leader of one of the two main Kurdish political groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said at his mountaintop headquarters outside Salahuddin, north of Erbil.

He added, alluding to the centuries of oppression Kurds suffered from Turks, Arabs and Persians, "This is a golden era for Iraqi Kurds."


The Kurdish Golden Era is a period during which they were being ethnically cleansed? And in July Mr. Burns and the Times said the Kurds wouldn't help fight Saddam because they didn't want to risk their newfound "freedom", but in August they want us to "hurry up" and attack Saddam? Are there two different reporters named John Burns? Does either of them have an editor?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:03 AM

LIES OUR TEACHERS TAUGHT US :

REVIEW : of 'Of Moths and Men: The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth' by Judith Hooper (Karl Sabbagh, Washington Post)
The book is the story of an experiment that for many years provided the most powerful argument for the role of natural selection in evolution. In the 1950s, a British doctor, H.R.B. Kettlewell, investigated the genetics of a type of moth called Biston betularia. (Kettlewell is "Bernard" in the book. Rather oddly, Hooper, or should I say Judith, calls all her key figures by their Christian names throughout.) Kettlewell was interested in a phenomenon called "melanism," by which variants of the moth emerged in the 19th and early 20th centuries with darker wings than normal. This new variety coincided with increasing industrialization in Britain, and there were many biologists who believed that the phenomenon was a textbook example of evolution at work. They explained it as a result of the lighter moths being selectively eaten by birds because they were more visible on tree trunks that had become darkened with soot and smoke. Because more dark moths survived, their descendants, also darker, multiplied.

In fact, as Hooper shows with quotes from a wide range of standard biology primers, Kettlewell's work became legendary. "Through the textbooks," she writes, "the moths had become embedded in the collective consciousness. They were a teaching story, and you might as well try to eradicate E = mc2 or Newton's apple or Galileo at the Leaning Tower of Pisa."

But eradicate them she tries to do. [...]

As Hooper shows, it later turned out that in order to produce evidence that, in nature, melanism was due to birds eating the lighter moths, Kettlewell created a very unnatural experiment by glueing moths to the tree trunks and in far higher numbers than would occur naturally. Effectively, said one scientist, he was creating a bird-feeder that the birds learned to use.


Proving, once again, that all it takes for evolution to function the way our text books tell us it does is for a sentient being to intervene.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM

DE NILE AIN'T JUST A RIVER IN AFRICA :

Wen Ho Lee Still Hasn't Found Job (AP, August 9, 2002)
Former government researcher Wen Ho Lee says he hasn't found a job since he was fired and prosecuted for making copies of sensitive nuclear weapons data. [...]

Lee, responding to written questions submitted by the online publication through an intermediary, said foreign-born scientists face difficulties getting jobs requiring security clearance.

"I feel that racial profiling may be a very complicated and long-standing problem,'' he said. "It will take a long time even to make tiny progress.''


This is just a crock. The guy, even if he didn't hand the data over to our enemies, violated national security by his own admission. Who in their right mind would employ him? If he's willing to screw over his country what might he do to a mere employer?

August 10, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM

IF THEY SHOULD BAR WARS, PLEASE LEAVE US THESE :

Cinema's Magnificent Two : Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune All but Invented the Warrior Class. AFI Shows How. (Stephen Hunter, August 4, 2002, Washington Post)
It began so inauspiciously, as Kurosawa recalled in "Something Like an Autobiography": He had been summoned to witness the audition of a young man who had answered the studio's newspaper ad for new faces. The fellow turned out to be a corncob-rough ex-soldier who, although Japanese, was born in China and had not set foot in the mother country until that year. He was untrained, uncouth, almost unlettered.

But that's not what Kurosawa saw. He saw instead the following vision: "A young man was reeling around the room in a violent frenzy. It was as frightening as watching a wounded or a trapped savage beast trying to break loose. I stood transfixed."


One especially interesting Kurosawa and Mifune film is The Hidden Fortress [Kakushi toride no san akunin] (1958), which George Lucas borrowed from liberally for the Star Wars saga. It had been very hard to find but then Criterion came out with a DVD version that's pricey, but worthwhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:27 PM

ABLE WAS I :

New Middle East, part 2 (Amir Oren, August 10, 2002
In other periods it would have been possible to suggest to Saddam that he go into well-protected exile on a remote island, like the defeated Napoleon. In our time, Saddam, younger and more dangerous than Augusto Pinochet, can look forward to a future at least as bitter as that of Slobodan Milosevic. In Netanyahu's opinion, the newly constituted International Criminal Court for war crimes does away with the convenient conversion of the title of "ruler" into "refugee": if Saddam survives a six-and-a-half ton bomb or a well-aimed volley, he will be hauled into court and tried. If the only alternative available to him is death, he may try to take with him millions of people, most of them Israelis.

Most of this essay is a raphsodic appraisal of the current American/Israeli relationship, until you get to that jarring last paragraph. You do have to wonder, if the world has now criminalized bad government, why any dictator would ever surrender power without a fight. And as more of them get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, mustn't we anticipate that sooner or later one of them is going to try to take as many people as he can with him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM

SHOUTIN' OUT TO BRUCE CLEAVER :

When will computer hardware match the human brain? (Hans Moravec, Journal of Evolution and Technology. 1998)
Advancing computer performance is like water slowly flooding the landscape. A half century ago it began to drown the lowlands, driving out human calculators and record clerks, but leaving most of us dry. Now the flood has reached the foothills, and our outposts there are contemplating retreat. We feel safe on our peaks, but, at the present rate, those too will be submerged within another half century. I propose (Moravec 1998) that we build Arks as that day nears, and adopt a seafaring life! For now, though, we must rely on our representatives in the lowlands to tell us what water is really like.

Our representatives on the foothills of chess and theorem-proving report signs of intelligence. Why didn't we get similar reports decades before, from the lowlands, as computers surpassed humans in arithmetic and rote memorization? Actually, we did, at the time. Computers that calculated like thousands of mathematicians were hailed as "giant brains," and inspired the first generation of AI research. After all, the machines were doing something beyond any animal, that needed human intelligence, concentration and years of training. But it is hard to recapture that magic now. One reason is that computers' demonstrated stupidity in other areas biases our judgment. Another relates to our own ineptitude. We do arithmetic or keep records so painstakingly and externally, that the small mechanical steps in a long calculation are obvious, while the big picture often escapes us. Like Deep Blue's builders, we see the process too much from the inside to appreciate the subtlety that it may have on the outside. But there is a non-obviousness in snowstorms or tornadoes that emerge from the repetitive arithmetic of weather simulations, or in rippling tyrannosaur skin from movie animation calculations. We rarely call it intelligence, but "artificial reality" may be an even more profound concept than artificial intelligence (Moravec 1998).

The mental steps underlying good human chess playing and theorem proving are complex and hidden, putting a mechanical interpretation out of reach. Those who can follow the play naturally describe it instead in mentalistic language, using terms like strategy, understanding and creativity. When a machine manages to be simultaneously meaningful and surprising in the same rich way, it too compels a mentalistic interpretation. Of course, somewhere behind the scenes, there are programmers who, in principle, have a mechanical interpretation. But even for them, that interpretation loses its grip as the working program fills its memory with details too voluminous for them to grasp.

As the rising flood reaches more populated heights, machines will begin to do well in areas a greater number can appreciate. The visceral sense of a thinking presence in machinery will become increasingly widespread. When the highest peaks are covered, there will be machines than can interact as intelligently as any human on any subject. The presence of minds in machines will then become self-evident.


One finds the flood metaphor all too apt, though God did promise the Fire next time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:21 AM

WATERMELON GAZPACHO? :

In a Stew (Nira Rousso, 8/10/02, Ha'aretz)
Hang on - it's coming; or maybe it's already here. One more American fashion spreading in every direction, like crabgrass. It'll get here, and then no restaurant or pub will be spared. It's replicating right this minute in the recipe pages and cuisine columns all over North America. [...] A surprise - and you will be: Watermelon gazpacho!

The recipe only looks a tad dubious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM

THE SUN DONE GONE :

Japan directs a route to recovery (Michiyo Nakamoto and David Pilling, August 8 2002, Financial Times)
Unless Japan can create high value-added products through technical and scientific innovation, it will not be able to combat long-term economic decline, says Atsuo Shibota, a director of policy co-ordination at the Ministry of Economic Trade and Industry (Meti). The government is proposing to spend Y24,000bn ($200bn) over the next five years on four sectors: information technology, environment, biotechnology and nanotechnology.

The policy is potentially flawed on two counts. First, it is not clear that a government is well placed to micromanage in this way. Forty years after Japan's spectacular transformation into an industrial power, a debate is still raging as to whether Japanese industry was successful because of, or in spite of, the guiding hand of government.

Last month, a report issued by the finance ministry's policy research institute suggested that Miti, Meti's forerunner, may have hindered growth by cosseting industries from competition and providing subsidised loans, thus ensuring that the inefficient survived. "The Japanese model was not the source of Japanese competitiveness but the cause of our failure," the report says. The study echoes the findings of Can Japan Compete?, a book by Michael Porter, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Mariko Sakakibara, which concluded that Japan became most competitive in industries where Miti did not meddle. [...]

[E]ven if government support can be helpful, the question remains: does Japan have what it takes to compete in its chosen fields? Here, too, the signs are not universally encouraging. Despite considerable investment - in fiscal 2000, government research spending totalled about Y3,500bn - Japan has had little success in nurturing new sectors.


This would be why it's not a good thing for China to be the new Japan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM

PINK DAWN :

Yes, we need a 'regime change' in this rogue state... : Its government has no majority. It refuses arms monitoring. Its opponents are locked up without trial (Adrian Hamilton, 09 August 2002, Independent uk)
The idea that a pre-emptive strike could save the world a heap of trouble isn't entirely idle. Think, if Genghis Khan could have been taken out when he was still the leader of just a band and not the whole Mongol race, Europe and Asia would have been saved several million dead and the destruction of much of its civilisation. Remove Napoleon from the scene on his return from his ill-fated Egyptian foray and Europe would have been a different place.

The last century doesn't provide such good examples, of course. To have "changed regime" in Berlin in the early Thirties would have meant overturning a democratically elected leader in Hitler. As for the efforts by the allies to stop the course of the Russian revolution with troops after 1918, the results were disastrous despite having well-armed local allies.

Nonetheless George Bush has done something in the last week to set out the parameters to pre-emptive action. "We owe it," he put it in Maine last weekend, "to the future of civilisation not to allow the world's worst leaders to develop and deploy and therefore blackmail free countries with the world's worst weapons." And he went on to define such enemies of the people as regimes intent on building up weapons of mass destruction, oblivious of international law and UN resolutions, governments who imprisoned their opponents without trial and who could not claim democratic legitimacy at home.

Significantly, nowhere in the series of speeches he made this week did Mr Bush actually name these rogue regimes. But it is pretty clear reading the descriptions whom he must have meant. The government which is spending by far the most on weapons of mass destruction, and is now planning to raise its budget by an increase greater than the total defence spending of Europe, is, of course, based in Washington.


In the words of a great geopolitical thinker, or at least a greater than any Europe has to offer these days : "Let's get it on." It ought to put a significant dent in European delusions that they still matter in world affairs that the very concept of them attacking us is so absurd that it can't be taken seriously. One is tempted to call this a case of the mouse roaring, except that mouse won.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM

SPEAKING OF LYING ABOUT HISTORY :

We Love You, You're Perfect, Goodbye (BILL KELLER, August 10, 2002, NY Times)
[Al Gore] ran a bone-headed campaign.

A bone-headed campaign he WON, don't forget. He got 537,179 more popular votes, and only lost the Electoral College thanks to a lot of well-documented funny business. The best estimate of the various investigative post-mortems was that an honest statewide recount would have awarded Florida to Mr. Gore and denied Antonin Scalia the role of American kingmaker.


That's strange, as I recall, a bunch of news organizations spent a lot of money and over a year to come to this (in)conclusion, Florida Recounts Would Have Favored Bush : But Study Finds Gore Might Have Won Statewide Tally of All Uncounted Ballots (Dan Keating and Dan Balz, November 12, 2001, Washington Post)
In all likelihood, George W. Bush still would have won Florida and the presidency last year if either of two limited recounts -- one requested by Al Gore, the other ordered by the Florida Supreme Court -- had been completed, according to a study commissioned by The Washington Post and other news organizations.

Only by counting illegal ballots can you arrive at a result where Mr. Gore wins. Though, one supposes that counting illegal votes until you have enough so that Mr. Gore wins is probably what Mr. Keller means by "honest."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM

CRACK FOR WONKS :

THE NEXT REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT AFTER BUSH (Patrick Ruffini, 8/08/02)
[I]'m posting my comprehensive odds on a worthy Republican successor to Bush.

For true political junkies it's never to early to talk presidential horse race. But Mr. Ruffini out does himself this time by looking past George W. to the next defender of the faith. It's a fun list though I'd quarrel with several rankings, especially Tom Ridge being so high.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM

"WE KEPT GOING." :

Anaconda: A war story : US soldiers recount 18 hours in one of the fiercest firefights of the Afghan war (Ann Scott Tyson, 8/01/02, Christian Science Monitor)
A pale blue dawn broke over the snow-covered Shah-e Kot peaks as Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Abbott and his battalion from the 10th Mountain Division rode packed in Chinook helicopters to the battle zone. Many of the US troops, fresh-faced young recruits who'd never before seen combat, were, as some put it, "pumped."

For Sergeant Abbott, a 32-year-old father of four, former Army Ranger, and a veteran of conflicts such as the bloody Mogadishu firefight of 1993, the adrenaline rush felt all too familiar.

It was March 2, and what was about to unfold was the biggest US ground battle in the Afghanistan war, in which American infantrymen took on the foot soldiers of terrorism directly for the first time.

The operation, code-named Anaconda, aimed to seal off and destroy pockets of Al Qaeda and Taliban regrouped inside a 70-square-mile stretch of rugged mountain ridges and valleys. Friendly Afghan forces accompanied by US Green Berets were to attack from the north, driving the estimated 200 to 400 enemy fighters toward several US blocking positions in the south, manned by Army assault troops.

But within minutes after Abbott's chopper touched down in the valley, his unit's mission changed drastically. Dug into the surrounding ridges on the east and west was a heavily armed, fortified enemy force of well over 100 men that US military planners had not known was there. These fighters were later joined by Al Qaeda from the north, who repelled the Afghan forces and then moved south to fight the Americans.

This is the story of how Abbott and 85 other light infantrymen - aided by the US air arsenal - survived and, to a degree, succeeded in an 18-hour firefight that was as brutal as it was unexpected. Under attack at times from 360 degrees, running out of ammunition, with a third of its men wounded, the US force held its ground until most of the enemy were defeated. Through skill, stamina, and a small dip in terrain known as the "bowl," miraculously every US soldier lived.


One thing that tends to get lost in discussions of warfare as practiced by the United States is the extraordinary quality of our fighting men. That we are almost always better equipped and supported than our foes should not in any way diminish our appreciation of what our troops routinely achieve in battle. Victor Davis Hanson, in his fine book Soul of Battle, explores some of the reasons why the armed forces of the great democracies have been so much more formidable than we might expect. But, whatever the reasons, we are truly blessed to have such men defend us. We honor their service.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM

WHY JOHNNY CAN'T LEAD :

History to the Left of Us (Larry Schweikart, September 2002, American Enterprise)
USA Today recently reported on its front page that American high school seniors could not perform even at the most basic level in the subject of history. Less than half the students could identify or explain major events in U.S. history, such as the Monroe Doctrine, Nat Turner's rebellion, or the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Why can't Johnny learn history? The standard culprits deserve blame, including lack of competition in public schools, low standards, and entrenched unions. Another factor in the dismal state of elementary and high-school education however, seeps down from the college level: a pervasive bias that distorts American-history textbooks. A sampling of what passes for history in some of the main college texts will offer a glimpse of the hurdles that confront even unbiased, well-meaning secondary school instructors who rely on these "mainstream" texts.


George Santayana famously opined : "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But what about those who never learn about the past or who are lied to about it? This admittedly selective survey of history texts makes for frightening reading, as you realize what a load of politically correct, Leftist tripe is being served up to our kids. Vouchers, now!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 AM

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology (Lee Harris, August & September 2002, Policy Review)
The fact that we are involved with an enemy who is not engaged in Clausewitzian warfare has serious repercussions on our policy. For we are fighting an enemy who has no strategic purpose in anything he does - whose actions have significance only in terms of his own fantasy ideology. It means, in a strange sense, that while we are at war with them, they are not at war with us - and, indeed, it would be an enormous improvement if they were. If they were at war with us, they would be compelled to start thinking realistically, in terms of objective factors such as overall strategic goals, war aims, and so forth. They would have to make a realistic, and not a fantasy-induced, assessment of the relative strength of us versus them. But because they are operating in terms of their fantasy ideology, such a realistic assessment is impossible for them. It matters not how much stronger or more powerful we are than they - what matters is that God will bring them victory.

This must be emphasized, for if the fantasy ideology of Italian fascism was a form of political make-believe, the fantasy ideology of radical Islam goes even one step further: It is, in a sense, more akin to a form of magical thinking. While the Sorelian myth does aim, finally, at transforming the real world, it is almost as if the "real" world no longer matters in terms of the fantasy ideology of radical Islam. Our "real" world, after all, is utterly secular, a concatenation of an endless series of cause and effect, with all events occurring on a single ontological plane. But the "real" world of radical Islam is different - its fantasy ideology reflects the same philosophical occasionalism that pervades so much of Islamic theology: That is to say, event B does not happen because it is caused by a previous event A. Instead, event A is simply the occasion for God to cause event B, so that the genuine cause of all events occurring on our ontological plane of existence is nothing else but God. But if this is so, then the "real" world that we take for granted simply vanishes, and all becomes determined by the will of God; and in this manner the line between realist and magical thinking dissolves. This is why the mere fact that there is no "realistic" hope of al Qaeda destroying the United States - and indeed the West as a whole - is not of the slightest consequence. After all, if God is willing, the United States and the West could collapse at any moment.

This element of magical thinking does not make al Qaeda any less dangerous, however. For it is likely that in al Qaeda's collective fantasy there may exist the notion of an ultimate terror act, a magic bullet capable of bringing down the United States at a single stroke - and, paradoxically, nothing comes closer to fulfilling this magical role than the detonation of a very unmagical nuclear device. That this would not destroy our society in one fell swoop is obvious to us; but it is not to our enemies, in whose eyes an act of this nature assumes a fantasy significance in addition to its sufficiently terrifying reality - the fantasy significance of providing al Qaeda with a vision of ultimate and decisive victory over the West.


Mike Daley and David Cohen both recommended this month's Policy Review, and this story in particular. It's an interesting look at the ramifications of trying to fight a war against an enemy who isn't waging a classic war against us but is instead pursuing a fantasy. One thought that may not be adequately dealt with in the essay is : aren't the same kind of decisive victories that win wars likely to ultimately break the grip of the radical fantasy on the Muslim mind? After all, the al Qaeda types have, quite rightly, understood the past thirty years or so (say since the first oil crisis) to have been a time of rising Arab power and Western decline (in intellectual terms, not necessarily military). But match the aggressive pro-Western rhetoric of George W. Bush with a series of regime changes--from radical to more moderate--in the Middle East and mustn't it become harder to cling to the delusion that Islam will triumph over the West?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM

FREE TO CHOOSE :

Killing Of Unwanted Baby Girls Continues In India (T.C. Malhotra, August 08, 2002, CNSNews.com)
The killing of baby girls in India is continuing, both inside and outside the womb, despite new legislation banning the use of ultrasound tests to determine
the sex of unborn children.

The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Test Act also outlaws attempts to conceal a birth by disposing of a baby's body secretly.

But recent reports suggest the law is being widely violated in villages and urban areas around the country.

It's estimated that up to five million baby girls are aborted every year in India, a society where males are held in higher esteem for cultural and economic reasons.

Sex-determination tests were banned in the country in 1994, but they continue to be performed and are blamed for a dramatic drop in the male-female birth ratio.

A March 2001 census reported that India had 933 women for every 1,000 men, down from 972 women per 1,000 men a decade ago. [...]

The world average sex ratio is roughly 990 women for every 1,000 men, while in some Western regions there are around 1,060 women to every 1000 men.


This trend of pre-determining the sex of a child, which overwhelmingly means choosing to have a male child, should accelerate rapidly as bio-engineering becomes the norm. One has to wonder, in forty or fifty years, when even modern democratic societies have returned to being completely male dominated and there are shortages of women, will abortion on demand still seem like such a good deal?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:32 AM

SORRY ABOUT THE CIGARETTES AMIDST THE PORNOGRAPHY :

Hollywood's Responsibility for Smoking Deaths (JOE ESZTERHAS, 8/09/02, NY Times)
Smoking, I once believed, was every person's right. Efforts to stop it were politically correct, a Big Brother assault on personal freedoms. Secondhand smoke was a nonexistent problem invented by professional do-gooders. I put all these views into my scripts.

In one of my movies, "Basic Instinct," smoking is part of a sexual subtext. Sharon Stone's character smokes; Michael Douglas's is trying to quit. She seduces him with literal and figurative smoke that she blows into his face. In the movie's most famous and controversial scene, she even has a cigarette in her hand.

I'm sure the tobacco companies loved "Basic Instinct." One of them even launched a brand of "Basic" cigarettes not long after the movie became a worldwide hit, perhaps inspired by my cigarette-friendly work. My movie made a lot of money; so did their new cigarette.

Remembering all this, I find it hard to forgive myself. I have been an accomplice to the murders of untold numbers of human beings. I am admitting this only because I have made a deal with God. Spare me, I said, and I will try to stop others from committing the same crimes I did.


Should we expect a similar apology soon from Mr. Esterzhaus for the sex and violence in his pictures? Mustn't the films glamorize those things too, or is it only the politically incorrect smoking that kids copy?

August 9, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM

APRES MOI, LES DELUDES :

The tragedy of the French Left (Laurent Bouvet, 7 August 2002, Open Democracy)
On 21 April, the French Left experienced one of the darkest moments in its history. If the emotional blow was due to the presence of the Far-Right at the heart of an advanced democracy, the real political shock was the collapse of the Left, and particularly the PS. In the history of the Fifth Republic, this may not be the first time its leader has been knocked out in the first round (this also happened in 1969) nor its first great defeat (recall the failures of June 1968 or March 1993). Nevertheless, the magnitude of Lionel Jospin?s defeat (albeit very narrow) to Jean-Marie Le Pen is highly revealing.

The results of the first round were both improbable and incongruous: firstly because the victorious French Far-Right leader has been on the scene for a quarter of a century; and secondly because defeat occurred after a five-year period of governance widely recognised (despite the "erosion effect of cohabitation") as one of the best in the Fifth Republic's history - both for its economic and social achievements, and for the effective leadership of its prime minister.


Wow, so the France of today represents the peak achievement of the French Left? They must be so proud.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 PM

LANI GUINIER PLEASE CALL YOUR TRAVEL AGENT :

Electoral apartheid comes to Britain (Nick Britten, 08/08/2002)
A Government agency is to introduce electoral apartheid to Britain by holding a ballot in which voters are racially segregated.

The New Deal for Communities (NDC) in Nottingham is electing new members to its board in October, but voters are allowed to vote only for a candidate from the same ethnic background.

Supporters said the new system would ensure that businesses from ethnic minorities got "the board member they felt would represent their interests best".

But doubts were cast yesterday on the new system's moral, democratic and legal standing.

"doubts"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM

HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED :

Routine Procedure or Child Abuse? (Wendy McElroy, August 06, 2002, FOX News)
Circumcision has been under attack for the last few years. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its guidelines to state, "the benefits are not significant enough for the AAP to recommend circumcision as a routine procedure." In 2000, the American Medical Association modified its policy to read, "Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits ... however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision."

Yet most male babies in North America continue to be circumcised. Advocates loudly proclaim its advantages for men, including an HIV-protective effect for men, and its benefits for women those with circumcised partners are said to have a reduced risk of cervical cancer.

Yet the central question keeps returning: Is the removal of any part of a healthy sexual organ justified?


This is one of several of the areas surrounding childbirth that has become completely politicized. They were so persistent in trying to get us not to circumcise our first son that the wife finally reared back and yelled "I'm Jewish. It's a covenant with my God!" After five more minutes of trying to get us to change our minds they relented, but then the doctor intentionally did a bad job, a practice for which she's apparently notorious at the hospital.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 AM

TRUST ME :

Moral Character and Proper Incentives : A free enterprise system depends upon more than just greedy rent seekers. (Citizens for a Sound Economy , July 9, 2002)
Moral character is a necessary pre-condition to the development of a functioning, prospering economic system based on the concept of “gains from trade.” Self-interested actors will not engage in a transaction with an individual that he or she does not trust. To bind individuals to promises and establish trust between actors who do not know each other well enough to risk millions of dollars, the law of contracts has developed to legally bind parties to the performance of their promises.

Yet for contract law to work properly, it requires a widely accepted and practiced standard of moral behavior. When one party breaches his obligations, the widely accepted assumption must be that the individual will pay his prescribed penalty. An individual who signs a contract with no intention of fulfilling his obligations is committing fraud. If fraud is a widely accepted practice, contract law is dysfunctional.

That is why the recent corporate accounting scandals are so bothersome and why the market has reacted swiftly with such brutal efficiency. Bad actors committed fraud so pervasively that the market is now worried about the basic moral character of the individuals in the system ? and that’s a huge problem.


Patrick Ruffini sent this very fine essay, which points out one of the most misunderstood aspects of capitalism, its dependence on a stringent and universal morality. For freedom to function generally it requires that behavior be fairly predictable. Since humans are notoriously unpredictable, it requires that they have internalized a moral code which will in most cases override their personal desires and their natural tendency towards wholly selfish behavior.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 AM

THE KING AND I :

Jordan Prince Said To Seek Iraqi Throne : Meets With Wolfowitz (MARC PERELMAN, 8/09/02, The Forward)
Former crown prince Hassan of Jordan is not on the guest list of a high-level meeting between the main Iraqi opposition groups and American officials scheduled for Friday in Washington. Nevertheless, he is bound to loom large as participants grapple with the all-important question of who runs post-Saddam Baghdad. Rumors are rife that the 55-year-old Hassan is angling to become king of Iraq.

Hassan, whose Hashemite family ruled Iraq until his great-uncle Feisal II was overthrown in 1958, caused a stir last month when he unexpectedly appeared at a meeting of Saddam Hussein foes in London. Hassan himself was crown prince of Jordan for 34 years, but was pushed aside when his brother King Hussein named a son, Abdullah, to succeed him.


Who gets Syria?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM

FEDERALIST IRAQ :

What Do Iraqis Think About Life After Hussein? (MICHAEL RUBIN, August 9, 2002, NY Times)
The Iraqis I know would shed few tears if Saddam Hussein were to go. As one university professor in Sulaimaniya, in northeast Iraq, asked me, "Why do people in the West think we want to live under Saddam any more than they would?" Others I talked to were suspicious of Washington's ability to match its rhetoric with action.

Nevertheless, the debate in Washington has caused Iraqis to consider their post-Saddam Hussein future. Despite wars and dictatorship, Iraqis remain cosmopolitan, and they do not fear that the country itself will break up. Sunni or Shiite, Arab or Kurd, Iraqis are proud of their heritage. "During the Iran-Iraq War, we didn't flee," one Shiite war veteran at a refugee camp in northeastern Iraq told me. "Why would we stop being Iraqi now?" Most Kurds recognize that independence from Iraq is not an option, and they want a say in Iraq's future — which is why Iraqi Kurds and Arabs are talking seriously about federalism.

To Iraqis, federalism is not a new concept. Iraq flirted with the idea prior to its independence in 1932. Saddam Hussein himself endorsed federalism in 1970, while serving as vice chairman of the ruling Baath party, though as he consolidated his power he undercut the autonomy accords he had negotiated with the Kurds in the north of the country. In 1995, King Hussein of Jordan described Iraqi federalism as the optimal solution to ensure stability.

But federalism has many variations. Many Kurds wish federalism to be tripartite: A northern Kurdish state, a central Arab Sunni state and a southern Arab Shiite state. Turkey and Saudi Arabia (Iraq's neighbors to the north and south), many Iraqi Arabs, and minorities like the Turkomans and Assyrians find such a vision unacceptable. Iraqi Arabs say they will endorse federalism so long as it is not configured along sectarian lines, a view voiced as early as 1996 by Ayatollah Muhammad Bakir al-Hakim, head of one of the leading Iraqi Shiite opposition groups, and reiterated just last month by Mudar Shawkat, leader of the predominantly Sunni Arab Iraqi National Movement.


Given how few nations on Earth have genuinely multiethnic societies, particularly when the seperate groups dominate particular geopgraphic regions, it seems inordinately optimistic to believe that post-Saddam Iraq will join the short list.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM

ONE NATION, RISIBLE :

George Bush...or is it Orwell?: 1984 is not a how-to manual (Daniel Kurtzman, AlterNet.org)
As President Bush wages his war against terrorism and moves to create a huge homeland security apparatus, he appears to be borrowing heavily, if not ripping off ideas outright, from George Orwell. The work in question is 1984, the prophetic novel about a government that controls the masses by spreading propaganda, cracking down on subversive thought and altering history to suit its needs. It was intended to be read as a warning about the evils of totalitarianism, not a how-to manual.

Granted, we're a long way from resembling the kind of authoritarian state Orwell depicted, but some of the similarities are starting to get a bit eerie.


It's all well and good to remain on our guard against encroaching government tyranny, but after seventy years of the burgeoning social welfare state it takes a truly febrile imagination to believe that the fairly minimal national security measures are an approach towards 1984. Which has done more to remove our freedom, the rise in our tax rates to nearly 50% or the TIPS program?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM

LOOK MA, NO EFFORT :

Sununu won't go negative without a big slip in polls (JOHN DiSTASO, Manchester Union Leader)
Confident in polling numbers that show him with a strong lead in the GOP U.S. Senate primary, John E. Sununu and his campaign staff plan no changes in what they call a positive, non-confrontational campaign.

Sununu supporters say the low-key strategy should not be mistaken for laziness. The candidate and his campaign staff and volunteers are working hard canvassing the state. They say that won't change.

"Bob Smith is in a dilemma," said [David] Carney. "His name identification is 100 percent and his job approval rating is 60 percent. People say they know him and believe he's done a good job, but they're not voting for him. That's a problem." [...]

But Smith supporters are skeptical of what they call Sununu's 'Rose Garden' or 'rope-a-dope' strategy.

One veteran Republican who backs Smith said Sununu appears to be trying to "sit on the ball and run out the clock--and it's pretty early for that. A lot of people feel, 'The other guy just can't beat me.' Maybe John has a little of that."


There seems to be a huge amount of risk in Sununu's strategy. All the polls have shown him beating Bob Smith by a significant margin, but they still show Smith to be reasonably popular. In fact, while the sole logic of the Sununu candidacy is that he'll have an easier time beating Jeanne Shaheen in the general, the polls show Smith would probably beat her too. So Mr. Sununu has to depend on the turnout of enough voters who feel like Senator Smith betrayed the party when he left it briefly several years ago or who feel like Smith can't win in November. Meanwhile, Mr. Smith has a committed conservative base that is fairly passionate about him and that will certainly turn out. Obviously you have to expect Sununu to win, but I remain deeply dubious about the wisdom of his strategy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM

JOHN HENRY LIVES! :

Kasparov, computer to square off (Paul Festa, August 8, 2002, CNET News.com
After five years of licking his Deep Blue wounds, Garry Kasparov will face a widely admired--and feared--computer chess master.

The match, to be held Oct. 1-13 in Jerusalem, will pit Kasparov against Deep Junior, the work of Tel Aviv programmers Amir Ban and Shay Bushinsky.


Men will long tell the tale of how, in the final hours of our species, before the age of the mutants and the machines, one man fought for humankind....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM

A KINDER, GENTLER IMAGE :

New Light on Breast Cancer : Laser light and thermal heat could help improve the accuracy of mammograms (Kelli A. Miller, August 05, 2002, Scientific American)
In a quiet exam room, Susan Conlan, 50, prepared for the mammogram that would help confirm whether her breast cancer had returned. [...]

Conlan is one of the first patients in the country to test a gentler, radiation-free breast-imaging method called CT (computed tomography) Laser Mammography (CTLM). CTLM, developed by Florida-based Imaging Diagnostic Systems, Inc., is one of several experimental technologies aimed at improving the accuracy of breast imaging, especially in distinguishing benign breast conditions from breast cancer. Like CTLM, another method, Computerized Thermal Imaging (CTI), also scans the tissue for the temperature differences that might indicate a growing tumor. Recent concerns over the sensitivity of standard x-ray mammography images and the competency of the human readers have underscored the need for better tests.

"Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the time, a mammogram is read negative when a breast cancer is present," says Susan Curry, a radiologist at the Women's Center for Radiology Orlando.

While Milne declined to quantify how much the laser-based technique might improve the detection of breast cancer, he did say that the "incidence of false positives is much lower than that of mammography." [...]

Millions of dollars are spent each year on breast biopsies, the majority of which reveal that nothing is wrong. Experts say more informative imaging could dramatically reduce the number of unnecessary procedures.


In a desperate attempt to get back in the good graces of the wife and the mother, let me just say unequivocally that this kind of research sounds excellent and deserves our full support. Improving our diagnostic capabilities is a very good thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM

OIL & ACCOUNTABILITY :

Blair begins to have doubts about the military option (Rachel Sylvester, 09/08/2002, Daily Telegraph)
'The question is," one of Tony Blair's senior foreign policy advisers said to me recently, when we were discussing the prospect of military action against Iraq, "can an oil state ever really be truly democratic?" If a government does not depend at all on taxation for its income, he argued, then it has little incentive to treat its people well.

Certainly, the roll-call of major oil exporters looks like a human rights horror show. Saudi Arabia is run by an autocratic monarchy, Libya a military dictator and Iran a government that does not allow women out without a male chaperon. Even if there was to be a "regime change" in Iraq, my Number 10 source went on, then what is the evidence that the new ruler would be any more democratic than Saddam Hussein?


Bernard Lewis has also discussed how oil has been a disaster for the Middle East, making it so rulers do not need the consent of the governed in order to pay for the government. But the solution seems obvious enough--just privatize the oil industry. The government would still probably get significant tax revenues but would get enough less that it would have to tax the ordinary people and that means asking them for their money and giving them some say in how it's spent. It would make Middle Eastern governments more accountable to their profoundly unhappy populations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM

TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING :

A glimmer of hope for the EU's reformation (Lord William Rees-Mogg, August 05, 2002, Times of London)
The Commission is at the heart of the European system, yet it seems virtually unreformable, unwilling to reform itself, but strong enough to prevent reform from outside. [...]

There are, perhaps, two gleams of hope. The first is the developing conversions of the issues raised by Eurosceptics and by Europhiles. They do not agree on federal centralisation, but increasingly Europhiles are coming to accept the legitimacy of Eurosceptic concerns about the CAP, the democratic deficit, bureaucratic overregulation and so on. You do not have to be a Eurosceptic to see that Europe has to answer these questions, including the issue of national independence.

The Council of Ministers has changed and may change further. Until recently it was dominated by continental social democrats. Tony Blair had always been happier working with heads of government from conservative parties. He now shares European power with a re-elected Jacques Chirac, Silvio Berlusconi from Italy and JosŽ-Mar’a Aznar from Spain. They may be joined by Edmund Stoiber next month. These are not men who do not care for national sovereignty, and nor do they want to hand over their own power to Romano Prodi in Brussels.

The European Union has only too much need for reform and too formidable an opposition to change. The Acquis Communautaire has become a dead hand on Europe. Without accountability, democracy and national independence, the EU will not survive.


Isn't the question here whether or not Europe will survive? And doesn't the EU make it less likely?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 AM

IT'S A REBELLION; PUT IT DOWN :

Extremists maintain Pa. presence (Anne Michaud, August 8, 2002, Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW)
Within the graceful, sun-scorched hills of north-central Pennsylvania farm country, the Aryan Nations World Congress waged a strongman competition.

Contestants hefted a stone in the shape of Africa and lugged it back and forth until their arms nearly burst. Painted on the stone in red is "Back to Africa," a statement of the group's position on African-Americans. A thin man in his 20s surprised everyone by surpassing the day's 22-lap record. He was dressed in the uniform of a racist skinhead: black T-shirt, combat boots, shaved head, sideburns.

Charles John Juba, 30, national director of Aryan Nations, joined in counting the laps in German: "funfundzwanzig, sechsundzwanzig"--twenty-five, twenty-six. Speaking German recollects Adolf Hitler's reign. Later that day, the second of a three-day jubilee held at the end of July in Ulysses, Potter County, the congregants--mostly tattooed, beer-drinking white men in their 20s--planned to light a cross and a swastika.

Juba--a man the Southern Poverty Law Center calls "frightening" and "dangerous--leads the eastern branch of Aryan Nations and plans to establish a new headquarters on a 10-acre farm in northern Pennsylvania.

The World Congress drew about 100 people from all corners of Pennsylvania late last month. It was the most recent hate rally held in the state and another reason why anti-hate groups keep a watchful eye on the Keystone State's extremist groups.


In one of the essays that got him in so much trouble at his confirmation hearings, "Neutral Principles and Some First Amendment Problems," Indiana Law Journal 47, 1 (Fall 1971), Robert Bork argued that (and forgive because there's no way I'll rememnber it precisely and can't find it online) that because the Constitution is a political document, meant to set forth the means by which we will be governed, that it is reasonable to view the First Amendment guarantee of Free Speech as not reaching pornography, which is not political, and as not covering speech that advocates overthrowing the government. As to this latter point, he suggests that it would be absurd to imagine that the foundational text for a democratic form of government would require that those who would use anti-democratic means to thwart its purposes be protected. I believe he says he's reconsidered this portion of the essay, but it strikes me as eminently sensible. It seems impossible that the Founders intended that we not be able to punish dangerous idiots like the ones in this story, who reject our basic form of government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:57 AM

THE NEXT JAPAN :

Get set for a totally new China (KENICHI OHMAE, Straits Times)
OVER the coming decades, China will become a thoroughly new form of political and economic entity. Brutally competitive in both politics and world markets, innovative and resilient, China will be more dominant than any nation except America.

Such a shift in the global balance of power occurs only about once every century and is comparable to the emergence of the United States as a world power a century ago.

The magnitude of this change is due, in part, to a radical and rapid shift in China's governance.

Because the shift has been so sudden, it is tempting to write it off as a fluke. But China's restructuring is permanent and will affect all aspects of national life, as well as its global standing.

The People's Republic now embodies two systems: the centralised, autocratic communist administration, dominated by an outdated ideology and military interests, and the decentralised, free-market economic regime.

Whether deliberately or not, China is reorganising itself to balance central authority and common purpose with decentralised freedom, in the same way that nimble companies balance home-office and divisional control.

The result is a new geopolitical model - the country as corporation.


Periodically we get a bunch of hype about the next great power, but the folks pumping them up tend to ignore the internal contradictions and weaknesses of the country involved. In the case of China the biggest problem seems obvious : it's too big. It is too big in at least two senses. First,
there is just no precedent in human history that suggests you can effectively administer a nation of over a billion people. Everything from voting to infrastructure development and maintenance to tax collection to a simple meeting of a congress or a parliament will be daunting. Consider only that last point. How do you apportion representation with over a billion citizens? Assume a Congress structured like ours and you'd have a lower house with nearly two thousand people in it. Could they conceivably legislate effectively? Perhaps, but it seems at least problematic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM

THE NOOSE TIGHTENS...:

Russia criticizes Saudis as soft on terror (WORLD TRIBUNE.COM, August 8, 2002)
Russia has renewed its criticism of what it terms Saudi Arabia's support for Islamic insurgency groups.

Russian officials said despite numerous appeals the Saudi kingdom continues to provide money and religious guidance to Chechen insurgency groups. They said Riyad has harbored Chechen fugitives and helped finance their training in the war for independence against Moscow, Middle East Newsline
reported.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM

RUN FOR THE BORDER

Wall Street Journal Edit Page Leads GOP To Amnesty Debacle (Steve Sailer, VDARE.com)
Recently Richard Gephardt did exactly what I predicted he'd do a year ago--he formally introduced legislation calling and raising Bush's bid to give amnesty to just Mexican illegal aliens. The House Minority Leader wants to extend amnesty to illegals of all nations. [...]

The good news for the GOP is that Gephardt's bill gives them a surefire election-winning strategy for November. We'll put it in caps to help them get the message:

PUBLICLY DUMP BUSH'S AMNESTY PLAN AND MAKE ATTACKS ON GEPHARDT'S ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT AMNESTY PLAN INTO THE CENTRAL ISSUE OF THE MID-TERM ELECTIONS.

Is that clear?

Of course, the GOP would no doubt prefer to lose the House genteelly than to do anything that the public likes but that the respectable opinion (which includes the Wall Street Journal Edit Pagers) would tsk-tsk over.


Mr. Sailer is probably right that this issue would help the GOP keep the House--it's exactlky the kind of red meat for angry white males that would gin up turnout. But some things matter more than winning elections. The Gephardt plan may well be overbroad, but keep the amnesty for Mexicans, with whom we have a special relationship, a broad cultural affinity, and close economic ties.

August 8, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM

UNFINISHED BUSINESS :

Saudi leader accuses Bush advisers (Michael Theodoulou, Times of London)
The depiction by an American think-tank analyst of Saudi Arabia as a terrorist enemy of Washington provoked a furious backlash in the kingdom's press, despite the insistence of both Governments that their long alliance was sound.

Saudi newspapers yesterday hit out at the "growing Christian fundamentalism" in America, which they accuse of targeting Arabs and Muslims and blocking Middle East peace.

"Christian fundamentalism is no less dangerous to international peace and security than extremists in other religions," the daily al-Watan newspaper said. "Rather it is more dangerous especially if it controls the policy of the United States."


This is patently true. One need only look at post-Christian Europe's reaction to Islamic terror to see what our paltry response to 9-11 might have been were we still not so heavily influenced by Judeo-Christianity. There is probably no other non-Islamic nation that would have so readily accepted George W. Bush's characterization of the war on terror as a contest between good and evil. This is our country's great strength, but it also makes us an especially fearsome foe in wartime. The Sauds would do well to quiet down before Americans come to generally accept that Saudi Arabi is an enemy and part of the Axis of Evil.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM

MORE LIKE EUROPE? :

In Scenic Norway, Fearful Death Scene of Addicts (WARREN HOGE, 8/02/02, New York Times)
It is a sunny morning, and the Oslo Fjord dances with reflections. Festive pennants flutter from a departing North Sea ferry, bicyclists pedal past the colonnade of the stock exchange building and sleek trams glide by, filled with downtown workers.

Oslo, capital of oil-rich Norway, is springing to daily life, but there is little movement from shabby clutches of people who have also become part of this harborside landscape. They slump in a row by a derelict corrugated tin warehouse and lie curled up on the surrounding docks. Their bodies are emaciated, and their faces are as spent and vacant as any that Edvard Munch, the Norwegian artist of angst, ever painted. Many are asleep, others nod their heads listlessly.

One young man in black shirt and trousers does not stir. He is the latest entry in a tabulation this prosperous city takes no satisfaction in topping: Europe's drug overdose capital.

A report from the Council of Europe's narcotics-monitoring Pompidou Group says Oslo is first among 42 European cities in seizures and deaths caused by drugs. Oslo had 115 such deaths last year, down from a peak of 134 in 1998, but still the highest on the Continent. In Norway as a whole, the toll is rising, with 338 deaths in 2001, up from 75 in 1990. [...]

While politicians dither, addicts by the hundreds openly buy drugs in Oslo's central plaza and walk the two blocks back to the fjordside shooting gallery, pull out their tourniquets and needles and get high in public. [...]

[T]hough possessing, using and peddling heroin are all illegal and subject to harsh punishment, officers are sent in only when scuffles break out or obviously under-age people appear.


And people want to legalize this?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM

A-MAZE-IN' :

Heard this guy on the Todd Mundt (NPR) show tooday and his mazes sounded really cool : Adrian Fisher Maze Design. Check out in particular the Maize Maze, a maze in a corn field, the first one of which raised money to help flood victims in the Midwest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM

TRAMP DEVIL IN A FREEZE BOX :

Tipper Gore Ponies Up for the Boss (Roger Friedman, August 08, 2002, FOX NEWS)
Tickets to Bruce Springsteen's tour are pretty hot stuff. They're hard to get, but they're not too expensive at $77 - compared to recent Paul McCartney and Prince shows. But not everyone wants to pay for them.

Take, for example, former Vice President Al Gore and his lovely wife, Tipper. Sources close to them and to Springsteen tell me Tipper tried to get free tickets to
the Springsteen show for the entire Gore staff. That didn't work, and she was then told even paid admission would be hard to come by.

"They wound up being offered four," says a source. "But when they were asked to pay $75 apiece, they said forget it. And you know, that's why Gore isn't
president, in a nutshell."


If these personal vignettes bore you, skip over this one, I'll not be offended. But the 1995 gubernatorial race happened to coincide with Bruce Springsteen's first stadium tour in several years and he opened the tour at Giants Stadium. The candidate, Peter Shapiro, went to High School in South Orange with Springsteen's drummer, Max Weinberg, so they scored us two tickets. I'm not a huge fan, but if you grew up in NJ, Springsteen tunes were the muzac in the background of your life. So I was at least reasonably fired up to go.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 PM

THIS WOULD EXPLAIN LAST WEEK'S WOBBLE :

If Blair gets this wrong, he could be gone by Christmas : Secret government polling has exposed the risks of the Bush embrace (Martin Kettle, August 8, 2002, The Guardian)
Last month, unannounced and unreported, Tony Blair ordered a political operation that could have sweeping implications. Just how important could it be? Put it this way. Blair's handling of what he has now set in motion will determine whether 2002 will be his last summer holiday as prime minister. [...]

[H]e instructed his private pollster, Philip Gould, to conduct a secret survey last month. The survey covers, among other subjects, attitudes to the euro, the EU, the Conservatives and President George Bush. The results of the Downing Street poll, it is claimed, are extraordinary. Pro-European advisers are delighted that the poll has found that all senior Tory politicians are more unpopular than the euro. But the bigger news is that the poll has discovered on the eve of a possible attack on Iraq, that Bush is even more unpopular than the Tories.

If British voters have little confidence in Bush, as this and other surveys show, then any confidence they may have in Blair's own foreign policy judgments is likely to be undermined by his embrace of a disrespected president. If Blair is seen not just as a poodle, but as the poodle of a foolish and arrogant ally, he could find his political capital to do other things draining rapidly away. This poses questions that cannot be shirked by a prime minister who instinctively both wants to go to war with Iraq and to take Britain into the eurozone.

The scale of the cabinet's doubts also took Blair by surprise when they were voiced at a meeting in the spring. There is serious talk now of possible resignations in all ranks of the government if British troops are committed to a US attack without UN authorisation. Blair could probably withstand an isolated resignation, even from Clare Short. But if he lost Robin Cook as well, and conceivably even Jack Straw, then his own future at the head of the government could not be assured.

And if that, or even some of it, happened, then the goal that Blair cares about more than anything right now--joining the euro--would be in even greater jeopardy.


Is there a more repellsant thought imaginable than that the Brits would betray their brother English-Speaking people in order to put themselves under the thumb of German and French bureaucrats? Burke, Churchill, Mrs. Thatcher--the living and the dead--must all recoil at this prospect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM

WHO CAN MAKE THE SUN SHINE?

Republicans push minority candidates (Steve Miller, 8/07/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The Republican Party says it has its largest-ever field of non-incumbent minorities seeking top offices this fall, with party leaders touting 20 black and 39 Hispanic candidates in federal and major state elections. Top Stories

The political hopefuls include candidates for Congress and for such statewide offices as governor and secretary of state, and they come in a political season that will find blacks and Hispanics with a strong voice in deciding the winners.

"This is unprecedented, this kind of effort from Republicans," said Larry Gonzalez, director of the Washington office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

"The Republicans seem to be building a farm team to bring some of these candidates through the ranks, which is where it all starts. They will eventually then have a large pool of candidates to choose from for congressional races."


This is important because...well, you know those big lollipops that are sort of a twisted rope of rainbow colors then curled into a big vortex and rammed on a stick? Okay, so imagine that American politics resembles one of those lollipops. For sixty years now the Democrats have been the pop--sugary, sweet, and representing all the colors of the rainbow. Republicans have been the narrow white stick. We need some color bad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:46 PM

MOB JUSTICE :

Sharpton visits site of killings (ANNIE SWEENEY, August 7, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)
The Rev. Al Sharpton stood Tuesday in front of the cracked steps where a mob beat and stomped two men to death last week on the South Side and challenged the city to figure out what made both the young and the old lash out in such violence.

Just a hunch, but maybe they were infuriated beyond reason after having watched a drunk barrel into their friends and family?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:40 PM

MILTON FRIEDMAN, PHYSICIST :

Cosmic Rays Linked To Global Warming (American Geophysical Union, Posted 7/31/2002)
A study in the July 2002 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research-Space Physics, published by the American Geophysical Union, proposes for the first time that interstellar cosmic rays could be the missing link between the discordant temperatures observed during the last two decades (since recorded satellite records began in 1979). The report, by Fangqun Yu of the State University of New York-Albany, proposes that the rays, tiny charged particles that bombard all planets with varying frequency depending on solar wind intensity, may have height-dependent effects on our planet's cloudiness. Previous research has proposed a link between cosmic rays and cloud cover, has not suggested the altitude dependence of the current study.

"A systematic change in global cloud cover will change the atmospheric heating profile," Yu said. "In other words, the cosmic ray-induced global cloud changes could be the long-sought mechanism connecting solar and climate variability."

The hypothesis, if confirmed, could also shed light on the Sun's role in global warming. The amount of cosmic rays reaching Earth depends on solar winds, which vary in strength by space-weather conditions. Yu points out that indications of Earth's warming have coincided with decreased cosmic ray intensity during the 20th century. Such explanations for natural causes of global warming do not rule out human contributions to temperature change, but present the possibility that humans are not solely responsible for some of the observed temperature increases


Milton Friedman has a rule that by the time the Federal Reserve takes an action to raise or lower interest rates it is already too late and they should actually do the reverse. One suspects that in twenty or thirty years, when we finally understand climate change, we'll discover that the greenhouse gasses have been protecting us from the sun's effects all along and we'll start looking for ways to make more.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM

FORMERLY KNOWN AS "GREAT" BRITAIN :

Pagan witch is hired to teach at Jesuit college (PJ Bonthrone. Daily Telegraph)
A WITCH has been hired as a lecturer at a leading Jesuit university faculty.

Heythrop College, part of the University of London, has appointed Vivianne Crowley, who describes herself as a Wiccan high priestess, as a visiting tutor.

Wicca, from the old English word for witch, is defined as the practice or cult of witchcraft, a form of paganism. It is now regarded as part of the New Age movement.


It's one thing for the Anglicans to put the Wicker Man in charge at Canterbury, but Catholics are supposed to believe in something...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM

WE SHALL OVERCOME :

Federal Appeals Panel Upholds Vermont Limits on Campaign Spending (David Stout, 8/08/02, NY Times)
A federal appeals court panel upheld a Vermont campaign-spending law today in a ruling that lawyers said could reverberate far beyond the Green Mountain State and propel the issue of political spending back to the Supreme Court.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, ruled 2 to 1 that Vermont lawmakers had a right to impose spending limits of $300,000 on candidates for governor and $100,000 on candidates for lieutenant governor.

The justification for the limits lay in "preventing the effective sale of time and access to public officials that results from the corrupting influence of excessive fund-raising and campaign spending," Judge Chester J. Straub wrote.

Such limits, Judge Straub said, were "necessary to safeguard the democratic process and the public's faith in its representatives."


These cases cry out for civil disobedience. I want to see the Court that will send a political candidate to prison merely for having the temerity to speak.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST :

Black hole theory suggests light is slowing (Hazel Muir, 08 August 02, New Scientist)
One of Einstein's most dearly held concepts - that the speed of light is constant - is looking a little fragile. Physicists in Australia claim there is good reason to think the speed of light has slowed over time.

"Einstein would have absolutely hated this," said Paul Davies of Macquarie University in Sydney. "His entire theory of relativity was founded on the notion that the speed of light is an absolute fixed universal number."


Yeah, well, what the hell--everything's relative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM

THE FELLA BEHIND THAT TREE :

Outrageous Steel (Cont'd) (The Washington Post, August 8, 2002)
The steel lobby never ceases to amaze. Not content with the protective tariffs extracted from the administration earlier this year, steel is pushing forward with a raft of anti-dumping suits against 20 U.S. trading partners. The suits claim that foreign producers are damaging American steel makers by selling at unfairly low prices.

If the steel lobby wins these cases, the trade tribunal that presides over them will be discredited.

Even if the tribunal stands up to the steel lobby, this episode will have done damage. Once an anti-dumping suit makes it through a preliminary hearing -- and this is a low hurdle -- imports that come in while the suit is in the works are liable for retrospective tariffs if the suit later prevails. This liability chills imports; it has the effect of a tariff even if no tariff is ultimately imposed. The upshot is that domestic lobbies can hit foreign competitors with quasi-tariffs however spurious their legal arguments.


Free trade, though not a constitutional value, is an eminently worthwhile value, one that if applied universally could conceivably usher in an unprecedented era of rising global prosperity. It is probably even the case that many less-developed nations could maintain their current trade restrictions even as more developed nations drop theirs (ours), without doing too much harm. And it even may be the case that so long as there's a general trend towards liberalized trade that some developed nations and some industries with the developed world could be less free without the whole system coming a cropper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM

BACK WHEN IRAQ WAS CIVILIZED :

Women to Worship Goddess of Beer (Reuters, Aug 6, 2002)
British beer lovers have enlisted the support of a Sumerian goddess in their efforts to shake off the masculine image of their favorite tipple.

Fed up with the drink's beer bellied image, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said on Tuesday it had adopted the goddess Ninkasi -- said to have created a recipe for beer 4,000 years ago -- as patron in a bid to attract more women to the pumps.

"We think real British beer is something to be proud of and it should be marketed to women as well as men," said Camra's Mike Benner. "Almost all the advertising we see on our TV screens...is a real turn off for women. Ninkasi, the new Goddess of British beer, is here to change all that."

Ninkasi, worshipped by one of the world's earliest civilizations in what is now Iraq in around 3500 BC, is thought to be one of the early brewers of beer.


What about King Gambrinus?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM

ONE ASSUMES THE QUESTION'S RHETORICAL :

Will France Clean Up Anti-Semitism? (Kenneth R. Timmerman, Aug. 5, 2002, Insight)
In a moving speech commemorating the 60th anniversary of the infamous roundup of French Jews in 1942, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin spoke hard truths to his fellow countrymen. For two generations, the French have cloaked themselves in the memory of a resistance movement against the Nazi occupation that was neither widespread nor terribly glorious. Now, said Raffarin, it was time for the French to own up to the truth and make amends.

"The French state, in organizing these systematic roundups, plunged into collaboration and betrayed the founding principles of our nation," Raffarin said at a July 21 ceremony at the Square of the Martyrs, a Paris memorial built where a bicycle stadium was turned into a transit camp for captive Jews.

Citing names that live on in infamy as centers for the deportation, Raffarin went on: "Yes, the Vel' d'Hiv, Drancy, Compigne and all the transit camps, these antechambers of death were organized, managed and protected by Frenchmen. Yes, the first act of the Shoah played itself out here, with the complicity of the French state. Seventy-six thousand Jews were deported from France. So few ever came back."


It's all just a few Muslim immigrant hooligans, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 AM

THREATENING THE PALESTINIANS WITH STATEHOOD :

No Deal on Israeli Troop Pullback (Ibrahim Barzak, August 8, 2002, Associated Press)
Obstacles were still likely even if the approval were finalized.

Late Wednesday, for example, top officials of Arafat's Fatah movement denounced the decision, saying it had been taken without their consultation and amounted to a betrayal of the struggle of the past 23 months.


The haste with which the Palestinians bailed out of this agreement after Arafat agreed to it demonstrates once again that the greatest threat to the Palestinian leadership is actual control of Palestine. If the mere prospect of Israeli pullbacks had them in this big a tizzy, just imagine if Israel withdrew completely and recognized the new state of Palestine. The whole place would be reduced to factional fighting. They'd be so busy shooting each other, there'd be no time to kill Jews.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM

RADIO KILLED THE VIDEO STAR (HOPEFULLY) :

Ten O'Clock Tech : Radio's Smarter Future (Arik Hesseldahl, 08.06.02, Forbes)
Probably one of the great oversights in the history of consumer electronics design is that it's not possible to program an audio tape deck to record a favorite radio program when you're not there.

Sure, it's the most derided and poorly executed feature on a VCR. But fans of Rush Limbaugh, Garrison Keillor or Howard Stern wouldn't mind an easy way to record their favorite radio show when they can't be there themselves to press the "record" button.

It seems that the next generation of radio will correct that. Today IBiquity Digital, the privately held outfit cooking up the next generation of conventional radio technology that makes AM sound like FM and FM sound like a CD, says it is acquiring all the radio-related intellectual property of a firm called Command Audio. [...]

By grabbing Command Audio's technology, broadcasters should be able to experiment with new ways to send programming. One scenario often discussed is to put buttons on the radio receivers that call up instant traffic and weather reports--meaning no more waiting for "traffic and weather every ten minutes." Chances are the latest information will be stored in a hard drive contained within the radio itself and will be constantly updated as needed, so it can play instantly. And like the TiVo, listeners should be able to pause live programming and save it for later, maybe meaning an end to "parking songs"-- those great songs that always seem to come on just as you're parking the car.


It's about time. But, here's my question : why is radio programming so much better than TV, but radio ads are so much worse than even TV ads?

August 7, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 PM

CARROLLING THE WRONG TUNE :

A mistake and a crime (James Carroll, 8/6/2002, Boston Globe)
Today marks the anniversary of the American atomic bomb falling on Hiroshima. The unfinished debate about whether that attack, and the subsequent bombing of Nagasaki, were justified has always focused narrowly on the question of the war with Japan. Didn't the atomic bomb, in effect, spare the lives of all the leathernecks and GI's who would otherwise have landed on the beaches of the die-hard island nation? What else could Truman have done? These questions have stymied the American conscience, making it impossible to seriously reckon with that crossing of the nuclear threshold, which in turn inhibits our moral reckoning with our present nuclear arsenal.

But what if the invasion of an all-but-defanged Japan was, and remains, a red herring? What if, just as the Nazi threat fell by the wayside, the Japanese threat was not the real issue by then either? What if, by the summer of 1945, the overriding purpose of the atomic bomb was not to end a conflict against Japan, but to control the shape of an anticipated conflict with the Soviet Union? What if it was not Emperor Hirohito we were mainly trying to terrorize, but Premier Stalin? Not a last shot against the Axis powers, but a first shot against the Kremlin?

In war and politics, there are never one-factor answers to complex questions. In truth, the atomic bomb was a last shot and a first shot both. The point of my asking is simply to suggest that, as a people insisting on a narrative in which Hiroshima marked the end of a conflict instead of the beginning of one, we have given ourselves a pass on a far more troubling question.

If we used the nuclear weapon as much to send a signal to the Soviet Union as to end World War II, then all the wickedness unfolding from that use - not only the arms race, but the demonic new idea that national power can properly depend on the threat of mass destruction - belongs to us.


It comes as no surprise that Mr. Carroll asks the wrong question here. The real question that we should face is whether we made one of the great strategic blunders in history by not dropping the second (or even the first) bomb on Moscow. By not terminating the USSR at that moment, when it could have been done relatively easily, don't we bear some responsibility for all the death and destruction that flowed from fifty years of Cold War?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM

SO SHINES A GOOD DEED IN A WEARY WORLD :

Israeli Arab probably helped avert suicide bombing (David Rudge, Aug. 7, 2002, Jerusalem Post)
Police have cleared an Israeli Arab, in whose car a suicide bomber was killed when the bomb he was wearing exploded prematurely near the Umm el-Fahm junction on Monday, of any involvement in the planned terror attack.

In fact, it transpired that Issam Dahdal, 30, of Upper Nazareth, who works as a guard at a city hotel, may well have prevented the Palestinian terrorist from blowing himself up in a crowded spot in Afula. [...]

According to Dahdal's father, after pulling out of the gas station his son refused to go any further. Zoher Dahdal told reporters that from what he had learned from his son, the suicide bomber had forced Issam to give him a lift.

"He threatened him and said he would blow himself up and kill them both if he didn't drive him to Afula," he said from his son's bedside yesterday.

"Issam did not agree and then he activated the detonator. He did want to take him to Afula. He wanted to prevent innocent people being killed, which had been the intention [of the terrorist].

"My son did what he should have done. We have to defend our country, our people and our soldiers.

"The ones who come to blow themselves up are not interested about children or anybody, only killing whoever is there. My son did what he should have and that brings honor to us and the family.

"We are against terror and especially suicide bombers...My son was in the army and served for three years in the Border Police," said Dahdal.


Barry Meislin sent this one and, as he said, it offers an all too rare opportunity to feel good about a story from the Middle East. So long as people like Issam Dahdal and his father are around there's still hope for the Arab world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 PM

LET EVERY VOTE COUNT! :

Sharon, Bush to share stage : Visit comes amid governor's race (PETER WALLSTEN, Aug. 07, 2002, Miami Herald)
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is planning to headline a rally in Miami next month to boost U.S. public support for his embattled country.

But, with his visit coming just two months before Election Day in Florida and possibly within a day of the Democratic primary for governor, Sharon is also stepping into the middle of one of the United States' most important political campaigns.

Although they insist politics is not Sharon's purpose, Israeli officials expect Gov. Jeb Bush to stand with the prime minister at the rally -- an image that political strategists in both parties say can only help the governor in his reelection campaign.


Great--can't you just see the lines in Palm Beach as election officials try to explain that folks can't actually vote for Ariel Sharon in the gubernatorial race.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM

SEPARATION OF POWERS :

U.S. Defies Judge on Enemy Combatant...Justice Dept. Refuses To Provide Documents (Tom Jackman, August 7, 2002, The Washington Post)
The Justice Department yesterday defied a federal judge's order to provide him with documents that would have supported the government's classification of a man captured in Afghanistan and being held in a Navy brig in Norfolk as an "enemy combatant."

Government lawyers allowed a noon deadline to pass without handing the materials over, saying that the separation of powers clause of the Constitution gives the executive branch the authority to make that determination.

"An inspection of the requested materials would all but amount to a [new] review of the military's enemy combatant determination, and thus exceed the limited standard of review governing the Executive determination at issue," the Justice Department said in a legal memo.


It's hard to see how the Courts have any legitimate role in this determination for a guy captured on foreign soil in combat against us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM

HMMMMMMMM, SALAD MEALS :

The Meal-Size Salad (Russell Cronkhite, August 7, 2002, The Washington Post)
Chef's salad. Cobb Salad. Salade Nicoise. These classic main-course salads, which combine vegetables, meat, seafood or cheese, are favorites all year round because they offer a prototype, a starting point for our own variations. They provide a pleasing contrast of flavors, textures, colors and temperatures.

Whether we realize it or not, when we order a salad we want a balance between salty and sweet, vinegar and oil, leafy greens and crisp vegetables. But we do realize that we also want juicy red tomatoes against tender green leaves of spinach, cool and creamy avocado juxtaposed against tangy pink grapefruit or nutty grilled corn alongside the snap of colorful bell peppers.


Iceburg Lettuce, can of Swanson's chicken, Baco's, Ranch Dressing--you're all set.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 PM

AN INSPIRATION :

ABC News' Cokie Roberts being treated for breast cancer (Associated Press, 8/06/02)
Cokie Roberts says she is being treated for breast cancer that was detected in the early stages and that she does not expect any major
disruption in her work schedule at ABC News.

A sister of Roberts, Barbara Sigmund, a former mayor of Princeton, N.J., died of cancer in 1990.


We're very sorry to hear about Mrs. Roberts and wish her well. One would hope that she can manage to confront this disease with the same spirit that her sister faced her own cancer. As it happens, I met Barbara Boggs Sigmund several times in 1985 when working for Peter Shapiro, the Democrat candidate for governor of NJ. Here's a brief bit from a tribute to her : Mayor Barbara (Lauren M. Black, The Trentonian)
In March 1982, just after announcing she would run in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, Sigmund entered a hospital to have her left eye removed
following a diagnosis of cancer.

Hours after the operation, Sigmund showed up for a campaign fund-raiser wearing a flattering red silk dress and a matching heart-shaped eye patch. She stood before the crowd, smiling broadly and drawled: "You all are a sight for a sore eye.''


She was exactly that lively and funny every time we did an event with her and she always wore an eyepatch that matched her dress. One event we didn't make it, but that I heard about, was a birthday party for Princeton's parking meters, which are apparently some of the oldest in the country and make the town a ton of money. She dressed them up in those little pointy birthday caps and the whole nine yards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM

BARBARISM :

Pearl begins last journey home (BBC, 7 August, 2002)
The remains of murdered US journalist Daniel Pearl have been taken to Karachi International Airport amid tight security for the flight home.

Sirens wailed as an armed convoy consisting of six police vans, a US consular vehicle and three ambulances drove through streets cleared of other traffic.

One of the ambulances contained Mr Pearl's coffin - the other two were decoys in case of an attack by vengeful Islamic militants in the southern Pakistan city.


Just in case the Pearl murder doesn't make you angry enough, how infuriating is the thought that his decapitated corpse has to be guarded from further desecration?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:49 PM

A DIM RAY OF LIGHT :

Palestinians warm to Israeli truce plan (BBC, 7 August, 2002)
The Palestinian leadership has agreed in principle to an Israeli proposal to pull troops out of some occupied areas in exchange for a crackdown on militants.

The leadership decided to agree with this plan, as it is the first step of a comprehensive withdrawal from the re-occupied territories

"There is preliminary approval," Palestinian minister Nabil Shaath said after Chairman Yasser Arafat's cabinet had met in emergency session.

Palestinian and Israeli officials are due to discuss the details of the plan later on Wednesday. [...]

The Israeli proposal, put forward by Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Monday, would start with a withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Bethlehem.

In return, the Palestinian Authority would agree to stop attacks by militant groups in those areas.

If security could be guaranteed, Israel says further withdrawals could begin in other areas. [...]

Palestinian public works minister Azzem al-Ahmed told French news agency AFP that the plan "is the first step of a comprehensive withdrawal from the re-occupied territories".

Mr al-Ahmed said the proposal could eventually see a "return to the borders of 28 September 2000," the date when the latest Palestinian uprising broke out.

But he added that they still had "some issues to thrash out".


It's a start anyway...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:56 AM

HELP YOURSELF :

Saudi Arabia Won't Allow U.S. Troops (Donna Abu-Nasr, August 7, 2002, Associated Press)
Saudi Arabia has made clear to Washington – publicly and privately – that the U.S. military will not be allowed to use the kingdom's soil in any way for an attack on Iraq, Foreign Minister Prince Saud said Wednesday.

Saud said in an interview with The Associated Press that his country opposes any U.S. operation against Iraq "because we believe it is not needed, especially now that Iraq is moving to implement United Nations resolutions."

"We have told them we don't (want) them to use Saudi grounds" for any attack on Iraq, he said. [...]

Saudi Arabia invited U.S. troops for the 1991 Gulf War to help defend the oil-rich nation against Iraqi forces.


Here's another reason to lift the no-fly zones over Iraq. Tension between Saddam and the Kurds in the North and between Saddam and the Sauds, the Kuwaitis, and the Shiites in the South all works to our benefit. Add in a few Special Forces teams, a periodic cruise missile barrage, and organizing a replacement government here in the West and the regime may well begin to totter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM

EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK :

Murder is His Business : INTERVIEW with STUART M. KAMINSKY : The prolific creator of bumbling 1940s Hollywood gumshoe Toby Peters talks about his debt to Charlton Heston, his experiences in writing for television and movies, the increasing number of Jewish-theme mysteries, his Libertarian politics and his foray into the small-scale publishing business. (J. Kingston Pierce, August 2002, January Magazine.)
Q : Do you think that there's something quite appropriate about the pairing of Judaism and crime fiction?

A : For me there is a definite match. Abe is an Old Testament (Holy Scriptures) character. He does not turn the other cheek. He is willing to go beyond the limits of the law to mete out justice. He has a strong moral sense and believes that there are evil people and they must be dealt with. Like a biblical character, Abe is also not surprised by anything God does. He accepts the infathomability of God and is not in anguish over the tragedy of human existence. His name is Abraham for a reason. I read the Scriptures before I go to bed about three nights a week, not because I'm a zealot but because I think the lessons of the book are hard and reflect the reality of our existence, as I hope my Lieberman novels do. Essentially, God or whatever you wish to call the force that runs the universe (chance, evolution, etc.) can do anything at any time. Our task is not to struggle to understand. It is beyond understanding. Our task is to accept that anything can happen and we must live with it and create a moral set of imperatives that give our lives meaning (the Ten Commandments are a good place to start). [...]

Q : Before I forget, since we've already talked about religion, let's jump right onto that other third-rail of conversation: politics. While doing my research for this interview, I happened across a piece that said you're a Libertarian convert. What brought you to this conversion? And why buck the American two-party system, anyway?

A : I am a Libertarian. I'd describe my joining the party as a gradual change coming from beliefs that began to form when I was a boy. I started out as a Democrat like my parents, even campaigned for Ted Kennedy for president, moved to being a Buckley conservative, and a decade ago found that I agreed with almost everything the Libertarian Party stands for. As for bucking the two-party system, it is about time someone did. I see almost no difference between the two parties, and little real conviction about what they stand for. The Libertarian Party is clear in what it believes. And don't tell me I'm wasting my vote by voting Libertarian. I'm wasting my vote when I vote for the lesser of two evils. Nothing will ever change if we keep doing that. I vote for what I believe in, not for a compromise I'm uncomfortable with. [...]

Q : Final question: Let's say you suddenly find yourself trapped on a desert island. What three things would you most hope to find there? (No fair choosing some mode of transportation back to civilization.)

A : Assuming I have food, shelter, clothing and a spare pair of glasses on that desert island, I think I'd take a volume of the complete Shakespeare, the Holy Scriptures and a ukulele with very strong strings. The Bible and Shakespeare would be for reading and memorizing. The uke would be for self-entertainment.


It's an immensely interesting interview. His Porfiry Rastnikov series is particularly good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. CARTER :

"I've been to a lot of birthday parties and some of them were mine."
-Benny Carter at his 90th Birthday Celebration

Glenn Dryfoos, Brothers Judd jazz correspondent, writes :
Benny Carter (1907-), one of the great figures in jazz history and one of my heroes, turns 95 on Thursday (DOB: 8/8/07). To put his career and longevity in some perspective, he was a world-famous musician while Babe Ruth was still playing for the Yankees, and to my knowledge he's the only person to have recorded on every technology from Edison's wax cylinder to DVD's. He's now retired from playing, although he still composes.

Here's a decent piece on him by the LA Times' jazz critic (who's not much of a writer). But a sense of what Benny is like comes through. (As the writer points out, it's hard to see why Ken Burns didn't make more use of him in "Jazz.") Also, the article mentions the last gigs he played (when he was 90 1/2, he did a week at Catalina's). Mom and Dad were visiting on the first night, and we went to the show. Benny played as well as I'd heard him in years, and in fact, his playing got stronger as the weekend went on. I took Mom around to meet him afterward, and he was even more than his usually gracious self. I remember having the weird sensation of watching Mom meet someone who's music she listened to when she was a kid.

There's also a great bio of Benny written by the late Princeton professor Morroe Berger. The second edition was just released, with an update (the first edition is almost 20 years old) by Ed Berger, Prof. Berger's oldest son and a curator/librarian at The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM

RISING ABOVE THE DIN :

'Ordered liberty' : The U.S.A. Patriot Act upholds the rule of law, which ensures freedom. (Viet D. Dinh, August 6, 2002, Orange County Register)
When the nation is under attack, the natural answer to the first question - what are we fighting for? - is: for the security of America and the safety of her people. That answer naturally pits security against other societal values and leads some to recite Benjamin Franklin's now-famous statement, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

That we are fighting for security and safety is a true enough answer, but I do not think it is a complete answer. In this sense I agree with Franklin and those who quote him that one should not trade liberty (let alone essential liberty) for safety (let alone a little temporary safety). But the trade-off between security and liberty is a false choice. That is so because security should not be (and under our constitutional democracy, is not) an end in itself, but rather simply a means to the greater end of liberty.

However, my agreement with Franklin's statement does not settle the debate but only begins the conversation. For the essential question is, What do we mean by liberty? Here, I think Edmund Burke puts it best: "The only liberty I mean is a liberty connected with order; that not only exists along with order and virtue, but which cannot exist at all without them." In other words, ordered liberty. Order and liberty, under this conception, are symbiotic; each is necessary to the stability and legitimacy that is essential for a government under law.


It's probably worth listening to Mr. Dinh, since he's a future Supreme Court Justice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM

THE NOOSE TIGHTENS :

Russian Stealth frigates for India by year end (The Hindu, 8/06/02)
Russia is expected to deliver by year end two state-of-the-art "Krivak" class Stealth frigates to India, which have been specially designed for its Navy, official sources said here today.


August 6, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM

WELL, I KNOW I'M LOW RISK FOR SICKLE CELL AND TAY-SACHS :

Race Is Seen as Real Guide to Track Roots of Disease (NICHOLAS WADE, July 30, 2002, NY Times)
Challenging the widely held view that race is a "biologically meaningless" concept, a leading population geneticist says that race is helpful for understanding ethnic differences in disease and response to drugs.

The geneticist, Dr. Neil Risch of Stanford University, says that genetic differences have arisen among people living on different continents and that race, referring to geographically based ancestry, is a valid way of categorizing these differences.

Dr. Risch's position was prompted by an editorial last year in The New England Journal of Medicine asserting that " `race' is biologically meaningless," and one in Nature Genetics warning of the "confusion and potential harmful effects of using `race' as a variable in medical research."

Dr. Risch's assertion, in a paper in the online journal Genome Biology, comes as researchers and physicians are trying to interpret the DNA data streaming from the Human Genome Project and to make sense of the fact that the pattern of data differs among ethnic groups. [...]

The apparent correlation between race, genetic data and disease has prompted at least two schools of thought among biomedical researchers. One holds that race is so poorly defined that it is not a reliable biological concept and should be banished, if possible, from scientific vocabulary. This is the view espoused by The New England Journal of Medicine.

Many population geneticists, on the other hand, say it is essential to take race and ethnicity into account to understand each group's specific pattern of disease and to ensure that everyone shares equally in the expected benefits of genomic medicine. [...]

Dr. Risch concludes his review by noting that every race and ethnic group within a race has its own set of diseases and clinical priorities, which a new arsenal of genetic tools is poised to address. "We need to value our diversity rather than fear it," he writes. "Ignoring our differences, even if with the best of intentions, will ultimately lead to the disservice of those who are in the minority."


There's a great book about the idiocies of the kind of politically correct science that insists that race is meaningless : PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine (2000) (Sally Satel, M. D.). And here's a link to Dr. Satel's appearance on Booknotes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM

SUPPOSEDLY A DENNIS MILLER RANT :

Isn't it great we live in a country where a Federal Appeals Court can declare the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional because the words "under God" are a violation of separation of church and state? Well, you know something, your honors: following that logic, wouldn't the fact that you were sworn in with your hand on a Bible render you unemployed? Or maybe we should respond by withholding your obviously unconstitutional "In God we trust" paychecks, huh?

Or why don't we just change the phrase to "One nation under a crushing blanket of overly sensitive political correctness?" [...]

Well, anyway, it's good to know that all children are now guaranteed the right to come into their classroom in the morning and burn the flag, as long as they don't salute it.

You know folks, I haven't quite figured out the math on this one yet, but I think the aggrieved minority in this culture now is the majority.

And, by the way, to the two judges who authored this fiasco: instead of church and state, maybe you should be worried about the separation of your head and your butt.


When we began the argument several years ago about whether comedy is inherently conservative, several people offered Dennis Miller as Exhibit A in the case for the proposition.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM

EXPERIMENT FIRST--RULES LATER :

"Designer baby" ruling stokes controversy (Emma Young, 02 August 02, New Scientist)
A UK couple has been refused permission to create a baby that could save the life of their seriously ill son. The controversial decision highlights the lack of moral and legal clarity in this fast-changing area of medicine, say ethicists.

Michelle and Jayson Whitaker's three-year-old son suffers from a rare blood disorder called Diamond-Blackfan anaemia. To live a normal life, he needs a transplant of stem cells from the umbilical cord of a perfectly matched donor. But the regulatory UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority rejected his parents' application to create and screen embryos, with the aim of producing a tissue-matched baby.

The procedure would be "unlawful and unethical", says the HFEA, because tissue-type screening alone is not permitted in the UK. It can only be used in combination with genetic screening, to ensure an embryo is itself free from a serious congenital disease. Charlie Whitaker's condition is not inherited--and so could not be screened for.


It is completely irresponsible for societies to rush headlong into a future of "engineering" human beings without pausing to think about where we're headed and what the ramifications will be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM

THE MORTAR IN THE WALL'S STILL MOIST :

Bill puts political spin on religion : Legislation would OK church endorsements (Matthew I. Pinzur, July 28, 2002, Jacksonville Times-Union)
Lyndon Johnson was facing his first re-election as a U.S. senator in 1954, and he wanted more than a victory; he wanted to thrash his opponent and beat back the party's McCarthyite right flank so thoroughly that it would never challenge him again.

He finagled a bit of parliamentary guerilla warfare that not only ensured a landslide, but quietly built a new firewall between church and state.

The anti-communist cause was supported by two powerful nonprofit groups, which dogged Johnson and other party liberals by producing Red-baiting radio shows, television programs and millions of pieces of literature.

Three weeks before the primary he fought back. With the Senate scrambling to leave for its summer break, Johnson sent up a floor amendment that would rescind the tax-exempt status of any church, charity or other nonprofit that campaigned for or against a candidate. The amendment passed, becoming part of the Revenue Act of 1954.

"He decided to do what often has been decided by people in power that did not like the things that had been said about them," said the Rev. James Kennedy, president of Fort Lauderdale's Coral Ridge Ministries. "He decided to silence them."

Now, a bill before Congress seeks to undo a large part of the Johnson amendment by freeing churches -- but not other charities or nonprofit groups--to participate in campaigns.


Ah yes, that ancient tradition of keeping religion out of politics...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM

THE SQUEAKY WHEEL GETS THE GREASE :

Breast Cancer Cause Still Elusive : No clear link between pollution, breast cancer on LI (Dan Fagin, August 6, 2002, Newsday)
An $8-million federal study has found no evidence that pollution is an important cause of breast cancer in Long Island women, a frustrating result for local cancer activists who fought hard for the study a decade ago in hopes that it would identify new causes of the disease.

The study of more than 1,000 local women, the largest effort ever to look for environmental links to breast cancer, found that a woman isn't any more likely to get breast cancer if she has high levels of four toxic chemicals in her blood than if she has low levels.

The four chemicals - a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT, the pesticides chlordane and dieldrin, and the industrial insulators known as PCBs - have long been viewed as potentially important causes of breast cancer, though in recent years the evidence has weakened. All four have been banned since at least the 1980s as health threats, but are still detectable in the blood and body fat of most people. [...]

The study project, funded and administered by the National Cancer Institute, was the direct result of the grassroots activism and lobbying of a tenacious group of local advocates, many of them breast cancer survivors. [...]

Researchers... said yesterday that one effect of Gammon's studies may be to discourage similarly ambitious "fishing expeditions" that search for suspect toxic chemicals in blood, water, soil and air.


Please. The chances that this will discourage similar fishing expeditions are nonexistent. Women vote and women raise a ruckus when they get sick. The combination means lots of dollars get thrown at their pet causes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 PM

THUS PASSETH FREEDOM :

When brains meet computer brawn (Ed Frauenheim, August 5, 2002, CNET News.com)
People linking their brains together to form a global collective intelligence. Humans living well beyond 100 years. Computers uploading
aspects of our personalities to a network. These could all happen this century with the proper investments in technology, according to a recent report from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce.

Titled "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology, and Cognitive Science," the 405-page report calls for more research into the intersection of these fields. The payoff, the authors claim, isn't just better bodies and more effective minds. Progress in these areas of
technology also could play a key role in preventing a societal "catastrophe." The answer to human brutality and new forms of lethal weapons, it suggests, is a kind of tech-triggered unity: "Technological convergence could become the framework for human convergence."

Published last month, the report could one day be remembered as a seminal road map to the future. But it's not clear whether its recommendations will be followed--or should be. [...]

With research in converging technologies, it's possible some disabilities will be eradicated completely and normal standards of healthiness will soar, Roco and Bainbridge wrote. "The human body will be more durable, healthy, energetic, easier to repair and resistant to many kinds of stress, biological threat and (the) aging process." [...]

The report thinks big when it comes to peering beyond the next two decades to the rest of the 21st century. Taking visionaries such as Ray Kurzweil seriously, it imagines robots so advanced they may deserve political rights, building surfaces that automatically change shape and color to adjust to the weather, and the prospect of personality uploads that make death itself ambiguous.

Merging human consciousness with machines is tied to another mind-boggling concept: brain-to-brain connections. The report discusses the possibility of "local groups of linked enhanced individuals" as well as "a global collective intelligence."

Creating such a networked society could play a vital role in overcoming today's social and political crises, Roco and Bainbridge suggest. "The 21st century could end in world peace, universal prosperity and evolution to a higher level of compassion and accomplishment," they write. "It is hard to find the right metaphor to see a century into the
future, but it may be that humanity would become like a single, transcendent nervous system, an interconnected 'brain' based in new core pathways of society."


Obviously the prospect of relieving disabilities and conquering diseases is attractive, but I just find the price intolerable. A future where machines have more rights than fetuses, where individuals are submerged into a group mind, where the natural political tension between humans disappears into a bland and homogenized shared consciousness--it all seems repellant and anti-human. Hand me my sabots.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM

THE UNTIPPING POINT :

Graffiti, Rats Make Comeback as Quality of Life Starts Sliding : "It's 1989 All Over Again"
(BENJAMIN SMITH, NY Sun)
Graffiti is a symbol of urban blight, and the paint-covered subways of the 1970s and 1980s became a dominant image of New York's slide toward chaos. Now, with the city's finances uncertain and its longtime enforcer of public order, Rudolph Giuliani, out of office, some have pointed to new scrawls popping up from the South Bronx to Bay Ridge to raise the specter of a new descent.

Leading the doomsayers is Martin Golden, a Republican member of the City Council from Brooklyn who, with Council Member Michael Nelson, introduced a resolution calling on the state to reclassify graffiti as a felony.

"Graffiti is on the move, and it's not being acted on," Mr. Golden said. "It's starting to get out of hand, and if this crime is going to get out of hand, then there are going to be others that get out of hand."

"It¹s 1989 all over again," Mr. Golden said, noting that putting graffiti writers away for hard time would "send a message." [...]

Quality of life is notoriously difficult to measure, and despite a plan to start computerized tracking of minor violations, there is no reliable index of New York's graffiti levels.

Mr. Bloomberg, who has been careful to maintain the impression that he is holding the line on Mr. Giuliani's "quality of life" approach to government, picked up a paint roller and splattered the cuff of a well-cut pinstripe suit last month at a press conference in Greenpoint to draw attention to his anti-graffiti task force.

"Graffiti is not just an eyesore; it is an invitation to criminals and a message to citizens that we don't care," Mr. Bloomberg said.

There was a 34% decline in graffiti arrests--meaning, perhaps, a decline in enforcement, in the months after September 11, according to the mayor's management report. And Bruce Penkner, the president of a company that removes graffiti, Graffiti Answers, says he¹s also registered the change.

"There's definitely been more graffiti in the last 10, 11 months," Mr. Penkner said.


Maybe one of the problems with an idea like "broken-window policing" is that it is so simple that people just refuse to believe the magnitude of the change it can cause.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM

WHO PRUNED THE BUSH? :

Skulls Found in Africa and in Europe Challenge Theories of Human Origins (JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, August 6, 2002, NY Times)
At each turn, the family tree, once drawn straight as a ponderosa pine, has had to be reconfigured with more branches leading here and there and, in some cases, apparently nowhere.

"When I went to medical school in 1963, human evolution looked like a ladder," Dr. Wood said. The ladder, he explained, stepped from monkey to modern human through a progression of intermediates, each slightly less apelike than the previous one.

But the fact that modern Homo sapiens is the only hominid living today is quite misleading, an exception to the rule dating only since the demise of Neanderthals some 30,000 years ago. Fossil hunters keep finding multiple species of hominids that overlapped in time, reflecting evolutionary diversity in response to new or changed circumstances. Not all of them could be direct ancestors of Homo sapiens. Some presumably were dead-end side branches.

So a tangled bush has now replaced a tree as the ascendant imagery of human evolution. Most scientists studying the newfound African skull think it lends strong support to hominid bushiness almost from the beginning.


Okay, here's something I honestly just don't get. If we aren't the point of evolution then where are all the rest of the hominids who should be around now? Why is the bush all of a sudden a single stalk and why is the same true for every species we observe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM

THE CLINTON/KENNEDY UNDERCARD :

War of Words Reopens Democratic Party Rift : As Lieberman and Gore argue populism, indications are that cultural attitudes could be hurdle in this year's races. (RONALD BROWNSTEIN, August 6 2002, LA Times)
[E]xit polling from the 2000 campaign suggests that Gore's populist appeal neither attracted the working-class voters it targeted nor repelled the more affluent voters that critics believe it alienated. More dramatic was the party's decline in 2000 among culturally conservative rural voters, who will likely prove a decisive group again in many of the most competitive Senate and House races this fall. "The populism in the message, at the end of the day, did not make much difference one way or the other," says Democratic pollster Mark Mellman.

Yet the new argument over Gore's old message may solidify his position, even as he is showing increasing strength among Democratic voters looking toward
the 2004 nomination. [...]

Gore's populism was aimed largely at working-class voters, but he didn't run as well with those voters in 2000 as Clinton did in 1996, when he entirely avoided populist themes. Meanwhile, Gore ran better than Clinton among voters earning $100,000 a year or more?some of the affluent voters who critics thought were alienated by the populism.

Other findings in the polls suggested that cultural attitudes?on issues such as guns, abortion and Clinton's affair with Monica S. Lewinsky--influenced voters in 2000 more than the economic issues at the core of Gore's populism. Compared with Clinton in 1996, Gore lost far more ground among rural voters than the suburbanites the DLC feared he was driving away with his populism.

And some Democratic strategists believe that culturally reconnecting with those small-town voters may be a more urgent priority for the party in 2002 than calibrating the right level of economic populism. An unusual concentration of the most competitive Senate races this year are in Midwestern and Southern states with large rural populations, such as South Dakota and Arkansas. "A lot of the task before us is to take fairly conservative men whose economic interests lie with the Democratic Party and
put them at ease culturally," said Jim Jordan, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.


The GOP needs to stop running scared and return to a '94-style campaign, with themes specifically designed to appeal to these men. Republicans need big turn out in the mid-term election and the only way to get these guys to vote is to toss out some red meat--affirmative action is a good place to start.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM

REDEFINING BILLY BEER :

Lajitas takes wounding of its mayor -- a goat -- seriously (Jim Yardley, August 5, 2002, NY Times)
This isolated place along the Rio Grande in West Texas is called the end of the road, but it might as well be the end of the world. The closest commercial airport is five hours away. Cell phones do not work. There is no municipal government, and the elected mayor has no powers or duties, which is fortunate, because the mayor is a goat.

Not a goat in figurative terms but a real goat, Clay Henry III. He is admittedly a symbolic figure, a mascot of sorts, a publicity tool. He does not involve himself with zoning or ribbon cuttings. He is not a strategic planner.

His claim to fame is that he drinks beer.


Suffice it to say, it gets stranger from there. Although, having worked in West Texas, it's easy to believe he was the best man for the job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 AM

THEN THINGS GET REALLY STRANGE :

Gregory Hlatky at A Dog's Life notes this story :
Canadian Opera Company to Stage Canada's First Ring (Canadian Press, 1 August 2002)
The Canadian Opera Company announced the team Wednesday that will help stage Richard Wagner's complete Ring cycle, a first for any opera company in this country.

The COC said it has put together an operatic "dream team" of directors — Atom Egoyan, Franois Girard, Michael Levine and Tim Albery — each of whom will take charge of one of the four operas that make up the Ring cycle. Richard Bradshaw will conduct all four productions, and Levine will design the sets.

The schedule: Die WalkŸre (Egoyan) in spring 2004; Siegfried (Girard), winter 2005; GštterdŠmmerung (Albery), winter 2005 and Das Rheingold (Levine), 2006.

The first three operas will be performed at the COC's current home, the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto, but three full Ring cycles, including Das Rheingold, will be performed at the company's new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts during the 2005–2006 season.


Which reminds me of one of the strangest experiences of my life. The summer after my sophmore year at Colgate I went to see Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) in Seattle. During intermissions, you'd race to the bar and have to fight your way through flocks of little old German ladies reminiscing about Bayreuth in '38 and how smashing the Fuhrer looked in his uniform that year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM

URI GELLER? :

I'm still haunted by the face of Arab soldier I killed (Uri Geller, Jewish World Review)
ON A rocky hillside amid the despair and devastation that has been the West Bank for untold generations, I lifted my rifle to my shoulder.

I could see the terror in the face of the Arab soldier a few yards in front of me. He had already shot at me twice and was out of position and firing wildly about him as my unit advanced. We were both bad soldiers. He should have been retreating-I should have been diving for cover.

Instead I turned and for what seemed a long time I stared at him. My most vivid thought was: "You have a moustache. You are not like me."

Then I took aim and squeezed the trigger.

It is 35 years since I killed that Jordanian in Ramallah-the scene of so much bloodshed now.

I was an Israeli paratrooper sergeant fighting in a war against a crushing Arab coalition.

The father I hero-worshipped was fighting too. I was so proud to be in his army. So proud to be ready to lay down my life for my country. Now I look at the pictures of my homeland on TV, the horrific images of death, and my nightmares flood back. For many years after the Six Day War, all through the height of my spoon-bending fame in the 70s, I was tormented by a recurring dream of the soldier I killed.


Uri Geller? People never cease to amaze you.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM

WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY? :

11 Marine officers likely to be dismissed for cheating (Rowan Scarborough, August 6, 2002, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
A Marine Corps general has recommended dismissing 11 officers for cheating on a communications test at a training base in Quantico, Va..

The decision by Brig. Gen. Leif Hendrickson comes at the end of an extensive investigation into cheating by second lieutenants in the 23-week Communications Information System Officer Course in late April at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

The command also has been investigating suspicions of cheating at the officer basic-training school in Quantico, the first stop for second lieutenants on their way to assignment in the fleet.


As the Other Brother said, "Eleven potential CEOs looking for work".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM

THE KLAN'S MAN ON THE COURT (via Blithering Idiot):

Church, state 'wall' not idea of Jefferson (Larry Witham, 8/05/02, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
New research on Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation" between church and state shows that Jefferson never intended it to be the iron curtain of today, which instead was built on anti-Catholic legal views in the 1940s. [...]

"What we have today is not really Jefferson's wall, but Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black's wall," said American University professor Daniel Dreisbach, whose forthcoming book explores how Jefferson coined the "wall" metaphor.

Mr. Dreisbach's arguments parallel those of University of Chicago law professor Philip Hamburger, whose new book also says Justice Black's anti-Catholicism — learned in the Ku Klux Klan — influenced his 1947 ruling that the First Amendment created a "high and impregnable" wall between religion and government. [...]

"You can't understand the period when Justice Black was on the court without understanding the fear American elites had of Catholic influence and power," said Mr. Dreisbach, who is not a Catholic.


One can't help but savor the irony that the Court's "wall of separation" is a modern fabrication which is itself an attempt to disestablish one religion and a product of religious bigotry of precisely the type that the First Amendment was designed to guard against.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM

BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID :

Economy Stirs G.O.P. Worry in House Races (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 8/06/02, NY Times)
The factors behind the perceived shift include a spike in the number of Americans who told pollsters that the nation was heading in the wrong direction, a slight but steady erosion in the popularity of President Bush and rising disapproval of Congress over the last month.

"Up through late May and early June, through WorldCom, I was arguing that we were looking at the most pro-incumbent environment that I've seen in a 22-year career," said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who has conducted regular national polls of the electorate this year. "What has happened is that, because of WorldCom and the stock market collapse, these key tracking numbers have changed very quickly. We are looking at a much more traditional off-year election--which means the House is in play. Which I never really believed in June."


Of course they're going to lose control of the House, and they may go down by as many as five or six seats in the Senate. It's a mid-term election and the President's party historically takes a beating. That's why it was so important to rack up the legislative victories that they did this year. 2003 and 2004 are going to be a veto-fest and then W. has to convince voters to return him and the party to office.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP :

Stopping the attack on Iraq (Dr Naseer Alomari, The Jordan Times) 
THE BLOODTHIRSTY proponents of an attack on Iraq are driven by the clandestine Israeli agenda in the White House and American Congress. Their zeal and unfathomable insistence on an unprovoked attack on Iraq can only be explained in the context of the perceived Israeli need to preemptively strike openly anti-Israeli regimes in the region.

Wow, with this talk of clandestine agenda the guy sounds like a nut, or at least like Jacques Chirac.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM

WELCOME TO WILSON'S WORLD :

Violence, Terror, and Politics as Usual : America's "new war" reflects an epochal change in the nature of collective violence. (Charles Tilly, Boston Review)
Since World War II, then, we have witnessed increased deployment of violence not by officially constituted national armed forces but by paramilitary forces, guerrilleros, death squads, secret police, and other irregulars, and increased direction of state-sponsored and state-seeking violence against civilians, especially whole categories of the population stigmatized for their religious, ethnic, and/or political identities. These trends greatly exceed population growth and the multiplication of independent states; they constitute an enormous increase per capita and per state. Paradoxically, a world war characterized by immense armies, elaborate technologies, centralized planning, and weapons of mass destruction generated a shift away from the efficiently segregated military activity that Clausewitz analyzed and advocated as the essence of rational modern warfare. The result is a series of decisive, frightening steps away from painfully-achieved distinctions between armies and civilian populations, war and peace, international and civil war, lethal and non-lethal applications of force.

Why?

From the seventeenth century to World War II, violence generally moved in two directions across the world: toward increasing deadliness of international war, but also toward increasing security and peacefulness of domestic life, including declines in both large-scale and small-scale killing. Both trends resulted from states' increasing monopolization and perfection of coercive means. To be sure, Western powers continued their forceful conquest of non-Western areas through most of the period, and usually put down resistance to their rule ruthlessly. Yes, in times of war the distinction between international and domestic killing is often blurred, and if we include the effects of state actions on famine and disease the reversal will look earlier and less dramatic. Yet even with these qualifications, the period since World War II stands out for the prevalence of civil war, genocide, and politicide. How and why did these dramatic changes occur? Some of the causes are fairly clear:

More targets. With international backing, decolonization and separatist movements roughly doubled the number of formally independent countries, and therefore the number of governments over which dissidents and opportunists could try to seize control.

Weaker states. Absent support from colonial armies, many post-colonial regimes lacked the means of controlling their territories effectively.

External support. Throughout the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States often subsidized domestic opponents of those regimes that aligned against them.

More weapons. Both Western countries and members of the Soviet bloc greatly increased their shipments-legal and illegal-of arms to the rest of the world.

Financial support. The enormous expansion of international trade in cocaine, heroin, sexual services, illegal migrants, dirty money, rubber, oil, diamonds, and other minerals provided sources of support for rebels, intervening forces from adjacent countries, and merchants who profited from weak and corrupt governments; note that markets for the contraband in rich countries, notably the United States, sustained much of this trade.

Emigrant support. In an era of improved communications and relatively inexpensive travel, increasing numbers of emigrants maintained contact with their home countries, and either supported opposition movements, provided outlets for contraband, or both.

In short, a larger number of weak states faced increasingly well-financed and well-armed opponents.


One of the central tenets of conservatism is that ideas have consequences. So a conservative must notice the complete absence of ideas in Mr. Tilly's list of the causes of increased collective violence since WWII. The main idea that is missing, it would seem, is that of self-determination as the basis for political sovereignty. This idea, unleashed upon an ill-prepared world by Woodrow Wilson after WWI, when carried to its logical extreme, as it has been with great frequency, provides the basis for the demand that political entities be no larger than necessary to contain a homogeneous group of people, while essentially entitling every heterogeneous group within a given state to demand their own brand-spanking new state. Playing, as it does, into ancient and visceral prejudices, it can be little surprise that this idea has proven so powerful and has become the driving force behind most conflicts in the world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 AM

TOUCH 'EM ALL :

Conservative Touchstones (Joshua Claybourn, August 06, 2002)
Joshua Claybourn has posted his rating of President Bush on the conservatism scale we proposed here last week. I'd aver that once you start fractionalizing scores you're really not measuring how the President stands on the issue any more, but how closely he hews to your personal ideal. There are three issues on which I'd differ with Mr. Claybourn :
(7)Anti-abortion, anti-cloning, anti-euthanasia = .75
High marks for talk, low marks on action. Granted, the President just signed a bill restricting certain abortion procedures, but it won't affect much of anything. When the President signs a bill banning partial birth abortion, I'll take him seriously here.

(8) Opposed to legalization of drugs = 0.5
Right now you're asking yourself, "what on earth was that score for?" I'm just not convinced that opposing legalization of drugs is a "conservative" stance. Granted, I oppose legalizing drugs in most cases, but that doesn't make it conservative. For example, the "conservative" National Review favors drug legalization, as does Republican New Mexico governor Gary Johnson. This isn't a "conservative touchstone" at all.

(9) Anti Separation of Church and State = uhhh
Once again, who decided this is a conservative touchstone? I would wager that most "conservatives" favor a separation. They don't want the Church to be hindered in helping (see Bush's compassionate conservatism), but at the same time separation lends a certain amount of security from government meddling. So despite the fact I think this is a silly category, Bush has staked out a reasonable position on the issue and gets a 9.0.


On #7, Mr. Claybourn requires an action of which the President is not capable. Let the Senate pass a partial-birth abortion ban and then if Mr. Bush fails to sign it we can lower his score. Putting John Ashcroft in charge of Justice and making conservative court appointments is what matters here until the GOP has big enough margins in both houses to begin passing pro-life laws.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM

SURVIVOR :

Leni Riefenstahl: Ethics of an Auteur (THOMAS DOHERTY, Chronice of Higher Education)
If her luck holds, and it always has, the most controversial filmmaker of the last century will celebrate her own centennial with the premiere of her latest, and presumably last, motion picture. On August 22, the release of Impressions Under Water, a 45-minute documentary shot beneath the Indian Ocean, will coincide with the 100th birthday of its remarkable creator. Yet the event will inspire no tribute from the American Film Institute, no highlight reel at the next Academy Awards ceremony, and no commemorative box set of classic hits issued simultaneously on VHS and DVD. Whores and old buildings may gain respectability over time, but the almost defiant longevity of the Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl has yet to improve her bad reputation.

She must feel right at home again in today's Europe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM

A PLAGUE ON BOTH THEIR HOUSES :

REVIEW : of No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence by William A. Dembski (H. Allen Orr, Boston Review)
While usually admitting that life on earth is billions of years old and that people, pigs, and petunias are related by common descent, the Intelligent Design (ID) movement maintains that some bits of biology show the unmistakable handiwork of an intelligent agent. And while this agent may not wholly displace Darwin, the two at least stand shoulder to shoulder. The ID movement further maintains that intelligent design, as a legitimate scientific hypothesis, deserves a place alongside blind evolution in public schools and that students should, at the least, be exposed to both sides of the debate. [...]

Dembski-whose new book, No Free Lunch, is sure to ignite new firestorms over design vs. Darwin-is perhaps the most impressively credentialed of the lot. He wields a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago, another in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also author of seven books, including The Design Inference, a fairly technical work that laid out a statistical method allegedly allowing reliable detection of design. He is also an able writer, a skilled polemicist, and an indisputably bold thinker. And, yes, he believes-contrary to everything biologists told us for the last 150 years-that an intelligent agent helped shaped you and me.

To appreciate the magnitude of Dembski's claims in No Free Lunch you need to appreciate the relative modesty of Darwin's claims in the Origin of Species. Darwin did not rule out the formal possibility of a designer. Instead, he showed that the (apparent) design residing in organisms could be explained naturally, without recourse to a designer. And while he marshaled great masses of evidence for the role of his natural mechanism (natural selection) and against the role of a designer, Darwin made no claims about the impossibility of the latter hypothesis. Dembski's claims are more ambitious. Darwinism, he says, is formally incapable of explaining certain features of organisms. This is not to say that Darwinian mechanisms might not act now and then-Dembski agrees they might-but it is to say that Darwinism is mathematically barred from explaining certain things we always thought it could explain. And unfortunately for evolutionary biology, these things are not trivial arcana but the characteristic features of organisms: their staggeringly complex designs. [...] Dembski does not mince words: "[I]ntelligent design utterly rejects natural selection as a creative force capable of bringing about the specified complexity we see in organisms."


Both are theology; why teach either in school?

August 5, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM

A HERO RESTS :

Sept. 11 Hero Buried in Israel (AP, 8/05/02)
A computer programmer hailed as a hero for remaining with his quadriplegic friend rather than flee the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center was laid to rest in Israel on Monday.

In an act of final closure, the family of Abraham Zelmanowitz, 55, buried his remains next to his parents at the cemetery overlooking Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives, a revered resting place for many religious Jews. [...]

Zelmanowitz, whose remains were identified late last week, was hailed as a hero and praised by President Bush for his act of compassion.

Zelmanowitz, who worked on the 27th floor of the trade center's north tower, refused to leave behind his co-worker of many years, Ed Beyea, who couldn't descend the stairs in his wheelchair. Both died when the tower collapsed.


Of all the stories to emerge from the rubble that day, this was surely one of the most moving. G-d Bless You, Abraham Zelmanowitz.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM

THE EXTREMISM OF CHOICE :

Judge Dismisses Ex-Boyfriend's Abortion Challenge (Reuters, 8/05/02)
A Pennsylvania judge on Monday ruled against a man who is trying to stop his pregnant ex-girlfriend from aborting their child, saying a woman's right to an abortion was not subject to veto by a husband or partner.

Luzerne County Common Pleas President Judge Michael Conahan dissolved a July 29 special injunction that had prevented Tanya Meyers, 22, of Kingston, Pa., from getting an abortion after John Stachokus sued to force her to have the baby. She is about 10 weeks pregnant.

In a case that local legal experts said they had not seen the likes of in more than a decade, Conahan also dismissed Stachokus' lawsuit, saying the 27-year-old man from Plains Township, Pa., had no legal standing to interfere with Meyers' decision.


So the child has no rights, the father has no rights, and society has no rights--women alone wield the power of life or death. You don't have to oppose abortion as a general principle to find this kind of ruling an abomination.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM

THE EXCEPTION WHO PROVES THE RULE :

Warner Applauds Legislation Honoring Lafayette (Office of Senator John Warner, July 25, 2002)
Last night, the US Senate unanimously approved a joint resolution authored by Senator John Warner conferring honorary citizenship of the United States on Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. The Marquis is only the sixth individual to receive such an honor in the history of the US Congress. The House passed an identical resolution on Monday.

For his many contributions to the founding of this nation, Lafayette was previously named as an honorary citizen of both Virginia and Maryland. With the passage of this joint resolution, Lafayette will now be recognized as an honorary citizen of the United States.


He thereby joins Mother Teresa, Winston Churchil, Raoul Wallenberg, and William Penn and his wife, Hannah. Now that's what we'd call select company.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM

THE LEFT IS RIGHT! :

War Resisters: 'We Won't Go' to 'We Won't Pay' (FELICIA R. LEE, August 3, 2002, NY Times)
For more than three decades, the National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund has petitioned the federal government for a way to earmark the tax revenues that would go to the military - usually around 50 percent - for nonmilitary purposes, like education or health care. Like conscientious objectors who in the past were offered an alternative to military service, these resisters say the First Amendment protects their ethical or religious objections to paying for war with their taxes.

First of all, someone's been sniffing too much patchoulli because Defense is closer to 15% than 50% of the budget. Second of all, we 100% support the idea of targeting your own tax dollars. Everyone should get to choose exactly what programs their taxes go to and then governmental departments and programs should receive exactly as much as taxpayers chose to give them and not a penny more. This is a great idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:00 PM

ARAFAT'S LEGACY :

Malnutrition Affects One in Five Palestinian Children (Voice of America, 5 Aug 2002)
A report by a U.S. aid agency says more than one in five Palestinian children is suffering from chronic malnutrition directly related to the current conflict with Israel.

The ones who live get sent out with explosives strapped to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM

STACKING VICTORIES LIKE CORDWOOD :

After Many Lean Years, Americans Get a 'Do-Something' Congress (Ross K. Baker, August 5 2002, LA Times)
Everyone's heard of the "do-nothing" Congress. Well, call this the "do-something" Congress.

Before this current two-year session is over in January, the 107th Congress will be able to boast of the most impressive list of accomplishments of any Congress since the days of the Johnson administration in the 1960s.

Whether or not you agree with everything it has done, there is no way one could characterize this Congress as unresponsive or lazy.

It is true that the homeland security bill will be put over until after the August recess; this legislation represents the most extensive consolidation of federal government agencies since the 1948 reorganization that combined the departments of War and Navy and created an independent Air Force under the new Department of Defense. And it is true that there is still a major difference between the White House and the Senate's Democratic majority over the degree of Civil Service protection for the 170,000 employees in the proposed agency. But the differences have been so narrowed that ultimate passage should not be a problem.

Clearly, the bankruptcy reform bill too will pass. And the list of other major legislative actions also is impressive.


You may wish they'd done less but the record is inarguable and it does include the tax cut and Fast Track Trade Authority. Imagine if the GOP could win back the Senate?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM

KURDISTAN NOW :

Saddam wants Kurds neutral (John Diamond, 8/04/02, USA TODAY)
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has stepped up efforts to persuade Kurdish rebels to remain neutral if the United States attacks his regime, a move that is complicating U.S. planning for a possible invasion, U.S. intelligence officials say.

In the latest sign that he is taking President Bush's threat to oust him seriously, Saddam has used intermediaries in northern Iraq in recent weeks to appeal to the rebels he terrorized for decades.

The Kurds, who are 15%-20% of Iraq's population, seek independence and have cooperated with the United States. But now they are enjoying an unusual degree of autonomy and revenue from Iraqi oil with Saddam's tacit blessing.

Saddam has signaled the Kurds that they will continue to be able to govern themselves, teach their children the Kurdish language, collect taxes on commerce passing through the region and get a share of Iraq's oil revenue only if they do not support U.S. efforts to remove him, two U.S. intelligence officials say.


It will infuriate the Turks, but we should lift the Northern no-fly zone and recognize the independent state of Kurdistan immediately. Let Saddam try to explain to his people how what started out as a bid to claim Kuwait has ended up costing them a fifth of their population and the northern third of their country. Or, let him try to take it back by force, which provides the ideal cover for our simultaneous attack on him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM

ROE V. MR. ROE :

Court Issues Abortion Injunction (JOANN LOVIGLIO, August 4, 2002, Associated Press)
Abortion rights advocates are urging courts to immediately overturn a judge's unusual decision to temporarily bar a woman from ending her pregnancy.

The order came in a lawsuit filed by a man who is seeking to force former girlfriend Tanya Meyers to carry her pregnancy to term. John Stachokus says he is willing to take full or partial custody of the child and claims in his suit that Meyers is being pressured by her mother to have the procedure.

Lawyers representing Meyers called the order "a miscarriage of justice," while abortion opponents and father's rights groups praised it, saying men should have a say in the outcome of a pregnancy they helped create.

Luzerne County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Conahan issued the temporary injunction Wednesday. He did not say when he would issue a final ruling but asked both sides to submit briefs by Monday.
Until then, Meyers, 23, who is 10 weeks pregnant, has been forbidden from having an abortion.


By what tortured legal doctrine can the father of a child be said to have no rights in the matter of its killing?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 PM

MORE FROM POST-CHRISTIAN BRITAIN :

Radical Islam finds unlikely haven in liberal Britain (Danna Harman, August 05, 2002, The Christian Science Monitor)
"England is the capital of the Islamic world," says Sheikh Abu Bakri Mohammad, the Syrian asylum- seeker who founded al Muhajiroun in 1986. "Trafalgar Square has become our Mecca."

You can almost hear Churchill's bones rattling as he rolls over in his grave...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM

GEO-NIMBY :

Schroder distances his party from raid on Iraq (Haig Simonian, August 4 2002, Financial Times)
Gerhard Schroder, the German chancellor, will inaugurate his Social Democratic party's main campaign for next month's general election with a speech on Monday distancing his government from a possible US attack on Iraq.

The chancellor, addressing a rally in his home town of Hanover, is expected to underline Germany's solidarity with Washington and its concern about international terrorism. But with the SPD trailing badly in the opinion polls and an attack highly unpopular, Mr Schroder will emphasise that Germany is no longer willing to be a silent partner of the US providing financial backing, as it did in the Gulf war.


This is likely to be the last Germann electoral campaign where someone runs on a platform of not killing Muslims.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM

SPEAKING OF KASPAROV :

The War Is Not Yet Won : Take the offensive against Baghdad--and Damascus, Tehran and Riyadh. (GARRY KASPAROV, August 5, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
Any attempt to separate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the war on terror is futile. Once again momentum is building toward a Middle East peace push, but I'm convinced it is hopeless to look for a separate solution to the Middle East crisis before we achieve victory in the war on terror.

You do have to wonder why Palestine would abandon terror tactics if they're working.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM

MEANWHILE, IN POST-CHRISTIAN BRITAIN :

Pagan druid claims anger archbishop (BBC, 4 August, 2002)
Archbishop of Canterbury elect Dr Rowan Williams has hit back at newspaper reports he is dabbling in paganism.

He is being inducted as a 'druid' to the Gorsedd of the Bards during a historic ceremony at the National Eisteddfod in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, on Monday.

He will join the mythical circle of Wales' key cultural contributors in a ritual The Times suggested was linked to ancient paganism.


Supposedly he threatened to turn one reporter into a newt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 AM

WE ARE LIVING IN A (POST-)MATERIAL WORLD :

Swapping 'Religion' for 'Postsecularism' (PETER STEINFELS, 8/03/02, New York Times)
Is it time for those who study religion and those who preach it to take advantage of an ordinary four-letter word with extraordinary impact? A word that declares something new by declaring something old? A word that conjures up groundbreaking developments in ideas and sensibilities?

The word is "post." [...]

Fierce debates have broken out about why some leading postmodernist and postcolonial theorists often seem to beincomprehensible. Is it because they are working at the far edges of existing notions, or because they are merely bad writers, or because they are actually talking nonsense? So far, those debates have not detracted from the theorists' standing.

What a contrast to many religious thinkers and researchers, who often feel they should be on their best behavior if they are to be respectable members of the academy. They are cautious. They suppress subjectivity. They approximate the impersonal style of science.

Meanwhile, the eccentricities of prose and obscurities of jargon that are tolerated, even welcomed, among the posts suggest a different strategy for achieving both scholarly standing and intellectual leeway.

The lesson is obvious. Those who study, articulate or propound the beliefs and practices by which most of humanity tries to place itself in relationship with the transcendent should post themselves. They should simply drop that old-fashioned word "religion." What they are about, they should announce, is "postsecularism."


Another very good piece from the Times. Does Howell Raines know about this?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM

JUST WIN, BABY :

The Americas Prepare for Trade on a Fast Track : In a big and badly needed win for the Bush administration, the House and Senate last week gave the president trade promotion authority. (WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, 8/05/02, NY Times)
In a big and badly needed win for the Bush administration, the House and Senate last week gave the president trade promotion authority. Future trade agreements negotiated through 2007 can only be approved or rejected by Congress as they stand (no amendments allowed), vastly increasing the ability of the administration to negotiate trade deals with foreign nations.

The bill gave the president virtually everything he wanted. [...]

Last week's trade bill was also a signal victory for the Republican Party (Bill Clinton failed in three tries to get trade promotion authority through Congress). Trade negotiations are about horse trading; now Republican officials have the chance to decide what products to push and where to make compromises on trade deals that will affect the future of key industries and states. These efforts will be remembered by corporations when it comes time for campaign contributions.


As Mr. Mead rightly understands, the victory on Free Trade Authority really dwarfs almost everything else that's going on in Washington and represents another huge win for a White House that is compiling the best legislative record of our lifetimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM

BANQUO'S GHOST :

You'll Never Guess Who's Still at the Party : Bill Clinton offers advice to Democratic contenders (Howard Fineman, 8/12/02, NEWSWEEK)
Bill Clinton didn't attend the public sessions of the recent Democratic Leadership Council meeting in New York-one of the first "cattle shows" of the 2004 campaign-but he was an important behind-the-scenes presence.

IN LATE-NIGHT phone calls and at-home bull sessions, he advised at least three leading figures on the wording of their speeches at the event: Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards, and (noncontender) Hillary Rodham Clinton. And, just three days before the meeting, the former president had a private breakfast at his Washington home on Embassy Row with Rep. Dick Gephardt, another top contender slated to speak. "He loves to kibitz and would manage everybody's campaign-at the same time-if they'd let him," said one party strategist.

His message to all advisees: Take on President George W. Bush, big time. "Let him have it," he told one. The speaker who most enthusiastically followed that counsel was his wife, who got the best reception of anyone at the DLC event with a rousing defense of her husband's economic stewardship in the '90s. Her performance was so good that many in the audience wished aloud that she would run in 2004-something she has so far ruled out.


Lord, help us, he really is a clone of Richard Nixon.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM

2500 YEARS OF WESTERN WISDOM, RIGHT AGAIN :

Narcissism can be as much a hindrance as a help to relationships, new UGA study reports ( Kim Carlyle , University of Georgia)

For two decades, self-help books have hammered home a consistent theme for successful romantic relationships: first, you must love yourself. A new study, headed by a psychologist at the University of Georgia, may turn that wisdom on its head, though.

It turns out that those with positive self-views bordering on narcissism are usually miserable mates - selfish, manipulative, unfaithful and power hungry. Though they may at first seem charming and interested in a relationship, they soon look for dominance rather than delight.

"These people can come on as confident and attractive, but you don't see the negative parts of their personalities until later," said Keith Campbell, assistant professor of psychology at UGA. "It doesn't seem possible that they can betray a relationship as flagrantly as they can. But they do."

The study, co-authored with Craig Foster of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Eli Finkel of Carnegie-Mellon University, was just published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [...]

Viewing excessive narcissism as a problem is nothing new, of course. In Greek myth, Narcissus saw himself as beautiful and better than those around him, but his love of himself kept him from falling in love with anyone else. In the end, he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water and died.

The new study, however, is among the first to take what has been suspected for thousands of years and subject it to a rigorous scientific experiment. As it turns out, Narcissus probably got what was coming to him.


Did they really need a study to show that narcissists are Physician's Assistant Richards?


Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM

LAND OF THE FEEBLE :

Record number on disability pension (Norway Post, July 29, 2002)
More than 10 per cent of the Norwegian work force is receiving disability pension.

Only in the Netherlands is there a higher percentage of recepients of disability benefits, Aftenposten reports.

At the end of June, there were well over 288,000 disability pensioners in Norway, the highest number ever. (Pop. 4.5 mill.)


So, do we think socialized medicine is incapacitating people or free money is making them fakers?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM

WHY THE MIDDLE CLASS SHOULD SUPPORT VOUCHERS :

The Civic Education America Needs (Victor Davis Hanson, Summer 2002, City Journal)
How, then, can a nation struggle against enemies who do not tolerate dissent, do not allow freedom, when many of its own citizenry, especially in our schools, are not quite sure why or how we as a people are different and therefore can or should succeed? There is a reason, after all, why there is horrific racist imagery and language emanating from the Saudi state-run presses and not from the free media in the United States; why there is an open debate about our response to terror in a way impossible in a closed Egypt; and why we support a consensual democracy like Israel when strategically it perhaps makes more sense to placate or even ally ourselves with its more oil-rich and more populous enemies. Those critical issues of values and ideals that play out in diplomacy on the international scene should be second nature to every American. But sadly they often are not-and cannot be when so many of our youth have neither facts about nor confidence in their own American heritage.

Instead, many of our citizens seemed perplexed when they saw pictures of women being shot for adultery in Kabul or of Danny Pearl being filmed as he was tortured and beheaded-as if such barbarity were atypical or the work of an aberrant few sure to be redressed by responsible government. But did they first ask instead, "Do such peoples vote? Do they have an independent judiciary? Do they believe in the worth and dignity of every individual human life? Are their presses free and their media uncensored? Do they tolerate Christians, Jews, Africans, or Asians?" If we asked such questions, perhaps we would be less surprised at the carnage we witness worldwide-and more appreciative of, and thus willing to defend, our own quite singular country here at home.

Cataclysmic changes in our elite culture, especially at our top-tier universities, have filtered down to our schools to cause the erosion of civic education that we have seen over the last three decades. We have not yet seen all the pernicious ripples caused by the great splash of multiculturalism, authoritarian utopianism, and cultural and moral relativism-ideas that are antithetical to civic education, which historically has been national, realistic, and in some sense tragic in its acceptance of man's imperfections, rather than therapeutic in its promise to ameliorate all human woes with enough money, education-and coercion.

These privileged concepts, spawned in our universities and spread by our elite media, our courts, and our politicians, finally have become the assumptions of our public schools, leaving us with the Balkan idea of a racial, cultural, and ideological mosaic rather than a confident American melting pot of shared values.


It is perhaps the cruelest of America's ironies that the Founders supported the idea of public education specifically because they understood how difficult it would be to create successive generations who all believed in republican ideals, but that today our public schools no longer teach the civic virtues to our kids.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM

DELAYED HONEYMOON :

President Bush: Job Ratings (Polling Report)
What's most interesting about the cumulative numbers here is that while his support numbers fluctuates somewhat, the "Disapprove" number looks to be pegged at a fairly low 25%. It suggests that, if nothing else, the handling of 9-11 may have washed away much of the bitter taste left over from the election mess and given him a fresh start except with the most partisan of Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM

CAUSE VS. COINCIDENCE :

Lucky Us : A tribute to Milton Friedman (Donald H. Rumsfeld, July 31, 2002, National Review)

EDITORS NOTE: At the White House on May 9, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered this tribute to the great 20th century economist Milton Friedman. We reprint the transcript on the occassion of Friedman's 90th birthday. [...]

[G]eorge Shultz came to me and asked me if I would run the wage price controls for the United States of America. (laughter) It was the country's first peacetime experiment. As I recall, it was not Milton Friedman, but H. L. Mencken who once said, "For every human problem there is a solution that is simple, neat and wrong." Richard Nixon found it.

(laughter and applause)

Early on, I figured out that the key to success was not to even try to manage wages and prices. Senator Proxmire's law, I think written on the back of an envelope, was only a paragraph or two, and it embarrassed the President because inflation was coming along and the President wasn't stopping it. So he passed a law saying that the president shall have the right to control wages and prices. I put the law on the floor in my office, next to my desk. And then every time The Wage Board, or The Price Commission, or The Health Services Board, or The Rent Board, or The Construction Stabilization Industries Board, any one of those alphabet boards that were spawned by this Economic Stabilization Act--every time they issued a regulation, we stuck on top. Before too long it started working its way up to the ceiling. As a reminder for everybody for the potential damage we were doing.

He's not here and I hate to talk behind people's back, but I think the record should show that Vice President (Richard) Cheney, of course, was part of that operation, (laughter) and I have never once seen it on his resume. (laughter) But he was there.

There was one other thing we did early on was to get agreement that any employee of the wage price controls could be fired within 30 days. The goal was to not allow a permanent bureaucracy to self-perpetuate, and it worked. So we worked and we worked we kept letting out everybody, we kept freeing up all of these categories. We had tiers and we would let this group free at wages and controls, and this group free at price controls, because it was an option or because of something else, or because it was food and the answer to (inaudible) prices is high prices.

And after a while, Milton Friedman called me up and he said, "You have got to stop doing what you are doing." And I said, "Why? Inflation used to be up at around 6 or 7, it's now down to about 4 or 5. We're freeing up all kinds of activities. We're not doing much damage the economy." He said, "I know, I know that. But you're not the reason inflation is coming down, and YOU know that! (laughter) I said "That's true." And he said the problem is that people are going to think that you're doing it, and you're not--you're letting everybody out and Inflation's coming down and they're going to learn the going to learn the wrong lesson. And it's important he did not quite go as far as to say that I should start damaging the economy, but that was right underneath what he was telling me. (laughter) And of course he was correct.


This is much the argument that we offered when Republican friends told us they were so disgusted with George H. W. Bush's tax hike that they were going to vote for Clinton or Perot. The natural rhythm of Amerixcan politics was done possibly irreparable harm by the Democrats' winning the White House just in time to preside over the boom that was created by the Peace Dividend from the Cold War. In the normal course of things, had Bush, Sr. been reelected, it might have been possible to begin seriously reducing and privatizing government functions. Instead, the opportunity was lost, Democrats remained competitive, and it will take a '94 size landslide for the GOP to gain sufficient control of Congress to enact real governmental reform.


August 4, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:28 PM

MURDER ONE? :

Seven Charged in Ill. Beating Death (DON BABWIN, Aug 4, 2002, Associated Press)
Authorities charged seven people Saturday with first-degree murder for the deaths of two men who were stomped and beaten with bricks and stones by a mob after a traffic accident. [...]

Saturday's hearing came four days after a mob pulled Moore and Stuckey from the van, which hurtled a curb and struck a group of people sitting on a stoop of a home in the Oakland neighborhood. Three women were hospitalized after the crash. [...]

Autopsies revealed that Stuckey, an unemployed day laborer and factory worker, and Moore died from multiple injuries and blunt trauma, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's office. Toxicology tests showed that Moore was drunk at the time of the crash.


I realize this may seem semi-barbaric, but if they could tell the driver was drunk or had been drinking, I'd not vote to convict them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM

MORE SIGNS :

Crop formations circle planet (Rosanne Lin, Shanghai Star. 2002-08-01)
One of the first documented reports of a crop circle formation - the unexplained geometric designs that occur in fields of wheat and corn - appeared in 1678 Stirlingshire, Scotland. But this phenomenon was largely ignored until the 1970s and 80s when formations began to appear with increasing frequency around the globe. Today most countries - with the exception of China - are said to have experienced crop circle phenomena.

Yet is China really devoid of these unusual creations? Certainly, if someone or something is trying to communicate with mankind through patterns carved into crops, China's sizable population could not be ignored.

Western experts have obviously failed to carefully consider the data from this country. One only has to refer to the work of Zhang Hui, a research fellow at the Xinjiang Museum in Urumqi, to find evidence that suggests China - with its long history - experienced crop circle phenomena long before any other civilization on the planet.


This is a clear case of diploperennis envy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM

THE EASTERN FRONT :

Kennedys Clintons in convention feud (Glen Johnson, 8/4/2002, Boston Globe)
What was supposed to be a sporting, four-city competition for the 2004 Democratic National Convention has been transformed into a power struggle between two of the country's leading political families: the Kennedys and the Clintons.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts is spearheading Boston's drive to host the party gathering, telling each of the Democrats' potential presidential candidates that, as he passes age 70, he wants to finally bring the convention to his home state.

But freshman Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, seeking to show she can deliver for her adopted state following the Sept. 11 attack, and possibly laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2008, has told Kennedy face-to-face she will challenge him.


It's like the battle for Stalingrad all over again...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM

REDEEMING THE TIMES :

Was Gordon Gekko Right About Greed? (DANIEL AKST, August 4, 2002, NY Times)
In a Tolstoy story titled "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" a peasant named Pahom who longs for loam is granted his wish by the devil. First he gets 40 acres, then 125. Finally, in his acquisitive hunger, he accepts an offer of as much fertile territory as he can encircle in a day on foot. His cost will be just 1,000 rubles.

Of course, his eyes are bigger than his cardiovascular fitness level, and after walking as much land as possible by sunset, he drops dead. Tolstoy answers the title's question in the very last line: "Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed."

That parable about greed seems especially relevant today, amid the bear market and the constant eruption of business scandals. The novelist David Gates cited it in a recent Newsweek column. But the joke is on us, because Pahom's story was written by a man who inherited a 4,000-acre estate. (For the record, that's 10 miles around.)

What the story really shows is that there is nothing like the dashed material longings of others to bring out humanity's strongest censorious impulses...


Here's the one essay in today's Times that shouldn't go straight to the bottom of a bird cage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM

BACK TO THE FUTURE :

Tories need a big idea (Ed Vaizey, August 2, 2002, The Guardian)
In the 1980s the Tories were taking on massive vested interests - privatising nationalised industries, battling the unions, allowing council tenants to become property owners. It was a time of flux, with the liberal establishment carping on the sidelines and an ineffectual Labour opposition reaping the benefit every so often.

But the Tories find themselves, in confronting this government, without big issues being debated or a coherent intellectual idea to attack. In the absence of a major
ideological divide, the Tories must play a more subtle game. Their dilemma, and the difficulty they have in playing their hand, is illustrated by last month's Comprehensive Spending Review. Most commentators say that, as public spending takes off, this should be an open goal for the Tories. But it is not that simple. If the Tories oppose it wholesale, they will be embedded on the twin horns of aspiration and reality. No one likes to be seen to be cutting public spending, and there will be nothing to cut in any event as Labour's plans are now bedded in beyond the next election.

This real difficulty for the Tories is, perversely, where they will find their salvation. The perennial question asked by left and right alike - "Is Tony Blair a Tory?" - harks back to a threat that is now dissipating. The traditional divide between the left and the right had always been between the size of the state and the needs of the individual. Blair's third way was the first time a Labour leader had tried to cross that divide and acknowledge that the state had its limits. Five years into a Labour government, this vision is not a reality. The partnership between individual and state has become a bear-hug embrace.


The Tories problem is nearly summed up in that one phrase : "No one likes to be seen to be cutting public spending". Why have a conservative party if they don't want to cut public spending especially in a state that's as bloated as Britain?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 AM

REMARKABLE? :

Loss Shadows Solicitor General's Victories (NEIL A. LEWIS, August 4, 2002, NY Times)
It has been a remarkable 20 months for Theodore B. Olson, a time of gratifying achievements and one dreadful event that shadows all.

In December 2000, Mr. Olson, successfully argued one of the most historic Supreme Court cases, Bush v. Gore. The 5-to-4 ruling on the balloting in Florida made George W. Bush president. Last month, when the Supreme Court completed its latest term, Mr. Olson's reputation as a skilled appellate lawyer was further strengthened; as solicitor general of the United States, the government's chief advocate before the court, he had won all eight cases he argued.

But those triumphs of his career are bookends to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in which his wife, Barbara K. Olson, died on the plane that was flown into the Pentagon. He last spoke with her when she called him twice on her cellphone from the back of plane, where she had been herded with the other passengers and the pilots.

"She asked me, `What should I tell the pilot?' " Mr. Olson recalled at his Great Falls, Va., home later that day. "She was trying to do something."

On the second call, he told his wife what had happened at the World Trade Center, making clear the danger she and her fellow passengers were in.

He said that he was unsure whether to tell her what he knew as it came with a crushingly stark message, but that "we shared everything with each other."


Has ever a word seemed less suited to the task before it than in a reference to what General Olson has been through since December 2000 as "remarkable"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM

SIGNS :

Having enjoyed Sixth Sense and really liked Unbreakable, I'm looking forward to seeing the new M. Night Shyamalan flick, Signs, with Mel Gibson, who we also like.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM

IS ANTI-ZIONISM ANTI-SEMITIC? :

An Ugly Rumor or an Ugly Truth? (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, August 4, 2002, NY Times)
The day after the deadly Palestinian attack on Hebrew University in Jerusalem, The Guardian, the left-leaning British newspaper, published an editorial criticizing Israel for what the paper called "random, vengeful acts of terror" against Palestinian civilians during its reoccupation of the West Bank town of Jenin last spring. This after a United Nations report dismissed Palestinian claims that Israel had massacred civilians there.

Over the past several months, such sentiments have become common in much of Europe. A few months ago, when Tom Paulin, a poet, Oxford University professor and regular guest on BBC television, told Al Ahram, Egypt's leading newspaper, that American-born Jews who have settled on the Israeli-occupied West Bank were Nazis who "should be shot dead," his remarks, which outraged some, were also met by approval and admiration.

A. N. Wilson, a prominent conservative British writer and editor, publicly defended Mr. Paulin, who has also published a poem in The Observer magazine that referred to Israeli soldiers as "the Zionist SS."

"Many in this country and throughout the world would echo his views on the tragic events in the Middle East," said Mr. Wilson, who himself wrote in The Evening Standard, the London newspaper, that he had "reluctantly" concluded that Israel no longer had a right to exist. [...]

It all raises a question: Does the ferocious moral condemnation of Israel mark a recrudescence of that most ugly of Western diseases, anti-Semitism? Or is it legitimate, if crude, criticism of a nation's policies? Where does one draw the line? And how does one judge?


One would note the absence of Jews declaring that Britain had lost its right to exist when it repressed the IRA and refused to surrender territory to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM

NO WONDER THEY MADE HIM A LORD :

No time for politics (Mortimer B. Zuckerman, 8/12/02, US News)
This [Homeland Security] department must not be burdened by notions of political correctness that impede terrorist profiling and terrorist identification by means of fingerprinting or biometric surveillance. Above all, it must not be burdened by the management system and civil service regulations extant in the federal government today-rules that deprive managers from hiring whom they wish, firing whom they should, rewarding superstars, penalizing failures, and having virtually any power to shift more than a trivial amount of money from one purpose to another as circumstances change. Given that we are talking about nothing less than the security of America as a civil society, this new department must be free and clear of these constraints.

This is what the Democrats object to. Why? Because the civil service unions are their big supporters, both financially and at the polls. Tom Ridge, chief of the president's Office of Homeland Security, pointed out that Democratic objections would compel the new agency to operate with seven different complex personnel and pay systems. And Congress has been reluctant to give up its own prerogatives. It has even insisted that the new department head must come to Congress if there's a need to transfer 5 percent of funding to respond to unanticipated conditions. Imagine the Secret Service tied up in the same straitjackets in its duty of protecting the president. It is just as ludicrous that civil service and budget rules should limit the protection of millions of Americans against enemies who may use nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Homeland security is about national security, not about political security for members of Congress. If the Democrats continue their political posturing, they risk being blamed if anything goes wrong.


The Democrats : Putting (our) people first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM

EROG .RM :

Broken Promises and Political Deception (AL GORE, August 4, 2002, NY Times)
In every race this November, the question voters must answer is, How do we make sure that political power is used for the benefit of the many, rather than the few? [...]

This struggle between the people and the powerful was at the heart of every major domestic issue of the 2000 campaign and is still the central dynamic of politics in 2002. The choice, not just in rhetoric but in reality, was and still is between a genuine prescription drug benefit for all seniors under Medicare - or a token plan designed to trick the voters and satisfy pharmaceutical companies. The White House and its allies in Congress have just defeated legislation that would have fulfilled the promises both parties made in 2000.

The choice was and still is between a real patients' bill of rights - or doing the bidding of the insurance companies and health maintenance organizations. Here again: promise made, promise broken. The choice was and still is an environmental policy based on conservation, new technologies, alternative fuels and the protection of natural wonders like the Alaskan wilderness - or walking away from the grave challenge of global warming, doing away with Superfund cleanups and giving in on issue after issue to those who profit from pollution. And the choice, even more urgently today, is between protecting Social Security or raiding it and then privatizing it so that the trust fund can be used to finance massive tax cuts that primarily benefit the very rich.


Mr. Gore of course has things exactly backwards. The great threat to democracy does not come from the wealthy few, who are by definition relatively lacking in permanent power--sure an industry can buy a few congressmen, regulators or even an administration, but they probably can't buy enough voters to keep those lackeys in office. No, the real danger lies with the many, the people, particularly the vast middle class--which is easily bought off by government and becomes a permanent constituency for ever greater benefits for itself and ever greater regulation and taxation of the wealthy, whether individuals or corporations. Note that the main example Mr. Gore chooses is the prescription drug plan, yet another program that will benefit the enormous and already well-to-do cohort of senior citizens. Likewise, he grovels before the altar of Social Security, and even seems to acknowledge that if it were privatized we'd be able to cut taxes for people who are producing wealth. Thus, in a democracy, do the many extort the largesse of government at the expense of the few.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

WEAK AND BEWILDERED :

A Salmon River Send-off : A son floats into adolescence on Idaho's "River of No Return." (Andrew Ferguson, 05.13.02, Forbes FYI)
It wasn't until we were on the plane to Idaho that I discovered that the Salmon is known as "The River of No Return." Even allowing for the usual Big Sky Country/ Mountain Man chest-thumping, this struck me as unsettling. My son came across a poem with that title in a guidebook. "Men have floated on your waters/They've explored from end to end--" he read eagerly. "Still they never return homeward/By the way they did descend."

"I see," I said.

"For your waterfalls and canyons," he continued, "And your rapids, swift and strong/Find them weak and quite bewildered/As your might they would disarm."

"Weak and bewildered," I said. "Aha."


Andrew Ferguson is the most underappreciated political writer in America. Period.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

UNFAIR TO THE ROBBER BARONS :

Barons of bankruptcy (Financial Times, 8/01/02)
An FT investigation has found that the top management of the 25 biggest recent US corporate collapses amassed $3.3bn from share sales, payoffs and other rewards. [...]

In this special report we examine who made those fortunes, how they did so even as their companies were heading for bankruptcy, and what lessons can be learned by regulators and corporate governance reformers.


It seems unfair to the great robber barons to refer to these guys as "Barons". After all, even J. P. Morgan said that CEOs shouldn't make more than twenty times the average salary of their employees. The series is just devastating. These guys should be in prison somewhere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:29 AM

HOLY ANTHROPOMORPHISM, BATMAN! :

Why ET Hasn't Called : The lifetime of civilizations in the Drake equation for estimating extraterrestrial intelligences is greatly exaggerated (Michael Shermer, Scientific American)
In science there is arguably no more suppositional formula than that proposed in 1961 by radio astronomer Frank Drake for estimating the number of technological civilizations that reside in our galaxy: N = R fp ne fl fi fc L

Using a conservative Drake equation calculation, where L = 50,000 years (and R = 10, fp = 0.5, ne = 0.2, fl = 0.2, fi = 0.2, fc = 0.2), then N = 400 civilizations, or one per 4,300 light-years. Using Zubrin's optimistic (and modified) Drake equation, where L = 50,000 years, then N = five million galactic civilizations, or one per 185 light-years. (Zubrin's calculation assumes that 10 percent of all 400 billion stars are suitable G- and K-type stars that are not part of multiples, with almost all having planets, that 10 percent of these contain an active biosphere and that 50 percent of those are as old as Earth.) Estimates of N range wildly between these figures, from Planetary Society scientist Thomas R. McDonough's 4,000 to Carl Sagan's one million.

I find this inconsistency in the estimation of L perplexing because it is the one component in the Drake equation for which we have copious empirical data from the history of civilization on Earth. To compute my own value of L, I compiled the durations of 60 civilizations (years from inception to demise or the present), including Sumeria, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, the eight dynasties of Egypt, the six civilizations of Greece, the Roman Republic and Empire, and others in the ancient world, plus various civilizations since the fall of Rome, such as the nine dynasties (and two republics) of China, four in Africa, three in India, two in Japan, six in Central and South America, and six modern states of Europe and America.

The 60 civilizations in my database endured a total of 25,234 years, so L = 420.6 years. For more modern and technological societies, L became shorter, with the 28 civilizations since
the fall of Rome averaging only 304.5 years. Plugging these figures into the Drake equation goes a long way toward explaining why ET has yet to drop by or phone in. Where L = 420.6 years, N = 3.36 civilizations in our galaxy; where L = 304.5 years, N = 2.44 civilizations in our galaxy. No wonder the galactic airways have been so quiet!


From assuming that extraterrestrial civilizations will resemble ours to differentiating between Greco-Roman and modern Western Civilization to assuming that we're at a point in our own history where we can know anything about how long civilizations endure, this just seems like a massive pile of unsustainable suppositions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM

WITH AWE :

Lost Voices of Firefighters, Some on the 78th Floor (JIM DWYER and FORD FESSENDEN, August 4, 2002, NY Times)
A lost tape of lost voices, ignored until recently by investigators studying the emergency response on Sept. 11, shows that firefighters climbed far higher into the south tower than practically anyone had realized. At least two men reached the crash zone on the 78th floor, where they went to the aid of grievously injured people trapped in a sprawl of destruction.

Until the building's final minutes, one of the two firefighters, Battalion Chief Orio J. Palmer, was organizing the evacuation of people hurt by the plane's impact. He was accompanied by Fire Marshal Ronald P. Bucca. Both men died. [...]

For months, senior officials believed that firefighters had gone no higher than about the 50th floor in each tower, well below most damage. The transmissions from Chief Palmer and others reveal a startling achievement: firefighters in the south tower actually reached a floor struck by the second hijacked airplane. Once they got there, they had a coherent plan for putting out the fires they could see and helping victims who survived.

About 14 or 15 minutes before the south tower collapsed, a group of people who had survived the plane's impact began their descent from the 78th floor. As they departed, Chief Palmer sent word to Chief Edward Geraghty that a group of 10 people, with a number of injuries, were heading to an elevator on the 41st floor. That elevator was the only one working after the plane hit. On its last trip down, however, the car became stuck in the shaft. Inside the elevator was a firefighter from Ladder 15, who reported that he was trying to break open the walls. It is not clear whether the group of 10 had reached that elevator before it left the 41st floor but those who listened to the tape said it was most unlikely
that they had enough time to escape, by the elevator or by stairs. [...]

The department has identified the voices of at least 16 firefighters on the tape, and on Friday, their families were invited to listen to it in a ballroom at the Southgate Tower Suite Hotel near Pennsylvania Station. First, they were required to sign a statement prepared by city lawyers saying they would not disclose the last words of their husbands, brothers and sons.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told the families that he had not known the tape existed until very recently. Later, he declined to discuss its contents, but said it had a powerful effect on him. "Every time I've seen videotapes, listened to audio recordings or read the accounts of firefighters and their actions on Sept. 11, I've felt the same thing: an extraordinary sense of awe at their incredible professionalism and bravery." [...]

Chief Palmer's widow, Debbie Palmer, said she attended the session with trepidation, but as Commissioner Scoppetta did, she used the word "awe" to describe her feelings afterward. She had known little about her husband's movements on Sept. 11. Mrs. Palmer stressed that she would not break her promise to keep the tape confidential but said it had given her some peace about her husband's last moments.

"I didn't hear fear, I didn't hear panic," she said. "When the tape is made public to the world, people will hear that they all went about their jobs without fear, and selflessly."


Every time you think you're done crying you read, hear or see another story like this and you are saddened, infuriated, and, most of all, awe struck. The enduring image of that day must not be the planes striking and the buildings collapsing, but those insanely heroic cops and firemen racing towards the buildings. That such men exist and that they were willing to die to save others makes despair unacceptable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM

THE RAPTURE OF ZION :

Odd bedfellows : Evangelicals support Israel, but some Jews are skeptical (Jeffery L. Sheler, 8/12/02, US News)
[M]any evangelicals view the 1948 founding of Israel as the first in a chain of biblically mandated events that will culminate in the return of Jesus and the end of history-a scenario popularized in the bestselling Left Behind fiction series. Part of that scenario, based on a hotly debated interpretation of passages in Revelation, Daniel, and Ezekiel, involves a devastating "battle of Armageddon"-a nuclear holocaust that is stopped at its climax by the arrival of Jesus, who defeats the forces of evil and establishes an era of peace. But millions of Jews are killed in the battle, and the survivors accept Jesus as their Messiah. Many Christians who subscribe to that view doubt the efficacy of Mideast peace negotiations. "There's only so much you can do diplomatically or militarily," says Hutchens of Christians for Israel. "There will be no peace until the Messiah comes."

Lest anyone think that all Christian Zionism is totally benign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 AM

FROM KABUL TO BOGOTA :

U.S. to Patrol Colombia Inauguration (Michael Easterbrook, , August 3, 2002,
Associated Press)
A U.S. surveillance plane will patrol above Colombian next week as part of the security plan to prevent a terrorist attack during the presidential inauguration.

Authorities will be on maximum alert in the capital, Bogota, during Wednesday's swearing-in of President-elect Alvaro Uribe, who has survived several assassination attempts and is despised by leftist rebels fighting in the country's decades-old conflict.

A P3 aircraft and eight-member crew from the U.S. Customs Service will police the skies above the capital that day for unauthorized aircraft, the U.S. Embassy said Friday. Members of Colombia's air force also will be on board.


It increasingly seems like democracy has just one reliable defender : America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM

THE LIMITS OF MONEY :

Unexpected praise : Guess who's taking lessons from Al Gore's 2000 campaign? The GOP. Democrats see it differently (Roger Simon, 8/12/02, US News)
"The Gore campaign was good," Blaise Hazelwood, the Republican National Committe's political director, says. "It was a good grass-roots effort." One could dismiss this as political spin-the Republicans praise a bad Democratic campaign so the Democrats will repeat it-except that the RNC has spent nearly $1 million to find out what Gore did right and the Republicans did wrong in 2000.

"The weekend before the 2000 election we had a pretty good feeling," Hazelwood says. "Then Election Day happened, and it was, 'Oh, my gosh, what happened?' " The Republicans were shocked by what the Democrats have since forgotten: Gore, as "horrendous" as he was, garnered 543,000 more votes than George W. Bush. It wasn't supposed to be that way, not according to the polls. So the Republicans studied the last 72 hours of the election and came to one overall conclusion. "The Democrats have a better voter turnout operation than we do," Hazelwood says.

The Republicans had, over the years, become victims of their own success: Since they raised more money than the Democrats, they could afford to spend heavily on get-out-the-vote ads, professional phone banks, and computerized voter lists. The Democrats were left with bodies, especially the bodies of labor union volunteers going door to door. "The Republicans have the technology," says Donna Brazile, Gore's campaign manager and now head of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute. "We do
knock-and-drag, and they do right-click."


It was really disheartening to be at the local polling place on Election Day, with one or two other Republicans trying to keep track of who'd voted, while the Democrats had 15 people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 AM

EUROPE'S TASK WITHIN, WHILE WE FIGHT THE WAR WITHOUT :

Exposing Al Qaeda's European network (Charles M. Sennott, 8/4/2002, Boston Globe)
To this day, Europe remains Al Qaeda's forward position for logistics, financing, and recruitment in Osama bin Laden's war against the United States and the West.

An 11-month dragnet across Europe has resulted in the arrests and questioning of more than 200 people suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, in Spain, France, Italy, Germany, England, and the Netherlands. The arrests disrupted the infrastructure of the organization, US and European officials say.

But top counterterrorism officials in Europe say they believe Al Qaeda is still actively recruiting and preparing for attacks in Europe. Officials also warn that to perceive the threat as coming only from Al Qaeda is a mistake, since the group is reorganizing.

''That September 11th emanates out of Europe is not an accident or an aberration,'' said Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the chief French antiterrorism judge, who for 20 years has been at the forefront of tracking down and arresting Islamic militants in France and across Europe. ''It is the result of a long evolution that had gone ignored by law enforcement, by the government, by the US, by Europe, the media, and the public.

''Europe was and still is where the logistical core lies,'' Bruguiere said. ''I am not a psychic, but I believe there will be an attack on the West, and that it is likely to be an American target here in Europe.''


Al Qaeda has metastasized, for cripes sake.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM

DON'T GO WOBBLY ON US, TONY :

Bush rejects Blair call for Middle East deal before Iraq attack (Colin Brown, Sean Rayment and Charles Laurence, 04/08/2002, Daily Telegraph)
A damaging rift has opened up between London and Washington over demands by Tony Blair that the Bush administration revive Middle East peace talks before any attack on Iraq.

The Telegraph has learned that the Prime Minister is privately urging President Bush to call Arab-Israeli peace talks before any military action against Iraq, but the White House is resisting.

"The Washington argument is: You can deal with Iraq in a separate box. That is not the London position," said a senior Whitehall figure. [...]

"We want the Americans to say they are going to fix it in the Middle East. They are capable of doing it, even with [Israeli prime minister Ariel] Sharon, but they are not doing so."


Here's an idea, let's leave our national security in Yassir Arafat's hands and let him determine when we can attack Iraq.

August 3, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM

SCOTT RITTER SYNDROME :

Abdullah 'working closely' with Saddam (DOUGLAS DAVIS, Aug. 3, 2002, Jerusalem Post)
The Bush administration has acquired evidence that Jordan's King Abdullah II, once a cornerstone of US policy against Iraq, is in fact working closely with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to senior political sources here. The sources declined to indicate the precise nature of the evidence, but they say it is damning and irrefutable.

Among the most sensational charges, they said, is that Abdullah has been passing sensitive American intelligence material to Saddam and that he has received substantial "gifts" from Baghdad.

The sources allege that Abdullah is also "very handsomely rewarded" by Saddam for facilitating the passage of illicit, Iraqi-bound cargoes that arrive in Akaba, and for purchases ostensibly for Jordan, but in fact for Iraq that are made by a select group of Jordanian businessmen.

In addition to Abdullah's intense relationship with Saddam, the sources said he also has a long-standing friendship with Saddam's sons, Uday and Qusai, with whom he spent most of his vacations during the 1990s before becoming king.

"But the friendship appears to be one-sided," said the sources. "Uday recently gave Abdullah a gift three Porsches but what he did not tell Abdullah was that the cars had been stolen. All three had been looted from Kuwait. It was a sign of Uday's contempt for Abdullah."


This would explain yesterday's bizarre performance.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:57 PM

NOT IF, BUT WHEN (AND WHETHER) :

Saddam Likely to Fall in Attack (SALAH NASRAWI, Aug 3, 2002, Associated Press)
For all Iraq's bluster in the face of the possibility Washington will use military means to oust President Saddam Hussein, his regime would collapse under a U.S. onslaught, military experts in the region say.

Retired Gen. Salah Halaby, Egypt's former chief of staff, told The Associated Press in an interview that the Iraqi army is too weak and demoralized after the 1991 Gulf War and years of doing without new weapons "to be a serious match to the U.S troops and their smart weapons."

"The Iraqi army has no chance whatsoever to stand steadfast and will fall like a sandcastle," said Halaby, who commanded Egyptian forces in the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991. [...]

Halaby said that he believes Iraq's military would take a U.S. attack as an opportunity to turn on Saddam, who led Iraq into Kuwait and may be blamed by his men for the bitter defeat that followed.

"I have no doubt that once the Iraqi army has the opportunity to pounce on Saddam, it will do it without any hesitation, because this army has been humiliated in the Gulf War and it wants to revenge its honor," Halaby said.


If things are as bad as they believe, it seems like containment and some prodding, along with a periodic cruise missile assault, would suffice to remove him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM

DO YOU STILL BEAT YOUR WIFE? :

Gore Denies He's Anti-Business (AP, August 03, 2002)
There's a headline that's just disastrous unless he only wants to be the leader of the Democrats. Problem is--he's answering criticism from fellow Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:48 PM

ANYTHING FRANCE CAN DO WE CAN BETTER :

Germans Attack Post-Holocaust Taboos (AP, August 03, 2002)
For a nation that swore off nationalism after World War II, Germany is having an unusual election campaign. Taboos that once muted any serious discussion of the topic are being cracked -- not by some far-right fringe, but by the two main candidates.

One is Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. In May he publicly debated the meaning of patriotism with a popular author who has enraged Jews by saying that the Holocaust is used as ``a moral bludgeon'' on Germans.

Schroeder's conservative challenger, meanwhile, has engaged in a war of words with the Czech Republic on behalf of ethnic Germans who were expelled at the end of the war. [...]

As for anti-Semitism, Germans have long reassured themselves that it was firmly banished to the far-right fringe, which holds no seats in parliament.

But even that taboo has come under attack -- from a respected party that helped build Germany's postwar democracy and from Walser, whose latest novel was condemned by critics as pandering to anti-Jewish stereotypes.

The opposition Free Democratic Party, yearning to return to its old role as coalition partner in the next government, injected tones widely viewed as anti-Semitic into its populist campaign strategy. [...]

Meanwhile, Walser's new novel, ``Death of a Critic,'' has gone straight to the top of the best-seller list, accompanied by furious controversy over the unflattering portrayal of its main character -- a Jewish Holocaust survivor modeled on Germany's best-known literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki.

One of Germany's most respected newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, called the book a ``document of hate'' and refused to serialize it.


Remind me again why we want to be more like Europe?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:09 PM

MINOR MAJOR :

The rebirth of John : Five years ago John Major's political career and confidence were in tatters. Now he's got a new lease of life - tanned, rich and respected as a globetrotting speaker and lobbyist. He's even been targeted as the man to run English cricket, his biggest passion. (Nicholas Watt, August 2, 2002, The Guardian)
An unassuming middle aged couple, who would once have melted into the crowds on a Saga holiday cruise, are cutting quite a dash in London and in the smarter political salons of Republican Washington. John and Norma Major have cast off their gloomy demeanour - the legacy of a seven-year nightmare in Downing Street -and are learning to live with permanent suntans in their new lives as globe-trotting millionaires.

Life could hardly be better for the man lampooned as Britain's greyest prime minister, who now earns up to £850,000 a year after his appointment to the boards of a series of blue-chip American companies. When he can bear to tear himself away from his beloved Oval cricket ground, the former Brixton boy is in huge demand across the Atlantic on the George Bush senior circuit as a board member of the American Carlyle Group, a $3.5bn defence contractor. And he is in demand here too - yesterday it emerged that he is the man the English Cricket Board wants to run the game in this country when Lord MacLaurin steps down. Friends say that Major, 59, is now so relaxed that he is ready to confront the demons which paralysed his premiership and soured his departure from office in 1997. At a recent party to launch a book by his former cabinet colleague Ian Lang, Major made a light-hearted speech in which he laughed off the Eurosceptic "whooping savages" who gave him sleepless nights in No 10. He even suggested in a recent Daily Telegraph article that he wished he had thrown the towel in altogether when he issued his "back me or sack me" challenge to his party in 1995. Such remarks are a far cry from Major's angry outburst of last August, at the height of the Tory leadership contest, when he gave vent to 10 years of pent-up frustration at Margaret Thatcher's disloyalty during his premiership. His broadside was a ham-fisted attempt to destroy Iain Duncan Smith's leadership campaign as a punishment for his role as a Thatcherite Maastricht rebel. A year on, Major is said to be "surprised and delighted" that Duncan Smith has moved on to his One Nation Tory territory.


John Major seems like a perfectly decent man, but his and the Tory Party's failure to understand that their future lies in opposition to the EU and in defense of English sovereignty has been an ongoing electoral disaster.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 PM

SHE'S A VERY FREAKY GIRL... :

Private decency, public sleaze (Michael Medved, 8/01/02, USA Today)
Why should members of the entertainment elite feel embarrassed by marriage and motherhood? Why would a popular TV show insist on glamorizing a dysfunctional lifestyle considerably less wholesome than the more conventional arrangements its sexy stars have chosen for themselves in real life?

These questions arise in connection with the heavily hyped fifth season of the top-rated HBO comedy Sex and the City. Of the four stars whose characters' freewheeling romantic adventures comprise the substance of the show, two are proudly pregnant and involved in long-term relationships, one has written a book touting the glories of sex within marriage, and the fourth feels so embarrassed by the content of some episodes that she says she won't allow her parents to watch them.

Even Candace Bushnell, the real-life New York sex columnist and novelist whose work inspired the show and who provides the model for the Carrie Bradshaw character played by Sarah Jessica Parker, has turned away from the adventurous singles life she once celebrated. On July 4, the 43-year-old glamour girl got married on a windswept Nantucket beach to a 33-year-old ballet dancer she met eight weeks earlier. ''One has to be open-minded when the right man comes along,'' Bushnell told The New York Times. ''And I know it's freaky, but this just seems like the natural thing to do."


Boy, here in the red states we just don't find marriage the least bit "freaky". Of course, we also don't watch Sex in the City.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM

A COAST AWAY IS TOO CLOSE :

Berkeley event to try for mass breast-feeding record (MICHELLE LOCKE, August 3, 2002, Associated Press)
Breast-feeding advocate Ellen Sirbu wants to create a lactation sensation.

Sirbu and other city officials have invited hundreds of mothers and their babies to Berkeley on Saturday to try for a world record in simultaneous suckling.

"It's just going to be fabulous," said Sirbu, director of the city's supplemental nutrition program for women and infants and children. "The whole idea was to promote breast-feeding. It would be nice if we win."

The number to beat is 767, set Thursday by a group of women in Australia, where mass nurse-ins have been held annually since 1999.


If you''ve had a kid recently you'll be familiar with the fact that childbirth has been taken over by cultists. We're all for breast-feeding and good nutrition and the whole nine yards, but there's no other experience in American life that so nearly replicates being sent to a Chinese Communist re-education camp as going to birthing classes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM

THE LAST EMPIRE :

Taiwan Chief: China Is Separate (AP, August 03, 2002)
President Chen Shui-bian referred to Taiwan and China as two countries on Saturday, echoing comments by his predecessor three years ago that drastically raised tensions with China.

While discussing the Taiwan-China relationship during a video telecast to Taiwanese living in Japan, President Chen Shui-bian said, ``Simply put, with Taiwan and China on each side of the (Taiwan) Strait, each side is a country. This needs to be clear.''


With China's economic growth, assuming it can be maintained, must come eventual political loosening. And, when it does, it's impossible to imagine that the country can be held together. From Taiwan to Hong Kong to Tibet, the empire will surely implode just as has every other empire of the modern age. That's why it's inherently silly to speak of China as a long term threat to American security.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:11 AM

AN INOPPORTUNE MOMENT :

Simon welcomes ads attacking him over firm's fraud judgment (John Marelius, August 2, 2002, san Diego Tribune)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM

HE WAS OUR PRESIDENT :

Clinton enlists in Israel's aid (Stephen Dinan, 8/03/02, Washington Times)
Former President Bill Clinton says that during his presidency, he would have been ready to "grab a rifle" and fight in the trenches if Iraq or Iran had invaded Israel.

"The Israelis know that if the Iraqi or the Iranian army came across the Jordan River, I would personally grab a rifle, get in a ditch, and fight and die," Mr. Clinton told the crowd at a fund-raising event for a Toronto Jewish charity Monday.

The fighting words surprised veterans groups and prompted chuckles among Republicans, who saw a stark contrast with his behavior during the Vietnam War, when he avoided military service on behalf of the United States.


Any time you start feeling too giddy about the value of democracy, just recall that this clown was president of the United States of America for eight years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM

GIVING AS GOOD AS THEY GOT? NOT! :

The economy Bush inherited (Washington Times, August 2, 2002)
Al Gore returned to Capitol Hill last week for the first time in 18 months and delivered a fiery speech fiercely criticizing the economic policies of the Bush administration. Having inherited what he and Bill Clinton repeatedly characterized as "the worst economy in 50 years," the former vice president asserted that the Clinton-Gore administration built "the strongest economy in history." The facts prove otherwise. [...]

[E]conomic growth in 1992, Bush the first's last year in office, measured on a fourth-quarter-over-fourth-quarter basis, exceeded 4 percent. In fact, during the second half of 1992, the annual rate of economic growth was 4.2 percent, or more than five times the annual growth rate for the last six months of the Clinton-Gore administration.


That "worst economy in 50 years" bit is appalling. No one who was alive in 1979, with double-digit inflation, unemployment, and interest rates should have the nerve to pretend that the 1991-92 recession was even significant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 AM

PRETTY TENUOUS "LINK" :

Friendly fire deaths linked to US pilots 'on speed' (Andrew Buncombe, 03 August 2002, The Independent uk)
American pilots in Afghanistan, blamed for a series of "friendly fire" incidents and devastating erroneous attacks on innocent civilians, were routinely provided with amphetamines to tackle fatigue and help them fly longer hours. Pilots were allowed to "self-regulate" their own doses and kept the drugs in their cockpits.

The pilots were provided with the stimulant Dexedrine, generically known as dextroamphetamine and referred to as a "go-pill" by the airmen, when they set off on missions. When they returned, doctors gave them sedatives or "no-go pills" to help them sleep. Pilots who refused to take the drugs could be banned from taking part in a mission.


I'm not sure why this would matter, since our combat forces have used amphetamines since at least WWII.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:36 AM

BIDEN U :

5 Lessons of Biden's Iraq Hearings : Attack poses grave risks, but `containment' does, too (Tom Curry, 8/02/02, MSNBC)
In holding hearings this week on Iraq, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden set out to give the American people a cram course on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein--and he succeeded. If President Bush launches a military campaign to topple Saddam and destroy his arsenal, Biden wants Americans to understand the risks and rewards of an attack. Here are key lessons from Biden's hearings, based on the testimony of think tank analysts, former diplomats and ex-military officers. [...]

1. ANY POLICY HAS GRAVE RISKS [...]
2. BUSH MUST DECIDE IN A FOG OF UNCERTAINTY
3. SMALLPOX, ANTHRAX AND NERVE GAS ARE AS WORRISOME AS NUKES
4. INSPECTIONS WOULD NEED TO STRIKE PERFECT BALANCE
5. AMERICANS MUST BE READY FOR A 10-YEAR COMMITMENT


Wow, those range from the obvious to the dubious.

August 2, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM

RIGHTS & OBLIGATIONS :

Sizing up the Iraq war scenario (Anthony H. Cordesman, 8/1/2002, The Washington Times)
The U.S. may well be moving toward launching the first major pre-emptive war in its history. If the U.S. does go to war with Iraq, it will not be because of any recent Iraqi act of aggression, evidence of Iraqi terrorism, or Iraqi conventional military build-up - the U.N. embargo has deprived Iraq of any major arms imports for more than a decade. It will go to war because Iraq is led by a tyrant who is too dangerous to tolerate by containment and because he is covertly building up his capability to deliver chemical and biological weapons, and may be able to acquire nuclear weapons.

Regardless of whether we say so publicly, we will do so because he sits at the center of a region with more than 60 percent of all the world's oil reserves. [...]

There is, however, one thing of which we can be certain. There will be no true victory unless we make a firm national commitment to rebuild a moderate Iraq of the kind that Iraqis inside Iraq want, rather than simply defeat Saddam. [...]

Saying that any leader is better than Saddam, and leaving Iraq to its equivalent of Afghan warlords, and/or saddled with a massive debt and wartime reparations bill because of Saddam is an act of moral and ethical cowardice. Doing nothing to ensure nationwide internal security and stability while Iraq's divided Sunnis, Shi'ites, Kurds and Turkmen find a lasting political solution to their divisions and rivalries is simply dishonorable.


Here's an essay by the previously mentioned Tony Cordesman, who we''ll all be seeing a lot of if we do attack Iraq. Though eminently moderate, as always, I think he's wrong about that last bit. It seems legitimate to reserve the right to tell a people that they can't have their current regime without then taking on the responsibility
for replacing it for them. We may well decide to stay and rebuild a new Iraq, but there's no reason that we have to. Why not just let the Sunni reestablish a smaller state, the Shi'ites presumably meld their territory into Iran and the Kurds have a nation of their own? (Sure, the Turks will be upset, but if the Palestinians get a state, why not the Kurds?)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM

IMMEASURABLE WORTH :

'This Struggle Is Worthwhile' (MARLA BENNETT , August 2, 2002, LA Times)
The following is excerpted from an essay by Marla Bennett, one of the five Americans killed Wednesday in the bombing of Hebrew University. It originally appeared in the weekly San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage on May 10.

Each morning when I leave my apartment building, I have an important question to contemplate: Should I turn left or should I turn right?

This question may seem inconsequential, but the events of the past few months in Israel have led me to believe that each small decision I make--by which route to walk to school, whether to go out to dinner--may have life-threatening consequences.

I have been living in Israel for a year and a half; I arrived just a month before the current wave of violence and horror began. And for about that same period of time, I have been receiving calls each week from various friends and family members who subtly, or less than subtly, suggest I think about coming home. My friends and family talk about how dangerous it is here, and I have to agree with them. It is dangerous. But I remain unconvinced that the rest of the world is such a safe place. [...]

My friends and family in San Diego are right when they call and ask me to come home. It is dangerous here. I appreciate their concern. But there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now. I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am a part of the struggle for Israel's survival. Paying for my groceries is the same as contributing money to my favorite cause. Since traveling to Prague and feeling the fear of the Prague community as they faced possible violence, I know that this struggle is worthwhile.


There is just something so profoundly disturbing about a world in which where you are standing at any given moment of the day determines whether you'll be blown up for being Jewish, that we can't even begin to comprehend it. But we can understand this woman's bravery and honor her life, which she proved was of immense worth by being willing to sacrifice it in a worthwhile cause : the survival of Israel and the Jewish people.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:23 PM

SPEAKING OF THE DEMOCRATS' IRRECONCILABLE DIFFERENCES :

 Muslims Aid Embattled House Member : Lawmaker Opposed Pro-Israel Resolution; Rival Backed by Jewish Leaders (Thomas B. Edsall, August 2, 2002, Washington Post)
Members of the Muslim American community are providing extensive support for Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.), defending the five-term incumbent against a challenge financed in part by Jewish leaders critical of her stand on Israel.

At least three-quarters of the $234,299 that McKinney has raised from individuals this year is from donors with Muslim or Arab American surnames, the great majority of whom live outside her district.

Meanwhile her Democratic challenger, former state judge Denise Majette, has begun raising large sums from Jewish donors alarmed by McKinney's comments on Middle East matters. Majette plans to spend $500,000 in the three weeks leading to the Aug. 20 primary, top aides said. [...]

In an earlier Democratic primary, Rep. Earl F. Hilliard (D-Ala.), who was backed by Arab Americans but not as strongly as McKinney, lost to Artur Davis, who had strong support from Jewish donors across the county. [...]

Hilliard, in a post-election interview with the online publication The Black Commentator, said: "The only thing I know for sure, that I saw in black and white, is $1,098,000 that [Davis] reported. . . . [I]t came from Jews and Republicans."


We're about one election cycle away from that last phrase being redundant, huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:21 PM

PSYOPS :

Iraqis vacate Baghdad in droves (Iraq Press, 2002-07-31)
Tens of thousands of residents are moving out of Baghdad to more secure sites as fears mount that the United States will soon unleash a massive air and missile bombardment of the Iraqi capital. The fears are real this time as many of them believe that Washington is now serious in its bid to topple the regime of President Saddam Hussein. [...]

The unprecedented security and emergency measures taken by the regime to ward off an attack have added to the anxiety and fear which has gripped the residents in Baghdad. [...]

The economy, relying heavily on U.N.-monitored imports of food and other essential supplies, has deteriorated further recently, with the Iraqi dinar hitting lows unseen in the past two years.

Prices of food and other commodities have skyrocket ed as residents are using their savings to buy urgent needs fearing a massive U.S. military attack may lead to a disruption of supplies.

Meantime, the security services have stepped up their measures, blocking major roads leading to sensitive areas like the presidential complex in Baghdad.


Regardless of whether all the talk of attacking Iraq is mere disinformation or simply includes disinformation, it appears to be working brilliantly. A people living under these conditions eventually have to reach a breaking point, at which time it will be hard for an unpopular regime to maintain control, especially if U.S. Special Forces are on the way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM

WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION :

The DLC and Me : A look at the latest gathering of the
Democratic Leadership Council--from the inside.
(David Brooks, 08/01/2002, Weekly Standard)
Every year the Democratic Leadership Council has a big meeting, which, since they are Democrats, they call a "Conversation." They usually bring in a few pundits to give a more or less objective view of the state of politics. I did it last year for them at a meeting in Key Largo, where I told them that I thought the moderate DLC wing of the Democratic Party was waning; that unfortunately the Democrats were reverting to the orthodox liberalism of their Mondale-Dukakis roots.

I think that's true in spades these days. In fact, many elected Democrats and the entire liberal pundit class have flipped their lids, reverting to the sort of corporate-greed and evil-big-business rhetoric they haven't uttered since their college days in the Spartacus Youth League.


This is a pretty funny report from deep behind enemy lines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:01 PM

WE STAND WITH TOYS FOR THEE :

Hopes bleak for increase in DND cash : Academics say minister told them: Hard to get money for 'toys for boys' (Mike Trickey, August 02, 2002, The Ottawa Citizen)
Despite near-unanimous support for an increase in military spending, Defence Minister John McCallum is indicating there will be no new money for Canada's Armed Forces.

In a letter sent to a number of military and strategic studies organizations, Mr. McCallum said he is interested in meeting them later this month to hear their views on how to "redirect resources from what is no longer essential to capabilities that will be needed today or in the future."

Military analysts say this is a clear signal the government has no intention of providing even the minimum extra funding that Commons and Senate committee reports earlier this year said was necessary to maintain the Forces' current level of operations, let alone money for new equipment and additional personnel.

Military historian Jack Granatstein attended Mr. McCallum's session with academics earlier this week and said he was left with the impression that the minister is undertaking a policy update now in the hopes of making the budget planning cycle in November. If he were to take on the lengthier and long-promised full defence policy review, there would likely be no chance of new money in the next budget.

Some critics have already dismissed the idea of a defence policy review in the absence of additional spending.

Mr. Granatstein says Mr. McCallum indicated Finance Minister John Manley was sympathetic to the crisis facing the Canadian Forces, but he didn't know whether anybody else in cabinet held that view.

"He also said it was easier to get money for quality of life and personal equipment than it was to get, as he put it, toys for the boys."


Tom Roberts sent this one, hot on the heels of the story he sent yesterday about British unpreparedness. Here's the question for you : if even the other nations of the Anglosphere are no longer going to be much use to us in combat, then why should we be solicitous of world opinion as we prepare for war? The West seems to be left with just one serious nation; why give the unserious ones a voice, especially on military matters?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 PM

THEN WHERE ARE THE REST? :

What Was Moussaoui's Crime? (DAHLIA LITHWICK, 8/02/02, NY Times)
Most of the public and much of the news media may believe the government has a solid case against Mr. Moussaoui. With a careful reading of the indictment in the case, however, this certainty begins to falter. The indictment is a colorful and dramatic depiction of the Sept. 11 attacks, detailing the assembling of the hijackers and their preparations in a perfect narrative arc.

But the story it tells is hardly an airtight case against Mr. Moussaoui. Periodically, the indictment splices in parallel activities of Mr. Moussaoui--weaving his actions into the story of what happened Sept. 11 the way Tom Hanks was spliced into historical footage in "Forrest Gump." The indictment never connects him to the other 19 hijackers--who were interconnected with one another--and never suggests he even met them. Save for a single money transfer to Mr. Moussaoui from someone also transferring funds to the group, nothing in the indictment ties him to these men beyond his membership in Al Qaeda.

Scrutinizing the indictment, three possibilities emerge: the government is not presenting crucial evidence tying Mr. Moussaoui to the Sept. 11 attacks; the government has no evidence tying Mr. Moussaoui to the Sept. 11 attacks; or federal conspiracy law is so infinitely elastic that Mr. Moussaoui could receive the death penalty for simply buying knives, learning to fly and training in Qaeda camps.


Ms Lithwick, whose work is usually very fine, repeats here several of the increasingly popular mental contortions that are required to arrive at the strange idea that Moussaoui was not a co-conspirator of the 9-11 hijackers. In the first place, she ignores the reason that suspicion descended on Moussaoui to begin with, that he was trying to learn how to turn a jumbo jet but didn't care to know how to take off or land. Granted, this in itself is no crime. But we must also note that while he was in custody, just nineteen hijackers undertook an attack that was obviously planned for twenty. The original planners may well have known what they were doing since the only hijacking that was foiled was the one where the 5th man was missing. Setting aside for a moment any technical legal questions and looking at these facts with cold logic, there are two easily discovered forms of proof that might lead us to accept Ms Lithwick's assertion that Moussaoui was part of a different plot. There should either be just one more visiting Arab who was learning to turn jetliners at this same time, which would give us our alternative 20th hijacker. Or, there should be a whole 'nother group of Arab men, those who were participating with Moussaoui in the alleged "other" conspiracy. The absence of any evidence of any other potential conspirators does not prove that Moussaoui must be the twentieth man, but it sure as hell makes it likely, doesn't it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM

K'S DOUBLE DIPSCHTICK :

Dubya's Double Dip? (PAUL KRUGMAN, 8/02/02, NY Times)
The basic point is that the recession of 2001 wasn't a typical postwar slump, brought on when an inflation-fighting Fed raises interest rates and easily ended by a snapback in housing and consumer spending when the Fed brings rates back down again. This was a prewar-style recession, a morning after brought on by irrational exuberance.

It's useless to pretend in an economy the size of ours that anyone truly understands, with any degree of precision, why it rises and recedes. But Mr. Krugman seemingly dismisses out of hand what seems to have been one of the main causes of the recent slowdown in the economy : ill-considered Fed tightening. As the markets ran up to record levels Alan Greenspan vocally worried that sooner or later inflation would be unleashed and the Fed therefore raised rates or kept them at artificially high levels, as they are today, in expectation of an inflation that has never come. This despite the fact that during the same period he has spoken wonderingly of the productivity revolution, which is counterinflationary, and of the outdated measures used to gauge inflation, the notorious basket of goods that still reflects purchasing habits from the 60s. As to this latter, when he testified that it overstated inflation by as much as a full percentage point the GOP tried to change the goods included, but the White House refused to allow this because so many government benefits, especially Social Security, utilize cost-of-living escalators. God forbid the seniors don't get their undeserved boost in their dole checks.

August 1, 2002

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM

WHY ARE THE DEMOCRATS? :

DLC assail Bush, Gore (Donald Lambro, August 1, 2002, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The two-day DLC conference in New York, which drew about 800 Democrats from around the country, presented a parade of presidential contenders who devoted most of their speeches to attacking President Bush on the declining stock market and the weakened economy.

But much of what they said was overshadowed by unusually sharp criticism from the party against Al Gore's populist "the people vs. the powerful" message that key Democratic leaders said had turned off many voters in the 2000 election.

Not only did DLC Chief Executive Al From accuse the former vice president of sounding too anti-business, but Mr. Gore's 2000 running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, also made some indirect jabs, saying that an "us vs. them" strategy fails to attract moderate, pro-growth, investor-class voters.

If he decides to run for president in 2004, Mr. Lieberman said he would run "as the pro-growth candidate."

Such criticism of their former nominee had some liberal Democrats complaining loudly that the party's more-conservative wing was pursuing the wrong campaign strategy.

"You've got to wonder about making this a theme when the country is demanding action on corporate reform," said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, a liberal issue advocacy group. "It magnifies the division between those who want to lead in cleaning up corporate crime and establishing new rules for corporate behavior and those who want to assure corporate America that they are on their side no matter what.

"Here you have Lieberman lecturing the party that they should be very worried that they should not be seen as too anti-corporate. Their sense of issues is pretty off-base at the present time," Mr. Hickey said.

"The DLC and people like Sen. John Breaux [Louisiana Democrat] are pointing the party in a politically stupid direction," he said.


For eight years now, since the GOP Revolution, and aided by the bunker mentality of the Clinton scandals and the Florida debacle, Democrats have been artificially united by their opposition to conservative Republicanism. They've not had to face the many forces at work which will tend to disunify the Party and maybe even lead to its eventual disintegration. In particular, the Clinton/Gore ticket, which was quite openly premised on the idea that it was better to win the White House with two fairly conservative, white, Southern men than to hew to party ideology and remain in the wilderness, put the Party squarely in bed with various corporate interests. This sets up a terrific tension between the core of the party, which is fundamentally anti-business, and both the money men of the Party and many of the leaders of the Clinton era Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 PM

WHAT, IS IT BLASPHEMY? :

Bowden apologizes for 9/11 remark (Associated Press, 8/01/02)
[Reds general manager Jim] Bowden said before Cincinnati's 6-4, 13-inning victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday that he doesn't expect a strike by major league players. Union head Donald Fehr has been meeting with players to brief them about the status of talks.

"If players want to strike, they ought to just pick Sept. 11, because that's what it's going to do to the game,'' Bowden said. ``I don't think there's going to be a work stoppage. I don't think anybody's that dumb.

"If they do walk out, make sure it's Sept. 11. Be symbolic. Let Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do."

After the game, the Reds released a statement by Bowden apologizing for the analogy.


While it might be better not to compare a mere sports strike to the events of 9-11, this hardly seems to qualify as a major offense. We joke about people going postal or say someone got nuked; is 9-11 such a singular event in mankind's history that it must remain forever sacrosanct? That seems an immature and emotionally indulgent notion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 PM

INSIFRYBLE :

Too Green for a Golden Opportunity : America's third party still mired in the margins (Micah L. Sifry, JULY 26 - AUGUST 1, 2002, LA Weekly)
The Dow crashes another 390 points, another one of the world's largest corporations files for bankruptcy, and half the country prepares to delay retirements or send the kids to community college. A new phrase, "corporate crime," replaces "white-collar crime" in the mainstream lexicon. And worried Democrats and Republicans hastily promise a switch to a pro-consumer cookbook, after having fed America a strict menu of deregulatory dishes at the behest of their big-money sponsors for the last 20 years. If this isn't the moment for a third-party challenge, I don't know what is. Enter the Greens.

First of all, it would actually be a good thing if folk were going to retire later and bargain shop for colleges, but the idea that half the country will now have to do so is simply deranged. Anyone who is on the verge of retirement or of funding their kid's education and had their money tied up in these kind of high risk vehicles has no one to blame but themselves and there hopefully aren't that many of them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM

WORKER ESSENTIALITY AND THE TIMES :

Check out these two articles from today's New York Times :
Mozart Players Inching Farther Out on a Limb (ANTHONY TOMMASINI, August 1, 2002, NY Times)
What's most perplexing about the strike by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, called just hours before the four-week event was to begin on Monday evening, is that the musicians may be overestimating their essentialness.

New York has to have the New York Philharmonic. The Metropolitan Opera must maintain a top-notch orchestra. But there are other ways for Lincoln Center to present a summer festival of orchestra and chamber music programs, even one that mostly hews to the Mostly Mozart format, without supporting a resident orchestra. [...]

By its action the union is inviting Lincoln Center to devise a festival for next summer without a resident orchestra. It's hard to imagine a public outcry from New Yorkers to maintain the status quo.

Recently in Risor, Norway, I spoke with members of the lively Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, scheduled to make its Mostly Mozart debut in 2003, with the remarkable Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist. Those musicians can hardly wait to play the festival next summer. That their performance will generate excitement is a sure bet. It will set a high standard for the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra to match.

Asked if the strike makes it more likely that Lincoln Center will simply turn the festival into a series of performances by visiting ensembles and orchestras, Mr. Moriarty said, "There's no arguing with that point."

Right now, with no overtures from the musicians union and Lincoln Center's firm stand, it's entirely possible that the resident orchestra will not survive.

It's hard to see what the union expected to gain by this action. Officially, talks are not dead. Ms. Moss and her administrative colleagues say they are deeply saddened by the disservice to audiences. But judging from the speed with which they canceled this summer's concerts by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, they do not seem to be all that upset by the prospect of losing the ensemble.



Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:56 PM

WHAT A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR EUROPE :

Tanks, guns and boots all failed Army in desert (Philip Johnston, 01/08/2002, Daily Telegraph)
Only half of the British Army's main battle tanks were left operational during a major exercise in the Gulf last year when their engines became clogged with dust after a few hours in the desert.

Other equipment, from guns to boots, also failed to withstand the rigours of Operation Swift Sword - raising major questions over the Army's capacity to participate in a land assault against Iraq.

An investigation by the National Audit Office published today found that helicopters, self-propelled guns and heavy lifting vehicles all struggled in the heat and dust, while boots fell apart and the uniform was too hot. [...]

But the Ministry of Defence called the exercise "a success". It said: "This was the first time that many new items of equipment had been tested in the desert under near-operational conditions.

"The key point of major exercises is that they allow us to identify the challenges our forces might face when actually operating in such testing conditions. We have made comprehensive arrangements for identifying lessons and, where necessary, we will make improvements to our equipment and procedures."


As Tom Roberts (who sent this one) said : "When people ask what the effect of military underinvestment is, this is it. Especially the melting boots and flammable air filters."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:39 PM

NOT GOOD FOR THE GANDER :

Hamas leader's wife refuses to allow her son to become a suicide martyr (Ha'aretz, 8/01/02)
The wife of a leading Hamas activist in the Gaza Strip, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, will not allow her some to become a martyr for the Palestinian cause. In a telephone conversation that was apparently recorded by the Palestinian intelligence forces, Umm Mohammed told a member of the Hamas military wing that she would not allow her son, Mohammed Rantisi, to be enlisted for one of the group's suicide missions.

As Mike Daley (who sent this) said : It's a classic case of do as I say, not as I do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:14 PM

QUEERLY ENOUGH, I HAD A GAY OLD TIME READING THE BOOK :

Coulter's revenge : My one Nostradamus-esque column of the year. (Bill Berkowitz. 06.06.02, WorkingForChange)
A new book comes out later this month guaranteed to piss you off. While Oprah won't consider reconvening her book club over it and it won't be the publishing equivalent of Spiderman or Star Wars, it will become Number One on best-seller lists. The author will be all over the tube and talk radio.

And, there's not a damn thing you can do about it!

How do I know this? Simple.

I've been scanning right-wing websites and they are salivating over the arrival in bookstores of Ann Coulter's new book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right. If you think Bernard Goldberg's Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News had a conservative coming out party worthy of the late Malcolm Forbes, wait and see what happens when Crown Books rolls out Slander.


Wow, as if to prove Ms Coulter's point, Mr. Berkowitz finds it necessary to compare Bernard Goldberg, whose sexuality I know nothing about, to Malcolm Forbes, right down to the line about "coming out". Tell me again why conservatives think there's media bias against them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM

INCOMING! :

The greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais? (Jack Kelly, 8/01/02, Jewish World Review)
We may find out soon whether all this talk of invading Iraq has been part of the greatest strategic deception since Eisenhower convinced Hitler the Allies were going to land at the Pas de Calais.

Rumors of war have been rife in the news media of late, and they've been contradictory. On July 5, the New York Times published a front page story on a ground heavy invasion plan for Iraq. On July 29, the Times had another, very different, invasion plan - this one involving a quick strike on Baghdad - on its front page.

Meanwhile, the British press has been reporting both a "rift" between Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush about invading Iraq, and that Blair has presented to Parliament the case for taking part in a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The London Evening Standard and Pravda report that U.S. and British special forces already are staging in countries surrounding Iraq. A "massive assault" could be likely at short notice, said the London Observer. But unidentified congressional sources say unidentified administration officials told them there will be no invasion before next year.

Confused? That may be the point. Not to confuse you, but to confuse Saddam.


There was an incredible moment in Joe Biden's hearings on Iraq yesterday, which were shown on C-SPAN (yes, I'm precisely that big a policy wonk). Russ Feingold, who we now favor Hillary Clinton shouting down, gave this mincing, self-righteous introductory statement, about how his constituents don't want us sending boys to die unless they know precisely why Saddam's a threat. then asked the panel--Richard Butler, the Iraqi nuclear scientist who defected, and Tony Cordesman--if there is an imminent danger of attack from Iraq, as he interprets the War Powers Act to require before a president could take pre-emptive action anywhere. So Butler says (and I paraphrase until I can find a transcript), within those narrow confines, no. The scientist says, not right now, but that's the aim of Saddam's weapons programs and it's easier to stop him now than when the attack is imminent. Then Cordesman, who's a skeptic about the need to attack Iraq, believing that containment will likely succeed, says : no, an attack isn't imminent in the sense you stated, but if that's what the War Powers Act requires then it's obsolete. We're in a new age, as 9-11 showed, and we'll get no more warning of an imminent nuclear attack from a man like Saddam than we got from al Qaeda. If you wait 'til you know it's imminent to react it's already too late. Feingold looked like a puppy who'd been whipped.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM

STUMPING THE FORBIN PROJECT :

In an Ancient Game, Computing's Future (KATIE HAFNER, August 1, 2002, NY Times)
Programming other board games has been a relative snap. Even chess has succumbed to the power of the processor. Five years ago, a chess-playing computer called Deep Blue not only beat but thoroughly humbled Garry Kasparov, the world champion at the time. That is because chess, while highly complex, can be reduced to a matter of brute force computation.

Go is different. Deceptively easy to learn, either for a computer or a human, it is a game of such depth and complexity that it can take years for a person to become a strong player. To date, no computer has been able to achieve a skill level beyond that of the casual player.

The game is played on a board divided into a grid of 19 horizontal and 19 vertical lines. Black and white pieces called stones are placed one at a time on the grid's intersections. The object is to acquire and defend territory by surrounding it with stones.

Programmers working on Go see it as more accurate than chess in reflecting the ineffable ways in which the human mind works. The challenge of programming a computer to mimic that process goes to the core of artificial intelligence, which involves the study of learning and decision-making, strategic thinking, knowledge representation, pattern recognition and, perhaps most intriguingly, intuition.

"A good Go player could make a move and other players say, `Yes, that's a good move,' but they can't explain to you why it's a good move, or how they even know it's a good move," said Dr. John McCarthy, a professor emeritus at Stanford University and a pioneer in artificial intelligence.

Dr. Danny Hillis, a computer designer and chairman of the technology company Applied Minds, said that the depth of Go made it ripe for the kind of scientific progress that comes from studying one example in great detail. "We want the equivalent of a fruit fly to study," Dr. Hillis said. "Chess was the fruit fly for studying logic. Go may be the fruit fly for studying intuition."


Nice knowing we're still at least one step ahead of the Matrix.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM

BUY AND HOLD :

STILL BULLISH : Dow 36000 Revisited : Hey, be patient! (JAMES K. GLASSMAN AND KEVIN A. HASSETT, August 1, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
The theory that shaped our book comes from some powerful data. Ibbotson Associates, the Chicago research firm, found that from 1926 to 2001, the average annual return, after inflation, of the large-cap stocks of the Standard & Poor's 500 was 7.6%, compared with just 2.2% for Treasury bonds. In other words, stocks return more than three times as much as bonds. Thanks to compounding, after 30 years, an investment of $10,000 in stocks will rise, on average, to more than $90,000, while a similar investment in bonds will rise to less than $20,000.

Higher returns are normally correlated with higher risk, but work by Jeremy Siegel of the Wharton School and others has found that if stocks are held over long periods, risk declines dramatically. Mr. Siegel looked at nearly 200 years, and found that during their worst 20-year period ever, stocks rose more than 20%. But for bonds, the worst 20 years produced a loss of 60%. Mr. Siegel concluded that "the safest long-term investment for the preservation of purchasing power has clearly been stocks, not bonds."

How can bonds be risky? Nearly all bonds are exposed to inflation, which erodes principal. In an inflationary time, businesses can respond by raising prices, so stocks tend to suffer less than bonds. Stocks also increase their earnings fairly consistently from year to year, while bonds pay a fixed rate of interest, which is practically guaranteed to decline in purchasing power with inflation. Sure, there will be recessions and accompanying bad profit news from time to time. But in the end, the growing economy will pull firms' profits, and share prices, back upward.

For students of modern finance, the real mystery is how to reconcile these two facts: Over the long term, stocks return much more than bonds, but stocks are no more risky than bonds. This paradox is called the "equity premium puzzle"-- the premium being the extra return that stocks provide over benchmark bonds. For decades, economists were at a loss to explain the puzzle. A 1997 paper by Mr. Siegel and Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago concluded that the answer was "myopic risk aversion." In other words, investors are so frightened of short-term losses in the stock market
that they can't see beyond their noses.

We argued, to the contrary, that investors were finally solving the equity premium puzzle. Starting about 20 years ago, irrational risk aversion to stocks began to decline, thanks mainly to the spread of new research, better financial education, the rise of defined-contribution retirement plans, and increased world stability. [...]

Our noisiest critics, Paul Krugman in the New York Times and various Slate.com scribblers, willfully distort our arguments. And no wonder. If Americans continue to embrace long-term stock investing, the role of the state as dispenser of retirement benefits will shrink or disappear. And the "war" between capital and labor will be over. Unfortunately, many politicians and journalists have a vested interest in spreading fear and chasing people out of stocks--even though stock investing is the most reliable route to accumulating wealth.


The one thing I always tell younger folks who are hired at work is to put as much as they can in their 401k, put it in high return/high risk funds, and leave it alone for the next thirty years. When they're fifty they can start moving money over to bonds and whatnot. Or, when they're forty and have
so much money they can hire an investment counselor.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM

OMNI GAUL DELENDA EST :

Peres, Chirac seek 'road map' to peace, paths split on direction (JERUSALEM POST, July 30, 2002)
Chirac complained to Peres about what he claimed is a campaign against France in the United States, where France is portrayed as anti-Semitic. Chirac claimed that the campaign, while carried out in the US, is being orchestrated in Jerusalem, and demanded that the accusations against France regarding anti-Semitism cease.

Chirac said he'd read all about the campaign in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.