January 31, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM


Genome Evolution | First, a Bang Then, a Shuffle: Did duplication fuel vertebrate genome evolution? (Ricki Lewis, Jan. 27, 2003, The Scientist)
Picture an imperfect hall of mirrors, with gene sequences reflecting wildly: That's the human genome. The duplications that riddle the genome range greatly in size, clustered in some areas yet absent in others, residing in gene jungles as well as within vast expanses of seemingly genetic gibberish. And in their organization lie clues to genome origins. "We've known for some time that duplications are the primary force for genes and genomes to evolve over time," says Evan Eichler, director of the bioinformatics core facility at the Center for Computational Genomics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland.

For three decades, based largely on extrapolations from known gene families in humans, researchers have hypothesized two complete genome doublings--technically, polyploidization--modified by gene loss, chromosome rearrangements, and additional limited duplications. But that view is changing as more complete evidence from genomics reveals a larger role for recent small-scale changes, superimposed on a probable earlier single doubling. Ken Wolfe, a professor of genetics at the University of Dublin, calls the new view of human genome evolution "the big bang" followed by "the slow shuffle." [...]

Polyploidy is rarer in animals, which must sort out unmatched sex chromosomes, than in plants, which reproduce asexually as well as sexually. "But polyploidization is maintained over evolutionary time in vertebrates quite readily, although rarely. Recent examples, from the last 50 million years ago or so, include salmonids, goldfish, Xenopus [frogs], and a South American mouse," says Postlethwait. On a chromosomal level, polyploidy may disrupt chromosome compatibility, but on a gene level, it is an efficient way to make copies. "Polyploidy solves the dosage problem. Every gene is duplicated at the same time, so if the genes need to be in the right stoichiometric relationship to interact, they are. With segmental duplications, gene dosages might not be in the same balance. This might be a penalty and one reason why segmental genes don't survive as long as polyploidy," Lynch says. [...]

Human genome sequence information has enabled Gu and others to test the 2R hypothesis more globally, reinstating one R. His group used molecular-clock analyses to date the origins of 1,739 duplications from 749 gene families.8 If these duplications sprang from two rounds of polyploidization, the dates should fall into two clusters. This isn't exactly what happened. Instead, the dates point to a whole genome doubling about 550 million years ago and a more recent round of tandem and segmental duplications since 80 million years ago, when mammals radiated.

Ironically, sequencing of the human genome may have underestimated the number of duplications. The genome sequencing required that several copies be cut, the fragments overlapped, and the order of bases derived. The algorithm could not distinguish whether a particular sequence counted twice was a real duplication, present at two sites in the genome, or independent single genes obtained from two of the cut genomes.

Eichler and his group developed a way around this methodological limitation. They compare sequences at least 15,000 bases long against a random sample of shotgunned whole genome pieces. Those fragments that are overrepresented are inferred to be duplicated. The technique identified 169 regions flanked by large duplications in the human genome.

Although parts of the human genome retain a legacy of a long-ago total doubling, the more recent, smaller duplications provide a continual source of raw material for evolution. "My view is that both happen. A genome can undergo polyploidy, duplicating all genes at once, but the rate of segmental duplications turns out to be so high that every gene will have had the opportunity to duplicate" by this method also, concludes Lynch. It will be interesting to see how the ongoing analyses of the human and other genome sequences further illuminate the origins and roles of duplications.

It would appear they've identified several of the precise moments at which God intervened to create Man, in these cases doubling the entire genome to force evolution onto chosen tracks.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Jesus Sells: What the Christian culture industry tells us about secular society. (Jeremy Lott, February 2003, Reason)
Critics are right about the apparent insularity of evangelical culture, but not as right as they think they are. The hand wringing that the Left Behind series has engendered, for instance, is irrational. Though Bruce Bawer's Tompaine.com piece is an extreme example of overreaction, a few nonreligious friends have privately explained to me that the existence and popularity of such books -- "wish fulfillment fantasies about non-fundamentalists suffering apocalyptic torment," as Bawer put it -- worry them. The reviewer for the determinedly anti-religious Free Inquiry likened the series to The Turner Diaries, the anti-Semitic survivalist underground classic that helped inspire Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh.

Yet, other popular novelists, Stephen King among them, are often just as apocalyptic as LaHaye and Jenkins, without inspiring dire warnings that America is about to embrace a fascist theocracy. True, King and company don?t take their apocalypses seriously. On the other hand, the end of the world has been a popular subgenre for many years. Exactly what has drawn readers to so many secular total destruction fantasies is a question that?s hard to answer, but that answer is unlikely to be compassion for humanity.

In any event, one might hazard that the incomprehension of secular outsiders has contributed significantly to the birth of the commercial Christian pop culture scene. That is, while the books, music, and videos in CBA stores may not have been of the highest quality or featured the best production values, they at least took seriously the beliefs held by evangelicals, who may constitute anywhere from a quarter to a third of American society. The move by secular presses, movie studios, radio stations, and record labels to cater to this market could be viewed as a victory for commercial self-interest over religious intolerance.

This whole piece is interesting, but on just this one point, one wonders if it's really that far off to compare things like Left Behind to the "literature" that militia groups favor. It seems likely the reviewer in question was trying to be inflammatory and to smear Christians, but most cultural conservatives--who obviously tend to be white and Christian--do have a feeling of being an embattled minority and a sense that most of the trends of modernity lead toward ruin for Western Civilization and thereby for mankind. Nor is this anything new, as evidenced by Ortega y Gasset's fear of the masses and Albert Jay Nock's portrayal of the Remnant. Art, even if extreme, that portrays the few as the Chosen and that suggests that the decline around us presages a great moment coming, rather than an ignominious end, must obviously be attractive. Add to this the the abysmal state of popular entertainment--books, movies, music and tv--not just in terms of the low quality and the gratuitous sex, violence, and profanity, but also the frequent hostility to religious belief, and it seems no surprise that a rather insular community would develop around art that consciously avoids these things.

Meanwhile, one of the most interesting recent developments in pop culture is the resurgence of "decent" great films with serious moral themes. Consider some of the best, and often most successful, movies of last year--Harry Potter, Spiderman, The Lord of the Rings, Signs, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Lady and the Duke, etc.--there's been not only a return of movies that portray existence as a battle of good vs. evil but that portray good as prey to temptation and despair and that place selfless moral obligations upon the good. It's hard to think of a moment in the popular arts--with the possible exception of the punk rock explosion in the mid-70s--that was quite this reactionary and retrograde. Whether the popularity of Christian products had an influence on this or not, it seems certain that if the secular movie industry continues to roll out big-budget flicks like this it will have to impact the distinctly evangelical culture. And the conscious creation of popular art that invites evangelicals and other conservatives in, rather than putting them off, would have to be considered something of a victory for Christian culture, regardless of whether it represents merely an economic decision on the part of artists or a genuine acceptance of the ideas for which they're now becoming proselytizers.

Hollywood Rallies Round the Homeland: In a culture newly stirred by the danger of the national security state, the bad guys are clear-cut
and the good guys go nail 'em to the wall. (Todd S. Purdum, 2/02/03, NY Times)

The 70's revelations about C.I.A. coup attempts and other skulduggery gave way to the Carter administration's seeming powerlessness in the Iranian hostage crisis and the Reagan-era rebound in defense spending and the end of the cold war. By the 1990's, with the cold war over and prosperity reigning at home, the C.I.A. came to be seen as almost an afterthought.

Now the attacks of 2001 and the swift success of the United States's military campaign in Afghanistan have made for some creative amnesia about the American role in war through most of the last decade, when the Clinton administration stood on the sidelines in the face of the bloodbath in Rwanda and bombed Kosovo only from a relatively safe distance without a single American soldier on the ground. Next month, Bruce Willis stars in "Tears of the Sun," the tale of a Navy SEAL who defies orders by staging an unsanctioned rescue of a group of refugees in Nigeria.

"In how people are thinking, there's definitely an approach that says, `The government is not the bad guy,' " said Sean Daniel, an executive producer of "The Hunted," a thriller from Paramount set for release on March 14. Directed by William Friedkin, it stars Tommy Lee Jones as an F.B.I. agent on the trail of a serial murderer played by Benicio del Toro.

"There's an understanding from television and the `C.S.I.'s' and "Law and Orders' and the `24's' that there's a desire to see the bad guy gotten," he added. "It weighs in the story conferences and in the staff meetings. It just does. And while clearly the traditional grand escapism is what the movies are there for in times like this, there are also movies to be made where the government gets the bad guys."

Chase Brandon, a veteran covert operations officer who for the last six years has been the Central Intelligence Agency's official liaison to the world of movies, television and documentary films, said he had seen a steady increase in Hollywood's efforts at verisimilitude as well as a predisposition to offer sympathetic portrayals of the agency's work.

"People have seen documentary programs, most notably the series on the Discovery Channel, and they know what our lobby looks like and what our buildings look like, and more about the actual work that we do," he said. "So the old, tired and hackneyed representation of us as a bunch of rogue operatives, with everything dark and gloomy and sensational, that doesn't wash any more."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:28 PM


South Korean Leader Assailed on Funds Transfer to North (DON KIRK, January 31, 2003, NY Times)
President Kim Dae Jung faced mounting pressure today to provide a detailed account of why nearly $200 million was moved to North Korea shortly before he flew to Pyongyang for his summit meeting with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, in June 2000.

The opposition Grand National Party, which controls a majority of seats in the National Assembly, said Mr. Kim "must reveal all details of secret-room deals with North Korea" and called on him to "apologize for lying to the people."

Opposition politicians, as well as some news organizations, asserted that government officials had denied the money transfer until government auditors verified that the funds had moved through a large corporation involved in an elaborate tourism project with North Korea. Prosecutors are now weighing whether to bring charges against some of the major figures involved in the transfer and are also investigating reports that other funds also wound up in North Korea.

Henry Kissinger, Yasar Arafat, Nelson Mandela, Kim Dae Jung, Jimmy Carter.... No matter how much money they give Laureates, would you let the Nobel Committee add your name to that list?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


Unnamed Dem Candidate Edges Bush In New Jersey, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Lieberman Is Top Pick Of Dem Pack (Quinnipiac University, 1/31/03)
When looking for a possible presidential nominee, 32 percent of New Jersey Democrats pick Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, followed by:

* Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry with 18 percent;

*Rev. Al Sharpton with 12 percent;

*Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt with 9 percent;

*North Carolina Sen. John Edwards with 7 percent;

*Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean with 4 percent.

Nothing better demonstrates liberal media bias than the way they're refusing to cover the candidacy of Al Sharpton, who may well arrive at the Democratic convention with the second most votes.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:42 PM


GOP Pushes Estrada Past Democrats, 10-9: After nearly two years, panel OKs appellate court nominee (Tom Brune, January 31, 2003, Newsday)
Over Democrats' objections, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee yesterday quickly sent to the full Senate the long-delayed judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada, a conservative Hispanic attorney considered a potential Supreme Court pick.

In a 10-9 party-line vote that followed a contentious exchange among senators, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Estrada's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. [...]

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the committee chairman, accused liberal activists of a smear campaign against Estrada, who came to the United States from Honduras when he was 16, because of his ethnicity and politics.

"One new obstacle Hispanics face today is the attempt by some Washington political operatives to smear anyone who could be a positive role model for Hispanics and who might be a constitutionalist, rather than a liberal judicial activist, or who might even be conservative or Republican," Hatch said.

No honest observer will deny that had he an identical record and philosophy and WASP heritage Mr. Estrada would have sailed through. What Democrats fear is that he now becomes a slam dunk Supreme Court nominee, who they'd be forced to approve even in the final days of the second Bush term, when they'd normally be able to stop any nomination. This doesn't make them anti-Hispanic per se, but it does put them in the position of denying job promotions to Hispanics (and blacks) because of their ethnicity.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


Poll: Even Doves Back Iraq Action (Dana Blanton, January 31, 2003, FOX News)
While only slightly more Americans describe themselves as "hawks" than as "doves" when it comes to military matters, by more than three-to-one the public supports military action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power.

According to the latest FOX News poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) support U.S. military action against Iraq -- the same level of support as before the president's State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.  Among "hawks," that support climbs to 83 percent, and even among "doves" a majority still supports ousting Saddam (52 percent).

When asked to describe themselves on military matters, 38 percent say they are a hawk, 31 percent say dove, and 16 percent say it depends.  President Bush is seen as a hawk by 67 percent and as a dove by only 9 percent of the public.

Overall, fully 87 percent of Americans believe Iraq is deceiving inspectors by hiding chemical and biological or other weapons of mass destruction, and almost as many (81 percent) believe Saddam has ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist group.

Which leads one to ask: precisely who are the Democrats playing to with their opposition to the war?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM


DENNIS MILLER: Conservative (or at least libertarian) hero. (Edward Driscoll, January 31, 2003)

Years ago a friend sent us a few of Mr. Miller's jokes accompanied by a note that said: You probably don't like him because he's a Hollywood liberal, but these are funny.

I responded: Of course I like him. He is funny and all humor is conservative.

Thus began a years long argument, though we've yet to have anyone refute the point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM

NUTHIN' FROM NUTHIN' (via Thomas Nicholson)

Go forth and multiply (Mark Steyn, January 27, 2003, National Post)
A society whose political class elevates "a woman's right to choose" above "go forth and multiply" is a society with a death wish. So today we're the endangered species, not the spotted owl. We're the dwindling resource, not the oil. Abortion is like the entirely mythical "population bomb" touted by the award-festooned Paul Ehrlich, who predicted millions of Americans would be starving to death by the 1980s: It's a prop of the Western progressive's bizarre death-cultism. We are so bad, so racist, so polluting, so exploitative that we owe it to the world not to be born in the first place. Abortion fetishism and our withered birth rate are only the quieter symptoms of the West's loss of self-confidence manifested more noisily elsewhere, from last weekend's Saddamite demonstrations to Chirac and Schroeder's press conference. The issue this week, according to the Ottawa
Citizen's David Warren, is simple: "Is what we are worth defending?" If you think the Euro-appeasers' answer is pretty pathetic right now, wait another decade, after the birth rate's fallen even lower and their bloated welfare programs are even more dependent on an increasingly immigrant workforce.

The abortionists respond that every child should be "wanted." Sounds nice and cuddly, but it leads remorselessly to Italian yuppie couples having just the one kid in their thirties. In a healthy society, not every baby is exactly "wanted": things happen, and you adjust to them. Legal abortion was supposed to make things better for that small number of women who found themselves clutching a handful of cash and riding the bus to a backstreet abortionist in the next town. But "unwanted" is a highly elastic term: in Romania in the Nineties, three out of four pregnancies were being terminated. Europe, in eliminating "unwanted" pregnancies, is eliminating itself. In Canada, meanwhile, Patricia Pearson assures us there's plenty of other folks to take up the slack:

"Immigrants to Canada from China and Eastern Europe are, I think it's fair to say, more secular and more accustomed to official support for abortion and gender equality espoused in the socialist and communist states they have fled from, than those immigrants to the United States who come from Catholic Latin America."

Well, that's one way of putting it. "Official support" means China telling you how many babies you can have: not a woman's right to choose, but the state's right to choose for the woman. Some "tolerance."

Those of us less persuaded than Miss Pearson by the benefits of totalitarian approaches to birth control will just have to do our bit as we can. Next time you're in a rundown diner and the 17-year-old waitress is eight months pregnant, don't tut "What a tragedy" and point her to the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic. Leave her a large tip instead. She's doing the right thing, not just for her, but for all of us.

It would make life so much easier if only we could all hate humankind as much as the Left does. But you can't care about Man and reconcile yourself to who we're becoming, or not becoming, if defenseless enough.

As always when I read something like this, the mind turns to one of the most insightful paragraphs of Albert Jay Nock:

Burke touches [the] matter of patriotism with a searching phrase.  'For us to love our country,' he said, 'our country ought to be lovely.'  I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself.  Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being.  It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savour and depth, and which exercises the irresistible attraction that loveliness wields.  Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored by its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.

Isn't this, in fact, precisely what is happening in Japan, Canada, and Europe, where countries with wealth that was previously unimaginable are,
rather than thriving, killing themselves off? And, if we're honest, who among us didn't have at least a brief frisson of terror on 9-11 that we too had slouched so far down the road to Gommorah that our time of reckoning had come? And wasn't part of the undeniable thrill of the days following simply a function of our relief that we remain a decent, courageous, and surprisingly substantial people at our core?

Europeans mock us for our religion, our moralism, our conservatism on social issues like abortion and cloning, and our relative prudishness about sex (think Clinton scandal), but ultimately it must be the case that it is these very remains of what we (and they) once were and the strong pull that they continue to exert on our society, almost uniquely, have given us the only still rising nation in the West. We may well be growing hideous, but somehow enough folks here are raging against the dying of the light that we, unlike the rest of the West, aren't quite ready for annihilation yet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


A Different View of the Islamic World: Caspian Countries Defy Stereotypes (Baku Today, 31/01/2003)
[Brenda] Shaffer is research director of the Kennedy School's Caspian Studies Program. Its chairman is Graham Allison, the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government. Founded in 1999, the Caspian Studies Program focuses on those countries that surround the Caspian Sea, the huge saltwater lake known for its oil deposits and its caviar.

Even the program's title represents something of a paradigm shift. Under a more traditional scheme, Iran, which borders the Caspian on the South, would be considered part of the Middle East. Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan on the East would be seen as part of Central Asia, while on the West, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia would be part of the Caucasus. Russia, which borders the Caspian to the West and North, has always been a geographic anomaly because it spans both Europe and Asia.

But the term "Caspian region" makes sense because the countries are all part of the Caspian basin, and Shaffer believes that defining regions in functional terms, based on how people live, whom they interact with, what their economic and security interests are, makes more sense than simply drawing an arbitrary line around a geographic area.

Part of what Shaffer hopes to do is get people, and especially U.S. policy-makers, to see the world in these functional terms rather than make assumptions on the basis of cultural, ethnic, or religious identity. As far as the Caspian region goes, she believes that shift is crucial.

"These are countries that can contribute to our energy security, to nuclear nonproliferation, to antiterrorism," she says, "and they were cooperating before 9/11!"

Maybe we could have done with fewer stories on shark attacks and Gary Condit and a few more on these bewildering portions of the globe.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Every picture tells a story, don't it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Saddam exile plan gathers pace (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 1/31/03, Asia Times)
Even as the United States appears to be drawing closer by the day to attacking Iraq, behind-the-scenes efforts are continuing to find a peaceful solution to the crisis by forcing Saddam Hussein to step down at the eleventh hour to prevent his humiliating dethroning after defeat in war, with Saudi Arabia and the US playing a pivotal role in the diplomatic initiative.

Asia Times Online has learned of an unpublicized visit to Pakistan by a high-powered Saudi delegation believed to have been headed by influential Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the defense minister. The Saudis flew into the city of Rawalpindi last Friday aboard a special non-stop flight from Washington and then flew on to Paris the following day.

The Pakistan government has not said a single word about the delegation, but a highly-placed official in the Islamabad administration told Asia Times Online that the mission was a part of ongoing diplomatic efforts aimed at developing a plan for the exile of Saddam, as well as to discuss possible options for the future of Iraq.

Promise him anything to get him out and then arrest him anyway.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 AM


Politicians With Guts (Robert Kagan, January 31, 2003, Washingon Post)
I live in Brussels, famed "capital of Europe," and have traveled across the continent over the past year, speaking with intellectuals, journalists, foreign policy analysts and government officials at the endless merry-go-round of highbrow European conferences. The settings couldn't be nicer; the food and wine couldn't be better; the conversations couldn't be more polite. And the suspicion, fear and loathing of the United States couldn't be thicker. In London, where Tony Blair has to go to work every day, one finds Britain's finest minds propounding, in sophisticated language and melodious Oxbridge accents, the conspiracy theories of Pat Buchanan concerning the "neoconservative" (read: Jewish) hijacking of American foreign policy. Britain's most gifted scholars sift through American writings about Europe searching for signs of derogatory "sexual imagery." In Paris, all the talk is of oil and "imperialism" (and Jews). In Madrid, it's oil, imperialism, past American support for Franco (and Jews). At a conference I recently attended in Barcelona, an esteemed Spanish intellectual earnestly asked why, if the United States wants to topple vicious dictatorships that manufacture weapons of mass destruction, it is not also invading Israel.

Yes, I know, there are Americans who ask such questions, too. We have our Buchanans and our Gore Vidals. But here's what Americans need to understand: In Europe, this paranoid, conspiratorial anti-Americanism is not a far-left or far-right phenomenon. It's the mainstream view. When Gerhard Schroeder campaigns on an anti-American platform in Germany, he's not just "mobilizing his base" or reaching out to fringe Greens and Socialists. He's talking to the man and woman on the street, left, right and center. When Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin publicly humiliate Colin Powell, they're playing to the gallery. The "European street" is more anti-American than ever before. Even in the 1960s at the height of the anti-Vietnam War protests or in the early 1980s at the height of the "nuclear freeze" movement, European anti-Americanism was always more than counterbalanced by European anti-communism. Most Europeans believed the real problem was the Red Army and Soviet totalitarianism, not Nixon or Reagan, and the United States, whatever its flaws, was defending them from those twin evils. When Helmut Kohl, Margaret Thatcher and even Francois Mitterrand stood with Reagan in the waning years of the Cold War, theirs was a courageous and vitally important but not a politically risky stand.

Not so today for Messrs. Blair, Aznar and Berlusconi or for Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister. For leaders in Western Europe, more so than for their Central and Eastern European colleagues, standing with Bush in the present Iraq crisis is political poison, at least in the short run. With the Soviet and communist threats safely behind them and the Balkan crises settled, most Western Europeans either don't remember, don't choose to remember or perhaps even resent America's long record of strategic "generosity" toward them. Certainly they do not feel a scintilla of generosity toward the United States. Instead, as keen observers such as Christopher Caldwell have noted, anti-Americanism has become the organizing theme for all European grievances about their world. And just as Arab leaders channel domestic unhappiness with their rule into anti-Americanism as a kind of
safety valve for discontent, so, in perhaps more subtle ways, do European leaders.

Do you suppose Bill Clinton is capable of the level of reflection that would cause him to look at Tony Blair and say: I too could have been somebody?

January 30, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 PM


Mother wins damage claim over lack of test for Down syndrome (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, January 30, 2003)
A woman who said she would have had an abortion had she known her daughter would be born with Down syndrome has been awarded $10,000 (U.S.$6,500).

Dr. Ken Kan of suburban Richmond was negligent in failing to send Liu-Ling "Lydia" Zhang for an expedited amniocentesis, a procedure that likely would have detected the chromosome defect that causes the condition, British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Michael Catliff ruled this week.

Zhang, 42, a business operator with homes in Vancouver and Hong Kong, testified during a 15-day trial last November that she was devastated after her daughter Sherry was born on April 29, 1997.

Zhang said her husband, Simon Fung, could not accept that she had given birth to a retarded child and having Sherry "totally disrupted our plans."

These people are just despicable. Even if you can understand prefering the abortion to the child--and there is a coherent, though not necessarily compelling, case to be made--what kind of person would pursue a suit like this and say these things once their daughter is born? Is $6000 worth telling your child you wish she were dead?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM


Albania ready to join U.S.-led anti-Iraq coalition(LLAZAR SEMINI, Jan 30, 2003, Associated Press)
Albania is ready to join the U.S.-led anti-Iraq coalition, the government said Thursday, releasing a letter from Prime Minister Fatos Nano to the American president pledging the country's "total and unconditional" support. [...]

"I wish to bring to your attention that the resolution of my government to support the United States in the war on terrorism is total and unconditional," said the letter, made available The Associated Press. "We want to be as helpful as possible to the United States and stand ready to join the coalition of the willing as your friend and ally."

Which calls for a rendition of that sentimental favorite by Ernie Pantuso:
Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic.
Your terrain is mainly mountainous.
And your chief export is chrome.

Or something like that. God Bless Albania.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 PM


Shoe Bomber Sentenced to Life in Prison (AP, January 31, 2003)
Richard Reid, the al-Qaida follower who tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic jetliner with explosives hidden in his shoes, was sentenced to life in prison Thursday by a judge who warned him: "We are not afraid ... We are Americans. We have been through the fire before.''

The 29-year-old British citizen cried, "You will be judged by Allah!'' before being dragged from the courtroom in handcuffs. [...]

"Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons,'' said Reid, who converted to Islam eight years ago.

U.S. District Judge William Young would have none of it.

"We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid,'' said the judge. "We are Americans. We have been through the fire before.

"You are not an enemy combatant - you are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war - you are a terrorist. To call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. You are a terrorist and we do not negotiate with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.''

The judge then pointed to the American flag behind him and said: "You see that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is long forgotten.''

"That flag will be brought down on the day of judgment,'' Reid replied.

We're thinkin' the judge had the better of this discussion.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 PM


Justice Department probes Texas Tech professor's policy: Student alleges religious discrimination (LISA FALKENBERG, Jan. 29, 2003, Associated Press)
The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the policy of a Texas Tech University biology professor who refuses to write letters of recommendation to students who don't believe in the theory of human evolution, school officials said Wednesday.

Federal officials, in a Jan. 21 letter, asked the university to respond to a complaint alleging that Texas Tech and biology professor Michael Dini are discriminating on the basis of religion. [...]

Texas Tech spokeswoman Cindy Rugeley said the university stands by Dini and that his policies do not conflict with those of Texas Tech.

"A letter of recommendation is a personal matter between a professor and student and is not subject to the university control or regulation," Texas Tech Chancellor David Smith wrote in an October response to a complaint letter.

The professor may well be a flaming anus, as the comments on his website suggest, but since when do you have a right to a recommendation from anyone? It's not even clear that there'd be a cause of action if he refused all Jewish or black or gay students. We're with the Darwinist on this one.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM


Justice Scalia's Lament (The Washington Post, January 28, 2003)
In reality, the founding-era practice of religious neutrality was not one that even Justice Scalia today would recognize as neutral. For while Justice Scalia's idea of government neutrality among religious groups had some adherents at the time, it was not the principle that governed the early history of the American republic. States retained established churches and religious tests for public service, for example. Congress paid for missionary work among Native Americans. And many scholarly authorities emphatically did not understand the First Amendment, as the justice now does, as putting Christianity on an even playing field with other religions. Justice Joseph Story -- a celebrated early commentator on the Constitution -- wrote in 1833, for example, that the point of the amendment was "not to countenance, much less to advantage Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity," but to establish federal neutrality between Christian sects and the states those sects dominated. "[I]t is impossible for those who believe in the truth of Christianity as a divine revelation to doubt that it is the especial duty of government to foster . . . it among all the citizens and subjects," he wrote. This sounds little like neutrality among religions. Justice Scalia's Constitution, in other words, is just as "living" as the one he derides. He merely prefers to draw the line in a different place.

The trouble is that he draws it in a place that would permit public religious exercises that endorse one broad religious system -- Judeo-Christian monotheism -- at the expense of all other systems of belief and would do so with the imprimatur of the state. Justice Scalia can pretend that certain school prayers, to cite one example, are nondenominational, but any invocation of one God necessarily excludes Hindus as surely as it excludes atheists. Protecting their consciences from state indoctrination may be, as Justice Scalia laments, a deviation from the vision of religious freedom the First Amendment was originally intended to enshrine. But America has changed since the 18th century, and the American understanding of the principle the First Amendment stated -- Justice Scalia's understanding included -- has changed with it. In contemporary America, governmental neutrality on religious matters should be true neutrality.

They start off so well, pointing out that even Justice Scalia has drifted too far from the intent of the First Amendment, but then they fritter it all away by proposing that we veer even further.

The Constitution isn't alive; it's a written document. If you want to change it then let's call the Convention and let the chips fall where they may.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Unlikely Allies Influenced Bush To Shift Course On AIDS Relief (Mike Allen and Paul Blustein, January 30, 2003, Washington Post)
Administration officials said Bush, who had planned to announce the effort during a trip to Africa that had been scheduled for this month but was postponed, was convinced of the scale of the crisis in part because of trips to Africa last year by the outgoing Treasury secretary, Paul H. O'Neill, and by Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans.

Evans said that he told Bush about the heartbreaking scourge he had witnessed and that Bush believes passionately that "we're here to serve other people and love our neighbors, and these are our neighbors."

The effort was championed inside the West Wing by Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten, who told a colleague several months ago, "We need to do something major on this." Michael Gerson, Bush's chief speechwriter, also took an early interest in the issue, and an administration official said he has talked for months about "the importance of speaking to this as a moral matter."

Several administration officials have become friends of Bono, the lead singer of U2, who said in an interview from Dublin that Bush's announcement shows how the world has changed. "If you think back just six months or a year, conservatives, especially religious conservatives, were very skeptical about this, and we had to explain that if you can't get the drugs, why would you test, and if you don't get people testing, we can't control the virus," Bono said. "All these points have sunk in."

It's been interesting to listen to interviews over the past few days and hear how genuinely thankful and truly perplexed folks in the AIDs community are that it's a religious conservative like George W. Bush who is doing this.

How Bush got wise to world AIDS crisis (STEPHANIE NOLEN, January 30, 2003, Globe & Mail)
Bush's Moral Rectitude Is a Tough Sell in Old Europe (TODD S. PURDUM, January 30, 2003, NY Times)
The President rides out: George Bush's foes see him as an inarticulate bully. Friends say that evangelical faith underpins his every action. Ed Vulliamy, January 26, 2003, The Observer)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Newly released letters tell of Jesus calling Mother Teresa 'my little wife' (STEPHEN FRASER, 12/08/2002, The Scotsman)
MOTHER TERESA had visions in which she saw the Virgin Mary and talked to Jesus, newly-published letters have revealed. In her visions, Jesus called her "my little wife" and "my dear little woman" and told her to found a new order of nuns devoted to helping the poor in India.

The letters she wrote to two priests, who acted as her spiritual mentors, also reveal that Mother Teresa - who died in 1997 aged 87 - suffered episodes of depression throughout her life in which she underwent grave crises of faith. [...]

Her letters suggest the 1947 vision was her last experience of "dialogue" with Jesus. Later communications suggest profound religious doubt. In one letter, dated 1958, she wrote: "My smile is a great cloak that hides a multitude of pains."

Because she kept a smile on her face, she wrote, people "think that my faith, my hope and my love are overflowing, and that my intimacy with God and union with His will fill my heart. If only they knew."

Mother Teresa was more explicit in another item of correspondence: "The damned of Hell suffer eternal punishment because they experiment with the loss of God. In my own soul, I feel the terrible pain of this loss. I feel that God does not want me, that God is not God, and that God does not exist."

Apparently this bothers or gladdens some folks. But if this is so:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabach'thani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

...if Christ despaired (which is, after all, the most important aspect of his sojourn here among us), how could any mere human, even a saint, not suffer their own crises of faith?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


The World is Winning, Not Losing, the War on Poverty: New research rebuts the accepted notion that globalization is causing poverty to worsen. (Clive Crook, January 28, 2003, Atlantic Monthly)
Western governments, however dedicated they may claim to be to the cause of global economic integration, seem equally embarrassed by the record on poverty and inequality. There's only one I know of that goes out of its way to confront the subject-the government of Australia. I have just been reading one of a series of refreshingly combative papers on the merits of globalization by economists in Australia's Treasury Department. Europe could do with a few civil servants like this. America could too. [...]

The Australian economists explain why, to begin with, you need to ignore all those comparisons of the "gap between richest and poorest": They are always grossly misleading. The main problem is that the richest and poorest countries keep changing, so the comparison is not like with like. The poorest country one year will typically not be the poorest country 10 years later; by then, it will have moved off the bottom rung, but this improvement is screened out by the comparison. The top slot changes too, so the pace of improvement at that end is correspondingly exaggerated. Also, the poorest country or countries in the world each year will usually be the ones hit hardest by temporary crises such as wars, natural disasters, or collapsing political systems-together with the economic privations they bring. If you are interested in global inequality and its trends, it is necessary to look at broader and more consistent sets of information. [...]

What about the absolute number of people living in poverty? The official figures show that the number of people living on less than a dollar a day (in 1993 PPP terms, the standard benchmark) has been about steady in recent years at 1.2 billion. However, as the Australians point out, global population is growing by about 70 million a year, mostly in poor countries. Against that background, it is quite an achievement just to hold the head count of poverty steady. And an obvious consequence of rising population, given that the poverty head count is stable, is that the proportion of the world's people living in poverty is falling fast: from 29 percent at the start of the decade to 24 percent by the end. By historical standards, all of this is no failure: It is an entirely unprecedented success.

These radically different conclusions follow from looking disinterestedly at exactly the same data (provided by the World Bank) used by the professional pessimists at the UNDP. If the Australians were now to look at the most recent research, they would find that their optimism may be even better grounded than they think.

Did anyone who doesn't stink of patchoulli ever doubt this?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:04 PM


Report: France, Syria coordinate Security Council efforts to avert Iraq war (AP, Jan 30, 2003)
Leaders of Syria and France discussed ways Thursday to coordinate their positions on the U.N. Security Council to avert a war on Iraq, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

Syrian President Bashar Assad received a telephone call from his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, in which the agency said they sought ways to "coordinate at the Security Council in the next stage to prevent the circumstances from reaching the point that may lead to the war on Iraq." [...]

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Sharaa, meanwhile, reiterated his country's "absolute rejection" of U.S. threats to wage a war against Iraq.

"A war in Iraq will have dangerous repercussions and consequences on the region," he said in a speech delivered to members of the Arab Writers Union during an annual meeting Thursday.

Yes, the most obvious consequence is that Syria becomes the top layer of scum waiting to be skimmed off of the Middle East swamp. Apparently the frogs don't mind getting caught up in the skimmers. (How's that for an extended and tortured metaphor?)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Will There Be A Nuclear Space Race Between America And China (Wayne Smith, Jan 28, 2003, NuclearSpace.com)
The China Daily reports that China has spent 2.3 billion US dollars toward putting a man into space in October of this year -- and that is only the beginning of their ambitions.

The Chinese space program first began in 1956 with 30 young scientists and roughly 100 college graduates, some of whom didn't even know "exactly what missiles were," according to a Chinese government publication.

On Monday, November 21, 1999, they launched their first unmanned Shenzhou space vehicle with a view to eventually launching men into space. China invented the first rocket almost 900 years ago and now they want to be at the forefront of modern development. A nuclear space race would see a return to the frenzied and visionary, if politically induced, days of Apollo.

Let's hope that Nasa's nuclear space challenge does indeed awaken the Dragon.

Unless China implodes in the immediate future the arms race will certainly be carried to space. That's why Missile Defense is far too paltry a vision for America's space based weapons program. Our goal should be to develop the capability of destroying every single satellite in Earth orbit. The ability to leave our enemies largely blind and silent and to eliminate any weapons they may put in space seems like an imperative.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM


LETTER: Europe and America must stand united (Times of London, January 30, 2003)
THE real bond between the United States and Europe is the values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the Rule of Law. These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create the USA. Today they are under greater threat than ever. [...]

Jose Maria Aznar, Spain
Jose Durao Barroso, Portugal
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
Tony Blair, United Kingdom
Vaclav Havel, Czech Republic
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
Leszek Miller, Poland
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark

Here's the letter from the New Europeans. One doubts the Old Europe really does share those values.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:57 PM


Ex-Illinois senator to visit D.M. (THOMAS BEAUMONT, 01/29/2003, Des Moines Register)
Former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois said Tuesday she will visit Iowa next month as she considers a potential run for president in 2004.

Moseley-Braun said she would run in Iowa's precinct caucuses should she decide to seek the Democratic nomination, because they invite one-on-one campaigning with voters. Moseley-Braun, who is the only black woman ever elected to the Senate, expects to decide by Feb. 20.

"If I were to do this, it would make sense for me to come to Iowa," she said in a telephone interview with The Des Moines Register on Tuesday. "To talk about issues is what I like best. That's what motivates me about the whole set of challenges that a national campaign would represent." [...]

Elected to the Senate in 1992, Moseley-Braun was dogged by questions on campaign finance and ethics throughout her term. Republican Peter Fitzgerald defeated her bid for re-election in 1998.

Moseley-Braun told Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe two weeks ago she would not run for her old Senate seat in 2004 and was considering a presidential bid. Last week she discussed a potential presidential run with Democratic organizer Pete D'Alessandro, who managed former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley's 2000 caucus campaign and other Iowa campaigns.

She met Monday with McAuliffe and influential Illinois Democrats about a potential presidential candidacy.

Moseley-Braun agreed Tuesday to speak at 1 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Hotel Fort Des Moines at an event sponsored by American Women Presidents, a group that encourages female White House aspirants. She agreed to headline events sponsored by the same group on Feb. 16 in New Hampshire and Feb. 17 in South Carolina, a Moseley-Braun adviser said Tuesday.

In keeping with their commitment to affirmative action, wouldn't it be appropriate for at least one, if not all, of the white male Democrats to bow out of the race, in order to increase the likelihood or even guarantee genuine diversity at the top of the ticket?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:43 PM


We received the following from Glenn Dryfoos, the Brothers Judd jazz correspondent, in response to the Wynton Marsalis article and comments below:

That Marsalis didn't like Miles' later work and publicly said so merely makes Wynton an honest guy. Most of what Davis played in the last years of his career was crap (with occasional exceptions, like his rendition of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time").

To say (as Jeff does in his comment) that no one named Marsalis has "demonstrated anything beyond mere virtuosity" is ridiculous. Wynton, Branford and their dad, Ellis, are all more than just virtuosos; they all play great and beautiful music...and in the case of Wynton and Branford, they've written some damn good tunes.

Now, as for Wynton's place in the pantheon (Armstrong, Parker, Gillespie, Monk, Coltrane, Taylor). He clearly isn't there. Those greats are held in the esteem that they are because of the new sounds and ideas they bought to the music. Wynton is, in essence, a neo-classicist...his works, while impressive, are mostly built on the sounds and concepts developed by others (to my ears, his biggest compositional influences are Ellington and Wayne Shorter). In my view, however, there's no shame in "merely" being a great player and composer, but not an innovator...if that were the case, guys like Clifford Brown and Stan Getz and even Sonny Rollins wouldn't be as revered as they are. (And, conversely, great innovators like Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter would be even more revered than they are.)

On the other hand, Marsalis has done the world a great service by banging the drum and reminding us of how great Ellington and Armstrong and Monk were. If it weren't for his efforts, those guys would be a lot more overlooked than they are now...and people like Ken Burns wouldn't have been inspired to look back at the history of jazz. Marsalis doesn't pretend to be a revolutionary...he likes playing his interpretations of musical styles that came before him. I don't think that's a reason to criticize him; it's just a fact.

As for Jeff's "the new Stan Kenton, at best" comment...ouch. First of all, Marsalis is a far greater instrumentalist than Kenton, and that alone is a huge difference. Secondly, his compositions and arrangements are far more diverse and interesting (and swinging!).

So where does that leave us? With a guy who for 20 years has been the finest trumpet player in jazz. A guy who has pushed for people to learn more about the history of the music and who has put together a great jazz orchestra that explores this repertory. He has never criticized "new" music or music that doesn't hew to the orthodoxies he admires...he has only criticized men, like Davis and Herbie Hancock, who once made great music, and then cashed in at the altar of bad pop. (Wynton doesn't launch fusillades at Herbie all the time, only when he releases "music" like "Rockit".)

At bottom is this: I have heard Wynton play live maybe a dozen times. Putting aside labels and agendas, he is simply a thrilling trumpet player. His improvisations and compositions are filled with fire and tenderness, sophistication and honky tonk, seriousness and humor.

He may not be Armstrong, but I'm awfully glad he's around.

As for the Brothers, we just have a soft spot in our cold hearts for misanthropes of every stripe, but particularly for those who defend classicism and revile modernism.

Here are some Wynton Marsalis discs that Dryfoos particularly recommends:
Wynton Marsalis (his first LP as a leader)
Live at Blues Alley
Standard Time, vol 3 (with his Dad, Ellis)
Soundtrack to "Tune in Tomorrow"
Crescent City Christmas
Blood on the Fields
Haydn Trumpet Concerto

-PROFILE: Born Out of Time: Wynton Marsalis and his contemporaries recapitulate modern jazz (Francis Davis, April 1988, The Atlantic Monthly

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


Bush AIDS Plan Surprises Many, but Advisers Call It Long Planned (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and RICHARD W. STEVENSON, January 30, 2003, NY Times)
As one of the government's leading scientists, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci often visits the White House to talk about bioterrorism and vaccine research. But whenever he sees President Bush, Dr. Fauci said today, the president has the same question: "He says, `Tony, how's the AIDS program going?' "

That program, $15 billion over the next five years to fight global AIDS, caught many people by surprise when President Bush announced it Tuesday night. But while critics have long accused Mr. Bush of neglecting the epidemic, Dr. Fauci and other officials have been working on the initiative since June, they say, at Mr. Bush's explicit direction.

Mr. Bush's aides say the president has always been committed to the global AIDS cause, though not convinced that taxpayers' money could be well spent. But in recent months, a string of people from inside and outside the administration--including Colin L. Powell, the secretary of state; Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser; and Bono, the Irish rock star--made a passionate case to persuade Mr. Bush that the time was right.

Among those most surprised by Mr. Bush's announcement were officials in 12 countries in Africa, which along with Haiti and Guyana will receive the money.

In the United States, the president's unexpected initiative has political ramifications, as well as humanitarian ones. With Republicans still smarting from racially charged remarks of Senator Trent Lott, the former Republican leader, Mr. Bush's initiative may help mend fences with African-American leaders in Congress.

Today, they held a news conference to express what Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, called "new hope" and "some skepticism."

Mr. Conyers skepticism is well placed. There's not much of a constituency in the Republican Party for such a measure, there's no petro-benefit to be reaped in Africa (it can't all be about the oil there, can it?), and there's little prospect of blacks voting Republican any time in the near future. The only reason the President could have proposed this is because he actually believes in it and the only reason a Republican Congress would pass it is because they do to. They'd have to be acting because they think it's right, not because it's politically expedient. If such a thing happens then folks like Mr. Conyers will have to re-examine much of what they believe about George W. Bush and the Republican Party. If your opponents threatened to make the world shift under your feet you'd be skeptical too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


Fighting an immoral war: Sure Saddam Hussein is an evil gangster, but... (Jack Lessenberry, Detroit Metro Times)

Is it wrong if you feel like you need read no further than that headline to know that the author is dazed and confused? If the leader of a country is an evil gangster, how can a war to replace him be immoral? Certainly some tactics or strategy we might employ could be considered immoral--recklessly or intentionally inflicting civilian casualties for example--but how can it be immoral in and of itself to fight to stop an unquestioned evil?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:35 PM


'The Devil's Excrement': Perez Alfonzo's different name for oil. (Jerry Useem, January 21, 2003, Fortune)
"Ten years from now, 20 years from now, you will see," former Venezuelan Oil Minister and OPEC co-founder Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo predicted in the 1970s, "oil will bring us ruin." It was an oddball statement at a time when oil was bringing Venezuela unprecedented wealth--the government's 1973 revenues were larger than all previous years combined, raising hopes that black gold would catapult Venezuela straight to First World status. But Perez Alfonzo had a different name for oil: "the devil's excrement."

Today he seems a prophet. When it hit the jackpot, Venezuela had a functioning democracy and the highest per-capita income on the continent. Now it has a state of near-civil war and a per-capita income lower than its 1960 level.

Far from an anomaly, Venezuela is a classic example of what economists call the "natural resource curse." A 1995 analysis of developing countries by Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner found that the more an economy relied on mineral wealth, the lower its growth rate. Venezuela isn't poor despite its oil riches--it's poor because of them.

How could that be? For the same reason so many entertainers go bankrupt. Showered with sudden windfalls, governments start spending like rock stars, creating programs that are hard to undo when oil prices fall. And because nobody wants to pay taxes to a government that's swimming in petrodollars--"In Venezuela only the stupid pay taxes," a former President once said--the state finds itself living beyond its means.

This dynamic won't be at all surprising to anyone who's read the great Orientalist Bernard Lewis, who makes the point that oilwealth has effectively severed governments in the Middle East from the governed, because the leadership does not have to ask for tax dollars and is therefore beyond accountability.

But, maybe a more interesting point implicated by the story is that, while Americans pride themselves on being ultra-modern and a model of democracy, some of this same dynamic occurred here in the '90s. The post-Cold War boom was so massive and long lived that government--Federal, state, and local--found itself swimming in dollars, without having to raise taxes. For the most part it responded by spending this windfall, rather than returning it to the people. But now, when the downturn has come, those tax dollars aren't there but the spending programs are. So governors--many of whom are forced to be somewhat responsible by balanced budget requirements in their constitutions--face the unpleasant task of slashing spending and raising taxes in the teeth of a recession. The easy money of the 90s got us living beyond our means and enabled us to avoid making hard choices when we could afford them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


'Gang of Eight' Iraq Letter Rubs Salt in EU Wounds (Paul Taylor, January 30, 2003, Reuters)
A joint letter by eight European leaders backing the United States on the crisis with Iraq highlighted the European Union's divisions on Thursday, rubbing salt into the wounds of its stumbling foreign policy.

EU president Greece, in charge of trying to coordinate European foreign policy, criticized the signatories for undermining a common approach to the Iraq problem.

The European Parliament deepened the disarray by declaring that Iraq's response to U.N. weapons inspectors did not justify military action and warning against a unilateral U.S.-led war.

In an article published in a dozen newspapers, the leaders of EU members Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Denmark, plus future members Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, called time on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and appealed for unity.

The move appeared aimed at isolating France and Germany, which had publicly argued against a rush to war, and building a pro-American caucus within the 15-nation EU.

"This looks like Rumsfeld's Europe," one EU diplomat said, referring to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's dismissal of France and Germany last week as "old Europe."

The eight failed to consult most of their EU partners and candidates about their initiative, launched just two days after the bloc's foreign ministers had tried to paper over the cracks with a statement backing the U.N. disarmament effort in Iraq.

We mentioned the benefits of instability below and we're fond here of saying that war forces the contradictions. Considering that the EU is a threat to both the future of Europe itself and to American interests in the world and that a Union of such disparate states is self-contradictory, these growing divisions may be inevitable and are certainly welcome. If you're British you have to ask yourself a fairly simple question: as a citizen of one of cradles of liberty, what do you really have in common with the statist/egalitarian French and Germans? There's a reason that Britain has fought those countries repeatedly over the centuries and, unless you have no respect for the power and endurance of cultural differences, you have to wonder if they've really become so much like you that there's no more reason for conflict, or whether, instead, Union represents an ultimate victory for what you've long fought against--totalitarianism.

Why not let the Germans and French have their own Union? Bring the New Europe (and the Commonwealth nations, Amnerica's NAFTA partners, Turkey, Israel, India, Taiwan, etc.) into the Anglo-American special relationship and tie all together with the gentle binding of free trade, mutual defense, and the like, without the kind of bureaucratic dictatorship and common economic system that the EU envisions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


The Wrong Words: To the Arabs, it seems that the major force behind instability in the Middle East is the United States itself. (Abdel Monem Said, 1/30/03, NY Times)
The historical bond between the United States and the moderate Arab states and mainstream Arabs in general contributed to the stability of the Middle East. For half a century, the bond worked well--to thwart Communist expansion in the cold war, to contain the waves of Iranian Islamic revolution and to end in 1991 Saddam Hussein's radical and regional ambitions. Now, it seems for the Arabs, the major force for instability in the region is the United States itself, which is moving militarily to Iraq, ignoring the Arab-Israeli peace process, giving Ariel Sharon a free hand in Israel, and insinuating a radical program for change in the region without building strategic understanding for it.

Who would even argue with this? The United States, since its own Revolution, has been the most destabilizing force in human history (except
perhaps for Christianity itself), to the great benefit of mankind. Having shucked off the imperial hand of England at its birth it has gone on to annihilate slavery and apartheid within its own borders, tossed other imperial forces out of the Western Hemisphere (from buying out Napoleon to backing the Contras against the Soviet clients in Nicaragua), defeated the Spanish Empire, the Kaiser, and fascism in battle and communism in Cold War. It has played a key role in "imposing" democracy from Tierra del Fuego to St. Petersburg to Johannesburg to Kabul. There's hardly a democracy that doesn't owe the U.S. some debt for either installing, preserving, or restoring it.

Mr. Said seems oblivious to one of the key points he's making. When communism was the primary threat to world peace the United States sought stability in the Middle East while it worked to destabilize the Soviet Empire. Stability was a subsidiary purpose of a policy that sought instability on a massive scale. But now the old communist states are by and large stable democracies and allies and it's the Islamicists who are the greatest threat to world peace. Who would wish a state like Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, or even Saudi Arabia to be stable? A temporarily stable patient with a malignant tumor is still terminal. It requires a surgeon to radically and invasively destabilize that patient if he's to be restored to some semblance of health.

Stability, America's Enemy (Ralph Peters, Winter 2001, Parameters)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Iran Veers Between Admiration and Resentment of American Power: Even as Iran declares its opposition to an American-led war to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq, it is leaving all its options open in case war comes. (ELAINE SCIOLINO, January 30, 2003, NY Times)
At the Friday Prayer sermon last week at the University of Tehran, Iran's official national pulpit, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani condemned the United States for "drunkenness" in pursuing the goal of dominating the world.

That night, in a low-budget play that opened at a theater festival a few miles away, a despondent, drug-addled young man dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with an American flag vowed to find happiness by going to America.

The two images capture the extremes in Iran's discourse about the United States. At one end, America is still an evil-intentioned enemy that must be opposed at every turn. At the other, particularly among the two-thirds of the population that is under 25, it is called the "Fortune Land," a mythical place of limitless opportunity and freedom.

But images can deceive. Quietly, as a result of the projection of American power in the region since Sept. 11, Iran has embarked on a pragmatic strategy of pursuing its national interests within the context of America's overwhelming military might. So even as Iran declares its opposition to an American-led war to topple Saddam Hussein in Iraq, it is leaving all its options open in case war comes.

My math isn't so hot, so maybe someone can help me, but if two thirds admire us and the one third that resents us is willing to work with us--even if only implicitly, rather than explicity--doesn't that get us fairly close to three thirds?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 AM


Israel's tortuous path to disengagement: Ariel Sharon has both the opportunity and the obligation to break theuntenable status quo. (Gerald Steinberg, Financial Times)
[M]r Sharon's second government is more likely to be forced into gradual unilateral disengagement. In the absence of any realistic hopes for peace, one-sided separation from the Palestinians is very popular and this theme was adopted by the Labour party during the election campaign. The construction of a separation barrier built near the 1949 ceasefire lines and around Jerusalem has been forced on a reluctant Mr Sharon in the past year. While it is proclaimed that this will demarcate a security line, rather than political boundaries that would eventually lead to a viable Palestinian state, the distinction is clearly rhetorical. Once the barrier is completed, including four official crossings, it will become a de facto border for the Palestinian state.

To move decisively, Mr Sharon should now declare victory over Palestinian terrorism, so that dismantling some isolated settlements on the other side of the barrier would not be interpreted as a reflection of weakness, as occurred when Israel withdrew from Lebanon three years ago. He should then embrace the road map concept, and the goal of the two-state solution, while moving simultaneously to erect the barrier to provide a safety net if diplomacy fails again.

With the momentum from his decisive political victory, Mr Sharon has both the opportunity and the obligation to break the untenable status quo. If the hopes for resumed negotiations under the road map prove unworkable, he will have to lead Israel through the process of unilateral disengagement.

Palestinian statehood has been Israel's de facto position since Oslo, but it was always going to be on Israeli terms. Arafat had a chance for ridiculously good terms when Barak and Clinton were willing to give him nearly everything he asked for, but once there's a state he's superfluous, so he bailed out. Now is the time, with Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush both riding electoral mandates and in the aftermath of a successful war to replace Saddam Hussein, for Israel to withdraw from Palestine and declare the borders of the Palestinian nation, which America will promptly recognize. Mr. Sharon and Mr. Bush can then offer the Palestinian people economic, infrastructure, and security assistance as soon as they choose a government that is willing to accept peace and such relationships.

To do this would be to accept the Palestinians at their word, that they are serious about statehood as their primary objective. If this really is the case then the anger and violence that Palestinians justifiably feel about the state of their lives will be directed at the real culprits, their current leadership. But at the end of an internal struggle we can hope (and should be willing to help) that a representative government will emerge and be prepared to rebuild a decent civil society, at peace with its neighbors. If not, Israel will be facing a sovereign state that it can crush with relative impunity, rather than a restive territory with an internal population that it can repress only at great cost in public opinion at home and abroad.

January 29, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 PM


Today's mail brings news that will fill with joy the hearts of those whose allegiance to America is tempered only by a love of its sole superpower rival, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. The family of Leonard Wibberley informs us that his great comic novel, The Mouse that Roared is finally back in print. Here's our review.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 PM


Europe split as leaders back US on Iraq (George Jones and Robin Gedye, 30/01/2003, Daily Telegraph)
The split in Europe over America's readiness to go to war against Iraq deepened last night when leaders of seven European nations joined Tony Blair in calling for the Continent to stand united with President George W Bush.

The diplomatic initiative, masterminded by Spain and Britain, did not include France or Germany, the two EU nations that have been most critical of what they fear is a rush to war by the US.

The appeal by the leaders of Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic is a boost for Mr Blair who has sought to build a European coalition of support for Mr Bush.

Life holds no more beautiful prospect than that of Germany and France isolated from the rest of the West and stuck with only each other.

Eight leaders rally 'new' Europe to America's side (Philip Webster, January 30, 2003, Times of London)
Blair gains Europe support on Iraq (BBC, 29 January, 2003)
Blair's Iraq gamble (Andrew Marr, BBC)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


TRANSCRIPT: Hardball (MSNBC, 1/28/03)
[CHRIS] MATTHEWS: Tom DeLay of Texas. Thanks for joining us.

Right now, let me go over to one of our panelists who hasn't had a chance yet. You yielded to Pat Caddell a moment ago. Let me ask you what you think. How does the president-I will go back to the main point of tonight's discussion. How does president convince you and other people who think, of like mind, that this is going to be a good-a good war? In other words, a necessary war. I think they're the same. How does he make that case to you?

[DONNA] BRAZILE: I think it's-Well, I don't think it takes lot-it doesn't take a rocket scientist and it clearly doesn't take a form of pest control man...


BRAZILE: ... like Tom DeLay, who believes that Republicans have the answer because they control the majority now in Congress. I think it takes coalition. It takes allies. I mean, we have the might, but my grandmother used to say might doesn't make it right. But we also need support. We need allies. This is going to be a huge endeavor to try to dispose and disarm Saddam.

MATTHEWS: But you know, in all fairness, Donna, since you took a shot at a man who was trying to earn a living as a pest controller-he succeeded as a pest controller. (LAUGHTER)

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: You failed as a campaign manager.

BRAZILE: He succeeded...


MATTHEWS: I mean, there's a difference between being successful and...

BRAZILE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Anybody who works-to work is to pray, I believe. Never make fun of someone's occupation, Donna.

BRAZILE: I made fun of his occupation...

MATTHEWS: You shouldn't do that.

BRAZILE: ... and I will do it again.

MATTHEWS: I don't think you should.

This very nearly redeems Mr. Matthews for his comparison of Saddam Hussein to a serial double-parker.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 PM


Some Democrats Want Another Vote on Iraq
(DAVID ESPO, 1/29/03, AP)
President Bush's threat to disarm Saddam Hussein, the centerpiece of his State of the Union address, sparked criticism from senior Senate Democrats on Wednesday, some of whom proposed legislation requiring a fresh congressional or U.N. vote before the onset of hostilities.

Who knew there were mulligans on war resolutions?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM


War Now Drives the Presidency (Ronald Brownstein, January 29, 2003, LA Times)
[T]he appearance Monday of chief weapons inspector Hans Blix before the U.N. may have been more of a turning point than Bush's address. In his unexpectedly tough indictment of the Iraqi regime, Blix reframed the case against Iraq into a succinct argument: While Iraq was cooperating with the "process" of inspections, it was continuing to resist the "substance" of disarmament.

Bush followed a similar strategy, underscoring the gap between the chemical and biological weapons Iraq had previously acknowledged possessing and those it can prove it has destroyed.

Even before Bush's speech, there was evidence this argument may be subtly strengthening the administration's position in the domestic debate. Though opposition to a near-term invasion of Iraq has been broadening among Democratic officials, Blix's conclusions may be sapping some of its intensity.

Just hours before Bush's address, for instance, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) told a small group of reporters that based on Blix's report, he believed Iraq was now clearly in material breach of the U.N. resolutions demanding disarmament.

Last week, Kerry had accused Bush of a "rush to war" and urged him to give inspections more time and to work harder to build international support for any military action. But on Tuesday, while repeating those arguments, Kerry also said he would be open to a U.N. resolution authorizing an invasion if Iraq did not disarm within 30 days. "That would sound pretty reasonable," he said.

By a "rush" Senator Kerry apparently meant attacking in February instead of March. You'll have to explain to me how Saddam can be in material breach but a new resolution be required.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


Bush Adds Managed Care to Debate on Drug Benefit (Vicki Kemper, January 29, 2003, LA Times)
President Bush did far more Tuesday night than signal the beginning of a new round in the debate over a Medicare drug prescription benefit.

By proposing to tie eligibility for the benefit to participation in a managed-care plan, Bush also changed the rules of the high-stakes political battle.

Last year, Senate Republicans and Democrats came tantalizingly close to agreement on a compromise benefit package. After weeks of back-room politicking and serial votes over the details of the benefit and how much it would cost, in the end all that separated the partisans was a disagreement over how the benefit should be delivered.

Senate Republicans, along with their counterparts in the House, wanted private insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers to administer the benefit, while Democrats wanted Medicare -- that is, the government -- to do it.

But now, with Republicans in control of Congress, and congressional Democrats lining up to run against him in 2004, Bush has upped the ante.

Instead of using the drug benefit to bring some private-sector competition into the Medicare program, he wants to make prescription coverage the driving force for a more thorough privatization of Medicare itself.

If you were a bettor you'd have to lay big money that he'll fail in this effort. But it's the essence of great leaders that they change the terms of debate. Love them or loathe them, FDR's "greatness" lay in changing the United States from a country in which government was distrusted into one in which it's depended on. LBJ's lay in his putting that government on the side of the nation's most despised and oppressed citizens. Reagan's lay in his assertion that not only was the Cold War winnable but that our victory was inevitable and just. Bill Clinton had a chance to be great. He could have been the President who brought free enterprise principles and structures to the Welfare State. But, other than welfare itself, which the GOP shoved down his throat and Dick Morris got him to swallow, Clinton just didn't have the vision or the stomach for the task. George W. Bush appears to have vision and stomach to spare, but it's unimaginable that the rest of his party will rise to the moment, while they would certainly have done so had they had Clinton for cover.

The '90s--what a waste.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Blair: North Korea is next (The Guardian, January 29, 2003)
Tony Blair today pledged that after dealing with Iraq, the UN would confront North Korea about its nuclear weapons programme.

The prime minister was giving an impassioned defence of the government's position on Iraq during his weekly question time when an anti-war MP shouted: "Who's next?"

Replying to the heckle, Mr Blair said: "After we deal with Iraq we do, yes, through the UN, have to confront North Korea about its weapons programme".

"We have to confront those companies and individuals trading in weapons of mass destruction," he added.

To another cry of "When do we stop?", Mr Blair answered: "We stop when the threat to our security is properly and fully dealt with."

Democrats have hypnotized themselves into believing that Iraq will last about a week, George Bush will get a bump in the polls, but by November 2004 they'll have a clean shot at him and the focus will be on an economy that they seem to believe will be in a new Depression. You'd think they'd have figured out by now that the President's serious when he says that the war on terror will last for many years and take us to many places. Their crocodile tears about not taking on North Korea may soon come back to haunt them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


Five ballots and no new speaker (AMY GARDNER AND LYNN BONNER, 1/29/03, The News & Observer)
After five ballots, the state House of Representatives recessed for the day Wednesday afternoon when neither Republicans nor Democrats could marshal 61 votes to elect a new speaker.

On each ballot, the 60 House Democrats united to back Rep. Jim Black's bid for a third term. Republicans were divided, with 55 voting for the party's nominee, Rep. George Holmes of Yadkin County, and five for Rep. Richard Morgan of Moore County.

It was the first time since 1866 that the speaker of the 120-member House was not elected on the first ballot. The House went through four roll-call ballots, recessed so Republicans and Democrats could meet privately in separate groups, and then conducted one more ballots before adjourning deadlocked in mid-afternoon. [...]

In the November election, Republicans won a two-seat majority. But that vanished suddenly Friday when Rep. Michael Decker of Walkertown switched parties and declared his support for Black.

Decker's defection ripped wider a division among House Republicans who could not unite their first nominee, Rep. Leo Daughtry of Smithfield. And even when Daughtry
stepped aside on Tuesday, Republicans still could not rally behind Holmes, the new pick.

In the immortal words of Wesley Snipes: Always bet on Black.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


Iraq to Chair U.N. Disarmament Conference (Liza Porteus, January 29, 2003, FOX News)
While the United States leads the charge in making sure Iraq owns up to its promises of complete disarmament, Saddam Hussein's country will head an international disarmament conference and will steer the course of the U.N. disarmament agenda this spring.

The irony has more than a few U.S. lawmakers up in arms.

"With the consideration of Iraq to head the Conference on Disarmament, the U.N. now becomes worse than any off, off, off-Broadway show. It becomes the theater of the absurd," said Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, who joined Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y., Wednesday in a news conference denouncing Iraq's taking the rotating chair.

"This is ridiculous. It's like the fox watching over the hen house," Fossella said. "Iraq has zero credibility to disarm any nation when it stands in violation of U.N. resolutions because it continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. This decision will leave a permanent stain on the conference, undermine its credibility and threaten its mission to disarm nations that possess nuclear weapons."

In May, Iraq will take the helm of the U.N. Committee on Disarmament and will hold that position for one month. The co-chair will be Iran. The presidency rotates in alphabetical order.

What next, France and Germany chairing the U.N. Committee on Gratitude?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


On the button: Navel-baring midriffs credited for rise in umbilicoplasty (Clive Thompson, 1/16/03, Colorado Springs Independent)
Breast implants and liposuction are the traditional ways to create a new you. But a new body part is now going under the knife: the navel. In the spring of 2002, plastic surgeons began reporting a curious spike in the number of women requesting navel reconstruction -- or "umbilicoplasty," as the pros call it.

Sometimes it was part of a tummy tuck; sometimes the tummy was fine, but the navel rankled. "I get about three or five inquiries a week now," says Jim Romano, a San Francisco surgeon who performs the outpatient procedure for about $3,500. Calls have "gone way up, with all the midriffs showing." [...]

Consider what's going on here: a style of clothing is driving a style of surgery. But with umbilicoplasty, the body has become as plastic as fashion -- to be nipped and tucked along with trends that themselves might last only a matter of months.

And people think this species can be trusted with genetic engineering technology?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:30 PM


Bush's Domino Theory: First, democracy for Iraq, then the rest of Middle East (CS Monitor, January 28, 2003)
On his current book tour, the former White House speechwriter who was behind the phrase "axis of evil" is calling the president's Middle East strategy nothing short of a foreign-policy "revolution."

Just more poetic license from a political wordsmith? No, his word choice isn't poetic enough, if bringing democracy to that troubled part of the world is truly the president's goal, as former insider David Frum states.

Certainly, the Bush administration's hawks hope the fall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein would be the first domino to tip other autocratic states in the region toward democracy. Having felled the Taliban in Afghanistan, and insisted on new Palestinian elections, this White House drive to bring democracy to Iraq - as well as to disarm it of chemical and biological weapons, and end its support of terrorism - fits into an emerging United States strategy to push democracy into places that breed or support terrorists and the weapons of terror.

But for Mr. Bush to speak or act more boldly right now in promoting democracy in the Middle East could possibly lessen support for an Iraqi war from other Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia. So the administration may be soft-pedaling this new domino theory, and simply waiting to showcase a democratic postwar Iraq as a model for its neighbors.

Bush's intention, if not the detail, is right there in black and white in the National Security Strategy from last September. The document declares that the US example of freedom, democracy, and free enterprise constitutes "a single, sustainable model for international success," and that this model is "right and true for every person, in every society."

As is so often the case, the question of whether the domino theory of bringing democracy to the Arab world is most revealing when you consider the opposing viewpoint. First, you have to ask, if the dominoes there won't fall--as they've already fallen in Latin America; Eastern Europe; and most of East Asia--why not? What is it about Muslims that makes them unique among humans and uninterested in peace, freedom, and prosperity? Why are these people impervious to the globalization that is transforming the rest of mankind (for good or ill). And if they are that unique, and the dominoes won't fall, then is it responsible and safe for the West to allow an entire region of the world to remain a hotbed of anti-democratic, anti-Western, anti-Judeo-Christian hatred?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


A talent for making music and enemies: He outrages feminists, had a spat with Miles Davis and is widely accused of being a reactionary, but trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis doesn't care. He is on a messianic mission to revive classic jazz. (Peter Culshaw, 20/01/2003, Daily Telegraph)
I suggest that at least one benefit of such movements as acid jazz is that many people are impelled back to the originals after hearing samples used on records. "That's a mind-boggling argument to me. It's like saying it's great that people might come across a quote from Hamlet in Playboy magazine. Why should you come into contact with the best of your culture through some other source? That's a major failing in education."

Marsalis has also been attacked by almost every politically correct group in New York for assorted perceived crimes from nepotism to sexism - feminists recently staged a demo complaining that there were no women in the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra. "I'm paid to be artistic director, and I make the decisions" is all he will say on that.

Marsalis's most celebrated spat was with Miles Davis. Davis said of him: "The more famous he became, the more he started saying things - nasty, disrespectful things - about me," and famously exploded in Vancouver, "That motherfucker's not sharing the stage with me." So what was that all about?

"There was a classic competition between an older man and a younger man who is more idealistic. By that stage he'd given up jazz and was playing pop and rock, trying to stay pertinent." Marsalis makes "pertinent" sound like an insult. "He had released a large portion of his integrity." How is he so sure about that? "He knew it. We both knew it."

What is most impressive - but also a little scary - about Marsalis is his messianic drive to spread his version of jazz. He thinks in mythic terms.

What's that Middle East proverb: The enemy of my enemies is my friend? Is there a worse thing for an artist to do than stop trying to create beauty and try to be"pertinent" (as Mr. Marsalis is using the term) instead? Great art should be timeless, not timely.

-INTERVIEW: And the trumpet shall sound: Wynton Marsalis is a man with a mission to spread the gospel of jazz. Some people are worried his influence will make the music too respectable. (Adam Sweeting, 06/02/2001, Daily Telegraph)
-WyntonMarsalis.net (Sony Music)
-Wynton Marsalis Page (Jazz World)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:04 PM


Bias Control: Eric Alterman attacks the Right, but victory feels hollow. (John Dicker, 1/23/03, Salt Lake City Weekly)
Is the media really liberal? The question is as exhausting as it is inexhaustible, and it screams for qualifiers: Whose media are you talking about?

How about this media: the three major television networks, the two major weekly news magazines; and the major newspaper in the ten biggest cities in America? Is there a single one in that group that isn't left of center?

Hard to think of one. That may be a function of the free market of ideas and that's what viewers/treaders want. But that would still be a bias in favor of the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM


The Empire Strikes First (MAUREEN DOWD, January 29, 2003, NY Times)
The axis of evil has shrunk to Saddam, evil incarnate.

It was gratifying enough to hear the President repeat his use of the word "evil" several times last night, something many commentators predicted he'd be too embarrassed to do. But the use had a particular genius--he really has some good speechwriters--because it framed Saddam in a way that makes Ms Dowd's point, which we hear often these days, look asinine:
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured.

Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.

If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.

So the question, for Ms Dowd and her ilk: is this not evil? And if it is evil, then why is it wrong to confront such evil?

Now, the honest answer for much of the Left is that there's no such thing as evil, but few pundettes would acknowledge that. So then you have to fall back on explanations of why this particular evil does not concern us. Even if that argument is right and popular--and it may be both--you sound rather craven making it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:34 PM


Democrats Say the Nation Heads in Wrong Direction': The Democratic governor chosen to respond to President Bush faulted the president on the economy and national security. (CARL HULSE and SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 1/28/03, NY Times)
[T]he selection of Mr. Locke was recognition of the party's fortunes in Congress, as well as a desire to present a fresh image. While the opposition's response to the State of the Union address is most often delivered by a lawmaker, the Democrats instead offered the nationally televised spot this time to their governors' association, to showcase a figure from outside Washington and shine a light on the statehouses, one of the few bright spots for the party in November.

Mr. Locke, of Chinese ancestry, stressed his roots as he began his speech.

"My grandfather came to this country from China nearly a century ago and worked as a servant," he said. "Now I serve as governor just one mile from where my grandfather worked. It took our family a hundred years to travel that mile."

On foreign affairs, the governor tried to strike a balance between support for a popular president at a time of international tension and encouraging that president to avoid acting unilaterally against Iraq.

"We are far stronger when we stand with other nations than when we stand alone," said Mr. Locke, who, like other Democrats, also noted that while Mr. Bush was focused on Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, remained at large.

Granted it's an awfully tough job, but who in the Democrat Party thought it would be a good idea to have someone most of the country has never heard of, who has no foreign policy experience, give the rebuttal to a run up to war? His personal story is fine, in its place, but this isn't exactly the moment to stress immigration and it certainly had nothing to do with confronting Saddam. The governor was punching way above his weight.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Someone else who heard this is going to have to vouch for it, because I honestly wouldn't believe it if I read it somewhere: here's a rough transcript of a discussion between Don Imus and Chris Matthews this morning:

Imus: What would you do about Iraq?

Matthews: I think we need to keep doing what we're doing and let the inspections work.

Imus: What if they don't work?

Matthews: What do you mean by "don't work"?

Imus: They don't find anything and we know he still has stuff.

Matthews: You know, I think you just have to trust him. Saddam may be evil but you have to trust that he can be deterred. It's like parking tickets--the reason you don't just park anywhere you feel like is because you know you'll get in trouble. It's the same with him attacking us.

It might have been helpful if Imus had pointed out that when Saddam parks illegally there may be a significant weapon onboard the truck.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


The State of the Union (President George W. Bush, Jan. 28, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Health care reform must begin with Medicare; Medicare is the binding commitment of a caring society.

We must renew that commitment by giving seniors access to the preventive medicine and new drugs that are transforming health care in America.

Seniors happy with the current Medicare system should be able to keep their coverage just the way it is.

And just like you, the members of Congress, and your staffs and other federal employees, all seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drugs.

My budget will commit an additional $400 billion over the next decade to reform and strengthen Medicare. Leaders of both political parties have talked for years about strengthening Medicare. I urge the members of this new Congress to act this year.

To improve our health care system, we must address one of the prime causes of higher cost: the constant threat that physicians and hospitals will be unfairly sued.

Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care, and many parts of America are losing fine doctors. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit; I urge the Congress to pass medical liability reform.

No matter how often the Left, far Right, and Libertarians dismiss him as a Rockefeller Republican or Clinton-lite, Mr. Bush, rather than backing doiwn from something like privatizing Social Security, pushes the envelope farther--here proposing the privatization of Medicare. EJ Dionne, on NPR, called the speech Clintonesque. If Bill Clinton had proposed vouchers and privatizing the Welfare State's middle class benefits, when he had a Congress that would have eagerly passed them, he'd be remembered for more than being a sexual predator and he'd have left the country in the best shape it had ever been in.

Instead the heavy-lifting falls to a Republican president, who will be savaged by the Democrats and their interest groups, especially the media. But if President Bush can just get the process of privatization started it will be a more important legacy than the war on terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


The State of the Union (President George W. Bush, Jan. 28, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Many challenges, abroad and at home, have arrived in a single season. In two years, America has gone from a sense of invulnerability to an awareness of peril, from bitter division in small matters to calm unity in great causes.

And we go forward with confidence, because this call of history has come to the right country.

Americans are a resolute people, who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world, and to ourselves.

America is a strong nation and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity.

We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving god behind all of life and all of history. May he guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Thank you.

The humility here is striking. Note the "small matters", an implicit reference to the dispute over whether he or Al Gore would be president. Whether true or not, it's an especially nice touch to suggest that it ultimately mattered less than things like our national security. Also, the point that liberty is the birthright of all Creation, rather than something America, or any other government, dispenses, is a welcome harkening back to first principles.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


The State of the Union (President George W. Bush, Jan. 28, 2003, Jewish World Review)
This threat is new; America's duty is familiar. Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world.

In each case, their ambitions of cruelty and murder had no limit. In each case, the ambitions of Hitlerism, militarism and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances and by the might of the United States of America.

Now, in this century, the ideology of power and domination has appeared again and seeks to gain the ultimate weapons of terror.

Once again, this nation and our friends are all that stand between a world at peace, and a world of chaos and constant alarm. Once again, we are called to defend the safety of our people and the hopes of all mankind. And we accept this responsibility.

America is making a broad and determined effort to confront these dangers. We have called on the United Nations to fulfill its charter and stand by its demand that Iraq disarm. We are strongly supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency in its mission to track and control nuclear materials around the world. We are working with other governments to secure nuclear materials in the former Soviet Union and to strengthen global treaties banning the production and shipment of missile technologies and weapons of mass destruction.

In all of these efforts, however, America's purpose is more than to follow a process. It is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world.

All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks, and we're asking them to join us, and many are doing so. Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.

Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.

Bill Clinton began the usage, and George W. Bush has unfortunately continued it, of saying "I" in these public announcements, rather than "we". But, when the president speaks, he speaks at least for his administration and, in cases like this, for the entire nation. The use of "I" seems like a baby-boomer self indulgence. I hate it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


The State of the Union (President George W. Bush, Jan. 28, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Our fourth goal is to apply the compassion of America to the deepest problems of America. For so many in our country--the homeless, and the fatherless, the addicted--the need is great. Yet there is power--wonder-working power--in the goodness and idealism and faith of the American people.

Americans are doing the work of compassion every day: visiting prisoners, providing shelter for battered women, bringing companionship to lonely seniors. These good works deserve our praise, they deserve our personal support and, when appropriate, they deserve the assistance of the federal government.

I urge you to pass both my faith-based initiative and the Citizen Service Act to encourage acts of compassion that can transform America one heart and one soul at a time.

Last year, I called on my fellow citizens to participate in the USA Freedom Corps, which is enlisting tens of thousands of new volunteers across America.

Tonight I ask Congress and the American people to focus the spirit of service and the resources of government on the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens: boys and girls trying to grow up without guidance and attention, and children who have to go through a prison gate to be hugged by their mom or dad.

I propose a $450 million initiative to bring mentors to more than a million disadvantaged junior high students and children of prisoners.

Government will support the training and recruiting of mentors, yet it is the men and women of America who will fill the need. One mentor, one person, can change a life forever, and I urge you to be that one person.

Another cause of hopelessness is addiction to drugs. Addiction crowds out friendship, ambition, moral conviction, and reduces all the richness of life to a single destructive desire.

As a government, we are fighting illegal drugs by cutting off supplies and reducing demand through anti-drug education programs. Yet for those already addicted, the fight against drugs is a fight for their own lives.

Too many Americans in search of treatment cannot get it. So tonight I propose a new $600 million program to help an additional 300,000 Americans receive treatment over the next three years.

Our nation is blessed with recovery programs that do amazing work. One of them is found at the Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A man in the program said, ``God does miracles in people's lives, and you never think it could be you.''

Tonight, let us bring to all Americans who struggle with drug addiction this message of hope: The miracle of recovery is possible, and it could be you.

By caring for children who need mentors, and for addicted men and women who need treatment, we are building a more welcoming society, a culture that values every life.

And in this work we must not overlook the weakest among us. I ask you to protect infants at the very hour of their birth and end the practice of partial-birth abortion.

And because no human life should be started or ended as the object of an experiment, I ask you to set a high standard for humanity and pass a law against all human cloning.

Perhaps it's merely a function of the number of people in the media today, but it's really astonishing how little the commentrariat understands politics. You keep hearing them refer to how this portion of the speech could have been borrowed from a Clinton Staste of the Union. But take a look at it in isolation and you can clearly see that what the President is talking about here is bringing religious faith to bear on America's social problems. The mentoring program to some degree, and drug treatment in its entirety, represents a transfer of government funds to basically religious institutions. A few years ago a gay heroin-addicted friend with AIDs asked me to try and find him a drug treatment program where they wouldn't rely on God or a Higher Power or any other religious basis to supplant the addiction. I called every program in Central New Jersey and they laughed at me when I told them what he wanted: "There are no treatments that work that aren't based in faith of some kind."

The anti-religious activists figured out the message, if not the reality of effective treatment, Religious Drug Treatment Plan Irks Some (LAURA MECKLER, Jan 29, 2003, Associated Press)

"The president wants to fund untested, unproven programs that seek to pray away addiction," said the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "People with addiction problems need medical help, not Sunday school."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


The State of the Union (President George W. Bush, Jan. 28, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment.

I have sent you a comprehensive energy plan to promote energy efficiency and conservation, to develop cleaner technology, and to produce more energy at home.

I have sent you clear skies legislation that mandates a 70 percent cut in air pollution from power plants over the next 15 years.

I have sent you a healthy forest initiative to help prevent the catastrophic fires that devastate communities, kill wildlife and burn away millions of acres of treasured forests.

I urge you to pass these measures for the good of both our environment and our economy.

Even more, I ask you to take a crucial step and protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined.

In this century, the greatest environmental progress will come about not through endless lawsuits or command-and-control regulations, but through technology and innovation.

Tonight I'm proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles.

A simple chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen generates energy, which can be used to power a car, producing only water, not exhaust fumes. With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacle s to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom, so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.

Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Who knew he listens to Arianna Huffington?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


A Speech as Autobiography: The president presented a vision that is both compassionate and full of resolve. In other words, perfectly in tune with America. (David Brooks, 01/29/2003, Weekly Standard)
THE CENTRAL POINT to make about President Bush's State of the Union speech is this: For the past several weeks, the American people have had growing qualms about going to war against Iraq. This speech will reverse that trend. If President Bush's speech had been a dud, it would have been cataclysmic for the administration. Instead, it was a strong, sober, moral, and determined speech, which will give the president the latitude he needs to pursue the right course.

When I scanned through the text of the speech--which is delivered to journalists just as the president begins--I have to confess I was a little disappointed. I knew this wasn't going to be a legal brief with newly released intelligence data--much of the substance I had heard before in recent speeches by Colin Powell and other administration figures. But when I saw the president deliver the speech, all my disappointments evaporated. In this speech, the president was able to show his resolve, his sober determination, his moral vision.

This was speech as autobiography. President Bush once again revealed his character, and demonstrated why so many Americans, whether they agree with this or that policy proposal, basically trust him and feel he shares their values. Most Americans will not follow the details of this or that line in the address. But they will go about their day on Wednesday knowing that whatever comes in the next few months, they have a good leader at the helm.

The first domestic policy section was predicate for the more important foreign policy section that followed. In that first section, Bush demonstrated that he is not the shallow, rough-riding cowboy that so many Europeans imagine him to be. He is instead a man who understands the need to discipline the growth of government, but who also, when he sees the opportunity to do good, is willing to use government in limited but energetic ways. I thought the decision to launch a major initiative against AIDS in Africa was a noble gesture, exactly the kind of great undertaking that befits the United States.

One wonders whether the infrastructure really exists in Africa to get the drugs to people who need them, but it is a worthwhile undertaking to at least try. The values of America may confound evil, but W's values sure as heck confound America.

January 28, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


New union law to crush fire strike: Prescott uses emergency powers in historic breach with Labour allies (Jill Sherman and Philip Webster, January 29, 2003, Times of London)
Draconian powers to force unions to bow to the Government's will on pay were announced by John Prescott and Tony Blair yesterday.

Mr Prescott's patience with the Fire Brigades Union finally snapped as he declared that he would take emergency powers to impose a pay settlement on the striking firefighters.

A Bill will be introduced next month which will allow him to impose pay, terms and conditions. The legislation, which will be rushed through the Commons in weeks, will also give him direct powers to close fire stations and change working practices.

The Prime Minister, who has said that he regards the leadership of some far-left unions as "Scargillite", also made clear that he was determined to take hardline measures to end the dispute, leaving the union movement shocked by such an openly confrontational approach. [...]

Employment relations experts could not recall a similar move and said the announcement ranked with a ban on prison officers taking industrial action imposed by the Conservatives in the mid-1990s.

Unfortunately I can't find the story on-line anymore, but when Tony Blair was elected there was a profile in one of the British papers, the gist of which was that he was a new kind of Labour leader, but the part that stuck out was a quote from a close friend who said that one of the most important things to recognize about him is that he "hates Labour". The suggestion was that he truly believes in his Third Way and that he understands that the British labour movement is an obstacle to the types of reforms that the Third Way envisions. It's not shocking that this analysis has held true, but it is pretty surprising that he's managing to drag the rest of his party so far to the Right with him.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 PM


U.S. destroys stronghold in Afghanistan (Anwar Iqbal, 1/28/2003, UPI)
U.S. forces, in a 12-hour assault with overwhelming air power, destroyed an enemy stronghold in Afghanistan near the former Taliban headquarters, bringing an end to fighting in the area, military officials said Tuesday.

"About 250 plus U.S. and Afghan forces are now searching the caves (where the enemy troops were hiding)," A U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. Ray Shepherd told United Press International by telephone from Tampa, Fla.

Shepherd said troops loyal to the governor of Kandahar region, in Afghanistan's southwest, were participating in the search along with U.S. Special Forces.

Gov. Gul Agha now controls the region, which was formerly the headquarters and main support base of the Taliban militia.

U.S. Central Command said earlier at least 18 enemy personnel were killed, and there were no U.S. casualties. But Shepherd said the enemy casualty figure was "no longer accurate... We are searching the caves now and will give more information after the search is complete." He confirmed that there were no U.S. casualties.

The caves fell to U.S. ground forces after a 12-hour pounding with U.S. B-1B bombers, AC-130 gunships, and coalition F-16 fighter-bombers as well as Apache helicopters, another CENTCOM spokesman in Florida, Cmdr. Dan Gage told UPI.

More than 9,000 U.S. troops are still based in Afghanistan, helping the new government and training a national Afghan army.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 PM

Patrick Ruffini is live blogging the State of the Union.

State of the Union Excerpts

Tonight, President Bush will talk about the challenges our country is facing both at home and abroad, and call on the American people to confront them as we always have--with resolve and confidence:

"This country has many challenges. We will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, other presidents, and other generations. We will confront them with focus, and clarity, and courage."

He will outline four specific domestic goals for the Congress to address in the coming year: strengthening our economy by creating more jobs; high quality, affordable health care for all Americans and prescription drugs for seniors; greater energy independence while improving the environment; and applying the compassion of America to the deepest problems of America.

On our economy: "Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best, fairest way to make sure Americans have the money is not to tax it away in the first place."

On health care: "... for many people, medical care costs too much - and many have no coverage at all. These problems will not be solved with a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care. Instead, we must work toward a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy ... choose their own doctors ... and seniors and low-income Americans receive the help they need."

On compassion: "Tonight I ask Congress and the American people to focus the spirit of service and the resources of government on the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens - boys and girls trying to grow up without guidance and attention ... and children who have to go through a prison gate to be hugged by their mom or dad."

During the second half of the speech, President Bush will talk about our challenges abroad to defend the peace by confronting them:

"The qualities of courage and compassion that we strive for in America also determine our conduct abroad. The American flag stands for more than our power and our interests. Our Founders dedicated this country to the cause of human dignity - the rights of every person and the possibilities of every life. This conviction leads us into the world to help the afflicted, and defend the peace, and confound the designs of evil men."

President Bush will also speak to the progress we have made on the war on terror, including the need to confront Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, as part of the war:

"Today, the gravest danger in the war on terror ... the gravest danger facing America and the world ... is outlaw regimes that seek and possess nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. These regimes could use such weapons for blackmail, terror, and mass murder. They could also give or sell those weapons to their terrorist allies, who would use them without the least hesitation."

He will discuss the Iraqi regime's defiance to the world and our obligation to hold him to account:

"Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement... Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead his utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world."

"The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving."

President Bush will conclude by reaffirming the principles that demonstrate the true character and goodness of our country:

"Americans are a resolute people, who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world, and to ourselves. America is a strong Nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and sacrifice for the liberty of strangers."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:49 PM

54, 40 & FIGHT:

TO: Interested Parties

FR: Matthew Dowd, Senior Adviser, Republican National Committee

RE: President Bush Approval Numbers

Much has been discussed about the President's "falling" poll numbers and what he needs to do in the State of the Union Address to fix this situation. Democratic leaning pundit Paul Krugman with NY Times referred today to President Bush's "plummeting" poll numbers in the last few months. Here are some facts:

1. Bush approval numbers have "plummeted" all of three points since election day nearly three months ago. His Gallup approval numbers were 63% before election day and today in most recent Gallup poll they are 60%. As we have said, they are right where we thought they would be after a high point nearly 18 months ago.

2. Former President Reagan was re-elected in a landslide with a 58% job approval. Former President Clinton won re-election overwhelmingly with a 54% job approval. No president has been defeated with a job approval above 50%.

3. State of the Union addresses at this point in Presidents' terms don't usually move numbers on job approval. In 1983, Reagan's job approval went from 37% before the speech to 35% after the speech on Gallup job approval. In 1991, Bush job approval went from 83% before the speech to 74% after the speech. And in 1995, the media's great orator Clinton went from 47% before the speech to 49% after the speech.

I hope this provides some much needed perspective.
54% in November 2004 should be good for 40 states as long as the fight's going well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:24 PM


Planning Ahead (Washington Wrap, Jan. 28, 2003, Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker and Steve Chaggaris of CBS News)
In Maryland, Republicans have been wooing former Prince George's County Democratic Executive Wayne Curry to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2004. The hitch, however, would be getting Curry - an African-American who headed the suburban Washington county through a period of tremendous growth – to switch from the (D) column to the (R) column.

Fueling the speculation is the fact Curry was a member of Maryland's new GOP Gov. Bob Ehrlich's transition team, and has been supportive of Ehrlich and the state's new lieutenant governor, Michael Steele, who's also African-American.

State GOP chairman John Kane told the Baltimore Sun: "The orbits are aligning É If this did happen, it would continue to demonstrate what Bob Ehrlich and Michael Steele have said, that this is a party for all Marylanders, and that they are reaching out to minorities."

But the Sun reports that Curry told them Monday that he hasn't given much thought to the race and doubted he would become a Republican.

Considering how badly the GOP needs a black member of Congress, expect Mr. Curry to get the full Rove treatment.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM


DARK AND MOIST DOUBLE GINGERBREAD (Lynne Rossetto Kasper, NPR: The Splendid Table)
Makes 9 servings

2 cups, less 2 tablespoons, all-purpose unbleached flour (measure by spooning into cup and leveling)
1 generous teaspoon baking soda
Generous teaspoon salt
Grated zest of small orange
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup dark molasses
3/4 cup very hot water (190 degrees F)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg

1. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

2. In a mixing bowl, beat together the rest of the ingredients except the egg. When almost frothy, beat in the egg and quickly add the flour mixture.

3. Stir only until thoroughly blended. Pour into pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack in the pan for a moist cake. For a drier consistency, cool 10 minutes then turn out of pan.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


HONEST, DECENT, WRONG: The invention of George Orwell (LOUIS MENAND, 2003-01-20, The New Yorker)
[A]lmost everything in the popular understanding of Orwell is a distortion of what he really thought and the kind of writer he was.

Writers are not entirely responsible for their admirers. It is unlikely that Jane Austen, if she were here today, would wish to become a member of the Jane Austen Society. In his lifetime, George Orwell was regarded, even by his friends, as a contrary man. It was said that the closer you got to him the colder and more critical he became. As a writer, he was often hardest on his allies. He was a middle-class intellectual who despised the middle class and was contemptuous of intellectuals, a Socialist whose abuse of Socialists—"all that dreary tribe of high-minded women and sandal-wearers and bearded fruit-juice drinkers who come flocking toward the smell of 'progress' like bluebottles to a dead cat"—was as vicious as any Tory's. He preached solidarity, but he had the habits of a dropout, and the works for which he is most celebrated, "Animal Farm," "1984," and the essay "Politics and the English Language," were attacks on people who purported to share his political views. He was not looking to make friends. But after his death he suddenly acquired an army of fans—all middle-class intellectuals eager to suggest that a writer who approved of little would have approved of them. [...]

Hitchens says that there were three great issues in the twentieth century, and that Orwell was right on all three: imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. What does this mean, though? Orwell was against imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. Excellent. Many people were against them in Orwell's time, and a great many more people have been against them since. The important question, after condemning those things, was what to do about them, and how to understand the implications for the future. On this level, Orwell was almost always wrong. [...]

Some people in 1949 received "1984" as an attack on the Labour Party (in the book, the regime of Big Brother is said to have derived from the principles of "Ingsoc"; that is, English Socialism), and Orwell was compelled to issue, through his publisher, a statement clarifying his intentions. He was a supporter of the Labour Party, he said. "I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive," he continued, "but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is satire) that something resembling it could arrive. I believe also that totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences."

The attitude behind this last sentence seems to me the regrettable part of Orwell's legacy. If ideas were to stand or fall on the basis of their logically possible consequences, we would have no ideas, because the ultimate conceivable consequence of every idea is an absurdity—is, in some way, "against life." We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation; a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most tiresome arguments against ideas is that their "tendency" is to some dire condition—to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all. Orwell did not invent this kind of argument, but he provided, in "1984," a vocabulary for its deployment.

Unfortunately, I've read just enough by Mr. Menand to both take him seriously as a critic and to be suspicious of his motives when he writes something like this. George Orwell certainly was conflicted--torn between what appears to have been a genuine solicitude for the plight of the poor, coupled with a visceral dislike for the upper class, on the one hand and a reluctant love of middle class Britain on the other. We see this most clearly in two of his novels, Coming Up for Air and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. The links there will take you to more detailed reviews, but for our purposes it's sufficient to note that Coming Up for Air--like the closing chapter of George Dangerfield's Strange Death of Liberal England--represents an ostensible man of the Left's heartfelt longing not for a progressive future but for the lost world of pre-WWI England. It is decidedly reactionary. Meanwhile, in Aspidistra, the eponymous plant itself becomes a symbol of the British middle class and the title alone thereby reveals Orwell's purpose in the book: it marks his reconciliation with and celebration of middle class life. The title is the battle cry of an anti-revolutionary.

Mr. Menand is right then to call him a middle class intellectual, but wrong that he hated the middle class, and, more importantly, fails to consider that the very term "middle class intellectual" is an oxymoron. In any economically healthy democracy with a reasonably broad franchise the middle class will be the ultimate source of power in the State, simply because they will be, overwhelmingly, the largest group in society. This will necessarily tend to make the middle class conservative, in the very broad sense that will try to conserve the basic structures, traditions, etc. of the state they control. The powerful just don't tend to be risk takers where their own power is concerned. The philosophy of the middle class then, its intellectualism, tends to be rather conservative, traditional, and opposed to change or experimentation with a system that's working pretty well by their terms.

Intellectuals, on the other hand, at least as we've come to conceive of them in modern times, are characterized by a rejection of tradition and a hostility to inherited wisdom. Here's how Paul Johnson describes them in his terrific book, Intellectuals:

Over the last two hundred years the influence of intellectuals has grown steadily. Indeed, the rise of the secular intellectual has been a key factor in shaping the modern world. Seen against the long perspective of history it is in many ways a new phenomenon. It is true that in their earlier incarnations as priests, scribes and soothsayers, intellectuals have laid claim to guide society from the very beginning. But as guardians of hieratic cultures, whether primitive or sophisticated, their moral and ideological innovations were limited by the canons of external authority and by the inheritance of tradition. They were not, and could not be, free spirits, adventurers of the mind.

With the decline of clerical power in the eighteenth century, a new kind of mentor emerged to fill the vacuum and capture the ear of society. The secular intellectual might be a deist, sceptic or atheist. But he was just as ready as any pontiff or presbyter to tell mankind how to conduct its affairs. He proclaimed, from the start, a special devotion to the interests of humanity and an evangelical duty to advance them by his teaching. He brought to his self-appointed task a far more radical approach than his clerical predecessors. He felt himself bound by no corpus of revealed religion. The collective wisdom of the past, the legacy of tradition, the prescriptive codes of ancestral experience existed to be selectively followed or wholly rejected entirely as his own good sense might decide. For the first time in human history, and with growing confidence and audacity, men arose to assert that they could diagnose the ills of society and cure them with their own unaided intellects: more, that they could devise formulae whereby not merely the structure of society but the fundamental habits of human beings could be transformed for the better. Unlike their sacerdotal predecessors, they were not servants and interpreters of the gods but substitutes. Their hero was Prometheus, who stole the celestial fire and brought it to earth.

Nor is Mr. Johnson alone in this kind of definition. One can turn to authors like Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind; Jeanne Kirkpatrick , Dictatorships and Double Standards : Rationalism and Reason in Politics; and Michael Oakeshott Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays ; and find remarkably similar definitions. But, even more revealingly, one can turn to Richard Hofstadter's classic liberal study Anti-Intellectualism in American Life , the entirety of which is devoted to the entirely accurate proposition that America, the exemplary middle class nation, is and has been hostile to Intellectuals and Intellectualism:
The common strain that binds together the attitudes and ideas which I call anti-intellectual is a resentment and suspicion of the life of the mind and of those who are considered to represent it; and a disposition constantly to minimize the value of that life.

The great tragedy of Intellectualism though is that Hofstadter and his fellows did not, and do not, even consider thinkers like Johnson, Kirkpatrick, Oakeshott and Kirk to be intellectuals, because they are guardians of tradition, of the reality of society, and enemies of rationalism, of the imagined state, and are, therefore, beyond the Pale in Intellectual circles.

What makes George Orwell so complex a figure, and one of the heroes of modernity, is that he wished that Socialism, his favored form of rationalism, might work, that by restarting the world we might eliminate poverty and level society, but he was too honest to believe that the rationalists (the Intellectuals) should be allowed to test their experiment upon an England which he understood to be more good than bad. Thus his two great dystopian novels--1984 and Animal Farm--are set in societies where the very experiment who's theoretical results he longed for is actually tested and instead results in soul-crushing tyranny. His writings then may make Orwell a middle class intellectual, but, as such, he is the antithesis of an Intellectual and he is a celebrator, not a hater, of the middle class.

So Mr. Menand begins with an Orwell who does not exist, at least on the written page, but then he dismisses even the Orwell he proposes, in the passage when he baldly states:

Hitchens says that there were three great issues in the twentieth century, and that Orwell was right on all three: imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. What does this mean, though? Orwell was against imperialism, fascism, and Stalinism. Excellent. Many people were against them in Orwell's time, and a great many more people have been against them since.

There's a very simple response to this: who? Name the significant contemporaries of Orwell who opposed all three, particularly among the Intellectual class. Even if you consider Churchill and Roosevelt/Truman to have been the great liberators of humanity of that time, you have to concede that Churchill was an imperialist and the Americans, though they were not Stalinists, were guarantors of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, were de facto Stalinists. (The only politician who mattered at all that I can think of who fits the profile Mr. Menand pretends was common is the great Robert Taft.) Moreover, because Christopher Hitchens used to be at least a Socialist, he chooses not to lump socialism in with Stalinism (not that it's not Nazism but fascism while it's not socialism but Stalinism). But, in reality, all of the isms belong in the same group. As Albert Jay Nock, one of the rare contemporary intellectuals (small "i") who could be said to oppose that triad, wrote:
It may be in place to remark here the essential identity of the various extant forms of collectivism. The superficial distinctions of Fascism, Bolshevism, Hitlerism, are the concern of journalists and publicists; the serious student sees in them only the one root-idea of a complete conversion of social power into State power. When Hitler and Mussolini invoke a kind of debased and hoodwinking mysticism to aid their acceleration of this process, the student at once recognizes his old friend, the formula of Hegel, that "the State incarnates the Divine Idea upon earth," and he is not hoodwinked. The journalist and the impressionable traveler may make what they will of "the new religion of Bolshevism"; the student contents himself with remarking clearly the exact nature of the process which this inculcation is designed to sanction.

We can argue until we're all blue in the face about whether Nazism was a pathology of Left or Right, but no one can argue the point that all of these rationalisms are unified by their desire to destroy the existing society and erect in its place a state designed by the Intellectuals. Even Imperialism, which is not mentioned there, envisions replacing traditional, though non-Western, cultures with bureaucratic states run by "elites".

Finally, given all of that, when Mr. Menand suggests that it is unfair of Orwell to force "ideas" to their logical conclusions because we also live by "the mixture of customs and practices, intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to improvement or debasement", he is using sleight of hand. Those who advocate "ideas", which is to say a set of concepts sprung full blown from the minds of Intellectuals, intend them to replace custom and intuition and all the rest. It is only fair, since they plan to sweep away all restraints upon their ideas, to look at where those ideas lead.

Orwell's ultimate point, as that of all the middle class intellectuals, is that what makes the "idea" wielders, the Intellectuals, so dangerous is that they do represent a leveling wind of destruction. Failing to recognize the wisdom of the ancestors and of the traditions handed down to us, they have no compunctions about annihilating them. This stands in stark contrast to the middle class intellectuals, who it seems necessary at this point to call by their true name: conservatives. Here's how Oakeshott famously described the breed:

The man of conservative temperament believes that a known good is not lightly to be surrendered for an unknown better. He is not in love with what is dangerous and difficult; he is unadventurous; he has no impulse to sail uncharted seas; for him there is no magic in being lost, bewildered or shipwrecked. If he is forced to navigate the unknown, he sees virtue in heaving the lead every inch of the way. What others plausibly identify as timidity, he recognizes in himself as rational prudence; what others interpret as inactivity, he recognizes as a disposition to enjoy rather than to exploit. He is cautious, and he is disposed to indicate his assent or dissent, not in absolute, but in graduated terms. He eyes the situation in terms of its propensity to disrupt the familiarity of the features of his world.

If we look at the life that Orwell lived and the Socialism he espoused, it may be difficult to square them with this temperament. But those things are not why, as Christopher Hitchens says, "Orwell matters". He matters because of what he wrote and what he wrote makes him a middle class intellectual, a conservative, or perhaps we might call him a compassionate conservative. And looked at from that simple shift of perspective his contradictions--particularly the willingness to forego the unattainable Socialist ideal in favor of the mundane but quite decent middle class British reality of his lifetime, especially his youth--seem heroic rather than tragic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Why They Cry 'Non!': Greed, pride and desire to show up the U.S. inspire France's policies on Iraq (Max Boot, January 23 2003, LA Times)
Of all Bush administration officials, Colin Powell is the one held in highest esteem in Europe. It's not hard to see why.

Just like the Europeans, he doesn't want the United States to disarm Saddam Hussein without the backing of the United Nations. The secretary of State even managed to convince President Bush to seek U.N. support back in August.

Thereafter he spent two months heroically haggling -- mainly with French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin -- over the text of a resolution that would win the assent of the entire Security Council.

So how does De Villepin repay his negotiating partner? With a kick in the teeth. [...]

So why is France pressing for endless U.N. palaver in the case of Iraq? Its first motive is crassly commercial: France has about $1.5 billion in contracts with the current Iraqi government and doesn't want it overthrown for fear that a more democratic regime might take its business elsewhere. Its second motive is essentially wounded national pride. France, a noted poet recently wrote, "used to have the ability to inspire princes and kings" but now "comes the time when no one listens to her anymore and the universe turns without her, except when it judges her with spite or commiseration." This writer suggested that the solution was for France to adopt "a humble and global approach." [...]

It is hard to see anything humble about De Villepin's grandstanding Monday, but it was certainly "global": France is taking advantage of Franklin Roosevelt's dispensation -- a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council -- to maximize its influence at the expense of the "hyperpower."

The bad news for Paris is that it can get away with this game only as long as Washington lets it. After Monday, even Powell's patience may wear thin.

Few nations have greater cause for humility than France.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


The real test of China's appetite for reform (Minxin Pei, January 27 2003, Financial Times)
Three powerful forces are placing pressure on China's rulers to restructure the country's political system. The biggest of these is the economy, which has become more market-oriented and more closely linked to the world. In spite of adopting policy changes that have propelled market reforms, Chinese leaders have not made state institutions market-friendly. As a result, the state has maintained its command-and-control orientation and interferes excessively in the marketplace.

That is evident in the size of the Chinese bureaucracy. Even though the share of state-owned enterprises in the economy has fallen 60 per cent since 1979, the number of officials has tripled. A bloated bureaucracy and unchecked power breed corruption. At the very least, political reform would require a painful downsizing of the bureaucracy. The proposed measures in Shenzhen suggest that administrative streamlining is likely to be the dominant theme of reforms.

The second force comes from China's changing society. Increasing affluence, economic independence, access to information and physical mobility have rendered the government's traditional means of social control obsolete. Luckily for the Communist party, the emerging middle class has not displayed much zeal for democracy. But it would be foolhardy to take its political apathy for granted. The party needs to court these elites and to incorporate them in the political process.

More important, continued political disenfranchisement is radicalising China's two biggest social groups: peasants and workers in moribund state-owned enterprises, who are relative losers in economic reform. Unable to protect their interests, these groups are increasingly turning to riots and street demonstrations to press their demands. Opening up the political process could help to defuse rising social tensions.

The third force comes from the party itself and many officials have begun to call for change. The results of a recent poll of mid-level officials at the Central Communist Party School in Beijing show that, since 2000, political reform has become the most important issue for them. Li Rui, a former personal secretary of Mao Zedong and deputy chief of the party's organisation department, published an essay recently that openly called on the party to institute democratic reforms.

But the need for such reforms does not necessarily mean that the regime will undertake them. Experience of democratic transition elsewhere suggests that few authoritarian regimes initiate, of their own accord, reforms that could threaten their hold on power. In most cases, political and economic crises have forced them to accept the inevitable.

People are so frightened about the instability that may follow the fall of Saddam; just imagine what the inevitable crumbling of Communist China is going to look like.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:23 AM


Iran to Lift Dissident Cleric's House Arrest After 5 Years (ELAINE SCIOLINO, January 28, 2003, NY Times)
In a surprise move, Iran will release its most senior dissident cleric from the house arrest that was imposed on him five years ago, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the cleric, was once in line to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran's supreme leader, the most powerful position in the country.

But he fell out of favor with the Islamic republic in the late 1980's when he criticized the government's excesses, accusing the judiciary of "murdering" its political opponents, faulting government policies for paralyzing the economy and questioning the official view that Iran had won the war against Iraq. When Ayatollah Khomeini issued a ruling calling for the assassination of Salman Rushdie, Ayatollah Montazeri refused to endorse it.

In March 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini stripped him of his position as designated successor. He was put under house arrest in November 1997, when he said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the man who became supreme leader in his place, was not competent to issue religious rulings.

The decision to free Ayatollah Montazeri from house arrest, which could occur as early as Tuesday, was made by the Supreme Council of National Security, which reports to the reformist president, Mohammad Khatami. It will mean the removal of armed security police officers stationed in a bulletproof trailer outside the ayatollah's modest home in the city of Qum, a senior Iranian official said in an interview. The ban on his giving speeches or conducting public activities will also be lifted, the official added.

Hard to see it as anything other than a sign of weakness on the part of the clerics and the government.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Iraqi Opponent Says He's Leaving Iran to Plan Takeover (ELAINE SCIOLINO, January 28, 2003, NY Times)
Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi opposition leader, announced today that he intends to travel to Iraq shortly to meet other opposition leaders and plan a provisional government to replace the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Chalabi, who heads the Iraqi National Congress, the main Iraqi umbrella opposition group, told a news conference here that he was going into Iraq despite objections from some members of the Bush administration but with the blessing of the White House. [...]

"We hope to go to our country in northern Iraqi Kurdistan to have consultations with the leaders over there," Mr. Chalabi said. "And we expect we can come up with a coalition leadership council, which will be empowered to establish a coalition provisional government at the appropriate moment so that the government will lead the process of liberation and would also assume control of the administration of Iraq."

Mr. Chalabi, wearing a suit and tie in a country where ties are still suspect for being too Western, seemed to revel in his surroundings. He welcomed a reporter to his headquarters and said the villa had been "paid for by the State Department."

Mr. Chalabi's comfort in inviting journalists to his American-financed headquarters in Iran and announcing plans to cross into Iraq underscored how confident he feels about the support of his Iranian hosts.

Maybe someone should tell the dovish Colin Powell that his State Department has been planning regime change without his knowledge...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 AM


U.S. to Make Iraq Intelligence Public: Evidence of Weapons Concealment to Be Shared in Effort to Boost Support for War (Bob Woodward, January 28, 2003, Washington Post)
The Bush administration has assembled what it believes to be significant intelligence showing that Iraq has been actively moving and concealing banned weapons systems and related equipment from United Nations inspectors, according to informed sources. [...]

The concealment efforts have often taken place days or hours ahead of visits by U.N. inspection teams, which have been operating in Iraq during the past two months, according to these accounts. In many cases, the United States has what one source called "compelling" intelligence that is "unambiguous" in proving that Iraq is hiding banned weapons.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Powell said that U.N. inspectors have picked up similar indications of Iraqi concealment and that the United States supported the inspectors' claims. "The inspectors have also told us that they have evidence that Iraq has moved or hidden items at sites just prior to inspection visits. That's what the inspectors say, not what Americans say, not what American intelligence says," he said. "Well, we certainly corroborate all of that, but this is information from the inspectors."

Administration officials have said for weeks that the United States has intelligence demonstrating that Iraq maintains banned weapons programs. But they have said they could not disclose the information because doing so would jeopardize U.S. intelligence-collection methods or military operations against possible weapon storage sites in the event of war. [...]

A senior State Department official said the information the administration plans to release will show what the Iraqis are "doing, what they're not doing, how they're deceiving."

"We will lay out the case that we can, and we will leave it to others to judge," the official said. "When you listen to it, it should be disturbing to those people who listen objectively. To those who have made up their minds and want to duck their heads in the sand, it will pass right over them."

Spokesmen for the White House and U.S. intelligence agencies declined to comment.

In one recent example of what officials described as Iraqi obstruction, a ranking Iraqi official issued a warning that U.N. inspectors were planning a visit and directed those at the site to conceal specific prohibited weapons. In another, an Iraqi official directed scientists and others involved in research or production of chemical and biological weapons to conceal their files and papers from the inspectors.

Unfortunately, the UN is such a sieve--with the French in particular leaking information to Saddam so he can hide stuff before inspectors get there--that we can only release truly valuable evidence just before we go to war. It would be irresponsible to give Saddam time to move weapons we know about for sure when we could instead wait a couple weeks and announce that we know where they are with a barrage of cruise missiles.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM


WEAPONS OF MASS DISTRACTION (Edward Driscoll, 1/27/03)

Just in case there was any doubt in anyone's mind, Brother Driscoll reveals that Modern Art is officially a weapon of torture.

Which brings to mind a story from Mark Steyn's inevitably fantastic collection of columns, The Face of the Tiger:

[C]elebrated German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen...told a radio interviewer the other day that the destruction of the World Trade Center was "the greatest work of art ever". I'm reminded of the late Sir Thomas Beecham when asked if he'd ever played any Stockhausen: "No," he said. "But I once stepped in some."

-REVIEW: of The Face of the Tiger By Mark Steyn (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)

January 27, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 PM


U.S. Expands Afghan Aid for Maternal and Child Health (Judith Miller, January 27, 2003, NY Times)
The Bush administration will spend $5 million this year to rebuild and expand the largest women's hospital in Kabul and to create four satellite teaching clinics for maternal and child health in other parts of Afghanistan, officials said yesterday.

Officials said the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon were joining forces to improve Kabul's Rabia Balkhi Women's Hospital and to open the clinics.

The commitment is the administration's latest effort to address the health needs of Afghanistan's 25 million people, and particularly Afghan women and children, who international health surveys show have among the world's worst health and greatest needs.

The additional money for women's health is the result of a visit that Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, made to Kabul last October. "You cannot see suffering on that scale without concluding we need to do everything possible to help the Afghan people rebuild their public health infrastructure," he said in an interview.

After his trip, Mr. Thompson worked with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to promote a special women's health initiative, officials said.

You read something like that and you have to wonder if these protestors with their "No War for Oil" signs live in a different America than you do.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 PM


'A River of Peaceful People' (Mary McGrory, January 23, 2003, The Washington Post)
Danny Maguire, age 19, a college student with wide green eyes and face fuzz that may be a beard someday, rode a bus from Kansas City, Mo., for 23 hours. He hoped that the president, who makes much of his faith, was taking in the fact that the march was faith-based: The Catholic bishops, the National Council of Churches and many rabbinical organizations were opposed to an attack on Saddam Hussein.

Maguire is a history student, but his real passion is social justice, and his patron saint is Dorothy Day, the Catholic radical who took the Gospels literally.

Ms Day was a great woman and a genuine Christian pacifist. But most will be familiar with the Star Trek episode, City on the Edge of Forever, where Joan Collins played someone similar, who Captain Kirk had to make sure died, lest her activism lead to the United States staying out of WWII and Hitler winning. Ms Day, you see, was so serious about pacifism that she opposed America's entry into WWII, even after Pearl Harbor.

That's a perfectly honorable position and one with which I'm broadly sympathetic, but, as Pat Buchanan found out a few years ago, very few other people are. Before she starts speaking in such hushed tones about Ms Day and those who follow her example, Ms McGrory should probably explain to her readers why she's okay with the prospect of leaving folks like Hitler and Saddam in power to continue their murderous reigns.

There's nothing wrong with opposing war so long as you're willing to accept some measure of responsibility for the deeds of such men, the murders that you're willing to let continue. But it is this willingness that so often makes pacifism the moral low ground, rather than the high ground, and the failure to even wrestle with the reality comes close to making the position despicable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM


As it Happens (CBC, 1/27/03)

Listening to this show is enough to make you hate Canada, which I recognize is unfair. Tonight they had caller reaction to the story last week about Saddam equipping his troops with chemical warfare suits. Both calls that they played featured guys saying that Saddam had disarmed himself but reasonably feared the US and Britain would use chemical weapons against Iraq

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 PM


What pools? (John Cote, January 25, 2003, Modesto Bee)
The American Gaming Association, a casino lobbying group, estimates that Americans will wager more than $5 billion on the Super Bowl this year.

That figure almost matches the gross domestic product of Honduras or Nepal in 2001, according to the World Bank.

Every once in a while, numbers really put things in perspective.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM


Raising the Bars: Complete sentences: Turning students into prison inmates (Margo Freistadt, January 19, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)
A simple solution would avert the budget disaster facing California's schools: We should declare every public school to be a prison. The kids would understand.

Details need to be worked out, but I want every child in California to be given a 13-year prison sentence at age 5, with the possibility of a four-year extension.

That way, the $7,000 the state spends per student each year could immediately be raised to $27,000 -- what the state spends on each inmate annually. And our criminally under-funded schools would qualify for the only category in the governor's proposed budget that's slated to get more money this year.

She probably thinks this is clever, but did her editor ask her how spending $20k more per pupil would reduce the deficit?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


-INTERVIEW: "The Shah Always Falls": A soldier-historian looks at how the world has changed in the past decade and finds that America is both hostage to history and likely to be saved by it: An Interview With Ralph Peters (Fredric Smoler, February/March 2003, American Heritage)
[A:] The clash of civilizations is a great thesis, but it does not describe a new phenomenon. The history of the eastern Mediterranean in the twelfth century b.c. is the clash of civilizations, and so are the imperial wars of the eighteenth century. In the eighteenth century the French and Indian War is crucial, and the colonial militia is decisive. On the Plains of Abraham, we prove that modern empires can fall. We show that it's possible. Well, we fight the greatest empire of that age, the British Empire, twice, once to kick it out, and once to confirm it's got to stay out. Our next war is against the Mexican Empire. The first phase of our struggle against empires climaxes with the Civil War, when we destroy the imperial legacies of human bondage and a landed aristocracy. That first phase ends with Seward's purchase of Alaska, and it roughly defines American territory as we know it, except for Hawaii.

[Q;] What's the second phase?

[A:] In 1898 phase two kicks in, and America starts looking outward. Nowadays we underestimate the Spanish-American War because we assume that important wars are bloody. This one wasn't bloody, but it was the first time a non-European power destroyed a European empire. The Spanish Empire was decrepit, archaic, and bankrupt, but it was an empire, and we reached out and broke it, and we began becoming a new form of empire in the process. The Japanese saw that the Europeans didn't all gang up on the Americans for destroying a European empire, so a half-dozen years later they took on the other decrepit empire in the Far East, the empire of the czars, and destroyed part of it. In the First World War we were fighting alongside empires but also against them, and we destroyed the decrepit Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and the upstart Second Reich. In the Second World War we destroyed the Italian empire, the Japanese empire, and the German Third Reich. By the end of the Cold War we'd destroyed the last great surviving European empire, the Soviet incarnation of the Russian Empire of the czars, and in some respects become an empire ourselves, although a new kind.

This process was layered and complex. In Indochina we were an anti-imperial power fighting imperial wars against anti-imperialists backed by imperial powers. Communism was an imperial force, the last great wave of European imperialism. But at the same time, the Vietnamese and Cambodians were fighting their own anti-imperial struggle against us. By the nineties we'd directly or indirectly been involved in the destruction of almost every European empire. Even the Dutch in Indonesia had to leave back in 1949 because America basically said, "You've got to go home." The Belgians pretty much withered on their own. The Portuguese mostly withered on their own too, but sad to say, we apparently gave Indonesia a green light to kick them out of East Timor, which we came to regret less than a quarter of a century later. Finally, in the course of restructuring empires we've gotten a legacy of behaving like a new sort of imperial power. I want us to continue to be this new sort of enlightened imperial power. It's the moral, right, and wise thing to do.

[Q:] Is the Chinese empire the last one that you think America will destroy?

[A:] I don't see China as an empire. It's got some imperial possessions, but it's not an empire in the European sense. I think the greatest threat to the Chinese is internal fissuring. There might be a period of warring states. There have been such periods throughout Chinese history. Whether we'll see a division between the rich east coast and the poor interior, whether we will see a Chinese democracy or a renewal of dictatorship, perhaps of a grotesque and monstrous form, nobody knows. China is the great wild card for the twenty-first century. It's important that we avoid the American arrogance of imagining we can have a decisive effect on a power like China. We're not even going to have a decisive effect on Indonesia, but if we engage there, we can make a difference. With China, we're playing on the margins. Patience is the one great virtue Americans lack. It's true in our personal lives, it's true in our consumer habits, and it's certainly true in geostrategy.

Mr. Peters's perspective is, as always, an interesting one. However, he could probably push his model at least that one step further: if China is going to fissure into warring states then it's an empire at least to the extent that it is an artificial construct of states that are natural rivals, rather than an organic state in and of itself. And, of course, if it does not fall apart on its own and if, though it's hard to see how, it does manage to rise to world power status, then it's entirely likely that eventually our power will be brought to bear on it, with decisive consequences.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


Iraq Faces Massive U.S. Missile Barrage (CBSNews.com, Jan. 24, 2003)
They're calling it "A-Day," A as in airstrikes so devastating they would leave Saddam's soldiers unable or unwilling to fight.

If the Pentagon sticks to its current war plan, one day in March the Air Force and Navy will launch between 300 and 400 cruise missiles at targets in Iraq. As CBS News Correspondent David Martin reports, this is more than number that were launched during the entire 40 days of the first Gulf War.

On the second day, the plan calls for launching another 300 to 400 cruise missiles.

"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," said one Pentagon official who has been briefed on the plan.

"The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before," the official said.

The battle plan is based on a concept developed at the National Defense University. It's called "Shock and Awe" and it focuses on the psychological destruction of the enemy's will
to fight rather than the physical destruction of his military forces.

"We want them to quit. We want them not to fight," says Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the Shock and Awe concept which relies on large numbers of precision guided

"So that you have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but in minutes," says Ullman.

800 cruise missiles at $500,000 a pop gets you to $400 million, right? If that plan does get the Iraqi military to throw in the towel, it seems damn cost effective.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


Religion Major to Get State Scholarship (AP, Jan 24, 2003)

The decision followed a federal lawsuit filed in December by the American Center for Law and Justice on behalf of Michael Woods Nash. The center, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, agreed to drop the suit following the revision.

The center sued after the Cumberland College junior learned in October that he would lose his scholarship funding because he had declared philosophy and religion as his major.
How, precisely, did we get from here, First Amendment (United States Constitution)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

to here, FAQ (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship)

Governor Paul E. Patton and the 1998 General Assembly provided Kentucky high school students a great opportunity to make their education pay with the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES)! KEES is administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA). Students who try to get the most from high school by studying hard and making good grades (2.5 GPA or higher) can earn scholarships for college or technical school. The better students do in high school, the more they will earn toward college scholarships. And students who complete their college studies have a better opportunity to achieve their career goals and improve their standard of living. Education really does pay!

[Q:] Can I use my KEES award if I plan to major in a religious program of study?

[A:] No. KEES awards cannot be used for programs of study that lead to a degree in theology, divinity, or religious education.

Kentucky Constitution, Section 1
Kentucky Constitution, Section 5

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM


3 Apollo Astronauts Die in Fire; Grissom, White, Chaffee Caught in Capsule During a Test on Pad: Tragedy at Cape: Rescuers Are Blocked by Dense Smoke -- Cause is Studied (The Associated Press, January 27, 1967)
The three-man crew of astronauts for the Apollo 1 mission were killed tonight in a flash fire aboard the huge spacecraft designed to take man to the moon.

Those killed in the blaze on a launching pad were:

VIRGIL I. GRISSOM, 40 years old, Air Force lieutenant colonel, one of the seven original Mercury astronauts.

EDWARD H. WHITE 2d, 36, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, the first American to "walk" in space.

ROGER B. CHAFFEE, 31, a Navy lieutenant commander, who had been awaiting his first space flight.

The astronauts were the first American spacemen to be killed on the job and ironically, died while on the ground. The bodies were removed hours later and a space agency spokesman said death was "instantaneous."

Three other astronauts died in airplane crashes, in the line of duty, but today's tragedy involved the first "on premises" deaths in the American space program- the first time anyone was killed while in space hardware. [...]

The fire broke out at 6:31 P. M. while the three men were taking part in a full-scale simulation of the scheduled Feb. 21 launching that was to take
them into the heavens for 14 days of orbiting the earth.

They were trapped behind closed hatches, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Tom Wolfe, naturally, said it best:
As to just what this ineffable quality was...well, it obviously involved bravery. But it was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life...any fool could do that... . No, the idea...seemed to be that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment--and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day... . There was a seemingly infinite series of tests...a dizzy progression of steps and ledges...a pyramid extraordinarily high and steep; and the idea was to prove at every foot of the way up that pyramid that you were one of the elected and anointed ones who had the right stuff and could move higher and higher and even--ultimately, God willing, one day--that you might be able to join that special few at the very top, that elite who had the capacity to bring tears to men's eyes, the very Brotherhood of the Right Stuff itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Powell, in Europe, Nearly Dismisses U.N.'s Iraq Report (MARK LANDLER and ALAN COWELL, January 27, 2003, NY Times)
Though the United States had hoped to forge a consensus among its allies, Mr. Powell said, the lack of a coalition would not deter the Bush administration. "When we feel strongly about something, we will lead, we will act, even if others are not prepared to join us," he said. [...]

"To those who say, why not give the inspection process more time, I ask, how much more time does Iraq need to answer these questions?" Mr. Powell said.

"We're in no great rush to judgment tomorrow or the day after, but clearly time is running out," he said. "We will not shrink from war if that is the only way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction." [...]

"I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of, or apologize for, with respect to what America has done for the world," he said in response to a question asking why the United States always falls back on the use of "hard power" instead of the "soft power" of diplomacy.

Mr. Powell noted that the United States had sent its soldiers into foreign wars over the last century, most recently in Afghanistan, without having imperial designs on the territories it secured.

"We've put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives," he said, his voice growing hoarse. "We've asked for nothing but enough land to bury them in."

It's one thing for Howell Raines and company to have been duped, but there are many on the Right who should be sitting down to a plate of crow right now also (two plates--if we add their steel tarrif confusion). Remember all the folks calling for Mr. Powell to resign or for President Bush to "get him in line"? Mr. Powell could have given this speech when they demanded it, to no effect. Instead, by waiting and giving it now, he seals the deal. That's the difference between governing and punditing.

Whither Colin Powell? (Robert Novak, January 27, 2003, Townhall.com)

Since Colin Powell has been relied upon to impede the nation's march to war in Iraq, apprehensive Republicans were startled last week by his suddenly bellicose rhetoric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Dave Barry has a blog.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM


Peron, Pinochet and Patience (Jorge I. Dominguez and Steven Levitsky, January 26, 2003, NY Times)
Argentine history offers lessons about the consequences of trying to save democracy by going around the constitution. The 1955 coup against Juan Peron, a semi-autocratic populist much like Mr. Chavez, did not bring about a return to stable constitutional rule. Those who supported Peron denied the legitimacy of all successor governments and worked actively--and at times violently--to bring them down. Those against Peron fought back. Three more presidents fell victim to coups. More than 30 years passed before another elected president completed his mandate.

Fortunately, there is an alternative model: Chile. During the mid-1980's, after protests failed to topple the dictator Augusto Pinochet, Chilean democrats embarked on a different course. The opposition decided to abide by Chile's Constitution and wait for a plebiscite in 1988 to determine whether General Pinochet would step down. Opposition parties used the time to build a broad coalition and organized an ultimately victorious campaign. Because the plebiscite had been General Pinochet's idea and was run according to his rules, he stepped down. Chile became one of Latin America's most successful democracies.

The Venezuelan opposition can follow suit. Mr. Chavez's 1999 Constitution allows for a binding referendum to remove the president at midterm, or in August 2003. If Mr. Chavez were to be voted down, a new presidential election would be held within 30 days.

Thus far, the opposition has refused to wait until August. It should reconsider. The opposition could use the next seven months to organize an effective campaign and agree upon a single candidate for future presidential elections. In playing by the rules, the opposition would also be able to maintain the domestic and international legitimacy that it forfeited with a failed coup in April 2002.

Unlike a forced resignation, a recall election would be constitutional and more peaceful. [...]

The Venezuelan opposition should be patient. As former President Jimmy Carter recently proposed, the opposition should lift the general strike and abandon current efforts to remove the president in exchange for an agreement with the Chavez government to choose the day for an internationally monitored referendum in August. If the opposition were to force Mr. Chavez's removal before that, it would risk ushering in a cycle of polarization and violence that could grip the country for years. Avoiding this and saving Venezuela's constitutional democracy is well worth waiting eight months.

The authors may well be right, however there's an important factor that they fail to consider: the damage that may be done while you're patient. This failure would appear to stem from their lack of comprehension that there's a massive difference between dictatorships of the Left and of the Right. Thus, Pinochet, like Franco, could be granted patience precisely because his mission was to preserve civil society and its institutions until an orderly transition of power could occur. Compare this to a place like Russia or Cuba, where patience did or will eventually lead to a replacement
of dictatorships of the Left, however, in the meantime, civil society and all of the institutions that might counter-balance the centralized government were destroyed.

Unfortunately, Mr. Chavez has left the opposition with little reason to believe that he will preserve Venezuelan society and it is therefore a reasonable thing to wonder whether they can afford to leave him in power to further damage a nation he seems bent on destroying. Patriotism can't be mere legalism: one must be loyal to society in general rather than just to a constitution. Government is, after all, only one part of the nation, and not the most important part.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


Single-parent homes studied: Afflictions later in life are seen for children (Emma Ross, 1/24/2003, Associated Press)
Children growing up in single-parent families are twice as likely as their counterparts to develop serious psychiatric illnesses and addictions later in life, according to an important new study.

Researchers have for years debated whether children from such homes bounce back or whether they are more likely than those whose parents stay together to develop serious emotional problems.

Specialists say the latest study, published this week in The Lancet medical journal, is important mainly because of its unprecedented scale and follow-up - it tracked about 1 million children for a decade, into their mid-20s.

The question of why and how those children end up with such problems remains unanswered. The study from Sweden's National Board for Health and Welfare in Stockholm suggests that financial hardship may play a role, but other specialists say the research also supports the view that quality of parenting could be a factor.

The study used the Swedish national registries, which cover almost the entire population and contain extensive socio-economic and health information. Children were considered to be living in a single-parent household if they were living with the same single adult in both the 1985 and 1990 housing census. That could have been the result of divorce, separation, death of a parent, out of wedlock birth, guardianship or other reasons.

About 60,000 were living with their mother and about 5,500 with their father. There were 921,257 living with both parents. The children were aged between 6 and 18 at the start of the study, with half already in their teens.

The scientists found that children with single parents were twice as likely as the others to develop a psychiatric illness such as severe depression or schizophrenia, to kill themselves or attempt suicide, and to develop an alcohol-related disease.

Girls were three times more likely to become drug addicts if they lived with a sole parent, and boys were four times more likely.

The Other Brother is the product of a single-parent household and he's a notorious right-wing lunatic, so there you go...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM


Tax travesties: Bush is wrong: It's not "our money" (Liam Murphy and Thomas Nagel, 1/26/2003, Boston Globe)
The persistence of the idea that the distribution of tax burdens can be fair or unfair in itself stems from a very natural, but mistaken, picture of the relation between taxes and property rights: According to this picture, we own our pre-tax income, so in taxing us the government takes away some of our private property to pay for its activities. But in fact we don't own our pre-tax income, and what we do own is defined by a legal system of private property in which taxes play an indispensable role.

This claim may seem outrageous, but a little reflection shows that it must be so. Notice that we couldn't, as a matter of logic, have unrestricted property rights in the whole of our pre-tax income, because without taxes there would be no government, and consequently no legal system, no banks, no corporations, no commercial contracts, no markets in stock, capital, labor, or commodities-in other words no economy of the kind that makes all modern forms of income and wealth possible.

Modern property rights are not part of nature. They are created and sustained by a legal, political, and economic system of which taxes are an essential part. This doesn't mean that everything really belongs to the government, except what it decides to give us. What it means is that property rights in a modern state, including the division between private and public property, depend for their existence on a legal system that does not and could not assign full property rights in pre-tax income. What we own depends on how we and others interact in the context of that system, and our private property is what we end up with after taxes, not before. Whether the result is fair depends on the legitimacy of the overall system, and we are collectively responsible, as a society, for the rules of that system.

Rights of private property are extremely important. In addition to playing a vital role in the working of the economy, they are as central to personal liberty as freedom of speech or religion. People need to be secure in the possession and use of what is theirs, protected both from theft and from arbitrary expropriation. But there remains the question of what forms modern property rights should take, and what legal rules and economic policies should determine their formation and transmission. John Locke, in the 17th century, argued that a man has natural rights to the fruits of his labor on unowned land, even in the absence of government. But even if such primitive natural property rights exist, they hardly correspond with anyone's right to shares of a mutual fund. Modern property has to be legally defined.

So, the right to be secure in one's own property is one of the central purposes for which men constitute governments but that right doesn't precede those governments? How does the fact that we voluntarily surrender some of that property in order to fund that subsequent government get transmuted into a requirement that we come, hat in hands, before that government for a determination of how much of our property we get to keep?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Davis to push bill allowing president to reorganize agencies (Tanya N. Ballard, January 22, 2003, GovExec.com)
House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said Wednesday that he plans to push legislation that would give the president broad authority to reorganize federal agencies. His goal is to get the measure through Congress by August.

"It's clear that you can?t take the existing structure into the 21st century," Davis said during a luncheon sponsored by the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group focused on improving the government?s recruitment and retention record. "We need to give the administration reorganization authority--where they can move ahead without specific congressional authorization in every case." [...]

Revamping the outdated civil service system will be another priority for the committee, Davis said.

"The key for us as we look at the civil service and the government bureaucracies . . .is to try to make it more streamlined, more efficient and more effective, and the way to do that is to revamp it significantly," Davis said. "Getting hired and getting firedare two of the most difficult things in the federal sector today."

In the long run, these kinds of reforms and the privatization of Social Security and Medicare (and voucherization, which is not necessarily privatization, of education), though they're less sexy and get less attention, are far more important to America than the war on Islamicism. It's here that the conservative revolution is proceeding, beneath the radar.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


Taiwan Military Overhaul To Enable Preemptive Strike On China>Taiwan military overhaul to enable preemptive strike on China: report (AFP, Jan 26, 2003)
Taiwan's ambitious overhaul of its armed forces could enable the independence-minded island to launch preemptive strikes against rival China, local media reported Sunday.

A 10-year plan to shift the military into a "joint forces" command was described as "the most dramatic reform since the former Kuomintang government retreated to Taiwan" in 1949 by an authoritative military source quoted by the China Times.

Based on a US model, the reform plan would reduce the size of Taiwan's military to 300,000 troops by 2011, resulting in a leaner force armed with more sophisticated weaponry. The leaner and meaner force would be equipped with a missile command to orchestrate any planned "long-distance missile" launches, the daily said.

Under the new military strategy, Taiwanese forces would be authorized to attack China's military commands, ballistic missile bases, airports and harbours -- a deviation from the island's long-standing defensive strategy.

Considering the fecklessness of our presidents during the time, the U.S. was extraordinarily lucky that Cuba, the Soviet sword pointed at our underbelly, was backwards and, thanks to communism, destined to stay that way--so it never posed a significant threat us (as witness the Missle Crisis, when, rather than using it as the much needed pretext to dispose of Castro, the Kennedy brothers just told the Russians to move the missiles and they had no other choice). But China's aspirations to rivalry with the U.S. must always be limited by the fact that it has a technologically-advanced, military peer, or superior, just offshore. Moreover, that enemy is allied with the greatest military powers on Earth--the US, Israel, etc.. Conservatives have taken heat over their support of Taiwan for fifty years, but today it may be our most important ally. That, unfortunately, seems to be about the timeframe required before folks accept that the Right was right.

January 26, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM


'Aggressive' Kasparov outplays computer (ABCNews.com, 1/26/03)
World number one chess player Garry Kasparov has crushed the champion computer program Deep Junior in his trademark aggressive style.

Kasparov won the first game of the six-game "Man vs Machine" match in New York.

The Azerbaijan-born grandmaster took his first step toward burying the ghost of 1997, when he lost a match to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue, with a convincing win in just 27 moves and 3 hours 40 minutes play. Kasparov scored a point for the victory over Israeli-built Deep Junior and the second game is scheduled for tomorrow.

US grandmaster Maurice Ashley, one of the experts providing commentary for spectators at the New York Athletic Club, said: "Garry played dominating chess, great open play, aggressive, just like the Kasparov we know well."

Kasparov, 39, playing with the white pieces and the slight advantage of the first move, eschewed the cautious "anti-computer" strategy he used six years ago against Deep Blue for more adventurous moves.

Rage against the machine, baby.

Chess Champion Faces Off With New Computer (PAUL HOFFMAN, 1/26/03, NY Times)
Chess Base
Kasparov, Computer Talk Smack (Michelle Delio, Wired News)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


Mobs attack French embassy (John Lichfield, 27 January 2003, Independent uk)
Pro-government mobs, enraged by an agreement that would end the four-month-old civil war in Ivory Coast, besieged the French embassy in Abidjan yesterday and destroyed a cultural centre.

The mobs, who accuse France of giving too much to rebels in peace talks near Paris, burned a fence around the embassy, attacked foreigners and looted shops and a radio station. French troops used tear gas to disperse a group trying to storm their military base in the city. The violence subsided later after the President, Laurent Gbagbo, begged his supporters to await his return from Paris.

Such are the wages of unilateralism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Chemical war suits in London mosque (Hala Jaber and David Leppard, January 26, 2003, The Sunday Times)
DETECTIVES investigating a plot by Islamic terrorists to carry out a chemical weapons attack in Britain have found chemical warfare protection suits at a mosque in north London.

The NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) suits were discovered during a raid by 150 police officers on the Finsbury Park mosque last Monday. Informed sources said the discovery confirmed growing fears by police and MI5 that a chemical attack is being planned by supporters of Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda movement in Britain.

Police announced after the raid they had seized a small arsenal of weapons including a stun gun, an imitation firearm and a CS gas canister.

But discovery of the NBC suits has been kept a closely guarded secret known only to a handful of senior officers. Ministers are acutely aware that any suggestion that the mosque may have been involved with chemical weapons could inflame racial tensions. Seven men - six north Africans and one eastern European - were arrested during the raid. Last night two were still being held under the terrorism act.

Our father, The Reverend Orrin D. Judd, used to have a pair of hip waders for when he baptized folks, maybe this is similar.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:18 PM


Hezbollah warns America will face Israel's fate if it attacks Iraq (The Associated Press, 1/26/03)
The United States will face resistance from Iraqis similar to what Palestinians are waging against Israel if Washington invades Iraq, the leader of the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah said Saturday.

If Americans move against Iraq, "they will put themselves in a confrontation of the sort" the Israelis are facing, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said without elaborating.

Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim movement backed by Iran and Syria, has no love for President Saddam Hussein, whose government has crushed the Shiite opposition in Iraq. But the Lebanese guerrilla group, which fought Israel in southern Lebanon for 18 years until the Israelis withdrew more than two years ago, has strong animosity toward Israel and the United States, which consider it a terrorist organization.

Hopefully Hezbollah is stupid enough to do something to provoke us, because Southern Lebanon needs to be cleaned out too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:01 PM


Saudi Says OPEC Could Fill Output Gap (DAVID McHUGH, January 26, 2003, AP)

Report: Turkey, U.S. Agree on Troops (AP, January 26, 2003)

Soon we might even have a multi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:50 PM


How the Media Misconstrue Jihad and the Crusades (Timothy Furnish, 1-13-03, History New Network)
It's axiomatic among historians that winners write (or sometimes rewrite) history. How strange it is, then, that on thetopic of Jihads and their Western analog, the Crusades, the losers in the post-1492 struggle for world mastery (the Islamic world) and their willing spinmeisters (academics and media pundits) are currently foisting their ahistorical views on the rest of us.

That view, a two-sided coin of deceit, consists of the following contentions: 1) that jihad almost always means "moral self-improvement in order to please God" and, on the rare occasion that it does take martial form, it only does so as a desperate defensive measure against the Christian West; and 2) that the history of Christian-Muslim interaction is almost entirely one of invasion and exploitation of the latter by the former, exemplified by the Crusades.

As examples, consider these recent propaganda gems:

1) MSNBC, in a segment discussing the new PBS video "Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet" (Dec. 18, 2002), runs a graphic explaining that the true definition of jihad is "the struggle to please God."

2) History Channel/A & E's recent (summer 2002) "Inside Islam" special presents the Crusades as the first violent struggle between Christendom and the Islamic world.

3)U.S. News and World Report's cover story "The First Holy War" (April 8, 2002) does likewise, claiming that "during the Crusades, East and West first met--on the battlefield."

4) History Channel/A & E's (otherwise fine) 1995 video series "The Crusades" (hosted by former Monty Python member Terry Jones) has Salah al-Din, the Kurdish Muslim leader who retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders, telling Richard the Lion Heart that "this land has always been ours" and it also avers that jihad only developed as a response to the rapacious Crusades.

5) The PBS video "Islam: Empire of Faith" (2001) presents Islamic military expansion, both pre-modern and Ottoman, as natural and understandable and never calls it by its true name: jihad.

Such examples could be multiplied many fold, if every self-styled expert on Islam who has been interviewed by any American newspaper since 9/11 were adduced. But sticking with the five aforementioned contentions, what is wrong with each of them?

Perhaps it's as easy as this: would the world be a better place today if Christendom or Islam had won the wars of the Crusades decisively?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Iraqi Dissidents Meet in Iran to Plan Iraq Entry (ELAINE SCIOLINO, January 26, 2003, NY Times)
More than a dozen exiled Iraqi opposition leaders have quietly gathered in Iran to prepare their entry into northern Iraq, in a sign of Iran's increasing involvement in planning for its neighbor's future.

Iran's welcome of the opposition leaders, who came at the invitation of a senior Iraqi opposition cleric here, was coupled with an official offer of protection into Iraq, the opposition leaders said. They plan to hold meetings there in an area under Kurdish control and out of reach of the government in Baghdad, to designate a small group that will eventually decide on the shape of a government if Saddam Hussein is ousted.

"We are struggling to determine whether or not an Iraqi leadership that can claim legitimacy can emerge," Kenan Makiya, an author and a Brandeis University professor who is part of the delegation, said in an interview.

Mr. Makiya, who was one of three Iraqi opposition leaders to meet President Bush at the White House this month, added: "The Iranians are actually offering to protect us so we can hold our meetings in northern Iraq. Would you believe that?"

Why would it be surprising that the Iranians want to see Saddam dangling from an overpass by piano wire?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


The Original Band of Brothers (JUDITH SHULEVITZ, January 26, 2003, NY Times)
The men who waged World War II viewed it as a war of ideas as much as of territory, pitting liberal democracy against totalitarianism, and to them intellectual openness seemed like good public relations. Seeking out the new and the challenging is clearly not part of the public relations agenda today. What is, though? The most suggestive of the books in that regard is ''Henry V.'' One imagines that the officers who approved the play had in mind the movies directed by and starring Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh, both of whom interpreted the drama as a stirring battle cry and played young King Harry as a rousing patriot. Olivier's was the more pro-war; he shot his movie in England during World War II and released it in 1945 as a sort of victory whoop. Branagh's movie, filmed in shades of brown and gray in 1989, exhibited some post-Vietnam-era qualms about militarism. On the whole, though, both movies conformed to the critical tradition according to which Henry V embodies the Renaissance ideal of the man of action -- part Christian, part Machiavel, all charisma.

One of the most satisfying things about literature, though, is the way it can turn on those who use it for self-interested reasons. The play's plotline, for instance, offers more commentary on our current situation than the Pentagon probably intended: A newly crowned king's claim to the throne is subject to grave constitutional question, since his father usurped it by murdering its previous holder. The king needs to win his people's trust; he also wants to make them forget his youth as a drunk and a bum. He does exactly that by skillfully and courageously prosecuting a war against France, just as his father told him to do: ''Be it thy course to busy giddy minds / With foreign quarrels.''

Did Shakespeare think Henry was a hero? Critics have argued over this question for two centuries, and even those who say yes admit that ''Henry V,'' though one of the more popular history plays, ranks among the least convincing, emotionally speaking. Shakespeare promised at the end of ''Henry IV, Part 2'' to bring back Henry's mentor, the brilliant clown Falstaff, but he reneged, killing off the old man offstage and leaving ''Henry V'' without a character strong enough to counterbalance the now overbearing king or to provide the clash of perspectives that makes drama persuasive. Shakespeare also packed the play with an unusually high proportion of ringing rhetoric. The only character who shows us his private thoughts is Henry, and he spends much of his brief soliloquy before the Battle of Agincourt whining about having to shoulder the burdens of kingship. When ''Henry V'' works, it is as a purely public spectacle, a hymn to power. Compare it with the other plays, even the other history plays, and it comes off as hollow.

Some critics have gone so far as to claim that not only was Shakespeare's Henry not heroic, he was a war criminal. (''Henry V, War Criminal?'' is in fact the title of a recent essay by Sutherland.) After all, Henry leads his nation into a dangerous, unnecessary and unjustified war. Even Olivier's movie makes a joke out of the Archbishop of Canterbury's self-aggrandizing and self-contradicting speech laying out Henry's supposed dynastic claim to the French crown: halfway through the disquisition, the Bishop of Ely drops the stack of documents meant to bolster Canterbury's case, and the two of them scramble around on the floor to the amusement of all. When Henry lands in France, he turns into a brutal, lawless warrior. He threatens total war -- genocide, infanticide and rape -- against the citizens of the first town he lays siege to, and during the Battle of Agincourt, in a scene cut by both Olivier and Branagh, orders the massacre of all French prisoners for no apparent reason. Both actions have been excused by critics on the grounds that, as one put it, they were ''approved . . . for 15th-century war.'' Sutherland is appalled by that remark: ''Approved? If that were the case, what foe would ever be fool enough to allow himself to be taken captive?''

Considering that we're acting unilaterally, maybe we just want the troops to take pride in being a part of the "happy few". But there is an alternative interpretation of the fact we're distributing Henry V: hopefully, we're getting the men ready to attack France.

-Books and battles: Soldiers once took Homer and Les Miserables into battle. But now they are only allowed to read about patriotism (John Sutherland, November 18, 2002, The Guardian)
-Shakespeare, War, and Peace (Joseph R. Stromberg, LewRockwell.com)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:17 PM


Powell: Time running out for Saddam (GEORGE GEDDA, January 26, 2003, Associated Press)
Secretary of State Colin Powell, declaring that the U.N. weapons process in Iraq has run its course, warned Sunday that Saddam Hussein could take advantage of international inaction by using his doomsday weapons or sharing his technology with terrorists.

"The nexus of tyrants and terror, of terrorists and weapons of mass terror, is the greatest danger of our age," Powell said in a speech here.

Powell delivered his remarks to a gathering of political and business leaders on the eve of a report that U.N. inspectors are scheduled to deliver to the U.N. Security Council.

Powell did not explicitly call for an end to the inspections, and some countries believe the process should continue as a means of building more public support for the policies of the Bush administration.

But Powell said he has lost faith in U.N. inspections.

It's hard to recall a time in recent memory when an administration has so thoroughly sandbagged its opponents as did this one by putting Colin Powell out front as the resident "dove" on Iraq. Now the dove is crying havoc and there's nowhere for those who've been singing his praises to hide.

War and Consequences: The evidence against Iraq is scanty, the global opposition to an attack growing more vocal. But the Bush team's biggest dove has now grown talons. Will war make us more-or less-secure? (Richard Wolffe and Michael Hirsh, 2/03/03, NEWSWEEK)

Something snapped inside Colin Powell. For two long years the secretary of State had been the biggest dove inside the Bush cabinet, slowing the hawks' headlong rush to war in Iraq.

WHEN HIS ARCHRIVAL, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had raised the idea of taking on Saddam Hussein only days after 9-11, Powell rolled his eyes in exasperation, insisting Al Qaeda alone should be the focus. Last summer Powell warned President Bush in dire terms not to attack Iraq unilaterally, and prodded him to go to the United Nations. But last week, as Powell listened to Europeans boast about the success of the weapons inspectors in Iraq, his patience finally gave out. Sitting across a long rectangular table inside Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the usually genial Powell issued a stark warning to his French counterpart: the clock has run out on Saddam and the United Nations. "Don't underestimate the resolve of the United States to solve this problem without dragging it out," he said. The dove had finally morphed into a hawk.

There is no higher level of spin than that spin which leaves the spun unaware of the spinning. So this "even Powell forced into hawkishness" story is rapidly approaching the status of greatest spin of all time. Look at what even this story says: we did al Qaeda and Afghanistan first, then went to the UN while we built a coalition and moved our forces, now we're getting ready to attack at the optimal time of year. But they perceive sudden and random forces at work?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


Monkeying with the Market (DAVID ROEDER, January 26, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
The elegantly attired Mr. Adam Monk hunched over the Sun-Times' stock tables and was the very image of astuteness and probity.

The 31-year-old alumnus of Duke University scanned the listings, occasionally erupting with an "Eeeeehhh!'' or an "aaahhhh.'' Sometimes he would gaze into the distance and chew thoughtfully on his pen.

It took some coaxing and cogitating but, at the Sun-Times' request, he marked his choices for the best-performing stocks of 2003. And now it's up to you, dear readers, to submit picks that will top his.

If your choices are better, we're sure Mr. Monk won't mind. He has a ready handshake and is very sociable, although he might climb on your shoulder and muss your hair.

Mr. Monk, you see, is a monkey. And he'll set the pace for this year's Sun-Times stock-picking contest, which we call Monkey Business.

What the heck, he can probably write better editorials than most of the folks at The Times.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:08 PM


Magazine of Southern writing reborn (CHUCK BARTELS, January 26, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
The first edition of the relaunched Oxford American is on newsstands with a previously unpublished essay by James Agee about his experiences with racism.

The Pulitzer Prize winner's ''America, Look at Your Shame!'' was discovered among his poetry manuscripts and was inspired by a 1943 race riot outside a Detroit amusement park. Agee, a novelist, poet, screenwriter, critic and journalist, died in 1955.

Billed as ''The Southern Magazine of Good Writing,'' the Oxford American almost folded last year. It was taken over by At Home Media Group Inc., publishers of an interior decorating magazine. The new owners moved the publication from Oxford, Miss., to its new home in Little Rock.

Now, with the Agee essay and a travel story about motel life from novelist Charles Portis, who wrote the novel that inspired the John Wayne movie ''True Grit,'' the winter 2003 edition is trying to increase its circulation.

Charles Portis is always worth reading.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:47 PM


Chess champ takes on computer (ERIN MCCLAM, January 26, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
Chess legend Garry Kasparov, still bitter over losing six years ago to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue, is about to take on a machine programmers say is an even more cunning opponent.

In six games beginning Sunday, Kasparov will match wits with an Israeli-programmed computer called Deep Junior. And this time, Kasparov says, it's a fair fight.

''Deep Blue was more about PR, selling the story, scaring the human race,'' he said.

Kasparov's 1997 defeat by Deep Blue was seen as a watershed moment for technology. But Kasparov, 39, has claimed the computer might have received human hints, and he complains it was quickly dismantled after the event.

By contrast, his six games against Deep Junior, beginning Sunday in New York, will be sanctioned by the international governing body of chess and will be subject to a human appeals committee to guarantee fairness.

Time to win one for the species, Mr. Kasparov.

Bruce Cleaver writes:

If any of OJ's readers (Annoying Old Guy comes to mind) wish to watch a blow-by-blow account done by world-class computer chess programmers, try the following link:


Registration is required. I lurk/post there, and the site is chock full of people who know the art in nerd-level detail....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM


Erasing Trent Lott's legacy (Jack E. White, TIME)
I'm convinced that the Democratic Party's virtual monopoly on the black vote is bad for African Americans. It's the foundation of a demeaning form of political serfdom, a Plantation Politics that we will never be free of as long as Democrats take our votes for granted. We've been trying to find a way out of this bind since the 1960s, when militants proposed the creation of a black third party that could deliver our votes to the party that offered us most. [...]

Many blacks have become disillusioned by the cynicism of the Democrats' quadrennial rallying of the black vote, which typically involves sending out Jesse Jackson to round us up and deliver us to the polling place--only to ignore some issues that matter to blacks until the next election.

A case in point: a recent survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a think tank based in Washington, shows that 60% of blacks support vouchers, but almost all prominent Democrats are staunchly opposed to them. They aren't even willing to find out whether giving black kids in lousy public schools the chance to attend private or parochial institutions could help close the academic gap between black and white students, the most urgent racial problem we're facing.

The hostility to vouchers is usually phrased in sanctimonious rhetoric about preserving the public school system--often mouthed by Democrats, including Jackson, who sent their children to private schools. That sort of hypocrisy helps explain why the Joint Center recently found that only 62% of blacks ages 18 to 35 identify themselves as Democrats, compared with more than 80% of blacks older than 35.

So far, only 6% of younger blacks say they are Republicans, but those numbers could grow if Republicans made a real effort to expand their outreach.

Mr. White is absolutely correct that lockstep black fealty to a Democrat Party that can therefore take them for granted is a disaster for black Americans. However, he seems rather confused about the steps that should follow this recognition. The series of Republican victories in recent years (since '94) have come with as little as single digit black support, suggesting that the GOP neither needs blacks nor "owes" them anything. Despite this, as Mr. White himself points out, the GOP is better on such issues as vouchers than Democrats.

So the question now is: what are blacks willing to do to solve what has become a major political problem for them (their servility to the Democrats) and to repay the Republican Party that has been carrying their water for free? Are blacks prepared to repay their debt to President Bush and the GOP, or will they continue to bite the hand that helps them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 AM


Why Is Baseball So Much Better Than Football? (Thomas Boswell, January 18, 1987, Washington Post)
1. Bands.

2. Half time with bands.

3. Cheerleaders at half time with bands.

4. Up With People singing "The Impossible Dream" during a Blue Angels flyover at half time with bands.

5. Baseball has fans in Wrigley Field singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at the seventh-inning stretch.

6. Baseball has Blue Moon, Catfish, Spaceman and The Sugar Bear. Football has Lester the Molester, Too Mean and The Assassin. [...]

9. Baseball has a bullpen coach blowing bubble gum with his cap turned around backward while leaning on a fungo bat; football has a defensive coordinator in a satin jacket with a headset and a clipboard. [...]

12. Vince Lombardi was never ashamed that he said, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

The whole thing is great, but one line in particular sums the matter up: "Marianne Moore loved Christy Mathewson. No woman of quality has ever preferred football to baseball."

Baseball and Writing (Marianne Moore)

Fanaticism? No. Writing is exciting
and baseball is like writing.
You can never tell with either
how it will go
or what you will do;
generating excitement -
a fever in the victim -
pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter.
Victim in what category?
Owlman watching from the press box?
To whom does it apply?
Who is excited? Might it be I?

It's a pitcher's battle all the way - a duel -
a catcher's, as, with cruel
puma paw, Elston Howard lumbers lightly
back to plate. (His spring
de-winged a bat swing.)
They have that killer instinct;
yet Elston - whose catching
arm has hurt them all with the bat -
when questioned, says, unenviously,
"I'm very satisfied. We won."
Shorn of the batting crown, says, "We";
robbed by a technicality.

When three players on a side play three positions
and modify conditions,
the massive run need not be everything.
"Going, going . . . " Is
it? Roger Maris
has it, running fast. You will
never see a finer catch. Well . . .
"Mickey, leaping like the devil" - why
gild it, although deer sounds better -
snares what was speeding towards its treetop nest,
one-handing the souvenir-to-be
meant to be caught by you or me.

Assign Yogi Berra to Cape Canaveral;
he could handle any missile.
He is no feather. "Strike! . . . Strike two!"
Fouled back. A blur.
It's gone. You would infer
that the bat had eyes.
He put the wood to that one.
Praised, Skowron says, "Thanks, Mel.
I think I helped a little bit."
All business, each, and modesty.
Blanchard, Richardson, Kubek, Boyer.
In that galaxy of nine, say which
won the pennant? Each. It was he.

Those two magnificent saves from the knee-throws
by Boyer, finesses in twos -
like Whitey's three kinds of pitch and pre-
with pick-off psychosis.
Pitching is a large subject.
Your arm, too true at first, can learn to
catch your corners - even trouble
Mickey Mantle. ("Grazed a Yankee!
My baby pitcher, Montejo!"
With some pedagogy,
you'll be tough, premature prodigy.)

They crowd him and curve him and aim for the knees. Trying
indeed! The secret implying:
"I can stand here, bat held steady."
One may suit him;
none has hit him.
Imponderables smite him.
Muscle kinks, infections, spike wounds
require food, rest, respite from ruffians. (Drat it!
Celebrity costs privacy!)
Cow's milk, "tiger's milk," soy milk, carrot juice,
brewer's yeast (high-potency -
concentrates presage victory

sped by Luis Arroyo, Hector Lopez -
deadly in a pinch. And "Yes,
it's work; I want you to bear down,
but enjoy it
while you're doing it."
Mr. Houk and Mr. Sain,
if you have a rummage sale,
don't sell Roland Sheldon or Tom Tresh.
Studded with stars in belt and crown,
the Stadium is an adastrium.
O flashing Orion,
your stars are muscled like the lion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


Portrait of a Laddie (MAUREEN DOWD, 1/26/03, NY Times)
In my last column, I cited a Time article reporting that the president had "quietly reinstated" a custom of sending a wreath to the Confederate Memorial. Time has since corrected the story, saying he didn't revive the custom, but simply continued it.

I would still ask: Why keep a tradition of honoring the Confederacy while you're going to court to stop a tradition of helping black students at the University of Michigan?

Well, even if it's ungracious, it's at least an acknowledgment of error. Perhaps though we might render her question this way: why honor men who fought to preserve a system of racial spoils while you're going to Court to fight a new system of racial spoils? She's right: no more wreath and no more affirmative action.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram (C-SPAN, January 26, 2003, 8 & 11 pm)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Fred Wesley: 'Recollections of a Sideman': Trombonist's Memoir Covers Half a Century of Musical Influence (All Things Considered, 1/25/03, NPR)

This is a great interview with Fred Wesley, who not only played in the bands of Count Basie, Ike Turner, James Brown and George Clinton, but tells how, when he played in the U.S. Army band in the mid-60's, he and his bandmates were America's first line of defense against Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear attack. It's worth listening to just for his generous but brutally honest comments about the Godfather of Soul. The book sounds fascinating.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM


Jonathan Schwartz - The Sunday Show (Hosted by Jonathan Schwartz, Airs Sundays at 12PM on 93.9 FM)

If you're lucky enough--one of the few times it is lucky--to live in the Tri-State area, don't forget to tune in to Jonathan Schwartz today for his annual Superbowl Sunday Salute to Baseball.

January 25, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Paris and Berlin: the axis of weasel (Ferdinand Mount, January 26, 2003, The Sunday Times)

Yet Rumsfeld’s rebuke is positively mild beside some of the language being applied in the United States to the peace-loving Europeans. "Euroweenies", "cheese-eating surrender monkeys", "destined to slip down the Eurinal of history" and a "pain in the butt" are only some of the more printable insults.

Anti-Americanism in France has a long history. But now for the first time it is matched by knee-jerk anti-Europeanism coming from all sorts of Americans from the taxi driver to the defence secretary. The difference is that the bomb-happy rednecks don't worry about the limp-wristed frog-eaters nearly as much as the French worry about the onward march of American power and influence through the world--and especially through France. [...]

No doubt France and Germany will in due course recover that marvellous post-war elan which took them from their ground zero to the heights of the 1960s and 1970s. But it is silly to pretend they have begun to recover it yet.

You have only to look at the barmy scheme they have just concocted for not one but two elected presidents of the EU to see that an incestuous politics of gesture and posture is no sort of answer. Whether you agree with them or not, the painful reality is that the opposition of France and Germany poses only a minor inconvenience to whatever the Americans choose to do in Iraq.

Rumsfeld is a cantankerous old boy. His three little words were wounding and were meant to wound. They recall Dean Acheson's remark that Britain had lost an empire but had not yet found a role. That hurt, too. But in the long run it did us good.
For those of you unfamiliar, Mr. Mount was a Thatcherite and is now a fine novelist.

-LECTURE: The Recovery of the Constitution (Ferdinand Mount, Charter88 Sovereignty lecture, 11 May 1992)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM


The Snow Man (Wallace Stevens)
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Sure, it's existentialist twaddle, but it fits the season.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:10 PM


Give president 150 points for duplicity (Cynthia Tucker, 01/26/03, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
While the admissions staff are looking to admit a "critical mass" of underrepresented minorities, they read each application and judge it on its merits.

In the legalisms of affirmative action, the word "quota" has a specific meaning. The Bakke case, which struck down quotas, invalidated a California medical school admissions policy that specifically set aside 16 seats for minority applicants. The Michigan program has no such rigid numeric goal.

But the Bush White House has conjured up a new meaning by analyzing years of law school admissions and discovering that, each year, the class happens to have an enrollment of minorities that hovers between 12 and 20 percent (a significant spread).

That, they claim, is a hidden quota.

By that logic, the U.S. Senate and the Oval Office have a quota of zero for African-Americans. If you analyze the history of both institutions, you will find that the Oval Office has never had a black occupant and the U.S. Senate usually does not. Who will file the lawsuit protesting the quota system in the highest levels of national politics?

Ridiculous? So is the president's claim that the University of Michigan uses a quota system.

What in the heck is a "critical mass" if not a predetermined minimum of minority students? And what is she talking about in that Senate and presidency riff? For it to be at all analogous we'd need weighted voting. For example, if the Democrats are serious about affirmative action and about this system being worthwhile, how about a primary system that gives black candidates an extra 15% when the votes are tallied?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM


British Moss Breaks Century of Celibacy (John Pickrell, January 23, 2003, National Geographic News)
A rare species of moss, found only in a few European locations, has fruited for the first time in nearly 140 years.

Prior to last fall, when fruiting carpets of Nowell's moss were discovered in a rural area of northwest England, the species hadn't been known to reproduce sexually since 1866.

Cue Carly Simon.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Four-Winged Dinosaurs and the Dawn of Flight (Kate Wong, January 23, 2003, Scientific American)
The ancestors of birds may have taken to the air on four wings and a prayer. Paleontologists have recovered from deposits in Liaoning, China, dinosaur fossils that exhibit evidence of flight feathers on their hindlimbs as well as their forelimbs. The specimens are said to represent a long-sought intermediate stage in the evolution of birds from flightless theropod dinosaurs, and could breathe new life into the theory that protobirds glided between trees before developing powered, flapping flight.
Evolutionary biologists have long debated whether birds began winging it by gliding among the trees or by racing along on the ground. The latter scenario has gained favor in recent years. But the new finds, described in a report published today in the journal Nature, "provide negative evidence for the ground-up hypothesis" and instead support the arboreal gliding scenario, assert study author Xing Xu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his colleagues. [...]

Xu and his collaborators base their conclusions on the long aerodynamic feathers that cover the fore- and hindlimbs of Microraptor according to the same pattern seen on modern bird wings. Long feathers around the ankles would have made traveling on the ground difficult. But the forelimb and hindlimb feathers "would make a perfect aerofoil together," the authors write, likening it to the membrane employed by bats and gliding animals.

Well, obviously not perfect, or natural selection wouldn't have disposed of them, would it?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:03 PM


A Ruling the G.O.P. Loves to Hate (Jack M. Balkin, January 25, 2003, NY Times)
Thirty years after Roe v. Wade, many wonder how long the decision can survive when the Republican Party controls all of the branches of government.
Republicans may well chip away at Roe v. Wade. But if they overturn it, they do so at their peril.

The contemporary Republican Party is a coalition. It contains religious and social conservatives who are strongly opposed to abortion, and economic conservatives, libertarians and suburbanites who may be quite moderate on abortion rights or even strongly pro-choice. Today, the abortion struggle largely revolves around issues like late-term abortions, parental consent requirements and restrictions on public financing. Moderate voters can accept many if not most of these regulations because the basic right to abortion is still protected.

But if Roe v. Wade were overturned, the political agenda would shift. Early-term abortion would no longer be constitutionally insulated from federal or state efforts to outlaw it. In response, some states would restrict or abolish abortion rights. Social and religious conservatives would also press for abolition of abortion at the national level. For Republican candidates, it would no longer be just a question of defending limited restrictions on abortion. They would have to explain whether they were willing to send women and their doctors off to jail. [...]

In a world with Roe v. Wade intact, the Republicans are not just the party of the religious right, but also the party of lower taxes and strong national defense.

To some, Roe v. Wade symbolizes the Supreme Court's failure to bring consensus to a divided country. But in areas like religion or abortion, that is precisely the wrong expectation. Roe is not supposed to eliminate controversy. Rather, it functions as a lightning rod, drawing political heat away from the democratic process and onto the Supreme Court itself.

I don't know what kind of Republicans Mr. Balkin hangs out with, but I know of fairly few who consider our current tax scheme to have been a good trade for 40 million abortions and know of none who think it a good thing for the Supreme Court to supplant the democratic process. In fact, the circumvention of the democratic process that Mr. Balkin accurately portrays the Court as having engaged in is cause ample cause for impeachment. You'd think a law professor might have a bit more respect for the Constitution, if not for either the convictions of his opponents or the lives of abortion's victims.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:40 PM


Japan to back U.S. independent military operation against Iraq (Japan Today, January 25, 2003)
Japan will support the United States even if Washington independently launches a military attack against Iraq, under conditions that the U.N. Security Council finds Iraq in "serious violation" of U.N. resolutions regarding its weapons of mass destruction, government sources said Friday.

Japan has also begun studying how to secure escape routes of Japanese citizens staying in Iraq and how Tokyo should contribute to international society on the assumption that the U.S. will launch an attack as early as mid-February, they said.

The moves follow visits to the U.S. earlier this month by senior Foreign Ministry officials, including North American Affairs Bureau chief Shin Ebihara, who were seeking information on Washington's stance, they said.

The officials found it likely the U.S. will launch a strike against Iraq as early as mid-February when its military buildup will be complete, they said.

If our side has Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Japan, all of Eastern Europe, etc., in what sense are we being unilateral? And, if Saddam's side has only traditional tyrannies like France, Germany and Russia, then who cares if we're being "unilateral"?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


One of these things is not like the others:

H.D. Miller; Robert Fisk; Saddam; the French.

The answer's obvious, but, oddly enough, they've all converged here: Saddam and the French (H.D. Miller, 1/25/03, Travelling Shoes)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


Curse of the Foul Mouth: It's not just celebrities. Profanity is everywhere. (GENE VEITH, January 24, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
Bad language used to be associated with the lower classes--hence the term "vulgarity." But it is now an affectation of celebrities and macho corporate go-getters. Even sailors and peasants watched their language around ladies and children, but now family gatherings at the ballpark must endure obscenities from neighboring fans. Women are swearing the same blue streak as men, and young children don't seem to have their mouths washed out with soap. A recent Washington Post op-ed lamented the common experience of finding oneself in a subway car "filled with cursing students."

What difference does it make? What is so bad about bad language? In fact, language taboos carry moral and spiritual significance in every culture.

Like many a son of a preacher man, I have a foul mouth, and, like most of us once we have kids, I wish I didn't. The older I get the stupider I think I sound when I swear (though I'll go to my grave appreciating the value of a well timed "Holy Crap!"). In fact, one of the few rules we try to enforce in our comments section is that posters please not use profanity nor slurs (for instance, because Muslims find Mohammedan to be an offensive term, we'd rather no one use it here). Thus, you can feel free to call me an "idiot", just not a "f**in idiot". I may be one, but there's no reason other people should be subjected to your profanity.

N.B. Some of you may have noticed that while I try to use Mr. and Ms in references to people in the text of our posts, I do use first names, nicknames, or even initials in the comments. Typically, I do try to use Mr. or Ms until you've posted a few times, but if we've had prior discussions, especially if you've e-mailed us, I'm likely to switch to more familiar usage. This is not meant to imply any disrespect, particularly by comparison to the newsworthy but often nitwitish folks in the posts; rather it's intended to be friendly. However, please feel free to email me if you have a preferred name that you wish to be addressed by (or for any other reason--many of the posts here are suggested by y'all and I do answer every one).

Meanwhile, you can call me anything you want, though most folks call me O, OJ, Juice, or Mr. Judd depending on the vintage of our relationship and our respective ages.

I can't tell you how many times people have told me, or I've seen references at other sites, of the quality of the comments that people put up here. I agree with those who say the comments are better than anything I have to say (with the sole exception of the Darwinian nonsense that some of you adhere to and the occassional defense of soccer). We humbly thank all of you who participate and who endeavor to steer your poor misguided hosts a little nearer to the truth.

Finally, I try, sometimes more successfully than others, to leave my personal life out of the posts. Personally, I'd rather put my fist in a blender than read about every moment of a blogger's day. So, I was flattered that folks wrote last weekend to ask if I was okay or if the Other Brother had staged a coup, but I honestly just assume that folks don't care a whit if the Wife dragged me to FL, thereby violating the State Border Rule, but preserving the Time Zone Rule intact. So, don't worry, this overly first person post will not become a habit.

Be well. Stay warm. Pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks and all will once again be well with the world,

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


Blue Movie: The "morality gap" is becoming the key variable in American politics (Thomas Byrne Edsall, January/February 2003, The Atlantic Monthly)
Early in the 1996 election campaign Dick Morris and Mark Penn, two of Bill Clinton's advisers, discovered a polling technique that proved to be one of the best ways of determining whether a voter was more likely to choose Clinton or Bob Dole for President. Respondents were asked five questions, four of which tested attitudes toward sex: Do you believe homosexuality is morally wrong? Do you ever personally look at pornography? Would you look down on someone who had an affair while married? Do you believe sex before marriage is morally wrong? The fifth question was whether religion was very important in the voter's life.

Respondents who took the "liberal" stand on three of the five questions supported Clinton over Dole by a two-to-one ratio; those who took a liberal stand on four or five questions were, not surprisingly, even more likely to support Clinton. The same was true in reverse for those who took a "conservative" stand on three or more of the questions. (Someone taking the liberal position, as pollsters define it, dismisses the idea that homosexuality is morally wrong, admits to looking at pornography, doesn't look down on a married person having an affair, regards sex before marriage as morally acceptable, and views religion as not a very important part of daily life.) According to Morris and Penn, these questions were better vote predictors-and better indicators of partisan inclination-than anything else except party affiliation or the race of the voter (black voters are overwhelmingly Democratic). [...]

The demographic reality is that as currently constituted, liberal Blue America is growing and conservative Red America is in decline. Take church attendance. Exit polls in 2000 showed that the more often a voter attended religious services, the more likely he or she would be to cast a ballot for the Republican Party. But long-range trends in religiosity (the term sociologists use for "depth or intensity of religiousness"), as measured by the National Election Studies polling series on church attendance, do not favor the Republicans. From 1972 to 2000 the proportion of voters who said they attended services every week dropped from 38 to 25 percent. The proportion who said they went "almost" every week remained nearly constant at 11 to 12 percent, and the proportion who attended "once or twice a month" rose only slightly, from 12 percent to 16 percent. The proportion who attended just "a few times a year" dropped from 30 to 16 percent. The one group that has grown dramatically consists of those who never go to church or synagogue. This group, which has become a mainstay of liberal politics, made up just 11 percent of the population in 1972 but 33 percent in 2000.

Thus if the Republican Party hopes to build on its 2002 gains, it must continue to mute its social conservatism when speaking to the public. President Bush did just that at a press conference right after the November election, when he pointedly ignored a question about whether social conservatives should "push for new restrictions on abortion," instead focusing on issues of national security. In that press conference he used the words "war," "threat," "terror," "terrorism," "terrorists," and "nuclear" a total of forty-five times.

Many House and Senate Republicans, however, are eager to revive a conservative social agenda. In order to keep his party ascendant Bush will have to hold in check both the Senate conservatives, who have already promised to bring to the floor legislation banning so-called partial-birth abortion, and the House majority leader Tom DeLay, an adamant opponent of abortion rights. (Currently, congressional conservatives are seriously promoting at least three anti-abortion bills.) Bush and his strategists are fully aware that positioning the Republican Party as the party of sexual repression would be devastating to its electoral prospects-but the conservative right is not likely to accede to further delay of its agenda after years of waiting for action under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. For this reason judicial appointments will also present a major challenge for Bush, because social conservatives consider the federal judiciary to be the prime vehicle for reversing the sexual revolution.

As long as al Qaeda, Iraq, and North Korea dominate the news, the Republicans will be able to maintain their slight advantage. But should war fade into the background, or as soon as emboldened congressional Republicans begin moving to restrict Americans' sexual autonomy, the currently weakened Democratic Party will be positioned to push back with the kind of vitality that propelled Bill Clinton to victory in 1992 and 1996. Lest 1996 seem like ancient history to Republicans, they should recall that more-recent elections demonstrated the power of the electorate's new morality quite vividly: in both 1998 and 2000 (the former a midterm election, when the presidential party traditionally loses ground in Congress) the Democrats gained seats in the House. And these gains came despite-and perhaps because of (insofar as they represented a reaction against the Republican-led drive to impeach Bill Clinton)-their following soon after the most explicit sex scandal in the history of the Oval Office.

As a rule of thumb, any time you read an essay by somebody where they argue that the ideology of the winning party in an election didn't matter you should approach it skeptically. This one is particularly nonsensical. I'm aware of no one who would fail to acknowledge that Bill Clinton won in 1992 by running to the Right on moral issues. From executing even an imbecilic inmate to promising to make abortion rare to confronting a rapper in front of Jesse Jackson to taking on George Bush Sr. on the issue of Tienanmen Square, half of his campaign--the half that wasn't "the economy stupid"--was an intentional blurring of the moral lines between the two parties. In fact, it's a conspicuous fact that the only two Democrats elected president in the last third of a century were born-again Christian Southerners. Indeed, in the nine elections since Barry Goldwater lost to LBJ the candidate who made the greatest effort to position himself as the champion of traditional morality has won.

Meanwhile, Mr. Edsall seems not to have noticed that since the Republican Revolution of '94, which was largely based on moral issues, the GOP has held the House for six straight cycles and would have maintained control of the Senate through that period were it not for Jim Jeffords. We can argue about how conservative the Revolution actually turned out to be, but there's no question that in the popular media the Republicans were portrayed as near Victorians, right down to the orphanages. If their position as the party of morality has hurt them it's awfully hard to see how.

Mr. Edsall's dismissal of the war is also strange. War is after all a moral pursuit. the very fact that it's benefitting the GOP suggests that the loss of any claim to the mantle of morality has devastated Democrats. Recall that WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam were all Democrat wars. In fact, except for two years, the entire Cold War was waged with Democrats running the House and for most of that time the Senate too. It is a recent phenomenon that voters find it absurd to consider trusting Democrats with our national security, and it's not a phenomenon to be taken lightly.

Lastly, Mr. Edsall seems to have mistaken one sociological trend for another, very different one. He's noted that people are bowling alone and leapt to the conclusion that they've stopped bowling. In a society where folks have stopped doing much of anything together, it's hardly surprising that church attendance has declined. However there seems to be only minor slippage in the numbers of people who consider themselves to be either religious or spiritual. Not only that, but the irreligious are unlikely to a growing demographic in and of themselves. They may stand to gain members as portions of the culture become more secular, but since these people tend to be relatively affluent and socially liberal they tend not to have many kids. They are a self-limiting group. Meanwhile, if Mr. Edsall's proposed "gap" is accurate, and it seems to be, over time you'd expect Democrats who take morality seriously to gravitate towards the GOP and the demographic group that's actually growing quickly--Hispanics--tends to be predominantly religious and morally conservative. If American politics is dividing over morality them why won't Hispanics trend Republican?

The most difficult poll number for Mr. Edsall to overcome though is that the period of decline in Americans' church attendance has seen a spectacular shift in the relative numbers who identify themselves as Republicans and conservatives and a corresponding decline for Democrats and liberals, so that Republicans are now evenly matched with Democrats among voters and far more people self-identify as conservative than as liberal. It is perhaps too easy to forget what a monumental change this is in a country where Democrats dominated Congress for over sixty years and where conservatism was thought to be dead as recently as 1964.

To take just one issue: if you are arguing that staking out a moral position against abortion is dangerous, it would seem to be significant that more Americans consider abortion to be immoral than consider it moral and that large majorities support numerous restrictions that would fundamentally reshape the practice of abortion in America. It can be argued that people are willing, even eager, to set their moral qualms aside on this issue, but that's an argument you need to make and you probably need to explain why pro-life candidates won in races this November where their opponents made abortion a primary issue. Similarly, it's all well and good to imagine that Americans support something like gay rights, but an 85-14 Senate vote against gay marriage suggests that view is divorced from political reality. And, though it must make liberals cringe to contemplate, polling that shows only one in ten Americans believe in evolution is hardly a ringing endorsement of secularism.

As a conservative, and therefore a pessimist, I'd acknowledge that Mr. Edsall may be right in the long run. I regret the likelihood that my grandchildren will live in a place indistinguishable from France. However, I don't necessarily think that's inevitable; it for damn sure isn't imminent; and we should do everything in our power to prevent it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


Serena completes her 'Slam' (PHIL BROWN, January 25, 2003, Chicao Sun-Times)
Serena Slam or Sister Slam--no matter what you call it, Serena Williams is truly grand.

Williams survived an error-filled match to beat elder sister Venus 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-4 Saturday to win the Australian Open for her fourth straight major championship.

Serena added another Grand Slam title to the French Open, U.S. Open and Wimbledon crowns she won last year, all against her sister.

After Venus slumped through four straight errors in the final game, the sisters met at the net to put their arms around each other's shoulders and whisper in each other's ears. While Serena blew kisses to the crowd, Venus applauded with her racket.

With Michael old, Shaq hurt, Tiger MIA, and Lance Armstrong a mere bicycle rider, Serena may well be the world's greatest athlete at the moment.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Why Bush Won't Wait: President Bush says he has not yet decided whether to go to war with Iraq, but this week the signs were that he had all but given up on peace. (BILL KELLER, 1/25/03, NY Times)
So far in its showdown with Iraq, the Bush administration has mostly done the right things, though often with a disheartening lack of finesse. Mr. Bush was right to identify Saddam Hussein as a menace, right to mobilize our might to prove we mean business, right to seek the blessing of Congress and the Security Council. A credible demonstration of will has produced tangible results. The inspectors are at work. Arab neighbors are looking for ways the Iraqis can solve their Saddam problem short of an invasion. (The prospect of a coup or an asylum deal for Saddam may be remote, but give them credit for creative thinking.) Saudi Arabia was moved, first, to propose a peace plan for Israel and Palestine, and second, to suggest a charter for political and economic reform in the Arab world.

There are compelling reasons for war with Iraq. Mr. Bush has been wise to emphasize the danger Saddam poses because of his unrelenting campaign to acquire weapons of horrible power. His mere possession of such weapons would give him daunting power in a vital region.

Many Americans and some of our allies have mistaken inspection for an answer to this problem. In fact, inspections have always been a way to buy some time, during which the regime might crumble, or Iraq might shock us all by really surrendering its weapons, or Iraqi non-compliance would exhaust the patience of even the French. Eventually, though, the inspectors go away, and if Saddam is still in place his quest for the nuclear grail resumes, presumably with fiercer motivation than before. [...]

What Mr. Bush has failed to do over these months of agitation is to explain his urgency to the American public or our allies. In the year since the "axis of evil" speech, popular support for war has declined by at least 10 points. It's not that people doubt Saddam is a danger. They just think Mr. Bush is in too much of a rush. They want to see the evidence the president claims to have. They would like to know what costs and dangers we're in for. Most of all, they want the world, as much as possible, with us.

Presidents should not make decisions of war and peace based on polls. (Mr. Bush's father launched the last war against Iraq with less support than the current president has.) Nor should our national interests be decided by the faintest hearts among our allies. But the dwindling of support here and resentment abroad represent a failure to persuade, and persuading is worth taking some time.

Mr. Keller's long work on the comparison of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush below seems to have given him the best insight into the current president that anyone at the Times has had since Frank Bruni. But even Mr. Bruni didn't figure things out until after the 2000 campaign and Mr. Keller still has a ways to go too and here he also overestimates both the attention span and the seriousness of the American people.

The current poll numbers, for both the president and his Iraq policy, are nearly identical to what they were in early September, at the end of another long period of presidential silence on the matter. But, if you'll recall, all it required was one presidential address to the U.N. and the polls and the international community's position changed dramatically. There's no reason to believe that a simple reminder from the President about why we're going to war won't move the numbers and opinion again.

Meanwhile, what Mr. Keller appears to have missed in his study of the President is that Mr. Bush and Karl Rove were serious in 2000, when they talked about increasing presidential leverage by shutting up. If Bill Clinton were president now, we'd see him on tv every day making pronouncements on all kinds of issues but keeping Iraq on the front burner. The problem with that kind of omnipresence is that eventually Iraq becomes indistinguishable from school uniforms or midnight basketball programs and, because the president is yammering every day, there's no such thing as an important speech, it's just one more speech in a cascade of hundreds. On the other hand, by limiting President Bush's press availability and his set piece addresses, each takes on an enhanced importance. Because Mr. Bush isn't in our faces every night, telling us that whatever's on his mind at the moment is central to the life of the nation, when he does actually come before the nation and tell us something is important it really stands out.

Imagine for a moment that Bill Clinton had been confronted with the stem-cell research decision: he'd have spent weeks mulling it over in public, telling us that on the one hand this and the other that. Contrast that with President Bush, who made one speech about it and the policy, whether wise or not, was set. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove comprehend that presidential capital with the public is most valuable when it is spent rarely. Mr. Bush is as parsimonious with his presence at the bully pulpit as Mr. Clinton was profligate.

That may well be because the key to this sort of use of silence is a centeredness and a supreme self-confidence that, as Mr. Keller writes in his other piece, Mr. Bush shares with Mr. Reagan, but of which rather few other recent presidents have partaken. This is so because you need to know what you think, unlike Mr. Clinton who tended to turn every issue into a psychodrama that he'd then enact before us, being on one side of an issue one day and on the other the next. Equally important, you need to be able to stand aloof from the criticism of the press and political opponents and able to not worry too much about bureaucratic infighting in your own administration. Folks who haven't figured this out look at the (supposed) disagreements between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld and say that the President hasn't made up his mind. In reality, it is precisely because he knows his own mind and what he plans to do with regard to Iraq--and has planned to do in all likelihood since before he became president--that Mr. Bush need pay little attention to such mere squabbles. Moreover, the seeming indecision below serves his own purposes. Democrats, Europeans, and the Times have staked their opposition to the war on Mr. Powell, and have therefore built him up into the sole voice of reason among the hawks. So where do they go when Mr. Powell, this paragon of world leadership, announces that there's no longer any rational alternative but war, which he's close to saying right now?

On Tuesday, President Bush will give the State of the Union speech, and for the first time since his September address at the UN he'll lay out the case for war in a comprehensive way. Comparing the two speeches it will be evident that over those five months the President has not wavered in the slightest, merely given the rest of the world an opportunity to enter into an often wobbly orbit around his position, that of regime change. In this sense, when we speak of a Ronald Reagan or a George W. Bush as men of gravity, it is nearly literal. Such men remain at the center and exert an attracting force on all that surround them. They affect events far more than they are affected by them.

In the following days (by the end of February) the administration will release intelligence that proves Saddam to have been thwarting inspections and Colin Powell will make his official pronouncement that Saddam's hour of reckoning has come. The polls and public opinion will, at that point, take care of themselves. Only someone who's too shallow to lead a great nation would be worried about his approval numbers at this point in the game.

Bush to Gird U.S. for Prospect of War in Speech (Steve Holland, Jan. 24, 2003, Reuters)
Bush Creates Office in Post-Saddam Plan: Bush Creates New Pentagon-Based Office As Part of Post-Saddam Planning (The Associated Press, Jan. 22, 2003)
An anxious America keeps on smiling (James Harding, January 25 2003, Financial Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Democrats Seek a Tax Rebate to Aid Growth: Responding to the Bush tax cut plan, Senate Democrats called for a $300-a-person rebate check and $40 billion for states and cities. (David Firestone, 1/25/03, NY Times)
Senate Democrats took on the administration's tax cut plan in earnest today with the release of a sharply different economic stimulus proposal, calling for a $300-a-person rebate check and $40 billion in aid to states and cities.

The one-year plan, announced in Cleveland by Senator Tom Daschle, the minority leader, would spend $141 billion to stimulate the economy, in contrast to the 10-year $674 billion plan proposed by President Bush. It would drop the administration's proposal to eliminate the dividend tax, an idea with diminishing support on Capitol Hill, and concentrate its tax relief at the lower-to-middle end of the economic spectrum, with few benefits for the wealthy.

Today's plan is likely to become the Democrats' most reliable political tool once the jockeying over tax cuts begins on Tuesday with Mr. Bush's State of the Union address, even though the party lacks the votes to pass it. Although some Democrats have slightly different ideas on how to stimulate the economy, the party appears to be more unified against Mr. Bush's economic ideas than it was in 2001, and its leadership has begun to take heart in the president's slippage in opinion polls, particularly on economic issues.

The rebate is an excellent idea: the GOP should add it to their plan and make it permanent. Aid to the cities and states is a terrible idea. They, like the federal government, spent like drunken sailors in the 90s when they had too much money, so now they need to cut spending not get more tax money.

January 24, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Correction: The following correction was issued by TIME on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2003  (TIME, Jan. 23, 2003)
The article "Look Away, Dixieland" [Jan. 27] stated that President George W. Bush "quietly reinstated" a tradition of having the White House deliver a floral wreath to the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery — a practice "that his father had halted in 1990." The story is wrong. First, the elder president Bush did not, as TIME reported, end the decades-old practice of the White House delivering a wreath to the Confederate Memorial; he changed the date on which the wreath is delivered from the day that some southern heritage groups commemorate Jefferson Davis's birthday to the federal Memorial Day holiday. Second, according to documents provided by the White House this week, the practice of delivering a wreath to the Confederate Memorial on Memorial Day continued under Bill Clinton as it does under George W. Bush.

The two obvious questions are: (1) if the implication of the earlier story was that W was race-baiting, was Clinton also?; and (2) Is Maureen Dowd man enough to apologize for this The Class President (MAUREEN DOWD, January 22, 2003, NY Times)?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:41 PM


Reagan's Son (BILL KELLER, January 26, 2003, NY Times)
[M]idway into Bush's first term, measuring the emerging president against Reagan is an instructive way of looking at Bush's qualities and of explaining his popularity. It is even, with a larger margin of error, a basis for hazarding some guesses about the course he will follow, particularly now that his hand is strengthened by a Congress of his own party, by the unlikelihood of internal opposition in 2004 and for that matter by the lack of coherent opposition from the Democrats.

I began this exercise inclined to think of Bush as Reagan Lite -- that is, a president with shallower, unschooled instincts in place of the older man's studied, lifelong convictions, and without the mastery of language that served Reagan so well. Perhaps, I'd have said, he is a bit of a Reagan poseur -- the White House being such a studio of contrivance and calculation. I ended my research more inclined to think that Bush is in a sense the fruition of Reagan, and that -- far from being the lightweight opportunist of liberal caricature or the centrist he sometimes played during his own election campaign -- he stands a good chance of advancing a radical agenda that Reagan himself could only carry so far. Bush is not, as Reagan was, an original, but he has adapted Reagan's ideas to new times, and found some new language in which to market them. We seem not only to be witnessing the third term of the Reagan presidency; at this rate we may well see the fourth. [...]

There was about Reagan, like it or not, a dream of America and its potential that was often utopian. It was easy to ridicule -- as the first President Bush did with his memorable sneer at the ''vision thing'' -- but it made Reagan more than the sum of his advisers and his constituencies.

What is Bush's morning in America? He clearly has the instinct to do big things, and barring some failure of leadership -- a serious misadventure abroad, a corroding economy -- he has the license. What does America look like if he succeeds?

Two years ago the question would have seemed ridiculous. We knew America had to be governed from the center. That was the lesson of Bill Clinton's popularity, it was the constraint imposed by a divided electorate and in Bush's case it was the price of a minority victory. Bush had no mandate. But Bush, like Reagan, seems to believe that presidents make their own mandates.

What Bush is striving for, on the evidence of the choices he has made so far, is bold in its ambition: markets unleashed, resources exploited. A progressive tax system leveled, a country unashamed of wealth. Government entitlements gradually replaced by thrift, self-reliance and private good will. The safety net strung closer to the ground. Government itself infused with, in some cases supplanted by, the efficiency and accountability of a well-run corporation. A court system dedicated to protecting property and private enterprise and enforcing individual responsibility. A global common market that hums to the tune of American productivity. In the world, America rampant -- unfettered by international law, unflinching when challenged, unmatchable in its might, more interested in being respected than in being loved.

If he fails, my guess is that it will be a failure not of caution but of overreaching, which means it will be failure on a grand scale. If he succeeds, he will move us toward an America Ronald Reagan would have been happy to call his own.

This may be the smartest piece to appear in the Times since Red Smith died. There was a report on NPR tonight about the debate over prescription drug coverage. Democrats, interest groups, and many Republicans want it as just an add on to Medicare. But George W. Bush is pushing for a plan that will begin devolving Medicare to private insurers. There's even talk of requiring people to switch to private carriers in order to get the benefit. That may be a fight that scares the GOP too much for Mr. Bush to win it now, but it's a at least a portent for '05 and suggests that he continues to think far bigger than most politicians.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 PM


When will we resist?: The US is preparing to attack the Arab world, while the Arabs whimper in submission (Edward Said, January 25, 2003, The Guardian)
One opens the New York Times on a daily basis to read the most recent article about the preparations for war that are taking place in the United States. Another battalion, one more set of aircraft carriers and cruisers, an ever-increasing number of aircraft, new contingents of officers are being moved to the Persian Gulf area. An enormous, deliberately intimidating force is being built up by America overseas, while inside the country, economic and social bad news multiply with a joint relentlessness.

The huge capitalist machine seems to be faltering, even as it grinds down the vast majority of citizens. None the less, George Bush proposes another large tax cut for the 1% of the population that is comparatively rich. The public education system is in crisis and health insurance for 50 million Americans simply does not exist. Israel asks for $15bn in additional loan guarantees and military aid. And the unemployment rates in the US mount inexorably, as more jobs are lost every day.

Nevertheless, preparations for an unimaginably costly war continue without either public approval or, at least until very recently, dramatically noticeable disapproval. A generalised indifference among the majority of the population (which may conceal great overall fear, ignorance and apprehension) has greeted the administration's warmongering and its strangely ineffective response to the challenge forced on it recently by North Korea. In the case of Iraq, with no weapons of mass destruction to speak of, the US plans a war; in the case of North Korea, it offers economic and energy aid. What a humiliating difference between contempt for the Arabs and respect for North Korea, an equally grim and cruel dictatorship. [...]

In this entire panorama of desolation, what catches the eye is the utter passivity and helplessness of the Arab world as a whole. The American government and its servants issue statement after statement of purpose, they move troops and material, they transport tanks and destroyers, but the Arabs individually and collectively can barely muster a bland refusal. At most they say no, you cannot use military bases in our territory, only to reverse themselves a few days later.

Why is there such silence and such astounding helplessness? The largest power in history is about to launch a war against a sovereign Arab country now ruled by a dreadful regime, the clear purpose of which is not only to destroy the Ba'ath regime but to redesign the entire region. The Pentagon has made no secret that its plans are to redraw the map of the whole Arab world, perhaps changing other regimes and borders in the process. No one can be shielded from the cataclysm if and when it comes. And yet, there is only long silence followed by a few vague bleats of polite demurral in response. Millions of people will be affected, yet America contemptuously plans for their future without consulting them. Do we deserve such racist derision?

This is not only unacceptable: it is impossible to believe. How can a region of almost 300 million Arabs wait passively for the blows to fall without attempting a collective roar of resistance? Has the Arab will completely dissolved? Even a prisoner about to be executed usually has some last words to pronounce. Why is there now no last testimonial to an era of history, to a civilisation about to be crushed and transformed utterly, to a society that, despite its drawbacks and weaknesses, nevertheless goes on functioning? [...]

There is a wonderful expression that very precisely and ironically catches our unacceptable helplessness, our passivity and inability to help ourselves now when our strength is most needed. The expression is: will the last person to leave please turn out the lights? We are that close to a kind of upheaval that will leave very little standing and perilously little left even to record, except for the last injunction that begs for extinction.

Hasn't the time come for us collectively to demand and formulate a genuinely Arab alternative to the wreckage about to engulf our world? This is not only a trivial matter of regime change, although God knows that we can do with quite a bit of that. Surely it can't be a return to Oslo, another offer to Israel to please accept our existence and let us live in peace, another cringing, crawling, inaudible plea for mercy? Will no one come out into the light of day to express a vision for our future that isn't based on a script written by Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, those two symbols of vacant power and overweening arrogance? I hope someone is listening.

Even Admiral Yamamoto, after Pearl Harbor, realized that all Japan had done was "waken a sleeping tiger". Does Mr. Said really still not comprehend the magnitude of the error that the Islamicists made? The Arab world is helpless because it is so poorly run. Because it is poorly run and helpless it lashed out at the West, whose success is an ongoing humiliation. Because it lashed out it stands to be radically restructured, so that it will be better run, less helpless, and less likely to lash out. Having failed to write their own script they've left it to others to write one for them. This is a cultural failure on an epic scale and it is likely to be ugly. But as one of the leading lights of that culture he has no one to blame but himself. If he put one tenth of the energy into democratizing Palestine that he puts into moaning about Israel and America, we might not be in this mess.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


Documents Suggest Iraq May Use Chemical Weapons (WARREN HOGE, January 24, 2003, NY Times)
Iraqi military documents smuggled out of the country in the past month suggest that Saddam Hussein is preparing to use chemical and biological weapons against troops invading Baghdad, the BBC reported today.

The hand-written Arabic-language notes say that elite units of the Iraqi armed forces have been issued new chemical warfare suits and supplies of the drug atropine, used to counter the effects of nerve gas.

Experts who have seen the documents say that since the countries that might invade Iraq would not be using chemical weapons, the only reason Mr. Hussein would equip his most loyal corps with such protection is to guard them against his own use of chemical warfare weapons to repel invaders.

I thought they didn't have any weapons any more?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 PM


Decker Switches to Democrats, Making House Even Split (WRAL, January 24, 2003)
Raleigh, NC: Staunchly conservative state Rep. Michael Decker switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat on Friday, splitting the House 60-60.

The move is the latest and most bizarre twist in the contest to select a speaker to lead the House as the General Assembly prepares to begin a new session next week. [...]

Told of Decker's switch, Rep. Frank Mitchell, R-Iredell, a close ally of Daughtry, accused the Forsyth County legislator of selling out his party to become speaker pro-tem, the second-ranking position in the House.

How can he hope to be re-elected?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 PM


Euro rules force Church bodies to employ atheists (Jonathan Petre, 25/01/2003, Daily Telegraph)
Thousands of religious schools, charities and organisations could face legal action if they refuse to employ atheists or sack staff who become Satanists under proposed Government regulations.

The laws, which are based on a European Union directive and which have to be implemented by December, ban discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of religion, belief or sexual orientation.

But a report from the Christian Institute says the laws will restrict the freedom of religious organisations to employ solely staff who are practising believers.

Christian groups are particularly angry that the Government has chosen to exempt political parties from the laws, so that the Labour Party will be able to continue its policy of employing only party members.

It's long past time to add the EU bureaucracy to the Axis of Evil.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 PM


AUSTRALIAN TROOPS MOVE (John Ray, January 23, 2003)
I live in Brisbane and our daily newspaper is the Murdoch-owned Courier Mail. Its headline today is Bravehearts set sail -- reporting that Australian troops have just left to join U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf readying for war with Iraq. I wonder how the N.Y. Times would have reported the story? "Troops depart amid controversy", perhaps. The Courier Mail also reports that our Prime Minister has said that Australia would join the U.S. regardless of the U.N. It makes me proud to be an Australian.

In their honor, here's a poem by Harry "Breaker" Morant, who was done poorly by in another unpopular war:
A Departing Dirge (The Bulletin, 5 August 1899)

Girls in town and boys out back,
I've rolled up my little pack,
And on june's chill wintry gales
Sail from pleasant New South Wales.
Ere I go - a doggerel song
To bid the whole caboose "So-long!"

Saddle-gear and horses sold -
Fetched but scanty stock of gold -
Scanty!! yet the whole lot
Publicans and Flossies got.
Since I in this country landed
Ne'er before was I so "stranded".

Now I'm leaving Sydney's shore
Harder up than e'er before;
A keen appetite I feel
To taste a bit o' British veal;
And let's trust, across the foam
They have a fatted calf at home.

From duns and debts (once safe on board)
Pray deliver me, oh Lord!
Here's the burden of my song:
"Good-bye, old girl! Old chap, So-long!"
Hardest loss of all I find
To leave the good old horse behind.
So-long, "Cavalier!"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


'Major al-Qaeda attack foiled': More than 150 police took part in the operation (BBC, 24 January, 2003)
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar says police have thwarted a "major terrorist attack", following the arrest of 16 suspected al-Qaeda militants in the north-eastern Catalonia region.

Mr Aznar described the arrests as an extraordinarily important strike in the war against terror, adding that explosives and chemical materials were seized. [...]

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore says there has been a massive anti-terrorist investigation in the UK since the discovery of traces of ricin in a north London flat several weeks ago.

The investigation unearthed a huge number of names and phone numbers of terrorism suspects all over Europe which have been passed on to intelligence officers in the relevant countries.

"The dismantled network has connections with terrorists arrested recently in France and Britain who were preparing to carry out attacks, using explosives and chemical materials," Mr Aznar said.

"I want to highlight once again that when we talk about the fight against terrorism and the circles around it and when we talk about ensuring the safety and the peace of all, we are not talking about fantasies," he added.

That's the sad irony, that by thwarting attacks you enable people to comfort themselves that it's all just a big government fantasy. And since 9-11 we've been so successful in dismantling al Qaeda that we're returning to a business as normal atmosphere. It unfortunately seems likely that getting Western Europe on board the war on terror and getting the American people (and the Democrat Party) refocused will require a few successful attacks.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


'Bad Herr Dye' (WILLIAM SAFIRE, January 23, 2003, NY Times)
Chirac had made a deal with the U.S. last fall: we agreed to postpone the invasion of Iraq until after U.N. inspectors had been jerked around long enough to satisfy the world street's opinion, and in return France would not demand a second U.N. resolution before allied forces overthrew Saddam.

As D-Day approached, France sent its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to the coming war zone. Chirac made plain that, though a minor and reluctant participant in the attack, France was not to be frozen out of postwar oil arrangements.

Then Schroeder, reliant on his militantly antiwar Greens, made Chirac an offer he could not refuse: to permanently assert Franco-German dominance over the 23 other nations of Continental Europe.

In a stunning power play in Brussels, Germany and France moved to change the practice of having a rotating presidency of the European Council, which now gives smaller nations influence, to a system with a long-term president. This Franco-German czar of the European Union would dominate a toothless president of the European Commission, chosen by the European Parliament.

Little guys of Europe hollered bloody murder this week, but will find it hard to resist the Franco-German steamroller. France then had to repay Schroeder by double-crossing the U.S. at the U.N. That explains France's startling threat to veto a new U.N. resolution O.K.'ing the invasion of Iraq - a second resolution that France had promised Colin Powell would not be needed.

British foreign policy has been based on preventing anyone from becoming dominant on the Continent for what?--maybe four or five centuries? And in order to achieve that goal they've had to fight Spain, France and Germany repeatedly. It's forgivable for liberal academics and leftist politicos not to get what's going on, but how can conservatives be surprised that Europe is descending into classic great power politics instead of approaching the pan-European nirvana? The EU has never been much more than a way for France and Germany to dominate Europe. Sooner or later that had to be unacceptable to Britain (unless it's become completely emasculated). The only surprise is that it didn't happen sooner and that the Tories are so brain dead they aren't exploiting the situation.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 PM


Billy Corgan In Search Of Personal 'Jesus' On Zwan Debut (Gil Kaufman, 01.22.2003, MTV)
While Corgan's lyrics for the Smashing Pumpkins were often concerned with the search for transcendence, spirituality and love in dark hours, his Zwan lyrics are even more focused on messianic visions of love, but with a more uplifting vibe. Corgan is billed as "Billy Burke" in the album's liner notes, a possible reference to a golden-haired Florida preacher of the same name, which gives the songs an evangelical feel.

But more than a preacher, Corgan acts as a spiritual cheerleader on tracks such as the swirling, psychedelic power pop song "Declarations of Faith," in which he sings, "I declare myself/ Declare myself of faith."

Whether or not the inside joke billing is religious in nature, Corgan clearly has salvation and tribute-paying on his mind. He gives a nod to his lifelong heroes, New Order, on the bouncy, new wave-y "Settle Down" and "El Sol." Again driven by the combination of Chamberlin's aggressive drumming and Lenchantin's throbbing bass line, "Settle Down" is another ode to devotion, sprinkled with the kind of wailing, fuzzed-out guitar lines familiar to fans of the Pumpkins' 1993 breakthrough, Siamese Dream. [...]

Corgan keeps his more grandiose side in check until near the end of the album, at which point he unleashes the 14-minute religious epic, "Jesus, I/ Mary Star of the Sea." The song begins with just Corgan's nasally vocals ("Jesus, I've taken my cross/ All to leave and follow thee") over a repeating guitar line, then explodes into a kaleidoscopic barrage of guitar solos. The solemn middle section leads into a majestic coda for an archetypal Corgan rock song of redemption, in which salvation is found in the character of a female savior.

We've been Billy Corgan fans ever since he did guest spots on both The Simpsons and Chicago's great The Sports Writers on TV. There's this tall bald rock star sitting at a table with a bunch of geezers who saw Dempsey fight Firpo, all of them smoking stogies, chatting about the White Sox...hard not to like him.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


The Snowfall Is So Silent (Miguel de Unamuno) (Translated by Robert Bly)

The snowfall is so silent,
so slow,
bit by bit, with delicacy
it settles down on the earth
and covers over the fields.
The silent snow comes down
white and weightless;
snowfall makes no noise,
falls as forgetting falls,
flake after flake.
It covers the fields gently
while frost attacks them
with its sudden flashes of white;
covers everything with its pure
and silent covering;
not one thing on the ground
anywhere escapes it.
And wherever it falls it stays,
content and gay,
for snow does not slip off
as rain does,
but it stays and sinks in.
The flakes are skyflowers,
pale lilies from the clouds,
that wither on earth.
They come down blossoming
but then so quickly
they are gone;
they bloom only on the peak,
above the mountains,
and make the earth feel heavier
when they die inside.
Snow, delicate snow,
that falls with such lightness
on the head,
on the feelings,
come and cover over the sadness
that lies always in my reason.

After Apple-Picking (Robert Frost, 1914)
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.

And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 PM


What About Those End Times, Mr. President?: Sen. Joe Lieberman announces his candidacy, but not his association with lunatic fringe of Biblical prophecy (Edward Ericson, January 16, 2003, Hartford Advocate)
The image is jarring: Sen. Joseph Lieberman, presidential candidate, appears on an infomercial asking Evangelical Christians to donate money to "rescue a Jew.""'On Wings of Eagles' is a modern-day fulfillment of Biblical prophesy," the voiceover in the infomercial says, over images of huddled Russian Jews at the airport, smiling as they presumably wait to leave Russia for Israel.

The half-hour appeal aired on the afternoon of Jan. 2 on Paxson Broadcasting (PAX) stations across the nation (locally on WHPX, channel 26), according to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), the Chicago-based nonprofit that paid for the spot. Alongside Lieberman, testimonials come from stars of the Christian Right, including convicted Watergate felon Charles Colson, Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, and Moral Majority head Jerry Falwell. [...]

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein founded IFCJ in 1983, soon after his ordination at New York's Yeshiva University. Its mission, according to its website, is "to foster better relations and understanding between Christians and Jews ... and help build support for Israel and Jews in crises or need."The group toiled in obscurity for its first decade. Then in 1994, Eckstein shifted focus, appearing on Pat Robertson's 700 Club to pitch Christians. Robertson's flock responded generously; IFCJ's budget thereafter ballooned from about $500,000 to, last year, $27.5 million. Eckstein boasts that his organization has "saved" more than 200,000 Jews from Russia. [...]

The "project" may also have direct political consequences. The Likud government, reeling from scandal but always more hawkish about suppressing the Palestinians than the rival Labor party, had drawn support from the exploding population of former Russians relocated by IFCJ and similar organizations in Israel. Former Soviet emigres now represent more than one-sixth of Israel's voters.

One fails to see how Democrats will benefit from attacking Joe Lieberman's religious associations.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:14 PM


Flirting with disaster: Brash and controversial, former US representative Cynthia McKinney could lead the Green Party to prominence in 2004--or right over a cliff (SETH GITELL, Boston Phoenix)
QUESTION: WHICH WAY is the national Green Party headed these days? Answer: toward Cynthia McKinney.

When the party's presidential exploratory committee put out feelers to Greens around the country about whom they wanted to run for president, the number of recommendations McKinney received was second only to those for Ralph Nader, who ran for president on the Green Party ticket in 2000. McKinney, a former Democratic US representative from Georgia who lost to Judge Denise Majette in a primary challenge last August (Majette eventually defeated Republican Cynthia van Auken in the general election), has yet to change her party affiliation or indicate she's willing to run as a Green. But the Greens want her. Her name was high on a list of potential candidates compiled by the national Green Party (other names included MSNBC talk-show host Phil Donahue, actress Susan Sarandon, and filmmaker Michael Moore). If the Greens do run McKinney--either at the top of the ticket or with Ralph Nader--it will be a new, high-risk strategy for a party that has heretofore focused on building itself from the ground up.

The Greens, in theory, are well-positioned to build on their plan, instituted in the late 1990s, of running candidates at the national and local levels with the goal of constructing a permanent electoral apparatus and a real third-party alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. The Greens won national recognition--and derision from Democrats, who blame them for former vice-president Al Gore’s narrow defeat by President George W. Bush--in 2000, when Nader won 2.7 percent of the national vote. In 2002, moreover, the Greens did well on the statewide scene. Here in Massachusetts, Lexington physician Jill Stein, running for governor, garnered 10 percent of the vote. In Maine, the Green Independent Party elected John Eder to the state House of Representatives; meanwhile, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Carter won nine percent of the vote. In California, Green Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo received 5.3 percent of the vote and came in second to Democrat Gray Davis in San Francisco.

Nader is still playing coy about a presidential run next year. Co-hosting CNN's Crossfire last week, he told Tucker Carlson that "it's too early to say" whether he would run again, adding he would decide "sometime later in the year." As Nader has kept his cards close to his vest, some national Greens have gone looking elsewhere for a 2004 presidential candidate. And they seem to be looking in the same place: Georgia, where McKinney resides. McKinney has several assets that appeal to Greens: she's progressive; she's an articulate and seasoned politician who knows how to campaign; and she is black and from the South, an area of the country where the Greens are weakest. Most important, however, is that she can tell the story of how the Democratic Party is no home for progressive politics.

There's no reason that the Green's should not replace the Democrats as the main opposition party to the GOP. The Clintonized Democrats have abandoned most of the "progressive" platform--from Universal Health to gay marriage to anti-capital punishment to anti-war to large tax and spending increases and so on. It's strange but even as the Third Way in Britain has destroyed the Tories, Tony Blair having co-opted the middle on most issues, Bill Clinton's New Democrat agenda has destroyed the Democrats. It would seem that the GOP has been more successful at painting the Democrats as a party of me-tooism and then pulling them even further towards the Right, effectively alienating their base, than has the Tory Party (which, for reasons that no one can explain, has claimed the me-too mantle for itself, rather than forcing Blair and Labour to the Right by coming out forthrightly against the EU and the Welfare State). But in both cases you have what were once main parties that no longer even bother to enunciate the political visions that led most of the membership to them in the first place.

Here in the States that offers a chance for one of two things, either a genuine progressive will emerge in the Democrat presidential primaries, maybe a Hillary Clinton, or, if the party turns instead toward the New Democrat-type candidates (Lieberman, Gephardt, etc.), the Greens could ride a groundswell on the Left. However, they need a plausible candidate to rally around, which means not a Nader or a McKinney. In fact, there don't seem to be many professional politicians who are true progressives and are also charismatic. The Greens might do better to look to someone like a Robert Redford or a Martin Sheen who would immediately capture massive media attention and who can at least pretend to be presidential.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:10 PM


There was an amusing bit on The Diane Rehm Show this morning. They were doing the Friday Roundtable with Susan Page, David Brooks and Daniel "Dogtrack" Schor. They discussed the imminent war in Iraq for a while and Mr. Schor huffily interjected that no one had yet mentioned oil. Mr. Brooks said that Tony Blair had effectively dealt with that issue by pointing out that if it was about oil it would be easy enough to cut a deal with Saddam and, in fact, we currently buy substantial amounts of Iraqi oil. Ms Rehm asked how Mr. Schor would handle that argument. He said the point was that you can't trust Saddam to honor an oil contract, so you might get the oil for awhile but then he'd renege.

There's the silliness of the Left in a nutshell: Saddam can't be trusted to sell us oil on a consistent basis but we should trust that he's stopped developing WMD and that he's going to honor the 1991 peace treaty.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM


White House seeks to steer Senate races: White House officials have put pressure on at least two House Republicans to put their Senate ambitions on hold and leave the way clear for the administration's favored candidates, Republican sources say. (Allison Stevens, The Hill)
To engineer victories in South Dakota and Washington, Reps. William Janklow (R-S.D.) and George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) have been asked to let former Rep. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) weigh their options first. [...]

In South Carolina, sources say the White House has met Rep. Jim DeMint (R) to discuss challenging Sen. Ernest Hollings, 82, who has not said whether he will retire at the end of his sixth term next year.

A three-term lawmaker from the state's northwest, DeMint is close to the Bush family and supported President Bush in the 2000 presidential race. Former GOP Reps. Lindsey Graham, who won last year’s Senate race to succeed ex-Sen. Strom Thurmond, and Mark Sanford, who won the state’s gubernatorial contest, endorsed Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in the contested primary. [...]

In North Dakota, White House officials are wooing former Gov. Ed Schafer (R) to take on two-term Sen. Byron Dorgan (D). Schafer, one of the state’s most popular politicians, says he is not interested in the job.

At a Christmas party in Washington he spoke briefly with Bush, who greeted him as "Senator," and added that the name had a "nice ring to it." A North Dakota insider said Schafer has “not closed the door” on a Senate bid and knows "he's on the list to be worked over."

In North Carolina, the administration hopes Rep. Richard Burr (R) will take on presidential contender Sen. John Edwards (D). [...]

In Nevada, the White House reportedly hopes to lure Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) into a race against Sen. Harry Reid (D). Rove met Gibbons in Washington on Dec. 10, according to The Washington Post, and plans to meet him again.

One of the chief stumbling blocks for Republicans winning Congress had always been that after sixty-plus years of Democrat control it was hard to convince qualified candidates to run. 1994 changed all that and now they have a nice feeder system that prepares House members for Senate runs. More important than knocking off weak Democrat incumbents is that these folks are serious enough in their own right that they can win re-election, unlike the looney-tunes class of '80 that Ronald Reagan dragged in.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


The Ghosts of Kirk: The sage of Mecosta’s short stories are back in print. (John Miller, January 23, 2003, National Review)
As one of the great conservative minds of the 20th century, Kirk is best known as a founding intellectual of a modern political movement. When he wasn't writing books about Edmund Burke or columns for National Review, however, he was scribbling away for publications such as Fantasy and Science Fiction, London Mystery Magazine, and New Terrors. In 1958, T. S. Eliot wrote to him: "How amazingly versatile and prolific you are! Now you have written what I should have least expected of you--ghost stories!"

If Eliot had been a bit more familiar with Kirk, he wouldn't have been surprised at all. Kirk often talked about his brushes with revenants, and was convinced that his big house in Mecosta, Mich., was haunted. Visitors to his home--myself included, as a college student on a trip sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute--were regaled with ghost stories told by candlelight.

Kirk's most-influential book was The Conservative Mind, but his most popular one was a novel, The Old House of Fear. It made the bestseller lists in the early 1960s and sold more copies than all of Kirk's other books combined. It employed the conventions of Gothic fiction to tell a great story set on a remote and mysterious Scottish island — and also to satirize Marxism and liberalism.

Many of Kirk's books remain in print, but The Old House of Fear is not one of them. It isn't easy to find copies on the secondhand market, either. The same goes for Kirk's other fiction--mainly ghost stories told in a traditional vein--even though collections of them were published in the 1980s.

Today, however, it's a bit easier, and will remain so for a short time. Ash-Tree Press, a small publisher in rural British Columbia, has just issued Off the Sand Road, the first of two volumes that will collect all of Kirk's short fiction. The second book, What Shadows We Pursue, is scheduled for release in late March. (Sadly, there are no plans to reprint The Old House of Fear.)

In a better world more folks would have read The Conservative Mind, but whjat's not to love about anti-Left ghost stories?

-REVIEW: of Russell Kirk: A Critical Biography of a Conservative Mind. By James E. Person, Jr. (Jeremy M. Beer, First Things)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM


Mars May Be Much Older Or Younger Than Thought (Space Daily Express, Jan 24, 2003)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 AM


Economic Inequality Grew in 90's Boom, Fed Reports (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, January 23, 2003, NY Times)
Economic inequality increased markedly as the boom of the 1990's fizzled, even as incomes increased at almost every level, according to a detailed new survey by the Federal Reserve released today.

Conducted at the end of 2001, when the economy was in a recession, the survey compared wealth and income with levels of 1998. It suggests that the benefits of the economic boom were widespread but extremely uneven.

The wealth of those in the top 10 percent of incomes surged much more than the wealth of those in any other group. The net worth of families in the top 10 percent jumped 69 percent, to $833,600, in 2001 from $492,400 in 1998. By contrast, the net worth of families in the lowest fifth of income earners rose 24 percent, to $7,900. [...]

"I am alarmed and disheartened by the growth in inequality in this report," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group based in Washington.

Are we really supposed to take seriously the notion that while incomes for the poor went up significantly it's unfair that they didn't go up as much as those of the rich? [editor's note: we've removed a spirit-killing metaphor about rising tides here.] When we were kids, the Sister Judd got $5 from our Grandmother for her birthday in April. But then the Other Brother got $10 for his, in May. When Sister pointed out the inequity, Grandma took five bucks from Brother. The Left would presumably find this a reasonable result.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:56 AM


Officials: U.S., Israel Readying Call for Palestinian Statehood (NOGA TARNOPOLSKY, JANUARY 24, 2003, The Forward)
Israel and the United States are preparing a new joint peace initiative for possible release following Israel's January 28 general election, the Forward has learned.

The initiative, details of which are still being ironed out in high-level, behind-the-scenes talks, would reportedly include a joint American-Israeli call for the establishment of a "demilitarized Palestinian state with temporary borders," according to several sources familiar with the talks. A unilateral Israeli announcement of the establishment of such a Palestinian state is being considered. The new state reportedly would be led by an appointed prime minister, with Yasser Arafat barred from playing any role.

This has been inevitable since at least the moment that Arafat walked away from Ehud Barak's offer, and, we've long argued, was Israel's best option for several years before that. It should never have taken this long but it's a very good thing that they're finally going to do it. On the day that the US and Israel recognize the State of Palestine, regardless of its borders, the anger and violence of the Palestinians will be primarily refocused inwards (though there'll still be terrorist attacks on Israel) as the basic question moves from "whether a state" to how that state is run.

January 23, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:27 PM


AIDS Panel Choice Wrote of a 'Gay Plague': Views of White House Commission Nominee Draw Criticism (Ceci Connolly, January 23, 2003, Washington Post)
The Bush administration has chosen Jerry Thacker, a Pennsylvania marketing consultant who has characterized AIDS as the "gay plague," to serve on the Presidential Advisory Commission on HIV and AIDS.

Next week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson is scheduled to swear in several new commission members. They include Thacker, a former Bob Jones University employee, who says he contracted the AIDS virus after his wife was infected through a blood transfusion.

The 35-member commission, which makes recommendations to the White House on AIDS prevention, is the latest incarnation of a panel that has existed since the Reagan administration. Earlier commissions issued reports strongly critical of the national response to AIDS, and helped to nudge the government and the pharmaceutical industry toward greater action.

In his speeches and writings on his Web site and elsewhere, Thacker has described homosexuality as a "deathstyle" rather than a lifestyle and asserted that "Christ can rescue the homosexual." After word of his selection spread among gays in recent days, some material disappeared from the Web site. Earlier versions located by The Washington Post that referred to the "gay plague," for instance, were changed as of yesterday to "plague."

Mr. Thacker has already withdrawn his name from consideration for this position and I've little interest in psychoanalyzing him, nor any qualifications to do so, but one must note, particularly in light of his comments, that men just don't contract AIDs from heterosexual sex.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:12 PM


Many Americans Wary of War With Iraq, Just as in 1991: But almost 8 out of 10 believe the United States would win such a war (Frank Newport, January 13, 2003, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE)
A Jan. 3-5 Gallup Poll re-asked several questions about a possible war with Iraq that had been asked of the American public in early January 1991, just prior to the outbreak of the military action against Iraq that became known as the Persian Gulf War.

One of the basic results shows that Americans are slightly more likely now than 12 years ago to consider the situation in Iraq "worth going to war over." This is a question Gallup asked on a regular basis in the late summer, fall, and early winter of 1990 and 1991, as the United States and its allies moved troops and equipment into the Persian Gulf in anticipation of an invasion of Iraq.

There was remarkably little variation in the responses to this question during that time period (between August 1990 and early January 1991), with the percentage saying "yes" varying only between 45% and 51%. The final reading on this question before the war got underway was 46%, measured in a Jan. 11-13, 1991 Gallup Poll.

The precise circumstances in regard to Iraq are different now than they were 12 years ago in many ways. But the basic facts remain quite similar: there was then and is now a build-up of U.S. troops and equipment in the Persian Gulf area in anticipation of possible military action against Iraq. And, asked today this same question about the "worth" of a war against Iraq, a quite similar 53% say yes.

The 1991 data clearly show a dramatic increase in positive attitudes about the justification for war once military action actually got underway, with 71% saying the situation was worth going to war over in a Jan. 30-Feb. 2, 1991 poll. We can anticipate a similar increase in support if and when military action against Iraq begins this year.

One of the frequently mentioned weaknesses of the American people is that we tend to have roughly the historic recall of gnats. But these days even pundits and politicians who should know better are talking about the public unease over war with Iraq as if it were signficant and as if it were significantly different than in past circumstances. In particular, there's an odd assumption that the prior Iraqi war was popular when it was anything but. Do folks think that the 52-47 Senate vote on the 1991 war was a function of Democrat courage? To the contrary, they were then, as they are now, merely following the polls that showed the American people wanted no part of that war.

On the day we start this war with Iraq the polls will likely show no more than about 45% support for the action. The poll after that will show support in the high 60s or low 70s. Or, since polling takes two to three days and the war could be over by then, it may be in the 80s.

Leadership requires you to do what you believe to be right and to have sufficient vision to know that the people will follow. President Bush seems to have made up his mind a long time ago about the Saddam problem and folks who are mesmerized by the poll numbers of the moment (which includes all the Democrat presidential candidates) are in all likelihood completely misjudging what's going on and what's about to happen. Perhaps they should let history be their guide, rather than transitory public opinion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Meme Spreading: call it by its name: National Socialism (David P. Janes, January 23, 2003, Ranting and Roaring)
We (that is, the Blog Collective) should stop using the diminutive word "Nazi" to refer to the party that ruled Germany through the 1930s to the mid '40s and start calling them by their real name: National Socialists (from the German Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei: National Socialist German Worker's Party). It's been far too long that the morality of these clowns have been pinned to the right.

In fact, take a look at Russell Kirk's definition of conservatism and Leftism:
Any informed conservative is reluctant to condense profound and intricate intellectual systems to a few portentous phrases; he prefers to leave that technique to the enthusiasm of radicals. Conservatism is not a fixed and immutable body of dogma, and conservatives inherit from Burke a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time. As a working premise, nevertheless, one can observe here that the essence of social conservatism is preservation of the ancient moral traditions. Conservatives respect the wisdom of their ancestors...; they are dubious of wholesale alteration.  They think society is a spiritual reality, possessing an eternal life but a delicate constitution: it cannot be scrapped and recast as if it were a machine. [...]

I think there are six canons of conservative thought--

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

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

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

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

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

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

He contrasts these core beliefs with those of conservatism's opponents on the Left, the radicals of all stripes, who believe in :
(1) The perfectibility of man and the illimitable progress of society: meliorism. Radicals believe that education, positive legislation, and alteration of environment can produce men like gods; they deny that humanity has a natural proclivity toward violence and sin.

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

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

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

One is unsurprised to find that National Socialism fits none of the criteria for conservatism and all of those for Leftism. National Socialism was in fact just another utopian variant on the rationalist theme of the kind that, as we suggested below, the Left has been prey to since it lost its sense of Man's true nature.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:08 PM


Lieberman Leads Pack: But Poll Shows Democratic Presidential Race Still Wide Open (Dalia Sussman, Jan. 23, 2003, ABCNews.com)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut continues to lead in support for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, gaining six points since July to inch numerically ahead of "undecided," an ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll has found.

Lieberman, known by dint of his vice presidential run in 2000, has 27 percent support among Democrats and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. Twenty-four percent have no preference, signifying how wide open the race remains.

Fourteen percent support Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, 11 percent Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, and 10 percent Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. The Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York-based activist, has 7 percent support, and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean 3 percent.

In a poll that basically just measures name recognition, and that was taken before he even announced, Al Sharpton is already a significant factor. How can anyone not love politics?

NADER: On The D-Fence? (The Hotline, 1/23/03)

"According to some" in Ralph Nader's circle, "among the 2004 electoral possibilities" for the WH '00 Green candidate "is the tactic of entering the Democratic primary as Democrat, and then, when he loses, running in the general election" as either an indie or a Green. "This would enable Nader to receive the publicity of a primary season, gain inclusion -- along with [Al] Sharpton and other progressive Democratic candidates -- in debates, and possibly even earn federal matching funds to fuel a campaign."

The other great rumor today is that The Reverend Al Sharpton has offered both Howard Dean and John Kerry the VP slot on his presidential ticket. If Nader and Sharpton are both at the Democrat debates it will barely qualify as reality TV.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM


New porn charges hit R. Kelly (ABDON M. PALLASCH, January 23, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
R&B superstar R. Kelly's court-approved visit to Miami to tape a music video for his racy new song "Ignition" was interrupted Wednesday by yet another trip to the lockup for the three-time Grammy winner.

This time, he was charged with 12 counts of possession of child pornography. He was released on $12,000 bail.

The charges come on top of the 21-count indictment for child porn that Kelly faces in Chicago. Those charges stem from a video that appears to show Kelly engaging in various sex acts with a 14-year-old girl. [...]

A Cook County judge told Kelly in December he could go to Florida to work on the music video as long as he checked in by phone every day and avoided contact with minors. [...]

Kelly's spiritual adviser, the Rev. James Meeks, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson declined comment on Kelly's latest arrest.

There's something fundamentally wrong with a legal system that let's this scum out in society.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:48 PM


Dissent in the Ranks (Howard Altman, January 16-22, 2003 , Philadelphia City Paper)
Edward H. Hamm is a retired real estate investor and oil man. He's a card-carrying Republican who's given more than half a million
dollars to GOP campaign coffers, including $1,000 to elect George Bush. Hamm gives so much money to the party that he goes by the title of Republican Regent. [...]

On Monday, Hamm paid $170,000 for a full-page ad in The Wall Street Journal -- titled "A Republican Dissent on Iraq" -- exhorting Bush to back down. The ad is signed by more than two dozen people with Republican ties nationwide, including two from Philadelphia -- John Haas, the retired chairman of the board at Rohm & Haas, and Peter Benoliel, chairman of the executive committee of Quaker Chemical Corporation. [...]

Hamm's original draft of the ad was massaged by the Avenging Angels, a "progressive" advertising and communications firm whose founder, Gene Case, began his career working with Lyndon Johnson's 1964 re-election campaign.

According to Climaterescue.org, an environmentalist website, Case founded the $500-million advertising agency and assisted organizations like The Nation magazine, National Council of Churches, Nuclear Information and Resource Service and TrueMajority, a grassroots education and advocacy project founded by ultra-liberal ice cream magnate Ben Cohen. [...]

John Haas is happy to talk about why he signed Hamm's ad.

"I am not against war, just against us going in by ourselves," says Haas, who was a Republican until switching allegiances earlier this year to vote for Ed Rendell in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. "A unilateral approach to this problem is the wrong way to go. It is a mistake for us to go in ourselves and create more problems than we solve. It will infuriate the world community, the Muslim community and create more terrorists. If you go in with the backing of the Security Council, you are all right."

Haas, whose father helped found Rohm & Haas, says that disagreeing with President Bush is nothing new for him.

"I did not vote for Bush," he says. "I have been a lifelong Republican, but I was not able to go along with his politics."

In what sense are these guys Republicans?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:20 PM


India to be fastest growing tech market in the world: Gartner (AFP, Jan 20, 2003)
India was forecast Monday to have the fastest growing information technology market in the world for the current year by US-based technology research house Gartner Inc.

"The Indian domestic market is expected to grow between 25 and 30 percent and will be the fastest growing IT market in the world," Gartner said in a press statement released in Bangalore.

"Wireless will be a key driver of continued growth in the Indian telecoms market, though rationalization of licensing regulations and interconnectivity policies will be a strong factor affecting growth in the longer term," it said.

If we can wean India away from its unacceptable Hindu nationalism, it is poised to be the economic juggernaut that folks mistook China for.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM


U.S. Set to Demand That Allies Agree Iraq Is Defying U.N. (STEVEN R. WEISMAN, January 23, 2003, NY Times)
If anything, Americans officials said, the recent French and German appeal for American patience has backfired--emboldening the hawks in the administration and even spurring Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to tell aides that he would accept military action against Iraq without approval from the Security Council.

Mr. Powell has resisted that position for months. Sounding tougher today than he has, he said on the PBS program "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" that the question was whether to allow Iraq "a few more weeks, a few more months" to comply when it was clear already that it would never do so.

"Frankly," he added, "there are some nations in the world who would like simply to turn away from this problem, pretend it isn't there."

Mr. Powell's comments appeared to be a direct rebuttal of the call for a delay of two or three months by the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, with whom he has talked frequently--some said tensely--since the weekend.

Going further, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld dismissed the German and French roles in a newly expanded NATO, which has been asked to provide indirect assistance for an Iraqi invasion.

"You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France," Mr. Rumsfeld told foreign journalists at the State Department, as leaders of the two countries today solemnly celebrated the 40th anniversary of their treaty of friendship in Versailles, France. "I don't. I think that's old Europe." He added: "You look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They're not with France and Germany on this. They're with the United States."

At the end of the day, what do France and Germany really have to offer in the event of war--white flags and Zyklon-B respectively?

The French Death Blow (Colin May, Innocents Abroad)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:03 PM


Much as I enjoy tweaking Charles Murtaugh about the deleterious effects being at Harvard has had on his political sense, I usually agree with his literary judgments. So it comes as a great surprise to see him agree with this portion of an essay about The Lord of the Rings (Eric Olsen, Blogcritics):

I finally finished rereading The Return of the King, about 25 years after the first time I read it. I find it preposterous that the series has been voted the greatest work of literature of the 20th century, or even the millennium by one poll: this is a great story with an amazing depth of mythic detail behind it, not a work of great literature. "Literature" at its greatest shines an uncanny light upon human relationships and exposes something so surprisingly true about ourselves that we stare into space in wonder and even fright. Depth of character and the complexity of relationships is what Tolkien does least well.

As a threshold point, one fails to see how it can be argued that a great read that creates its own mythology of "amazing depth" can fail to be considered great literature. By comparison, I'm currently reading Philip Pullman's Dark Materials Trilogy, which has won awards and much critical acclaim, but as you read it there is no sense that the characters have any life or history beyond what appears on the page and serves the plot at that moment. Part of the unique genius of Tolkien is that he created Middle Earth, its languages, religions, literature, songs, peoples, history, etc. and only then wrote the novels. It may be fair to say that characters don't have the "psychological depth" we require in the age of James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Oprah, but they have an entirely different kind of depth: to the extent such a thing is possible, they exist outside the books.

However, even this underestimates the series. For it is precisely by exposing humanity to the truth about itself, in a very frightening way, that the series achieves true greatness. If it is fair to say that characters are in some sense too heroic, that their basic goodness makes them unrealistic, it is also the case that not a single one of them--from the wisest to the mightiest to the most innocent--is capable of resisting the ring and its siren call to wield power over others. At he heart of the series lies this core truth--and it is here that we most clearly see Tolkien's Christian message--that evil exists and that it is is irresistible but must be resisted.

This, of course, is a message that is denied by the modern (since Rousseau) Left (and by the libertarian Right), which insists that bad behavior is a
mere product of bad circumstances, rather than a function of the eternal capacity for evil that is at war with the aspiration towards good that is ongoing
in Man's soul. Perhaps the best example of what has happened comes from Andrew Delbanco, who TIME named America's best intellectual. In
1995, he wrote a very fine, but ultimately tragically wrong, book called href=http://www.brothersjudd.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/reviews.detail/book_id/1129>The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil:

[T]he work of the devil is everywhere, but no one knows where to find him.  We live in the most brutal century in human history, but instead of stepping forward to take the credit, he has rendered himself invisible.  Although the names by which he was once designated (in the Christian lexicon he was assigned the name Satan; Marxism substituted phrases like 'exploitative classes'; psychoanalysis preferred terms like 'repression' and 'neurosis')  have been discredited to one degree or another, nothing has come to take their place.  The work of this book is therefore to think historically about the shrinking range of phenomena to which accusatory words like 'evil' and 'sin' may still be applied in contemplatory life, and to think about what it means to do without them.

I have written it out of the belief that despite the shriveling of the old words and concepts, we cannot do without some conceptual means for thinking about the sorts of experiences that used to go under the name of evil.  Few people still believe in what the British writer Ian McEwan has recently called the 'malign principle, a force in human affairs that periodically advances to dominate and destroy the lives of individuals or nations, then retreats to await the next occasion.'  We certainly no longer have a conception of evil as a distributed entity with an ontological essence of its own, as what some philosophers call 'presences.'  Yet something that feels like this force still invades our experience, and we still discover in ourselves the capacity to inflict it on others.  Since this is true, we have an inescapable problem: we feel something that our culture no longer gives us the vocabulary to express.

Yet, even having recognized the problem inherent in abandoning a world that recognizes the existence of evil, Mr. Delbanco shows himself unable to confront its implications:
Although there would be a certain satisfaction in living imaginatively in such a world, on balance it is probably a good thing that we have lost it forever.  Whether we welcome or mourn this loss, it is the central and irreversible fact of modern history that we no longer inhabit a world of transcendence.  The idea that man is a receptor of truth from God has been relinquished, and replaced with the idea that reality is an unstable zone between phenomena (unknowable in themselves) and innumerable fields of mental activity (which we call persons) by which they are apprehended.  These apprehensions are expressed through language, which is always evolving, and which constitutes the only reality we recognize.  Our world exists
in the ceaseless movement of human consciousness, a process in which the reception of new impressions is indistinguishable from the production of new meanings: 'mind's willful transference of nature, man, and society--and eventually of God, and finally of mind itself-- into itself.'

Where Mr. Delbanco had begun by telling us "we cannot do without some conceptual means for thinking about the sorts of experiences that used to go under the name of evil," now he tells us that instead :
[T]he story I have tried to tell is the story of the advance of secular rationality in the United States, which has been relentless in the face of all resistance.  It is the story of a culture that has gradually withdrawn its support from the old conception of a universe seething with divine intelligence and has left its members with only one recourse: to acknowledge that no story about the intrinsic meaning of the world has universal validity.

In the fundamentally unserious kind of culture that America had become by the mid-90s, this kind of nonsense could be argued with a straight face. However, here's a bit of an interview that Mr. Delbanco did with Bill Moyers right after 9-11:
BM: Do you believe in evil?

AD: I don't see how anyone can have experienced even indirectly as you and I sitting here have the events of the last day and not take seriously the existence of evil. One of the things that a number of writers have said about the devil-- some people believe in him as a literal being, some people believe in him as a metaphor or an image or a representation of these dark, human capacities-- one thing that a number of writers have said is that the cleverest trick of the devil is to convince people that he does not exist. We saw evil yesterday. We have to confront it. We have to face it.

BM: Evil is defined as?

AD: Well, for me I think the best I've been able to do with that question is to try to recognize and come to terms with the reality of the fact that there are human beings who are able, by convincing themselves that there's some higher good, some higher ideal to which their lives should be dedicated, that the pain and suffering of other individuals doesn't matter, it doesn't have to do with them or that it's... That they're expendable, that it's a cost that's worth making in the pursuit of these objectives. So evil for me is the absence of the imaginative sympathy for other human beings.

BM: The absence of a moral imagination, the ability to see what the consequences of your actions are to someone else?

AD: Yes, the inability to see your victims as human beings. To think of them as instruments or cogs or elements or statistics but not as human beings.

BM: You have written about your concern that Americans have lost the sense of evil. Is what happened in the last 36 hours going to bring us back or is it too deep for that, our absence, our loss of memory.

AD: I think it simmers. It's dormant in all of us. We don't want to acknowledge it. We want to explain it away. We want to find [an explanation] for it. In a modern world we mostly live in a place where the terrible suffering of the world seems far away-abstract and unreal and we can somehow imagine that it hasn't anything to do with us. It came home yesterday. I think a lot of people in this city and in this country are searching their souls.

Suddenly, Mr. Delbanco has ditched his secular rationality and is speaking of the soul and there's no more blather about how there are no universals. The relativistic Left asked in the wake of the attacks: why do they hate us? Because they can no longer comprehend evil, there had to be something we did that caused such a horror. But Mr. Delbanco seemed entirely able to state a universal truth, that the attacks of 9-11 were evil.

If the cleverest trick of the devil truly is to convince us that he doesn't exist, then one of his greatest modern opponents is J.R.R. Tolkien--whose writings have reached millions, by now perhaps hundreds of millions. The Lord of the Rings teaches us that evil is real and that it is compelling, that even the best of us will be attracted to it. This is one of the oldest truths of Western Civilization, yet somehow it still surprises people, as Mr. Olsen demands that great literature must. And because it does and because this truth is so vital to a proper understanding of what it means to be human, it seems to me at least that it must be considered one of the greatest works of literature our civilization has produced.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:30 AM

THE LOTT FALLOUT (continued):

Official switches affiliation: The party of “inclusion” has lost a county official to the other side. (WILLIAM LANEY, January 21, 2003, Wapakoneta Daily News)
Auglaize County Commissioner John Bergman announced that he has left the Democratic Party and joined the Republican Party in a news release Thursday and delivered to area newspapers Monday. He also announced he would be seeking re-election in 2004.

“I think that they don’t look at the views toward the middle like they used to at the national level,” Bergman said in a phone interview from his Noble Township home Monday afternoon.

Bergman, 48, said he became upset when the Democrats appointed U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, as the House Minority Leader, when they could have looked at more moderate representatives. She was sworn in on Jan. 7.

“It shows me a lack of willingness to come to the center because Mr. (Martin) Frost from Texas, he was in the race from the get-go and he has moderate views, and, of course, Marcy Kaptur, here, from Ohio, who got into the race a little bit later, is much more moderate,” Bergman said. “The party of inclusion has forgot about the moderate and conservative Democrats, and it is supposed to be the party of inclusion.”

Will the last person to leave the Democrat Party please shut off the lights.

January 22, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM


The future is American: a review of 20:21 Vision: the Lessons of the 20th Century for the 21st by Bill Emmott (Martin Vander Weyer, Daily Telegraph)
[W]hat is perhaps...surprising is that Emmott is so cheerful: he calls his attitude "paranoid optimism", the belief (commonly found, apparently, among wine-makers) that the future will be better than the past, as long as nothing goes horribly wrong.

He boils the big questions down to two: whether the United States will retain its current leadership role in the world, and whether capitalism will continue to be the dominant force in the global economy. His answer is that they probably will, and that both these outcomes will probably be a good thing.

Emmott is a free-marketeer who believes democracy and enterprise go hand in hand with prosperity and freedom. The lesson of the past century for him is that the useful role of government is to provide stability, security, rule of law and an absence of corruption, but no more. Beyond that, human progress is driven by the great trial-and-error process of capitalism, with all its obvious faults and wrong turnings.

That makes it all the more vital, he says, to win the argument for globalisation - the object of such visceral hatred from environmentalists and anti-poverty campaigners today - because the poorest nations will always be those that try to keep global economic forces at bay, and simply get left behind.

In 1989, Mr. Emmott wrote The Sun Also Sets: The Limits to Japan's Economic Power, which was then, and pretty much remains, the only sensible look at Japan and the structural weaknesses that made its decline inevitable. He, of course, was writing at a time when the operating assumption of far too many, but especially of the 1988 Democrat Presidential candidates, was that Japan's managed economy was a success story and one that we should emulate here. This sounds like another winner.

-TJFR Business News Reporter: Journalist Profile[tm]: Bill Emmott, The Economist
-BOOKNOTES: Japanophobia: The Myth of the invincible Japanese by Bill Emmott (C-SPAN, February 13, 1994)
-REVIEW: of Japanophobia (Oren Grad, Reason)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


The American Way Wins: Why American capitalism trumps Euro capitalism. (Irwin M. Stelzer, 01/21/2003, Weekly Standard)
The governments of the European Union by and large claim about 50 percent of their nations' output for the governments' ministers to do with as they please; the U.S. federal government takes about 30 percent. The high taxes needed by E.U. governments to support their welfare states have contributed to persistent double-digit unemployment in Germany, and to very low growth rates throughout most of what is called "Euroland." Add to the tax burden three further economic impediments to growth--labor markets so rigidly regulated that employers dare not hire for fear of being unable to fire; a Growth and Stability Pact that prohibits countries from running significant deficits when faced with recession; and a one-size-fits-all interest rate that is applied both to recession-afflicted Germany and inflation-afflicted Portugal.

There is worse. In addition to national governments that are inclined to regulate everything from the amount of foam allowed on a mug of beer sold by publicans (the UK), to the hours stores can stay open (in Germany it's never on Sunday and only part of the time on Saturday), Brussels' eurocrats have rules that regulate everything from the size of condoms to the permitted curvature of bananas.

So it comes as no surprise to any economist not included in the swath of those who hate America--"capitalism red in tooth and claw" and "the law of the jungle" are two of the epithets sometimes hurled at me in international conferences--that the E.U. economies are in trouble.

There is no better proof than last week's moan from Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission. It seems the European Union is falling ever-further behind the United States in the competitiveness race. Per capita productivity of the E.U.'s employed workforce fell from 86 percent of the U.S. level in 1999 to 83 percent last year. If you count the zero productivity of the massive numbers of Europe's unemployed, things are even worse for the European Union.

And unlikely to get better, says the new study by the European Commission. Resistance to labor-market reform remains a potent force, Europe continues to devote fewer resources to research than does the United States, and E.U. taxes remain high (at a time when the debate in American is not over whether, but by how much, to reduce the tax burden on workers, entrepreneurs, and investors).

That's without taking the demographic problems into account.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM


Survey: 34% of Americans say 'Jews have too much influence' (DPA, 22/01/2003, Ha'aretz)
A nationwide survey released Tuesday shows anti-Semitism is growing in the United States, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The poll showed that nearly a third of all U.S. citizens fear a Jewish president may have divided loyalties when dealing with Israel, the report said. [...]

The survey found higher anti-Semitism among Democrats than Republicans. Twenty percent of Democrats and Independents tend to "view Jews as caring only about themselves," compared to only 12 percent among Republicans.

If you're a Republican do you get to brag about having fewer knuckle-dragging idiots in your party?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Downing Street silent as France welcomes Mugabe (Philip Webster and Adam Sage, January 23, 2003, Times of London)
TONY BLAIR held back from attacking France last night as it prepared to invite President Mugabe of Zimbabwe to a summit in Paris.

Downing Street remained silent on the proposed visit, apparently to avoid a new row with France that could jeopardise both international consensus on war with Iraq and the renewal of EU sanctions against Zimbabwe--which include a travel ban on the country's rulers.

The Conservatives described the Prime Minister's stance as outrageous and dishonourable.

European foreign ministers will decide on Monday whether to renew sanctions against Zimbabwe, which expire on February 18, the day before the Franco-African summit is due to start in Paris.

President Chirac wants Mr Mugabe to attend, and a formal invitation has been prepared. If the sanctions are not renewed he would be able to come in any case, but Britain and most EU countries want the sanctions extended for another year. The price appears to be allowing an exemption to be made for the summit.

Is there a dictatorship anywhere that the French don't support?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM


Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat (Dennis Prager, 1/21/03, Jewish World Review)
The odds are that you have wondered at one time or another why the great majority of Jews and nearly all blacks vote Democrat. There are, after all, no other ethnic or racial groups that so overwhelmingly and consistently vote either Republican or Democrat.

Moreover, given Jewish values and given blacks' views on a host of important social issues, there is really no compelling reason for blacks and Jews to vote Democrat.

Let us begin with the Jews. Judaism, like every great religion, is essentially conservative: Judaism demands obedience to a judging G-d and to a moral code set forth thousands of years ago. That is why the more orthodox a Jew is religiously, the less likely he is to be a liberal politically; and the more likely he is to vote Republican. Furthermore, the dominant Jewish issue, the security and survival of the Jewish state, is also unlikely to orient a Jew politically leftward. Even sociologically, Jews voting instinctively Democratic makes little sense. Jews, more than many, consider it shameful to rely on others for welfare, raise their children to believe in hard work, and benefit from a merit-based society. Indeed, even those Jews who vote Democratic usually lead rather conservative lives.

As for blacks, their virtually unanimous voting for the Democratic Party makes even less sense. For one thing, most blacks tend to have socially conservative views (considerably more so than their fellow Democrats). Blacks tend to be religious, have traditional views on homosexuality and abortion, and believe in school vouchers, a policy strongly opposed by the party nearly all of them vote for. [...]

Clearly then, it is not Democratic Party positions that explain why so many Jews and blacks vote Democrat. Something deeper must be at work.

That something is fear in the case of Jews and anger in the case of blacks. And both the Jews' fears and the blacks' anger are a result of their respective collective memories.

One of the reasons that these groups can afford to vote Democrat is because the Republican Party--which is ideologically driven, as opposed to the Democrats who are coalition and interest driven--will continue to support issues like vouchers and Zionism regardless of who benefits. The danger for these groups though is that when an issues comes up that the GOP does not have a strong ideological bias for or against it will be very difficult to convince Republicans that they should adopt a position favored by a group that consistently opposes them. So, for instance, Jewish or black groups seeking increased funding for research on Tasachs or Sickle Cell would have no reason to expect a favorable hearing in a Republican-controlled Washington other than simple decency. In politics it's never a good idea to be stuck depending on your opponents' decency.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


The Debut of the Six Amigos (Douglas Kiker and Steve Chaggaris, Jan. 22, 2003, CBS)
Tuesday night's NARAL Pro-Choice America celebration of the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade brought together, for the first time, the six Democrats who've officially thrown their hats in the presidential ring for 2004. [...]

Rev. Al Sharpton, fresh off filing his presidential committee papers with the Federal Elections Commission, followed Edwards – and nearly brought the house down with his revival-tent style oratory. "If America is to be America, we must protect women's rights to choose for themselves," Sharpton said. (Note to Democrats: Sharpton's ability to fire up a crowd, particularly a partisan crowd like the one at the Omni Shoreham last night, should not be underestimated as the presidential campaign wears on.)

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is also a doctor of internal medicine, bragged that his state is the "promised land" for abortion-rights supporters. He also attacked the politically loaded term "partial-birth abortion" with as "designed to illicit fear" and added, to a roar from the crowd: "Using the words partial birth abortion divides us by conscience."

What's more amusing, that the only candidate with a pulse is unelectable or that Howard Dean thinks it inappropriate to appeal to conscience on moral issues?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


Understanding the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
This site aims to provide authoritative information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without polemics.
There certainly is some useful information available here, but that disclaimer is just risible. Check out the description that follows this topic:
The Pro-Israel Lobby - Learn how this special interest group influences U.S. foreign policy and stifles public debate, to the detriment of U.S. national interests.

No, no polemics there...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM


France punches above its weight (BRET STEPHENS, Jan. 22, 2003, Jerusalem Post)
French President Jacques Chirac has a personal relationship with Saddam Hussein dating to the 1970s. Chirac's predecessor, Francois Mitterrand, helped furnish Iraq with an estimated $10 billion worth of French arms, according to journalist Michel Gurfinkiel. Though France joined the coalition to expel Saddam from Kuwait in 1991, thereafter it worked sedulously to weaken UN sanctions on Baghdad, in part because it sought favorable concessions for French oil concerns bidding to develop lucrative Iraqi oil fields.

Finally, French diplomacy seeks advantage over perennial rivals Britain and America. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder may inveigh against war, but he's in no position to influence the outcome of deliberations at the UN. France is, and by opposing a resolution authorizing force, it puts Britain in an awkward spot.

Either London accepts the judgment of the Security Council, as Blair has repeatedly stressed he wishes to do, or it goes it alone with Washington against the wishes of the government's political base. Neither choice can be very attractive to Blair.

With Washington it's the same, only on a grander scale. The Bush administration took its case against Iraq to the UN with great reluctance; having done so, however, it's not in a good position politically to act unilaterally. Bush may nevertheless do exactly that, leaving France out of the action and perhaps depriving it of the spoils of victory, too. Even so, the middleweight French have put the American heavyweight on the defensive, showing once again that they know how to outbox a giant. Not bad for a short day's work.

It's worth recalling that when Ronald Reagan bombed Libya, effectively ending the terrorist threat from Colonel Qaddafi, the French refused to let our bombers fly over their air space, thereby putting American lives at risk in an attempt to protect a murderous dictator. It's hardly surprising to find them siding with another against the U.S.. As their behavior once again demonstrates, France can not objectively be considered an ally and should probably be treated as an enemy.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM

THE HAUNTING (reader advisory below):

How Many Ghosts? (Philip Gold, August 23, 1999, The Washington Times)
As I write these words, a friend of mine is out on the highway, counting down the hours to the death of his unborn child. Before leaving, he wrote his (now former?) girlfriend a check for half the price of the procedure. He said it made him nauseous.

Long years ago, having nowhere to drive (or perhaps the car was in the shop), I did my own countdown in an Eames chair with a bottle of scotch. I do not recall writing a check, or offering, or being asked. The nausea occasionally returns.

My friend is a young man, the kind who almost makes you believe the X in GenX can also stand for excellence. Intelligent, well-educated, thoughtful, college football player/philosophy major, with a limitless future in a field so high-tech I can't begin to understand what he's talking about. I understood well enough, however, when he told me about his on-again, off-again girlfriend, brilliant and beautiful and volatile in the harsh, addictive way that brilliant, beautiful young women often are. She had gotten pregnant on a night when off changed, somewhat unexpectedly, back to on. He does not doubt that he loves her, or she him.

I asked him if this was the first time he had faced this kind of situation. He answered, yes. Then welcome to reality. Before it's over, you're going to learn a lot about who and what you are.

This is a terribly disturbing essay that some folks may wish to skip entirely. It seems unlikely that we truly desire to know who and what we are as a society.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:31 AM


From dozy cat to Celtic Tiger in 20 years - and Australia can do it, too. (MairŽad Browne, 17/1/03, Online Opinion)
Growth rates went from 3.5 per cent in the early '90s to eight per cent in the late '90s - outperforming all other EU countries. The numbers at work rose by a staggering 45 per cent over 12 years, with an average increase of jobs of three per cent per year. Unemployment dropped from 17 per cent in the 1980s to less than four per cent in 2001.

For the phenomenon that was labelled the 'Celtic Tiger' to occur required some important contributing factors that by good fortune prevailed at the crucial time. These included the sustained US economic boom and availability of EU funding for infrastructure development. But there were also areas where conscious, bold decisions by politicians and business leaders on matters within their control paid dividends in terms of fuelling the growth. These factors included creating a favourable environment for foreign investment through low corporate tax rates, vigourous and creative promotion of Ireland as a good place to locate and a strong macroeconomic environment with strong public finances.

And there was also the long history of Irish investment in education since the 1960s, which was an essential element in the growth. From the '60s, no matter what government was in power, there was no faltering in public spending on education, even in face of huge unemployment figures and a bleak economic outlook. [...]

The question to be asked is what does this mean for Australia? What lessons are there from the Irish experience if we are to become a Tiger economy? First, government policy is important, as was the case in Ireland. The critical role played by what was a handful of visionary, and in many ways desperate, Irish politicians to turn around a very depressed economy has been recognised. There was bi-partisan support for new tax regimes, continued investment in education, and decent industrial practices. Would Australian politicians be capable of a bi-partisan approach to creating the policy framework for the development of a real, as opposed to a rhetorical, knowledge economy? I fear not. And even if there was bi-partisan leadership in Australia the question of how Australian industry might respond remains.

A major difference between Australia and Ireland lies in the way in which the Irish community and businesses responded to government leadership; the Irish started from a position where they did not think education and research were luxuries or the pastimes of elites. They recognized that these were fundamental strategies to improve the economy and, through that, the quality of everyone's life. Educators and researchers were seen as people to be taken seriously and not the subject of jokes about their irrelevance to the concerns of the 'real' people, the 'battlers'.

We have the policies here in Australia such as the Coalition's 'Backing Australia's Ability', with the Labor Party's 'Knowledge Nation' and 'Research: Engine Room of the Nation' waiting in the wings. But none of these addresses the cultural and attitudinal issues that face Australia if research and innovation are to become part of the fabric of the way we do things here. Adequate funding and support will never come as long as researchers and university people are regarded, even affectionately, as 'boffins'.

One of the good side-effects of the Sputnik shock and the race to the moon, as opposed to the many bad ones, was that suddenly science and scientists became sexy. An emphasis on math and basic science in school and a healthy respect for those who pursue careers in science can't help but benefit a society.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Stop the Worship: The Kennedy cult does a disservice to history. (THOMAS C. REEVES, December 29, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
With the stampede over revelations about John F. Kennedy's medical problems now a memory from several weeks ago, this veteran historian would like to make some sober observations. Many journalists seemed to be encountering this issue for the first time. JFK was sickly? He was dependent on drugs? This was news?!

In fact, historians have long known in some detail about Kennedy's poor health, and of the fact that he, his wife and several aides were routinely taking amphetamines administered by a quack physician. That the White House physician, Dr. Janet Travell, gave him injections of procaine for his pain is old news. So is the coverup by Kennedy aides, family members and sympathetic historians, who claimed that JFK was the embodiment of the vigor and action needed by the country after the allegedly sleepy and feeble Eisenhower administration.

However, I did not see a single story on the medication flap that linked the medical coverup with the sexual-escapade coverup, documented, among other places, in my "A Question of Character: A Life of John F.Kennedy, and by Seymour Hersh's highly revealing interviews with Secret Service agents in "The Dark Side of Camelot." The truth is that no other presidential administration can begin to compete with this record of recklessness and deceit. Bill Clinton, bad as he was, was no match for JFK.

Mr. Reeves excellent biography, which came out around the same time as the equally devastating The Crisis Years by Michael Beschloss, set a rather high bar that JFK apologists need to clear before they start telling us how great his presidency was and what a swell guy he was personally. From consorting with Nazi spies and mafia molls to being whacked on painkillers (prescribed by a quack) when he met with Khruschev, the by now undisputed facts about JFK paint a picture of a man who was not only every bit as irresponsible as Bill Clinton but whose irresponsibility may have had an even greater influence on world affairs at a time when the world was a far more dangerous place.
Posted by Stephen Judd at 6:08 AM


Front-line troops disproportionately white, not black: Numbers refute long-held belief (Dave Moniz and Tom Squitieri, USA TODAY)

The American troops likeliest to fight and die in a war against Iraq are disproportionately white, not black, military statistics show -- contradicting a belief widely held since the early days of the Vietnam War.

In a little-publicized trend, black recruits have gravitated toward non-combat jobs that provide marketable skills for post-military careers, while white soldiers are over-represented in front-line combat forces.

This is also the reason that there are even fewer minorities in the higher ranks of the military. The military has traditionally relied on the servicemen with combat arms experience for top leadership positions.

January 21, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 PM


Senator Kennedy: Terrorism, N. Korea Are Greater Concerns Than Iraq (Deborah Tate, 21 Jan 2003, VOA)
On the day President Bush warned that time is running out for Iraq to disarm, Senator Kennedy argued that a U.S.-led war against that country could impact negatively on other areas of U.S. foreign policy.

"I continue to be convinced that this is the wrong war at the wrong time," he said. "The threat from Iraq is not imminent, and it will distract America from the two more immediate threats to our security: the clear and present danger of terrorism and the crisis with North Korea."

It's rare to find oneslf in agreement with Ted Kennedy, but I agree that the right war at this time is with North Korea and am heartened to hear even liberal Democrats calling for its declaration. There's plenty of time to take on Saddam after we make the rubble bounce in Pyongyang.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 PM


-REVIEW: of A FREE NATION DEEP IN DEBT: The Financial Roots of Democracy By James Macdonald (Michele Wucker, Washington Post)
Two new books about the historical roots of debt could hardly be more timely. American consumers owe more than $1.7 trillion, not even counting home mortgages. A record 1.5 million bankruptcies were declared over the past year. Meanwhile, war with Iraq could cost as much as $2 trillion, roughly equivalent to a full year's U.S. federal budget, and much of it likely to be financed by borrowing.

Or $200 billion. But hey, what's 1.8 trillion dollars between friends.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 PM


Lieberman Denies Shift On Race Policy (DAVID LIGHTMAN, January 20 2003, Hartford Courant )
As Joe Lieberman's 2004 presidential campaign begins its first big road trip today, he is already on the defensive over seemingly conflicting views on affirmative action.

And to add even more tension, he is heading to Michigan, ground zero in that controversy.

Lieberman told a national television audience Sunday that he supports the University of Michigan admissions system, which uses racial preferences, and said President Bush's opposition was flatly "wrong" and "divisive."

But nearly eight years ago, as Democrats struggled to keep their historic backing of affirmative action from becoming a serious political liability and as California considered banning preferences at state-funded institutions, Lieberman sounded a different tone.

"You can't defend policies that are based on group preferences as opposed to individual opportunities," he said in 1995 as he raised serious questions about affirmative action. [...]

On March 9, 1995, before an audience of national reporters, Lieberman said of group policies: "When we have such policies, we have the effect of breaking some of those ties in civil society that have held us together because [the affirmative action policies] are patently unfair."

Lieberman continued: "Those who are the victims of [group preferences] and lose out when choices are made based on group preferences as opposed to individual ability naturally become disaffected from the process."

Asked that day about the California initiative, Lieberman said: "Looking at the wording of the Civil Rights Initiative in California, I can't see how I could be opposed to it," he said, "because it basically is a statement of American values ..."

The problem for Mr. Lieberman is that it is not a statement of Democrat values. Luckily, the Good Senator has never been reluctant to cut his conscience to fit the year's fashions.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


Behind the Placards: The odd and troubling origins of today's anti-war movement (David Corn, NOVEMBER 1 - 7, 2002, LA Weekly)
[T]he demonstration was essentially organized by the Workers World Party, a small political sect that years ago split from the Socialist Workers Party to support the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. The party advocates socialist revolution and abolishing private property. It is a fan of Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba, and it hails North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il for preserving his country's "socialist system," which, according to the party's newspaper, has kept North Korea "from falling under the sway of the transnational banks and corporations that dictate to most of the world." The WWP has campaigned against the war-crimes trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. A recent Workers World editorial declared, "Iraq has done absolutely nothing wrong."

Officially, the organizer of the Washington demonstration was International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism). But ANSWER is run by WWP activists, to such an extent that it seems fair to dub it a WWP front. Several key ANSWER officials--including spokesperson Brian Becker--are WWP members.

This Brian Becker character was the one they had on MacNeil/Lehrer last week. This is great--like the 50s all over again--with front groups and fellow travelers, the whole nine yards. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins could be our Hammett and Hellman, if either of them was as talented as Dash.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


One of the great mysteries of our time is how Scott Ritter went from the most hawkish of the Iraqi arms inspectors to essentially being Saddam's boy toy. Well, remember in the Godfather II when Senator Geary is giving the Corleones a hard time, so they set him up in a brothel and make it look like he whacked a hooker? Check out this story on the suddenly pliant Mr. Ritter, Arrest wasn't first time police had eye on Ritter Former U.N. arms inspector reportedly was under inquiry when cops charged him in 2001 (MIKE GOODWIN, January 21, 2003

The Internet sex case that led to the arrest of a former U.N. weapons inspector was not his first involvement with police on that type of crime, a person familiar with the case said Monday.

Scott Ritter was under investigation for trying to set up a meeting with a girl through the Internet when town police charged him in June 2001 with using an online chat room to set up a similar rendezvous at a Menands restaurant, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Police began investigating the 41-year-old Ritter, who lives in Delmar, in April 2001 after he tried to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl, the source said. Ritter drove to a Colonie business, where he instead was met by police officers, the source said.

Ritter, an outspoken critic of President Bush's plans for war against Iraq, was released without being charged while police investigated.

Two months later, the source said, Ritter was caught in the same type of Internet sex-sting operation after he tried to lure a 16-year-old girl to a Burger King in Menands. The supposed teenager actually was an undercover investigator posing online as a minor as part of the town Police Department's investigation of Internet sex crime, the source said.

Considering the startling transformation in Mr. Ritter's views on Iraq, mightn't we fairly assume that Saddam has a videotape of him with some poor Iraqi teenager?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


We must choose between Europe and America: EU leaders are deeply suspicious of the gusto with which Mr Blair has aligned himself with George Bush (Nick Clegg, 22 January 2003, Times of London)
There are many reasons for the sudden change in the UK's standing in the EU. Some are self-inflicted. British ministers have a grating habit of overstating their case in EU debates. Gordon Brown is famous for lecturing his counterparts into submission. There has been too much baseless hype that the Convention on the Future of Europe, chaired by ValŽry Giscard d'Estaing, is "going Britain's way".

Other reasons are beyond the British Government's control. In particular, the ruthless brilliance with which M. Chirac has moved to capitalise on the German government's weakness to reoccupy the EU's centre stage could not have been foreseen. Last week's Franco-German proposal for a dual presidency of the EU, one representing national governments and the other the European Commission, was only the latest in a succession of proposals shaped by M. Chirac's determination to set the EU agenda.

But there are two more profound reasons for the plunge in Britain's status within the EU that should give Tony Blair real cause for concern. First, there is the euro. Last month, the Portuguese Prime Minister, Jose Durao Barroso, voiced in public what EU heads of government have long whispered in private – why should the UK be granted a leadership role as long as it is unwilling to sign up to one of the central tenets of EU membership? As long as EU leaders believed Tony Blair was merely biding his time before putting the issue to a referendum, there was sufficient goodwill to forgive Britain's procrastination. But, as the Continent looks on with perplexity at the gridlock between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, fears have deepened that Mr Blair has missed his chance.

And then, most important of all, there is Britain's special relationship with the United States. It is difficult to capture the conflicting reactions which Blair's ostentatious loyalty to George Bush's foreign policy elicits within the rest of the EU.

Admiration, to some extent, that there is a European leader trying to exercise a restraining influence on the US administration's apparent unilateral instincts. Envy, too, at the effortlessness with which the London and Washington establishments communicate with each other. But, above all, a deep suspicion that the gusto with which Mr Blair has aligned himself with Mr Bush demonstrates that the UK's reflex is to choose America over Europe. De Gaulle, it is muttered, was right. British Atlanticism will always stand in the way of a true commitment to Europe.

That is the choice England faces: subservience to the Franco-German axis in a United Europe or near-equal status with the U.S. in an Anglosphere. It still seems improbable that the majority of Brits would willingly choose the former.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM

We got this email the other day:

I wanted to introduce you to a new site I've launched recently: FetchBook.Info

It's a free service, allowing you to easily compare prices of any book among 60 bookstores, and find a price which is 30% - 80% off the market list price.

I tried it out a little and it seemed to return decent results. Anybody used it before or care to test drive it?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:06 PM

Speaking of Hollywood, check out this from Ed Driscoll.

After you do, here's a note about Mr. Stewart from our friend (and jazz correspondent) Glenn Dryfoos:

I met him a couple of times at Princeton events, and he was as good as advertised...

One story (which I may have told you long ago): Stewart's main activity at Princeton was the Triangle Club, a musical theater group, which I played in some 50 years later...he was so devoted to Triangle that in the late 50's or 60's he appeared on the Ed Sullivan show singing a song from one of his Triangle appearance...a very funny bit...a serious love song sung to a guy in drag...(until co-education, most Triangle humor was based on the fact that half the cast was in drag)...

On the occasion of his 50th reunion year, we dedicated the show to him and took a road version to Los Angeles over Christmas break. He sat in the front row, and laughed and applauded throughout (those of us in the pit band had a better view of him and his wife than we did of the stage). At the party afterwards, he made a gracious speech, saying how much his Triangle days still meant to him and how much he enjoyed our show. Then, he paused and said that he had been a vocal opponent of coeducation at Princeton, not because he didn't think women shouldn't get educations or become doctors or lawyers or legislators, but because he thought that activities like Triangle would somehow get lost or diminished. He went on to say that he now knew that he had been wrong, that although the shows were different, it was still obviously a great activity that he knew we'd all treasure, and that Princeton was better for the change.

He didn't have to make that confession in that crowd, but he did, and it was a memorable moment...(although, of course, in the Judd scheme of things, it's better if he enjoyed the show and then stood up anyway and said he still thinks they should have never accepted broads....)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


Heaton walks out of music awards show because of lewd tone (Mark Dawidziak, 16th January 2003, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
"Everybody Loves Raymond" star Patricia Heaton took a stand Monday night at the 30th annual American Music Awards. The Bay Village native stood up and walked out of the Shrine Auditorium, disgusted by what she described as "an onslaught of lewd jokes and off-color remarks."

A two-time Emmy winner for her portrayal of Debra Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond," Heaton was at the awards ceremony in Los Angeles to introduce a prerecorded retrospective of executive producer Dick Clark's annual music bash. But the sitcom star grew increasingly upset with the raw and raunchy comments made by presenters, performers and the hosts for the evening, the Osbournes.

"I'm no prude, but this was such a vulgar and disgusting show," Heaton said yesterday morning after seeing her four sons off to school and before leaving for the Burbank studio where "Everybody Loves Raymond" is taped.

Known for her candor in a town where stars routinely are warned to modify and suppress opinions, Heaton rarely shies away from speaking her mind, even when her views don't conform with the Hollywood company line.

"I arrived a little late and was seated in the audience," Heaton said. "I was going to present what's called a video package - a look at 30 years of the American Music Awards. Well, what was passing for humor basically ranged from stupid to vulgar, and I just thought, 'I'm not going to be part of this.' So I walked out and said, 'Get me my car. I'm leaving.' " [...]

"I really didn't know what I was getting into," Heaton said. "I mean, there was Ryan Seacrest pulling open his co-presenter's shirt, then noticing there was a 12-year-old girl in the front row. And he says, 'Don't worry, honey, you'll have a pair of these soon.' And everybody went crazy. It felt like I was in the Roman Colosseum. As far as I'm concerned, it was an affront to anyone with a shred of dignity, self-respect and intelligence."

Not only is Everybody Loves Raymond just about the only even half-decent show on television, Patricia Heaton is our favorite star. Though one would think she'd know better by now than to think there were very many other people in that building with "a shred of dignity, self-respect and intelligence."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:27 PM


Volunteer 'Human Shields' to Head for Iraq (Andrew Cawthorne, 1/21/03, Reuters)
A first wave of mainly Western volunteers will leave London this weekend on a convoy bound for Iraq to act as "human shields" at key sites and populous areas in case of a U.S.-led war on Baghdad.

I've always said that I'd concede the truth of Darwinism if only someone would provide an ongoing example of natural selection in action. I concede the point. The human gene pool can only be strengthened by the removal of these deviant strands of DNA.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:18 PM


The Note (Mark Halperin, Elizabeth Wilner & Marc Ambinder, 1/21/03, ABCNews.com)
On the presidential level, with party circles still picking apart the results of this past weekend's events in Iowa, all six announced Democratic candidates will speak tonight at NARAL Pro-Choice America's dinner at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Receptions to start at 6:00 p.m., event to begin at 7:00 p.m.

The NARAL event will be important for a lot of reasons. Watching the body language in how the candidates treat each other is key.

Influencing the Chattering Class, NARAL Division of pro-choice women activists is also key — right up there with labor and African-Americans. The echo-chamber effect for anyone who does well tonight (or poorly) will be huge.

Watch how the candidates use their limited speaking time (four minutes) to maximum effect. Watch to see if the time limit is strictly enforced. Watch to see who tries to make news, and how hard they go after President Bush. Watch to see who brings and/or makes reference to their spouse.

Richard Gephardt is the only one about whom there is some pre-event buzz that he plans to make news. Most of the speculation has centered on the possibility that he will "apologize" for his previously pro-life position, but Time's Joe Klein says "at the pro-choice cattle show, the only profile in courage will be Dick Gephardt's refusal to endorse late-term.

One would like to think that even Dick Gephardt is not so vile as to apologize for voting to protect human life in the past, but, sadly, his past--including his becoming pro-choice immediately on deciding to seek his party's nomination in '88--suggests he's precisely that vile.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:01 PM


NARAL Pro-Choice America Releases State-By-State Report: Gives Nation a D+ (NARAL, January 15, 2003)
The report uses a state ranking system to capture the burdens each state has imposed to limit access to reproductive services. This year, nine states (including the District of Columbia) merited a grade of A or A-, and 18 states earned an F. For the third year running Louisiana is the most restrictive of a women's right to choose.

"A" States — The best in protecting women's right to choose.
New York,
Washington, DC,

"F" States — The worst in protecting women's right to choose.
South Dakota,
North Dakota and

That's very much the Red State/Blue State breakdown that we were expecting, isn't it? Abortion is most easily available in the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic regions and most restricted in the South, West and Rust Belt. One would think a regime that allowed these regions to freely legislate their cultural values and morality, rather than uniformly imposing either Roe or anti-Roe, would go some ways to reducing the tension that surrounds abortion.

30 Years After Roe v. Wade, New Trends but the Old Debate (KATE ZERNIKE, January 20, 2003, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM


Animal 'Rights' Activists Confront Homosexuals Over Leather 'Pride' (Michael L. Betsch, January 17, 2003, CNSNews.com)
Hundreds of leather-clad homosexuals hailing from across the country were confronted by animal "rights" activists Friday as they kicked off Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend in Washington, D.C. Avoiding condemnation of the leather enthusiasts, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent homosexual activists to offer "cruelty-free" alternatives to the alternative lifestyle crowd.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 PM


Libya to chair UN panel on rights (Mike Trickey, January 21, 2003, The Ottawa Citizen)
Canada, the U.S. and a third country, believed to be Guatemala, voted against Libya's nomination yesterday, but most of the other western states followed the UN tradition of abstaining as a form of protest, while 33 of the 53 members of the UN panel voted in favour.

Libya, still under UN sanctions for its role in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of a Pan-Am airliner that killed 270, was nominated by the African Union, whose turn it was to propose the human rights body's rotational chair.

Is this the same UN whose permission we're supposed to seek before attacking Iraq, another brutal totalitarian dictatorship in the Arab world? How can anyone take the place seriously? Why weren't any of these whiny "human rights" protestors this weekend marching in front of the UN and denouncing this abomination?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:19 PM


Is Diversity Good? (Harry V. Jaffa, January 17, 2003, The Claremont Institute)
It was gratifying that President Bush came out firmly against the University of Michigan's versions of affirmative action, and that his Justice Department filed an amicus brief to that effect. Yet the President found it necessary—in today's climate of opinion—to pay lip service to the concept of "diversity." Yet however rhetorically fashionable this may be, it is nonetheless mindless. [...]

Ask yourself: if you or a loved one is to undergo brain or heart surgery, does it matter whether the surgeons who will operate had been selected for medical school for any other reason than their aptitude for medicine and surgery? Even if there were no quotas, should race have been "taken into consideration" in their selection? Consider the hairline life and death decisions that surgeons make all the time. Does not every consideration, however slight, apart from aptitude, dilute the qualifications of surgeons for surgery? The next time you are crossing a great bridge, do you not rely upon the qualifications of the engineers and builders to ensure your safety? What does the skin color of the classmates of doctors or engineers have to do with their medicine or their engineering? Is it not their professional qualification that matters, and not either the sameness or the differences from which they came? Is not the same true if we are seeking mathematicians, physicists, economists, or generals? In each case, what is apt for the end in view may be regarded as good, what is inapt may be regarded as bad.

"Diversity" as an abstraction has no meaning. Today, however, it means racial preference and nothing else. A commitment to diversity, apart from the ends it may serve, is absurd.

Mr. Jaffa has a legitimate point, but there's one thing that seems to get lost in this debate. While state schools should not be allowed to consider race at all, there seems to be no good reason to require that private institutions be similarly color blind. If Harvard or whoever thinks that diversity is a good thing, by all means let them use race-based, rather than merit-based, admissions. The worst that could happen is that a formerly great school that no longer strives for excellence might begin to see its reputation tarnished and the value of its name on a degree diminshed. But if the folks who run Harvard don't care, why should we? We may find private racial discrimination of this kind distasteful, but it's never been apparent why the government should even take cognizance of it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


All Things Considerate: How NPR makes Tavis Smiley sound like Linda Wertheimer. (Brian Montopoli, Jan/Feb 2003, Washington Monthly)
Last May, I had the chance to participate in an NPR fellowship for young journalists interested in public radio. There were eight of us in all, each of whom worked with a mentor to produce a story that would become part of a Web-based news magazine. In order to decide who would host the magazine, the mentors and NPR folks held auditions: One by one, we were required to stand up and read a few lines to the assembled crowd, who would then compare notes. We weren't allowed to watch the auditions. As we waited in the hallway, some of us tried to make small talk; others found a quiet corner where they could go over their lines. But we were all thinking about the same thing: The Voice, the NPR Voice, and how the hell we were going to pull it off. The Voice is tough to describe, but you know it when you hear it: It's serious, carefully modulated, genially authoritative. It rings with unspoken knowledge of good wine and The New York Times Book Review. We were terrified of it.

As it turned out, I couldn't quite manage The Voice--the hosting gig went to someone else--but I quickly realized that if I wanted anything to do with NPR, I'd need to figure it out pretty quick. NPR's ascendancy has been striking--"Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," its drivetime shows, are the second and third most popular radio programs in the country, and the network's listenership continues to grow--up 18.5 percent in 2001 alone. A big part of the reason is the unparalleled quality of its news coverage. NPR's journalism is in-depth, accurate, fair, intelligent, and, not insignificantly, virtually commercial-free. In the sea of vituperative right-wing radio, NPR is an island of sanity, civility, and seriousness. And its reporters and personalities are truly talented: Their ability to explain complex issues in plain, sharp, value-neutral language may be unsurpassed in all of broadcasting.

But the network has also become something of a victim of its success. If you listen to a lot of NPR, you realize how similar it all sounds: no matter who is talking, or what they're talking about. There's a simple reason for the homogeneity: The drivetime shows, the 800-pound gorillas of public radio, have become so successful that the sensibilities of their influential hosts and correspondents have come to dominate all other NPR programming. Susan Stamberg, Nina Totenberg, Bob Edwards, Carl Kasell, and their peers have a tight grip on the sound of NPR, especially Linda Wertheimer, whose cadence--a sort of patrician delay--still defines the NPR sound even though she no longer serves as a host. It is a sound created by boomers for an audience of their contemporaries. The Voice is theirs, and if you can't pull it off, as I quickly discovered, you'd better get out of the way.

It is an extremely appealing Voice--to a certain demographic. About 20 million people tune into NPR each week. Their mean income is $78,216, and their average age hovers just below 50. Nearly 90 percent of those who shared their racial information are "non-Black/non-Hispanic," according to NPR survey data. In other words, the people whose Zeitgeist Edwards et al., have been extraordinarily effective in catching are affluent, middle-aged white liberals, who tune in to the drivetime shows on their way to work and sometimes continue listening for the rest of the day. This demographic just adores NPR, and NPR gives the love right back.

That's the conventional wisdom anyway, but studies don't seem to bear it out. Here's just the latest poll to show that Republicans are as likely to listen to NPR as Democrats, Republicans More Likely Than Democrats to Use Talk Radio for News (Frank Newport, January 6, 2003, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE). It was perhaps Ann Coulter who best summed up the reasons for this, on Booknotes (C-SPAN, ):
COULTER: [N]o one in the entertainment world is going to watch this show.

LAMB: Why not?

COULTER: Because we're using words with more than two syllables.

LAMB: But you're...

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.

There's more truth to that than might appear at first glance. For instance, there are plenty on the isolationist Right who will forthrightly admit they just don't care about the Iraqi people, but folks on the anti-war Left claim to care. Unfortunately, you can't care about the people and know what Saddam's Iraq is really like and still oppose his overthrow. So, on this issue, as on many others, to be a Leftist and not descend into schizophrenia requires a really profound ignorance.

Conservatives, on the other hand, welcome news and information because it tends to confirm our philosophy. Unfortunately for us, the purveyors of news tend to be liberal, so, we're stuck listening, reading, and (to a lesser degree) watching them. After all, if you want to be an informed citizen of the Republic you do need to read the Times and the Post and such, even though their editorial policies are mostly antithetical to conservatism.

NPR, particularly on those affiliates that have abandoned classical music, is unique in that it is the rough radio equivalent of cable television's all-news networks, combined with C-SPAN. Many of the shows and all of the hosts may be annoying, but if you want to be able to find news and discussion of the news at any time of the day, you're guaranteed to find them on your NPR station and unlikely to find them anywhere else, except for the few hours of Imus in the Morning and Rush in the afternoon.

The author's contention that NPR hosts are fair is laughable on its face. The other day I actually heard what may be the quintessential NPR moment. Diane Rehm had a discussion about the Bush judicial nominations and her guests were Stuart Taylor from National Journal and Nan Aron from Alliance for Justice. Now, we all know the format for modern talk shows; you're supposed to have a a lefty and a rightie, a pro and a con, whatever, but two opposing viewpoint. Here, instead, we had a liberal lobbyist and a reporter. Stuart Taylor happens to be an exceptionally good reporter, but he's also, by any measure other than his willingness to judge harshly the maneuvering of the Clintonites during impeachment and his open-mindedness about the unpleasant legal steps that might be required in the war on terrorism, a liberal Democrat. Yet here he was placed in the awkward position of defending Bush nominees, whose legal viewpoints he frequently had to acknowledge disagreeing with, from the ad hominem attacks of Ms Aron, and,
not coincidentally, Ms Rehm herself. Finally a guy called in and said that he couldn't help feeling that Ms Aron was biased because she not only rejected every Bush nominee they discussed but even dismissed the ABA for giving Judge Pickering a highly qualified ranking. Ms Rehm responded that perhaps the bias was in the caller's own mind since the show had presented views from the entire political spectrum and so could not be cited for bias. Ah yes, the spectrum according to NPR: all the way from radical leftist to garden variety liberal, hosted by another liberal.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


OPB Election Fantasy (It's all about priorities) (Oregon Magazine, January 10, 2003)
On the program following Seven Days, Bill Moyers' NOW,  Grover G. Norquist, of Americans for Tax Reform, was described in the intro as having "plotted" the new Bush economic strategy, which the program previous to Seven Days, Washington Week in Review, portrayed as shocking.  (And, of course, impossible, risky, not based in reality, etc.)

Three programs in a row, supported by your tax dollars, telling you that unless you vote for higher taxes on yourself, and more spending by government, everything will collapse.  Three programs which are produced and manned by people who haven't the faintest idea how an economy works, what is contained in the U.S. Constitution, or what they've done to the people of America.

This all has to do with priorities.  What people think comes first.  To these people, government comes first.

Well, of course, they are government employees, aren't they? The government employee is today what the Founders thought the residents of DC would be at the time of the Founding, which is why the former should be disenfranchised and the latter allowed to vote in either Maryland or Virginia.

January 20, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:10 PM


Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) Plans to Dive into U.S. Presidential Pool (Mike Sneed, January 20, 2003, Chicago Sun Times)
Word is that Sen. Biden, a top Democrat leader who was once President of the powerful Senate Foriegn Relations Committee, met privately with former President Bill Clinton in New York recently to discuss entering the Presidential sweepstakes.

We've had some terrific plagiarism scandals in recent years, but they've perhaps dulled our appreciation for just how despicable Joe Biden's own was. Not only did he "borrow" a speech of Neil Kinnock's, he actually "borrowed" the autobiographical details of Mr. Kinnock's life:
Why were the Coal Mines all my ancestors had? These people who could write poetry? My people who could make wonderful things with their hands? Why didn't they get the chance? Were they too weak? The people who would work underground for 8 hours and come out to play football for the evening? Do you think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the drive? Never. It was because they never had a platform on which to stand. Why am I the first man in my family to go to University? Was it because our ancestors were too thick? Why were my ancestors shut out of life? My people who could dream dreams and recite poetry and dance and make wonderful things with their hands and dream dreams ? My parents who could make wonderful things with their hands and sing and write epic poems and make beautiful things and see visions?
Why didn't they get the chance? Were they too weak? Those people who worked underground for 8 hours and come up to play football? Does anybody really think that they didn't get what we had because they didn't have the stamina? No. There was no platform on which they could stand.

With Mr. Biden and Gary Hart apparently joining Dick Gephardt in the presidential campaign, it's an especially good time to go read what might be the best book ever written about politics, Richard Ben Cramer's What it Takes: The Way to the White House. Reading between the lines of the book, one concludes that Mr. Cramer had great respect for Mr. Hart's mind, but was appalled by his self-destructive streak;that he truly loathed Mr. Gephardt, who comes across as a man devoid of principles; and that he found Mr. Biden to be a lovable rogue, but a rogue nonetheless, an operator and a con man, all too willing to cut corners.

Biden has etched a political legend (J.L. MILLER, 10/27/2002, The News Journal)
Blabbermouth Biden (Timothy Rollins, 10/31/01, OpinioNet)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:03 PM


Roe v Wade battle shifts to Congress, states (MARY DEIBEL, January 16, 2003, The Knoxville News Sentinel)
Under a Supreme Court test first articulated in 1989 that lets government regulate abortion so long as the restrictions don't pose an "undue burden," the fight has shifted to Congress and state legislatures, which kept the power to regulate abortions after the first trimester.

Since the Supreme Court signaled its willingness to permit new restrictions, various limits have been approved by states, including waiting periods, mandatory counseling and parental involvement where minors are concerned. Recently state statutes have outlawed abortion procedures late in a pregnancy, although the Supreme Court requires such laws to make an exception for the woman's health or life.

At the federal level, President Bush held a signing ceremony for the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act conferring personhood and declared Jan. 19, 2003, to be "National Sanctity of Human Life Day. " Bush's executive orders made "unborn children" eligible for federal insurance coverage and reinstated the so-called "gag rule" forbidding doctors and clinics that get federal funds from mentioning abortion.

Congress is expected to pass a federal "partial-birth" ban on late-term abortions, which Bush promises to sign, but there is no guarantee the new Republican House and Senate majorities will pass other restrictions.

"Millions of women have come of age controlling their reproductive choices, but it's a sad state of affairs when those rights are in such peril today," said Kate Michelman of NARAL ProChoice America. She points to the current Supreme Court's 5-4 split in support of legal abortion that nevertheless has led to 335 laws enacted since 1995 to regulate abortion.

Abortion is no longer available in 87 percent of U.S. counties. [...]

Carol Tobias, director of the National Right to Life Committee's political action committee, acknowledges, "The reality is we don't have the votes in Congress for a constitutional amendment," nor is there agreement among abortion foes on what an amendment should say.

Otherwise, Tobias said, "Everything is going our way," including public opinion polls that show a growing number of younger Americans oppose legalized abortion. The latest University of California at Los Angeles survey, for instance, found that in 2001 just 55 percent of all college freshman favor keeping abortion legal in the United States. [...]

The U.S. abortion rate started falling in 1990 and is at its lowest level since 1974, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

The latest figures show 21.3 abortions in 2000 for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. No one knows the reason - safe sex, use of emergency "morning-after" pills, federal approval of the "abortion pill," decreased availability of surgical abortion or all of the above.

It is the great tragedy of the Court's judicial activism in Roe v. Wade that had they stayed out of the issue--which there is no readily apparent role for them in under the Constitution--America would probably not look all that much different than what's described above, but much divisiveness and anger and violence would have been avoided, and probably (though not necessarily) many lives saved. Thirty years after the fact, people mistakenly assume that abortion was illegal throughout the U.S. prior to Roe. In fact, several states had alredy legalized abortion and it was no longer the case that a woman wanting one had to resort to back alley abortionists. Had things been left to develop naturally, you'd likely have wound up with a regime where the Blue States mostly allowed abortion and the Red States mostly forbade, or severely limited, it. This would have allowed communities to reflect their own cultural values in their laws, rather than have imposed upon them the most extreme viewpoint, that mandated by the Court. This presumably would have greatly lessened the tensions that have riven society and made abortion one of the most difficult issues in the life of the nation. It will be argued, correctly, that this would have been inconvenient for people in Red States who wanted abortions, but having to travel a little to secure one is hardly an unreasonable burden and, presumably, the many women's organizations that lobby on the issue would have been more than happy to help such women deal with their transportation difficulties.

Considering how far we've moved towards this kind of regime anyway, we may be approaching the time when the Court will be able to reverse its unfortunate ruling in Roe without even disrupting society too much. At such a time, places like California and NY and other liberal states will likely become havens for those seeking abortions and, over time, you'd expect them to attract those people whose world views require abortion. Meanwhile, many (most) Southern and Western states, which retain more traditional and religiously-based cultures, will attract peoples who share a belief in classic Judeo-Christian morality. This may tend to exacerbate the cultural divide that already exists in America, but it will give people some greater level of comfort that their local laws conform to their local cultural customs and beliefs. It should also restore some degree of the community
cohesion and coherence that we've lost in recent years. That seems like a good thing.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


The importance of being Balint (Paul Craig Roberts, January 20, 2003, townhall.com)
Two hundred years after the American Founding came a defender of our Constitution's principles, Balint Vazsonyi, who toiled in the tents of revival and rededication until he passed away on Jan. 17.

With nothing but hope and determination, Balint, a budding concert pianist, walked out of Soviet occupied Hungary with his mother and brother in 1956, crossing on foot through the mountains to Austria. [...]

Balint had a career as a concert pianist and recording artist, and as professor and dean of music. But as years rolled by, Balint grew increasingly concerned that American education was ceasing to pass on the principles and cultural wealth in which our success is based. Disturbed at the deracination of America, he resolved to do something about it.

Balint wrote an important book, "America's Thirty Years War," showing the source of the alien ideas that are subverting our culture and society.

He became a newspaper columnist, and he and Barbara organized a cross-country bus tour of state capitals to renew enthusiasm for the Constitution.

Balint's view was that America is his country, and he was not going to lose it because citizens neglected its principles.

In his writings and lectures, Balint stressed "the Four Points of the Compass." These are: the rule of law, equality before the law, which means individual -- not group -- rights, the security of property and a common American identity.

Balint realized that multiculturalism, hyphenated-Americanisms, racial quotas, redistribution, and rule by unaccountable regulators are erasing
American principles and turning our country into something the Founding Fathers designed the Constitution to prevent.

On Saturday, in Miami, the Wife and I met a shuttle bus driver. She spoke English with an odd Spanish/Eastern European accent and it turned out she'd come to Florida from Hungary thirteen years ago, then learned Spanish and English. She had American flags all over her van and a license plate holder that said "United We Stand" and she avowed to all us passengers on the bus that she loved this country. We'd just come from our hotel room, where all you saw on television was protesters denouncing America. I immediately thought of her fellow Hungarian emigre, Balint Vazsonyi, who I'd seen some years ago on Booknotes---BOOKNOTES: America's 30 Years War: Who Is Winning by Balint Vazsonyi (C-SPAN, September 27, 1998)--and who shared (or, as I thought then, shares) her fierce love of America:
BRIAN LAMB: Balint Vazsonyi, author of America's 30 Years War, what's your book about?

Mr. BALINT VAZSONYI : It is about America's 30-years war, which began roughly 30 years ago and produced what I perhaps should call a national divide underneath a thin layer of countless issues--a national divide over dimension, over magnitude that this country perhaps has not experienced since the time of the Civil War.

LAMB: Why do you think this is so?

Mr. VAZSONYI: Because when I first arrived here about 40 years ago, it seemed to me that most Americans agreed on most basic things--I would almost go as far as to say on all basic things. There were all sorts of differences, healthy differences, about the ways America's principles should be applied to the issues of the day, but there was no question about America's basic principles.

And roughly 30 years ago I began to notice a split and a growing number of Americans who no longer believed in those principles. Andtoday we have arrived at a time when I think it's fair to say that certain of our fellow Americans think of this country, this society, as the most successful in the history of mankind and believe that the reason for that success is to be found in America's founding principles. Others believe that it's really the shortcomings of America that make up our relevant history, and therefore those principles need to be replaced. And what the book explains in a much broader and deeper context is how the second group looks to the only known alternative, which is the European Socialist model.

LAMB: What's your favorite thing about the United States that you've found?

Mr. VAZSONYI: The people, I think without any question. I don't know what magic and what incredible inspiration led the founders to the point where they laid the foundations of this society the way they did. But the result is that people have come here from all over the world, from countries where, as we know, people are not particularly nice to one another and pretty bad things happen.

Now those biologically same people, identical people, come here, sign on to these, well, if I may say, articles of incorporation, if I may so refer to the Constitution and the Declaration. And somehow they become different people, people who know how to live and work with one another. And that really was what hit me when I first arrived. Also, of course--and this is an important part of it--the relationship between government and the governed, which is something that, of course, many people have written about and is basic. But, you see, growing up in Europe, you get used to government as--acting as the possessor of power. And here, I found out what it is when the government is public servant, but that's a matter of the past.

There, in a nutshell, is the promise and the peril of immigration. For so long as we share a set of values as Americans and are willing to inculcate them in all who come here, we can make them different peoples than they were in the countries they came from. And, so long as that is true, we should welcome them. But to the extent that we lose our commitment to those values ourselves and buy into the nonsensical proposition that we need to preserve the values they bring with them from benighted lands, such immigrants are a danger. But, note, they are a danger to us to exactly the degree that we are a danger to ourselves. The real threat lies not with them but with us. Mr. Vazsonyi understood that well and articulated it beautifully: our loss is great.

-Center for the Anmerican Founding
-OBIT: Cancer claims columnist/pianist Vazsonyi (Robert Stacy McCain, 1/18/03, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


The Dawning Bush Establishment?: Republican dominance may be in the offing for a long time. (Robert L. Bartley, January 20, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
Prior to the Great Depression, the American Establishment was rooted in big business, led by the House of Morgan. But Franklin D. Roosevelt managed to tag the old Establishment with the Depression, and with World War II success managed to build his own. Junior officials such as [Dean] Acheson, rapidly promoted on the basis of merit, emerged self-confident and able to retain respect despite failures like the Korean War. We have just recently had a spate of books celebrating the greatest generation, six wise men and the like.

These thoughts come to mind by what seems to me a radically different political and social texture since the last elections. Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress and the other two branches of government, Democrats have to fear not only losing elections. They have to fear that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and, yes, Karl Rove could conceivably consolidate a new Establishment, dominating the next half-century as FDR's progeny dominated the last one. [...]

[T]he believing, conservative and Republican denominations are prospering, while tepid, liberal and Democratic mainstream denominations are dwindling away. Academia, another traditional transmission belt, is now dominated by radicals; even here there are stirrings, with Harvard President Larry Summers backing the military, and Columbia University revoking a Bancroft Prize given to politically correct but fraudulent scholarship. In any event, society has thrown up academic alternatives such as Heritage, Hoover, AEI and Cato.

On the political front, Democrats have a tough row asserting moral authority after Bill Clinton, and after winning Senate seats by bending the rules in New Jersey and avoiding a recount in South Dakota. They face foreboding 2004 arithmetic. Republicans who won Texas get to redistrict House seats there. In the Senate, the GOP will defend 15 mostly safe seats while the Democrats defend 19, eight of which are in states Bush carried by five points or more. Filibusters against the Bush tax plan or judicial nominees are only likely to dig Democrats further into the moral and political hole, especially if they take place in the context of war in Iraq and confrontation with North Korea.

There are no sure things in life, and President Bush could still come a cropper either abroad or on the home front. A new Establishment remains only a possibility. But remember that for all the Texas twang George Bush is an aristocrat--Yale, Skull and Bones, Harvard, a presidential son. And that FDR, castigated as "a traitor to his class," showed what can happen when an aristocrat turns against the old establishment. We may be witnessing not only a change in political power but, perhaps more important, a change in moral authority.

One of the most important things that would have to change, in order for this to become a reality, is that President Bush and company would have to convey a sense of mission to young conservatives, that they can change the world by taking over government, academics, media, and the clergy, the same way the previous generation--motivated in large part by Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign--took over Republican politics. Nothing would be better for the long term health of the culture than a massive influx of conservatives into academia and the media, who view it as their mission to deconstruct the damage done by the 60s radicals to our colleges and the post-Watergate generation to our news media in particular.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


-REVIEW: of Johnny Cash, American IV: The Man Comes Around: Johnny Cash enriches the formula honed on his first three American Recordings with an instant classic. (Daniel Goslee, 01.15.03, Flak)
When Johnny Cash teamed up with famed rock/rap producer Rick Rubin on his first release for American Recordings, no one knew what to expect. After the first outing consisting only of Cash and his guitar, they experimented with a backup band. That was dropped for the third, which found the right production groove. Now the public can expect unconventional covers, reworkings of traditional songs and stripped-down originals delivered with the occasional help of celebrity collaborators. The trick for Cash and Rubin, then, is to proceed in the same style without it becoming played out.

Where earlier American sessions included memorable covers of Beck and Tom Petty, this album's standout cover is Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt." Cash's rendition is bare-bones; a barely audible guitar and piano back Cash as he nearly talks his way through Trent Reznor's words, and "Hurt" becomes an old man's deathbed speech on guilt. That is, until the track swells up into an epic declaration of regret.

This collection, however, does add a new element to the formula behind the American Recordings: the instant Johnny Cash classic. All the previous efforts included original material from Cash the songwriter, but nothing outstanding. With The Man Comes Around's title track, Cash adds another masterpiece to his catalog that can live beside such landmarks as "I Walk the Line" and "Folsum Prison Blues."

One of the most remarkable box sets to come out in recent years was Johnny Cash's three-cd Love God Murder, which made one realize that not only did he have enough material for a separate 16-song disc on each topic but that nearly every tune on each was a classic.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


The Four Horsemen of Bush Economic Policy (Fred Barnes, Winter 2003, The International Economy)
Glenn Hubbard is the most influential chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers in two decades. His job is to provide economic analysis for the White House, primarily on domestic issues such as taxes and jobs. The sudden popularity of eliminating the taxability of stock dividends--that's Hubbard's doing. As a young U.S. Treasury Department official ten years ago, he circulated a fifty-page study advocating the change, and he followed up this year by prevailing on President Bush and his senior aides to support the idea. And Hubbard was also active in feeding information and analysis to the presidential commission that looked at one of Bush's pet projects, reforming Social Security and creating individual investment accounts.

But Hubbard, 44, has stretched his role far beyond tinkering with the tax code and overhauling the pension system. When an international bankruptcy system was being talked up at Treasury and the International Monetary Fund, he crafted his own proposal for a new global arrangement. He also weighed in with his take on bailouts for Brazil and Argentina. Hubbard, a free-market economist from Columbia University, "is an impressive guy and his views are respected across the range," says a top Bush assistant.

That's putting it mildly. Hubbard exemplifies what's happened to economic policymaking in the Bush Administration. From the start, Bush's national security team--Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA director George Tenet--have performed dazzlingly. But the economic team, led by Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and National Economic Council chief Larry Lindsey, stumbled. O'Neill was out of sync ideologically with Bush, and Lindsey failed to run the NEC to Bush's satisfaction.

The result: little-known officials quietly stepped up to fill the gap. Josh Bolten, 48, the deputy White House chief of staff, took charge of the underperforming economic apparatus and the task of sharpening ideas for the president's consideration. Hubbard emerged as a major player in administration policy circles. At Treasury, the undersecretary for domestic affairs, Peter Fisher, a 46-year-old Democrat, became the person the White House relies on. And Karl Rove, Bush's top adviser on politics and practically everything else, has involved himself as a kind of overseer of economic policy. "Everything crosses his desk," says an economic aide.

We hear good things about Mr. Hubbard in particular, but even more important than who these guys are is that the White House, by putting Rove on the case, has demonstrated a welcome seriousness about getting their economic house of cards in order.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


The other side of China's success story (Financial Times, January 19 2003)
[A]ttempts to stimulate the economy have succeeded up to a point - national growth has remained above 7 per cent a year for the past several years. But, as Xiang Huaicheng, finance minister, warned last April, the government cannot continue to finance growth through deficit spending indefinitely.

When the tap is turned off, the impact along much of the coast will be offset by continuing foreign investment and export operations. But elsewhere, much of the country will find the going tough. In fact, many places already are. Thanks to the huge state-spending binge of the past five years, many second-tier cities, including many provincial capitals, have heavily over- invested in everything from near-empty highways and surplus bridges to speculative high-rise properties and grandiose multi-storey stations that dispatch a train or two a day.

They are also home to a big part of China's surplus manufacturing capacity - again, much of it caused by over-investment. This has been a prime cause of the deflation that has plagued China since 1998. It has also created tens of thousands of money-losing companies propped up by bank loans - in turn adding to the bad debts of China's banks, now standing at 40-50 per cent of all loans.

These are just the most noticable effects. It's hard to imagine things won't get much worse as an isolated authoritarian bureaucracy continues to make its inevitable bad decisions. Add in the coming demographic crises, the centrifugal forces that any easing of political control will unleash, and potential military confrontations with vastly superior militaries like India's and Taiwan's/ours and you've a society headed for disaster.

January 19, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


Abortion Rights are Pro-life: Roe v. Wade Anniversary Still Finds Defense of the Right to Abortion Compromised. (Leonard Peikoff, Jan. 17, 2002, AynRand.org)
Thirty years after Roe V. Wade, no one defends the right to abortion in fundamental, moral terms, which is why the pro-abortion rights forces are on the defensive. [...]

If someone capriciously puts to death his cat or dog, that can well be reprehensible, even immoral, but it is not the province of the state to interfere. The same is true of an abortion which puts to death a far less-developed growth in a woman's body. [...]

Abortions are private affairs and often involve painfully difficult decisions with life-long consequences. But, tragically, the lives of the parents are completely ignored by the anti-abortionists. Yet that is the essential issue. In any conflict it's the actual, living persons who count, not the mere potential of the embryo.

Being a parent is a profound responsibility—financial, psychological, moral—across decades. Raising a child demands time, effort, thought and money. It's a full-time job for the first three years, consuming thousands of hours after that—as caretaker, supervisor, educator and mentor. To a woman who does not want it, this is a death sentence.

The anti-abortionists' attitude, however, is: "The actual life of the parents be damned! Give up your life, liberty, property and the pursuit of your own happiness."

Sentencing a woman to sacrifice her life to an embryo is not upholding the "right-to-life."

The anti-abortionists' claim to being "pro-life" is a classic Big Lie. You cannot be in favor of life and yet demand the sacrifice of an actual, living individual to a clump of tissue.

Anti-abortionists are not lovers of life—lovers of tissue, maybe. But their stand marks them as haters of real human beings.

This would be almost amusing if he weren't serious, but among the points he makes here are the following:

(1) There should be no legislation to protect animals from abuse.

(2) Morality is not a reasonable basis for laws. Period.

(3) Abortions, which, at a minmum, include two parents, a fetus, and medical staff, are a private matter between mother and clump.

(4) Being a parent is a "profound responsibility" but becoming pregnant imposes no responsibilities.

(5) Requiring people to take responsibility for the actions that lead to preganancy is a "death sentence".

There are plenty of morally serious libertarians--see for instance our friend Perry de Havilland--but, for the most part, the Objectivists are not among their number. Theirs is a philosophy of monstrous selfishness. To read this essay is to see the wisdom of Whittaker Chambers in his review of one of Ayn Rand's novels:

Atlas Shrugged can be called a novel only by devaluing the term. It is a massive tract for the times. Its story merely serves Miss Rand to get the customers inside the tent. And as a soapbox for delivering her Message. The Message is the thing. It is a sum, a forthright philosophic materialism. Upperclassmen might incline to sniff and say that the author has, with vast effort, contrived a simple materialist system, one, intellectually, at about the state of the oxcart, though without mastering the principle of the wheel. Like any consistent materialism, this one begins by rejecting God, religion, original sin, etc. etc. (This book's aggressive atheism and rather unbuttoned "higher morality," which chiefly outrage some readers, are, in fact, secondary ripples, and result inevitably from its underpinning premises.) Thus, Randian Man, like Marxian Man, is made the center of a godless world.

At that point, in any materialism, the main possibilities open up to Man. 1) His tragic fate becomes, without God, more tragic and much lonelier. In general, the tragedy deepens according to the degree of pessimism or stoicism with which he conducts his "hopeless encounter between human questioning and the silent universe." Or, 2) Man's fate ceases to be tragic at all. Tragedy is bypassed by the pursuit of happiness. Tragedy is henceforth pointless. Henceforth man's fate, without God, is up to him. And to him alone. His happiness, is strict materialist terms, lies with his own workaday hands and ingenious brain. His happiness becomes, in Miss Rand's words, "the moral purpose of his life." Here occurs a little rub whose effects are just as observable in a free enterprise system, which is in practice materialist (whatever else it claims or supposes itself to be), as they would be under an atheist Socialism, if one were ever to deliver that material abundance that all promise. The rub is that the pursuit of happiness, as an end in itself, tends automatically, and widely, to be replaced by the pursuit of pleasure with a consequent general softening of the fibers of will, intelligence on "man as a heroic being" "with productive achievement as his noblest activity." For, if man's "heroism" (some will prefer to say: "human dignity") no longer derives from God, or is not a function of that godless integrity which was a root of Nietzsche's anguish, then Man becomes merely the most consuming of animals, with glut as the condition of his happiness. [...]

Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal. In addition, the mind, which finds this one natural to it, shares other characteristics of its type. 1) It consistently mistakes raw force for strength, and the rawer the force, the more reverent the posture of the mind before it. 2) It supposes itself to be the bringer of a final revelation. Therefore, resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final (because, the author would say, so reasonable) can only be willfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and, in fact, right reason itself enjoins them. From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from
painful necessity, commanding: " To the gas chambers— go!"

It's particularly revealing that Mr. Peikoff bases his case for abortion on the way caring for children may interfere with a parent's pursuit of material happiness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


Baker makes switch (THE SUN HERALD, Jan. 18, 2003)
State Rep. Larry Baker of Senatobia, who was elected to the House as a Democrat in 1999, has qualified to run for a second term as a Republican.

"I have been a conservative all my life and have pretty well gone with the Republican Party on most votes," said Baker, 63, a retired officer with the Mississippi Army National Guard and a cattleman.

Baker is the fourth lawmaker to switch parties this year after Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck made the move last December.

The Mississippi House now has 83 Democrats, 36 Republicans and three independents. The Senate has 31 Democrats and 21 Republicans.

These folks are even switching to the minority, the rarest form of political honesty.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


The Crisis Last Time (William J. Perry and Ashton B. Carter, January 19, 2003, NY Times)
Fifty years ago the Korean War ended not with a treaty but with a truce. Just how precarious that truce can be is being demonstrated on the Korean Peninsula--much as it was demonstrated in June 1994, when the United States came to the brink of war with North Korea.

That crisis is forever ingrained in our memories because we were personally involved in preparations for a possible military strike on North Korea's nuclear reactor complex at Yongbyon with conventional weapons, and for the war that could well have followed--a war that would have been disastrous for all sides. Today's crisis is eerily similar to that of 1994. But what happened four years later may be just as pertinent as the Bush administration thinks through its options now. [...]

In the end, we recommended that the United States, South Korea and Japan all proceed to talk to North Korea--but with a coordinated message and negotiating strategy.

The other night on CNN, Ken Adelman debated Clifford May about a more radical option: Mr. Adelman says that we should just announce, or leak the news, that we're withdrawing our troops, because S. Korea doesn't want them there anymore:
Long-term dependency yields dysfunctional relationships and warped perspectives. The incoming South Korean president dishonestly poses as an "honest broker" between us - their saviors and current protectors - and North Korea - their invaders.

But why this notion of beginning to withdraw American troops from Korea? Especially from a hawk, like me?

Because beyond Korea, it would send a timely message on Iraq, and transform the East Asia region. It could break today's dysfunctional paradigm of a still-dependent but increasingly-resentful South Korea, a duplicitous China, a free-riding Japan, and a you-handle-the-messy-stuff Russia.

One would think we might even go a step further and add that we're reviewing whether the Korean Penninsula is a strategic interest of the United States and whether it might not be more appropriate for S. Korea, Japan, Russia and China to handle the North Koreans. The worst that might happen is that North Korea would attack and take over the South, but they'd be stretched so thin they'd fall apart rather quickly (just as the USSR would have been unable to maintain control over Western Europe had we withdrawn after WWII). On the other hand, as Mr. Adelman suggests, it might teach our allies a salutary lesson about who their enemies truly are.1
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM


Edwards faces skepticism at home: Most Tar Heels will need convincing that the Democratic senator is ready for the White House (JOHN WAGNER, January 18, 2003, Raleigh News and Observer)
More North Carolina voters disapprove of Sen. John Edwards' White House ambitions than approve, and George W. Bush would soundly defeat Edwards in his home state if the 2004 presidential election were held today, according to a new poll conducted for The News & Observer.

Underscoring the sales job Edwards has ahead, the poll found that 47 percent of active Tar Heel voters disapprove of the senator's decision to seek the presidency, compared with 39 percent who approve. The remaining 14 percent were unsure. [...]

If the 2004 election were held today, the poll found, Bush would win handily over Edwards in North Carolina, 56 percent to 40 percent. That is a slightly larger margin than Bush enjoyed in his win over Al Gore in the state in 2000.

Continuing the worst campaign roll out in history, John Edwards, the sole rationale for whose campaign (other than his Dan Quayleish good looks) is his theoretical appeal in the South, turns out to be loathed in his own state. It was widely speculated at the time of his decision that he was moving up because he doubted he could be re-elected and this certainly seems to confirm that theory.
Posted by Stephen Judd at 7:18 AM


First Great Triumph: How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power by Warren Zimmermann (C-SPAN, January 19, 2003, 8 & 11pm)
Americans like to think they have no imperial past. In fact, the United States became an imperial nation within five short years a century ago (1898-1903), exploding onto the international scene with the conquest of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, and (indirectly) Panama. How did the nation become a player in world politics so suddenly-and what inspired the move toward imperialism in the first place?

The renowned diplomat and writer Warren Zimmermann seeks answers in the lives and relationships of five remarkable figures: the hyper-energetic Theodore Roosevelt, the ascetic naval strategist Alfred T. Mahan, the bigoted and wily Henry Cabot Lodge, the self-doubting moderate Secretary of State John Hay, and the hard-edged corporate lawyer turned colonial administrator Elihu Root. Faced with difficult choices, these extraordinary men, all close friends, instituted new political and diplomatic policies with intermittent audacity, arrogance, generosity, paternalism, and vision.

January 18, 2003

Posted by Stephen Judd at 5:11 PM


Recalling a Storied Trek to Parts Unknown (TIMOTHY EGAN, January 18, 2003, NY Times)
It was on Jan. 18, 1803, that Jefferson sent a confidential message to Congress asking for $2,500 for an expedition across North America. The trip began in earnest in May 1804, as the Corps ventured up the Missouri River, looking for its headwaters in the Rockies, and ended 28 months later in St. Louis, after the explorers had reached the Pacific and returned.

The basic story — a journey hatched by men of the Enlightenment who were rescued time and again by people who had never heard of the new nation on the eastern shore — continues to fascinate. Historians say more was known about the moon before Neil Armstrong touched down on the Sea of Tranquility in 1969 than was known about the land between the Mississippi and the Pacific in 1803.

When the expedition was conceived, the West was mostly French and Spanish territory, inhabited by hundreds of Indian nations. With the Louisiana Purchase later in 1803, Jefferson doubled the size of the American territory, paying $15 million to relieve Napoleon's France of what would become all or part of 13 American states.

It's easy to forget what a young nation we are and how far we've come. Manifest Destiny may have led us to secure a nation from sea to sea, but does anyone (including the protesters on the mall) think we seek more territory for ourselves?
Posted by Stephen Judd at 6:50 AM


RUSTIC TWO-POTATO AND GREENS "PIZZA" (Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table, MPR)
Generously serves 2 as a main dish; 4 as a side dish

Olive oil for cookie sheet
2 large cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 large chard leaves, trimmed of stalks and chopped
or 2 generous handfuls baby greens or baby spinach
2 medium redskin potatoes, sliced 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick
1 small yam, sliced 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
2-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
Generous pinch hot red pepper flakes
Shredded zest of 2 medium oranges
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Asiago cheese, shredded

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Generously oil a large cookie sheet. In a
big bowl toss together all ingredients except cheese, seasoning to taste
with salt and pepper.

2. Spread potato mixture over cookie sheet. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until
greens are crisp and potatoes tender when pierced with a knife. Sprinkle
with cheese and bake one more minute.

3. Serve hot, scooping potatoes and greens from the pan with a spatula. The
"pizza" can be reheated.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 6:49 AM


Courtesy by Hilaire Belloc (Writer's Almanac)
Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my Walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is in Courtesy.

On Monks I did in Storrington fall,
They took me straight into their Hall;
I saw Three Pictures on a wall,
And Courtesy was in them all.

The first the Annunciation;
The second the Visitation;
The third the Consolation,
Of God that was Our Lady's Son.

The first was of St. Gabriel;
On Wings a-flame from Heaven he fell;
And as he went upon one knee
He shone with Heavenly Courtesy.

Our Lady out of Nazareth rode -
It was Her month of heavy load;
Yet was her face both great and kind,
For Courtesy was in Her Mind.

The third it was our Little Lord,
Whom all the Kings in arms adored;
He was so small you could not see
His large intent of Courtesy.

Our Lord, that was Our Lady's Son,
Go bless you, People, one by one;
My Rhyme is written, my work is done.

January 17, 2003

Posted by Stephen Judd at 7:39 PM


Trade Deficit Swells to Record $40.1B(Jeannine Aversa, January 17, 2003, Associated Press Writer)
To combat the deficit, the Bush administration says the United States should seek to boost American exports by attacking foreign trade barriers, rather than raising barriers to imports coming into the country.

On Wednesday the administration announced it had cleared away the last hurdle to a free trade agreement with Singapore, wrapping up a deal a month after a similar one with Chile.

The administration hopes these agreements, which must be approved by Congress, will serve as a springboard to an even bigger prize, a free trade agreement covering 34 nations in the Western Hemisphere.

And here I thought the Bush administration was a protectionist, tariff-loving bunch.

Posted by Stephen Judd at 7:29 PM


The history of the Fed: The biggest mistake the Fed ever made (Allan H. Meltzer, January 10, 2003, Times of London)
As the world economy moved toward deflation and depression. The Federal Reserve¹s principal concern was inflation. To contemporary economists, this concern is puzzling because the price level fell slowly from 1927 to 1929, and then more rapidly.

Federal Reserve officials did not base their concern about inflation on price changes or sluggish money growth. To most of them, rising stock prices and growing use of borrowing to purchase shares was all the evidence of inflation they needed. Their interpretation relied on the real bills doctrine: the belief that credit extended for common stocks, real estate, government securities or commodity speculation created inflation because the additional credit did not give rise to additional output.

Deflationary policies contributed to the start of the 1929 recession. When the Federal Reserve raised the New York discount rate in August 1929, part of the world was in recession. Although it was not known at the time, the United States economy was at a peak. The Great Depression had started.

There is no single cause of the Great Depression or a unique monetary shock. A series of financial shocks followed: bank failures, Britain¹s departure from the gold standard followed by other departures, and financial failures in the United States. Most Federal Reserve officials favoured a passive policy. They viewed the Depression as the inevitable consequence of excessive speculation in stocks financed by credit creation. On their view, the proper response was to purge the economic system of its excesses.

If the Federal Reserve had maintained monetary growth, the country and the world would have avoided years of depression. Failure to act during the Great Depression was the Federal Reserve¹s largest error, but far from its only one. Failure to expand can be explained as the result of prevailing beliefs about the inevitability of a downturn following the stock market boom.

What's most frightening about this is that Alan Greenspan, who's widely considered a financial genius, did exactly the same thing in the late 90s, driving the U.S. economy into recession by cranking up interest rates to combat a non-existent inflation.
Posted by Stephen Judd at 7:27 PM


Yeah, yeah, minister (Sydney Morning Herald, October 19, 2002)
In 1979, when Gordon Gano was 15 years old, he got on a plane. He'd never done that before. He travelled from his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Los Angeles. He'd never been there before. He was booked into a nice hotel. He'd never stayed in one before. He ordered a hamburger from room service and was taken aback when it came with a flower on the tray. And then he was summoned to another room where he shook hands with a sandy-haired man he had seen in a few movies. The man's name was Robert Redford, and Gano was auditioning for the role of the suicidal teenager in Ordinary People.

"I remember Robert Redford asked me, 'What do you want to do with your life?' And I'm thinking, well, if somebody's at the point where they're auditioning for Robert Redford, they're going to say, 'I want to act in movies, maybe yours, right now.' But I'd been writing all these songs, so I said, 'Well, I like acting, but what I really want to do is play music and make records and tour."

A guy called Timothy Hutton got the part. He won an Academy Award for it. Redford may be interested to know that the kid who missed out went on to fulfil his own ambition.

Gano was not your average teenager. For a few months in high school, he would turn up every Monday morning wearing a bath robe, just for the hell of it. At one school ceremony, where students were asked to perform on stage, Gano decided to play guitar and sing his own composition, entitled Gimme the Car. By the time he got out the lines "I'm gonna pick her up, I'm gonna get her drunk, I'm gonna make her cry, I'm gonna get her high," Gano found himself suspended from attending classes.

If the teachers had listened more closely to a line further along in the song, they may have understood the pint-sized teenager a little better. The line went like this: "How do I explain personal pain?" That's the question Gano's been trying to answer for more than 20 years with the Violent Femmes.

Don't you really need to move past teen angst when you're pushing forty?
Posted by Stephen Judd at 10:50 AM


Let's Get Ready to Rumble!: Al Sharpton gears up to take on the Dems. (Garance Franke-Ruta, February 1, 2003, American Prospect)
The subject this weekend in late December: how the current retrenchment on civil-rights issues is leading to the end of America's second Reconstruction, which, says Sharpton, ran from 1965 to 1988, when it reached its pinnacle with the Rev. Jesse Jackson's second run for the presidency. But although Sharpton mentions deposed Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and newly installed Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) -- who Sharpton says has agreed to a sit-down talk on
race relations -- the reverend is oddly silent on the subject of President George W. Bush. Instead, he saves most of his considerable ire for the Democratic Party and his bete blanche, the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).

"They don't call themselves the Dixiecrats now, they call themselves the DLC, the Democratic Leadership Council," he thunders to his largely gray-haired audience of about 100. "Our fathers had to fight Jim Crow. We got to fight his son, James Crow, Esq. Speaks a little better, dresses a little nicer, got a little more education. But it's the same agenda. We're not looking for better slave masters -- we're looking for freedom!" The audience members nod their heads in agreement and murmur assent. The accusation that the DLC is the second coming of the Dixiecrats was widely made by Jackson beginning in 1985, but in the immediate wake of the Lott scandal, calling someone a Dixiecrat has acquired new weight, resonance -- and power.

Power is what Sharpton is after, and he's not afraid to admit it. He wants a seat at the national Democratic Party table. He wants to sit among the decision makers, allocating funds, plotting policy, bringing along a contingent of his own. It's one of the reasons he abandoned the jogging suits and gold medallions he wore for so many years. It's why he breakfasts regularly at the posh Regency Hotel in Manhattan, where he can hobnob with the rich and powerful and have chance encounters with other presidential contenders, such as Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.). And it's why he hopscotches the globe and keeps shots of himself with such internationally known figures as Cuban President Fidel Castro and U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell on prominent display in his office.

Ever attentive to symbolism, Sharpton decided to file papers with the Federal Election Commission announcing his presidential exploratory committee on Jan. 21, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He won't formally declare his candidacy until sometime later this year. But for more than a year now he has crisscrossed America, giving stump speeches at churches and universities (two of his expected bases of support) and getting the lay of the land in visits to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina (the first three states to hold presidential primaries and caucuses). Sharpton's platform, still incomplete, is a traditionally left-liberal one of the sort that's rarely seen on the national stage these days but commonly espoused within the confines of New York City. He's adopted a modified version of unsuccessful 2002 New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate H. Carl McCall's reinvestment platform, calling for $250 billion in federal and pension funds to be poured into roads, bridges, schools and other
infrastructure projects. He's strongly opposed to the death penalty, racial profiling, war in Iraq and any kind of unilateral U.S. intervention abroad. He's pro-choice, pro-welfare and pro-affirmative action, and he also supports gay rights.

October saw the publication of Sharpton's second book, Al on America (co-written with Karen Hunter), in which he declared, "I am running for president to finally put the issues concerning most Americans onto the front burner." But, he wrote, "More than a matter of policy, this run for the president is a matter of identity." It's a tough formula to follow: Sharpton is trying to combine populism with an identity politics that has often proven divisive.

If no one like Dennis Kucinich runs, no true "progressive", then where else does the Left have to go but the Rev. And if he's at the debates raising issues like abortion, gay rights, and affirmative action, all the other guys have to make the right noises. To a degree which must give Terry McAuliffe nightmares, Al Sharpton has a chance to shape this campaign.
Posted by Stephen Judd at 10:48 AM


An image of aloofness shadows Kerry (Brian C. Mooney, 1/16/2003, Boston Globe)
Part of his image as an ambitious pol on the make dates to the early 1970s, when Kerry, a Vietnam War hero who became a national leader of the antiwar movement, shopped around three congressional districts. In a matter of months in 1972, Kerry lived in Waltham, was in the process of buying a house in Worcester, and suddenly settled in Lowell, running for an open seat in the 5th Congressional District. He won a wild 10-way Democratic primary before losing in the general election to Paul Cronin, a Republican.

After being elected lieutenant governor in 1982 and senator two years later, Kerry was commonly viewed as a lone wolf in Bay State politics, with little or no aptitude for the small talk and stroking of everyday politics.

When he hosted the annual St. Patrick's Day breakfast and gibe fest in South Boston, then-Senate president William M. Bulger would observe: ''There's JFK,'' using the shared monogram of John F. Kennedy, an early Kerry idol. ''Just For Kerry,'' Bulger would deadpan, twisting the skewer. [...]

Back on the political circuit that spring [1996], Kerry was approached at one party by a local pol introducing himself as ''Butchy Cataldo,'' a former state legislator from Revere. He was actually William G. Reinstein, a longtime state representative and former mayor from Revere.

''Kerry reacted with gusto, slapping him on the back and telling `Butchy' how good it was to see him again,'' the Globe reported.

Had he known the jokester's true identity, Kerry might have been less enthusiastic. After three decades in politics, Reinstein was best known for surviving three trials before his acquittal on charges he conspired to accept kickbacks on a construction project.

The prank came to symbolize Kerry's problems with rank-and-file party officials. Many had no relationship with him; others saw him as an opportunist who courted them and moved on.

The more you read about these guys the more certain it seems that Hillary
will get into the race.
Posted by Stephen Judd at 10:46 AM


I'm Linda, Fly Me: The real reason Tom Daschle didn't run for president (Doug Ireland, JANUARY 17 - 23, 2003, LA Weekly)
The national press corps didn't bother to tell you why Tom Daschle, the Democrats' Senate leader, decided at the 11th hour not to run for president: In the end, he calculated that he couldn't survive scrutiny of his persistent service to the clients of his wife. Linda Daschle has been one of the airline industry's top lobbyists for two
decades - when she wasn't busy running the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which explains why, just 11 days after the 9/11 attacks, her husband rushed through the Democratic Senate, which he controlled, the $15 billion bailout for the airline industry, a notorious taxpayer rip-off. [...]

A particularly odiferous episode involved charges that the senator and his wife had tried to sabotage safety inspections of an air-charter firm owned by Murl Bellew, a Daschle family friend who taught Tom how to fly. The scandal erupted and triggered an official investigation when a Bellew small plane chartered by the Indian Health Service crashed in North Dakota, killing the pilot and three doctors en route to an Indian-reservation clinic. Forest Service inspectors had been arguing that Bellew's firm should be banned from getting government contracts because the operation had been unsafe for years. Senator Daschle obligingly pushed legislation taking the Forest Service out of the
business of inspecting small-plane carriers, and senior FAA bureaucrats said Linda had also tried to submarine a proposal to train Forest Service inspectors to conduct FAA investigations. An FAA inspector reported a cover-up: Documents showing the Daschles' assiduous efforts to minimize inspections of Bellew's planes were shredded by FAA officials under Linda's thumb. While an I.G. report failed to find Linda guilty of any lawbreaking, there's an old saying in Washington: The scandal isn't what's illegal, the real scandal is what's legal.

It's a sign of how lazy, blinkered and source-coddling the Beltway's national press corps is when one considers that none of all this made the dissections of the senator's presidential withdrawal - even though a tough piece by the Washington Monthly's Stephanie Mencimer in the January 2002 issue laying out much of it was still on newsstands. As she observed, "It doesn't take Lee Atwater to see how Mrs. Daschle's professional life might play out in a nasty re-election or presidential campaign: "Sen. Daschle's wife lobbyist for nation's most dangerous airline," or "majority leader's wife lobbied to make airlines less safe?"

Linda Daschle has tried to pooh-pooh her obvious conflicts of interest as an influence peddler, telling The New York Times last August that the staff members she lobbies "are pretty junior and may or may not know who I am"--a mind-boggling, risible assertion. But her senator/leader husband has always refused to make public his and his wife's tax returns, despite repeated press requests. As a presidential candidate, Tom Daschle could not have avoided giving the press a look at those returns - which would have spelled out just how much cash Linda brings in from her clients.

And that, children, was the ticking time bomb that would inevitably have exploded if the senator had sought the White House - and is the bottom-line reason he chose not to run."

Hopefully John Thune is taking notes.
Posted by Stephen Judd at 8:19 AM


More Than Good Intentions: Holding Fast to Faith in Free Will
(JOHN HORGAN, December 31, 2002, NY Times)
Free will is something I cherish. I can live with the idea of
science killing off God. But free will? That's going too far. And yet a
couple of books I've been reading lately have left me brooding over the possibility
that free will is as much a myth as divine justice.

The chief offender is The Illusion of Conscious Will, by Dr. Daniel M. Wegner, a psychologist at
Harvard. What makes Dr. Wegner's critique more effective than others
I've read over the years is that it is less philosophical than empirical,
drawing heavily upon recent research in cognitive science and neurology.

Dr. Wegner also carries out his vivisection of free will with a disturbing
cheerfulness, like a neurosurgeon joking as he cuts a patient's brain.

We think of will as a force, but actually, Dr. Wegner says, it is a feeling
‹ "merely a feeling," as he puts it ‹ of control over our actions. I think,
"I'm going to get up now," and when I do a moment later, I credit that
feeling with having been the instigating cause. But as we all know,
does not equal causation.

When neurologists make patients' limbs jerk by electrically zapping certain
regions of their brains, the patients often insist they meant to move that
arm, and they even invent reasons why. Neurologists call these erroneous,
post hoc explanations confabulations, but Dr. Wegner prefers the catchier
"intention inventions." He suggests that whenever we explain our acts as the
outcome of our conscious choice, we are engaging in intention invention,
because our actions actually stem from countless causes of which we are
completely unaware.

He cites experiments in which subjects pushed a button whenever they chose
while noting the time of their decision as displayed on a clock. The
subjects took 0.2 seconds on average to push the button after they decided
to do so. But an electroencephalograph monitoring their brain waves
revealed that the subjects' brains generated a spike of brain activity 0.3
seconds before they decided to push the button.

The meaning of these widely debated findings, Dr. Wegner says, is that our
conscious willing is an afterthought, which "kicks in at some point after
the brain has already started preparing for the action."

What's most interesting about the people who propound such theories is that
none of them actually believe them. For instance, imagine that you were
to walk up to Dr. Wegner and beat the living tar out of him and take his
money. Would he excuse your action, since you weren't acting under free
will, or would he have you arrested and sue you?
Posted by Stephen Judd at 8:18 AM


Year of the Blues: 2003
In 1903, on a lonely train platform in Tutwiler, Mississippi,
African American composer W.C. Handy encountered a man playing ³the
weirdest music I had ever heard," an unexpected sound that would soon expand
to become the most influential form of American roots music. And
although it reverberates to this day across the globe, both on its own and
through the many genres of which it is the foundation ‹ including jazz,
rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, soul, and hip-hop ‹ it is still known,
quite simply, as the blues.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of this encounter, and in
recognition of the blues¹ ongoing impact on music and cultural history, both
America and around the world, on September 5, 2002, the United States
Congress proclaimed the year 2003 as the ³Year of the Blues² (YOTB). The
year will be celebrated by bringing together blues events, multimedia
projects (radio and film series), concerts, festivals, and education
Spearheaded by Robert Santelli, CEO and Director of Seattle-based Experience
Music Project (EMP), and the Memphis-based Blues Foundation, the
Year of the Blues aims to raise awareness of the blues, its unique American
stories, and its influence in America and around the world. The Year of
the Blues is sponsored by Volkswagen.

The Fuhrermobile sponsors a tribute to black music.
Posted by Stephen Judd at 8:16 AM


Restoring Churches, Rekindling His Faith (Kate Murphy, January 14, 2003, NY Times)
Mr. Esparza started his business restoring the art in these
unusual churches in 1994 after a 20-year career as a hairdresser in Austin.
Known back then as Fast Eddie, he had clients like the golfer Lee Trevino;
Bob Denver, who played Gilligan on the television series "Gilligan's
Island"; and John Connally, the former Texas governor. Now 53, Mr. Esparza
said he sold his chain of three hair salons because he was not happy. "I
was living a little too fast, you know what I mean?" he said. "And it was
all make-believe stuff--your hair, how you look."

In an effort to change, he turned to church restoration. Even when he was a
wayward hairdresser, Mr. Esparza painted religious art. His salons were
decorated with the mystical images of Mary and Jesus that he started
painting while attending Catholic grade school. Religious publishers printed
some of his works on prayer cards and sold them in Catholic bookstores.

Mr. Esparza has also helped his older brother, Genaro, do metal work for
churches, like restoring tabernacles and chalices. During those jobs, Mr.
Esparza would sometimes offer to touch up the church's crucifix or maybe
replace the gold leaf that had worn off Mary's halo.

"That's how the whole thing got started," Mr. Esparza said of Sacrada
Familia, his Austin-based ecclesiastical restoration and design business.
commissions come mainly by word of mouth, and he has specifically sought
jobs restoring the richly painted churches in the south and central parts of
Texas. "Those churches are forgotten treasures," he said. "I want to be a
link with the past, to restore them and to do something that is

Ernesto Hernandez, director of the 1907 Chapel of the Incarnate Word in San
Antonio, where Mr. Esparza has restored wall paintings and sculpture,
said, "He's like this spiritual Don Quixote, traveling dusty country roads,
taking care of old chapels."

Mr. Esparza is hired despite his lack of formal training. "I study a lot and
call museums and universities to get their opinion," he said.

Though the Texas Historical Commission works only with degreed conservators
on its projects, the agency's director of architecture, Stanley O.
Graves, said: "There's a validity in continuing the folk art tradition in
those old churches. I see no reason why they shouldn't be maintained by
individuals in the community if they read up and know what they're doing."

But Mr. Esparza has a loftier goal than mere historic preservation. "When
they see the beauty of the church and 3-D figures looking at them--clutching
their chest, giving emotion--maybe they'll see the light," he said. After
all, it happened to him.

Somehow it seems like being called a "wayward hairdresser" should be actionable.

January 16, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM


-REVIEW: of About a Boy (James Bowman)
It may be taking things just the tiniest bit too far that it is by virtue of his interest in Marcus that Will is able to rise to be worthy of Rachel. Shouldn't his re-attachment to the mainland be its own reward? But the right note is struck when we see that even someone as selfish as he cannot quite turn away when Marcus comes to him for help when he fears that his mother may be entertaining suicidal thoughts again. Not that he doesn't try to. "I'm the guy who's really good at choosing trainers" - that is, sneakers - "or records," he says. "I can't help you with real things." But in the end he can, not only by confronting Fiona but also by saving him from his own "social suicide" at school when he volunteers to sing Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly," his mother's favorite song, for her sake at a school concert.

I liked just about everything about this film, right down to the canny choice of singing the worst song in recorded history as the form of social suicide that the boy faces. What's particularly striking though is that--as in Spiderman, Black Hawk Down, We Were Soldiers, the Two Towers, Ice Age, Stuart Little 2, etc.--what we have here is yet another movie from 2002 which is structured around the notion that the self is an insufficient measure of a man (or mastadon) and that you have to give of yourself, sometimes even sacrifice yourself, to those around you in order to be a worthwhile being. One doubts such a trend will endure, but it's heartening while it lasts.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


From George Babbitt to Warren Schmidt (George Will, Jan. 16, 2003, Jewish World Review)
In the novel on which "About Schmidt" is loosely based, Schmidt retires from a Manhattan law firm to Long Island affluence. So why (other than the fact that director Alexander Payne is from Omaha) turn Schmidt into a stereotypical midwesterner whose taciturnity is presumably symptomatic not of still waters running deep but only of a low emotional metabolism?

Because it is still very modern to suppose that people like Schmidt who do not "share their feelings" have none. And because it is very traditional to disparage life in the Midwest's small towns, such as Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" (1919). [...]

Some critics insist that the portraits of Winesburg, Gopher Prairie, Zenith and Schmidt's Omaha are "really" sympathetic.

Count me among those at least so far as Babbitt is concerned.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 PM


Abortion Rights Leader: Expect Filibuster Unless Next Supreme Court Nominee Shows Support (David Espo, Jan 16, 2003, The Associated Press)
The head of a prominent abortion rights organization on Thursday predicted a Senate filibuster if President Bush seeks to fill a future Supreme Court vacancy with a nominee who does not clearly support the court's 1973 ruling on the issue.

"The burden of proof is on any nominee," said Kate Michelman, the head of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "It's the burden of that nominee to address constitutional freedoms and whether they indeed believe the court was right in recognizing a woman's right to choose."

"I fully expect that pro-choice senators will conduct a filibuster against any Supreme Court nominee" that does not express support for abortion rights, she added in an interview.

Somewhere in the bowels of the White House, Karl Rove is drooling over the thought of the Democrats filibustering the first Hispanic nominee to the Court.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 PM


More Kids Receiving Psychiatric Drugs: Question of 'Why' Still Unanswered (Shankar Vedantam, January 14, 2003, Washington Post)
The number of American children being treated with psychiatric drugs has grown sharply in the past 15 years, tripling from 1987 to 1996 and showing no sign of slowing, researchers said yesterday.

A newly published study, the most comprehensive to date, found that by 1996, more than 6 percent of children were taking drugs such as Prozac, Ritalin and Risperdal, and the researchers said the trajectory continued to rise through 2000.

While the increase may partly reflect better diagnosis of mental illness in children, the authors said they fear that cost-saving techniques by insurance companies, marketing by the pharmaceutical industry and increased demands on parents and doctors may be driving the increase.

One issue that, as we've written, improbably enough unites Francis Fukuyama, Glenn Reynolds (Brains: Good, Bad, and Modified) and Leon Kass (see this piece by Mr. Kass) is the scary ethical implications of using biopharmaceuticals to control behavior. As Mr. Reynolds wrote:
You can control the brain chemistry of large, unconsenting populations with less sophisticated technologies if you get enough government involved. In fact, we're already doing that at the behest of many in public schools, for what else is it when children, usually boys, who in a prior age were simply regarded as unruly are now given Ritalin and other medications intended to change their classroom behavior by changing their brain chemistry? While professional doomsayers and White House committees study the ethics of cloning, millions of American children are--and this is not alarmism, but literal truth--having their minds controlled by the government, with surprisingly little debate. Why the disparity in attention?

Of course, the connection he refuses to make is that parents (as much as schools, or "government") who are willing to do this to make their kids pliable in the first place seem quite likely to bioengineer behaviors into them when given the chance.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 PM


Grueling Banjos: The Salt Miners dig up the high, lonesome sound of bluegrass (Eve Doster, 1/8/2003, Detroit Metro Times)
The Salt Miners thrive on a stage where distortion has no home and a bola tie is standard garb. And even though they all come from goodly rock 'n' roll beginnings, they have developed their very own version of the modest sound of bluegrass.

Long before Joey Ramone hummed adenoidal 'oh-oh's' and Johnny Thunders threw his head back in sexy abandon, bluegrass was the music that evoked primal surges. Bluegrass was the mother tongue of the rural working class.

"We were looking for a more direct line," says Tim Pak (formerly of Angry Red Planet), who wields the banjo and dobro for the Miners. "This was a natural progression."

"We all see the similarities of this music, to what we were doing before," explains Pak. "It is raw emotional music, straight from the gut."

A few weeks back we posted a story about Luther Wright and the Wrongs' cover of Pink Floyd's The Wall. In case you were wondering, it's terrific.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


The Fracturing of the West?: A new ideological challenge to liberal democracy 'transnational progressivism' is emerging from inside rather than outside Western civilisation. (John Fonte, Spring 2002, Policy)
The key concepts of transnational progressivism could be described as follows:

1. The ascribed group over the individual citizen. The key political unit is not the individual citizen, who forms voluntary associations and works with fellow citizens regardless of race, sex, or national origin, but the ascriptive group (racial, ethnic, or gender) into which one is born. This emphasis on race, ethnicity and gender leads to group consciousness and a de-emphasis on the individual's capacity for choice and for transcendence of ascriptive categories, joining with others beyond the confines of social class, tribe and gender to create a cohesive nation.

2. A dichotomy of groups: Oppressor vs. victim groups, with immigrant groups designated as victims. Influenced (however indirectly) by the Hegelian Marxist thinking associated with the Italian writer Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) and the Central European theorists known as the Frankfurt school, global progressives posit that throughout human history there are essentially two types of groups: the oppressor and the oppressed, the privileged and the marginalised. In the United States, oppressor groups would include white males, heterosexuals, and Anglos, whereas victim groups would include blacks, gays, Latinos (including many immigrants), and women. [...]

3. Group proportionalism as the goal of 'fairness'. Transnational progressivism assumes that 'victim' groups should be represented in all professions roughly proportionate to their percentage of the population or, at least, of the local work force. If not, there is a problem of 'underrepresentation' or imbalance that must be rectified by government and civil society. Thomas Sowell recently wrote-as he has for several decades-that many Western intellectuals perpetually promote some form of 'cosmic justic'? or form of equality of result. The 'group proportionalism' paradigm is pervasive in Western society: even the US Park Service is concerned because 85% of all visitors to the nation?s parks are white, although whites make up only 74% of the population. The Park Service announced in 1998 that it was working on this 'problem'.

4. The values of all dominant institutions should be changed to reflect the perspectives of the victim groups. Transnational progressives in the United States and elsewhere insist that it is not enough to have proportional representation of minorities (including immigrants, legal and illegal) at all levels in major institutions of society (corporations, places of worship, universities, armed forces) if these institutions continue to reflect a 'white Anglo male culture and world view'. Ethnic and linguistic minorities have different ways of viewing the world, they say, and these minorities' values and cultures must be respected and represented within these institutions.

The whole thing is well worth reading, but I couldn't help but think of this part as Imus wondered aloud this morning how he should feel about affirmative action. His key question was, even supposing, as we must, that some groups (especially blacks) have been discriminated against in the past: does that justify our granting a special benefit to a black student who wasn't discriminated against, at the expense of a white student, who wasn't one of the discriminators? In order to believe such a thing is just, you really have to buy into the ideology described above. Appropriately enough, Imus too used the phrase "cosmic justice" and wondered if we're required to "balance the scales" of past discrimination against one group by discriminating against another. The idea seems repellant, but you can see why the groups who stand to benefit would support it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


Get in the Hardball `Hot Seat'! (MSNBC, 1/16/03)
Michael Bogucki, a senior majoring in English and history, is this week's Hardball `Hot Seat' contestant. His hometown is Wilmington, Delaware and he hopes to be a college professor. Watch him on Thursday, 9 p.m. and find out how he does. How many questions can you answer? Take the quiz, below, and find out.

Much better quiz than last time.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 PM


Bush Pushes for Medical-Malpractice Caps (SCOTT LINDLAW, Jan 16, 2003, Associated Press)
President Bush said Thursday his proposed nationwide ceilings on medical malpractice awards would drive down health care costs, but critics said he was siding with mismanaged insurance companies that pass inflated costs to patients.

Bush dusted off a proposal he made in July to cap the pain and suffering portions of malpractice awards at $250,000.

Without the limit, Bush said, "excessive jury awards will continue to drive up insurance costs, will put good doctors out of business or run them out of your community and will hurt communities like Scranton, Pa. That's a fact."

Legislation he backed last year was approved in the House but was never brought for a vote in the Democratic-led Senate. Now the Republican Party controls both houses of Congress, and for the second time this week Bush revived a proposal that died last year. The other was welfare reform.

"The problem of those unnecessary costs don't start in the waiting room or the operating room. They're in the courtroom," Bush said. "Everybody's suing, it seems like. There are too many lawsuits in America, and there are too many lawsuits filed against doctors and hospitals without merit."

This is a worthwhile effort anyway, with this bonus, Edwards slams malpractice proposal...Bush plan would benefit insurance industry, not patients, N.C. senator says (JOHN WAGNER, , 1/16/03, News & Observer)
The politics of the issue are tricky for Edwards, a former trial lawyer whose specialties included malpractice cases and who is seeking the presidency.

You can pretty much reduce the Edwards' campaign to a defense of his own profession.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


Persecuting Pee-wee: A Child-Porn Case That Threatens Us All (Richard Goldstein, January 15 - 21, 2003, Village Voice)
The sexual exploitation of children became a major cause in the '70s-appropriately, to say the least. But the focus soon shifted from sex acts to erotic imagery. In 1982, the Supreme Court declared child pornography unprotected by the First Amendment. Redeeming social value was no defense, and the contraband didn't have to be obscene. Even clothed images of children could be porn if they seemed arousing. And the courts defined a child as anyone under 18.

In this environment, an FBI unit code-named Innocent Images began to concentrate on consumers, and arrests tripled over the '90s. Many pedophiles were nabbed, along with artists and even parents who made photos of their naked kids. The Internet was well suited to entrapment, since hard drives archive e-mailed images even if they're unwanted and promptly deleted. Sweeping laws have led to bizarre and tragic cases, but it's also true that incidents of child abuse have dropped sharply (the priesthood notwithstanding). Yet the fixation on erotic images as opposed to criminal behavior may have unintended consequences.

Is our obsession with child porn creating a climate where kids are commonly regarded as sex objects? Amy Adler, a professor at New York University Law School, suspects so. "The legal tool that we designed to liberate children from sexual abuse," she wrote in the Columbia Law Review, "threatens to enslave us all by constructing a world in which we are enthralled-anguished, enticed, bombarded-by the spectacle of the sexual child."

Consider the photo of a beaming, bare-bottomed 12-year-old boy holding a pole that appeared in the July 1963 issue of Manorama. Back then, it would have seemed charming to many viewers and arousing to a few. Today this same image would make most people faintly nauseous. An image that once seemed tender, since its sexual meaning was repressed, is now terrifying because it reads as explicitly erotic. The process of sensitizing us to child porn also forces us to eroticize children. Whether we intend to or not, we begin to see the world from a pedophile's perspective.

That's pretty priceless: the problem isn't that paedophiles exploit children and images of children but that the society at-large finally realized the extent of the problem and tried putting an end to it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM


Iraq Inspectors Find Empty Warheads (CBS, Jan. 16, 2003)
U.N. inspectors on Thursday found 11 empty 122 mm chemical warheads in "excellent" condition at an ammunition storage area where they were inspecting bunkers built in the late 1990s, a U.N. spokesman reported.

A 12th warhead also was found that requires further evaluation, according to the statement by Hiro Ueki, the spokesman for U.N. weapons inspectors in Baghdad.

The team used portable x-ray equipment to conduct a preliminary analysis of one of the warheads and collected samples for chemical testing, Ueki's statement said.

CBS News consultant and former U.N. weapons inspector Stephen Black tells CBSNews.com that the munitions storage depot where these warheads were found was used in the 1980s to store chemical munitions.

Black says Iraq produced thousands of these warheads two decades ago, and it is unclear whether these are leftovers from that era, possibly forgotten, or newly manufactured.

Black says the 122 millimeter warheads were used on six to eight foot long rockets that were not considered strategic weapons, but were of low-tech design and for use on the battlefield.

The warheads were discovered as inspectors appeared to be organizing their search based on the receipt of intelligence on where weapons might be hidden.

The race is on...who will be the first Saddam apologist to say: "The important thing is that the shells were empty, so there's still no smoking gun"?

Any predictions?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


U.S. has 'smoking gun' (Toby Harnden, January 16, 2003, The Daily Telegraph)
White House officials have signalled that the U.S. and Britain are prepared to release intelligence evidence to cement the case for war against Iraq.

Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, and Karl Rove, President George W. Bush's chief political strategist, have each indicated privately that the administration has proof that Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Senator Kit Bond of Missouri said more information should be released, and asked, "What is the connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda?" According to sources at the private meeting, Mr. Card is understood to have urged him: "Don't worry."

Remember how Charlie Brown never figured out that Lucy was always going to yank the ball just as he was going to kick it? George W. Bush's opponents seem just as slow on the uptake. When the administration agreed to base invasion on inspections you had to know they had the goods. But still, all the Saddamites line themselves up behind these hapless inspectors and chortle that there's no "smoking gun"....
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM

ARE WE NOT MEN?--WE ARE REVO (via One Hand Clapping):

Bug Study May Give Wings to Re-evolution Theory (GREG LAVINE, 1/16/03, THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE)
Brigham Young University researchers have uncovered genetic evidence in stick insects -- a group of bugs that resemble tree twigs with legs -- that could force scientists to rethink long-held beliefs involving a part of the theory of evolution.

According to the study, many species of stick insects re-evolved wings, traits preserved in dormant DNA, over the course of 50 million years -- an idea that flies in the face of what insect evolutionary biologists believe.

"The initial response was, 'You're wrong. Impossible, impossible, impossible,' " said Michael Whiting, the BYU professor of integrative biology who authored the study, featured on the cover of this week's Nature.

Ah, the open-mindedness of the evolutionists: "Impossible, impossible, impossible"
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:37 PM

Robert Service (1874-1958) was born in Lancashire, ENG on January 16, 1874. His most famous poem, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, was one that

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back at the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou.

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave, and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks on the house.

There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.
There's men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;

With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do,
And I turned my head -- and there watching him was the lady that's known as Lou.

His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze,
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wondering gaze.
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.

In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands -- my God! but that man could play!
Were you ever out in the great alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;

With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in the stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars --
Then you've got a hunch what the music meant ... hunger and night and the stars.

And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans;
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;
But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman's love;

A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true --
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, -- the lady that's known as Lou.)
Then all of a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;

That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie;
That your guts were gone, and the best of you was to crawl away and die.
'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair, and it thrilled you through and through --
"I guess I'll make it a spread misere," said Dangerous Dan McGrew.

The music almost died away ... then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay," and my eyes were blind with blood.
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash,
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill ... then the music stopped with a crash,

And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of a grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm;
And, "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn;

But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true,
That one of you is a hound of hell ... and that one is Dan McGrew."
Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark;
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark;

Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the Lady that's known as Lou.
These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know;
They say that the stranger was crazed with "hooch," and I'm not denying it's so.

I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two --
The woman that kissed him -- and pinched his poke -- was the lady that's known as Lou.

Brother Martinovich, on the other hand, put in a pitch for this one, href=http://www.angelfire.com/poetry/camy13/thecremationofSamMagee.html>The Cremation of Sam McGee:
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennesse,
where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam
'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold
seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way
that he'd "sooner live in Hell."

On a Christmas day we were mushing our way
over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold
it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze
till sometimes we couldn't see,
It wasn't much fun, but the only one
to whimper was Sam Magee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight
in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead
were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he,
"I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you
won't refuse my lsat request."

Well he seemed so low that I couldn't say no;
then he says with a sort of moan,
"It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold
till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'taint being dead-it's the awful dread
of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair,
you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed.
so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn;
but God! he looked gastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day
of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all
that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death,
and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid,
because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say:
"You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you
to cremate these last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid,
the trail has its own stern code,
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb
in my heart how I cursed that load!
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight,
while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows-
Oh God, how I loathed the thing!

And every day that quiet clay
seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent
and the grub was getting low.
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad,
but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing,
and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge,
and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice
it was called the Alice May,
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here", said I, with a sudden cry,
"is my cre-ma-tor-eum"!

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor
and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around,
and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared
such a blaze you seldom see,
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal,
and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like
to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled,
and the wind began to blow,
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled
down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak
went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow
I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about
ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said,
"I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked".
Then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm,
in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile,
and he said, "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear
you'll let in the cold and storm-
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee,
it's the first time I've been warm".

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Meanwhile, Gil Gilliam likes, The Men That Don't Fit In:
There's a race of men that don't fit in,
A race that can't stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain's crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don't know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they're always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: "Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!"
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It's the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that's dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life's been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He's a rolling stone, and it's bred in the bone;
He's a man who won't fit in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:34 PM


The Northern Front (WILLIAM SAFIRE, January 16, 2003, NY Times)
An alliance with a price tag is no alliance at all. [...]

When the U.S. asked for permission, as required by Turkey's Constitution, to use bases in Turkey from which to stage an invasion, dickering began over how many hundreds of millions of dollars would be provided to upgrade the bases and lengthen landing fields. While this dragged on with no concrete being poured, an economic aid package was sought that Ankara estimates at $5 billion and U.S. sources say is more than double that.

If the Turkish economy, already in deep trouble, takes a hit in the coming war, our ally could legitimately turn to the U.S. as well as to New Iraq's oil resources for recompense. And surely Ankara should make the Turkish public aware of America's interest in cushioning any shock to its major local ally. But the unseemly hard bargaining going on now over money for military assistance is demeaning and could change the nature of the two nations' alliance.

What should Turkey's new leaders do? First, make prompt parliamentary and construction arrangements to welcome the U.S. troops. And then go the extra mile: Volunteer to mass 100,000 Turkish troops on its border with northern Iraq. (When it did this with Syria, which had provided the base for the harassment of Turkey by P.K.K. terrorists, the Syrian dictator got the message and booted the terrorist leader out of Damascus, which led to his capture.)

The real threat of a Turkish Army descending on Baghdad from the north would hasten the surrender of Iraqi generals facing an American army rolling up from Kuwait in the south.

It may be that we would decline a Turkish offer to join the allied invasion, lest the Turks be reluctant to leave oil-rich Kirkuk. But if Turkey acted like a strategic ally rather than a nervous renter of bases, it would have an unwavering superpower on its side for decades to come.

One wonders whether Mr. Safire would apply this standard to Israel too, which is currently dickering over an much increased aid plan, whose implicit rationale is that they'll stay out of the coming Iraq war?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM


Rumpus room rock: Members of North Carolina's Piedmont Charisma discover they're trendy (John Sewell, Knoxville Metro Pulse)
The Piedmont Charisma (the band doesn't use the article on its album covers, but hey, neither did The Ramones) has, unwittingly or not, found itself lumped into the new wave of new wave niche, a classification that includes oh so trendy groups like The Faint, Hot Hot Heat, The Liars, et. al. And hey, Piedmont's keyboard-heavy self-titled debut album (Slave Records) really does conjure up audible images of early XTC, The Yachts, and maybe even the slightest dose of Cure.

"Lots of our reviews really have lumped us in with the retro thing, which isn't exactly what we're trying to do," says Piedmont guitarist Ben Ridings. "That's kind of weird because nobody in the band actually listens to that 'new' new wave stuff.

"Actually, the new wave connotation has turned out to be kind of a hindrance because people think we're trying to latch onto another gimmick," Ridings continues. "I mean, we really do listen to XTC, Squeeze, and Bowie. But that just happens to be what we all like: not that we're trying to be kitsch or latch onto some kind of trend."

XTC is retro? Goldang, we're old.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM

SMILEY FACE (via Kevin Whited):

The United States of America has gone mad (John le CarrŽ, January 15, 2003, Times of London)
America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press. [...]

The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist. [...]

To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell us which is which.

Rare are the opportunities in life to redeem yourself--particularly after siding with a brutal totalitarian dictatorship with global aspirations--but folks like John LeCarre have been given just such a Godsend. Sadly, he, like many others, is squandering it.

Mr. LeCarre, as many of you will recall, was the great bard of moral relativism during the Cold War. His excellent oeuvre is, unfortunately, far too often a testament to the vile notion that there was no difference between the West and the Communists (or, in the case of books like Little Drummer Girl that there's no difference between Israel and terrorist gangs), rather than just a critique of the use of espionage in a democracy, which would be entirely justified. The gist of his novels then was that it mattered little whether the USSR or America/Britain prevailed in the Cold War and that the sometimes repugnant, but more often simply misguided, techniques and tactics of our spy craft delegitimized our side. It seemed to matter not one whit to him what the overall strategies and purposes of the combatants were--thus, that the Soviets wanted to impose communism, while the Americans/British wanted to bring freedom, was unimportant. For LeCarre there was never a forest, only trees, and only bad trees.

One might have thought he'd learn something from the euphoria with which Eastern Europe greeted the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Russians the ousting of Gorbachev, but he seems unteachable. Even if we grant the risible notion that our freedoms are being "systematically eroded", and pretend that they were during the McCarthy period, this is once again a focus on tactics to the exclusion of the big picture. That Lincoln suspended habeus corpus did not make the North the moral equivalent of the South, any more than FDR's putting Japanese-Americans in concentration camps made him the equivalent of Hitler. Both men may have been mistaken--FDR clearly was; the Lincoln case is arguable--but their causes were righteous.

Mr. LeCarre comes before us now, at a time when a few of the West's still serious democratic states--America, Britain, Israel, etc.--are engaged in an effort to extend democracy, and the ideals that make it possible, to those portions of the Islamic world that are in the grip of totalitarian dictatorship and which threaten their own people, their neighbors, us or all of the above. No religious person would argue that one side represents, as Mr. LeCarre says, "Absolute Good" and the other "Absolute Evil": the Judeo-Christian belief is that we are all a mixture of good and evil and that no human can be absolutely one or the other. But the religious also recognize that evil does exist and that to deny evil is to deny reality. One need not be a holy-rolling hawk to comprehend the Saddamist rule of Iraq as a barbarous tyranny and a danger, as, in fact, a form of evil. One does, on the other hand, have to deny the reality of evil if one wishes to equate America, Britain, and Israel with bin Laden's al Qaeda, with Saddam's Iraq, with Yassar Arafat's Palestine, with Assad's Syria, with Hezbollah's South Lebanon, etc. Yet this seems to be the project upon which Mr. LeCarre is embarked. Just as he sought to sap the will of the West to resist and defeat communism, he seeks now to sap our will to resist and defeat Islamicist totalitarianism.

Mr. LeCarre at one point says:

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are with the enemy. Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall — just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

Strangely enough, he is demanding the kind of Absolute Good and moral purity that he ascribes to President Bush's worldview. Given the choice between an imperfect Bush and an imperfect Saddam, he's chosen Saddam. Carried to its extreme such a position might render the following: a man is being attacked by a tiger, a poacher comes along and prepares to shoot the tiger, so you stop him because his heart is not pure. A man dies, but you've not dirtied your conscience. One wonders how many deaths Mr. LeCarre will accept to keep himself Absolutely Good?

Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War (openDemocracy, 12 - 1 - 2003)

President Bush has rallied his troops for what he calls “The first war of the 21st century”. What is your view of this crisis, where, briefly, do you stand? This is the question we are putting to people around the world, especially those with their own public reputation and following. Our aim, to help create a truly global debate all can identify with.

John le CarrŽ
Roger Scruton
John Berger
Pervez Hoodbhoy
Salman Rushdie

January 15, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:22 PM


Saddam agrees to send top aide to discuss possible exile (WORLD TRIBUNE.COM, January 14, 2003)
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has for the first time signaled openness to an Arab plan for his exile in an effort to prevent a U.S.-led war against Iraq.

Arab diplomatic sources said Saddam has agreed to send a senior aide to discuss "personal issues." The sources said the aide could arrive in Cairo over the weekend for talks on a plan to organize asylum in a Middle East country. [...]

The sources said Saddam has not accepted the Arab plan, promoted by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. But they said the Iraqi president has agreed to explore the prospect that he, his family and aides would find safe haven in an Arab capital along with Western guarantees that he would not be prosecuted by any foreign government or international court.

We're as hawkish as anyone, but if you can get regime change without a war it's all to the good. Then it's on to Pyongyang and Damascus.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM


President to Oppose Race-Based Admissions: White House Weighs Politics and Policy In U-Michigan Case (Mike Allen and Charles Lane, January 15, 2003, Washington Post)
President Bush plans to declare his opposition to University of Michigan admissions policies that give preference to black and Hispanic students, injecting the White House into the Supreme Court's most far-reaching affirmative action case in a generation, administration officials said yesterday.

The officials said Bush, who faces a deadline Thursday for registering opposition with the high court, plans to pay tribute to the value of racial diversity in higher education. But he plans to argue that Michigan's approach is flawed.

The issue is politically sensitive and legally complex, and top administration aides last night were unable to provide crucial details about the brief's legal arguments, which are still the subject of discussion by top presidential advisers. For example, it was unclear whether the brief's praise of diversity would go so far as to assert that achieving racial diversity is so important that it justifies college admissions officials to consider race, in some fashion.

"Not all the decisions have been made," an official said. The decision could come as early as today, the official said.

The aides said Bush plans to point to an "affirmative access" program he championed as governor of Texas. It guaranteed state-college admission to the top 10 percent of each high school graduating class, regardless of race.

If you had a dollar for every time someone who should have known better, on both the Left and the Right, wrote about how the Lott affair was going to hurt the GOP and cripple the President's ability to forward a conservative agenda on racial issues, you'd be rich today.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:37 PM


Right and wrong: The elegant errors of conservative thinker James Burnham (Michael Lind, 1/12/2003, Boston Globe)
[U]nfortunately for his reputation, [James] Burnham lived until 1987, to the age of 82 (he was disabled by a stroke in 1978). In the late 1940s, the zealous anticommunism of Trotsky's former lieutenant led to his marginalization by the liberal intellectual establishment. Even the CIA, which employed Burnham briefly as a program consultant, found his views too extreme. Contrary to popular belief, the career officers at the CIA have often been political liberals.) Burnham, along with Willmoore Kendall, a crotchety populist who was paid by Yale to surrender his tenure rights and leave, and the self-described "Tory Bohemian" Russell Kirk, became one of the mentors of the young William F. Buckley Jr. Burnham worked at Buckley's National Review as an editor from its founding in 1955 until his effective retirement in the late 1970s.

The largely unintellectual conservatives who preceded them before the 1950s, and succeeded them in the 1990s, have been surly, demagogic and wrong about everything; in contrast, the mid-century "movement" conservatives around Buckley were wrong about everything in a sprightly and erudite way. They were never for racism, only against desegregation; they did not support apartheid, they merely vilified its victims and critics; they were not in favor of dire poverty, they just objected to any and all government programs that might ameliorate it.

At least Burnham and his fellow conservatives were right about communism--or were they? In 1945, Burnham published an essay in Partisan Review entitled "Lenin's Heir," in which he argued that Stalinism was the necessary outgrowth of Leninism. The thesis, restated in our time by the historian Martin Malia, is correct, even if the truth is still resisted in some college faculties (few doubters can be found in former communist countries). But anticommunism was not a monopoly of the right; for half a century, anticommunist liberals and anticommunist social democrats played leading roles in the campaign by the United States and other liberal democracies to resist Soviet imperialism and communist subversion.

Beginning with the Truman administration, anticommunist liberals and conservative realists like George F. Kennan proposed to "contain" the Soviet empire, until it mellowed and perhaps broke up. Burnham and his conservative allies denounced containment as appeasement. In its place, they called for "rollback" - an offensive war of some sort against the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. Burnham promoted rollback in "Containment or Liberation?" (1952/53) and other polemics, but in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 he acknowledged that it was impractical. Still, his zeal remained. In "The Suicide of the West" (1964), he portrayed a West rotted by "the liberal syndrome" on the verge of annihilation not only by communism but by what, in an unsigned National Review editorial, he called the "pagan multitudes" of Africa and Asia. Burnham confused the end of the short-lived and parasitic European empires in the Third World - most of which had been founded only a few generations before - with the global collapse of western civilization, which Burnham, a lapsed Catholic, equated with white Christian ethnicity.

The bankruptcy and disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent death of communism, outside of a few tyrannies like China, Vietnam, and Cuba, vindicated Cold War liberalism. The strategy of containment, which the Right said would fail, worked. The liberal democratic welfare-state, which many National Review conservatives had depicted as a doomed compromise between the alternatives of communism and Christian conservatism, was the alternative to which ex-communist nations in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union gratefully turned. The profound religious revival in former communist countries that many conservatives predicted in the early 1990s never took place.

In 1983, when President Reagan awarded Burnham the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the mid-century conservative movement that Burnham helped to found looked more important than it does now. From today's vantage point, it is clear that the anticommunist and libertarian conservatism that Burnham and Buckley fashioned alongside Goldwater and Reagan was a sideshow. The real story of the American Right in the second half of the 20th century was the defection of Southern white conservatives from the Democratic Party and their capture, by the 1990s, of the Republican Party. The important episodes in this story are the revolt against Roosevelt by Southern Democrats, the walkout of the 1948 Democratic National Convention by segregationists, and the mass conversion of hundreds of white Democratic politicians in Southern states, many of them holding office, to the Republican Party following the GOP congressional sweep of 1994. In this story, Richard Nixon with his Southern strategy and George Wallace are more important than Barry Goldwater, and the fundamentalist theology of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson had more effect than scholastic debates in the pages of National Review about "immanentizing the eschaton" (that is, the project attributed to liberals of achieving heaven on earth).

Nor did the circle at National Review have any significant influence on the neoconservatives, the allies of the Southern fundamentalists in national politics and the dominant force today in American conservative publishing and propaganda. Although Burnham was a high-toned WASP, whereas the leading neoconservatives have been upwardly-mobile Jews and Catholics, his political trajectory in many ways resembled theirs. One might think that the neoconservatives - many of them former Trotskyists and New Yorkers by residence or birth - would identify with Burnham. But in working with neoconservatives in the 1980s, as an editor of The National Interest, I never met any under the age of 70 who had read Burnham's books or even knew who he was.

We'll let his fellow apostate, David Horowitz, take the first crack at Mr. Lind, -PROFILE: Michael Lind Perpetrates a Hoax Political Cross-Dresser (David Horowitz, May 15, 1998, FrontPageMagazine.com):
In Up From Conservatism, Michael Lind reveals that unlike us, he actually did experience a Damascus-style revelation on the way to his new career. His epiphany came from the publication, in 1991, of a book called The New World Order by Pat Robertson, which retailed "a conspiracy theory blaming wars and revolutions on a secret cabal of Jewish bankers, Freemasons, Illuminati, atheists, and internationalists." Confronted with this threat from Robertson, who had founded a new and powerful organization called the Christian Coalition, "the leaders of intellectual conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., Irving Kristol, and Norman Podhoretz, instead of protesting, chose unilateral surrender." Those intrepid souls who criticized Robertson, like Lind himself, were "denounced as 'liberals' and even 'Marxists'." The result, according to Lind, was an "exodus of "the major young intellectuals formerly associated with the right...", himself among them. The overall consequence of these events, in Lind's view, is that "American conservatism is dead.... Today the right is defined by Robertson, Buchanan, and the militia movement." [...]

As though aware of the indefensible nature of his thesis, Lind repeats it endlessly throughout the book: "The 'right' now means the overlapping movements of the 'far right'. . . .[p.7] The only movement on the right in the United States today that has any significant political influence is the far right [same page, same paragraph]. . ." Lind summarizes the philosophy of this right in the following words: "the fact remains that a common worldview animates both the followers of Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan and the far-right extremists who bomb abortion clinics, murder federal marshals and country sheriffs, and blow up buildings and trains. That worldview is summed up by three letters: ZOG. ZOG stands for 'Zionist-occupied government,' the phrase used by far-right white supremacists, anti-Semites, and militia members for the federal government."

Nor is it just hateful philosophy they share. "In the manner of the southern right from the Civil War until the civil rights revolution, which operated both through the Democratic Party and the Ku Klux Klan, or the modern Irish Republican movement, with its party (Sinn Fein) and its terrorist branch (the IRA), the contemporary American far right has both public, political wings (the Christian Coalition and Project Rescue) and its covert, paramilitary, terrorist factions." Naturally, Lind doesn't name any of these "factions" or attempt to link terrorist and paramilitary groups with their alleged "fronts," like the Christian Coalition, which (unlike Sinn Fein) has denounced such violence. For Lind, whose book is an exercise in slander, the accusation is all that matters.

Then the great, but here over-generous, NY Times book critic, Richard Bernstein:
[M]r. Lind is brilliant and disagreeable at the same time, disagreeable especially in his dismissal of a group of distinguished thinkers as little more than the hirelings of an evil system. Of course, if Mr. Lind's former patrons are really morally bankrupt, it would be a sad but necessary task to say so. But Mr. Lind's arguments are made from within a kind of feverishly hot ivory tower, out of which come intermittent streams of moralistic hyperbole.

Several elements come into play here, not least Mr. Lind's refusal to believe that an adversary might actually hold beliefs out of real conviction. For Mr. Lind, the conservatives are a dishonest bunch who decree doctrine irrespective of the evidence, misrepresenting things on the orders of their moneyed patrons.

"It is easy to sound hysterical by exaggerating the power of the far right," Mr. Lind states in his first chapter. But then he does sound hysterical, asserting that for the last decade the United States "has been suffering from wave after wave of right-wing terrorism." Moreover, the terrorists have an ideology "almost indistinguishable from that of the 'legitimate' or political far right that formally disavows their deeds."

In such a way does Mr. Lind transform the sporadic atrocities that have been committed by the American lunatic fringe into an epidemic of proto-fascist terror. Then he incorporates Messrs. Kristol, Buckley et al. into the same circle as those who murder abortion doctors and blow up Federal buildings, which seems a superheated application of the concept of moral responsibility.

Conspiracy lurks everywhere in Mr. Lind's view, even as he, correctly, warns us of the inclination of the fever-swamp right to see conspiracy everywhere. "The modern conservative brain trust originated in a scheme hatched in the 1970's by William E. Simon, Irving Kristol and others," Mr. Lind writes, his use of words like "scheme" and "hatched" giving a sinister cast to the efforts of like-minded people to disseminate their ideas. The idea that the nation is suffering from an "illegitimacy epidemic," especially among blacks, is merely one of "the great conservative hoaxes of our time," he argues. "There is no illegitimacy epidemic in the United States of the sort that conservatives describe," Mr. Lind says in a passage of brilliant sophistry, and this is something "the conservative intellectuals have known all along."

To rebel, as Mao Zedong once put it, is justified. Some of Mr. Lind's arguments are on target. Yet reading his book, one wishes that his formidable brain power could be harnessed to something more temperate, more precise, even more generous toward those he has made his adversaries, less prone to the kinds of mental gestures he criticizes in others.

Last, a fellow of whom I've never heard, -REVIEW: of The Next American Nation (Thaddeus Russell, New Politics):
MICHAEL LIND IS A STRANGE MAN. He advocates miscegenation but calls for the abolition of affirmative action. He argues that the United States is less free and democratic than the rest of the industrialized West yet presents himself as an unabashed American nationalist. He maintains that the three greatest heroes in American history are Alexander Hamilton, Frederick Douglass, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. He claims to present no less than "the most detailed description that has appeared in print" of the present American "third republic" run by an oligarchic "white overclass" and a culturally hegemonic "multicultural left." And, then, how many former protegŽs of William F. Buckley have become darlings of the American left? Yet what is strangest of all about Lind's young career is that the message of his books isn't strange at all. His political program include
little more than economic protectionism, campaign finance reform, and a welfare state. Underneath all the eccentricities and self-aggrandizing bluster Lind is nothing more than a nationalist social democrat. This is why the Michael Lind phenomenon of the past two years is so puzzling. Perhaps his rapid rise to fame was due in large part to his timing. Having established himself as an up-and-coming reactionary under Buckley's tutelage and as a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Lind experienced a change of heart sometime around the 1994 elections.

In the winter of 1995 he published an article in Dissent in which he declared his break from the right and denounced the hijacking of the Republican Party by the likes of Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan. Perhaps the left, including the editors of Dissent, should have thought twice about rushing to embrace Lind, since the article (and his later book, Up from Conservatism) argues that American conservatism lost its way after the golden years of the 1950s and 1960s. But it appears that following the ascendancy of the Gingrichites, Lind was simply too attractive for the Dissenters to pass up. From there Lind set out to build a new career as the leading American apostate intellectual.

Personally, the one thing I've never forgiven Mr. Lind for is the utter hash he made of National Review's Top 100 Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century, on which he included such nitwits as Wittgenstein, Keynes, Freud and Rachel Carson. But one barely knows where to begin disassembling this hysterical screed. I've previously addressed both the notions, which I believe to be canards, that the Cold War was a good thing and that the New Deal should have been maintained and expanded after the Great Depression. But it really seems that after Derek Leebaert's book, The Fifty Year Wound: The True Price of America's Cold War Victory, anyone writing as Mr. Lind does is obligated to justify the view that containment was a success for the U.S.. Whatever else one may wish to argue, it seems impossible to believe that more lives would have been lost had the U.S. attacked Russia than were ultimately lost as a result of the Cold War, dead who stretch from the gulag, to the Middle East (where the USSR created and funded terrorist groups), to Ireland (where the IRA received Soviet assistance) to Cuba and Central America and so on around the globe. 1.6 million would have had to die in the attack just to match the dead of Cambodia.

But all of this really seems secondary to what I think Mr. Russell nails in the review cited above: Michael Lind seems to be a "national socialist democrat" whose only real difference with Pat Buchanan is that where he accuses Mr Buchanan and others on the religious Right, like Pat Robertson, of being anti-Semitic, Mr. Lind is instead anti-Christian, and a conspiracy theorist too boot. In fact, the reason he espouses nationalism would seem to be the same reason that Hitler did: to replace Christianity with a new statist "religion". This is not to say that Mr. Lind would embrace the same kind of eliminationist solutions that the Nazis eventually turned to, but his hatred of Mexicans, which extends even to penning an apparently risible epic poem about the Alamo, and the kind of pathological hatred of the religious that he displays above, combined with his desire to aggrandize all power in society to the state alone, which is at the root of his opposition to everything from free trade to school vouchers to welfare reform, would seem to at least lay the groundwork for a massive bureaucratic state with the power and the will to dispose of those who don't fit its nationalist vision.

When Mr. Russell calls him a "strange man", Mr. Bernstein calls him "disagreeable", and Mr. Horowitz calls him a "rogue", I fear they don't go far enough. We've been most fortunate to have a very few national politicians who were genuine haters--Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Richard Nixon, George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Bill Clinton being the notable exceptions--but Mr. Lind's politics are seemingly based almost exclusively on hatred--of the rich, of the poor, of foreigners, of Christians, of Zionists, etc. He's one of the very few mainstream writers in America whose ideas actually seem dangerous.

Here are some links to stuff by and about the frightening Mr. Lind.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


Moseley-Braun considers run for presidency (LYNN SWEET, January 15, 2003, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES)
Former ambassador and senator Carol Moseley-Braun is not only mulling a bid to reclaim her Senate seat--she is also considering a presidential run.

Moseley-Braun plans to make an announcement Friday regarding her political future. She has various avenues open to her.

The Illinois Democratic Senate primary is crowded with five other contenders. But if Moseley-Braun announces she will start raising money for a federal campaign--or is forming a political action committee--she can use the money to explore running for either office or to rejoin the political scene as a national player.

In the last months, Moseley-Braun, defeated for re-election by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) in 1998, has been looking at various political re-entry points, considering everything from City Hall to the White House.

She eventually ruled out a 2003 mayoral bid against Mayor Daley. In interviews, she has been saying she was leaving all her options open.

Moseley-Braun has been testing the waters in Illinois and in visits to Washington for a political comeback, convinced the Senate hearings preceding her confirmation as ambassador to New Zealand scrubbed her clean of the controversy that has dogged her regarding her 1992 campaign finances.

Beautiful: all of the Democrat senators who are running presumably voted to confirm her, so they can hardly criticize her ethics, can they? Meanwhile, even if she shouldn't win the nomination, as a black woman senator/ambassador from a large Midwestern state she's a nearly drawing-board vice presidential pick, unless someone can think of some other reasons she should be excluded from the ticket?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:56 PM


FRONT-ROW SEAT (NY Post, January 14, 2003, Page Six)
THE Rev. Al Sharpton got the front row on the shuttle flight back from Washington, D.C. on Sunday, and was pleased to see his rival for the Democratic nomination for president, Sen. Joe Lieberman, two rows back. Sharpton, who had just appeared on "Meet the Press," exclaimed to his entourage: "That's how it's gonna be when the votes are counted."

During his presidential bids, Alan Keyes quite justifiably bemoaned the fact that after he'd annhilate his opponents in GOP debates no one in the press even had any questions for him. And, whenever they could, Republicans just kept him off stage to avoid being shown up. But they could get away with it because the GOP always has a strong fron-runner who can set the terms and because there are no black GOP voters to alienate.

The Reverend Al, on the other hand, is going to be very difficult to shut out, without raising the ire of a core Democrat consituency, and if you look at the stultifying cast of characters he's going to be up against, you have to expect him to dominate the debates. (Recall that Joe Lieberman did the nearly impossible in losing a debate to Dick Cheney and John Edwards, after his Meet the Press performance, can't even risk showing up on stage if Tim Russert is the moderator.) So, in order to protect their likely eventual winner from humiliation, the Party has to find a way to exclude Mr. Sharpton. One has trouble seeing that going over too well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


Fortunes of a president hard to read at midterm (David M. Shribman, 1/14/2003, Boston Globe)
[T]he remarkable thing about the Bush administration is that it is on the offensive, not on the defensive. Last week it rolled out an economic plan with a public-relations strategy that may have no precedent in Washington, where dramatic plans are typically leaked and then clipped back. This time the administration leaked dramatic plans - the call for a reduction in taxation of stock dividends is one of the things GOP politicians always talk about but never dare actually put to paper - and then came out with a proposal (for the elimination of those taxes altogether) that was even more dramatic than the leaks.

The maneuver was breathtaking in its audacity - but unmistakable in its meaning. Which is this: The White House is playing a form of political hardball not seen in this city since, well, the Nixon years. It was, for example, Nixon who took the country off the gold standard, and Nixon who imposed wage and price controls (cameo role: Donald H. Rumsfeld), and Nixon who created the opening to China. It was Bush who took every Republican's fondest tax dream and proposed it as policy.

One assumes he must take the Globe, and yet Brother Murtaugh keeps asking why conservatives support George W. Bush?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM


'Lord' of racism?: Critics view trilogy as discriminatory (David Ibata, January 12, 2003, Chicago Tribune)
In "Towers" ... which continues to do big at the box office as the second film of the Rings trilogy (the third, "Return of the King," is to come out at the end of the year), the series' heroes -- hobbits, elves, dwarves and people -- for the first time encounter races of human adversaries. They include the Easterlings and Haradrim, denizens of lands in the east and south of Middle Earth who have joined with the forces of evil.

The Easterlings can barely be made out under their armor; their faces are covered except for a narrow slit through which glare pairs of coal-black eyes. But their headgear looks like a cross between a Samurai warrior's helmet and a cone-shaped "Coolie" hat. An Asian influence is obvious.

The Haradrim are more recognizable. They are garbed in turbans and flowing crimson robes. They ride giant elephants. They resemble nothing other than North African or Middle Eastern tribesmen. A recently released "Towers" companion book, "The Lord of the Rings: Creatures," calls the Haradrim "exotic outlanders" whose costumes "were inspired by the twelfth-century Saracen warriors of the Middle East." The Saracens were Islamic soldiers who battled Christian invaders during the Crusades.

The "good guys" include the human Dunedain, Rohirrim and Gondorians. All fair-skinned, mostly blond and mostly blue-eyed. ( A third group of human foes in the film is white: the Wild Men. The fallen wizard Saruman incites them by reminding them the horsemen of Rohan oppress them and have driven them from their lands. Cavalry against native tribes; does this picture seem familiar?) [...]

You might ask if I'm looking for offense where none is intended. I believe the issue is not whether Tolkien or Jackson intended to offend -- they did not, I am sure -- but the author's or filmmaker's ability to create images that shape one's view of the world.

And certain scenes in "Towers" remind me of some of the most pernicious images of the cinematic past, from "Beau Geste" to western serials to John Wayne war flicks: that of faceless brown hordes hurling themselves against a band of white heroes.

I'll admit that I joined everyone else, cheering as thousands of Orcs and Urak-hai were slaughtered at the climactic battle of Helm's Deep. They are vicious, violent, ugly as sin, loathsome eaters of "man flesh." As Aragorn tells the besieged defenders, we should feel no mercy for them.

Would we have felt the same thrill of victory if the massacred enemy were humans? [...]

A defense of J.R.R. Tolkien against allegations of racism can be found at "The One Ring" Web site.

To the question that Mr. Ibata asks at the end there (and to his credit it's he who included the link to a rebuttal of the racism charge): Did anyone fail to feel the thrill of victory during Braveheart or The Patriot when it was the English being killed? Or, can anyone fail to acknowledge the bravery, nobility even, of the warriors who are slaughtered by the thousands in Zulu? The dynamics of these stories require that we have a passionate rooting interest for one side over the other far more than they require that one side be dark-skinned.

See also, the obstinate blogger's recent essay on racism in the Rings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


Transition in Senate Leads to Impasse and Accusations (CARL HULSE, January 15, 2003, NY Times)
Republicans won control of the Senate on Nov. 5, but Democrats are not stepping aside easily.

What has traditionally been a routine transition of power has turned into a contentious battle as frustrated Republicans accused Democrats today of trying to block the new majority and stall its agenda.

"It is tantamount to an attempted coup right here on the floor of the Senate," said Senator Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania, as the two parties remained unable to reach a deal on reorganization after Republicans won a majority of 51 in last fall's elections. Without the agreements, Democrats remain in charge of committees.

Republican leaders said the impasse was disenfranchising the voters of 11 states that sent new senators to Washington since they could not yet be seated on any of the panels where most of the business is done. And they said it was blocking Congress from completing work on last year's spending bills, which will be contentious themselves because of planned reductions, as well as other legislative initiatives. It has also stalled hearings.

Compare the Democrats recalcitrance now with the GOP's behavior two years ago:

Jeffords officially becomes an independent (Mike Theiler, 06/05/2001, Reuters)

Sen. Jim Jeffords' 9,640th day in Congress was like no other: He dined with the Democrats and drew a standing ovation for doing so. Tuesday was the day the Vermont senator shed his lifelong label of Republican and became an independent, a move that shifts control of the Senate to the Democrats. The official declaration came in a letter to the vice president, but the symbolic step was taken shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday when Jeffords walked into the weekly policy luncheon held by Democratic senators.

Democrats now at Senate helm (AP, 06/06/2001)
In a historic midsession change of command, the Senate convened Wednesday under Democratic control as new Majority Leader Tom Daschle called for bipartisanship.

It seems fair to ask whether the Democrats--particularly after impeachment and Florida--truly believe in democracy or only in the seizing, exercise, and retention, at any cost, of power.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Presidential Hopefuls to Attend Abortion Rights Event (Adam Nagourney, 1/15/03, NY Times)
The six Democratic candidates for president have agreed to appear on the same stage for the first time in the campaign to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision removing restrictions on abortion.

The quick agreement by the Democratic candidates to attend the fund-raising dinner next Tuesday reflects a growing consensus among Democrats and some Republicans that abortion rights could prove to be a central issue in the 2004 presidential election and perhaps even in the Democratic primaries, because of some differences among the Democratic candidates on the issue.

The six Democrats are attending the event for Naral Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group formerly known as the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, to mark the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court three decades ago.

There's been much written lately about how Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign kickoff in Philadelphia, MS and the various visits by Republicans to Bob Jones University are their way of signaling white Southerners that the Party still supports Jim Crow. Let's accept that proposition for the moment, because the event above marks the Democrat equivalent, as all of the Party's presidential hopeful's march before the abortionist lobby to pledge their eternal support--Abortion today; abortion tomorrow; abortion forever--for a woman's right to kill her baby.

There is though a significant difference between these exercises. Even the Right's most adamant critics are unlikely to argue that a Ronald Reagan or a George Bush had any intent to restore segregation when they made their controversial visits, but each of these Democrats would, if elected and given the chance to appoint new Supreme Court justices or veto things like partial-birth abortion and gender-specific abortion legislation, be personally responsible for the continuance of abortion.

There's also a fair degree of difference between segregation, repulsive as it was, and abortion, which, rather than simply treat fetuses as sub-human, has resulted in the death of 45 million of them. It is sometimes argued that comparisons of abortion to segregation or the Holocaust are unjustified because abortion is allowed by the Supreme Court, fetuses are "not human beings" and because there is something like a plurality in favor of abortion, which reflects a moral murkiness about the matter. Of course, Jim Crow and the Holocaust were likewise premised on the belief that their victims were not fully human, were supported by legal structures, and were popular with at least sizable portions of the public.

January 14, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 PM


'Cleansed' Greenland cabinet falls (Andrew Osborn, January 11, 2003, The Guardian)
The Greenland government collapsed yesterday because of a row about a phenomenon associated more commonly with the medieval period rather than the 21st century: witchcraft.

The world's biggest island may be a semi-autonomous province of Denmark, one of the EU's most self-consciously modernist members, but yesterday's events suggest the two are worlds apart.

The Arctic territory's home rule government, in office for only 37 days, fell apart because of its senior civil servant's penchant for what some politicians called "witch-doctoring and
other mumbo jumbo" and others "plain exorcism".

The affair centres on the activities of Jens Lyberth, who called upon the services of a healer to drive evil spirits from the government's offices in Nuuk, Greenland's capital. [...]

Many Greenlandic politicians saw Mr Lyberth's recourse to witchcraft as embarrassing and unacceptable.

It was, they said, a stain on the island's image which made it the laughing stock of Denmark and the international community.

So, which would you rather have appear in a story about you: the Pete Townshend quote, "I am not a paedophile"; or, he's the "laughing stock of Denmark"?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


House Campaign Appointment Upsets Blacks (DAVID FIRESTONE, January 14, 2003, NY Times)
The decision by Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, to pass over a popular black lawmaker for a top campaign job has produced fresh tension between blacks and whites in the Democratic caucus.

Ms. Pelosi's choice of an old friend, Representative Robert T. Matsui of California, over Representative William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, the lone Democrat who had actively sought the fund-raising job with support from the Congressional Black Caucus, has prompted black members to question whether they are still taken for granted by the party's leadership.

The frustration was not fully eased by Ms. Pelosi's efforts last week to secure positions for black members on the most powerful House committees--including the first African-American woman on the Ways and Means Committee--or by the election last month of Representative James E. Clyburn, a black from South Carolina, as vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

"This decision would have sent a clear message to African-American voters and people in our country that Democrats were rewarding African-Americans for their loyalty to the party," said Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the new chairman of the black caucus. "I realize Nancy Pelosi has a tough job, and she's assured me we'll be all right when the dust settles. But this was an appointment we really wanted, and now we'll have to see just where we go from here."

Even if there's nothing inherently wrong with basing your party on a group-identity spoils system, rather than on ideas, you'd better be sure you've got enough baksheesh to spread around.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


White educators flee black schools (AP, 1/13/03)
Three Georgia State University professors found that during the late 1990s white elementary school teachers in Georgia were much more likely to quit at schools with higher proportions of black students.

After the 1999-2000 school year, 31 percent of white teachers quit their jobs at schools where the student population was more than 70 percent black, and those who changed jobs went to schools that served lower proportions of black and poor pupils.

"The race of the student body is the driving factor behind teacher turnover," the researchers wrote. Other studies have found increasing numbers of white teachers leaving public schools - in California, New York, Texas and North Carolina - but only the Georgia State study singled out how race factored into the phenomenon.

If we analyze this with the same cool dispassion that the Left has brought to its examination of conservative positions on racial issues, mightn't we conclude that it explains why the teachers' unions oppose school voucher programs, which would bring black students into their classrooms?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 PM


Ashcroft pitches faith: In Denver, AG lauds aid for religious groups (Susan Greene, January 14, 2003 , Denver Post)
John Ashcroft was preaching to the choir Monday while crusading in Denver for the Bush administration's plan to fund religion-based social services.

The U.S. attorney general and part- time gospel singer told about 1,000 religious-service providers that, "Out of fear, ignorance and occasional bigotry, faith-based groups have been prohibited from competing for federal funding on a level playing field with secular groups."

Here's another kind of anti-religious bigotry, Change is in the air (Rev. Larry Connors, Evangelical Covenant Church, January 13, 2003, International Falls Daily Journal):
I have enjoyed being a part of the church column since the spring of 1994. For almost nine years area clergy have submitted articles without creating any major controversy. My experience has been that the response was both favorable and an encouragement to the readers of The Daily Journal ... and that was the intention since its inception. There has been a wide variety of columns, most of which have included Scripture and were based on a verse or several verses from the Bible, the Word of God.

But change is in the air. I recently received a letter from The Daily Journal informing me, along with other area clergy, of some new policy guidelines for the church column. I would like to share with you as readers one of the changes, which is most disappointing to me. It is the new policy of not being able to use Scripture in our articles. I want to just quote to you the new guideline so there is no misunderstanding in my concern and disappointment.

A paragraph on page 2 of the new guidelines reads: "One of the best ways to keep from just writing down a sermon on paper is to not use Scripture, so we ask you to refrain from quoting Scripture in your columns. Although Scripture is an important aspect to religion, we feel it is inappropriate for our newspaper's church column. When a writer uses a Bible or other religious text, as a resource, it seems that they are attempting more to write a sermon than a church column and they may turn off readers. Besides, if a clergy member feel strongly enough about an issue they can always write a letter to the editor, which is published on The Daily Journal's opinion page. In a letter to the editor, a reader may quote Scripture."

Odd, isn't it, how the presumed attempt to create a "neutral" environment so often requires folks to demonstrate actual hostility towards religion. Odder still that this hostility is the default politically correct position nowadays.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM


Cockfighting Rooster Kills Handler (AP, Jan 14, 2003)
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (AP) -- A rooster about to be set loose for a bout in a crowded cockfighting arena attacked its handler with the razor-sharp steel spikes strapped to its legs, killing the stunned man, police said Tuesday.

The gaffs hit the man's thigh and groin as the bird made one rapid shuffle, causing him to bleed profusely Sunday before a large crowd of shocked spectators, police investigator Johnny Muhajil said.

If we ran the PCFL (Philippines Cock Fighting League) that would win the chicken his freedom--he was definitely punching over his weight.

P.S.--We'll send a book to the first person who gets the title.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:29 PM


E and mc2: Equality, It Seems, Is Relative (DENNIS OVERBYE, December 31, 2002, NY Times)
As propounded by Einstein as an audaciously confident young patent clerk in 1905, relativity declares that the laws of physics, and in particular the speed of light--186,000 miles per second--are the same no matter where you are or how fast you are moving.

Generations of students and philosophers have struggled with the paradoxical consequences of Einstein's deceptively simple notion, which underlies all of modern physics and technology, wrestling with clocks that speed up and slow down, yardsticks that contract and expand and bad jokes using the word "relative."

Guided by ambiguous signals from the heavens, and by the beauty of their equations, a few brave--or perhaps foolhardy--physicists now say that relativity may have limits and will someday have to be revised.

Some suggest, for example, the rate of the passage of time could depend on a clock's orientation in space, an effect that physicists hope to test on the space station. Or the speed of a light wave could depend slightly on its color, an effect, astronomers say, that could be detected by future observations of gamma ray bursters, enormous explosions on the far side of the universe.

"What makes this worth talking about is the possibility of near-term experimental implications," said Dr. Lee Smolin, a gravitational theorist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario.

Any hint of breakage of relativity, scientists say, could yield a clue to finding the holy grail of contemporary physics--a "theory of everything" that would marry Einstein's general theory of relativity, which describes how gravity shapes the universe, to quantum mechanics, the strange rules that govern energy and matter on subatomic scales.

Even Einstein was stumped by this so-called quantum gravity. [...]

Dr. Albrecht urged caution and said physicists needed guidance from experiments before tossing out beloved principles like relativity. "The most dignified way forward," he said, "is to be forced kicking and screaming to toss them out."

There's nothing more anti-scientific than the idea that a theory, even one dreamt up by Einstein, would not need extensive revision or even eventually to be discarded. You'd think we'd know by now just how little we know.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 PM


Breaking the Ice: Landscapers Can't Keep Up With Demand to Get Dams Off Roofs (Omar Sacirbey, 1/14/903, Valley News)
Decked out in heavy black overalls, a gray sweatshirt and a thick knit cap, Keith Daniels swung his ax. Chunks of ice slid down Cornish Elementary School's standing seam roof, sounding like dominos falling to the floor as they hit the frozen ground.

"It's been bad. This has been the worst one for a few winters, anyways," said Daniels, who works for Meriden-based Mak's Landscaping and Maintenance. [...]

Ice dams form when melting snow runs down a roof but then freezes at its usually uninsulated eaves and valleys. The result is a dam that blocks the remaining snowmelt. That snowmelt, however, usually doesn't freeze because it's on a part of the roof that is above an insulated part of the house that allows heat to rise. Unable to flow down, the snowmelt can seep through porous roofs and into homes. [...]

"The roof of choice--in the North Country--is standing seam metal," Jourdan said. Such roofs, if they are standing seam and especially if they have a decent pitch -- which he considers to be 6 inches for every 12 inches of roof -- can withstand several feet of snow.

We know how he feels.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


ASPIRING AMERICA (Patrick Ruffini, 01.13.03)

Patrick Ruffini, whose Press Secretary I hope to be when he's elected to whatever, has some poll numbers that further suggest that the Democrats are out of step with the country:

A new national survey by Public Opinion Strategies (POS) finds that 61% of American voters back the Bush economic stimulus plan and only 34% oppose it. The poll also found that 55% favor the Democratic plan, with 38% opposing it. Asked to choose between the two plans, voters opt for the Bush plan by a 51%-41% margin over the Congressional Democratic plan.

The Bush stimulus plan is preferred to the Democratic stimulus plan among key swing groups, including by a 53%-36% margin among Independents, 50%-43% among swing voters, 48%-42% among suburban women, and 52%-42% among middle income voters.

Considering that 41% is the absolute floor for Democrat voters in America, this poll is a disaster. They have their base and that's it, despite a uniformly hostile reception to the Bush plan from the media, which the Left will be disappointed to hear they still dominate. The most important effect of such poll numbers is that it turns up the torque on their senators who are facing re-election in '04 in states that President Bush is going to carry. Blanche Lincoln (AR) and Byron Dorgan (ND) would seem to face particularly tough choices between loyalty to Tom Daschle or their own political futures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM


China Gambles on Big Projects for Its Stability (JOSEPH KAHN, January 13, 2003, NY Times)
China's top leaders, many of them trained in the mechanical sciences, are not just making mountain cities into transportation hubs. They also want to pump 48 billion cubic meters of water each year from south to north, transport natural gas from Central Asia to China's southeast coast, and construct the world's largest dam, longest bridge, fastest train and highest railroad.

Even more than modernizing its infrastructure or, as some critics see it, erecting monuments to its emerging might, China is desperate to keep the economy growing quickly. Over the past few years, it has reached deep into the national treasury to finance projects that it hopes will create jobs and stimulate enough growth to ensure social stability and to keep the Communist Party in power.

As a new generation of leaders takes control, China is using heavy government investment to escape the worldwide slowdown and maintain growth above the 7 percent level that the government deems crucial to avoiding mass unemployment and urban unrest.

The plan has worked, so far. China last year reported defiantly robust growth of 8 percent, attributed to surging exports and a nearly 25 percent increase in state-directed investment.

But the strategy is risky. The once fiscally prudent central government is now running hefty budget deficits. State banks, told a few years ago to clean up bad loans and begin acting like capitalist lenders, are pumping tens of billions of dollars into officially sponsored projects that have sometimes failed to produce real returns. [...]

Some economists argue that such investments are smart bets on the future. Only a small percentage of the urban population earns middle-class wages, and China cannot rely on consumer spending to spur growth the way most industrialized nations can.

China also needs to expand faster than wealthy countries to generate jobs for workers laid off by state-run factories and for farmers flocking to cities to seek something better than subsistence income.

"The government is sucking up savings and investing in the future," said Andy Xie, a regional economist for Morgan Stanley. "The financial returns on these kinds of investments are low. But the payoff for the economy is high."

Mr. Xie argues that China's work force is becoming significantly more efficient. He estimates that China is experiencing productivity growth of 4 percent a year. An eight-lane highway between two crowded cities greatly enhances productivity when it replaces a two-lane road. Cellphones have revolutionized communications in a place where fixed-line phones were scarce. [...]

[Fred Hu, chief China economist for Goldman Sachs], argues that as China suffers through a period of falling prices and low consumer spending, Beijing is right to inject money into the economy.

"This is China's New Deal," Mr. Hu said. "Every problem is easier to solve when growth is faster."

He says that as if the New Deal was a good thing. But what are the chances that a communist government that's isolated from the world, its own people, and political, economic, and, most importantly, demographic reality is making wise choices about where and what it builds?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM


Future Combat: The Army of the future will be lighter, fleeter and better connected (Frank Vizard, January 13, 2003, Scientific American)
The goal sounds simple: be able to send a brigade anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a division within 120 hours and five divisions within 30 days. Achieving that goal, however, means transforming the army from a ponderous force built around the use of tanks and other heavy vehicles to one that is comprised of lighter, less heavily armored vehicles that can sprint across the battlefield at speeds of 60 mph and that can deliver the same dose of lethality as their bigger predecessors.

"We're changing how the army fights and deploys," General John M. Keane, Army vice chief of staff, told an audience of 1,161 scientists and technologists at December's biannual Army Science Conference in Orlando, Fla. The 23rd Science Conference was essentially a blueprint for attendees that laid down the goals and technological challenges associated with what the Army calls Future Combat Systems. Key to the transformation will be a host of new technologies that includes hybrid electric vehicles, robotics, lasers, mobile network communications and an array of smart weapons and sensors based on enabling technologies such as micromechanical systems (MEMS), biotechnology and nanotechnology. Other research efforts will help protect troops from biological agents (see "Detecting Biowarfare Attacks"). [...]

Underlying this transformation in hardware is a shift in the army's battle plans for future wars. As explained by General Keane, past military operations such as those in the Persian Gulf War were characterized by massive firepower proceeding across a border to take over as much enemy territory as possible. Advances in sensor technologies, deployed in everything from Earth-orbiting satellites to unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, now allow troops to "see over the hill" as never before. In future battles, says Keane, the Army will occupy strategic points "like pepperoni on a pizza, with sensors watching over the rest of the pie."

Considering the difficulty that even Don Rumsfeld, one of the great bureaucratic infighters in recent government history, is having getting the Pentagon to change its way of thinking, you have to wonder if such a transformation is truly possible until we have the kind of dismantling of the armed forces that has usually followed the end of war, but which barely occurred in the 90s. Folks often lament how unprepared the US was for everything from the Civil War to WWII, but they fail to consider that it allowed the military to reinvent itself, to arm with the best available technology, and to bring in men with few tactical or strategic preconceptions. In a way that's tough for a conservative to acknowledge, some lack of institutional memory and continuity may be a very good thing for the armed forces.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 AM


THE PERILS OF REPUBLICS (Lucy Sullivan, Autumn 1998, Policy)
The concern of the aforementioned French political philosophers, all writing in the last two decades, has been to understand why the acclaimed liberal principles - rationality, liberty, rights, democracy - which ushered in the modern period should have had such devastating consequences. We in the (British) Commonwealth, protected across three centuries from their most destructive effects by our tie to the pre-modern world through a constitutional monarchy, are able to embrace them with an innocence and insouciance which the French had necessarily lost by the early decades of the nineteenth century.

Why did democracy, when enacted in its purest form as the will of the people untrammelled by traditional power and authority, degenerate so readily into demagogy? Two intertwining lines of explanation are offered by the most interesting of this new group of philosophers, and they hinge on the source of political authority and the problem of unanimity in the people's will.

Marcel Gauchet, Bernard Manin and Pierre Manent explore the problem of the `empty seat' of power created in the modern world by the removal of the authority of monarch and religion. Gauchet develops the idea that traditional societies were given stability by the role of religion, as an authority outside the disputable affairs of men, which was deferred to as unquestionable. In late eighteenth century France, with the overthrow of both religion and its surrogate, the monarchy, and the advent of the republic, the state replaced religion as the exogenous (external, overarching) power, deriving its
authority from beliefs in the autonomy of the individual. But because, in a republic, the state is seen to represent the people's will, and is therefore sovereign, it can be concluded that no individual has the right to defect from its authority. This is why the modern nation has tended to totalitarianism as well as to democracy.

Manin arrives at a similar conclusion by a different route. The democratic ideal of the will of the people as the only legitimate source of power creates immediate problems of political practice, if each individual is to exercise personal freedom. Manin diagnoses eighteenth and nineteenth century liberal theories of justice as attempting to answer the question: How can we establish a political and social order based on the free will of the individual? The answer was a presupposition of unanimity of will in the political sphere. In practice this does not occur, and the practicalities of government require its relinquishment, again making the reach of authority problematic, and requiring the acceptance of compromise. But as a principle, the belief in unanimity is a powerful tool of totalitarianism which allows dissidence to be seen as disrupting the unity of `the people' and their rightful rule.

The French philosophers do not explore the situation of constitutional monarchies, but we can apply their insights to our own tradition, which has not suffered the political instability and tendency to demagogy of the republican record. The defence against totalitarianism offered by a constitutional monarchy would seem to be that the monarch, like religion (and in Britain reinforced by religion), provides an exogenous authority beyond the state which acts as an impediment to usurpation.

The tradition of the constitutional monarch is one of defender of the established law, while an elected head of government or state, representing the will of the people, may feel free to overthrow the traditional and accreted wisdom of common law in favour of a new, although temporary, authority conferred by a populace lacking the longer view. This has an obvious potential for political instability. Democracy, functioning within a higher order of tradition, is not so readily degraded into demagogy. Under constitutional monarchies, the functional seat of power, the government, retains a sense of order and authority beyond the immediate will of the people, and paradoxically this allows for greater tolerance of dissidence. Republics have generally been less kind to minorities than have constitutional monarchies. [...]

Let us now look at the position of the United States, a stable republic, in this development. Unlike the French republic, the American republic did not overthrow religion as a source of authority in the conduct of its citizens’ lives. De Tocqueville, in the nineteenth century, argued that religion, although unattached to monarchy, was an essential feature of democracy in America. Thus the religious fundamentalism of America, deplored for its personal restrictiveness when viewed from within the tolerance of constitutional monarchies, has provided for the United States the exogenous dimension which defends republics from totalitarianism.

The American Bill of Rights and its separation of powers, devised as defences against dictatorial law-making, may have been less important in this respect than has been supposed.

If the West is to engage in nation-building in the Islamic world for the forseeable future, we'd do well to try and understand why some democracies fare better than others. If a reformed (non-totalitarian) Islamic faith and some form of monarchy, mixed with democratic legislatures and other institutions, will over the long haul provide the kind of stability and freedom that an America or an Australia have enjoyed then we should not be too hasty to shatter societies that may already, to a surprising degree, be primed for a successful democratic future.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM


N.J. appeals court: Overtly religious people can be barred from juries (The Associated Press, 01.13.03)
The prosecutor during Fuller's trial bounced a white man who said he was a missionary and a black man wearing a long black garment and a skull cap. Neither potential juror was asked about his religious beliefs, but the prosecutor later said the black man was "obviously a Muslim."

After the defense objected, the prosecutor told the trial judge that "people who tend to be demonstrative about their religions tend to favor defendants to a greater extent than do persons who are, shall we say, not as religious."

"They may very well tend to be more accepting of a person's professions of innocence in the face of facts to the contrary," the prosecutor argued.

That is permissible, said Appellate Judge Joseph F. Lisa, who wrote, "Individuals who are demonstrative about their religion do not share the same values, tenets or practices, and thus do not represent a cross-section of society."

Appellate Judge Dorothea O'C. Wefing concurred, but Appellate Judge Jose L. Fuentes said the challenges violated not only Fuller's right to equal protection, but the potential jurors' First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

The majority has a legitimate point in there somewhere, but their application of it seems overbroad. Obviously you should be able to bar from a death-qualified jury someone whose religious scruples would forbid them to apply the death penalty. Likewise, if a potential juror believes homosexuality or abortion or some other action that may be legal to be nonetheless evil, it would hardly be fair to a defendant who will have to acknowledge such activity in the course of their defense to be judged by a that potential juror. These are cases where a particular religious belief conflicts with the law of society, and in such cases religion must yield.

However, the blanket statement that the demonstratively religious will tend to favor defendants seems neither necessarily true nor a permissible reason to bar an entire class of folks. One might as well claim that black jurors tend to favor black defendants and should therefore be barred from some juries. Few would find this acceptable. Nor is it apparent why the defense should not be able to bar the irreligious, since they, by the prosecutor's own admission, are less amenable to the defense. Or is the court saying that irreligion is the societal norm against which jurors should be measured?

January 13, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Sen. Byrd: I Didn't Lynch and Wasn't Racist While in the Klan (NewsMax, Jan. 13, 2003)
A spokesman for West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd said Monday morning that the top Senate Democrat has told him he never participated in lynchings, cross burnings or other hate crimes against African-Americans while he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s. And he insisted that his boss wasn't a racist even during the time he belonged to the anti-black hate group. [...]

In another letter, Byrd outlined his opposition to integrating the Armed Forces in the late 1940s. In that missive, the future Senate leader was quoted describing blacks as "race mongrels" and vowing that he would rather "die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again" than fight "with a Negro by my side." Asked about the quotes, Gavin said, "Again, he finds the comments in those letters to be deplorable and he doesn't recall writing them."

Democrats like to say that Byrd's racism isn't an issue because he's not in a Leadership position anymore. However, if the 4th hijacked plane had crashed into the White House during a meeting involving the President, VP, and Dennis Hastert, Robert Byrd would have become President of the United States on 9-11-2001.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


Kerry sets tone for campaign (Glen Johnson, 1/13/2003, Boston Globe)
In the living room of a New Hampshire farmhouse, standing before a crackling fire and a crowd of about 75 people, Senator John F. Kerry crossed a threshold this weekend.

''When I'm president of the United States, we're going to have early childhood education,'' he said Friday night to a hearty round of applause.

It was, according to an aide and a reporter who have witnessed nearly every moment of Kerry's fledgling presidential candidacy, the first time the Massachusetts Democrat had uttered such a statement in public, a flat-out declaration based on the assumption he will be elected president. ''It's very real now,'' said the aide.

What does it say about your candidacy when an empty rhetorical flourish is your defining moment?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM


Tony Blair's journey from people-pleaser to statesman (Michael Gove, January 13, 2003, Times of London)
The Prime Minister told us yesterday that his job was "sometimes to say the things people don't want to hear". From a congenital people-pleaser, it was a telling statement, a demonstration that he realises statesmanship involves taking decisions in which there is no difference to split, no happy "third way" between undesirable options. The public, and the press, would very much like there to be a third way of dealing with Saddam which doesn't leave us in danger or involve young men taking ships to a war zone. The uncomfortable truth is, there isn't.

It's almost impossible to imagine Bill Clinton pursuing the difficult course that Mr. Blair and George W. Bush have chosen when it would be so much easier and popular to just back off.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 PM


Lieberman Says Jewish Faith Not a Campaign Issue (John Whitesides, January 13, 2003, Reuters)
Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman, whose devout Jewish faith was considered an asset on the campaign trail in 2000, said on Monday he would not hesitate to talk about God and values in his White House run.

Lieberman, a strict orthodox Jew who does not campaign on the Sabbath, became the most prominent Jewish presidential candidate in history when he leaped into the Democratic race.

"I'm not running on my faith, but the fact is that my faith is at the center of who I am and I'm not going to conceal that," Lieberman said after his announcement in his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.

"I'll not hesitate to talk about faith when it's relevant, or to invoke God's name when it comes naturally out of me, because I think that's what America is about," he said of his campaign to become the nation's first Jewish president. [...]

But analysts said the public never seemed to mind comments from Lieberman -- such as his statement that a prescription drug benefit was in line with the biblical command to "honor thy father and thy mother" -- that might have drawn a different reaction coming from a conservative Christian leader.

In Stamford on Monday, Lieberman cited the Declaration of Independence and its protection of rights and liberties endowed by "the Creator," adding: "If the spirit moves me occasionally to say a word or two of faith, I think it's a very American thing to do."

He said Democrats have allowed Republicans to act as if they have a monopoly on values "when we as Democrats -- and our positions on education, environmental protection, civil rights, human rights, civil liberties -- are embracing values, a sense of right and wrong."

It's awfully hard to reconcile his pro-abortion position with these professions of faith and how it informs his values. How can "honour they father and they mother" require prescription drugs and hallowing the Sabbath require him not to campaign on Saturdays yet "Thou shalt not kill" allow for abortions?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 PM


Paris-Berlin pact troubled on eve of rebirth (Charles Bremner, January 14, 2003, Times of London)
A SCHEME for France and Germany to present a common voice on the world stage hit turbulence yesterday before a meeting today of President Chirac of France and Gerhard Schroeder, the German Chancellor, to finalise plans for a grand relaunch of the Berlin-Paris alliance.

Berlin?s senior official in charge of the Franco-German relationship said that talk about a new European foreign policy would be meaningless if France sided with the United States against Germany in a future United Nations Security Council vote on Iraq.

Differences over Iraq, with Germany opposed to any military action and France open to a UN-approved use of force, highlighted the hurdles facing M Chirac and Herr Schröder as they meet in Paris tonight to finalise the renewal next week of the 1963 pact between the former wartime foes.

"Iraq will be the acid test for the claim that we want to cultivate special relations between the two countries," Rudolf von Thadden, the co-ordinator for Franco-German relations, said. "If Germany and France do not vote together on the Iraq question . . . then it will be difficult to pursue a common foreign policy in coming years."

The remarks reflected frustration at the gulf between French talk of support for European Union actions and the assertive, nationally minded role that M Chirac's administration plays in international relations. Although Germany strongly supports an EU approach to foreign policy, France, like Britain, has no qualms about flexing its muscles as a permanent member of the Security Council.

A common voice at the 15-member council, at which Germany and Spain hold rotating seats this year, is part of the Franco-German scheme for bolstering the partnership and reshaping the EU.

Reading this you know how someone must have felt 60 years ago when the Times ran stories about snags in the Molotov-Ribbentrop talks.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Aggressive Seagulls Menacing Urban Britain (James Owen, January 7, 2003, National Geographic News)
Soaring seagull populations are proving a serious headache in urban Britain. Noise, mess, and the threat of physical attack have prompted a range of measures aimed at repelling the winged invaders. But as efforts to curb them fail, the gulls get ever more aggressive.

The Bard wrote:
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, his realm, this England

Time to add a line:
This steaming pile of guano

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 PM

MELTDOWN (via David Cohen):

Reno doesn't rule out a bid for U.S. Senate if seat is open (Peter Wallsten, Jan. 13, 2003, Miami Herald)
Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno told reporters after she lost a bid for governor last year that she was done with politics.

Not so fast.

Reached by telephone at her Kendall home last week, Reno refused to rule out a bid for the U.S. Senate representing Florida should Bob Graham decide to run for president.

Add another nomination to the list--along with Al Sharpton in the Presidential; Cynthia McKinney in GA; and Carol Mosley-Braun in IL--of those races where the National Party has to work to knock off a member of its base. The Democratic Party is going to spend the Spring of '04 opposing blacks and women who are running for office. That should be good for turnout in November.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM

SOUND AND FURY (via Crow Blog)

Ford Becomes First Black Republican In Alabama Legislature: Democrat Switches To Republican Party (Associated Press, January 10, 2003)
State Rep. Johnny Ford, the former longtime mayor of Tuskegee, said Thursday he is switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party, a move that will make him the first black Republican in the Alabama Legislature in at least a century.

"I am doing this because I strongly feel that in Alabama we need to put partisan politics behind us and join hands as one," said Ford, who quietly supported Republican Gov.-elect Bob Riley during last year's election.

Ford, 60, said he plans to make the official announcement at a news conference with Riley within the next week. [...]

He will be the first black Republican to serve in the Legislature since the days of Reconstruction following the Civil War, according to state archives.

Democrats keep banging the race drum, waiting for folks to dance to its tune. There's little evidence anyone's listening.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 PM


On tolerance (David Warren, January 12, 2003, Ottawa Citizen)
What has happened in Canada, and elsewhere in the West, is the systematic abandonment by people who still consider themselves to be "liberal", of every principle for which liberalism once stood. And at the root of this, I think, is the transformation of "tolerance". It has ceased to be a rational and defensible principle, and become instead a war cry for the demolition of anything that remains in our social order.

For if you read John Locke, in his "Letter Concerning Toleration", the classical liberal account of the matter, you enter a different world of mind than any we would recognize today. I am not a Lockean liberal myself, but like my late Canadian hero George Grant, I will immediately concede that, "There are worse accounts of justice than you will find in John Locke."

Locke takes it for granted, as all liberals once did, that a society has a shape and nature, that it is not a vacuum; he refers expressly to a "Christian commonwealth". Moreover he allows that this Christian order is founded on a profound knowledge - not an opinion about, but knowledge -- of right and wrong. He identifies toleration with the highest Christian aspirations, but does not take it as a good in itself, and does not dream that it can be either absolute or relativist.

In his "Letter" and elsewhere, Locke builds the position of the civil magistrate -- his view of what we will allow and not allow, what we will enfranchise and not enfranchise -- on what is reciprocal. We can tolerate all those who tolerate us.

In his day in England, for instance, he will tolerate Roman Catholics in practice, because they do nothing in their churches that would not be legal in their homes. But he nevertheless excludes them from full citizenship; and not because he is an anti-Catholic bigot but because Catholics did not then recognize England's Protestant succession. He defended the full enfranchisement of various Protestant non-conformists, because they did recognize it. He excluded Jews and Atheists, because they could not fully accept a civil order founded in Christian belief. To the modern reader this seems shocking; but one can see the reasoning in it.

Times change, & it is quite right that we have accepted the enfranchisement of Catholics and Jews and even Atheists. The condition was, they pledge allegiance, and thus agree to share in upholding the civil order as much symbolized as ruled by Crown in Parliament.

Today we have not merely forgotten the condition, but have actually reversed it.

Here's a portion of the Letter that touches upon these points:
I say, first, no opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in any Church are rare. For no sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness as that it should think fit to teach, for doctrines of religion, such things as manifestly undermine the foundations of society and are, therefore, condemned by the judgement of all mankind; because their own interest, peace, reputation, everything would be thereby endangered.

Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, some peculiar prerogative covered over with a specious show of deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil right of the community. For example: we cannot find any sect that teaches, expressly and openly, that men are not obliged to keep their promise; that princes may be dethroned by those that differ from them in religion; or that the dominion of all things belongs only to themselves. For these things, proposed thus nakedly and plainly, would soon draw on them the eye and hand of the magistrate and awaken all the care of the commonwealth to a watchfulness against the spreading of so dangerous an evil. But, nevertheless, we find those that say the same things in other words. What else do they mean who teach that faith is not to be kept with heretics? Their meaning, forsooth, is that the privilege of breaking faith belongs unto themselves; for they declare all that are not of their communion to be heretics, or at least may declare them so whensoever they think fit. What can be the meaning of their asserting that kings excommunicated forfeit their crowns and kingdoms? It is evident that they thereby arrogate unto themselves the power of deposing kings, because they challenge the power of excommunication, as the peculiar right of their hierarchy. That dominion is founded in grace is also an assertion by which those that maintain it do plainly lay claim to the possession of all things. For they are not so wanting to themselves as not to believe, or at least as not to profess themselves to be the truly pious and faithful. These, therefore, and the like, who attribute unto the faithful, religious, and orthodox, that is, in plain terms, unto themselves, any peculiar privilege or power above other mortals, in civil concernments; or who upon pretence of religion do challenge any manner of authority over such as are not associated with them in their ecclesiastical communion, I say these have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate; as neither those that will not own and teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of mere religion. For what do all these and the like doctrines signify, but that they may and are ready upon any occasion to seize the Government and possess themselves of the estates and fortunes of their fellow subjects; and that they only ask leave to be tolerated by the magistrate so long until they find themselves strong enough to effect it?

Again: That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince. For by this means the magistrate would give way to the settling of a foreign jurisdiction in his own country and suffer his own people to be listed, as it were, for soldiers against his own Government. Nor does the frivolous and fallacious distinction between the Court and the Church afford any remedy to this inconvenience; especially when both the one and the other are equally subject to the absolute authority of the same person, who has not only power to persuade the members of his Church to whatsoever he lists, either as purely religious, or in order thereunto, but can also enjoin it them on pain of eternal fire. It is ridiculous for any one to profess himself to be a Mahometan only in his religion, but in everything else a faithful subject to a Christian magistrate, whilst at the same time he acknowledges himself bound to yield blind obedience to the Mufti of Constantinople, who himself is entirely obedient to the Ottoman Emperor and frames the feigned oracles of that religion according to his pleasure. But this Mahometan living amongst Christians would yet more apparently renounce their government if he acknowledged the same person to be head of his Church who is the supreme magistrate in the state.

Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration. As for other practical opinions, though not absolutely free from all error, if they do not tend to establish domination over others, or civil impunity to the Church in which they are taught, there can be no reason why they should not be tolerated.

One recognizes here some of the reasoning by which Robert Bork, in his famous (infamous?) Indiana Law Journal essay——excluded advocacy of
communism and purveying of pornography from the protections of the First Amendment. With regards to communism, he made the seemingly self-evident point that it would be absurd to think that the Constitution is intended to protect those who seek to overthrow it.

Harvey Mansfield makes a similar point when he argues for the supremacy of the Constitution in America:

In Mansfield's words, "although the Constitution is based on the state of nature, it is not a natural constitution in the sense of being determined by nature. It had to be constituted, and the choice between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists was a real one. . . . [A]fter the Constitution was constituted, it produced a way of thinking — a culture — favorable to itself." That means "the American regime is not simply a theoretical, impartial republic modeled on mankind's necessities. It has its own character and has made its own culture."

I paraphrase: The Constitution was written to secure the natural rights named in the Declaration. But once written, it took on a life of its own, independent of the doctrine that gave rise to it. The Constitution, and no longer the principle that "all men are created equal," now became our regime,
our arche or principle, our authoritative beginning that shapes and forms us and makes us what we are. We now understand ourselves (or once did), Mansfield argues, as a constitutional people, no longer as a revolutionary people standing up against oppressive government in the name of our natural rights. In this respect, says Mansfield, America moves beyond Locke and even against Locke, whose Two Treatises concluded with a warm celebration of the right of revolution. "To a constitutional people," writes Mansfield, "overturning the Constitution is unthinkable. On this point The Federalist is opposed to John Locke, who speaks rather lightly of establishing a new constitution."

According to Mansfield, the result of this transformation from a natural-rights republic to a constitutional republic is that our politics are much less vulnerable to the kind of destructive moralism that we see in the French Revolution. The French, in Mansfield's view, made the mistake of taking the idea of equality too seriously. They tried to "finish" the modern revolution initiated by Locke and the other adherents of social compact theory. They failed to put an end to their revolution by constitutionalizing it, as the American Founders did. As a result, the French lived out the full destructive implications of the modern doctrine, while the Americans were spared that destruction. In Mansfield's analysis, sober forms take the place of dangerous moral absolutes. That is, the form and formalities of constitutionalism take the place, in America, of insatiable appeals to a standard of "natural rights [held] over the government."

Mansfield believes that to the extent that Americans understand themselves as a constitutional people, as opposed to a people dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, they will be better able to appreciate the need for inequality in human life. So he concludes that we should celebrate the Constitution, and everything that goes with it, such as forms, formalities, and responsibility. These things are admittedly not quite virtue, but they point us in the direction of virtue. That is about as far as one can go in that old-fashioned direction under the conditions of the modern state. As for the Lockean theory of the founding, Mansfield does not deny that it was there, but he thinks it would be unwise to make too much of it, especially in our time, when all the forces seem to be pushing us in the direction of more and more equality.

Given this perspective it seems fair to wonder why a constitution that establishes its own forms, formalities, responsibilities, character, and culture should be understood to be amenable to the destruction of those very things, should, as Mr. Warren says has occurred in Canada, tolerate the "demolition of anything that remains in our social order." Thus, while it may be appropriate to tolerate an individual's atheism, statist Islamism, communism, homosexuality, racial separatism, etc. so long as these things remain private, as soon as they start to organize around these ideas or to inflict them on the broader regime our tolerance should end. And we should never do more than merely tolerate them. One may choose to be an atheist, but the resulting inability to swear and be bound by an oath should have consequences for that individual, not for society at-large. Or, one may be a homosexual, but the state need not therefore confer some official status on homosexual relationships nor even bar the rest of society from treating such individuals differently than they do others. In a sense, toleration is appropriate to precisely the degree that the beliefs/behaviors being tolerated are insignificant to the culture that the Constitution established. To the degree that they begin to have a significant impact they should not be tolerated or else we may lose the very culture that our system is designed to vindicate.

Mr. Warren refers, I think appropriately, to the alternative--to a system where those who can not conform themselves to the prevailing culture get to demand that the culture change--as nihilism:

If I were to choose a single word to describe this disease, it would be "nihilism". In broad political terms, it is the position you reach when you have evacuated from public life anything that has intrinsic meaning; when you approach, in effect, the intellectual equivalent of the heat death of the universe.

"One view is as good as another, one ideal is as good as another, one way of life is as good as another, and who is to judge?"

Having started with a State which is intended to impose and preserve a certain civic order, one may end by denying even the possibility of order and instead using the awesome powers that were only grudgingly conferred upon the state because it promised order to protect the disorderly, to, in effect, create disorder. This result is an obvious perversion of the purposes for which men enter into a shared civil society.

-REVIEW: of The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit by A.J. Conyers (David Gordon, The Mises Review)
-ESSAY: John Locke: From Absolutism to Toleration (Robert P. Kraynak, March 1980, The American Political Science Review)
-ESSAY: Religious Liberty as a Paradigm: For the Development of Human Rights (Alexandra Merrett, The Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Bob Graham for President? (George Will, January 13, 2003, Washington Post)
Now in his 37th year in politics, this former state legislator and two-term governor is in the fifth year of his third Senate term and was until this year chairman of the Intelligence Committee. There he came to the conclusions that caused him to oppose the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. He believes the resolution is ``too timid.'' He voted against it after the Senate rejected his amendment to authorize force anywhere against all terrorist groups, such as Hezbollah, who ``probably'' will strike America as Iraq falls.

He charges that the Bush administration has politicized both the classification and the leaking of information. He says leaking the story of the Predator strike that killed al Qaeda operatives in Yemen embarrassed Yemen's government by revealing their cooperation with America.

He believes the 9/11 hijackers were given logistical and other help by a foreign government's--he will not say which--``facilitation network'' in this country. He thinks that network remains in place and probably will assist terrorists here during a war with Iraq. The FBI, he says, has been "aggressively passive'' in not responding to inquiries about this, but ``the FBI as much as said'' it is not allowed to be responsive.

Graham says the administration does not want to roil relations with this unnamed country as war possibly impends. But ``here is what President Graham would have done'' by now:

Recognize that al Qaeda is not the only, or the most competent, terrorist organization targeting American interests and America itself. Hezbollah, especially, has demonstrated ``a willingness, even enthusiasm, to kill Americans'' and its relations with Iran may give it access to that country's chemical and biological weapons, which are ``greater in volume than Iraq's.'' And Hezbollah has a ``significant presence'' in America.

Graham says that in Damascus last July he told Syria's President Assad that America has proof of terrorist camps in Syria and Syrian-controlled Lebanon. Assad denied it. President Graham, says Graham, would expand President Bush's doctrine of pre-emption by telling Damascus that it must close the camps, or America will.

He'd find no support for such open-ended attacks in his own party, his State Department, his Pentagon, the Congress, or the international community. That doesn't mean he's wrong, only that these threats are hollow. But it will be worthwhile to add his voice to the debate in a forum where he'll get more attention. It will be particularly helpful to get folks started thinking about the eventual necessity to topple Syria's Assad regime and to help Israel clean out Hezbollah from Lebanon.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:06 AM


Anglosphere: The logic of empire (JAMES C. BENNETT, 01/11/2003, UPI)
The key to both the historical question of the Second British Empire and the issue of whether the United States today has, or should be, creating an empire, is the question of whether any political system beyond national scale should be thought of as an empire at all, in the classical sense. In empires prior to the Industrial Revolution, the issues were simple. Empires typically consisted of a metropolitan center commanding a wide variety of tributary provinces, which might or might not be ethnically distinct from the metropolis.

Economically, the provinces supported the metropolis, usually very directly. The provinces paid taxes in money or in kind; cash or food flowed from the provinces to the center. The paradigmatic case was Rome's rule over Egypt: Rome sent soldiers; Egypt sent grain; the Roman populace ate the bread the Egyptians grew and sent. Rome exploited Egypt and existed thereby.

The First British Empire, primarily the Caribbean and North America, contained some relations of that nature. British planters seized the sugar islands and Southern plantation lands, and imported slaves to work them. They sent the sugar to England and the slaves lived at bare subsistence level: classic pre-industrial empire. However, already a difference had emerged. The sugar colonies provided luxuries sold for cash; the metropolis produced more than enough basic foodstuffs to feed itself, thanks to the Agricultural Revolution that had begun the take effect in the 17th and 18th centuries. Britain profited from the First Empire but did not depend upon it.

The Industrial Revolution changed the picture for good. By the early 19th century, the wealth of the industrial sector began to eclipse that of the old sugar islands. American independence had cut off the mainland plantation lands. Money still spoke in Parliament, but the voice of dissenting abolitionist factory-owners now spoke louder, with their newfound riches, than the old planter classes. It was this change that made gradual abolition politically possible.

Subsequent imperial acquisitions were justified on a mix of trade, strategic, and humanitarian grounds. Markets, natural resources, naval bases, and the need to rescue the natives from various situations were all arguments frequently used in various combinations. However, none of these real or imagined benefits ever became proven equivalents to the old agricultural exploitation benefits.

Markets could almost always be kept open by means far cheaper than annexations. Access to resources was dependent more on overall control of the sea than formal control of real estate: Germany's formal control of Cameroon or Tanganyika gave them no benefits in World War I, while Britain was free to import from the rest of the world, because it and not Germany controlled the sea lanes. If colonies provided cheaper resources than free-trading independent states, then the era following decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s should have seen rising resource prices; for the most part, increased competition drove them down, even eventually in petroleum.

Ancient Rome needed to maintain political control over its provinces to keep the grain ships coming. Modern America is awash in surplus grain from its own fields, which it gives away to the Third World. This brings up the interesting question: if the United States is to have an empire, what is the point of it?

Mr. Bennett's excellent question is particularly applicable in Iraq where the Left is referring to a "war for oil", as if we needed to take control of the fields, despite the fact that we are currently the biggest purchasers of Iraqi oil. Why bother with war if we're getting the oil anyway?

January 12, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 PM


Cartoon from America's past resurfaces in battles over Iran's future (BRIAN MURPHY, 1/12/03, Associated Press)
Protesters in bloodstained shrouds clog streets in Iran's holy city. A popular newspaper is closed and key staff arrested.

The brother of Iran's supreme leader chokes back tears in parliament.

Call it the cartoon crisis.

A torrent of outrage from Muslim hard-liners increased Sunday over a most unexpected provocation: a 66-year-old American political cartoon about a Depression era power struggle.

The drawing, published last week in the now-closed Hayat-e-Nou newspaper, showed a Supreme Court justice being humbled under a giant thumb representing then President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Iranian conservatives saw something closer to home.

They felt the white-bearded judge in the cartoon resembled the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. It was considered a stinging insult to his memory.

The newspaper was ordered closed indefinitely Saturday. Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi said three employees involved in publishing the cartoon have been arrested.

You know, it does look like him:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


Supreme Court justice says courts misinterpreting church-state separation (GINA HOLLAND, January 12, 2003, Associated Press)
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia complained Sunday that courts have gone overboard in keeping God out of government.

Scalia, speaking at a religious ceremony, said the constitutional wall between church and state has been misinterpreted both by the Supreme Court and lower courts.

As an example, he pointed to a ruling in California that barred students from saying the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase "one nation under God."

That appeals court decision is on hold pending further consideration by the same court, but the Supreme Court could eventually be asked to review the case.

Scalia, the main speaker at an event for Religious Freedom Day, said past rulings by his own court gave the judges in the Pledge case "some plausible support" to reach that conclusion.

However, the justice said he believes such decisions should be made legislatively, not by courts.

This should be good for a whole new barrage of hysterical anti-Scalia editorials.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 PM


Character counts: Davis' "accidental homage" to truth (Los Angeles Daily News, January 11, 2003)
It says a lot about the state of California's leadership that Gov. Gray Davis blatantly plagiarized a 10-year-old State of the Union speech by President Bill Clinton in delivering his State of the State address last week.

Instead of rising to the occasion of what was widely seen as the most important speech of his long and lackluster political career, Davis sank to a new low by setting the scene for his message -- these are tough times and we all have to make sacrifices -- with words and ideas stolen from the mouth of Clinton.

Yet, plagiarism is the least of Davis' sins.

His real failings go deeper, right to the heart of his character -- or the lack of it. [...]

He has never found the courage to take any responsibility for the energy crisis even though he ignored the growing problem for months until it became a catastrophe. And his solution was to spend tens of billions of dollars of the public's money and blame everyone else in the world except himself.

And he made it perfectly clear in his State of the State address last week that he takes no responsibility now for the budget crisis. It's the fault of the national economy, of the president, of anybody but him.

The most remarkable thing about Mr. Davis is that he's the governor of the biggest state in the Union and despite just winning re-election, he's not a plausible candidate for President.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 PM


Israel, India To Launch Shared Satellite (AFP, Jan 10, 2003)
Israel and India expect to jointly launch a telescope-equipped satellite within two years, the head of Israel's space agency, Avi Hareven, announced on public radio Friday.

Israel joined the exclusive club of space spies last May when it launched its Ofek 5 satellite.

With a four-year-lifespan, Ofek 5 can photograph any region in the world 16 times a day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


Rare marsupials kicked to death in 'quokka soccer' (Nick Squires, 12/01/2003, Daily Telegraph)
They are small and round and look like furry footballs - and they are being kicked to death by young Australians for "fun". The quokka, a species of miniature wallaby found only in Western Australia, has become the renewed target of a sadistic "sport" called quokka soccer.

Since last Sunday, eight quokkas have been found dead on the seven mile-long island of Rottnest, apparently kicked or beaten to death.

The animals were found on a cricket oval near Thomson Bay Settlement, one of the few villages on Rottnest, a resort island in the Indian Ocean 12 miles west of Fremantle. Quokka soccer began in the 1990s when day-trippers from the mainland began kicking and killing the animals - a protected species - for fun.

Incidences of quokka killings tailed off and it had been hoped that the cruel craze was over but last November it re-emerged in a variant form: quokka hockey.

You don't have to be a member of PETA to think they should horsewhip anyone they catch doing something this brutal and stupid.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:20 PM


-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Senator Bob Graham (Diane Rehm Show, December 5, 2002, NPR)
Outgoing chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, joins Diane to talk about the ongoing terrorist threats we face and the role of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Bob Graham (D), Chair, Senate Intelligence Committee

This was a good interview with Senator Graham. If you aren't too familiar with him you might want to give it a listen. He's a hard guy not to take seriously.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Graham: 'I am going to be president' (Brian E. Crowley, January 12, 2003, Palm Beach Post)
Making his boldest statement yet about a possible presidential campaign, U.S. Sen. Bob Graham told reporters Saturday, "I am going to be president of the United States."

Minutes later, Graham told The Palm Beach Post that he has already talked to potential political strategists and media consultants and plans to meet this week with possible campaign managers. [...]

Earlier, with television cameras rolling and newspaper reporters writing, Graham responded to a series of questions about whether he will stay in the race even if it meant losing his Senate seat by suggesting that no candidate can run for president without believing he will win.

"I am not running for president," he said. "I am going to to be the president of the United States."

Despite the surprisingly strong declaration, Graham would not definitely answer whether he would run for reelection to his Senate seat if his campaign for president failed. The presidential caucuses and primaries begin in January 2004 and will be largely wrapped up by early spring, leaving Graham plenty of time to run for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate if he chooses.

While Graham hinted broadly that if he commits to a presidential run he would not try to return to the Senate, he did not specifically rule it out.

Given the vote in FL this past November, this Senate seat automatically goes from safe Democrat to leaning Republican, in what is rapidly shaping up as a potential 7+ seat loss for the Democrats in '04 (GA, SC, FL, NC, AR, NV, WA).

Meanwhile, though he has no shot at his party's nomination, Bob Graham may be the first Democrat since Scoop Jackson who might make a good president. I'll certainly vote for him in the NH primary. In the next administration, President Bush should ask him to take over and transform the CIA.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:42 AM


The Triumph of Hope Over Self-Interest (DAVID BROOKS, January 12, 2003, NY Times)
Why don't people vote their own self-interest? Every few years the Republicans propose a tax cut, and every few years the Democrats pull out their income distribution charts to show that much of the benefits of the Republican plan go to the richest 1 percent of Americans or thereabouts. And yet every few years a Republican plan wends its way through the legislative process and, with some trims and amendments, passes.

The Democrats couldn't even persuade people to oppose the repeal of the estate tax, which is explicitly for the mega-upper class. Al Gore, who ran a populist campaign, couldn't even win the votes of white males who didn't go to college, whose incomes have stagnated over the past decades and who were the explicit targets of his campaign. Why don't more Americans want to distribute more wealth down to people like themselves? [...]

Most Americans do not have Marxian categories in their heads.

This is the most important reason Americans resist wealth redistribution, the reason that subsumes all others. Americans do not see society as a layer cake, with the rich on top, the middle class beneath them and the working class and underclass at the bottom. They see society as a high school cafeteria, with their community at one table and other communities at other tables. They are pretty sure that their community is the nicest, and filled with the best people, and they have a vague pity for all those poor souls who live in New York City or California and have a lot of money but no true neighbors and no free time.

All of this adds up to a terrain incredibly inhospitable to class-based politics. Every few years a group of millionaire Democratic presidential aspirants pretends to be the people's warriors against the overclass. They look inauthentic, combative rather than unifying. Worst of all, their basic message is not optimistic.

They haven't learned what Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt and even Bill Clinton knew: that you can run against rich people, but only those who have betrayed the ideal of fair competition. You have to be more hopeful and growth-oriented than your opponent, and you cannot imply that we are a nation tragically and permanently divided by income. In the gospel of America, there are no permanent conflicts.

Yes, well, the cafeteria metaphor is cute and all, but perhaps de Tocqueville put it better a century and a half ago:
I doubt whether men were more virtuous in aristocratic ages than in others, but they were incessantly talking of the beauties of virtue, and its utility was only studied in secret. But since the imagination takes less lofty flights, and every man's thoughts are centered in himself, moralists are alarmed by this idea of self-sacrifice and they no longer venture to present it to the human mind.

They therefore content themselves with inquiring whether the personal advantage of each member of the community does not consist in working for the good of all; and when they have hit upon some point on which private interest and public interest meet and amalgamate, they are eager to bring it into notice. Observations of this kind are gradually multiplied; what was only a single remark becomes a general principle, and it is held as a truth that man serves himself in serving his fellow creatures and that his private interest is to do good.

[...] In the United States hardly anybody talks of the beauty of virtue, but they maintain that virtue is useful and prove it every day. The American moralists do not profess that men ought to sacrifice themselves for their fellow creatures because it is noble to make such sacrifices, but they boldly aver that such sacrifices are as necessary to him who imposes them upon himself as to him for whose sake they are made.

They have found out that, in their country and their age, man is brought home to himself by an irresistible force; and, losing all hope of stopping that force, they turn all their thoughts to the direction of it. They therefore do not deny that every man may follow his own interest, but they endeavor to prove that it is the interest of every man to be virtuous. [...]

The principle of self-interest rightly understood produces no great acts of self-sacrifice, but it suggests daily small acts of self-denial. By itself it cannot suffice to make a man virtuous; but it disciplines a number of persons in habits of regularity, temperance, moderation, foresight, self- command; and if it does not lead men straight to virtue by the will, it gradually draws them in that direction by their habits. If the principle of interest rightly understood were to sway the whole moral world, extraordinary virtues would doubtless be more rare; but I think that gross depravity would then also be less common. The principle of interest rightly understood perhaps prevents men from rising far above the level of mankind, but a great number of other men, who were falling far below it, are caught and restrained by it. Observe some few individuals, they are lowered by it; survey mankind, they are raised.

I am not afraid to say that the principle of self-interest rightly understood appears to me the best suited of all philosophical theories to the wants of the men of our time, and that I regard it as their chief remaining security against themselves. Towards it, therefore, the minds of the moralists of our age should turn; even should they judge it to be incomplete, it must nevertheless be adopted as necessary.

I do not think, on the whole, that there is more selfishness among us than in America; the only difference is that there it is enlightened, here it is not. Each American knows when to sacrifice some of his private interests to save the rest; we want to save everything, and often we lose it all. Everybody I see about me seems bent on teaching his contemporaries, by precept and example, that what is useful is never wrong. Will nobody undertake to make them understand how what is right may be useful?

No power on earth can prevent the increasing equality of conditions from inclining the human mind to seek out what is useful or from leading every member of the community to be wrapped up in himself. It must therefore be expected that personal interest will become more than ever the principal if not the sole spring of men's actions; but it remains to be seen how each man will understand his personal interest. If the members of a community, as they become more equal, become more ignorant and coarse, it is difficult to foresee to what pitch of stupid excesses their selfishness may lead them; and no one can foretell into what disgrace and wretchedness they would plunge themselves lest they should have to sacrifice something of their own well-being to the prosperity of their fellow creatures.

I do not think that the system of self-interest as it is professed in America is in all its parts self- evident, but it contains a great number of truths so evident that men, if they are only educated, cannot fail to see them. Educate, then, at any rate, for the age of implicit self-sacrifice and instinctive virtues is already flitting far away from us, and the time is fast approaching when freedom, public peace, and social order itself will not be able to exist without education.

It's always worth returning to de Tocqueville, but in particular it's worth reading him for his warnings about America and about the pitfalls of democracy. It seems fair to say that where, as in Europe, government, and particularly the Welfare State, has grown to such an extent that it can, or tries to, care for the individual's every need, the "rightly understood" aspect of self-interest has been lost, as de Tocqueville warned that it would be. The individual, relating only to the State, and isolated from his fellow men, has sunk into the "stupid excesses of sefishness". These too are the excesses to which Democrats summon us: tax the rich and the State will be able to give individuals ever greater services. But it is the genius of America that conservatives too appeal to self-interest, just a different kind, a more temperate kind, of self-interest. Odd as it may seem--given the caricatures of the two philosophies--it is conservatives who, somewhat romantically, seek to unify the citizenry around the idea that the society depends not just on self-interest but "self-interest rightly understood", that practicing some level of self-denial is the best way to achieve (or approach) the good of all.

It's difficult to imagine a politician today, especially a Republican, appealing to us on the basis of virtue (imagine the scorn), but this is, in fact, what our democracy requires: that we strive, even if unknowingly, to be virtuous, to give up something of self-interest in order that all might benefit. How remarkable it is--even with all our problems and even if we've allowed ourselves to drift to far from the ideal--that we've managed to retain so much of that virtue. And what a tragedy it would be if we were to lose it and plunge ourselves into "disgrace and wretchedness" by unfettering self-interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


How Free Trade Will Alter a Hemisphere (ELIZABETH BECKER, January 12, 2003, NY Times)
LAST week, the Bush administration opened negotiations to create a free-trade agreement similar to Nafta with five Central American countries, a large step in the administration's plans for a free-trade zone throughout the Western Hemisphere. An agreement with those countries - El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua - could be completed within a year and cause a rush of American investment to Central America, which only a few years ago was still reeling from effects of protracted civil wars. Peter Hakim, the president of Inter-American Dialogue, a research group in Washington, spoke last Thursday about an agreement's effects. [...]

Q. Just last month, the United States reached a free-trade accord with Chile. Why the expansion to Central America now?

A. The U.S. made a commitment to Chile back in 1994 at the Miami summit [where the United States and 32 Latin American countries pledged to create a free-trade area larger than Nafta by 2006]. The Chileans say the promise goes back to 1990. It was very hard to move on any other country before making good on that promise. Indeed, it would have been hard to move without Congress giving trade promotion authority [last summer]. Once negotiations began with Chile, it opened up the process for others.

First the Administration needed the Fast Track Authority. Then it needed to get a deal with Chile. Now it's moved on to the wider region. If you didn't know better, you'd think they'd had a plan for free trade all along...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 AM


Two Tough Cookies (MAUREEN DOWD, January 12, 2003, NY Times)
David Frum, a speechwriter in Mr. Bush's first year as president, puffs himself up in "The Right Man," a sequel to his wife's puffing him in e-mails to friends. The 41-year-old conservative seems oddly oblivious that his claim to fame -- putting "axis" in "axis of evil" - is now the administration's nettlesome albatross.

Lauren Weisberger, a 25-year-old Ivy League grad who worked as an assistant to Ms. Wintour, is preparing to publish a novel called "The Devil Wears Prada." It's about an Ivy League grad who works as an assistant to Miranda Priestly, the icy and fabulously successful British editor of Runway magazine.

Both authors worked in their prestigious offices for only about a year, but in our culture, which celebrates squealing on others and watching others squeal in pain, that's more than enough time for a mere staffer to land on easy street.

That's her take on it today, but here's what Ms Dowd, who also once said that whistleblower Linda Tripp "rides a broomstick", had to say about some more politically correct "snitches":
Dump dem bums (Maureen Dowd, June 3, 2002, NY Times)
Mildred Wirt Benson, the woman who wrote most of the original Nancy Drew mysteries under the pen name Carolyn Keene, died at 96 last week.

Her teen-age detective, a plucky strawberry blonde with a blue roadster, emboldened millions of little girls to think they could outwit the world. The successors of the pretty young sleuth who always tripped up the bad guys are legion: Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Jennifer Garner in "Alias," Jill Hennessy in "Crossing Jordan" and, most famously, the crackerjack FBI agent Clarice Starling, the dot-connecting nemesis of Hannibal Lecter.

If the spirited Nancy Drew had grown up, she would probably have ended up a dispirited whistle-blower.

That's what happens to women of ingenuity and integrity in macho organizations - from Sherron Watkins at Enron to Coleen Rowley at the FBI - who piece together clues and ferret out criminal behavior and management cover-ups.

First, their male superiors tell them to shut up. And if the women point fingers anyhow, they end up being painted by their status-quo colleagues as wacky, off-the-reservation snitches with dubious futures.

One need only try to follow these whiplash-inducing pivots back and forth--over whether "squealing" makes you a wicked witch or an intrepid Nancy Drew--to see that Ms Dowd's quarrel is not with "snitching" but with specific snitches. If you are a conservative or you squeal about Bill Clinton or some fashion editor who Ms Dowd seems to like, you're a rat. If you squeal about Enron or the FBI, you're a hero. If our culture really does celebrate squealing--which I'd deny, though I believe it should--you couldn't tell it from the assembled works of Maureen Dowd. Instead, what you'd find would be a general disposition to revile as snitches anyone who disagrees with you politically and to celebrate as whistleblowers anyone who agrees with you. That renders suspect her criticism of someone like David Frum, who may well deserve some opprobrium for betraying a trust, but who also deserves a critic with some kind of impartial principles.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


Iraqi Dissidents Reassured in a Talk With Bush About the Post-Hussein Era (JUDITH MILLER, 1/12/03, NY Times)
President Bush told Iraqi opposition figures on Friday that he favored a sweeping transition to democracy in Iraq and a short military occupation after Saddam Hussein is out of power, according to Iraqis and others who attended the meeting.

The hourlong session in the Oval Office was Mr. Bush's first extensive meeting with Iraqi dissidents. Three dissidents attended, two of whom are closely associated with the Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella opposition group. Vice President Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, and other senior White House aides also took part.

None of the Iraqi participants were willing to discuss precisely what Mr. Bush said. But Kanan Makiya, a professor at Brandeis University and a leading Iraqi intellectual, said he was "deeply reassured" by what he called "the president's intense commitment to a genuinely democratic post-Saddam Iraq" and by Mr. Bush's determination to press forward not only with "removing Saddam from office, but reconstructing Iraq after a military conflict."

"Mr. Bush was clearly aware that Iraq was not Afghanistan, and that it has the human and financial resources needed to support democracy," Mr. Makiya said.

Sure, that's the spin, but we know they were really divvying up the oil reserves.

January 11, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:39 PM


Dear god (Clive Thompson, January 09, 2003, collision detection)

We try pretty hard to keep this a profanity free zone, but when you read about this thing you'll see why it requires the following: Holy Crap!
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:24 PM


QUOTE: G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936), Orthodoxy [1909] (CQOD)
It is vain for bishops and pious bigwigs to discuss what dreadful things will happen if wild skepticism runs its course. It has run its course. It is vain for eloquent atheists to talk of the great truths that will be revealed if once we see free thought begin. We have seen it end. It has no more questions to ask; it has questioned itself. You cannot call up any wilder vision than a city in which men ask themselves if they have any selves. You cannot fancy a more skeptical world than that in which men doubt whether there is a world. It might certainly have reached its bankruptcy more quickly and cleanly if it had not been feebly hampered by the application of indefensible laws of blasphemy or by the absurd pretense that modern England is Christian. But it would have reached the bankruptcy anyhow.

Even if you've no desire to read his apologetics, Chesterton's fiction is great and there's a pretty good Alec Guiness version of Father Brown you might find at the video store.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:18 PM


I'm no paedophile, says Who star (BBC, 11 January, 2003)
Rock legend Pete Townshend has admitted paying to view a child pornography site on the internet but said he did so "just to see what was there".

Casts a whole new light on the phrase "the kids are alright".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:00 PM


Gephardt sidesteps flag issue on S.C. visit (LEE BANDY, Jan. 11, 2003, The State, SC)
Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt declined Friday to take sides in the dispute over the display of the Confederate battle flag on the State House grounds. [...]

"I can well understand the concern about the flag issue that the NAACP has," Gephardt said in an interview Friday during a visit to Columbia.

"And I can understand why they want to assert this position. It is troubling to people here who have grown up in this state_.?.?._to feel that there still is this kind of loyalty to a symbol."

As we all know, George W. Bush's refusal to take a stand on the flag issue was one of those coded messages he sent to his racist white base. Presumably, we're in for a slew of stories about how Dick Gephardt is borrowing the codebook.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:52 PM


Store owner delivers message after fatal shooting (SAEED AHMED, 1/10/03, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
The message might not have sunk in the first time J.C. Adams killed a man who tried to rob his convenience store.

The 74-year-old store owner hopes it will this time:

"Go to work and make your own money. Quit trying to take mine."

In a virtual repeat of a scenario played out less than three years ago, Adams shot and killed an armed man Thursday night who allegedly tried to hold up the store Adams has owned for a quarter century.

At least he doesn't have to worry about recidivists.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


Saving Black Babies: Abortion has cost 13 million African American lives. (Sheryl Blunt, 01/10/2003, Christianity Today)
"The perception is that we as black people keep our children," Simpson says. The reality, she says, is that 512 of every 1,000 African American pregnancies end in abortion.

African American women constitute 13 percent of the female population in the United States. However, they have 36 percent of the abortions, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Planned Parenthood's research arm. In Pennsylvania, the figures are even more disproportionate. Ten percent of the female population is black, but they have 45 percent of all abortions in Pennsylvania.

"Planned Parenthood has come in and exploited the inner city," Simpson says, adding that many inner-city residents have easy access to an abortion clinic.

"Thirteen million African Americans are missing from abortion," says Clenard Howard Childress, regional director of the North East chapter of LEARN. The Life Education And Resource Network is the nation's largest African American prolife group. "We are the only ethnic group in the county whose numbers are declining."

If you believe, as we tend to, that all politics eventually boils down to naked self-interest, you have to think that the politics of abortion will be completely reversed a decade from now. To the extent that abortion is used disproportionately to eliminate blacks and women, sooner or later the Democratic Party--the party of blacks and women--will drift into opposition, while the Republican Party--the party of white men--will, particularly if religious belief declines as it has in the rest of the West, gravitate toward supporting it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:18 AM


Death Watch: One of the world's earliest Christian cultures totters on the edge of extinction. (Thomas C. Oden, 01/10/2003, Christianity Today)
Our Turkish-speaking drivers were taking us through the Fertile Crescent, that crossroads of great civilizations, but it did not appear very fertile. On this visit to eastern Turkey, religious freedom advocate Paul Marshall and I saw little cultivated land and a striking level of depopulation. We met the only two monks remaining in the monastery of the village of Sare (or Sarikoy). They were resigned, calm, and ready for the apocalypse.

Syriac-speaking Christians in this area have persisted through more than a dozen centuries of Muslim, Ottoman, and now Turkish rule. They languish between the secularizing government of the Republic of Turkey and an Islamic culture that views them as heathen outsiders. The government has long given them minimal "freedom of worship" while decisively restricting property rights for local congregations. Nor do authorities allow them any avenues of new growth-communication, speech, normal press freedom, or economic development.

Syriac-Aramaic comes as close as any living language to what Jesus spoke. It is the liturgical and poetic language of these Christians. Yet authorities forbid Christians on Turkey's southeastern border with Syria, Iraq, and Iran to teach that language-nor can their schoolchildren learn any subject in it. Christians in Syria, by contrast, legally teach and worship in that language.

Besides the secular and Islamic opposition, modern forces also threaten. Dams for electric power and irrigation are filling up the great valley of the Tigris, threatening to submerge lands-including churches and monasteries-on which Christian families have lived for more than a millennium. In any case, as in the rest of Turkey, Christians cannot buy property.

In short, the government would be pleased to see the Christian communities quietly disappear altogether.

As much as we look forward to Turkey becoming a full security and trading partner of the United States, this is a worthwhile reminder that part of that process has to include their liberalizing the treatment of peaceful religious and ethnic minorities.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Prosecutors insist pardoned were guilty (FRANK MAIN, January 11, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
Former prosecutor Jeff Warnick could not believe it when Gov. Ryan told the world Friday that Madison Hobley helped catch a neighbor's baby and save its life after he escaped from a burning apartment building in 1987.

Hobley--one of the four Death Row inmates the governor pardoned--was convicted of setting the fire, killing his wife, son and five others at 1121-23 E. 82nd.

Warnick said he is still convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Hobley was guilty, based on the physical evidence from the fire.

"You want to commute his sentence, governor? Fine. But don't say he was innocent," said Warnick, an arson expert who investigated the blaze while he was in the Cook County state's attorney's office.

Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine and three prosecutors who worked on the four cases appeared disgusted with Ryan's decision Friday night, saying he usurped the judicial process and was simply wrong on the issues of the cases.

"Our outgoing governor took an outrageous and unconscionable step in pardoning four convicted murderers,'' Devine said at a news conference. "The system is broken, and the governor started to break it today. Every expectation we have is he will continue that process tomorrow. This is something he can walk away from but the rest of us will be left behind to try and put it back together."

The people of IL are paying an awfully high price so that their departing governor can try and make people forget his own criminal behavior.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 AM


Still the One: Nixon at 90 (Andrew Ferguson, 01/20/2003, Weekly Standard)
WE LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY, thank God, so we are each of us entitled to celebrate Richard Nixon's birthday in our own way. Out in Yorba Linda, California, at the Nixon Library & Birthplace, the hardiest of the nation's merry-makers assembled on January 9 to toast the former president's 90th birthday with their annual "Victory of Freedom Gala." Other Americans celebrated quietly, surrounded by family and friends, while some preferred to be left alone, to gather their thoughts and memories. Still others chose not to mark the occasion at all, which is their right.

For myself, when the big day rolls around I like to drive out to suburban Maryland, to an annex of the National Archives called Archives II, where, in a fourth-floor room lined with towering gray filing cabinets, the Nixon tapes are stored. The tapes constitute one of the country's oddest historical artifacts--a portrait of a presidency, in second-by-second detail. There are 3,700 hours of tapes, recorded in the Oval Office and in Nixon's private White House hideaway between early 1969 and early 1973, touching on every subject from the China overture and Russian detente to Tricia Nixon's wedding and Bebe Rebozo's taste in movies. Of these conversations about 1,800 hours have so far been released for public listening, with many more scheduled to arrive over the next few years.

"We have people come by the busload, still," Karl Weissenbach, the tapes' curator, told me. They come to hear the Greatest Hits, of course--"Smoking Gun" and "Cancer on the Presidency," "I Want Brookings Cleaned Out" and "Did Mitchell Know?" and "We Could Get the Million Dollars (But It Would Be Wrong)"--but since these conversations can be readily downloaded from various Internet sites, most people come to chase Nixonian demons peculiar to themselves. The researchers, cranks, and hobbyists sit long hours at the gray metal desks, heads bent low in headphones, fingers stabbing the playback buttons on the cassette recorders, searching for this clue or that. "I've seen people sit through the entire eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap," Weissenbach said. "I guess they think they'll hear something no one else has."

I come tracking my own mystery.

With all due respect to Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Steyn, Theodore Dalrymple, and our own friends Steven Martinovich, Derek Coppold and Ed Driscoll: Andrew Ferguson is the best essayist on Earth. It's a tragedy that he's stuck off in the corner at Bloomberg. We highly recommend his only collection to date: Fools' Names, Fools' Faces. But he's nowhere near harsh enough on Richard Nixon.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:46 AM


After Snow Falls, It Gets Down in the Dumps (Kristina Eddy, 1/11/03, Valley News)
Between October and yesterday, 75 inches of snow had fallen in Lebanon, according to AccuWeather.com. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service could not provide numbers for comparison to last winter, but said this season's totals were already approaching the average for a whole season and in places had exceeded last year's, which was, however, a light year for snow.

More snow was forecast for today.

You can't even see at most intersections around here because the snow is piled so high.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 AM


Bush May Enter Affirmative Action Case (RON FOURNIER, Jan 11, 2003, AP)
Bush administration lawyers are laying the groundwork to oppose a University of Michigan program that gives preference to minority students, a step that would inject President Bush into the biggest affirmative action case in a generation.

Bush himself has not decided what role, if any, the administration will play in the landmark case but several officials said Friday night he is unlikely to stay on the sidelines. White House political allies are planning to intervene against the Michigan program nonetheless.

The administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, pointed to Bush's record in Texas and their continuing review of Clinton administration affirmative action cases as signs that the president is inclined to oppose the university's policies. Furthermore, he is likely to suggest alternatives to racial preferences that still promote diversity, officials said.

Brother Murtaugh demanded this one.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:36 AM


Lebanese envoy makes no apologies: Ottawa angered by remarks on Zionism (Sheldon Alberts, January 11, 2003, National Post
Lebanon's ambassador yesterday did not retract controversial comments about the power of the "Zionist movement" in Canada, despite being summoned to a meeting with Foreign Affairs officials who told him they were "unacceptable and without foundation."

Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, ordered Raymond Baaklini to appear before Canadian officials to explain remarks he made to an Arabic-language newspaper saying Canada was pressured by a "Zionist party" and Jewish-controlled media to designate Hezbollah as an outlawed terrorist organization.

Amid calls for Ottawa to expel Mr. Baaklini, the ambassador met yesterday afternoon with John McNee, the assistant deputy minister for Africa and the Middle East.

"Canada's concerns about the ambassador's interview were clearly expressed to, and understood by, the ambassador," said Rodney Moore, a department spokesman.

"The assistant deputy minister reminded the ambassador that his remarks were unacceptable and without foundation."

But Mr. Baaklini "has not retracted," Mr. Moore said.

Here's a chance for Canada to prove it really does deserve some moral credence.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 AM


Happy Imbeciles At War: Massive U.S. military buildup, billions of dollars, a useless enemy, and no one seems to know why (Mark Morford, January 10, 2003, SF Gate)
This is not a war. Iraq will not be a war. Do we understand this? We do not seem to understand this. This is heavily corporatized power brokers killing each other for oil and capital. Oh yes it is.

Let's be perfectly clear. You cannot have a war when the so-called enemy has done nothing to provoke you and is absolutely no threat to your national safety and has no significant military force and has negligible chance of even setting off a firecracker near your own overwhelming death machines, and whose only weapons of minimal destruction are the rusty short-range warheads and biochemical agents we sold him 20 years ago, and kept selling to him, even after we knew he was gassing his own people.

You cannot have a war when there is nothing to fight against, when it's essentially going to be a huge U.S. military stomping/bombing exercise, when, just like Afghanistan, we stand to suffer zero U.S. casualties (except for those we seem to kill ourselves), and we just bomb and bomb and kill and kill and shrug. [?]

This is a Mack truck versus a Pinto. This is an F-16 versus a paper airplane, a Tomahawk missile versus a spit wad. There is no contest. "War" is exactly the wrong term. The U.S. attack on Iraq will be, of course, a massacre. Go team.

Now let's say you sense this all to be true. Let's say you have a queasy feeling deep in your gut as you realize no one is talking about exactly why we need to launch a second simultaneous war to go along with the unwinnable assault we're still running in Afghanistan.

Remember Afghanistan?

Suppose we do sense every word of this to be true: is not Afghanistan a better place today because the Taliban is gone (or mostly gone)? Will not Iraq be a better place when Saddam and the Baathists are gone? If it will be this easy, which one suspects it will, and it will achieve such good, why would someone who seems to care about the Iraqi people oppose it?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Terror cell suspect quotes bin Laden (Sylvia Cukan, 1/11/2003, United Press International)
Faysal Galab, 26, a U.S. citizen of Yemeni descent, and one of the so-called "Lackawanna Six" accused of being a terrorist cell, accepted the plea agreement before U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny in Buffalo, N.Y. for contributing and attempting to contribute funds, goods and services to bin Laden and his terrorist group al Qaida.

The plea agreement states that Galab and other defendants arrived at the al Farooq terrorist training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan in spring 2001 and that "bin Laden appeared and spoke to everyone at the camp, stating that 50 men were on a mission to attack America."

Galab alleged Bin Laden also claimed responsibility for attacking American embassies on the continent of Africa, according to court papers.

In early April of 2001, Galab said he agreed with the co-defendants and others to attend a military-type training camp in Afghanistan, knowing that their planned trip was illegal, the plea agreement said. [...]

As part of the plea bargain, Galab is cooperating with the investigation and is expected to testify against the other defendants.

Members of the Lackawanna Yemeni community were surprised by the sudden change in plea.

"I am totally shocked and I wish it never happened, I also wish he didn't wait this long to tell the truth and I am hoping the others will come out with the truth as soon as possible," said Dr. Khalid Qazi, president of the Western New York chapter of the American Muslim Council. "Any time an American does anything against our country it's despicable."

Another civil libertarian cause bites the dust. What did they think these guys went to a terrorist training camp for?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM


Weapon in Health Wars: Frist's Role as a Doctor (Robin Toner, 1/11/03, NY Times)
Critics of the Republican health care agenda say they are getting a little tired of hearing about the heroic-healer image of the new Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, a former transplant surgeon. They say that he may be a wonderful heart surgeon but that he is peddling the same old Republican free-market ideology on Medicare.

Seven years ago the leading defender of Republican proposals to overhaul Medicare, the vast government health insurance program for the elderly, was the speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who was not known for his bedside manner. This year the Bush administration and the Republican Party have a smooth, empathetic, Harvard-trained physician to make the case.

Critics fear that Dr. Frist, as he has asked to be called, will be able to use his trustworthy doctor's persona to sell a far-reaching and contentious proposal to open up Medicare to more private health plans. With Dr. Frist supporting it, "how could it be wrong?" Representative Jim McDermott, a liberal Seattle Democrat, said with more than a little sarcasm. The majority leader's M.D. is the Bush administration's "finesse card on health care," said Mr. McDermott, himself a psychiatrist.

It may, in fact, be the Republicans' not-so-secret weapon on an issue that has bedeviled them in the past, when they were often accused of simply trying to save money rather than "reform" a popular program.

When did the Democrats become so whiny? First Tom Daschle's upset that the war is a political issue; then they're upset that conservatives have established a beachead in the media, then it's the President getting to appoint judges... Don't they find politics fun anymore? I'm starting to miss Tip O'Neill.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


-STORY: Maine Light (Alan Lightman, April/ May 1996, Boston Review)
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:54 AM


A good week for conservatives (David Limbaugh, January 11, 2003, Townhall.com)
Just when I think President Bush is about to cave to the opposition for the sake of furthering this "new tone," he comes through -- in a big way.

Every conservative pundit in America--and Charles Murtaugh--ought to keep some variation of that sentence in their Clipboard. The libertarians can use it after every new free trade agreement. The neocons can use it after every hawkish foreign policy initiative. Cultural conservatives can use it after every appointment and executive regulation.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 AM


Sen. John Edwards disses Meet the Press (Robert Novak, January 11, 2003, Townhall.com)
Sen. John Edwards, following advice from political handlers, reneged on his commitment to return to NBC's "Meet the Press" to counteract
his poor performance on that program last May, which negatively impacted his presidential prospects.

Edwards had told many people that he intended to "get back on the horse" and field another round of tough questioning by "Meet the Press" moderator Tim
Russert. However, strategists planning Edwards's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination ruled out a Russert repeat as too risky. Instead, Edwards
went to ABC's "This Week" program for a softer interview by George Stephanopoulos.

A footnote: Edwards raised eyebrows during the Stephanopoulos interview when he was asked to name his favorite book. He mentioned only "The Trial of
" by the late radical journalist I.F. Stone, who has been identified as a covert Soviet agent.

The Edwards campaign continues to stumble out of the gates.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 AM


"Killing Fields" Lure Tourists in Cambodia (Zoltan Istvan, January 10, 2003, National Geographic Today)
The sight of 8,000 human skulls in a glass shrine stuns visitors into silence.

Outside, where cattle usually graze, human bones sometimes come unearthed after heavy rains.

In Cambodia, nine miles (14.5 kilometers) from Phnom Penh, the "killing fields" of Choeung Ek have become a tourist attraction, horrifying and fascinating. Choeung Ek is one of thousands of other such sites around the country where the Khmer Rouge practiced genocide during the late 1970s.

"There are two things you must see in Cambodia," says Scott Harrison, a traveler from Australia. "Obviously one is Angkor Wat. But the other is the killing fields outside Phnom Penh."

You wish you could read that and believe that people are making a pilgrimmage of shame at what we allowed to happen--recall these words of George McGovern: The growing hysteria of the administration's posture on Cambodia seems to me to reflect a determined refusal to consider what the fall of the existing government in Phnom Penh would actually mean.... We should be able to see that the kind of government which would succeed Lon Nol's forces would most likely be a government ... run by some of the best-educated, most able intellectuals in Cambodia.--rather than just satisfying a grisly curiosity.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 AM


The real moral superpower is America (Steven Martinovich, January 6, 2003, Enter Stage Right)
A recent poll of Canadian attitudes towards American foreign policy finally illustrates that when it comes to the war on terrorism Canada does not in fact stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States as Prime Minister Jean Chr?tien once pledged.

Although nearly half of respondents believed that as the world's sole superpower the United States had a responsibility to ensure global security, nearly seven in ten agreed with the statement that America was "starting to act like a bully with the rest of the world." Further, the poll found Canadians lukewarm about the prospect of a war against Iraq.

The poll, said experts like Michael Sullivan of Strategic Counsel, showed that while Canadians shared many of the same priorities as Americans, such as combating terrorism, they didn't necessarily share many of the same values.

"As Canadians, we take pride in our role as peacemaking and peacekeeping. I think that that is part of our personality. We take pride in medicare, we take pride in our peacekeeping role. And when we look at the U.S., we don't see those kind of values necessarily reflected," said Sullivan.

The most bizarre thing about this is that their National Health system is crumbling around their ears and they're talking about bringing all their peacekeeping troops home because they can't afford them. So, a couple years from now, what will there be left to take pride in?

Defence denies Snowbirds being axed: 'Political dynamite': Plan to replace Tutor jets put on hold: documents (Tom Blackwell, January 11, 2003, National Post)

January 10, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 PM


Payback in Judges (E. J. Dionne Jr., January 10, 2003, washingtonpost.com)
You have to hand it to President Bush and his judge-pickers.

They understand the power of the judiciary to shape American political life for years to come. They brazenly use their executive authority to fill the courts with their allies. Then they attack, attack and attack again when opposition senators dare invoke their own constitutional power to slow a juggernaut whose purpose is to remake the world according to the specifications of Justice Antonin Scalia.

To make clear who is in charge, Bush took two circuit court nominees rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, when it was in Democratic hands, and sent them right back. [...]

Politically, the renominations were shrewd. By sending Pickering up again, Bush signaled to his Southern backers that he was willing to stand up for a Mississippian against Senate liberals, despite Lott's defenestration. And the energy the Pickering and Owen battles will soak up may allow other ideological nominees to slip through.

The real issue here involves not the personal characteristics of nominees -- there are plenty of smart conservatives on Bush's list -- but a political
struggle to create an increasingly activist conservative bench. "They realized that if they took over the one unelected part of the government, they could govern for a generation," says Sen. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat.

A liberal fantasy? On the contrary, the ever-candid Clint Bolick, a former Reagan Justice Department official and conservative activist, told The Post this week that "everyone on the right agreed in 2000 that judicial nominations were the single most important reason to be for Bush." The worst-kept secret in Washington: Judicial appointments are the tribute Bush pays to his political base.

Is it possible to "brazenly" exercise a power that's explicitly delegated to you by the Constitution? President Bush is a conservative Republican. The House and Senate are at least Republican and mostly conservative. We're in for a few years of conservative judges being put on the bench. And?

After all, it's not as if Mr. Bush has proposed doing violence to the Constitution and packing the Court, the way FDR tried to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:07 PM


Somali refugee follows in Fortuyn's footsteps with attack on imams (Daily Telegraph, 11/01/2003)
The daughter of a Somali dissident imprisoned by the Siad Barre regime in the 1970s, she grew up in exile in Kenya, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia. She was subjected to the cruel ritual of female circumcision aged five, then ordered against her will to marry a kinsman in Canada, who wanted her to bear him six sons.

"I was sent to Germany to meet him but I couldn't face it," she said. "So I slipped across the border into the Netherlands at 11 o'clock on a November night in 1992 and asked for asylum." She would have gone to England but Holland had an open border under the Schengen treaty. She was 22 and did not speak a word of Dutch. Finding odd jobs as a cleaner, and learning fast about the underworld of abused Muslim girls hiding in shelters, she educated herself, ultimately studying political science at Leiden University.

"I wanted to understand why the western countries were doing so well when the rest of the world seemed to be collapsing," she said. "I studied the history of European political thought from the Greeks and Romans up to the Second World War." Her favourite thinker is John Stuart Mill.

"I learned that people in the West value the autonomous individual. They understand the importance of science, knowledge. They are capable of criticising themselves and there is an ability to record history to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It is exactly the opposite in Somalia where all the institutions of record are missing, and my grandmother's memories of the clan wars will die with her," she said.

She was asked by the then ruling Labour Party to research why so many Dutch-born Muslim youths seemed to be at war with their host society.

Her conclusion was a blistering critique of the Dutch state policy of multiculturalism, which she described as a calamitous mistake born of "a misplaced sense of guilt or pity" that has allowed militant imams "preaching hate" to indoctrinate youths in segregated schools, all paid for by fat subsidies from the Dutch taxpayer. She is demanding an immediate end to state funding for 700 Islamic clubs, often run by hardline clerics.

"The Netherlands is a country that worships consensus and peace, but here you have newcomers who are not integrated into this system. They exploit the values of an open liberal society to reach illiberal ends," she said.

It's unfair to make her seem Pim Fortuyn's heir, since her emphasis appears to be much more on preserving traditional Western culture than on anti-immigration. As her own story shows, that culture is worthy of defending and there can hardly be any objection to requiring immigrants to accept it as a prerequisite for becoming citizens. Of course, the problem, as she's identified, is that the Dutch no longer accept it themselves.

Fortuyn favoured depraved (MARCELLO MEGA AND JUSTIN SPARKS, 5/12/02, The Scotsman)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


My Top Ten of 2002 (James Bowmam, January 3, 2003, The New York Sun)
The paucity of Hollywood studio products in this list will be readily apparent, but alas it is no news that the focus-group tested McEntertainment produced by big money cannot stand comparison with the work of individual artists who have something to say.

I've seen and definitely recommend: Nine Queens; Last Orders; Black Hawk Down; and, especially, Dark Blue World.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


Morality is not a strategy: The Bush administration must realize that the crisis with North Korea is not that its leader has suddenly become more evil. It's that the country will within months, become a plutonium factory. (Fareed Zakaria, 1/13/03, Newsweek)
Let's start at the beginning. What is the goal of our policy toward North Korea-nuclear disarmament or regime change? President Bush has repeatedly hinted that it's regime change. Most recently he explained to Bob Woodward that while there are those who worry about the fallout of overthrowing the regime, he did not. "Either you believe in freedom ... or you don't," he explained.

But we have no way of achieving this goal. A military attack on North Korea is impossible, not because it may have one or two crude nuclear weapons, but because it will retaliate by obliterating a large part of South Korea. Seoul is 35 miles from the North Korean border. Our options are constrained not by nukes, but by geography. Without the means to do it, regime change is not a policy, but a daydream.

If it's true that we won't topple a regime, no matter how evil and dangerous, just because we're afraid that people will die--either because our opponents will attack or because of the sheer number of them we'd have to kill in order to make retaliation unlikely--then we may as well withdraw back into our splendid isolation.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:50 PM


Teenagers challenge male-only draft law (David Weber, January 10, 2003, Boston Herald)
With a war in Iraq looming, a teenage brother and sister and three friends filed a federal lawsuit yesterday charging that the law requiring all 18-year-old males to register for a possible military draft is unconstitutional because it applies only to one gender.

Attorney Harvey A. Schwartz, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of his son, stepdaughter and their friends, said the goal is not to get young women registered, but to get the registration law struck down.

He said a broader motivation is to spur debate ``about the possibility of a draft and of having suburban kids being shipped across the world to fight a war.''

I suppose no one uses the term sissy any more, but let me just say that back in the day that's what we used to call a guy who tried hiding behind a skirt.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:37 PM


US battle for £2bn undersea treasure: The most valuable shipwreck ever has been found off Florida, but Spain claims it owns the 250-year old galleon (Giles Tremlett, January 7, 2003, The Guardian)
For nearly 250 years the caskets of gold, silver and emeralds lay undisturbed alongside the fish-cleaned bones of the sailors who went to the bottom of the sea with them. But now the glittering cargo of a Spanish treasure-ship is the centre of a bitter international row.

A Florida court recently awarded a group of American treasure hunters limited rights over what may be the world's most valuable undersea find - an estimated £2bn worth of treasure on board a wreck that they claim is the long-lost Notre Dame de Deliverance galleon.

But the treasure hunters were yesterday facing fierce opposition from Spain and France as they fought for absolute ownership of the cargo that the Spanish king Charles 3rd was sending home from his vast New World empire.

The Deliverance was caught by a fierce hurricane as it passed near the Florida Keys on November 1 1755, a day after setting sail from Havana with treasures extracted from mines in Mexico, Peru and Colombia. Many of its crew of 500 Frenchmen and Spaniards who survived the wreck were reportedly eaten by Florida's cannibalistic Calusa tribe.

Now, nearly 250 years later, the Portland-based Sub Sea Research company claims to have located the Deliverance, lying 200ft under water on a flat, silty seabed, some 40 miles off Key West.

What ever happened to finders keepers? Actually, if you've not read it, we highly recommend Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea, both a sea and a legal adventure.

January 9, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM


The Adjuster: a review of American Studies by Louis Menand (David Bromwich, New Republic)
Louis Menand has been publishing reviews and essays for about twenty years. He writes on most things a non-specialist could write on: novels, movies, television, magazines, politics, education, manners, celebrity culture. His academic training was in literature, but academically most of what he does would now be classified as cultural history; his book on the American pragmatists, The Metaphysical Club, was an ambitious and rewarding contribution to that genre. He brings to his pieces a large share of general information, prose decorum, and an accent of overwhelming sobriety, sometimes nicely, sometimes oddly varied by facetious asides. For those of us who have been following him on and off, the puzzle has been to decide what exactly he cares about.

On arriving at the end of one of Menand's pieces, you commonly think: how ably done. The subject has been closed. You are less excited than you were before. The absence of extreme opinions in Menand's work is reassuring, but it is also, when the articles are presented in bulk, rather baffling. A critic, like a reader or a spectator, is allowed to go over the top in wonder and delight, or, if he is a good hater, to make us laugh out loud. Even daily reviewers often exhibit a ruling passion or a driving enthusiasm. It has not been clear what Menand's is.

I wonder if Mr. Bromwich didn't miss the entire point of Mr. Menand's earlier book, The Metaphysical Club, which celebrated the American Pragmatists of the late 19th Century. That book was structured around, and Mr. Menand seemed to be endorsing, the pragmatists desire to drain life of controversy and strongly held ideas. It seems unsurprising that Mr. Menand would in turn make his own criticism rather placid too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


Mao and the Godfather (Edward Driscoll, 1/09/2003)
I was recently sent a copy of The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, by Michael Ondaatje to review for Blogcritics. It's a series of interviews with Murch on the artistic choices that he made when editing the classic films he's worked on over the years, including Francis Ford Coppola's best films--The Godfather movies, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now. Those are all staggering movies (The Conversation is criminally underrated), and Murch is, without a doubt, one of the most talented editors to emerge in the "new Hollywood" of the 1970s. And it appears to be a well-written, very readable book, which, while I haven't finished digesting it (I'll post a proper review of it on Blogcritics--this isn't it), I can easily recommend to any film buff.

But the photo above, which I scanned from the book, "knocked me for six", as the English would say.

First of all, you've gotta see the photo and Brother Driscoll's very sage comments.

Second, you'll not regret listening to this interview with Mr. Murch from NPR's Fresh Air. One of the best things about it is that you hear his sound editing without being distracted by the pictures. The effect in the scene where Michael Corleone kills Sollozzo and McCluskey is especially remarkable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:37 PM


Finding Life Away From Earth Will Be A Tough Ask (Space Daily, Jan 09, 2003)
Earth's most ancient fossils are hard to find. Some scientists think a few of the earliest fossils might still be preserved in Earth rocks blasted to the moon by an asteroid or meteor. Others believe much of the evidence has been erased forever by the constant heat and pressure of plate tectonics.

But learning as much as possible about the earliest life on Earth is probably the best starting point for trying to find life somewhere else, said Roger Buick, a paleontologist who became the first faculty member hired specifically for the University of Washington's pioneering graduate program in astrobiology. He also is an associate professor of earth and space sciences.

"The earliest organisms were presumably very simple, both in their structure and their chemistry," he said. "The evidence we're used to seeing for modern life may not be a good guide for what to look for in earliest life."

As a doctoral student nearly two decades ago, Buick discovered stromatolites, or mounds of sedimentary rock, formed by microbes 3.5 billion years
ago in western Australia. Those mounds remain the oldest visible evidence of life on Earth.

Buick suggested that using basic techniques to search for the simplest evidence of ancient life on Earth is the best approach to finding evidence of life elsewhere. That is a message he delivered today at the American Astronomical Society's annual meeting in Seattle during a session called "The Biology of Astrobiology for Astronomers."

There are a variety of difficulties associated with searching for early life based on what we know of biology and geology, he said, yet both disciplines must be involved if we are to be successful in the search for life elsewhere.

"We have to go from what we know, but we also must have an open mind because we might be surprised by what we find," he said. "We have to be hypercritical so that we're not misled by superficial resemblances to what we know."

Put another way: the absence of evidence of evolution here on Earth will be helpful in finding non-existent extra-terrestrial life.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:33 PM


Democrats Signal Major Shift With Bid To Cut Payroll Tax (SEAN HIGGINS, January 9, 2003, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY)
Democrats panned the "growth and jobs" plan President Bush announced Tuesday. One reason: It didn't include a payroll tax reduction, the one tax cut many Democrats are open to.

It's an old idea that has drawn new interest from Democrats, especially since the election.

White House wannabe John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, has called for it. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., made it a key part of her re-election bid. Sen. John Corzine, D-N.J., says it must be part of any economic recovery package.

The appeal to Democrats is obvious. It is a tax cut that favors the voters Democrats want to reach: middle- and lower-income people.

But it may also signal a political shift. A Democrat-led effort to cut the payroll tax could also break the taboo on reforming Social Security.

That's because the payroll tax is used mainly to fund Social Security benefits. A cut in the tax would cut the revenues flowing into the program.

Democrats have long claimed that any such change would endanger the program. But that's changing.

"It is amazing that they are even talking about it, because in the past the payroll tax has been viewed by them as almost sacred," said David Keating, executive director of the free-market Club for Growth.

A deal that cut payroll taxes, made up the difference from general revenues (with corresponding cuts in government), and created personal accounts, would be an enormous boon to the country and something both parties could be proud of. It would also help make the Bush presidency one of the most significant in our history. We're not holding our breaths.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:25 PM


And the pursuit of happiness: 'Tis the season to be happy - but will it last? (History News Network, December 27, 2002)
It is a time of the year when people wish each other happiness, yet it is a remarkable fact that people are unlikely to be any happier this Christmas than 50 or 100 years ago. Although life has improved to a degree our parents or grandparents could scarcely have imagined, we are - in general - no more satisfied with life. The American Declaration of Independence proclaimed the pursuit of happiness as an "unalienable" right - but greater happiness is an elusive target. [...]

The link between well-being and marriage is particularly strong. Married people live longer - about three years extra, on average. They are richer,earning between 10 and 20 per cent more than single people. And they are happier, whatever comedians say about their spouses.

Is this because the most productive and healthiest people are those who marry and stay together? Apparently not: young married people earn little more than singles but the gap widens as they age. The two professors suggest that married people are driven by their genes to work harder, to impress each other and build the family nest. Once married, they eat better and worry less, improving their overall well-being.

The happiness that can come from family life is also reflected in the Pew Center survey. In every one of the 44 countries, family life was the greatest source of satisfaction - ahead of income, jobs, the state of the country or the state of the world. In most, the satisfaction ratings for family life were more than 80 percent.

This misunderstanding has played itself out most spectacularly and disastrously in feminism. One of the key premises of feminism was that our great-grandmothers must have been miserable and that women would be more "fulfilled" if they could only ditch the outmoded model of the traditional family and go out into the world and support themselves financially. So we are arrived in the early 21st century and the family has been nearly demolished, most women have to work (because in order to double the workforce business had to halve remuneration), and, far from being "fulfilled", they find themselves miserable, or at least conflicted. Great grandma, even wearing an apron all day and bearing ten kids, was likely more happy than her great grandaughters are.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


America: Enemy of globalisation (Tom Nairn, 1/09/2003, OpenDemocracy)
A crusade for democracy? An acute commentary on this feature of post 2001 has been given by Anatol Lieven, in a contribution to openDemocracy. "When it comes to democracy", he writes, "the American establishment's conscience flickers on and off like a strobe light in a seedy disco. The rest of the world can see this...(but)...A naive belief in the universal, immediate applicability of US-style democracy, and America's right and duty to promote this, is an article of national ideological faith in the US. It easily shades over into a messianism which is, in itself, nationalist and imperialist." Nationalism is the most potent of social forces, and for that very reason the most in need of systemic and contemporary democratic rigidity. Notoriously, a combination of external threat and autocracy makes it default into populism, and in the American and British cases this has come about; anachronistic representational systems try to compensate for their deficits by a combination of tabloid antics and external heroics.

The American administration calls this Leadership. The rest of the world begs to differ. In the 1990s the world witnessed a precipitous decline in the moral authority of the United States under Clinton. Then his replacement culminated in the non-election of a successor. In an astounding yet defining moment, a whole year before "9/11", the globalisation process suddenly found itself captained by and dependent upon defective voting machines, gerrymandering and chicanery in the state of Florida. Worse was instantly to follow--a US Supreme Court that would stop at nothing to salvage this hopelessly out-dated Constitution from the wreckage. Far from globalism being led by America towards democracy, it became hostage to a blatant democratic deficit – a partly familial coup d'tat which was to put George W. Bush in charge of most of the globe's military power.

To sum up so far: even without the seismic shift of 9/11 and after, no acceptable world order could conceivably have been led from this vantage point. Globalisation had emerged as an approximately common economic terrain after 1989, and--as Anthony Giddens argues in his Runaway World--started to develop a life-momentum of its own. No one now believes this will be halted, let alone reversed. But leadership of the process is a political question, which it should now be clear will never merely emerge from the homo economicus of Neo-liberal superstition. This is a matter of meaning, and demands a much broader perspective--a view of human and societal nature in fact, seeking to explore the new common ground.

I'll send a book to whoever can tell me what this guy thinks globalisation is, if not the universalization of Western values and the process of becoming a capitalist liberal democracy.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


-ESSAY: Biography and Pseudobiography (Kenneth Silverman, January 2003, Common Place)
Like wrestling with an angel, writing a biography is hard work against long odds. And the effort has lately been much under attack. A recent collection of scholarly essays calls itself The Troubled Face of Biography (Houndmills, Eng., 1988). Most of the criticism takes off from the view that biographies are constructs, fictions not essentially different from novels. On this ground it's charged that biographers prepackage their subjects' lives, or invent them, or falsify them for dramatic effect.

In a recent New York Times op-ed piece entitled "Minutiae Without Meaning," Stanley Fish, dean of Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois, knocked biography as a "bad game." Fish observes that biographers obsessively collect details. Since these details "don't mean anything in particular, or can mean anything at all . . . the biographer is compelled to invent or fabricate a meaning by riding his or her favorite hobbyhorse until every inch of the subject's life is covered by some reassuring pattern of cause and effect."

To me, Fish's grumbling betrays unfamiliarity with the history of biography in the West and with how serious biographies get written. [...]

Yet the aesthetic standard for biography, while complex, is no mystery. Biography aims not merely at informing but also at moving the reader, through the spectacle of another soul's journey through existence. The art of biography consists of producing an affecting narrative while remaining utterly faithful to the documents.

I'll illustrate this by one final personal example. Cotton Mather's life as I presented it had been full of deprivation and loss, including the deaths of nine of his children. I wanted the concluding paragraph of the biography to leave the reader feeling this. At the same time, for my own satisfaction, I wanted to render Mather's pain through documents alone. The last paragraph would be an emblem of the biographical aesthetic, an homage to factuality.

I worked it all out this way. Each of the five sections of the book begins with a page of quotations by or about Mather. To introduce the final section, covering his last years, I reproduced the inventory of his estate, drawn up the year of his death, 1728. The inventory is nothing more than a list of shabby household goods—"1 pr. of Red Curtains Motheaten," [pause] "1 Old Standing Candlestick. A Cross cut Saw," [pause] "2 pr. of Iron Dogs, other broken Dogs," and so on.

Thirty pages later comes the final paragraph of the biography. The reader can see that it in effect repeats the inventory, but in a different shape. I rearranged the listed household goods to form a sort of litany, a single connected sentence whose thumping rhythm accents the decay and loss that these worn out objects represent: "However luxuriantly he lived in heaven, Mather had not lived affluently on earth, and had lost much. What he left behind, as set down in the inventory of his estate, was dingy and mean: pie plates, lumber, a crosscut saw, three old rugs, four old bedsteads, two old oval tables, two old chests of drawers, old china curtains, old quilt, old warming pan, old standing candlestick, red curtains motheaten, broken stone table, broken fireplace dogs, broken chairs, broken pewter, broken spoons." It's not for me to say how well this paragraph succeeds either as a narrative climax or an emblem, much less when thus taken out of context. But my aim was to make pure, inert documentary evidence serve dramatic ends, to marry my form to my research. That remains to me the aesthetic measure of biography, the angel with whom the biographer wrestles longest and hardest of all.

What's curious about this is that for all Mr. Silverman's protestations, he seems to have done precisely what Mr. Fish suggested biographers are prone to do. Having determined for himself that Mather's life can be defined by his pain and loss, Mr. Silverman structured his conclusion around a document that can be made to show same. Of course, it needn't show that. We might equally say that Mather had used up his full measure and was prepared to depart, leaving little material behind, but much that is spiritual. In fact, we've no way of knowing, at least from this list, if this was really all Mather had by the end. Perhaps he'd already dispersed the quality items to others. But most importantly, this list tells us nothing about how Mather viewed his own life, its quality, his accomplishments, etc. what it does, beyond doubt, show us is what Mr. Silverman thinks of that life. And wasn't that Mr. Fish's point?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM


The hatred of America is the socialism of fools: Confronting Yankee-phobia on the Left will be Tony Blair's toughest task yet (Michael Gove, January 08, 2003, Times of London)
Tony Blair appears to have set himself his toughest task yet. Neither reforming public services nor maintaining economic stability compares in difficulty to the mission he took on yesterday. For a Labour politician to confront anti-Americanism is to set himself up in opposition to the dominant ideology of the contemporary Left. [...]

The German Social Democrats and Greens put opposition to US foreign policy at the heart of their, successful, re-election strategy last autumn. The Liberal Democrats here have made criticism of US policy towards Iraq the single biggest dividing line between themselves and the Blair Government.

The cultural popularity of anti-Americanism, particularly among Britain’s intelligentsia, is striking. The surprise publishing hit of last year was Why do people hate America? by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, a work which set out to reassure readers that hatred of America was more than a rising sentiment, it was a moral duty. The top of the UK bestseller list is Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men, a furious polemic against US foreign, domestic and economic policy by one of its own citizens.

The widespread prevalence of anti-Americanism, the cachet accorded to its advocates, the reflexive sniggering triggered by any favourable mention of America’s President, all make opposition to this trend unpopular. But vitally necessary. For Yankee-phobia is, at heart, a dark thing, a prejudice with ugly antecedents which creates unholy alliances. And, like all prejudices, it thrives on myths which will end up only serving evil ends.

It is a myth that America is a trigger-happy cowboy state over-eager to throw its weight around, a myth that America seeks to use its undoubted military power to establish an exploitative empire, and a myth that America thrives by impoverishing and oppressing other nations. [...]

Both America and Israel were founded by peoples who were refugees from prejudice in Europe. Europe’s tragedy is that prejudice has been given new life, in antipathy to both those states.

Perhaps this is an appropriate vehicle through which to tie together some of the stories from the past few days:
(1) The World Values Survey: which shows America to be nearly as traditional/religious as the Third World, rather than secular, like Europe.

(2) The ANES Survey: which shows that within the U.S. the same split prevails, with the GOP remaining religious and the Democrats becoming secular. More revealing, the secularists hate the religious with a passion not seen since anti-Catholicism plaqued the States.

(3) The Christopher Hitchens piece: which calls upon Europeans and other liberals to recognize the existence of evil.

(4) The review of Mark Noll's book: which charts the unique confluence of religious faith and political liberty in the American Founding.

Now, we're all familiar with Samuel Huntington's theory of a Clash of Civilizations, but might it not be time to consider the possibility that secular culture represents such a significant departure from the Western tradition that it is creating a new civilization? And if this is the case, mightn't we also wish to consider the possibility that part of the coming clash will occur between the U.S. (with a few allies) and post-Judeo-Christian Europe, which we might call the secularsphere? In fact, in the long run, if the conservative viewpoint prevails here in America, mightn't we find that we have more in common with the Islamic world, as it begins to democratize, than we do with a Europe that is not only jettisoning its former religious beliefs but is also becoming increasingly statist and anti-democratic? It seems that both trends are leading them away from us and at some point that must have significant consequences.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 AM


Cloning ban bill reintroduced in Congress (UPI, 1/09/03)
Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., Wednesday introduced legislation in the House to impose a ban on all types of human cloning in the United States, while Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback said he plans to introduce similar legislation in the Senate soon. [...]

"It would be tragic if this bill passes," said Robert Lanza, vice president of medical and scientific development at Advanced Cell Technology in Worcester, Mass., which is developing therapeutic cloning technology as a medical treatment.

"If Congress overreacts and passes this bill, it could be a death sentence for many patients," Lanza told United Press International. "There are over 3,000 Americans who die every die from diseases that could be treated in the future with these new technologies. The medical and scientific community is unanimous in banning reproductive cloning but at the same time the medical and scientific community is also unanimous in its support of therapeutic cloning," Lanza said. [...]

A U.S. ban on cloning will do little to stop people in other countries from using the technology, Lanza added. "This research is going to proceed overseas in other countries regardless of what we do here in the U.S.," he said. "In all likelihood these groups are going to operate overseas anyway."

Mr. Lanza seems to weaken his own case. As he points out, we can preserve human dignity in our own society and then just purchase the products of any medical advances that are made in the nations where the value of human life has been debased, just as we used the Nazi''s hypothermia research.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Folks often ask why it is that New Hampshire has remained, almost uniquely, devoted to the founding principles of the nation, with limited government, low taxes, and the like. There was a terrific discussion on NHPR this morning about the structure of our state government--which includes the weakest governorship in America; one of the largest legislative houses in the world; and an executice council, left over from colonial days, that wields enormous power over the governor. All of these checks and balances are designed to make it difficult for state government to do much of anything without a very broad consensus, and they generally succeed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


Have a palindromic New Year (Richard Lederer, Jan. 9, 2003, Jewish World Review)
In the loopy universe of plaindromes you'll find everything from the primordial MADAM, I'M ADAM (Adam's introduction of himself, in English, of course - how convenient - to Eve, the mother of all palindromes), to the epiphanous WON TON? NOT NOW, to the elegant A MAN, A PLAN, A CANAL, PANAMA, to the political STAR COMEDY BY DEMOCRATS, to the hiply contemporary MEN, I'M EMINEM, to the sinister NO, I TAIL A TERRORIST, SIR - OR RETALIATION!, to the wifty, wiggy, loopy, lunatic GO HANG A SALAMI; I'M A LASAGNA HOG, to the astonishingly long yet coherent DOC, NOTE, I DISSENT. A FAST NEVER PREVENTS A FATNESS. I DIET ON COD.

Alistair Reid expresses what may be the very heart of the fascination for matters palindromic: "The dream which occupies the tortuous mind of every palindromist is that somewhere within the confines of the language lurks the Great Palindrome, the nutshell which not only fulfills the intricate demands of the art, flowing sweetly in both directions, but which also contains the Final Truth of Things."

Palindromania is not a disorder but, rather, an evolutionary, passionate effort to cobble letters into order and truth. I say "evolutionary" because I believe that in our species is evolving a heightened wonderment at and facility with the universe of letters. We are getting better at making the alphabet dance.

The greatest palindrome of all time was used by Roger Angell as the title for his New Yorker essay about the 1986 World Series: Not so, Boston.

Despite this unfortunate piece, Mr. Angell's only competition for greatest baseball writer of all time is Red Smith, though--with the possible exception of Smith's piece, Miracle at Coogan's Bluff--this, from Updike's Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu, remains the best paragraph ever written about sport:

Like a feather caught in the vortex, Williams ran around the square of bases at the center of our beseeching screaming. He ran as he always ran out home runs-hurriedly, unsmilingly, head down as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didnt tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept and chanted, "We want Ted," for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back. Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement into a kind of immesne open anguish, a wailing, a cry to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The papers said that the other players, and even the umpires on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods do not answer letters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Judge apologizes for saying he finds it's 'abhorrent' when parents split (Gordon Kent, Mike Sadava and Conal Mullan, 1/09/03, The Edmonton Journal)
A provincial court judge apologized yesterday for declaring he believes it "abhorrent" that couples who have children get divorced.

On Tuesday, Judge Al Chrumka lectured a separated couple, telling them, "as adults we have a responsibility to give (children) the very best that we can."

He went on to say that that parents should stay together for the benefit of their children, even "if that means we have to suffer as parents because we don't like each other any more."

In a news release issued by Assistant Chief Judge Peter Caffaro yesterday, Judge Chrumka apologized for the comments. Judge Chrumka "regrets that his words may have offended some members of the public. This was not his intention. His overriding concern was for the children involved," the release said.

Judge Chrumka made the comments during a sentencing hearing for a 25-year-old woman who left her two young sons -- aged two months and one year -- alone in a parked car for a half-hour on July 19. The temperature reached 24 degrees that day. The children were rescued when a police officer broke a window in the car. They were both taken to hospital with heat stroke.

What hope can you have for a culture where a man apologizes for defending the family in a lecture to a criminal who nearly killed her kids?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


holophrastic (hol-uh-FRAS-tik) adjective (Word Smith: Word of the Day, 1/09/03)
1. Expressing a sentence in one word, for example, "Go."

2. Expressing complex ideas in a single word, as in some Eskimo languages.

[From Greek Holo- (whole) + Greek phrastikos, from phrazein (to speak).]

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 AM

The great adventurer and travel writer, Richard Halliburton (1900-39), was born in Memphis, TN on January 9, 1900. We particularly recommend his book, The Glorious Adventure (1927), in which he recreated the travels of Ulysses. I read it twenty years ago and still recall how exciting it was when he swam the Hellespont.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Universe Grows Younger By The Eon (Space Daily, Jan 09, 2003)
Cosmologists from Case Western Reserve University and Dartmouth College have continued efforts to refine the age of the universe by using new information from a variety of sources to calculate a new lower age limit that is 1.2 billion years higher than previous age limits.

The new information lends new support to the potential presence of a strange new form of energy that dominates approximately 95 percent of the universe and causes its expansion to accelerate.

In a paper published on January 3 in Science, Lawrence M. Krauss, the Ambrose Swasey Professor and chair of physics at Case Western Reserve University, and Brian Chaboyer of the department of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College establish that with 95 percent confidence the age of the universe is between 11.2 and 20 billion years old.

Their estimates were derived from updated information about clusters of the oldest stars in the Milky Way galaxy and refined parameter estimates for their star evolution.

Nice range, fellas.

January 8, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


The Revenge of Trent Lott (NY Times, January 9, 2003)
The nation didn't have to wait long to find out if President Bush's impassioned denunciation of Trent Lott's racial views last month presaged a new approach to the selection of federal judges. It didn't. That became clear on Tuesday evening when the White House decided to renominate Charles Pickering, who failed to win confirmation from the Democratic-controlled Senate last year. Judge Pickering, a Mississippi trial judge and a protege of Mr. Lott, was rejected largely because of his insensitive handling of civil rights cases. The Senate should once again refuse to confirm Judge Pickering, and should carefully scrutinize the 30 other nominees the administration is putting forth. [...]

During last month's firestorm over Mr. Lott, Republicans tried to have it both ways on race. They appeased the majority of Americans, who were outraged at Mr. Lott's sympathetic words about segregation, by pressing him to resign as the Senate Republican leader. At the same time they winked at Mr. Lott's supporters by having prominent party members stand by him. More recently, they announced plans to award Mr. Lott a new position of honor by making him chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

Is the Times really just now realizing they got their keisters handed to them in the Lott dust-up? The GOP renounced Jim Crow--hardly a burning issue--it didn't change its mind about race.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM


U.S. looks south to expand free trade area (Elizabeth Becker, January 9, 2003, The New York Times)
The White House announced Wednesday that it would start negotiations to create a free trade agreement with Central America within one year, a huge leap in its ambitious plans for a free trade zone throughout the Western Hemisphere. The administration of President George W. Bush has made the effort to build on trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, the center of its Latin American policy. The deal announced Wednesday cemented the role of Robert Zoellick, the U.S. trade representative, as the White House's chief point man for the region. Even critics of the administration's policies in the region are applauding Zoellick for what they uniformly describe as aggressively promoting improved relations in the region when most of the administration is focused on Iraq and the war on terrorism. Flanked by representatives of several countries that just decades ago knew the United States mostly as a purveyor of weaponry in their nasty civil wars, Zoellick said American interests in the region were now centered around liberalized trade, economic development and democracy. "This is more than a trade negotiation but a plan to strengthen democracy and promote development in a region that has known too little of both," Zoellick said.

One can't help but notice that the hysteria surrounding the steel tariffs has not been matched by similar coverage and kudos for the Administration's recent series of Free Trade victories. This is hardly surprising as regards the liberal mainstream media, but it's disappointing from the often self-congratulatory blogosphere (especially the libertarian wing), which seems reluctant to admit that it completely misjudged the President.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM


India to deport 20 million Bangladeshis (Agence France-Presse, January 7, 2003)
India is to launch a special drive to deport an estimated 20 million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants deemed to pose a serious threat to national security, the home ministry said on Tuesday.

"The presence of a large number of illegal foreign immigrants, particularly from Bangladesh, poses a serious threat to internal security and needs to be tackled with utmost urgency and seriousness," the ministry said in a statement issued after a day-long security meeting of top officials.

There are an estimated 20 million illegal Bangladeshi migrants living in India, more than half of whom have settled in in eastern Assam and West Bengal states.

The deportation drive is expected to begin between April and June this year, the ministry's statement said.

India has a chance to develop into one of the world's great nations over the next few decades. Such an action would be wholly inconsistent with that possibility.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 PM


John Adams to Compose Atom Bomb Opera (Ronald Blum, December 12, 2002, Associated Press)
John Adams has been commissioned by the San Francisco Opera to compose "Doctor Atomic," a work about the development of the atomic bomb by American scientists in 1940s.

Alice Goodman, who collaborated on Adams' two previous operas, will write the libretto, which centers on J. Robert Oppenheimer, who headed the Manhattan Project.

Peter Sellars will direct, as he did in the premiere productions of Adams' "Nixon in China" in 1987 at the Houston Grand Opera and "The Death of Klinghoffer" in 1992 at the Theatre Royale de Monnaie in Brussels, Belgium.

Donald Runnicles, the SFO's music director since 1992, will conduct. The premiere is scheduled for September 2005 at San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House. The production will be shared with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

"It involves what I call American mythology," Adams said this week in a telephone interview. [...]

"I'm interested in using in part the structure of the 1950s science fiction movie," Adams said. "These events were played out during a time when all those movies about bombs and monsters and strange genetic mutations were very popular, and they invaded the consciousness, the unconsciousness, of the country. That's why I chose the title, because it had a certain '50s, sci-fi resonance."

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to hear "On the Transmigration of Souls" yet, which was commissioned to commemorate 9-11. But Nixon in China is a hoot and this seems like an ideal subject for an opera.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM


Comedic Playwright Jean Kerr Dies (Associated Press, January 08, 2003)
Jean Kerr, a playwright and author who wrote with self-deprecating humor about show business and suburbia and had a best-seller in "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," has died at age 80.

Kerr died Sunday in White Plains. The apparent cause was pneumonia, her son said.

[K]err is probably best known for "Please Don't Eat the Daisies," an eclectic compilation of her writings about everything from her pet dogs to the oddities of their house in Larchmont.

The book, published in 1957, was turned into a movie with Doris Day three years later and became a situation comedy that ran on NBC form 1965 to 1967.

A better man than I might be able to resist the urge, but one feels compelled to note that she's now pushing up daisies.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM


State poem proposal sparks controversy (ANNE SAUNDERS, January 2, 2003, Manchester Union Leader)
A year and a half ago, [Arizona] Gray sent his poem to state Sen. Ted Gatsas with the suggestion that legislation be introduced to make it the state poem.

Shortly thereafter, terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 diverted everyone's attention and the idea fell by the wayside.

Gray sent Gatsas another copy a few months ago, and Gatsas announced his intention to propose that the poem be adopted by the Legislature as the state poem.

The announcement touched off a controversy as others with an interest in literature weighed in on the matter, including the well-known poet and author Donald Hall. Hall was quoted as saying a state poem should be written by a first-rate poet.

Gray is now calling for a public apology from Hall, saying Hall has no business suggesting Gray is anything less than a first-rate poet.

This is what passes for a raging controversy here in the Granite State. NHPR devoted an hour to it this morning. Here's the best poem suggested by the callers:
October (Robert Frost)

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go,
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, Slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost -
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

New Hampshire poem: Whose should it be? Which one? (Manchester Union Leader, December 22, 2002)
State debates suitable state poem (AP, January 8, 2003)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


American values: Living with a superpower: Some values are held in common by America and its allies. As three studies show, many others are not (The Economist, Jan 2nd 2003)
Consider the third recent report, the world values survey run by the University of Michigan.

Unlike the other two polls, this survey goes back a long way. The university has been sending out hundreds of questions for the past 25 years (it now covers 78 countries with 85% of the world's population). Its distinctive feature is the way it organises the replies. It arranges them in two broad categories. The first it calls traditional values; the second, values of self-expression.

The survey defines "traditional values" as those of religion, family and country. Traditionalists say religion is important in their lives. They have a strong sense of national pride, think children should be taught to obey and that the first duty of a child is to make his or her parents proud. They say abortion, euthanasia, divorce and suicide are never justifiable. At the other end of this spectrum are "secular-rational" values: they emphasise the opposite qualities.

The other category looks at "quality of life" attributes. At one end of this spectrum are the values people hold when the struggle for survival is uppermost: they say that economic and physical security are more important than self-expression. People who cannot take food or safety for granted tend to dislike foreigners, homosexuals and people with AIDS. They are wary of any form of political activity, even signing a petition. And they think men make better political leaders than women. "Self-expression" values are the opposite.

Obviously, these ideas overlap. The difference between the two is actually rooted in an academic theory of development (not that it matters). The notion is that industrialisation turns traditional societies into secular-rational ones, while post-industrial development brings about a shift towards values of self-expression.

The usefulness of dividing the broad subject of "values" in this way can be seen by plotting countries on a chart whose axes are the two spectrums. The chart alongside shows how the countries group: as you would expect, poor countries, with low self-expression and high levels of traditionalism, are at the bottom left, richer Europeans to the top right.

But America's position is odd. On the quality-of-life axis, it is like Europe: a little more "self-expressive" than Catholic countries, such as France and Italy, a little less so than Protestant ones such as Holland or Sweden. This is more than a matter of individual preference. The "quality of life" axis is the one most closely associated with political and economic freedoms. So Mr Bush is right when he claims that Americans and European share common values of democracy and freedom and that these have broad implications because, at root, alliances are built on such common interests.

But now look at America's position on the traditional-secular axis. It is far more traditional than any west European country except Ireland. It is more traditional than any place at all in central or Eastern Europe. America is near the bottom-right corner of the chart, a strange mix of tradition and self-expression.

Americans are the most patriotic people in the survey: 72% say they are very proud of their country (and this bit of the poll was taken before September 2001). That puts America in the same category as India and Turkey. The survey reckons religious attitudes are the single most important component of traditionalism. On that score, Americans are closer to Nigerians and Turks than Germans or Swedes.

Of course, America is hardly monolithic. It is strikingly traditional on average. But, to generalise wildly, that average is made up of two Americas: one that is almost as secular as Europe (and tends to vote Democratic), and one that is more traditionalist than the average (and tends to vote Republican).

But even this makes America more distinctive. Partly because America is divided in this way, its domestic political debate revolves around values to a much greater extent than in Europe. Political affiliation there is based less on income than on church-going, attitudes to abortion and attitudes to race. In America, even technical matters become moral questions. It is almost impossible to have a debate about gun registration without it becoming an argument about the right to self-defence. In Europe, even moral questions are sometimes treated as technical ones, as happened with stem-cell research.

The difference between the two appears to be widening. Since the first world values survey in 1981, every western country has shifted markedly along the spectrum towards greater self-expression. America is no exception. But on the other spectrum America seems to have become more traditional, rather than less. The change is only a half-step. And Italy, Spain and France have taken the same half-step. But if you look at Europe as a whole, the small movement back towards old-fashioned virtues in big Catholic countries is far outweighed by the stride the other way in post-Protestant countries such as Germany and Sweden. On average, then, the values gap between America and European countries seems to be widening.

Last month, John Ray took exception to my argument that it is the moralizing force brought to bear by Judeo-Christianity's continued grip on the American soul that, more than anything else, enabled the U.S. to fend of the statism which is destroying much of the rest of the West. He argued that his homeland, Australia had come up with a novel secular social code in place of Christianity but that it remained significantly freer than Europe too (see his posts for December 26, 2002). But if you follow the link to that chart you'll see that Australia registers nearly as far to the traditional values side as we do and is in fact quite unsecular by contrast to the rest of the West.

Also noteworthy is Ireland's position and its recent astronomical score in the ranking of nations by how globalized their economies are. There's quite a delightful irony in the idea that the religiosity which was long seen as benighting Ireland is now conferring enormous advantages on her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


As Dunn's challengers line up, she may seek Murray's Senate seat (Warren Cornwall, January 04, 2003, Seattle Times)
News that Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn might leave the seat she's held through six elections is putting the political ambitions of several Eastsiders in the spotlight.

While the Bellevue Republican says she is no longer in the running for a job with an airline lobbying group, reports that she might take the job prompted several people to start positioning themselves for the seat - including King County Councilman Rob McKenna and state Sen. Dino Rossi.

Yesterday Dunn confirmed that she's under heavy pressure from her party and the White House to run against Sen. Patty Murray next year, further raising speculation about who might replace her.

Dunn told The Associated Press that she has made no decisions about a Senate race but said even President Bush had given her a nudge.

Murray's comments about Osama bin Laden's benevolence - which made headlines last month - were "stupid" and ill-considered, but not a career-ending gaffe, Dunn said.

Murray was vulnerable before the comments - and more so now, she said.

"I feel she is severely in a position now where she should feel threatened, now more than a couple of weeks ago," Dunn said. "It's not just one thing, those comments, (but) the fact that she lost the Senate for the Democrats." Murray is chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

She'd immediately become a superstar in the Party--a female senator from the Pacific Coast--and would almost inevitably, along with Condi Rice, become a much-mentioned possibility for the VP slot in '08, balancing out a white male Southerner, like Bill Frist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 PM


Book Offers Rare Insights Into Bush Presidency: Although he gives the White House mixed reviews, a former speech writer says the chief executive's resolve more than offsets his flaws. (James Gerstenzang, January 7, 2003, LA Times)
Frum's year helping turn Bush's thoughts into speeches gave him a unique perspective on the president's work habits and leadership.

In the Oval Office, Frum says of his first meeting with the president, "Bush was a sharp exception to the White House code of niceness. He was tart, not sweet."

Frum recalls Bush asking his speech writers how they thought he was performing in office. To their enthusiastic compliments, "he nodded grimly," and complained that when he was governor of Texas, he could ask a store clerk how he was doing and get an honest response.

Now, Frum writes, "he was locked in a bubble, hearing only compliments."

While even critics would pay tribute to his image of likability, Frum says of the president, "in private, Bush was not the easy, genial man he was in public. Close up, one saw a man keeping a tight grip on himself."

The "bubble" seems to me to be a very big mistake. Presidents ought to just accept that their lives are at some risk, drastically reduce their security details, and get out and mix with people in less formal settings.

-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Listen to Political commentator David Frum (Fresh Air, January 08, 2003, NPR)
-REVIEW: of The Right Man (Jonathan Karl, Wall Street Journal)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:52 PM


Sen. Zell Miller Won't Seek Re-Election (JEFFREY McMURRAY, 1/08/03, Associated Press)
Democratic Sen. Zell Miller, a popular former Georgia governor, announced Wednesday he won't seek re-election in 2004 - a move that could complicate Democratic efforts to retake the Senate.

We had this ranked as one of the seats most likely to go to the GOP in 2004 (*see below)--assuming Mr. Miller would leave the Democratic side of the Senate behind, either by retirement or switching parties--but it's still awful news for the Democrats. Had he run for re-election as a Democrat he'd have won. There's no chance they'll hold the seat now, putting a 60 seat majority in realistic range for the GOP.

Even worse, the Democrats are going to have to pummel Cynthia McKinney to make sure she doesn't win this primary. Combined with the demolition job they're going to be doing on Carol Mosley-Braun in IL and on Al Sharpton in the presidential, there's going to be some bad blood between the party and its black base.

*ON TO 2004! (Brothers Judd, 11/05/02):

Well, Election 2002 was more fun than a bag of cats, but enough navel-gazing; time to lift our vision to the future: on to Election 2004! Here are the Senate Democrats who come up for re-election next cycle. Possible retirees are marked with an *; conceivable party-switchers with a +; potential presidential candidates with a #. Ideal GOP opponents are in [brackets], where there are obvious choices. They are ranked in order of vulnerability for a switch of the seat to the GOP by January 2005:

Democrat Class of 2004

*Ernest Hollings (SC) (born 1922)

*+Zell Miller (GA) (born 1932)

Barbara Boxer (CA) vs. [Condoleeza Rice (unless she's the VP) or Arnold Schwarzenegger]

Chuck Schumer (NY) vs. [Rudy Giuliani or George Pataki]

#John Edwards (NC)

Blanche Lincoln (AR) vs. [DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson]

*Dan Inouye (HI) (born 1924)

Harry Reid (NV) vs. [Gov. Guinn]

Patty Murray (WA) vs. [Rep. Jennifer Dunn]

#Russ Feingold (WI) vs. [HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson]

Byron Dorgan (ND)

#Tom Daschle (SD) vs. [John Thune]

+Bob Graham (FL) vs. [Jeb Bush or HUD Secratary Mel Martinez]

+John Breaux (LA)

+#Evan Bayh (IN) vs. [Dan Quayle]

Barbara Mikulski (MD)

Ron Wyden (OR)

#Chris Dodd (CT) vs. [Governor John Rowland]

Patrick Leahy (VT) vs. [Lt. Governor Brian Dubie]

What's most notable here may be the quality of candidate that you could put up against some of the seemingly safest incumbents at the bottom of the chart. At any rate, at least the first seven seats--and maybe the first ten--look extremely difficult to defend (though Zell Miller will win in a walkover if he runs again as a Democrat). If George W. Bush were to replace Dick Cheney on the ticket with Condoleeza Rice or J.C. Watts and were riding a growing economy and some further successes in the war on radical Islamism, the pieces would be in place for significant gains downticket in the 2004 election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM


A found poem, suggested by Jeffrey C. Hart in his book, Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe:
Plato died at the age of eighty-one.

On the evening of his death he had a Thracian girl play the flute to him.

The girl could not find the beat of the Nomos.

With a movement of his finger, Plato indicated the measure.

-Eric Voegelin, Order and History

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:06 PM


Our Secularist Democratic Party (Louis Bolce & Gerald De Maio, Fall 2002, Public Interest)
The 1972 Democratic convention set in motion a political dynamic that continues to the present. The ascendancy of secularists in the Democratic party had long-term consequences for the relative attractiveness of each party for members of different religious groups. The Democratic party became more appealing to secularists and religious modernists and less attractive to traditionalists. The secularist putsch in the Democratic party had the opposite effect on its rival, which over time came to be seen as more hospitable to religious traditionalists and less appealing to more secular Republicans. What was at first an intraparty culture war among Democratic elites became by the 1980s an interparty culture war. [...]

To discover the extent to which the new religious cleavage has expanded beyond party activists into the electorate, we classified ANES respondents according to their attitudes toward scriptural authority and their levels of religiosity. Persons who did not exhibit the minimum of religiosity (i.e., those who rejected scriptural authority, had no religious affiliation, never attended religious services or prayed, and indicated that religion provided no guidance in their day-to-day lives) were coded as secularists. Respondents who exhibited the highest levels of faith and commitment (i.e., those who prayed and attended religious services regularly, accepted the Bible as divinely inspired, and said that religion was important to their daily lives) were coded as traditionalists. Persons who fell between these poles were classified as religious moderates. In 2000, about two-thirds of respondents fell into this last category, with the remaining respondents divided about evenly between secularists and traditionalists. (Since the culture wars are largely a clash in values among whites, we confined our analysis to white respondents in the ANES surveys.)

Answers to ANES surveys covering the past three presidential elections highlight two important aspects about the secularist worldview. First, it is associated with a relativistic outlook. Two-thirds of secularists in each of the surveys agreed with the statement that "we should adjust our views of right and wrong to changing moral standards," a perspective on morality with which traditionalists overwhelmingly disagreed. And second, secularism is no less powerful a determinant of attitudes on the contentious cultural issues than is religious traditionalism. In most instances, secularists consistently and lopsidedly embraced culturally progressivist positions. Traditionalists generally lined up on the opposite side, and religious moderates fell in between. Secularists were most distinct with respect to the coolness they displayed toward the traditional two-parent family, their greater tolerance of marital infidelity, and their intense support for the prochoice position on abortion. Seven of ten secularists opposed any law restricting a woman's right to abortion, while majorities of moderates and traditionalists favored some restrictions on abortion. For example, over three-quarters of moderates and traditionalists approved of parental-consent laws and the banning of partial-birth abortion.

Secularists also distinguished themselves from moderates and traditionalists by the antipathy they expressed toward Christian fundamentalists (38 degrees on the thermometer scale) and their belief that the involvement of religious groups in politics is divisive and harmful for society. Traditionalists, on the other hand, were out of sync with the rest of the public with regard to their restrictive attitudes toward legalized abortion - most either wanted to ban the procedure altogether or favored limiting it to narrow circumstances such as rape, incest, or when the woman's life is in danger. Moreover, while most traditionalists favored allowing gays to serve in the military, they were distinct from the rest in their strong opposition to gay adoption.

Studies based on ANES survey data also show that the cultural attitudes of the electorate have become more polarized since the 1980s. But contrary to conventional wisdom, this increased cleavage had less to do with traditionalists becoming more conservative than with secularists (and to a lesser extent, religious moderates) embracing the progressivist positions held by liberal elites. [...]

In terms of their size and party loyalty, secularists today are as important to the Democratic party as another key Democratic constituency, organized labor. In the 2000 election, for example, both secularists and union members comprised about 16 percent of the white electorate, and both backed Gore with two-thirds of their votes. The religious gap among white voters in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 presidential elections was more important than other demographic and social cleavages in the electorate; it was much larger than the gender gap and more significant than any combination of differences in education, income, occupation, age, marital status, and regional groupings. The importance of evangelicals to the ascendancy of the Republican party since the 1980s has been pointed out ad nauseam by media elites. But if the GOP can be labeled the party of religious conservatives, the Democrats, with equal validity, can be called the secularist party.

What's most remarkable in all this is not that the Democratic Party has become a haven of irreligion and amorality, but the genuine hatred that these people feel toward the religion. The one worthwhile reason for sacking Trent Lott is that you can't build a healthy political movement on hatred and to the extent that his comments suggested a nostalgia for Jim Crow they seemed to approve of hate. It's hard to believe that a Democratic Party that has as its base a large group of people who loathe their fellow citizens can be healthy in the long term.

The Party of Unbelievers: A new survey shows that the religion gap is bigger and of more consequence than you think--both for Republicans and Democrats. (Claudia Winkler, 01/08/2003, Weekly Standard)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


With a hum instead of a roar, the fuel-cell is here (Jonathan Rauch, Jewish World Review)
Last month, Honda and Toyota Motor announced the commercial availability of passenger cars powered by fuel cells. The principle of the fuel cell was discovered as long ago as 1839, but practicality has come only recently. The problem has always been to shrink bulky, heavy fuel cells to a size that leaves room for passengers and cargo. As of December, the challenge is met. Honda and Toyota have leased a handful of fuel-cell-powered cars to government agencies in Tokyo and Los Angeles, where employees are now driving them around.

It would be a mistake to make too much of this. The Honda and Toyota cars are very, very expensive to manufacture. How expensive? "I can only say the expense is enormous," said Shinichi Yamaguchi, of Toyota's environmental-affairs division, during an interpreted interview in Japan's Toyota City, near Nagoya. Each company plans to produce only one or so of these precious jalopies a month for the next year or two. Still, the problem of stuffing big fuel cells into little cars is now officially solved.

That leaves other problems. Fuel cells run on hydrogen gas, and fueling stations, apart from a few experimental ones, don't exist. (By the end of 2003, Tokyo will have, count 'em, 10 such stations.) The engines are hard to start in cold weather, and they have trouble providing surge power for acceleration at highway speeds.

Nonetheless, most or all of those problems can be solved with existing technologies, and the cars are expensive mainly because they are still handmade. Standardization and mass production will reduce costs by orders of magnitude. Kawaguchi figures on general availability for specialized fleets in five to 10 years.

Which raises the question, with all of our technological ingenuity, why pass things like the Kyoto accord? If you just have a little patience you'll gradually get the same effects without the social dislocation caused by doing things immediately.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


In Field of Rich and Famous, Dean Strives to Distinguish Self (John P. Gregg, 1/8/03, Valley News)
Dean has campaigned extensively in Iowa, hoping his background as the governor of a rural state, his commitment to expanding health care coverage and his opposition to military action in Iraq will help him in the Iowa caucuses that come shortly before the critical New Hampshire primary. But with Gephardt's entrance into the race this week, Dean faces a candidate who won the Iowa caucuses in his 1988 presidential bid and placed a strong second in New Hampshire behind then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Gephardt is emphasizing his experience after 26 years in Congress on foreign policy, education and health care.

“I think people are looking for a candidate who can not only win the presidency, but put together a new majority in the country to solve some of these long-standing problems,” Gephardt told the Valley News on Monday.

Gephardt said he has a much stronger fund-raising base now than in 1988 -- for starters, he plans to move the $2.5 million from his congressional campaign account into his presidential bid. And his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement and support for “fair trade” have won him solid union support in the past.

Gephardt said one proposal he is considering is an international “variable minimum wage” to create consumers, as well as suppliers, in less developed countries.

“If we don't get wages up, we're not going to have the demand to make this economy work worldwide,” said Gephardt.

The Iowa caucuses retain their potential to push Democrats so far to the Left that they leave the mainstream entirely. It will be especially interesting to see if Dick Gephardt supports the next phase of the war, given how badly such votes tend to play in Iowa.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


Edwards's Raw Talent (David S. Broder, January 8, 2003, Washington Post)
At 49, he is a decade younger than most of the other Democrats, but he looks even younger -- not exactly the profile for a prospective wartime commander in chief.

And the same ambition that has jet-propelled his career can stir suspicions. Edwards has not foreclosed the possibility of running for reelection to a second term in the Senate next year, but many of the Democrats I know in North Carolina -- and virtually all the Republicans -- believe he has burned his bridges behind him. Votes he has cast on labor union matters and some social issues have won favor from important national Democratic constituencies but do not sit well with many voters at home. [...]

And television is still a risk for this highly telegenic candidate. His appearance on "Meet the Press" last May, where Tim Russert exposed his shakiness on foreign policy, was enough of a disaster that Edwards himself has asked Russert for a second chance. He did better last Sunday under the gentler examination of ABC's George Stephanopoulos, but he inexplicably froze on an unexpected question asking the identity of the philosopher most influential in his life. He filibustered for an agonizingly long time and finally said he couldn't answer.

Edwards is a New Democrat -- his principles echo those of President Clinton -- but unlike Clinton, he has not identified himself with the main network of those folks, the Democratic Leadership Council, apparently believing that his prospective rival Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut senator and 2000 vice presidential candidate, has the inside track there.

With Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri having strong ties in neighboring Iowa and with Boston's Kerry and former Vermont governor Howard Dean camped in New Hampshire, Edwards faces a tough early schedule before South Carolina votes.

Doesn't the section of this essay on how awful Edwards has been when being questioned by the press suggest that all that has come before is mere perception rather than reality? Most importantly, since his chief selling point is that he's a Southerner, does it not matter that even David Broder thinks he'd have a hard time being re-elected to the Senate from North Carolina?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM

SENSIBLE COHEN? (from David Cohen)

Tacitly Racial (Richard Cohen, January 7, 2003, The Washington Post)
Of course, Gore is no racist, and it is not even remotely possible that he ever used racially offensive speech. But for a long time he has been the personification of a Democratic Party that has found it impossible to move off the racial dime, often staying silent or complicitous when others waved the bloody shirt of ol' time racism -- usually just to propel African Americans to the polls.

This is precisely what happened in the last presidential campaign when the NAACP all but placed the body of James Byrd Jr., the victim of a racial murder, at George W. Bush's doorstep. Byrd's daughter, Renee Mullins, narrated the commercial and said, "So when Gov. George W. Bush refused to support hate-crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again."

This tasteless ad, run just before the presidential election, was not denounced by a single prominent Democrat. It tried to link Byrd's gruesome murder to Bush's opposition to hate-crime legislation. That was pretty close to, if not indistinguishable from, calling him soft on racism.

Gore was the presidential candidate and had an absolute obligation to denounce the ad. (So did Bill Clinton.) He did not, because in its own way the Democratic Party is just as likely to play the race card as the Republican Party. Take a principled stand against this or that civil rights program and you're going to be denounced as a racist.

Cut this one out and paste it to the refrigerator--a sensible column from Richard Cohen is as rare as a four leaf clover.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


President Renominating Federal Judge Lott Backed (NEIL A. LEWIS, January 8, 2003, NY Times)
President Bush said tonight that he was renominating Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. of Mississippi to a federal appeals court, a step that will almost certainly set off a Senate debate over racial issues reminiscent of those that toppled Senator Trent Lott as majority leader.

Mr. Bush also named 30 other candidates for federal judgeships, many of them nominated, but like Judge Pickering not confirmed, in the last Congressional session, when Democrats controlled the Senate.

Judge Pickering, of the Federal District Court in Hattiesburg, Miss., seeks a seat on the federal appeals court in New Orleans. Mr. Bush initially nominated him largely at the behest of Mr. Lott, a longtime political supporter from Judge Pickering's home state. But the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination along party lines last March, after heated arguments over his record on civil rights in Mississippi.

Here's further evidence that Karl Rove--who in the media caricature is the evil, wholly-political genius driving the administration's every action--does not think there's much political risk in the race issue for the GOP.

January 7, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


First speed of gravity measurement revealed (NewScientist.com, 07 January 03)
The speed of gravity has been measured for the first time. The landmark experiment shows that it travels at the speed of light, meaning that Einstein's general theory of relativity has passed another test with flying colours.

Ed Fomalont of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Sergei Kopeikin of the University of Missouri in Columbia made the measurement, with the help of the planet Jupiter.

"We became the first two people to know the speed of gravity, one of the fundamental constants of nature," the scientists say, in an article in New Scientist print edition. One important consequence of the result is that it places constraints on theories of "brane worlds", which suggest the Universe has more spatial dimensions than the familiar three.

John Baez, a physicist from the University of California at Riverside, comments: "Einstein wins yet again." He adds that any other result would have come as a shock.

Relativity rankles, but unlike some other theories it is subject to experimentation and keeps passing the tests..
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 PM


Frist Has Busy 1st Day As Majority Leader (ALAN FRAM, 1/07/03, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Frist said Democrats, who favor more generous benefits, had informally agreed Monday evening to let the measure pass. It eventually did after nearly two hours, but only after initial Democratic objections threatened to derail the GOP drive to rapidly pass the bill and move to other issues like President Bush's plans for new tax cuts.

"I guess this is what I can come to expect," a clearly frustrated Frist said to his colleagues when it looked like Democrats might delay the measure.

As the delays continued, Frist returned to his office and said in an interview that he believed Democrats would eventually realize they could not block the new benefits.

"I'm not going to leave them in charge," he said. "I sat there and listened to them for 45 minutes, but I'm not going to sit there for three hours."

Eventually, Democrats relented and the Senate passed the measure by voice vote.

"This should send a signal we're all about action, we're about accomplishment," he said afterward, claiming the first of what he hopes will be many GOP victories on his watch.

One can hardly blame the Democrats for gumming up the works, it's pretty much all they have left, but their lack of honor is embarrassing.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


W. and Karl, Going to a Garden Party (MAUREEN DOWD, January 8, 2003, NY Times)
The Democrats are pathetic.

With Tom Daschle out, they don't even have seven dwarfs. They have six coifs--and that's not counting Hillary.

Once more showing the sure touch that could make Republicans the dominant party until the cows come home, the Democratic bagman Terry McAuliffe turned his back on New York City, the damsel in tristesse that has always come through for Democratic presidential candidates.

Even aside from the humane instinct to help a city caked in red ink and black memories, Democrats should consider New York lucky; when they've nominated winners, it was in Madison Square Garden--Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

In November over dinner in Manhattan, Mr. McAuliffe tried to bully Mike Bloomberg, warning the mayor that he would not even consider New York as a convention site unless Mr. Bloomberg agreed to stop trying to lure Republicans to the Garden. The suggestion was brusquely rejected by the brusque mayor, not out of party loyalty--he became a Republican only a New York minute ago--but municipal loyalty.

We feel her pain.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


Donahue: Clinton Encounter Left Me Rattled (Newsmax, Jan. 7, 2003)
MSNBC TV talker Phil Donahue bristled Tuesday at charges that he went soft on a 1999 rape allegation against Bill Clinton, explaining that an interview with the ex-president seven years earlier had left him so rattled he worried about his family.

"You know, you're talking to a guy who's got the finger from Bill Clinton for raising Gennifer Flowers on my television show. I did not give Clinton a pass," Donahue told nationally syndicated radio host Sean Hannity, who pressed him on Sexgate allegations by Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick.

"And I was booed by my own audience," Donahue insisted. "And I continued to question him about Gennifer Flowers - an issue at the time that he was denying."

But the one-time king of daytime TV talk complained that Clinton tried to intimidate him during the 1992 broadcast, telling Hannity, "He looked at me and he gave me that pointed finger. You remember when he said, 'I did not have sex ...' He looked at me and he said, 'You're the reason for the cynicism in this country, Phil.'"

Donahue said he was worried about the impact the Clinton altercation might have on his family.

"My mother was watching from her apartment in Cleveland," he explained. "I've got a family and two dogs. I mean, that's a tough drill to take.

"So, don't say that I am just blindly surrendering," he told Hannity.

So is Donahue saying he was worried about what Clinton would do to his family, and his dogs? They did, after all, whack Kathleen Willey's cat.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM


Abortion Rights Group Plans a New Focus (JENNIFER 8. LEE, January 5, 2003, NY Times)
Leaders of the largest abortion rights group, saying they face the most hostile atmosphere for abortion in 30 years, are planning a multimillion-dollar campaign to try to make abortion a critical issue in the 2004 presidential election.

The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League is starting a television and print advertising drive in highly competitive states. In addition, the organization is trying to freshen its image by changing its name to Naral Pro Choice America.

"Through our name change we are underscoring that our country is pro-choice," said Kate Michelman, president of the organization. "It is the right name for this moment in history." [...]

Abortion opponents say the change is a simply a marketing sleight of hand. "They want to isolate the rhetoric from the reality," said Ken Connor, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative group. "They want to talk about pro-choice, but its not choosing between chocolate and vanilla. We are talking about the right to choose to kill an unborn child."

The recognition that at this moment in history they need to remove "abortion" from their name has to be terrifying to Democrats who are identified with no other issue as closely as they are with abortion on demand.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:10 PM


Best Jazz CDs of 2002: Everything That Rises Must Converge (Gary Giddins, January 6th, 2003, Village Voice)
As the wheels of capital grind remorselessly to the tune of impossible profit projections, jazz grows increasingly irrelevant to the dominant record labels. Atlantic vanished; Columbia recycled Miles; Concord Jazz did singers; BMG and Warners hardly mattered; and even Verve tightened the noose. Blue Note kept the faith, revived by the improbable triumph of Norah Jones in a nonjazz setting. Yet good jazz records proliferated, some better than good, and often on labels like Palmetto, Justin Time, Pi, Aum Fidelity, and others yet more obscure. Something like consensus coalesced around half a dozen titles. One dares to imagine the divided jazz tribes rising above ever thinner layers of air to converge. For example, if the audience for Bob's Pink Cadillac were also to buy The Music of Bob Haggart, and vice versa, two little tribes might surprise themselves and turn into one with box-office clout. So let me dream, albeit alphabetically. Five entries, however, are asterisked: CDs that, like it or not, you must hear.

The Arthur Blythe and Matthew Shipp discs look especially intriguing.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:00 PM

We just posted our review of The Emerging Democratic Majority. Suffice it to say, we're dubious about the authors' thesis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:06 PM


Knights Templar to use latest imaging in search for Grail (Paul Kelbie, 06 January 2003, Independent)
For centuries the intricately carved stones of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh have tantalised historians, archaeologists and devoted Christians.

A labyrinth of vaults beneath the 15th-century home of the Knights Templar is reputed to contain dozens of holy relics, including early gospels, the Ark of the Covenant, the fabled Holy Grail – and even the mummified head of Christ.

More than 550 years after the first foundation stones were laid, modern technology is about to put the legend to the test.

A group of Knights Templar, successors to the warrior monks who sought asylum from the Pope by fleeing to Scotland in the early 14th century and fought for Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, are to make a "non-invasive" survey of the land around the chapel. They will use the latest ultrasound and thermal imaging technology in the hope of finding evidence of the existence of the vaults.

"The plan is to investigate the land around the chapel to a depth of at least 20ft," said John Ritchie, Grand Herald and spokesman for the Knights Templar.

"The machine we are using is the most sophisticated anywhere and is capable of taking readings from the ground up to a mile deep without disturbing any of the land.

"We know many of the Knights are buried in the grounds and there are many references to buried vaults, which we hope this project will finally uncover."

If there's a cooler job title in the world today than "Grand Herald of the Knights Templar", I'm unaware of it.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


Birthrates in global decline (Steve Sailer, January 6, 2003, UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL)
Birthrates are notoriously hard to predict. Demographers generally subscribe to the comforting assumption that all total fertility rates will eventually even out at the population stabilizing replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman. There isn't much evidence for this belief, however, as shown by plummeting European birthrates.

In the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black, Asian and American Indian women all are having babies at about the replacement rate. Non-Hispanic white women are a little under that mark (1.87 in 2001). Hispanics, however, reached a fertility level of 3.16 children per woman in 2001, their highest level since the CDC began counting in 1989. Interestingly, Mexican-American women now have a higher birthrate than Mexican women.

With the Hispanic share of the population growing, the United States crossed the replacement level fertility rate in 2000 for the first time since 1971.

Mr. Sailer is a tad too nativist for our tastes, and sees these numbers as a bad thing. We see them as a very good thing and all the more reason to welcome Hispanic immigration. Our focus should be on getting those "non-Hispanic white" birthrates up over replacement rate too, rather than trying to limit the others.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:40 PM


Here We Go Again (Dotty Lynch and Douglas Kiker, Jan. 7, 2003, CBS News: Washington Wrap)
It's early still, but Rove's machinations have begun in Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Washington State.

In Nevada, the White House has started pushing Rep. Jim Gibbons to run against Sen. Harry Reid, who, if he has his way, might be Senate Minority Leader by that point. Rove met with Gibbons on Dec. 10, and the Post reports that a Bush-Gibbons powwow is imminent.

In South Dakota, the White House has started working on a repeat John Thune candidacy in 2004. Thune, who lost a tight race to Sen. Tim Johnson this past fall, would face Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle who is now leaning toward running again.

As we've previously reported, the White House is also putting the screws to North Carolina Rep. Richard Burr to run against incumbent senator and Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards. In neighboring South Carolina, there's also talk of a Roveian conspiracy to kill a Senate campaign in its infancy. In December, Rep. Joe Wilson had indicated he'd like to run for Ernest Hollings seat in 2004. But, after a visit by Rove to the Palmetto State on Dec. 16, he mysteriously decided not to run the very next day. (White House aides denied that Rove pressured Wilson to drop out in favor of Rep. Jim DeMint – but anyone would have to admit that the timing was interesting, to say the least.)

In North Dakota, former Republican Gov. Ed Schafer has gotten the White House treatment on running against Democrat Byron Dorgan. (Despite Schafer's repeated statements shooting down interest in a Senate race, Bush called him "Senator" at a White House Christmas Party.)

And in Washington State, Rep. Jennifer Dunn, a White House favorite, has been steered toward a run against Sen. Patty Murray, who headed the Democrats' 2002 Senate campaign committee. Despite Dunn's reluctance, in the words of the state GOP chairman, "the White House is all over her."

Pretty good advance work for a Mayberry Machiavelli.

You'd have to think WA, NC, SC & WA offer golden opportunities and in the Dakotas the two incumbents will have to run some twenty or more points better than their party's presidential nominee. The most interesting fight may be in NY though, where Pataki, Guiliani, and Peter King are all possible GOP candidates.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:29 PM


Democrats Need Route From Political Trap (Sam Parry, January 6, 2003, consortiumnews.com)
And so it begins, as predictable as clockwork. Just hours after Sen. John Edwards said he is setting up an exploratory committee as the likely start of a presidential run, the right-wing attack machine was already in gear, grinding out a caricature of the North Carolina Democrat, an early glimpse of what's to come not just for Edwards but for all the Democratic hopefuls.

On CNN’s Crossfire the day Edwards announced his plans, Republican consultant Ed Rogers began "defining" Edwards. He was a "parasitic" trial lawyer, a multimillionaire with no gravitas.

"When [Edwards] started this quest four years ago to buy himself a Senate seat and get into the game, he thought there would be a market for a Clinton-lite or for a wannabe wonder boy," Rogers said. "[Edwards’s] background, his qualifications, make it a farce that he would run for president of the United States." [Crossfire, Jan. 2, 2003]

On the same day, talk show host Rush Limbaugh clipped together an attack montage for his radio audience belittling Edwards’s desire to be a "champion for regular people." Limbaugh devoted a chunk of his three-hour radio show to explain to his millions of listeners that Edwards was really just using "code for you’re a helpless little ninny who can’t do anything without me helping you."

The next day, the Republican National Committee published a 5,100-word, two-part report on its Web site calling Edwards "an unaccomplished liberal" who is "not ready for prime time" -- although Edwards has the same number of years experience in government as Texas Gov. George W. Bush had when he ran for president in 2000.

The immediate lambasting of Edwards – like early attacks on Sen. John Kerry – is only the start of a coordinated campaign by the RNC and its allies in the powerful right-wing media to tear down any Democrat who may pose a threat to Bush.

One reads the rest of this essay eagerly, searching for a single word refuting those comments by the attack machine. There are none. In fact, there can be none. Edwards is a lightweight whose main selling point is that he's a Southerner who comes across like a TV news anchor--pretty, unthreatening, and capable of reading a teleprompter without looking shifty-eyed. If he left politics today there'd be not one piece of significant legislation to show he'd ever been there, nor would he leave behind a single idea that has to be reckoned with. Recent polling in NC suggests that he'd have trouble being re-elected to the Senate in '04, which may be why he's moving on. The thought that he's "a threat to Bush" is simply absurd.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 PM


'The Greatest of Great Men' (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, January 7, 2003, NY Times)
Unless the administration switches gears, here's what may happen: North Korea will reprocess spent fuel at its Yongbyon reactor, giving it enough plutonium for five to eight nuclear warheads by May 1. The North will also resume construction of a much bigger reactor at Taechon, accelerate its enriched uranium program, possibly drop out of the Nonproliferation Treaty, and test a Taepodong 2 missile that, in three stages, could reach New York (although it might be so inaccurate that it would miss and wipe out Newark).

In five years, North Korea could have 100 nuclear weapons and be churning out more like a fast-food chef. With nothing else to keep its economy going, North Korea will peddle them to the highest bidder ("One free Taepodong 2 missile with every three warheads you buy!") [...]

The only way out that I can see is to negotiate with North Korea, despite the administration's legitimate concerns about rewarding bad behavior. We could save face by getting Vladimir Putin to sponsor an international conference on North Korea, and then working out a deal in which the Great Leader verifiably gives up his nuclear and long-range missile programs, while the West offers normalization, trade, Asian Development Bank loans and pledges of nonaggression.

This would be a deeply unsatisfying solution, but it is less unsatisfying than the options we're now speeding toward: a nuclear factory peddling bombs
on the North Korean Ebay, or Korean War II.

There is, I think, a much better way out. It is to prove, decisively, that we're serious about putting an end to the spread of nuclear weapons, something we should have done when the USSR began its program.. We should take out--by whatever means necessary, including nuclear--both Kim Jong Il himself and the facilities that North Korea is using to produce its nuclear weapons. At the same time it should be made clear that it will be our policy to stop the further spread of nukes and that any nation found to be producing them will face an identical fate. It might be appropriate at this time to require China and Pakistan to surrender their nuclear capabilities too. We can work with Russia, Britain, and France to dismantle their arsenals. The US, and maybe Israel and India, should have a monopoly on nuclear weapons.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:49 AM


The Burden (MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, January 5, 2003, NY Times Magazine)
A historian once remarked that Britain acquired its empire in ''a fit of absence of mind.'' If Americans have an empire, they have acquired it in a state of deep denial. But Sept. 11 was an awakening, a moment of reckoning with the extent of American power and the avenging hatreds it arouses. Americans may not have thought of the World Trade Center or the Pentagon as the symbolic headquarters of a world empire, but the men with the box cutters certainly did, and so do numberless millions who cheered their terrifying exercise in the propaganda of the deed.

Being an imperial power, however, is more than being the most powerful nation or just the most hated one. It means enforcing such order as there is in the world and doing so in the American interest. It means laying down the rules America wants (on everything from markets to weapons of mass destruction) while exempting itself from other rules (the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and the International Criminal Court) that go against its interest. It also means carrying out imperial functions in places America has inherited from the failed empires of the 20th century -- Ottoman, British and Soviet. In the 21st century, America rules alone, struggling to manage the insurgent zones -- Palestine and the northwest frontier of Pakistan, to name but two -- that have proved to be the nemeses of empires past. [...]

America's empire is not like empires of times past, built on colonies, conquest and the white man's burden. We are no longer in the era of the United Fruit Company, when American corporations needed the Marines to secure their investments overseas. The 21st century imperium is a new invention in the annals of political science, an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known. It is the imperialism of a people who remember that their country secured its independence by revolt against an empire, and who like to think of themselves as the friend of freedom everywhere. It is an empire without consciousness of itself as such, constantly shocked that its good intentions arouse resentment abroad. But that does not make it any less of an empire, with a conviction that it alone, in Herman Melville's words, bears ''the ark of the liberties of the world.'' [...]

Regime change is an imperial task par excellence, since it assumes that the empire's interest has a right to trump the sovereignty of a state. The Bush administration would ask, What moral authority rests with a sovereign who murders and ethnically cleanses his own people, has twice invaded neighboring countries and usurps his people's wealth in order to build palaces and lethal weapons? And the administration is not alone. Not even Kofi Annan, the secretary general, charged with defending the United Nations Charter, says that sovereignty confers impunity for such crimes, though he has made it clear he would prefer to leave a disarmed Saddam in power rather than risk the conflagration of war to unseat him.

Regime change also raises the difficult question for Americans of whether their own freedom entails a duty to defend the freedom of others beyond their borders. The precedents here are inconclusive. Just because Wilson and Roosevelt sent Americans to fight and die for freedom in Europe and Asia doesn't mean their successors are committed to this duty everywhere and forever. The war in Vietnam was sold to a skeptical American public as another battle for freedom, and it led the republic into defeat and disgrace.

Yet it remains a fact -- as disagreeable to those left wingers who regard American imperialism as the root of all evil as it is to the right-wing isolationists, who believe that the world beyond our shores is none of our business -- that there are many peoples who owe their freedom to an exercise of American military power. It's not just the Japanese and the Germans, who became democrats under the watchful eye of Generals MacArthur and Clay. There are the Bosnians, whose nation survived because American air power and diplomacy forced an end to a war the Europeans couldn't stop. There are the Kosovars, who would still be imprisoned in Serbia if not for Gen. Wesley Clark and the Air Force. The list of people whose freedom depends on American air and ground power also includes the Afghans and, most inconveniently of all, the Iraqis. [...]

America has been more successful than most great powers in understanding its strengths as well as its limitations. It has become adept at using what is called soft power -- influence, example and persuasion -- in preference to hard power. Adepts of soft power understand that even the most powerful country in the world can't get its way all the time. Even client states have to be deferred to. When an ally like Saudi Arabia asks the United States to avoid flying over its country when bombing Afghanistan, America complies. When America seeks to use Turkey as a base for hostilities in Iraq, it must accept Turkish preconditions. Being an empire doesn't mean being omnipotent. [...]

Those who want America to remain a republic rather than become an empire imagine rightly, but they have not factored in what tyranny or chaos can do to vital American interests. The case for empire is that it has become, in a place like Iraq, the last hope for democracy and stability alike. Even so, empires survive only by understanding their limits. Sept. 11 pitched the Islamic world into the beginning of a long and bloody struggle to determine how it will be ruled and by whom: the authoritarians, the Islamists or perhaps the democrats. America can help repress and contain the struggle, but even though its own security depends on the outcome, it cannot ultimately control it. Only a very deluded imperialist would believe otherwise.

This is a terrific essay--by all means, go read it all--but it seems to do violence to the very concept of imperialism to call American hegemony "empire". Where empires have historically sought to unify many lands under one ruler or to exploit those lands to the benefit of that ruling power, it is the very essence of our mission in the world to be able to bow out of the affairs of our fellow nations and deal with them, if at all, as sovereign powers, in control of their own, preferably peaceful, destinies. So, for instance, there's a great deal of chatter, especially on the Left, about our war with Iraq being a "war for oil". Surely we do want to be able to buy the oil produced by a free and democratic Iraq, but does anyone really labor under the delusion that we want to run Iraq ourselves? In none of the various nations with which we're at war or soon will be--Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, etc.--will we have any role in governing the country by 2005. What kind of empire is that?

The new American empire?: Americans have an enduring aversion to planting the flag on foreign soil. Is that attitude changing? (JAY TOLSON, 1/13/03, US News)

Finally, though, is imperialist the right word for describing the objectives set out in the Bush Doctrine? Is empire the right word for America? Even though a historian like Gaddis finds it apt, others are deeply troubled by the usage, including Bush himself. "We have no territorial ambitions," he said in a speech last Veterans Day. "We don't seek an empire."

Many scholars object to the word for sound historical reasons. "In an empire, you control other nations, you write their laws, and so on," says Zelikow. "Even in the case of an informal empire, such as Britain over Afghanistan, you have something completely different from what the United States is doing."

Zelikow explains that a special vocabulary of empire began to develop around the time of the Boer War at the turn of the last century. It was adapted by the defeated nations of World War I to describe the victors. Marxists of the Russian and Chinese persuasion perfected the word's vagueness in order to paint all capitalist powers as imperialists. "Over the last generation," Zelikow says, "people have come to describe any nation with influence over another as an empire. It doesn't tell you anything, but it brings a lot of baggage with it."

A country that produces nearly a third of the world's gross domestic product and whose military spending tops that of the next 20 countries combined is capable, obviously, of exerting wide influence through both soft power (including everything from MTV to McDonald's) and hard military muscle. But so far, the United States has seldom–with the exception of 1898–demonstrated that it wants to directly dominate the internal affairs of other nations. This does not mean that America has not engaged in some heavy-handed meddling with other nations' governments: Throughout the Cold War, for instance, Washington helped bring about "regime change" in Iran, South Vietnam, Chile, and other nations as part of its larger strategy to contain and roll back the communist tide. In the years between the fall of the Soviet empire and September 11, a period that columnist Krauthammer
first dubbed the "unipolar moment," Americans demonstrated that they had little idea of what to do with their massive power, apart from marveling at it while the "new economy" soared skyward. At most, under Clinton and Bush before him, the United States acted like the benign but barely attentive custodian of globalism. Now, however, it knows that peace, prosperity, and the spread of human rights are not automatically guaranteed. Their survival will require the expenditure of American will and might. But Americans will have to decide in the long run whether they want to extend the unipolar moment into what Krauthammer recently proposed as the "unipolar era."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


Bush set to join Democrats in battle of tax cuts (LYNN SWEET, January 7, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
President Bush in Chicago today will propose creating "re-employment accounts" to help the jobless as part of an economic stimulus plan that also features a cut in taxes on stock dividends, which Democrats blasted as favoring the rich.

Democrats offered their own stimulus plan Monday, featuring $300 federal tax rebates for individuals.

When the Democrats are saying "yes, but", the argument's already been won by the Republicans. The GOP should just add the Democrats' rebate plan to their own and pass the whole thing. The 8-10 vulnerable Senate Democrats aren't going to vote against tax cuts.

January 6, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM


No Gun Ri: 'Massacre,' Media and Conflicts of Interest (Dave Eberhart, Jan. 4, 2003, NewsMax.com)
Ever since a group of Associated Press reporters shared the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for the story about an alleged wholesale U.S. massacre of civilians in the opening weeks of the Korean War, questions have festered about what really happened under that railway bridge at No Gun Ri, South Korea. But the latest skirmish in the perennial battle is being fought over whether the coveted prize should be returned.

Although the AP's version, describing hundreds of gun-downed and strafed-from-the air refugees, came under challenge early (from U.S. News and World Report and Stripes.com), the biggest chink in the award-winning account appeared when the key AP source, a former soldier who claimed to have witnessed the debacle firsthand, was shown up as a fraud who was not even in the worn-torn country.

While the AP team understandably dropped the fraud's chilling and bloody account from a later book on the same subject, they have shrugged off suggestions that the whole story has been impeached, suggesting that the liar's tale was but a portion of the mosaic of a tale they stand by.

The book they produced out of this was so one-sided that it's hard not to question their motives.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


-REVIEW: of Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe (David Gordon, Mises Review)
Classical liberals view the state with suspicion; indeed some, of whom Murray Rothbard and Hans Hoppe are examples, wish to do away with it altogether. However convincing the arguments for private-property anarchism, we now live in a world of states. Given this fact, what kind of state is best? If, as Albert Jay Nock famously said, the state is our enemy, which regime threatens us least? Many have looked to democracy, but Professor Hoppe dissents. [...]

Monarchy preserves liberty far better than does democracy; and when our author says "monarchy," he means it. He does not have in mind constitutional kingdoms, in the style of contemporary Britain, where the monarch reigns but does not rule. Rather, he refers to the full-fledged kings of the Old Regime, with the Habsburgs as particular favorites.

But how can Hoppe say this? A king rules to benefit himself, and he need answer to no one. In a democracy, by contrast, a government that displeases the people can be replaced. Does not the knowledge that it can be turned out at the next election act to restrain the government now in power?

Our author turns on their heads these commonly held beliefs. True enough, a king regards the government as his personal possession; but exactly this will induce him to act with good judgment. Rather than squander his nation's resources, he will manage them prudently, all the more so if he expects to pass on the realm to his heirs. "Assuming no more than self-interest, the ruler tries to maximize his total wealth, i.e., the present value of his estate and his current income. He would not want to increase current income at the expense of a more than proportional drop in the present value of his assets". [...]

In a democracy, by contrast, the government will grab as much as it can, without regard to the future. Precisely because the holders of power do not own the government, they lack the incentive to look to the long run. "A democratic ruler can use the government apparatus to his personal advantage, but he does not own it . . . [h]e owns the current use of government resources, but not their capital value. In distinct contrast to a king, a president will want to maximize not total government wealth (capital values and current income), but current income (regardless and at the expense of capital values)".

Ah, if only we didn't always end up with a royal family whose gene pool could fit in a shotglass.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


More Than Fire and Brimstone: a review of Mark A. Noll's "America's God" (STEPHEN PROTHERO, December 17, 2002, Wall Street Journal)
In the colonies and the early republic, Mr. Noll argues, European theology reigned. The sacred canopy of British Puritanism extended far beyond its New England stronghold, and Americans remained Europeans in spirit long after they had thrown off George III. Beginning in the 1790s, however, a truly American theology emerged, centered on evangelicalism rather than Puritanism and devoted to the proposition that all U.S. citizens were at liberty to read the Bible for themselves.

During the Civil War, this theology all but collapsed, as neither the Bible nor common sense seemed able to speak unequivocally on slavery. While Abraham Lincoln, a hero in Mr. Noll's tale, looked over the battlefield at Gettysburg and felt the awful mystery of providence, more orthodox heirs of Jonathan Edwards, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, deluded themselves into thinking that they could divine the purposes of God, which conveniently happened to be identical to their own. [...]

This "Christian republicanism" did not take hold anywhere else. Americans moved further away from Calvinism than the Scots; they invested more in the Bible and focused more on conversion than the Dutch; and they were less committed to the church and its traditions than the British. Their theology did far more than Christianize America. It helped produce a national culture as committed to the Bible as it was to liberty -- a country with roughly as many clergy as federal employees.

Like the first half of U.S. history, Mr. Noll's story ends in tragedy. Christian republicanism advanced in the U.S. only because its theologians eagerly translated the ancient truths of the Bible into language that ordinary Americans could understand. Their efforts popularized Christianity and empowered Christians, Mr. Noll explains. But they also domesticated evangelical theology. Over time, common sense started sounding more like Gotham than Galilee, and theologians began to take their marching orders as much from the marketplace as from ancient scripture.

[...] While others may sneer at Christian dominance and cheer its demise, Mr. Noll does just the opposite. He laments the passing of Christian republicanism and in the end suggests that a dose of Jonathan Edwards ("the last of the Puritans and the first of the evangelicals") may be just what contemporary America needs.

One must certainly prefer the lessons of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to any of the Kumbaya-singing pabulum you're likely to get in most churches these days.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM


AUDIO INTERVIEW: with Ray Harryhausen, Master Special Effects Artist (Fresh Air, January 06, 2003, NPR)

For those of us of a certain age, computer-generated and other modern special effects will always pale in comparison to the brilliantly cheesy stop-action work of Ray Harryhausen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:52 PM


North Korea is Dark (GlobalSecurity.org)
South Korea is bright, North Korea is dark. This amazing image was made by the orbiting Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellite over regions of the world at night.

Follow the link above to see an illustration of the adage: A picture is worth a thousand words.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:07 PM


County leaders switch parties: County Commissioner Steve Simon and Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning became Republicans on Friday. (JAMES THORNER, December 21, 2002, St. Petersburg Times)
Two of the Pasco County Democratic Party's leading lights, County Commissioner Steve Simon and Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning, have defected to the rival Republicans.

Citing dissatisfaction with a Democratic philosophy that has tilted to the left over the years, Simon and Browning changed their voter registration to the GOP on Friday. [...]

Browning said the modern-day Democrats are not the same party he registered with as a teenager 25 years ago.

He contemplated a party switch for several years, feeling uncomfortable with left-leaning ideas of party faithful. One of the last straws was the choice of San Francisco legislator Nancy Pelosi to lead the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There's always been a profound illogic to the idea that Republicans implicitly exploit race for political gain but that by making an explicit issue of race the Democrats can reap dividends.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:54 PM


Mr. Putin's resurgent Russia (The Japan Times, Jan. 7, 2003)
Remember Russia? The government in Moscow no longer commands the international respect -- or fear -- that it did during the Cold War days, but a decade after the collapse of its empire, Russia appears ready for a comeback. President Vladimir Putin has revealed a deft touch at home and abroad, besting adversaries and winning new friends. The much maligned economy is regaining its feet, a recovery that has been fueled by surging energy exports.

In short, the foundation for a Russian resurgence is being laid. Domestic terrorism or a foreign-policy miscalculation could undermine the progress that has been made, however. Critical to Russia's future is an understanding of where its national interests lie: consolidating the rule of law at home and casting its lot with the West rather than acting as an independent force in foreign affairs.

After the tumult of the Yeltsin era, Russia has stabilized under Mr. Putin. A relatively unknown quantity when he took office, the Russian president has proven to be a capable leader and politician. He has marginalized the domestic opposition, despite a number of incidents -- including the Kursk submarine disaster and the Chechen hostage drama in a Moscow theater -- that could have damaged his popularity. He has projected the image of a man of action and a man of the people, a marked contrast to the mostly sclerotic leaders of the Soviet era.

Mr. Putin's domestic standing has been enhanced by his international stature. He has forged a special relationship with U.S. President George W. Bush and built strong ties with European leaders. During Mr. Putin's tenure, Russia has institutionalized a new relationship with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that turned the former enemies into partners. At the same time, Mr. Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin established the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which consolidates Russian influence in Central Asia and tightens cooperation between the two countries. Mr. Putin has also made it clear that Russia will be a player in Northeast Asian diplomacy and that any eventual framework for the region will have to take Russian interests into account.

The only shadow on this diplomatic horizon is the continuing freeze in Russia's relations with Japan.

One can hardly expect the Japanese to recognize the ongoing demographic catastrophe in Russia, since they haven't faced up to their own.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


INTERVIEW: with Foster Friess: Virtue a Prerequisite for Economic and Political Freedom (January and February 1998, Religion and Liberty)
R&L: Speaking more generally, in what way do biblical principles apply to the free-market system?

Friess: I think that one of the most important ways that the Judeo-Christian tradition can help clarify free-market processes is with the principle of sin.

R&L: How so?

Friess: You see, just as there are physical consequences of sin, there are also economic consequences of sin. Too often, these costs are just passed along to the consumer and taxpayer. Unfortunately, sin is too often overlooked when trying to reduce these costs and improve society. Just as millions of consumer decisions every hour affect the overall picture of the United States–for example, in determining whether we are in a recession or expansion–the millions of moral decisions citizens make will determine whether we live in a noble society or a degenerate one.

I propose that a morally bankrupt society cannot maintain a strong economic balance sheet. Consider the sin of greed. One way that greed manifests itself is when city dwellers decide they are paying too much rent. Instead of moving somewhere else, they get city governments to pass rent control laws. Rent controls, however, invite landlords to protect their investment by converting to condominiums and, even worse, discourage developers from building any more rental housing. Under the guise of protecting the poor, rent control ends up as a subsidy for the middle and upper classes while driving poor people out of cheap housing.

Any businessman interested in building a healthy economy should see not only the moral but the economic value of discouraging sin and encouraging virtue. As Michael Novak has said, "Self-government depends on the capacity of citizens to govern their own passions, urges, habits, and expectations." We should work to rebuild a virtuous economy. Ephesians 4:28 reads, "Let him who stole, steal no more–but take up honest work." Through our sin, we steal from our economy. God wants us, instead, to be productive–to replace the costs of sin with the rewards of virtue.

R&L: You speak of the need for the people in free societies and free markets to be virtuous. What are some of the more important virtues that should be cultivated?

Friess: I think that there are two virtues–at least two–that are very important, especially for Americans: courage and hard work. America was built by men and women who came to this country in search of just one thing: freedom. Having experienced the horrors of totalitarian repression, stifled opportunity, and hierarchical societies, they saw America as a shining land of opportunity. They knew what it meant to work and they knew what it meant to be free. They embodied what Theodore Roosevelt talked about when he said, "Our country calls not for the life of ease but the life of strenuous endeavor." They became captains of industry, architects of our material wealth, guides for our spiritual health, and leaders who called us to see things as they could be. They were also the anonymous millions who worked hard, raised families, passed values on from one generation to another–they were the threads of the fabric of America.

R&L: Many argue that these kinds of virtues–as well as freedom itself–are in short supply today. What happened to cause this shortage?

Friess: For some reason, in the past several generations, there have been those who have attempted to curtail the very freedom that made America possible–believing that the risks of freedom were too great or perhaps that the rewards of freedom were more than they could control. And so in this great nation we began a social experiment unprecedented in American history. Having been conceived in liberty and nurtured in freedom, we had these birthrights traded in for a system of elite governmental control–and we have reaped the whirlwind. No longer believing in the freedom of man, we have engaged in a crazy experiment that has had an incalculably high toll. Free men in a free State become, instead, objects of affection of an overbearing "Nanny State."

This process of course feeds on itself. As we become less virtuous, we demand more and more government to protect us from each other and from the consequences of our own lack of virtue. Unable to govern ourselves, what choice do we have but to expand Government?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


The Myth of Too Many (Michael Fumento, January 2003, Focus on the Family)
You can't estimate population growth with a calculator because simple mathematical formulas don't take into account underlying circumstances such as fertility rates. But we do know that in almost every nation women are having fewer children, with those in about 60 nations already giving birth at a rate far less than the replacement rate.

Want some numbers? While world population has more than doubled since 1950 to the current 6.3 billion, according to the United Nations, the population will top out between 2050 and 2075. Demographer and American Enterprise Institute scholar Nicholas Eberstadt says it's likely to come on the earlier end of that estimate, when the world hits 8 billion by 2050. "I think it's perfectly plausible that world population could peak by 2050 or even sooner and perhaps at a level below 8 billion," says Eberstadt, noting the past 35 years of declining fertility rates.

Thus the world in the next half century will have fewer additional people to take care of than it did in the last half century. In percentage terms, while it handled 100 percent more people in the last 50 years, it will only have to deal with 27 percent more in the next 50. Granted, that's still a lot of people. But it's a long way from apocalyptic.

[T]here is one vital resource in which we may develop a shortage in the next few decades: us.

That's because the world's population won't just conveniently level off after it peaks; more likely it will drop like a stone.

According to U.N. Population Division Director Joseph Chamie, current population projections assume the earth is moving toward an average fertility level of 1.85 children per woman. Considering that a 2.1 level is needed to sustain a population, the planet's population would peak at 7.5 billion by 2050 and fall to 5.3 billion by 2150.

And that has interesting political implications, since the decline will not be evenly distributed among nations. The populations of several Soviet-bloc nations already are falling because of declining birth rates and emigration. Japan is expecting its population to peak in 2006 and then drop by 14 percent (almost 20 million people) by 2050. Germany expects a similar decline, while Italy and Hungary may lose 25 percent of their populations and Russia a third. These nations already are becoming giant "leisure worlds," with Depends outselling Pampers.

Any of you old enough to remember those ads that Dannon used to run, with all the 130 year old Russian villagers? The Europeans and Japanese better all start woofing yogurt because they're going to have to work into their hundreds if they're going to pay for any kind of retirement system.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


-TRIBUTE: Politics is the poorer for Roy's passing: pub landlords will be, too (Robert Harris. 01/06/2003, Daily Telegraph)
British politics and letters are undoubtedly the poorer this morning for Roy's passing - but so, too, I fear, are the landlords of the Blue Boar at Chievely, the Harrow at West Ilsley, the Royal Oak at Yattendon, the Red House at Marsh Benham, and a large number of other congenial establishments across Oxfordshire and West Berkshire.

If this sounds a frivolous way to remember a great man, I do not think he would have objected. "The crucial thing about Roy," as Sir Nicholas Henderson, a far older acquaintance than I, once remarked, "is his infinite capacity for friendship". It seemed to be one of his aims in life never to pass a lunchtime alone, and in this, as in much else, he was triumphantly successful. [...]

Someone once said that, in listening to Roy's voice, one heard the authentic echo of English as it was spoken in the 1930s. He practised conversation, too, as an art from a golden age, in the way that Evelyn Waugh once defined it: "with anecdote occurring spontaneously and aptly, jokes growing and taking shape, fantasy".

His memory was prodigious, and he was generous in sharing it. Here was a man - is there another left? - who was in the gallery of the House of Commons to listen to Churchill's great speeches in the summer of 1940, and who bumped into Ernest Bevin on the promenade at Sidmouth in 1937 ("I'm 'ere on 'oliday with Flo," was how the old trade union warhorse greeted him).

There was a difference of 37 years between our ages, but I was never conscious of it. He had that quality which many obituarists mentioned in connection with the Queen Mother: he would talk about the past, but he refused to live in it; he was always eager for the latest gossip, or to discuss the latest book or film. Dozens of his oldest friends must have died during the course of our acquaintance, but he never sighed after them, or dwelt on details of their passing. "Most lives end pretty badly when you stop to think about it," was all he would say.

And thankfully his own death - working up to the end, after a lunch with friends the previous day, and with his biography of Churchill still rising in the bestseller list - disproved his theory.

Mr. Jenkins was wrong about nearly everything, not least about a united Europe, but far less wrong than his Labour colleagues. Britain would be a better place today if his vision had prevailed in the '60s, rather than having to wait until Tony Blair's election. After leaving politics he became a very fine biographer.

-ARTICLE: Lord Jenkins dies at 82 (George Jones, 01/06/2003, Daily Telegraph)
-OBIT: Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, OM (Daily Telegraph, 01/06/2003)
-TRIBUTE: The crusader for moderation who listened: Prof Ben Pimlott looks at the life of a brilliant writer and reforming politician (Daily Telegraph, 01/06/2003)
-TRIBUTE: A great Whig (Daily Telegraph, 01/06/2003)
-OBIT: Statesman Jenkins dies at 82 (Michael White and Lucy Ward, January 6, 2003, The Guardian)
-TRIBUTE: A major progressive: Roy Jenkins charted the path of reform (Leader, January 6, 2003, The Guardian)
-TRIBUTE: Gang leader who paved way for Blair: The social reformer and political writer who never became PM is seen by some as the grandfather of New Labour (Michael White, January 6, 2003, The Guardian)
-OBIT: Roy Jenkins, 82, Dies; Helped Start Centrist British Party (PAUL LEWIS, 1/06/03, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM


Reagan was right: trees do pollute: Tree chemicals react with pollutants to cause smog (Tom Spears, January 06, 2003, The Ottawa Citizen)

CREDIT: Rich Lipski, UPI

Trees really do pollute, scientists say, citing tonnes of pollutants that evaporate from their leaves and vindicating the claim for which Ronald Reagan was once ridiculed.

And the trees that contribute most to smog are, ironically, the fast-growing species planted in reforestation projects to help the environment, they say.

In 1981, Mr. Reagan told an astonished audience that "trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." Two decades later he's still wrong, but not quite as wrong as many people thought.

Next we'll find out that really was Grover Cleveland Alexander's desk in Tip O'Neill's office.

January 5, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM


Invasion of the Culture Snatchers? (Winfried Fluck, Project Syndicate and Institute for Human Sciences)
The development of popular culture from the novel via the image to the triumph of popular music and the "center-less'' heterogeneity of television, created forms of cultural expression that are singularly useful for the purposes of imaginary self-extension and self-empowerment. The result is an increasing separation of expressive elements from moral, social, even narrative contexts. Here is the triumph of "mood over morals.'' Americanization, indeed, is carried by the promise of heightened imaginary self-realization for individuals who are freed from the bonds of social norms and cultural traditions.

Americanization, thus, cannot be viewed as a tacitly engineered hidden cultural takeover but as a process in which individualization is the driving force. This process is most advanced in the US for a number of reasons. The promise of a particular form of individualization provides the explanation why American popular culture finds so much resonance in other societies where it has taken hold almost without resistance (mostly carried by a young generation trying to escape tradition).

Cultural Americanization is thus part of a modernizing process. Americanization is not a form of cultural imperialism, but the embodiment of modernity's promise of painless self-realization for each individual, in contrast to the demands made by more traditional concepts of emancipation. Globalization, which often appears as the triumph of cultural standardization, in reality undermines standardization. No single national culture is the driving force but, instead, globalization is powered by a restless individualism drawing on a growing store of mass symbols. So: we are not becoming Americanized. We "Americanize'' ourselves.

Boy, described that way, we oppose Americanization too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM


Loyalty Needn't Trouble Black Republican (JOSEPH H. BROWN, Jan 5, 2003, Tampa Tribune)
While today's GOP is accused of being opposed to the advancement of black Americans, the Democratic Party of the late 19th and early 20th century made no secret of its antiblack agenda. It held ``white only'' primaries and supported Jim Crow legislation in the South, where 90 percent of blacks lived until the 1920s.

Which is why Frederick Douglass, the most prominent black spokesman following the Civil War, was a staunch Republican. ``The Republican Party is the ship and all else is the sea,'' Douglass told black Americans. Thus blacks remained loyal to the party of Abraham Lincoln for decades.

That began to change with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, even though the Democratic Party remained the home of segregationists. As late as 1960, 35 percent of black voters supported the Republican candidate, Richard Nixon. It wasn't until the 1964 election and Barry Goldwater's blatant appeal to racist voters that the divorce of the GOP and black America was finalized.

It's also important to remember that a higher percentage of Democrats than Republicans voted against the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the June 27, 1964, Congressional Quarterly, 61 percent of House Democrats voted for the bill, compared with 80 percent of Republicans. In the Senate, 69 percent of Democrats voted for the bill (46 for, 21 against) vs. 80 percent of Republicans (27 for, six against).

Which may help explain why Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, a Republican, received a special award for his remarkable civil rights leadership from Roy Wilkins, secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

It's also important to note that even though the Democratic Party was for decades the home of segregationists, the handful of blacks in Congress from the 1930s to the 1960s, including Adam Clayton Powell of New York and William Dawson of Illinois, were all Democrats. If they didn't have to rationalize their party affiliation, neither should Al McCray.

The Goldwater appeal was hardly racist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:59 PM


Grasping the New Year's 'right' debates: In the year's debates on the role of government, here's a guide to the factions of the right (Steven Greenhut, Jan. 5, 2003, Orange County Register)
My New Year's prediction is, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, that debates on the right will get more heated and nuanced, even as voices on the left become more shrill. So I offer the following quiz to help readers decide where they might fit in the debate.

It was like ordering Chinese food, one from each column.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:16 PM


To end all culture wars: The theology in To End All Wars is so sound and explicit that it may turn
off Christians reared on pop spirituality (Gene Edward Veith, 1/11/03, World)
COMING SOON TO A THEATER near you: a World War II drama featuring Kiefer Sutherland, one of the movie industry's hottest stars. It is rated R.

It is a product of Hollywood.

And it is one of the powerful cinematic expositions of the Christian faith.

To End All Wars might have been pitched to the mainline filmmakers as Chariots of Fire meets Saving Private Ryan. Fans of the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, the true story of an athlete who refused to run in the Olympics on the Sabbath, will note the same Scottish accents, a similar soon-to-be church worker positively portrayed, and comparably high production values. But whereas Chariots of Fire, for all of its virtues, never got around to mentioning the gospel, To End All Wars amounts to a sustained meditation on the core of Christianity: Christ dying for sinners, and what that means in the most extreme trials of life.

Oddly enough, Eric Liddell, the Flying Scotsman from Chariots, died in a Japanese concentration camp.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:02 PM


The Age of Paine: Thomas Paine was one of the first journalists to use media as a weapon against the entrenched power structure. He should be resurrected as the moral father of the Internet. (Jon Katz, May 1995, Wired)
[W]e owe [Tom] Paine. He is our dead and silenced ancestor. He made us possible. We need to resurrect and hear him again, not for his sake but for ours. We need to know who he was, to understand his life and work, in order to comprehend our own revolutionary culture. Paine's odyssey made him the greatest media figure of his time, one of the unseen but profound influencers of ours. He made more noise in the information world than any messenger or pilgrim before or since. His mark is now nearly invisible in the old culture, but his spirit is woven through and through this new one, his fingerprints on every Web site, his voice in every online thread.

If the old media (newspapers, magazines, radio, and television) have abandoned their father, the new media (computers, cable, and the Internet) can and should adopt him. If the press has lost contact with its spiritual and ideological roots, the new media culture can claim them as its own.

For Paine does have a legacy, a place where his values prosper and are validated millions of times a day: the Internet. There, his ideas about communications, media ethics, the universal connections between people, and the free flow of honest opinion are all relevant again, visible every time one modem shakes hands with another.

Tom Paine's ideas, the example he set of free expression, the sacrifices he made to preserve the integrity of his work, are being resuscitated by means that hadn't existed or been imagined in his day - via the blinking cursors, clacking keyboards, hissing modems, bits and bytes of another revolution, the digital one. If Paine's vision was aborted by the new technologies of the last century, newer technology has brought his vision full circle. If his values no longer have much relevance for conventional journalism, they fit the Net like a glove.

The Net offers what Paine and his revolutionary colleagues hoped for - a vast, diverse, passionate, global means of transmitting ideas and opening minds. That was part of the political transformation he envisioned when he wrote, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." Through media, he believed, "we see with other eyes; we hear with other ears; and think with other thoughts, than those we formerly used."

One of the most troubling things about the Islamic world is that it has not yet produced a Common Sense, a political pamphlet that is passed from hand to hand, like samizdata in the Soviet Union, and read by all, laying the groundwork for the democratic revolution that the region so badly needs.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


Debate Erupts Over Authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls (JOHN NOBLE WILFORD, December 24, 2002, NY Times)
Hundreds of books and thousands of articles have been written about the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered more than 50 years ago in caves near the ruins of a forlorn settlement known as Qumran. Scholars and divines have transcribed, translated and argued over the texts, searching for insights into the history of ancient Israel at a time of transition in Judaism and the origin of Christianity.

But Qumran itself went largely unexplored for the longest time. Even the results of the few initial excavations in the 1950's have remained mostly unpublished and unavailable for independent study.

The situation, some scholars say, is not unlike the handling of the scrolls themselves, which were tightly held by select biblical scholars whose control over their publication was finally broken after a rancorous struggle a decade ago.

Now it is the archaeologists who are restive. Many no longer accept without question the view of Qumran advanced after the first excavations by the Rev. Roland de Vaux, a French biblical scholar and archaeologist.

Examining building foundations, graves and possible ritual baths at the site, Father de Vaux concluded that this had been a self-contained monastic settlement of Essenes, a strict Jewish sect, and that it was their scribes who wrote the scrolls in the first centuries B.C. and A.D. Some of the ascetic practices and radical religious beliefs mentioned in the scrolls appeared to correspond with Essene doctrine, as recorded by near-contemporary historians like Josephus, Pliny and Philo Judaeus.

Challenges to this interpretation have been mounting in recent years. Qumran may instead have been a military fortress, some scholars contend, or a fortified manor house or a villa. It may have been an agricultural community or commercial entreprise. In any case, it is increasingly argued, there is no firm archaeological evidence linking the Qumran settlement to the scrolls found in the nearby caves.

The crumbling consensus was manifest at a conference of Qumran archaeologists held here in November at Brown University. Organizers said this was the first meeting to focus solely on the archaeology of the site, 12 miles south of Jericho on a rugged plateau above the western shore of the Dead Sea.

These guys need hobbies.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 AM


Why Civility Matters: Contemporary confusion over the informal rules of social interaction goes to the heart of what it means to be a citizen in a free and open society. (Nicole Billante and Peter Saunders, Spring 2002, Policy)
The Centre for Independent Studies has just started a new project on civility. From our review of an extensive academic literature, and from talking with ordinary Australians in focus groups,1 we would suggest that civility should be understood as being made up of three elements.

1. Civility as respect for others

The first is that civility involves a demonstration of respect for others. At the age of 16, George Washington set down his '110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation'. His first rule was: 'Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present.' This emphasis on respecting others is still central to the idea of civility today. Harvard law professor Stephen Carter, for example, defines civility as: 'An attitude of respect, even love, for our fellow citizens', and philosophy professor Cheshire Calhoun argues that civility involves communicating an attitude of respect towards others.

2. Civility as public behaviour

The second element of civility relates to public behaviour in the sense that it governs relations between people who may not know each other. American philosopher Michael Meyer notes that, 'Civility is primarily a stance taken towards strangers' and Carter says it 'equips us for everyday life with strangers . . . we need neither to love them nor hate them in order to be civil towards them'. [...]

3. Civility as self-regulation

The third element of civility is what Carter calls 'sacrifice', or what might less dramatically be referred to as self-regulation. Civility involves holding back in the pursuit of one's own immediate self-interest-we desist from doing what would be most pleasing to us for the sake of harmonious relations with strangers. Civility means doing the right thing [...]

These three elements of civility-respect, relations with strangers, and self-regulation-together lead us to a definition of what it is we are talking about. Civility is behaviour in public which demonstrates respect for others and which entails curtailing one's own immediate self-interest when appropriate. Defined in this way, civility is clearly a demanding public virtue. To be prepared to sacrifice one's own self-interest out of respect for people one has never met is a 'big ask'.

The decline of civility too should be seen as a function of the rise of the State and the decline of community. For once we have the State to take care of all our needs the question becomes: why bother being civil to anyone? If you don't need them and you don't owe them anything, the heck with them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 AM

WETWARE (via Buttercup):

Brain is wired for God, scientists say: Religion could have physiological basis (Amy Ellis Nutt, 01/04/03, Newhouse News Service)
The human brain, even at its ancient, primitive core, is less an organ of impulse than a machine of reason. We are built to make sense of things. Our brains restlessly scan the world for patterns in chaos and causes in coincidence.

We crave comprehension and, when faced with life's mysteries, sometimes we create explanations.

For many people, the answer to the most ineffable question of all -- "Why do we exist?" -- is God.

Neuroscientist Rhawn Joseph has spent years studying history, myth and biology in his quest to understand the universality of spiritual experience and its evolutionary function.

In his studies of the brains of Tibetan monks and Franciscan nuns, radiologist Andrew Newberg seeks out the relationship between neural activity and mystical experience.

Both men believe that the connection between the brain and spirituality suggests that there is a physiological basis for religion -- that human beings are hard-wired for God. [...]

"What we're really talking about is that, regardless of whether God truly exists or not, in some sense it's not even a relevant issue. Human beings are always going to have this sense of connection to God, defining God broadly, whether we create it ourselves or whether there really is a God."

Which leads us to the "chicken or the egg" question.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 AM


The Skeptical Conservative (Andrew Sullivan, November 4, 2002 , Bradley Lecture delivered at the American Enterprise Institute)
"A story," he says, "has no overall meaning, and is occurrences understood in terms of the meaning they acquire from their evidential contingent relationships. And the teller of such a story has no message for those who listen, other than the intelligibility with which he purports to have endowed the occurrences concerned by putting them into a story."

What this relationship really is--and it still puzzles people-- Maybe what it's not is clearer than what it is. It allows for a greater contingency between human events than any other account can muster, and in this way closely dovetails with Oakeshott's advocacy of extemporaneous practical life, which was a major subplot of his Rationalism and Essays.

Oakeshott was a bit of a bohemian. He loved pursuing his own interests wherever they led him. He was always seen with some beautiful woman on his arm. He came from the days when sexual harassment wasn't even thought of, let alone policed. He went on trips throughout Europe without anything in his pocket but a little amount of money and would sleep by the hedge rows, going from village to village, seeing what he found, living as he wanted to.

To seize each moment, to delight in it, and pursue its informations with the fullest degree of autonomy and least trace of heteronomy is perhaps the best way to understand Oakeshott's view of how you deal with the contingencies of history and the contingencies of life. To see "how it will turn out." It is a response to contingency Oakeshott wishes to affirm in each practical event. And the paradox of a still-lingering presence of tradition in contingency and the inevitable weight of heteronomy within autonomous agency might be seen as most successfully resolved in Oakeshott's writings by the temperament he associates with poetic experience.

This is not to say the point of contingency in history is that human beings can do anything they want. It isn't to say that one event can lead to absolutely anything. It isn't to say that one is living life in order to lose oneself at every minute. As we've seen, such loss of self is inimical to Oakeshott's understanding of practical agency. Rather, paradoxically, what Oakeshott's trying to say is that by acquiescing in contingency, by understanding we have no control, by knowing that we cannot know what will come next, by playing into that knowledge, maximizing it, only then are we, paradoxically, led to strengthen our autonomy.

Oakeshott says at one point in the Rationalism essays that a man's identity, "is not a fortress into which we may retire, and the only means we have of defending it--that is, ourselves--against the hostile forces of change is in the open field of our experience."

Far from being someone that crouched under the defense of tradition, he said history is a complete series of contingencies. Go out there, join it. Know its randomness, know its potential. Let go a little, and you will master it better than those who want to impose an order upon it which isn't there. You gain more control by letting go. Human beings and human society are so complex, they change so completely, they are so radically open to change, the attempt to order it all is a mistake. It will lead you up blind alleys. And the only sensibility which could allow you to govern politics, and indeed to live life, is one which lets go of control over the future.

Facing the open field of experience is the ability to maximize the contingency in each practical moment. It is to defeat contingency by accepting its terms of combat. It's a perilous course, and in it our identity is constantly under threat. But it is, paradoxically, the only way in which that identity can be defended.

Conservatism in this understanding does not seek to suppress change, to dictate the course of a story, insisting on a plot. It recognizes the mixture of tradition and possibility in events and stresses the contingency and possibilities in order, paradoxically, to conserve identity more fully in the face of it. Just as riding a bike fast steadies the balance, so facing practical life with this attitude steadies the self.

Barry Meislin sent this one a while ago, but I'd been dilly-dallying over a Rationalism in Politics review, so just read it now. Oakeshott's essay is available on-line and you really should read it, if you haven't. If I understand aright what Mr. Sullivan is saying here, it seems he's trying to co-opt Oakeshott as an advocate for wide-open experimentation in personal behavior. One wonders if this doesn't go a bit too far. From what I've read, Oakeshott would certainly have said that someone's personal and private life was none of anybody's business, but that seems quite a different thing than actual advocacy. It also seems hard to square with his statement in On Being Conservative:
To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss. Familiar relationships and loyalties will be preferred to the allure of more profitable attachments; to acquire and to enlarge will be less important than to keep, to cultivate and to enjoy; the grief of loss will be more acute than the excitement of novelty or promise. It is to be equal to one's own fortune, to live at the level of one's own means, to be content with the want of greater perfection which belongs alike to oneself and one's circumstances. With some people this is itself a choice; in others it is a disposition which appears, frequently or less frequently, in their preferences and aversions, and is ont itself chosen or specifically cultivated.

Of course, Mr. Sullivan wrote his doctoral dissertation on Oakeshott and even met the man, so he deserves some deference. Still, he seems to be reading into Oakeshott's philosophy that which he desires to be there.

January 4, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


What Is Wrong with Terrorism? (Thomas Nagel, November 2002, Project Syndicate)
People all over the world react with visceral horror to attacks on civilians by Al Quaeda, by Palestinian suicide bombers, by Basque or Chechen separatists, or by IRA militants. As there now seems to be a pause in the spate of suicide bombings and other terrorist acts--if only momentary--perhaps now is a moment to grapple with a fundamental question: What makes terrorist killings any more worthy of condemnation than other forms of murder?

The special opprobrium associated with the word "terrorism" must be understood as a condemnation of means, not ends. Of course, those who condemn terrorist attacks on civilians often also reject the ends that the attackers are trying to achieve. They think that a separate Basque state, or the withdrawal of US forces from the Middle East, for example, are not aims that anyone should be pursuing, let alone by violent means.

But the condemnation does not depend on rejecting the aims of the terrorists. The reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001 on New York and Washington and their like underscores that such means are outrageous whatever the end; they should not be used to achieve even a good end--indeed, even if there is no other way to achieve it. The normal balancing of costs against benefits is not allowable here.

Isn't the real reason that we find terrorism to be unacceptable that it takes seriously our own notions of consensual government? What, after all, is the difference between you, me, George W. Bush, and a random soldier in terms of legitimacy as a target in a conflict? And, since there was nearly universal outrage at the thought of a draft, are we really saying that only those soldiers should bear the brunt of U.S. policy, that the rest of us are sacrosanct, even though it's our policy too? So the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon was okay, because they were combatants, but the bombing of Hiroshima was wrong because we intentionally targeted civilians? How many U.S. soldiers should we have been willing to sacrifice to take the home islands by conventional means in order to avoid firebombing Tokyo or nuking a couple cities?

There seems something almost delusional about the idea that the end can never justify the means when it comes to attacks that kill civilians. Are we really prepared to say that a Resistance bombing of a Nuremberg rally would have been wrong, even though it killed Hitler, because thousands of rank and file Nazis and other civilians would have been killed? I don't think so.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


The bloody gun law of the ghetto - coming soon to a street near you (Theodore Dalrymple, January 03, 2003, Times of London)
The seemingly casual gunning down of two girls in one of Birmingham’s many urban wastelands will come as no surprise to observers of the British underclass. We should not delude ourselves: these deaths are the shape of things to come. In no time at all, we’ll out-Chicago Chicago.

Not long ago, a gun was fired from a car at someone who was leaving the prison in which I work. Not long before that a man was shot dead in the pub opposite the prison. And not long before that a man was shot and seriously wounded in the same pub.

With increasing frequency, prisoners tell me that they expect to be shot when they leave the prison — by rival criminals with whom they have fallen out. At least one such prisoner who told me this was shot dead within weeks of his release, just as he predicted.

Meanwhile, in the hospital in which I also work, surgeons grow experienced in the treatment of gunshot wounds, when a few years ago they had no experience at all. A month ago I was halted in the corridor of my own hospital as a man on a trolley, who had been seriously wounded in a gun battle, was hurried by, surrounded by about ten policemen in bullet-proof jackets, to protect him from further attack. And it is not unusual for our patients to need protection in the wards while they are recovering: one of the reasons our wards now have locked doors.

These are just everyday scenes from underclass life in Britain, a life to which our middle classes, intellectuals and politicians have remained impenetrably indifferent for many years. Never mind: before long, they will soon get a few lessons in underclass culture whether they like it or not. They won’t have to go to the slums: the slums will come to them.

I actually had never seen a gun--other than our Dad's never-used .22 rifle--until we moved from the ghetto (East Orange, NJ) to a white Jewish/Catholic suburb next door (West Orange). Then you'd be at some middle-class Jewish family's house and there'd be a shotgun in an easily accessible gun case. After noticing the phenomenon a few times I asked one of the fathers what was going on. He said they all bought them during the Newark riots, just in case the slums really did come to them. Western Europe seems almost entirely unprepared for the drastic changes in peoples' attitudes that accompany racial/ethnic tensions.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 AM

MENCKEN'S DEAD, PART 1 (via pj):

Fla. Reporter Suspended for Arab Comments (Associated Press, January 03, 2003)
The Tallahassee Democrat has suspended a reporter for an e-mail he sent to a reader referring to Arabs squatting "around a camel-dung fire" and putting "their bottoms in the air five times a day" in prayer.

Bill Cotterell, a political writer and columnist, was replying to an e-mail from a reader angry over a political cartoon that asked, "What would Mohammed Drive?" and depicted a Middle Eastern-looking man driving a Ryder truck with a nuclear bomb in the back.

The e-mail exchange evolved into a discussion of Israel. Cotterell wrote that Arab nations have had 54 years to accept Israel. "They choose not to. OK, they can squat around the camel-dung fire and grumble about it, or they can put their bottoms in the air five times a day and pray for deliverance; that's their business."

Democrat Executive Editor John Winn Miller suspended Cotterell starting Friday for one week without pay following complaints about the e-mail from a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group. [...]

The Democrat has received about 9,000 e-mail complaints about the cartoon. Marlette said he has received e-mails threatening death or mutilation.

"We live in a really dimwitted age of political correctness," he said. "It's hard for institutions to deal with this kind of organized guilt tripping. It's bad for free speech."

This guy was suspended for a private comment for cripes sake.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


A skeptic worth remembering (Bill Murchison, December 31, 2002, Townhall)
Mencken's influence depended less on his ideas -- as comfortably as they cohabited with the zeitgeist -- than on the most forcefully exuberant prose style ever concocted. You could love his ideas; you could hate them. Either way, he was a great (hence too-often-imitated) writer.

Here he is on Calvin Coolidge: "We suffer most, not when the White House is a peaceful dormitory, but when it is a jitney Mars Hill, with a tin-pot Paul bawling from the roof. Counting out Harding as a cipher only, Dr. Coolidge was preceded by one World Saver and followed by two more. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge, would hesitate for an instant?"

No batteries are needed to keep 70-year-old passages like this one alight. Words -- rightly chosen, skillfully arranged -- provide their own, perpetually renewable charge. Mencken wrote an estimated 5 million words. The product remains warm, collectively, to the touch.

I have been teaching Mencken (along with William Allen White, John Graves, James Jackson Kilpatrick, etc.) in my college writing class. So that my students might go forth and bust the Rotarians? Well -- no. So that they might come to understand better the connection between forceful thought and forceful expression, the way passion builds rhythm and shapes sentences that make you want to get up and march. Or anyway, pump your fist in the air.

Modern corporate journalism -- I beg leave to generalize Menckenesquely -- distrusts ideas. The one idea it trusts devoutly is that of profit, coupled with the ideal of customer retention. No intellectual bloodlettings, please! Someone might take offense. Oh, boo hoo.

Still, today's journalism would be much worse without the Mencken legacy, a legacy of engagement, fueled by that passion which alone produces writing worth reading. Pick up a copy of "The Skeptic" if you doubt me. Better yet, pick up something -- anything -- by Mencken.

It is one of the great defects of democracy that the more we need a Mencken--to tell us what a bunch of boos we are--the more forcefully such ideas are driven from the "marketplace". No network or major publication today would be willing to risk the wrath of the consumer by creating a regular spot for a skeptic to bash our ludicrous tastes, ideas, and concerns.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


The Rite Stuff : Daily behavioral patterns link families closer together (Sam Graceffo, M.D., 12/25/02, Syracuse New Times)
Most of us engage in various routines and rituals; some provide comfort and others pain. Syracuse University psychologist Barbara Fiese conducted an investigation of this topic by reviewing 32 studies from the past 50 years. She concluded that customs, which are still widely practiced in the United States, hold significant meaning. They help improve mental and physical health and provide a sense of security and belonging.

Do you ever get the feeling that the entire scientific project, insofar as it applies to human, is leading us gradually back to what we knew to be true around 1790?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 AM


Time to roar To become the Northern Tiger, Canada needs to emulate winners
(Calgary Herald, December 28, 2002)
Two years ago, Industry Canada reported that Canada's standard of living was equal to that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the U.S. In early December, a study on innovation by the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada last out of 10 countries. Last week, the Centre for the Study of Living Standards reported that Canada had slipped -- again -- in its annual ranking of 23 nations. We're now in sixth place, ousted by the Celtic Tiger of Ireland which leapfrogged to third. [...]

[M]icro-managing innovation isn't possible. Instead, governments must create the right macroeconomic conditions for entrepreneurship to thrive.

Ireland, for example, was mired in economic torpor in the 1980s. In 1987, it elected new, fiscally responsible leaders who launched aggressive reforms.

The size and cost of government was severely reduced, corporate and income taxes were slashed, and a deal brokered with the unions to keep wage increases low. Labour leaders were smart enough to see the benefits to them of a healthy economy. Besides, when accompanied with deep income-tax cuts, even modest wage increases still resulted in more money in their members' pockets.

These changes made Ireland an attractive place to invest, not just for the Irish themselves, but for more than 1,000 foreign firms, who were warmly welcomed. About 600 U.S. firms landed on the tiny island in the late 1980s and helped fuel its recovery.

As the economy roared forward, government revenues quickly rose again. Tax levels were kept low, but, with growth so high, the net effect was that government regained the means to provide a high level of core services, such as a massive expansion of post-secondary training programs and free university tuition.

Ireland now leads the world in GDP and job growth and provides a standard of living below only that of the U.S. and Norway.


January 3, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:30 PM


'Axis of Good' for Brazil, Cuba and Venezuela? (Alan Clendenning, January 3, 2003, Associated Press)
Breakfast with Hugo Chavez, dinner with Fidel Castro.

The first day in office for Brazil's new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, projects the image of a leftist alliance in Latin America -- one that Chavez, Venezuela's president, has already nicknamed the "Axis of Good."

Such an alliance could hinder U.S. efforts to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas stretching from Alaska to the tip of Argentina by 2005.

Fine. Leave them out and let's see how their economies do by comparison. It seems like a worthwhile experiment.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM


Media Mensch of Year: Who is the 2003 Media Man of the Year? (NY Observer)
This year, in an era devoted to idea distortion and digital degradation, we cite the exception: a 55-year-old comedian cross-referenced in the Indiana Biography Index under "wise guy," and they weren't wrong; whose idea was that TV should be better; who, fueled by a driven work ethic, implanted his own determined responsibility into his product; who succeeded with no apology for, but rather exaltation of, human flaws; a broadcaster-the inheritor of the industry built by William Paley, Dr. Frank Stanton, Edward Murrow, David Sarnoff, Pat Weaver, Roone Arledge, Jack Paar-who is faithful to the idea that New York broadcasts to the U.S.; who hates crap, cant, condescension; who came out of the box first after 9/11, showing leadership and intelligence; who opened his heart after his heart was opened; who flew to Kandahar for Christmas Eve with cigars, 5,000 T-shirts, Paul Schaffer and Biff Henderson (and no video cameras!); who refused to suck up around George W. Bush or Bill Clinton; who grew on the air from boyhood to A-1 manliness without the least sacrifice of his particular hard edge; who redefined American humor on the level of Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, Fred Allen; who stepped into the smooth loafers of his own personal hero, Johnny Carson, not by emulating the older comedian's mentholated humor, but by sharing his stance of personal integrity; who has aged into the crazy uncle you'd most want to be like, a pioneer without platitude; who has become the gold standard for TV in our age.

I'd not even heard about him going to Afghanistan.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (Robert D. Putnam, January 1995, Journal of Democracy)
Many students of the new democracies that have emerged over the past decade and a half have emphasized the importance of a strong and active civil society to the consolidation of democracy. Especially with regard to the postcommunist countries, scholars and democratic activists alike have lamented the absence or obliteration of traditions of independent civic engagement and a widespread tendency toward passive reliance on the state. To those concerned with the weakness of civil societies in the developing or postcommunist world, the advanced Western democracies and above all the United States have typically been taken as models to be emulated. There is striking evidence, however, that the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past several decades.

Ever since the publication of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the United States has played a central role in systematic studies of the links between democracy and civil society. Although this is in part because trends in American life are often regarded as harbingers of social modernization, it is also because America has traditionally been considered unusually "civic" (a reputation that, as we shall later see, has not been entirely unjustified).

When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, it was the Americans' propensity for civic association that most impressed him as the key to their unprecedented ability to make democracy work. "Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition," he observed, "are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types--religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. . . . Nothing, in my view, deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America."

Recently, American social scientists of a neo-Tocquevillean bent have unearthed a wide range of empirical evidence that the quality of public life and the performance of social institutions (and not only in America) are indeed powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement. Researchers in such fields as education, urban poverty, unemployment, the control of crime and drug abuse, and even health have discovered that successful outcomes are more likely in civically engaged communities. Similarly, research on the varying economic attainments of different ethnic groups in the United States has demonstrated the importance of social bonds within each group. These results are consistent with research in a wide range of settings that demonstrates the vital importance of social networks for job placement and many other economic outcomes.

Meanwhile, a seemingly unrelated body of research on the sociology of economic development has also focused attention on the role of social networks. Some of this work is situated in the developing countries, and some of it elucidates the peculiarly successful "network capitalism" of East Asia. Even in less exotic Western economies, however, researchers have discovered highly efficient, highly flexible "industrial districts" based on networks of collaboration among workers and small entrepreneurs. Far from being paleoindustrial anachronisms, these dense interpersonal and interorganizational networks undergird ultramodern industries, from the high tech of Silicon Valley to the high fashion of Benetton.

The norms and networks of civic engagement also powerfully affect the performance of representative government. That, at least, was the central conclusion of my own 20-year, quasi-experimental study of subnational governments in different regions of Italy. Although all these regional governments seemed identical on paper, their levels of effectiveness varied dramatically. Systematic inquiry showed that the quality of governance was determined by longstanding traditions of civic engagement (or its absence). Voter turnout, newspaper readership, membership in choral societies and football clubs--these were the hallmarks of a successful region. In fact, historical analysis suggested that these networks of organized reciprocity and civic solidarity, far from being an epiphenomenon of socioeconomic modernization, were a precondition for it.

No doubt the mechanisms through which civic engagement and social connectedness produce such results--better schools, faster economic development, lower crime, and more effective government--are multiple and complex. While these briefly recounted findings require further confirmation and perhaps qualification, the parallels across hundreds of empirical studies in a dozen disparate disciplines and subfields are striking. Social scientists in several fields have recently suggested a common framework for understanding these phenomena, a framework that rests on the concept of social capital. By analogy with notions of physical capital and human capital--tools and training that enhance individual productivity--"social capital" refers to features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.

The idea of "social capital" has lurked in the background of our recent discussion of National Service. I was suggesting--obviously innefectively--that social capital is being so diminished in the West that eventually an involuntary military might be the only place where any was cultivated. It comes as no surprise that it was, again, Alexis de Tocqueville who identified many of the ways in which the Welfare State would destroy social capital, in his Memoir on Pauperism.

Likewise, the great Albert Jay Nock made clear the dangers in his bookOur Enemy, the State:

If we look beneath the surface of our public affairs, we can discern one fundamental fact, namely: a great redistribution of power between society and the State. This is the fact that interests the student of civilization. He has only a secondary or derived interest in matters like price-fixing, wage-fixing, inflation, political banking, "agricultural adjustment," and similar items of State policy that fill the pages of newspapers and the mouths of publicists and politicians. All these can be run up under one head. They have an immediate and temporary importance, and for this reason they monopolize public attention, but they all come to the same thing; which is, an increase of State power and a corresponding decrease of social power.

It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own. All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power. There is never, nor can there be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power.

Moreover, it follows that with any exercise of State power, not only the exercise of social power in the same direction, but the disposition to exercise it in that direction, tends to dwindle. Mayor Gaynor astonished the whole of New York when he pointed out to a correspondent who had been complaining about the inefficiency of the police, that any citizen has the right to arrest a malefactor and bring him before a magistrate. "The law of England and of this country," he wrote, "has been very careful to confer no more right in that respect upon policemen and constables than it confers on every citizen." State exercise of that right through a police force had gone on so steadily that not only were citizens indisposed to exercise it, but probably not one in ten thousand knew he had it.

Heretofore in this country sudden crises of misfortune have been met by a mobilization of social power. In fact (except for certain institutional enterprises like the home for the aged, the lunatic-asylum, city-hospital and county-poorhouse) destitution, unemployment, "depression"and similar ills, have been no concern of the State, but have been relieved by the application of social power. Under Mr. Roosevelt, however, the State assumed this function, publicly announcing the doctrine, brand-new in our history, that the State owes its citizens a living. Students of politics, of course, saw in this merely an astute proposal for a prodigious enhancement of State power; merely what, as long ago as 1794, James Madison called "the old trick of turning every contingency into a resource for accumulating force in the government"; and the passage of time has proved that they were right. The effect of this upon the balance between State power and social power is clear, and also its effect of a general indoctrination with the idea that an exercise of social power upon such matters is no longer called for.

It is largely in this way that the progressive conversion of social power into State power becomes acceptable and gets itself accepted. When the Johnstown flood occurred, social power was immediately mobilized and applied with intelligence and vigour. Its abundance, measured by money alone, was so great that when everything was finally put in order, something like a million dollars remained. If such a catastrophe happened now, not only is social power perhaps too depleted for the like exercise, but the general instinct would be to let the State see to it. Not only has social power atrophied to that extent, but the disposition to exercise it in that particular direction has atrophied with it. If the State has made such matters its business, and has confiscated the social power necessary to deal with them, why, let it deal with them. We can get some kind of rough measure of this general atrophy by our own disposition when approached by a beggar. Two years ago we might have been moved to give him something; today we are moved to refer him to the State's relief-agency. The State has said to society, You are either not exercising enough power to meet the emergency, or are exercising it in what I think is an incompetent way, so I shall confiscate your power, and exercise it to suit myself. Hence when a beggar asks us for a quarter, our instinct is to say that the State has already confiscated our quarter for his benefit, and he should go to the State about it.

Every positive intervention that the State makes upon industry and commerce has a similar effect. When the State intervenes to fix wages or prices, or to prescribe the conditions of competition, it virtually tells the enterpriser that he is not exercising social power in the right way, and therefore it proposes to confiscate his power and exercise it according to the State's own judgment of what is best. Hence the enterpriser's instinct is to let the State look after the consequences. As a simple illustration of this, a manufacturer of a highly specialized type of textiles was saying to me the other day that he had kept his mill going at a loss for five years because he did not want to turn his workpeople on the street in such hard times, but now that the State had stepped in to tell him how he must run his business, the State might jolly well take the responsibility.

The process of converting social power into State power may perhaps be seen at its simplest in cases where the State's intervention is directly competitive. The accumulation of State power in various countries has been so accelerated and diversified within the last twenty years that we now see the State functioning as telegraphist, telephonist, match-peddler, radio-operator, cannon-founder, railway-builder and owner, railway-operator, wholesale and retail tobacconist, shipbuilder and owner, chief chemist, harbour-maker and dockbuilder, housebuilder, chief educator, newspaper-proprietor, food-purveyor, dealer in insurance, and so on through a long list.

It is obvious that private forms of these enterprises must tend to dwindle in proportion as the energy of the State's encroachments on them increases, for the competition of social power with State power is always disadvantaged, since the State can arrange the terms of competition to suit itself, even to the point of outlawing any exercise of social power whatever in the premises; in other words, giving itself a monopoly. Instances of this expedient are common; the one we are probably best acquainted with is the State's monopoly of letter-carrying. Social power is estopped by sheer fiat from application to this form of enterprise, notwithstanding it could carry it on far cheaper, and, in this country at least, far better. The advantages of this monopoly in promoting the State's interests are peculiar. No other, probably, could secure so large and well-distributed a volume of patronage, under the guise of a public service in constant use by so large a number of people; it plants a lieutenant of the State at every country-crossroad. It is by no means a pure coincidence that an administration's chief almoner and whip-at-large is so regularly appointed Postmaster-general.

Thus the State "turns every contingency into a resource" for accumulating power in itself, always at the expense of social power; and with this it develops a habit of acquiescence in the people. New generations appear, each temperamentally adjusted - or as I believe our American glossary now has it, "conditioned" - to new increments of State power, and they tend to take the process of continuous accumulation as quite in order. All the State's institutional voices unite in confirming this tendency; they unite in exhibiting the progressive conversion of social power into State power as something not only quite in order, but even as wholesome and necessary for the public good.

I believe National Service to be worthwhile in and of itself, but also argued that worries over its coercive nature seem fairly silly when the State coerces so much else. Some folks took exception to this defeatism, but how not be defeatist when our greatest social critics have been sounding the alarums for 17 decades but the growth of the State and the attrition of Society continue apace?

MORE [Robert D. Putnam was born in Port Clinton, OH in 1940]:
-Robert D. Putnam (Director, The Saguaro Seminar : Civic Engagement in America)
-BIO: robert putnam (infoed.org)
-Better Together (an initiative of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government)
-BOOK SITE : Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam
BOOK: Bowling Alone : The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000) (Robert D. Putnam)
-ESSAY : Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital (Robert D. Putnam, Journal of Democracy 6:1, Jan 1995)
-ESSAY : Bowling Together : Since September 11, Americans' trust in one another and their government has soared. To what political end? (Robert D. Putnam, The Prospect)
-ESSAY: Walking the civic talk after Sept. 11 (Thomas H. Sander and Robert D. Putnam, February 19, 2002, CS Monitor)
-ESSAY: Tuning In, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social Capital in America (Robert D. Putnam, APSA Net)
-EXCERPT : Chapter One of Bowling Alone
-BOOKNOTES : Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam (CSPAN)
-ESSAY : A Better Society in a Time of War (Robert D. Putnam, October 19, 2001, NY Times)
-RESPONSE : to A Better Society in a Time of War : Victory Gardens?! (Katha Pollitt, 11/19/01, The Nation)
-ESSAY : The Strange Disappearance of Civic America (Robert D. Putnam, December 1996, American Prospect)
-RESPONSES : Unsolved Mysteries: The Tocqueville Files (Michael Schudson, Theda Skocpol, Rick Valelly, Robert D. Putnam, March 1996, American Prospect)
-ESSAY : The Prosperous Community : Social Capital and Public Life (Robert D. Putnam, March 21, 1993, American Prospect)
-INTERVIEW : Lonely in America: Robert Putnam argues that the time has come "to reweave the fabric of our communities" (Atlantic Monthly, September 21, 2000)
-INTERVIEW : "BOWLING ALONE": An interview with Robert Putnam about America's collapsing civic life. (Russ Edgerton, 1995, American Association for Higher Education)
-AUDIO INTERVIEW: Bowling Alone: Robert Putnam on American Community (The Connection, July 11, 2000, NPR)
-Moving Ideas Network
-PROFILE: Robert D. Putnam: For a Meaningful Political Science (Thomas R. Rochon, APSA Net)
-ESSAY: SOCIAL CAPITAL: Bowling along (Andrew Leigh, 29-5-2002, Australian Policy Online)
-ESSAY : Kicking in Groups : Just as intriguing as Robert Putnam's theory that we are "bowling alone"-- that the bonds of civic association are dissolving-- is how readily the theory has been accepted (Nicholas Lemann, April 1996, Atlantic Monthly)
-ESSAY : Putnam's America : Critics have reflexively affirmed Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone thesis, the notion that Americans are losing their connectedness to one another. But this "social capital" is not diminishing. It's just changing. (Garry Wills, July 2000, The American Prospect)
-ESSAY : The 'bowling alone' phenomenon is bunk (Robert Samuelson, Washington Post)
-ESSAY: Are we still bowling alone? (Christopher Shea, 12/15/2002, Boston Globe)
-ESSAY: 'Bowling Alone' on Screen: Notions of the Political in End of Century American Film (Brian Neve, American Political Science Association)
-ESSAY: Diversity Causes "Bowling Alone" (Steve Sailer, V-Dare)
-ESSAY: Groupthink Goes Bowling Alone (Michael Gilson De Lemos, The Laissez Faire City Times)
-ARCHIVES : Articles by Robert D. Putnam (The American Prospect)
-ARCHIVES: "robert d. putnam" (Find Articles)
-ARCHIVES : "bowling alone" (Find Articles)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. By Robert D. Putnam (MARGARET TALBOT, NY Times Book Review)
-REVIEW: of Bowling Alone (Leslie Lenkowsky, Commentary)
-REVIEW: of Bowling Alone (Mark Chaves, Christian Century)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (Benjamin R. Barber)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (John Leonard, Salon)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (Curtis Gans, Washington Monthly)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (CHRISTOPHER FARRELL, Business Week)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (Tamara Straus, Sonoma County Independent)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (James A. Montanye, The Independent Review)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (Alan Wolfe, Harvard Magazine)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (John Atlas, Executive Director of Passaic County Legal Aid Society and President of the National Housing Institute.)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (David Tuller, Blueprint for Health)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (Jim Murphy, Voice of the Turtle)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (Dennis Altman, Gay & Lesbian Review)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (Alison Van Rooy, Isuma)
-REVIEW: of Bowling Alone (Cato Journal)
-REVIEW : of Bowling Alone (ED SCHWARTZ, Center for Consensual Democracy)
-REVIEW: of Tuning In, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social Capital in America. by Robert D. Putnam (Gary D. Lynn, Social Capital)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:07 PM


Lott Likely to Get Rules Chairmanship (Mark Preston, January 3, 2003, Roll Call)
Seeking to soften the blow from his ouster as the next Majority Leader, Republicans are likely to offer Sen.Trent Lott (R-Miss.) the chairmanship of the Rules and Administration Committee.

Mr. Lott just landed on his feet, and Rick Santorum's sternum.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


T.S. Eliot's Political 'Middle Way' (Michael R. Stevens, Religion & Liberty)
Anglicanism has made its mark on ecclesiastical history, in large measure, by filling the void between the poles of Roman Catholicism and Reformation Protestantism. The notion of pursuing a via media, a "middle way," has meant less a third alternative than a comfort with the ambiguity and resistance to the dogmatism that defines both extremes. Anglican theology, however, is not void of content by any means but is, rather, a coalescing of the "middle ground" into a place of theological mooring. Transposed to the socio-political sphere, this precludes a grouping of Eliot with the weak, compromising demeanor of many of his British fellows during the 1930s. Just as the theological via media has content, so does Eliot’s fundamental schema for culture: a "neo-medieval vision" for society. Certainly this is not a call for a historical reprise, since Eliot’s understanding of the Middle Ages was quite idealized. But he was after a model of order and faith. What this came to mean, in Western society between the two world wars, was that Eliot’s pursuit of a political via media differed radically from the other political options brought to the forefront of intellectual life. Eliot’s was a transcendent "middle way," hearkening both backward and forward toward a medievalism that might effect healing precisely because it is not bound to a humanistic view of man and society.

Since Eliot made precious few explicit pronouncements regarding the outworking of his faith, one must find other sources for exploring the exact nature of his socio-political thought. Such a forum is readily provided by the journal The Criterion, which Eliot edited from its founding in 1922 (the first publication of The Waste Land appeared in the first number) until its closure in January of 1939. Certainly The Criterion was not founded with such a sweeping motive as thorough cultural transformation; it was intended as a cosmopolitan review of literature and intellectual discourse. But there was present, even in Eliot’s early championing of the literary function of a review, a sense of political mission: the healing of Europe’s intellectual wounds, which were perhaps more deep-seated than even the physical destruction of the First World War, through the avenue of an international concourse of minds.

This project of healing Europe by means of a quarterly review, though it produced in The Criterion an amazing and cosmopolitan expanse of literature and criticism in the mid-1920s, proved ill-fated for two reasons. First, the closing down of international communication at the end of the decade, as totalitarian regimes began to flex their muscles in the sphere of culture, destroyed the idealism that the "mind of Europe" could be salvaged through cooperation. This imposed silence alone would have dealt a great blow to Eliot’s hopes for The Criterion were it not for the confluence of a second, very different factor, which immediately gave the journal a new set of possibilities: Eliot’s spiritual awakening to Christianity, which he formalized in 1927 with his baptism and confirmation into the Church of England. Again, the guiding ethic of Anglicanism, his chosen route, is important; the pursuit of the via media in matters of theology seemed to hint at a path through the socio-political melee as well.

It's impossible to imagine Eliot remaining loyal to the modern Anglican church.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 AM


If you believe that people are basically good . . . (Dennis Prager, Dec. 31, 2002, Jewish World Review)
No issue has a greater influence on determining your social and political views than whether you view human nature as basically good or not. [...]

Why is this issue so important?

First, if you believe people are born good, you will attribute evil to forces outside the individual. That is why, for example, our secular humanistic culture so often attributes evil to poverty. [...]

Second, if you believe people are born good, you will not stress character development when you raise children. You will have schools teach young people how to use condoms, how to avoid first and secondhand tobacco smoke, how to recycle and how to prevent rainforests from disappearing. You will teach them how to struggle against the evils of society -- its sexism, its racism, its classism and its homophobia. But you will not teach them that the primary struggle they have to wage to make a better world is against their own nature. [...]

Third, if you believe that people are basically good, G-d and religion are morally unnecessary, even harmful. Why would basically good people need a G-d or religion to provide moral standards? Therefore, the crowd that believes in innate human goodness tends to either be secular or to reduce G-d and religion to social workers, providers of compassion rather than of moral standards and moral judgments.

Fourth, if you believe people are basically good, you, of course, believe that you are good -- and therefore those who disagree with you must be bad, not merely wrong. You also believe that the more power that you and those you agree with have, the better the society will be. That is why such people are so committed to powerful government and to powerful judges. On the other hand, those of us who believe that people are not basically good do not want power concentrated in any one group, and are therefore profoundly suspicious of big government, big labor, big corporations, and even big religious institutions.

Mr. Prager could not be more right. What's really interesting though is that even intelligent liberals who recognize this fatal flaw in their ideology still find it impossible to face its implications.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


An Emerging Republican Majority? (Daniel Casse, January 2003, Commentary)
The choice of the unreconstructed liberal Nancy Pelosi to lead the minority caucus in the House, together with the emergence of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a leadership role in the Senate, is a clear indication of the Left's determination to claim for its own the shreds of the party's fortunes. Similarly not to be ignored is Al Gore, still the most recognizable presidential aspirant in the Democratic field. In the last year, Gore has almost entirely abandoned the "New Democrat" creed by which he was once defined and moved sharply to the Left, criticizing the administration’s response to al Qaeda, its handling of the economy, and its alleged neglect of the changing American family.

If this pattern continues, one can safely predict that on the road to the next presidential campaign, even as Republicans continue to downplay their "wedge" issues, Democrats will be more and more likely to emphasize theirs--especially in such areas as environmental protection and guaranteed health insurance, already emerging as favored themes. So far, faced with challenges on these or similar issues--the Patient's Bill of Rights, protection of the domestic steel industry--Bush Republicans have tended to respond with their now-standard "me, too." But a more left-wing, populist Democratic party may render this strategy unworkable by robbing Bush of any chance of compromise.

That will be a testing moment for the GOP--and, conceivably, an opportunity to define itself for the foreseeable future. If it is to hold on to its edge, the party may be driven to articulate a more consistent and more truly conservative approach to issues of policy, if not to evolve a true conservative philosophy of governance. This does not mean veering sharply Right in a move mirroring the Democrats' turn to the Left. It does mean, in the broadest terms, developing a constantly reiterated commitment to the virtues of limited government over expanded entitlements, to market incentives over command-and-control regulation, to competition in place of entrenched bureaucratic monopolies, to economic growth over austerity, to conservation over radical environmentalism.

Such an exercise has much to recommend it, and not just in order to reassure doubting conservatives that Republican politics is about more than winning elections from Democrats. There is, in fact, a real danger in the strategy being pursued by the White House. In the hands of a less gifted, or less convincing, politician than Bush, and in circumstances other than wartime, it may represent less a blueprint for future political dominance than a reversion to an older and thoroughly failed Republican role. I am thinking, of course, of the long decades after the New Deal when the GOP was defined primarily by its efforts to slow the inexorable march of liberal ideas--not by substituting better ones but by accommodating them and sanding down their sharper edges. This is essentially a defensive form of politics, and it is a losing proposition. By contrast, making the case for limited government in a consistent and serious and positive manner could actually increase the appeal of the GOP in the eyes of many centrist and/or traditional Democratic voters who have been drawn to it in the months since September 11.

This piece suffers a bit from being written prior to December--for instance, Gore's dropped out; the first big wedge issue that the Democrats rode too far to the Left turned out to be race; and the compromise on steel tarrifs has been shown to be predictably hollow by the series of free trade agreements the Administration has announced--but it's interesting nonetheless.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM


The brutish British: You think Nazism couldn’t happen here? Theodore Dalrymple isn’t so sure. (Theodore Dalrymple, The Spectator)
We are a nation of slaves and slave-drivers I grew up believing that it couldn’t happen here; that the intrinsic decency, good sense and ironical detachment of the British would have precluded Nazism or anything like it from taking root in our sceptred isle. Now I am not so sure. Utter vileness does not need a numerical majority to become predominant in a society. The Nazis never had an electoral majority in Germany, yet Germany offered very little resistance to their barbarism. Of course, it is highly unlikely that history would repeat itself in anything approximating the same form; but evil, unlike good, is infinitely multiform. We can invent our own totalitarian evil. There is little doubt that we have prepared the ground very well for evil’s triumph.

Despite years of unprecedented prosperity, a larger proportion than ever before of the population is dependent, or partly dependent, upon the state as provider. Only this week, an unmarried woman with three young children by the same man told me that when she asked him for money to buy them shoes that they needed, he told her to take a loan out from ‘the social’; that, he opined, was what it was there for. He had in any case made it abundantly clear that under no circumstances would he part with any money for the upkeep of his children, and so far had been as good as his word. The exact proportion of British fathers who have abrogated their parental responsibilities to the state in return for the right to use their income purely as pocket money to spend on their vulgar distractions is not fully known, nor that of mothers who accept this abominable arrangement; but it is not small and it is growing.

Not only are such people severely lacking in ethical standards, but they also live in permanent fear of the power that they have ceded to the state; and no one who has any dealings with the bureaucracy of welfare, child support, housing and so forth can be left in any doubt as to its power to grind people up and spit them out. Hedonistic egotism, fear and resentment form the character of a large proportion of our population, and it is a character that is ripe for exploitation. They have made themselves natural slaves. [...]

There has been virtually no resistance to this sinister process, no protest and few resignations. The public, gorged with bread and benumbed by circuses, is completely indifferent. I can’t help thinking of the murder of psychiatric patients and the mentally disabled in Nazi Germany. Neither the public nor the medical profession protested to any great extent (though, instructively, those few doctors who did protest were not punished for it). This terrible crime was made possible, though not inevitable, by an entire cultural context.

We, too, are now creating a cultural context in which great state crimes are possible, though perhaps not yet inevitable. When I see the routine inhumanity with which my patients are treated by the state and its various bureaucracies, often in the name of obedience to rules, I think that anything is possible in this country. Yes, when I see the baying mobs of drunken young people who pullulate in our city centres every weekend, awaiting their evil genius to organise them into some kind of pseudo-community, and think of our offices full of potential Eichmanns, I shudder. Our fascism will no doubt be touchy-feely rather than a boot in the face — more Kafka than Hitler — but it will be ruthless nonetheless. Timeservers led by scoundrels: that is the future of this septic isle.

This seems germane to some of the points I raised in our discuission of the draft.

January 2, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM


-ESSAY: Condemnation Without Absolutes (Stanley Fish, October 15, 2001, NY Times)
Postmodernism maintains only that there can be no independent standard for determining which of many rival interpretations of an event is the true one. The only thing postmodern thought argues against is the hope of justifying our response to the attacks in universal terms that would be persuasive to everyone, including our enemies. Invoking the abstract notions of justice and truth to support our cause wouldn't be effective anyway because our adversaries lay claim to the same language. (No one declares himself to be an apostle of injustice.) [...]

"[F]alse universals" should be rejected: they stand in the way of useful thinking. How many times have we heard these new mantras: "We have seen the face of evil"; "these are irrational madmen"; "we are at war against international terrorism." Each is at once inaccurate and unhelpful. We have not seen the face of evil; we have seen the face of an enemy who comes at us with a full roster of grievances, goals and strategies. If we reduce that enemy to "evil," we conjure up a shape- shifting demon, a wild-card moral anarchist beyond our comprehension and therefore beyond the reach of any counterstrategies. [...]

Is this the end of relativism? If by relativism one means a cast of mind that renders you unable to prefer your own convictions to those of your adversary, then relativism could hardly end because it never began. Our convictions are by definition preferred; that's what makes them our convictions. Relativizing them is neither an option nor a danger.

But if by relativism one means the practice of putting yourself in your adversary's shoes, not in order to wear them as your own but in order to have some understanding (far short of approval) of why someone else might want to wear them, then relativism will not and should not end, because it is simply another name for serious thought.

Here's Mr. Fish's notorious Times editorial that, I think rather halfheartedly, argues that there can be an eduring perspective from which the 9-11 appears justified. It is perhaps an equally relativistic argument to make, but one thing he ignores is that the interpretation of events in a conflict is eventually dictated by the winning side. In 1939 one might have said that there was a German perspective from which we could understand the start of WWII, but today there just is no accepted Nazi viewpoint. Hitler, Nazism, and German aggression are uniformly understood to have been evil.

Applying this standard, even if unfair, to the events of 9-11, we can say the following: Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and Islamic radicalism are going to lose just as totally as did Hitler and Nazism. In a very few years there will be no accepted viewpoint, even in the Islamic world, that justifies actions like 9-11. Such attacks and such an ideology will be viewed as simply evil.

Perhaps this is all that we need refer to as an "independent standard" and a "true" interpretation--though I'd obviously argue that truth is nowhere near so hard to discern--that they are the judgments which are cert