February 28, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:46 PM


US for Abu Mazin as Palestinian leader (Anwar Iqbal, 2/28/2003, UPI)
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Friday that senior Palestinian official Mahmud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazin, would be
acceptable to the United States as a replacement for Yasser Arafat. [...]

Armitage did not say whether the Israelis would also accept Abu Mazin, but he was a key figure in the Oslo negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that led to the peace agreement. The Israelis regard him as a moderate member of the Palestinian leadership.

He remains secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive council and one of Arafat's close aides, but he is no longer active having distanced himself from the Palestinian leader in July last year when it became obvious that Arafat was no longer acceptable to Israel and the United States. [...]

Armitage said that if a change in Iraq brings about a Shiite government, the United States would have no objection.

"If the majority of the people of Iraq elect a Shia as a leader than so be it." said Armitage, adding: "If you have a representative government, then all the people of Iraq will decide who they want to rule ... no matter their ethnic or religious identity."

He said, "The Shia population is a prominent population of Iraq, which has been very badly treated by Saddam Hussein."

Armitage said the United States was not afraid of the possibility of a Shiite-run Iraqi making an alliance with Iran, which is so far the only Shiite majority country in the world.

Asked if the United States was worried about such a possibility, he said: "No we are not. I don't think you can make those fine adjustments. If you are going to have a representative government, that's what it means."

Odd how we already think of the current configuration of the Middle East in the past tense--no wonder Syria and Libya are scared.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


Girls Terrorized in France's Macho High-Rise Ghettos (Catherine Bremer, 2/28/03, Reuters)
A short bus ride from Paris, a world capital of romance, teen-age girls trapped in soulless, Soviet-style housing complexes are too scared to wear skirts and balk at the idea of dating.

Imprisoned behind yellowed curtains that hang limply at windows, they stay indoors to avoid the jeers, bullying and the ominous risk of rape that lurks in dingy stairwells where gangs of boys of mostly North African origin hang out.

"It's everywhere, all the time. Beatings, rapes, the lot. The worst is the names they call you, especially if you're dressed in a girly way which makes you a slut," says Amel, 21.

Home to many immigrants from the Maghreb, such suburbs have seen a rise in radical Islam that has turned attitudes toward women even harsher. Pressure is mounting for Muslim women to wear veils and forced marriages that snatch girls from college and a career are now commonplace. [...]

Long criticized for creating ghettos of jobless immigrants in a nation where equality was a founding principle, the state housing projects thrown up around France's cities from the 1960s have always provided a breeding ground for violence and crime.

Known in French as "cites," the high-rise estates, crumbling citadels of poverty turned in on themselves, provide would-be gangsters with a maze of shady basements where drug trafficking, dealing in guns and intra-gang fights are rife.

This is an early glimpse of Europe's future, because they won't assimilate these immigrants and they'll eventually be outnumbered by them. Unless, of course, the French and Germans decide to handle it the same way they did their "Jewish problem".

The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris (Theodore Dalrymple, Autumn 2002, City Journal)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 PM


Hey girls, just don't do it: Chastity might be great protection against pregnancy and disease but critics claim America's "no-sex revolution" is leaving teenagers dangerously at risk (Caroline Overington, March 1 2003, Sydney Morning Herald)
Here is a little quiz. What is the best way to avoid pregnancy? What is the best way to avoid contracting a sexually transmitted disease? If you are between 20 and 50, chances are you answered both questions by saying: "Use a condom." That is the lesson that Australians have been taught, in school and via magazine advertising and billboards, for more than 30 years.

If you were an American teenager, however, your answer might be different. Americans know a better way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases: sexual abstinence. Unlike condoms, it's 100 per cent effective. But is it realistic? Who can stop teenagers having sex?

Well, it seems that Americans can. In fact, if the polls and statistics are correct, the US is in the middle of a sexual counter-revolution. Across America, teenagers are rejecting the safe-sex message, telling parents to take back the condoms and contraceptive pills. They'd rather be virgins. Chastity is chic.

Ms Overington might at least pause to note that Australians have been taught to accept an objective falsehood.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


A New Move on Estrada: The White House challenges Democrats to put up or shut up. (Byron York, February 28, 2003, National Review)
In perhaps its most forceful effort yet to break the stalemate over the appeals-court nomination of Miguel Estrada, the White House has now invited every member of the Senate who has doubts about Estrada's legal views to submit written questions to Estrada by the close of business Friday. In a letter delivered Thursday to all 100 senators, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales said Estrada will respond by next Tuesday.

"He would answer the questions forthrightly, appropriately, and in a manner consistent with the traditional practice and obligations of judicial nominees, as he has before," Gonzales wrote.

Gonzales also renewed a White House offer to set up personal meetings between Estrada and any senator who wants to have a one-on-one talk. "We continue to believe that such meetings could be very useful to senators who wish to learn more about Mr. Estrada's record and character," Gonzales wrote.

Finally, Gonzales asked that Democrats with questions about Estrada's work "immediately ask in writing for the views of the Solicitors General, United States Attorney, and judges for whom Mr. Estrada worked and ask them to respond by Tuesday, March 4." Gonzales specifically named appeals-court judge Amalya Kearse, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, former United States Attorney Otto Obermaier, and former Solicitors General Ken Starr, Drew Days, Walter Dellinger, and Seth Waxman.

The last three names - Days, Dellinger, and Waxman - are particularly significant. All were high-ranking appointees of President Clinton, and their inclusion on the list suggests that the White House is confident they will not voice any objections to Estrada.

Mr. Gonzales was on Fox Sunday last week and was compelling. They should get him out in front of the public on this.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM


Desert Shields: Is it wrong for Saddam to put civilians in the crosshairs? (Michael Kinsley, February 27, 2003, Slate)
Saddam Hussein, it seems, is not just a dictator and mass murderer. He is a bounder as well. While we amass hundreds of thousands of troops and billions of dollars of military equipment near his borders, with the frank intention of removing him from power and probably from life, he is welcoming a few dozen
scraggly Western war protesters to act as "human shields" by planting themselves next to potential bombing targets such as power plants. It's just not cricket,
complains Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Using civilians as human shields "is not a military strategy." It is "a violation of the laws of armed conflict."

Rumsfeld's indignation is fey. Since the premise and justification for our imminent invasion of Iraq is that Saddam is evil and ruthless, which is certainly true, it would be remarkable if he played the game of war according to Hoyle. Why should he? It's not going to improve his reputation and will do nothing for his life expectancy either. Indeed one of the big surprises of the build-up to Gulf War I was Saddam's sudden decision to release the Western civilians he had initially forced to live near military targets. That certainly made America's job easier. And as a practical matter, it may have cost more civilian lives than it saved, by giving us more freedom to bomb.

Like "terrorism" and like "weapons of mass destruction," the anathema on the use of human shields is an attempt to define certain methods of war as inherently illegitimate, whether the cause for which they are used is legitimate or not. It's a noble effort, but difficult to sustain and may require more intellectual consistency than the current American administration, at least, is capable of. There have been well-documented reports during the past year, for example, that the Israeli army has used Palestinian civilians as human shields. The U.S. reaction has been muted and generalized mumblings of disapproval and calls for all parties to resolve their differences by negotiation in good faith. No high horse to be seen.

Then, too, it is a bit problematic to be invoking international law and insisting on your right to ignore it at the same time, in the same cause, and with the same righteous indignation. International law says, "Thou shalt not use human shields." It also says, "Thou shalt not use military force without the approval of the Security Council--even if thou art the United States of America and some idiot long ago gave veto power to the French." The test of a country's commitment to international law--and the measure of its credibility when it accuses other countries of flouting international law--is whether that country obeys laws even when it has good reasons to prefer not to.

If International Law really does say that only the Security Council can commit American forces that would violate the Constitution. In the words of James Madison:
The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the Legislature the power of declaring a state of war [and] the power of raising armies.

Meanwhile, you could hardly ask for a better illustration of where moral relativism leads than Mr. Kinsley's presumably feigned inability to determine whether it is right or wrong for Saddam Hussein to use human shields.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM


Cold Comfort: The misrepresentation at the center of The Fast Runner (Justin Shubow, 2.28.03, American Prospect)
Since late last summer, The Fast Runner, the first feature-length movie made almost wholly by the aboriginal people of the Arctic, has been playing to packed houses. Released on DVD earlier this month, the film tells the story of an ancient Inuit legend and unsentimentally portrays the hard, grimy life of some of the region's native residents. Audiences weren't the only ones to embrace the film: Expressing an enthusiasm that characterized many reviews of the movie, The Washington Post's Desson Howe wrote that the film was "as close to authentic myth as cinema has ever gotten." In fact, nothing could be further from the truth: During the more than six months since the film's release, it seems to have gone almost completely unnoticed -- by reviewers and audiences alike -- that at the film's core is a crucial lie. [...]

Following his return home from involuntary exile -- after barely escaping an attempt on his life -- the film's protagonist, Atanarjuat, has the opportunity to avenge the murder of his brother and the rape of his wife. He cunningly sets up the three culpable men so that they are utterly at his mercy. After knocking down his nemesis -- the group's ringleader who is both a murderer and rapist -- Atanarjuat raises a bone club and strikes. Except instead of the evil man's skull, he smashes the ice just next to it. Atanarjuat exclaims, "The killing stops now!" -- proving that he could have taken revenge but chose not to do so. Thus we are meant to believe that a 1,000-year-old Inuit myth of lust, betrayal and violence climaxes with a surprisingly pacifistic turn.

I just didn't buy it. Knowing some basic world myths, I was expecting vengeance akin to Odysseus' bow-and-arrow heroics during his homecoming. Moreover, in a society such as the Inuit's -- one without laws, police or prisons -- violent retribution would have not only been highly likely, it also might have been justified.

And my hunch was right. I discovered that the original legend ends -- to use the words of Norman Cohn, one of the film's producers -- "with everybody's brains all over the floor." I asked Zacharias Kunuk, the film's director, whether the movie alters the Inuit myth. "The only thing that we changed was the ending," he said. "In the actual story Atanarjuat smashes [the villains'] heads." Explaining the decision, he said, "Every generation has their version. It was a message more fitting for our times. Killing people doesn't solve anything."

Tried watching it the other night and it was painful, but we've addressed the noble savage myth elsewhere.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Secret, Scary Plans: The scariest work under way in the Pentagon these days is the planning for a possible military strike against nuclear sites in North Korea. (NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF, 2/28/03, NY Times)
Dick Cheney and his camp worry, not unreasonably, that the greatest risk of all would be to allow North Korea to churn out nuclear warheads like hotcakes off a griddle. In a few years North Korea will be able to produce about 60 nuclear weapons annually, and fissile material is so compact that it could easily be sold and smuggled to Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Al Qaeda.

The hawk faction believes that the U.S. as a last resort could make a surgical strike, even without South Korean consent, and that Kim Jong Il would not commit suicide by retaliating. The hawks may well be right.

Then again, they may be wrong. And if they're wrong, it would be quite a mistake.

The North has 13,000 artillery pieces and could fire some 400,000 shells in the first hour of an attack, many with sarin and anthrax, on the 21 million people in the "kill box" — as some in the U.S. military describe the Seoul metropolitan area. The Pentagon has calculated that another Korean war could kill a million people.

So if the military option is too scary to contemplate, and if allowing North Korea to proliferate is absolutely unacceptable, what's left? Precisely the option that every country in the region is pressing on us: negotiating with North Korea.

Ironically, the gravity of the situation isn't yet fully understood in either South Korea or Japan, partly because they do not think this administration would be crazy enough to consider a military strike against North Korea. They're wrong.

North Korea has and has had one of the two or three worst governments on Earth. It's committed terrorist acts itself, never mind sponsoring them. It sells weapons to anyone and it has both a nuclear weapons and a ballistic missile program. If we won't attack a country like that pre-emptively then why would any other nation that considers its interests to conflict with ours not pursue the same policies? Does the risk go down in a few years when there are many North Koreas?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Giscard warns of dangers to EU treaty: Valéry Giscard d'Estaing issued a stark warning of the problems facing his convention drawing up a constitution for the European Union. (Daniel Dombey, 2/28/03, Financial Times)
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing on Thursday issued a stark warning of the problems facing his convention drawing up a constitution for the European Union.

Mr Giscard d'Estaing, head of the 105-member convention, said European divisions over Iraq had complicated the process and he was concerned at the large number of amendments to the drafts of the first articles.

The former French president dismissed many of the 1,087 amendments put forward by convention members, saying much bigger issues were at stake.

"If Europe had a common reaction [over Iraq], perhaps Europe could have played a decisive role," he said. "But the attempt was barely made." Mr Giscard d'Estaing said divisions were so deep that it was fruitless to discuss foreign policy issues and dropped a broad hint that the convention might need more time to reach a satisfactory result.

If nothing else comes of war with Iraq but the crumbling of the EU it will have been well worth the price.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


Ravi Shankar's daughter makes splash in jazz world (Mary Pat Hyland, 10/07/02, Gannett News Service
Daughter of legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar, Norah Jones was born in New York City but soon moved with her mother to Grapevine, Texas. She displayed musical talent early, singing in the church choir at 5, starting piano lessons at 7 and studying alto saxophone in junior high school. Her musical influences include Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and Etta James.

The Wife got hooked on this disc early, but apparently Ms Jones was long estranged from her dad so it wasn't until yesterday with this story, -Ravi Shankar says he can’t take credit for Norah Jones, that we realized who he was. It's a big old strange world out there, eh?

-Blue Note: Norah Jones
-VH-1 Norah Jones: Inside Track
-Unofficially Norah Jones
-Anoushka Shankar

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 AM


The right man to reform and revive Japan: The appointment of Toshihiko Fukui as governor of the Bank of Japan is a positive step (Richard Katz, 2/28/03, Financial Times)
It is hard to see how Japan's economy can reform and recover unless reformers are put in charge of vital policymaking institutions. That is why the appointment of Toshihiko Fukui as governor of the Bank of Japan is a positive step. His view is straightforward: deflation cannot be stemmed through monetary easing alone, which makes structural reforms more important than ever.

Even some of those who want the bank to inject "unconventional stimulus" acknowledge it cannot revive the economy by itself. Heizo Takenaka, minister for economic policy and financial services, has made it clear that monetary easing will not suffice without the disposal of bad debts. So has John Taylor, undersecretary for international affairs at the US Treasury.

Mr Fukui will bring more to the table than the reformist philosophy he shares with Masaru Hayami, his predecessor. Even critics acknowledge his political acumen, flexibility and a dense network of supporters in politics and business. These assets could make him more effective than Mr Hayami in building consensus for action on bad debts supported by monetary easing.

The main alternative is the futile hope that massive money-printing, like government spending on "bridges to nowhere" in the past, can substitute for real reform. Critics claim that the BoJ could create 3-4 per cent inflation at will and that this inflation would, in turn, revive private demand. Some advocates of inflation targeting even suggest that the bank buy up assets used as collateral for bank loans, from equities to office buildings.

While many economists sincerely believe such measures would help, it is the opponents of reform who are the most fervent advocates. They hope that raising the price of stocks and property can make bad loans good without restructuring "zombie" borrowers - companies that are essentially bankrupt. The more Japan's leaders grasp at monetary straws, the less likely they are to undertake true reform.

Japan's deflation is not the cause of weak demand but a symptom. Prices are falling because the economy is operating at 4-5 per cent below capacity. The bank cannot create steady, manageable inflation just by printing more money. It has tried. It has increased the monetary base by almost 40 per cent since March 2001. Interest rates have responded - the yield on a 10-year government bond is now at a record low of less than 0.8 per cent. But little else has improved. The rest of the broad money supply has barely changed. Meanwhile, bank loans, prices and nominal gross domestic product have all kept falling.

You can't have 0% or less population growth, low immigration, and peoples' money socked away in savings accounts and still manage to reflate your economy. If the Japanese were serious about salvaging their economy and their society, rather than dying out in comfort, they'd criminalize abortion, reward fertility, encourage immigration and create mechanisms like 401ks and privatized retirement accounts. But Bill Emmott and others identified these problems twenty years ago and they've done nothing about any of them--so don't hold your breath.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


How Civil-Libertarian Hysteria May Endanger Us All: Congress was stunningly irresponsible in hobbling a program aimed at catching terrorists. (Stuart Taylor Jr., February 25, 2003, The Atlantic Monthly)
Someday Americans may die because of Congress's decision earlier this month to cripple a Defense Department program designed to catch future Mohamed Attas before they strike. That's not a prediction. But it is a fear.

The program seeks to develop software to make intelligence-sharing more effective by making it instantaneous, the better to learn more about suspected terrorists and identify people who might be terrorists. It would link computerized government databases to one another and to some nongovernment databases to which investigators already have legal access. If feasible, it would also fish through billions of transactions for patterns of activities in which terrorists might engage. [...]

The problem with the near-ban on TIA—sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and known as the Wyden amendment—is that rather than weighing the hoped-for security benefits against the feared privacy costs, and devising ways to minimize those costs, Congress was stampeded by civil-libertarian hysteria into adopting severe and unwarranted restrictions. The Bush administration shares the blame because the person it put in charge of TIA research is Adm. John M. Poindexter, whose record of lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair does not inspire trust.

"There are risks to TIA, but in the end I think the risks of not trying TIA are greater, and we should at least try to construct systems for [minimizing] abuse before we discard all potential benefits from technological innovation," says Paul Rosenzweig, a legal analyst at the Heritage Foundation who has co-authored a thoughtful 25-page analysis of the TIA program, including a list of muscular safeguards that Congress could adopt to protect privacy and prevent abuses. Instead of weighing such factors, Rosenzweig says, Congress has "deliberately and without much thought decided to discard the greatest advantage we have over our foes—our technological superiority."

When the 9-11 attacks occurred and it became clear how closely the terrorists fit a seemingly obvious profile--national origin, immigrant status, flight training, health club memberships, purchase patterns, etc.--everyone beat their chest and demanded the heads of folks at the FBI and CIA who'd failed to pick up on these signs. Now the government comes up with a daring and innovative plan to just possibly--though, this being the government, one doubts it--notice such connections next time and people demand it be stopped lest one more computer somewhere know what many other corporate computers already know about them. That may be a rational choice, to trade societal safety for a bit of personal privacy, but it is the choice being made--a selfish preference being placed ahead of the very purpose for which government is constituted--and those who support doing so need to take responsibility for it, not look to scapegoat government when future attacks occur.

February 27, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 PM


Blix draft says Iraq disarmament "limited" (Reuters, February 27, 2003)
Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix faults Iraq for not having made greater efforts to cooperate with inspectors, saying the results so far have been "very limited," according to his draft Security Council report.

But the draft, excerpts of which were obtained by Reuters, acknowledges that Baghdad had increased its activity to help inspectors carry out work in recent month.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 PM


A Security Council on the Run (Ian Williams, February 27, 2003, AlterNet)
With its vaguely worded "second resolution" proposal for the UN Security Council, the United States is showing contempt for the UN and laying down a humiliating dare to any Council members who would defy it. If and when it is passed, it will also hand Washington's only real ally, Tony Blair, an opening to claim UN authorization for attacking Iraq -- although the proposed wording does no such thing. [...]

But since the administration has decided it wants a second resolution as a fig leaf for a decision it has already made, Washington is resorting to diplomacy, Texas-style. While Turkey, adroitly exploiting its strategic position, is chewing on billions of juicy carrots, the rest of the world is getting the stick -- though in the case of the major players like Germany, Russia, and France, the big-stick approach has already provoked more resistance than cooperation. For example, sending uber-aggressive Undersecretary of State John Bolton to Moscow is the type of diplomacy that started the Hundred Years' War, not ended it.

Sadly, though, the stick does work well with many UN members, and the degree of resistance put up by a country is generally in inverse proportion to its GDP, but also strongly correlated with its trade ties to the United States. With Bulgaria, Washington emphasized the need for Senate authorization of its NATO membership. But if it toes the line, Bulgaria has also been promised that the new democratic and independent Iraq will pay off its pre-Gulf War debts. When Paris promptly pointed out the potential difficulties it may face in gaining entry into the European Union, the poor Bulgarians looked like rabbits caught in the headlights -- as indeed do many of their colleagues at the moment.

So will this resolution pass? Certainly not if it were a secret ballot! But even so, France has certainly sent a number of clear signals indicating its willingness to compromise. Neither French President Jacques Chirac nor Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin has rejected the military option. However, Washington is not interested in offering easy climb-downs for uppity Europeans and may yet provoke a very reluctant France to use its veto. If France does not veto the resolution, then the Russians and Chinese almost certainly will not do so.

In fact, Chirac is probably fervently hoping that Saddam Hussein refuses to destroy the Al-Samoud 2 missiles as ordered by Blix. It would provide a great opportunity to climb down from the pole of principle up which he has climbed, and which he can't otherwise slide down because of all the other countries that followed him up there!

It's not principle if you're looking to ditch it, but it's nice to see that even those who temporarily find themselves siding with the French don't trust them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 PM


Is boredom bad?: Forget novelty. Trying to escape monotony makes it worse. (Roy Rivenburg, February 22, 2003, LA Times)
Curiously, boredom seems to be a modern ailment. The word didn't even exist in the English language until after 1750, says Patricia M. Spacks, author of "Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind" (University of Chicago Press, 1995). "If people felt bored before the late 18th century, they didn't know it," she writes.

Once the concept had a name, it became universal. Philosophers ruminated over it. Teenagers whined about it. And psychologists churned out a blizzard of research.

"When we are bored," one scholar concluded, "our attitude toward time is altered, as it is in some dreamlike states. Time is endless, there is no distinction between past, present and future. There seems to be only an endless present." [...]

If TV isn't driving the boredom boom, what is? Theories abound. The alleged culprits include capitalist conspiracies, the decline of Christianity, repressed emotions and the Declaration of Independence (apparently, that nonsense about the pursuit of happiness has inspired the masses to seek constant pleasure and grow restless in its absence).

A more plausible hypothesis involves the rise of leisure time. For most of history, daily survival took so much effort that people didn't have the luxury of being bored, Beaber says.

Another crucial factor was a shift from people believing boredom was their own shortcoming to believing it was caused by outside forces. The transition began in the 1800s, says Spacks, who analyzed books, letters and other literature of the period. Boredom mutated from a personal failure ("It is our own fault if we ever know what ennui is," Thomas Jefferson wrote in a 1787 letter to his daughter) to something that was inflicted by teachers, pastors, small-town life or other external influences. [...]

One way out of the trap was suggested by the late poet Joseph Brodsky in a 1989 college commencement address on the virtues of monotony. "When hit by boredom, let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom," he said. "The sooner you hit bottom, the faster you surface."

That's what happened to Kristen Brooks. As part of the PBS series "Frontier House," she spent several months living like an Old West pioneer in Montana -- without TV, radio, telephone or Internet.

She compares the experience to that of a drug addict going sober. "During the first month, I felt almost a craving for diversions and excitement," she says. "I think the boredom was like going through withdrawals."

Once she got past it, an amazing calm and fulfillment settled over her. "I felt like I've never felt in my life," she says. "The clutter in my mind cleared out."

She adds: "The best part was after the show ended, because I still had all that calm and tranquillity from the frontier, but now with the luxuries of the modern world -- like hot showers and being able to go out to dinner."

Brooks, 29, was so enthralled by the experience that she has become a life coach, trying to steer others toward inner harmony "without them having to sell their possessions and go live in nature."

Riding out monotony long enough to reach "the other side of boredom" isn't easy, but it can be enlightening, according to psychologists, monks, Broadway actors and others who've done it.

Instead of rushing to fill the void with a new DVD or other distraction, people should "stop and reflect on the true reason for their boredom and then take appropriate action," psychiatrist Winter writes. "We can learn and grow from it."

Anthropologist Bateson says the constant quest for novelty means people miss out on the world around them: "It's a mistake to assume things are only stimulating if they're new. If you're in a meadow filled with birds singing and plants and insects, that's a stimulating place to be even though it'll be the same tomorrow." The trick is learning to experience familiar things in new ways, she says. The person who channel-surfs through life is "like the guy who goes from one woman to another. He's never going to learn to have a sustained relationship."

I'm with Jefferson on this one though for reasons that include leisure time. It does seem likely that in the past, when subsistence required maximum effort, folks presumably worked hard enough or were exhausted enough that they had little time to contemplate themselves. We, on the other hand, don't have much to do and are stuck with ourselves most of the time. For many (most?) people that must be a disheartening experience because, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, there's no there there. They're unlikely ever to have thought deeply about anything, nor are they likely equipped to do so, neither intellectually nor educationally.

Why shouldn't it be terrifying to realize how shallow you are, how little you're made up of beyond your desires? And so folk glut themselves with drugs, alcohol, tv, the internet, whatever--anything to avoid thinking and avoid, especially, the thought of themselves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 PM


Blacks have good cause to oppose war in Iraq (Derrick Z. Jackson, 2/26/2003, Boston Globe)
BLACK FOLKS do not want to invade Iraq. The question for Americans is whether to view this as unpatriotic or as a tweet of sanity that warns us we are about to walk into a horrific explosion. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 44 percent of African-Americans support the use of military force in Iraq. That compares with 73 percent of white Americans. Other polls show black support to be far less.

Earlier this month, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Zogby America poll found that only 23 percent of African-Americans strongly or somewhat supported a war, compared with 62 percent of white Americans. In January, a Gallup poll found that 37 percent favored an invasion, compared with 58 percent of white Americans.

Back in October, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which generally does the most extensive polling of African-Americans, found that only 19 percent of African-Americans supported a war with Iraq.

The reasons are obvious. African-Americans are 12 percent of the general population but make up 21 percent of military personnel and 30 percent of Army enlistees. They made up 23 percent of the troops sent to the 1991 Gulf War. The Department of Defense recently attempted to downplay those disproportionate percentages, reporting that African-Americans were more likely to be in administrative and support jobs and therefore were less likely than white soldiers to be killed on the front lines. White soldiers made up 71 percent of the troops in the 1991 Gulf War but suffered 76 percent of the deaths. [...]

African-Americans understand that there are times when all of us are under attack. They solidly supported at least the short-term military response against the terrorists of Sept. 11. But history has also taught African-Americans to be wary. That wariness could be a warning, should Americans choose to hear it. A White House that is not committed to opportunity in Illinois must be questioned about Iraq. An America that remains comfortable with discrimination in Baltimore must be questioned as to how discriminating it will be in bombing Baghdad. An America that has not been true to black patriotism might want to question just how true the White House is to them.

A lot of white Americans may not care for affirmative action, but we all care about the economy, which Bush is all but handing over to business interests. The low enthusiasm by African-Americans for a war in Iraq might be the most patriotic act yet. It ought to be the act that makes us think what our nation is promising to the rest of the world when there are promises to keep right here.

Even setting aside the dubious proposition that blacks unfairly bear the brunt of combat Mr. Jackson seems to be writing approvingly of what one would think must be a rather troublesome standard, that it is appropriate to judge a government action by how it will affect various races. It's hard to see him writing that whites should oppose affirmative action because they'll be disproportionately harmed by it and that their opposition sends a warning that all America should heed, isn't it? Does it really not matter to him that there's a moral case for war (or against it, for that matter)? Is race all that matters in his calculations? And, if it is, why shouldn't race be determinative for the rest of us?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 PM


Militant Aborigines embrace Islam to seek empowerment (Kathy Marks, 28 February 2003, Independent)
Militant young Aborigines are converting to Islam in increasing numbers, and some are flirting with the fundamentalist ideologies that have inspired recent terrorism.

There are an estimated 1,000 indigenous Muslims in Australia, including new recruits and descendants of mixed marriages. Some Aborigines are embracing Islam for spiritual reasons, but many say it gives them a sense of worth that they have lacked as members of an oppressed minority.

Somehow one doesn't normally associate elevated self-worth with suicide bombing.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 PM


Saudi billionaire supports use of force to oust Saddam (Rowan Scarborough, February 27, 2003, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
A Saudi billionaire with close ties to the royal family in Riyadh has sent a private letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell endorsing the forcible removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

U.S. officials say the letter from hotel magnate Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber illustrates that while the oil kingdom's rulers take the public position of opposing war, many prominent Saudis want Saddam removed by force.

"The regime of Saddam Hussein is vicious and has to be removed as a first step," Mr. Al Jaber says to Mr. Powell in the Feb. 19 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.

"After that, reformers in other countries will take heart and the balance of power will shift to trade liberalization, democracy and human rights. Above all, the youth of the Middle East will be liberated once and for all."

Mr. Al Jaber wrote that he was "moved" by Mr. Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council in which the secretary delivered an impassioned speech on how Baghdad continues to defy U.N. edicts to disarm.

Mr. Al Jaber is one of the world's richest men and is a significant figure in Saudi society. He has business and social ties to the ruling royal family, owns businesses with assets of more than $3 billion, and operates scholarships and foundations to educate poor Arabs in prestigious schools.

You needn't like their way of doing business, but this is why the Administration feels little need to confront Saudi Arabia for its "non-cooperation"--behind the scenes they're more than happy to collaborate with us.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 PM


What Would Satan Drive? (Jean Jennings, Automobile)
We love sport-utility vehicles. They move us and the vast stuff of our lives. They welcome our dogs and their kennels, our kayaks and bicycles built for two, our armoires and armaments. They are more convenient than renting trailers or shuttle buses. You can drive them through the woods. You can drive them through deep snow. You can see the road ahead. They just fit.

So when did sport-utility vehicles become the work of the devil?

When did it become time to repent, time to ask yourself, "What would Jesus drive, you ignorant, gas-guzzling, war-mongering, earth raper?" It's a question we've heard asked and answered in the name of the Lord so many times in the past couple of months that we've gotten a little slap-happy about it.

We may not know for sure what make of car Satan drives, but we know what's on the bumper:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:08 PM


Racketeering Conviction of Anti-Abortion Groups Voided (LINDA GREENHOUSE, 2/27/03, NY Times)
The Supreme Court today overturned a federal racketeering judgment against a coalition of anti-abortion groups that conducted a widespread campaign of disrupting and blockading abortion clinics during the 1980's. The protesters' actions, although in some instances criminal, did not fit the federal definition of extortion that was the basis for the lawsuit against them, the court said.

The 8-to-1 decision ended a 17-year-old case that dated to the peak years of violent demonstrations at abortion clinics, when abortion providers sought a legal theory that would allow them to attack what they saw as a nationwide conspiracy to shut down their operations.

In a lawsuit brought by the National Organization for Women and two abortion clinics, they turned to the federal racketeering law and specifically to the Hobbs Act, which outlaws obstructing commerce "by robbery or extortion." Violating the Hobbs Act on at least two occasions can demonstrate a "pattern of racketeering activity" that entitles the victims to triple damages under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO.

But what happened at the clinics was not extortion, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote for the majority today. Parsing the federal definition of the crime — "the obtaining of property from another" by force, threat of force, or violence — the chief justice said that the protesters had not "obtained" the clinics' property. To obtain property, he said, meant to acquire it and not simply to deprive the lawful owner of its use. [...]

The lone dissenter today was Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the court had adopted an unduly narrow interpretation of the property right that the Hobbs Act protects. He said the statute protected "the intangible right to exercise exclusive control over the lawful use of business assets," including "the right to serve customers or to solicit new business."

"The use of violence or threats of violence to persuade the owner of a business to surrender control of such an intangible right is an appropriation of control embraced by the term `obtaining,' " Justice Stevens said.

One can't help but feel that had Scalia or Thomas been the lone dissenter in an abortion case there would be a flurry of columns about his extremism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM


Strategists See Victory in Stalemate Over Nominee (CARL HULSE, February 27, 2003, NY Times)
President Bush and his fellow Republicans complain about Miguel Estrada's treatment at the hands of Senate Democrats, but some also see a political advantage for their party in the continuing fight over his nomination to an important appeals court.

Party strategists say they believe that determined Democratic resistance to a nominee of Hispanic heritage would help Republicans make inroads with a voting bloc crucial to their hold on power. And if the Honduran-born Mr. Estrada is confirmed, so much the better, these strategists say, putting Republicans in what a top Senate aide called a "win-win situation."

"I would say Republicans are on the high ground on Miguel Estrada," Senator George Allen of Virginia, chairman of National Republican Senatorial Committee, said this week as Democrats continued to oppose a vote on President Bush's nomination of Mr. Estrada to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. "I surely think it will help us with Hispanic voters." [...]

The national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a major Hispanic membership organization that has endorsed Mr. Estrada, said he believes Hispanic voters are paying attention.

"I would be surprised if those that are engaged with this debate are not disappointed with the Democratic Party for not giving this nominee a chance to be confirmed," the director, Brent Wilkes, said. He said similar "diversity" issues have drawn traditionally Democratic Hispanic voters to Republicans in recent elections in New York and Texas.

Sergio Bendixen, a veteran Hispanic pollster in Miami who was at first uncertain what impact the issue would have on Latino voters, said he had seen an escalation of the coverage in Spanish-language news media and that Republicans might be scoring points.

Reinforcing his impression about news coverage, Cuban-American House members from Florida who joined Republican senators at a press conference this week to criticize Democrats slipped into Spanish to conclude their remarks to get their message more easily onto the Spanish-language networks.

Did it really take the Times five months to figure out that this helps Republicans? Any day now they may notice that the Trent Lott thing helped too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:15 PM


Journalists' skepticism hinders religion coverage (DAVID SHAW, February 23, 2003, LA Times)
Television news programs virtually ignore religion, and even good newspapers with weekly religion pages and full-time religion writers don't consistently give religion the kind of serious attention throughout the paper that would seem warranted by the "powerful role" it plays in the lives of most Americans, says Doug Underwood, in his recent book "From Yahweh to Yahoo!: The Religious Roots of the Secular Press."

"Members of the faith community are on target," Underwood writes, "when they complain about the incapacity or the unwillingness of journalists to take seriously the importance of the spiritual dimension in the lives of so many people."

Indeed, media coverage of not just religion but also of politics, science, psychology and technology, among other subjects, would be "much better if journalists better understood the role religion plays as a motivating force in so many areas of society," says Underwood, a former reporter, who's an associate professor of communications at the University of Washington.

This is especially true now, of course, when the threat of terrorism and the seemingly intractable hostilities in the Mideast have their roots, at least partially, in religion.

Although Underwood says journalists' moral and social justice values often spring from the same motivation as those 64% of Americans who say they attend weekend worship services at least once a month, most journalists tend to be less traditionally religious.

Surveys show that Americans are among the most devout people in the world, and spirituality is routinely cited as one of the most important forces in their lives. But Robert Bellah, a professor of sociology at UC Berkeley, once told me that most journalists are "simply blind to religion. They think it's ... something only ignorant and backward people really believe in.

"This is not necessarily a conscious judgment," Bellah said, just part of most journalists' "general worldview."

How can it not be detrimental to news coverage that the people doing it don't even understand their fellow Americans' beliefs? You can especially see the shortcomings when it comes to someone very much in the public eye. How long did it take for the Press to figure out that George W. Bush's faith informs his politics--about four years? Remember when the GOP candidates were asked their favoirite philosopher and he said "Jesus Christ"? Reporters said he'd obviously been stumped by the question and just grasped at a name that would win favor on his Right? Who now doubts his answer was true? Who now thinks he has a Right?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:49 PM


Russians feel abortion's complications: Used as birth control in Soviet times, practice has led to widespread infertility (Sharon LaFraniere, February 22, 2003, Washington Post)
About 5 million -- or 13 percent -- of Russian married couples are infertile, and doctors report that diagnoses of infertility are on the rise. In nearly three out of four cases, infertility is attributed to the woman, typically because of complications from one or more abortions, according to Serov and other health experts.

The abortion rate has been declining rapidly for 15 years because of the availability of contraceptives. Still, it remains five times higher than that of the United States. The Health Ministry reports that for every live birth there are 1.7 abortions, compared with more than three births for every abortion in the United States.

A study of mid-1990s data by a group of health researchers showed Russia's abortion rate was the fourth-highest of 57 countries, after only Vietnam, Cuba and Romania.

"It's a habit, a tradition," said Serov. "It is a result of our low level of medical culture."

Russian health and demographics experts say the abortion legacy has created a problem greater than the private trauma of childless couples, because the resulting infertility contributes to a low birth rate. That trend and a soaring death rate are helping reduce Russia's population at a rapid rate.

U.N. population experts predict that in 50 years Russia will be the world's 17th-most populous country; it is now the sixth. Projections show Russia will lose more than a quarter of its population, dropping from 143 million people to 104 million by 2050.

Like other countries in Europe, Russia has been experiencing a falling fertility rate for most of the last half-century. It is now the sixth-lowest in the world, according to U.N. studies. On average, Russian women now bear just more than one child.

The two staggering numbers there are one child per couple and a near two to one rate of abortions to live births. This kind of society requires such a radical change in its culture in order to be saved that it's not sensible to believe it can happen. The problem, though most obvious in Russia, prevails across Europe and Japan and suggests that they are very nearly a lost cause. People who are insisting on the enduring importance of Europe are basically trying to prop up a corpse.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


Won't You Be My Neighbor?: At the center of Mister Rogers' cheery songs and smiles lies a God-ordained mission to children. (Wendy Murray Zoba, 3/18/00, Christianity Today)
Mister Rogers says that those in television "are chosen to be servants to help meet deeper needs." Life isn't cheap, he says. "It is the greatest mystery and we all only have one life to live on earth. Through television we can demean or cherish it.

"Life is deep and simple, and what our society gives us is shallow and complicated," he says. At its worst television can be "degrading, reducing important human feelings to the status of caricature or trivia," and even "encouraging pathology," he says.

"Television started out by attempting to bring cultural riches to its viewers, like NBC's Opera Theater. But that was before there were millions and millions of viewers. Then it became a tool for selling. I wish I knew how we could better point to all the riches of our society and how the media—television, radio, computers, magazines—could take an assignment to do our best to make goodness attractive. We're so caught up in glorifying the opposite. It is so unfair for parents to have to be so vigilant. They have so much that they have to do besides being police people."

But Mister Rogers still believes that human beings are God's vessels of mystery and beauty and he refuses to give up hope. "I have seen in my life too many indications of what is wonderful about human beings. I think the accuser would have us be so despairing that we wouldn't do anything. You know the effect of one little candlelight in great darkness. That sounds simple, but it's true.

"The older I get the more impressed I am with simplicity and silence," he says. "I do believe that that's where we can be inspired. Whenever I give a speech now I give a minute of silence for people to think about all those who have helped them to become who they are. Invariably, that's what people will remember—that silence.

"That leads me to a fishing-pole story.

"There was a conference on children and television at the White House, the East Room. The Clintons and the Gores were there. We all sat at this huge rectangular table. Different people were asked to present short thoughts. I guess mine was about seven or eight minutes. But for one of those minutes I gave a minute of silence. And when I was going out of the room I heard this voice say, 'Thank you, Mister Rogers.' I turned. It was one of the military guards, dressed in white and gold.

"I said, 'For what?'

"He said, 'For that silence.'

"I said, 'Who did you think about?'

"He said, 'I hadn't thought about him in a long time, but I thought about my grandfather's brother who, just before he died, took me to his basement and gave me his fishing pole. I've loved fishing all my life and that silence reminded me of that today.'

"The words thank you are probably the greatest words in any language."

Thank You, Mr. Rogers.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Fred Rogers, host of 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood,' Dies at 74 (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, February 27, 2003)
Fred Rogers, who gently invited millions of children to be his neighbor as host of the public television show "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" for more than 30 years, died of cancer early Thursday. He was 74.

Rogers died at his Pittsburgh home, said family spokesman David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on the show. Rogers had been diagnosed with stomach cancer sometime after the holidays, Newell said.

From 1968 to 2000, Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, produced the show at Pittsburgh public television station WQED. The final new episode, which was taped in December 2000, aired in August 2001, though PBS affiliates continued to air back episodes.

Rogers composed his own songs for the show and began each episode in a set made to look like a comfortable living room, singing "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," as he donned sneakers and a zip-up cardigan.

His message remained a simple one throughout the years, telling his viewers to love themselves and others. On each show, he would take his audience on a magical trolley ride into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, where his puppet creations would interact with each other and adults.

Rogers did much of the puppet work and voices himself.

The show gained a wide audience among children and parents who appreciated its simple lessons and Rogers' soothing manner.

Rogers taught children how to share, how to deal with anger and even how not to fear the bathtub by assuring them they'll never go down the drain.

Terry Gross did a nice interview with Mr. Rogers last year.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


-AUDIO: France & The United States (Laura Knoy, 02/26/2003, The Exchange)
Their disagreement over Iraq has created huge tensions between the two countries. We’ll take a look at this sometimes-bumpy relationship with Ann Sa’adah, professor of Law and Political Science at Dartmouth College [http://www.dartmouth.edu], and Wallace Thies, professor of Politics at Catholic University of America [http://www.cua.edu] and author of the new book “Friendly Rivals”.

Suffice it to say, if you skip to around 45 minutes in, you'll hear that NPR hosts are unaccustomed to callers from Hanover being right-wing whackjobs.

Here's more on one of the points raised therein:
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE (III): The Constitutional and Legal Issues (Pastor Steve Wilkins' History Forum.)

Friedrich Gentz, a German historian, wrote an essay which appeared in the German Historical Journal in 1800 and was translated and republished in this
country by John Quincy Adams. The title of his essay was "The French and American Revolutions Compared." In this work Gentz shows the very different
principles upon which the War with Britain and the French Revolution operated:

"From the breaking out of this [the French] revolution the question as to the lawfulness of what the popular leaders did, was never (an extraordinary, yet an indubitable fact!) started...Thus much is certain, that the leaders of the revolution, under the shelter of this talisman [the radical doctrine of "the rights of man"] spared themselves and others the trouble of enquiring into the lawfulness of their proceedings; for in their system, all was right, which they resolved upon in the name of the people, or in the name of mankind . . ."

"The French revolution, therefore, began by a violation of rights, every step of its progress was a violation of rights, and its was never easy, until it had succeeded to establish absolute wrong, as the supreme and acknowledged maxim of a state completely dissolved, and yet existing only in bloody ruins." (The French and American Revolutions Compared, pp. 48,49,52)

By contrast Gentz notes:

"Never, in the whole course of the American revolution, were the rights of man, appealed to, for the destruction of the rights of a citizen; never was the sovereignty of the people used as a pretext to undermine the respect, due to the laws, or the foundations of social security; no example was ever seen of an individual, or a whole class of individuals, or even the representatives of this, or that single state, who recurred to the declaration of rights, to escape from positive obligation, or to renounce obedience to the common sovereign; finally, never did it enter the head of any legislator, or statesman in America to combat the lawfulness of foreign constitutions, and to set up the American revolution, as a new epocha in the general relations of civil society." (Ibid., pp. 71,72)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Al Vs. the Dems: Presidential Candidate Sharpton Goes After His Party (Thulani Davis, February 26 - March 4, 2003, Village Voice)
It was a sure sign that Reverend Al Sharpton's run for the presidency will bring out the worst in some folks when, last Thursday, Jay Leno, standing with the candidate and Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl Petra Nemcova, said he was hosting "Beauty and the Beast." Sharpton threw back his head and laughed gamely, but he is braced for a fight.

Sharpton views his campaign as a battle royal between the progressive "children of the rainbow" and the Democratic Leadership Council that brought Bill Clinton to power and turned the Democratic Party, as he says, "to the right, not the center." Presumably some rainbow children voted for Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, and facing the permanent problem that no one deals with our issues, will appreciate someone just "speaking truth to power." And a battle for the soul of the party seems even more needed now than in 1988.

It has not escaped people of color that the old arrangement of voting Democratic because the alternative is worse brings home little bacon. The past decade has only exacerbated entrenched problems of unemployment, racial profiling, police brutality, and poor access to education, medical care, and housing.

We have now been through years of the Dems' rightward drift. Though African Americans still like Bill Clinton, we suffered most heavily his compromises, like the 1994 crime bill and welfare reform in 1996. With the aftershocks so visible in our communities, it's hard to imagine black voters in particular taking hope from senators Joe Lieberman or John Kerry or Representative Dick Gephardt. [...]

AL SHARPTON: Many people who are running, in my judgment, are to the right of Republicans. And that won't even come out unless there's a real debate. I'm the only candidate who is unequivocally against the war. I'm the only one who is anti-death penalty. I'm the only one pro-gun control. I'm raising issues that none of them would have to deal with because there would be no debate. That's important, not just in terms of an Al Sharpton candidacy but in terms of, What is the Democratic Party? I think 2004 is about defining what the party is.

Despite whatever tensions we've had in the last couple of years, Jesse [Jackson] mentored me. I watched Jesse take this party to where it should go. This is a battle in 2004 of the children of the rainbow versus the DLC. I think this is what it's going to come down to, if I'm successful in what I want to do. And let's define what that is. When I was growing up in Brooklyn, I knew what a Democrat was. I don't know what a Democrat is now. Is a Democrat a pro-death-penalty, a pro-war, a pro-business deregulator?

I am asking these questions now because so often all the candidates looking for black votes show up at the last minute at our churches. One of the offensive things is what you just said, and I've been saying this to ministers all over the country. As you know, I've run for office here. I have to go in the white community and explain my positions, from the beginning. Whites run, they come by our church in the middle of the choir singing "Amazing Grace," wave at us, photo op, gone. Nobody challenges them on their positions. I don't blame the candidates; I blame that on us. We need to stop allowing our communities to be photo ops for Democrats who won't address our issues. For a party that gets 92 percent of our vote, I mean, this is ridiculous. They should be dealing with these issues across the board.

Fights for the soul of a party are often worthwhile--as in Truman vs. Thurmond & Wallace and the Goldwater showdown with Nelson Rockefeller and Reagan vs. Ford--but they seldom lead to victory (Truman and George W. Bush being the very rare exceptions).
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Liberal MP sorry for saying 'damn Americans' (Carolyn Parrish, 2/25/03, CTV.ca News)
A Liberal backbench MP has apologized for a remark she made about the United States. Carolyn Parrish was responding to reporters' questions when she was heard saying "damn Americans."

The Toronto-area Liberal MP, who is staunchly opposed to war in Iraq, had been commenting about her frustration with the American rejection of Canada's efforts to bring another UN resolution against Iraq.

As she finished a scrum with reporters outside the House of Commons, she quietly said "Damn Americans" to a nearby reporter. A nearby camera operator filmed Parrish making the remark, then smiling.

As she walked away a few seconds later after the cameras were turned off, she was heard saying "I hate those bastards." That part wasn't caught on video.

Has she ever been overheard saying that she hates Saddam Hussein?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:46 AM


House Is Set to Make Cloning of Humans a Crime (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, February 27, 2003, NY Times)
Dolly the sheep is dead, but the political controversy she engendered lives in the House of Representatives, where lawmakers are expected on Thursday to pass a bill making human cloning a crime.

The Republican-backed measure would outlaw cloning experiments — or, more precisely, the scientific procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer — either for baby making or medical research. Scientists who cloned human embryos would face up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The bill would also prohibit the importing of medical therapies derived from cloning research.

The bill is nearly identical to legislation that passed the House in the last Congress by more than 100 votes in July 2001, and it has the strong support of President Bush. The real question is what will happen in the Senate, where lawmakers are split over whether to ban human cloning entirely or to prohibit reproductive cloning while allowing cloning for research to proceed.

The Senate voted once, in 1998, to reject a broad cloning ban, and last year, the Democratic-controlled Senate would not take up the bill passed by the House. That will change now that Republicans are in charge.

"Our job has been made harder because of the elections," said Dan Perry, director of the Alliance for Aging Research, an advocacy group that supports cloning for medical research. Mr. Perry said he and others had been lobbying heavily to persuade lawmakers that "there is a difference between cloning a human and cloning cells in a dish that could lead to cures that save lives."

The debate over cloning is fraught with ethical issues. Should the ban pass, it would be a historic decision to criminalize a type of scientific research. "In my view, that's the equivalent of book burning," said Representative Anna G. Eshoo, a California Democrat who supports an alternative measure that would ban reproductive cloning only. The bill is sponsored by Representative James C. Greenwood, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania.

The controversy pits scientists, biotech companies and patients — who say the research holds the promise of treatments for diseases including diabetes and Alzheimer's — against conservatives and some religious leaders, who denounce experimenting on human embryos as immoral and tantamount to murder.

"We're having a debate about whether society can place any ethical limit whatever on the powers the new biology has given to us," said Richard Doerflinger, an official of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which strongly opposes cloning for any reason.

We can all probably come up with horrific childhood diseases that cloning procedures hold out cures for and tightly controlled circumstances under which we'd support limited research, but things never end there do they? The temptations to commodify human beings have already proven hard enough to resist, best nail shut this Pandora's Box.

February 26, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Morality: Who Needs God? (Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith, Aish.com)
God's existence has direct bearing on how we view morality. As Dostoyevsky so famously put it, "Without God, everything is permitted."

At first glance, this statement may not make sense. Everything is permitted? Can't there be a morality without an infinite God?

Perhaps some of the confusion is due to a murky definition of morality we owe to moral relativism. Moral relativism maintains that there is no objective standard of right and wrong existing separate and independent from humanity. The creation of moral principles stems only from within a person, not as a distinct, detached reality. Each person is the source and definer of his or her subjective ethical code, and each has equal power and authority to define morality the way he or she sees fit.

The consequences of moral relativism are far-reaching. Since all moral issues are subjective, right and wrong are reduced to matters of opinion and personal taste. Without a binding, objective standard of morality that sticks whether one likes it or not, a person can do whatever he feels like by choosing to label any behavior he personally enjoys as "good." Adultery, embezzlement, and random acts of cruelty may not be your cup of tea -- but why should that stop someone from taking pleasure in them if that is what they enjoy. [...]

An absolute standard of morality can only stem from an infinite source. Why is that?

When we describe murder as being immoral, we do not mean it is wrong just for now, with the possibility of it becoming "right" some time in the future. Absolute means unchangeable, not unchanging.

What's the difference?

My dislike for olives is unchanging. I'll never start liking them. That doesn't mean it is impossible for my taste to change, even though it's highly unlikely. Since it could change, it is not absolute. It is changeable.

The term "absolute" means without the ability to change. It is utterly permanent, unchangeable. [...]

If everything in the finite universe is undergoing change -- since it exists within time -- where can we find the quality of absolute?

Its source cannot be in time, which is constantly undergoing change. It must be beyond time, in the infinite dimension. Only God, the infinite being that exists beyond time, is absolute and unchangeable.

'I am God, I do not change.' (Malachi 3:6)

Therefore an absolute standard of morality can exist only if it stems from an infinite dimension -- a realm that is eternal, beyond time, with no beginning and no end.

This is pretty much where we came in.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:54 PM


Syria won't deal with US regime in Iraq: Khaddam (Agence France-Presse, February 26, 2003)
Syria will not deal with any US military governor expected to be installed in Baghdad following the overthrow of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam said on Wednesday.

"I believe that no Arab with dignity will deal with foreign occupation forces," he told Al-Riyadh newspaper when asked if Damascus would work with a US military governor in Baghdad.

The question isn't whether Mr. Khaddam will deal with the post-Saddam regime in Iraq, put how the post-Assad regime in Syria will deal with him.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Bush to say change in Iraq will have ripple effect (Steve Holland, 26 Feb 2003, Reuters)
President George W. Bush will say on Wednesday night that a change in government in Iraq will have a ripple effect in the Middle East and make it easier to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, White House officials said.

His speech to the American Enterprise Institute comes as Arab states are angry about the prospect of war, fearing it could destabilize the already volatile Middle East and further complicate the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. His words also could send a chill down the spines of some of the non-democratic leaders in the region.

In what the White House called a big-picture speech, Bush is to lay out a vision of the region in the event war is necessary to disarm Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction and topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush will say what the future may hold not only for Iraq but also the security of the region, "because the president believes that a free Iraq will lead to a more stable Mideast."

"He'll talk about how a different Iraq will make it easier to achieve peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians," he said.

C-SPAN will broadcast the speech at 7:10pm.

Russian Official: Country Will Back Second U.N. Resolution (Fox News)
Mexico Appears to Shift Stance on Iraq (DAFNA LINZER, Feb 26, 2003, Associated Press)

Mexico appeared to be the first among a handful of undecided U.N. Security Council members to shift toward the U.S. position on Iraq as Canada sought to find a middle ground among members split between disarming Saddam Hussein by force or giving weapons inspectors more time. [...]

The change in policy for Mexico -- one of the most outspoken supporters of continued weapons inspections instead of war, echoing French and German desires -- was first presented in a key address by Mexican President Vicente Fox on Tuesday and then outlined in a new and confidential foreign policy directive obtained by The Associated Press.

President Discusses the Future of Iraq in Speech at American Enterprise Institute (February 26, 2003, Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C.)

Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own: we will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before -- in the peace that followed a world war. After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies, we left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.

There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. (Applause.) The nation of Iraq -- with its proud heritage, abundant resources and skilled and educated people -- is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living in freedom. (Applause.)

The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the "freedom gap" so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions internal reform, greater politics participation, economic openness, and free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking genuine steps toward politics reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region. (Applause.)

It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of the world -- or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim -- is somehow untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things, everywhere on Earth. In our desire to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror. (Applause.)

Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. (Applause.) The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated. (Applause.)

Without this outside support for terrorism, Palestinians who are working for reform and long for democracy will be in a better position to choose new leaders. (Applause.) True leaders who strive for peace; true leaders who faithfully serve the people. A Palestinian state must be a reformed and peaceful state that abandons forever the use of terror. (Applause.)

For its part, the new government of Israel -- as the terror threat is removed and security improves -- will be expected to support the creation of a viable Palestinian state -- (applause) -- and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end. (Applause.) And the Arab states will be expected to meet their responsibilities to oppose terrorism, to support the emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine, and state clearly they will live in peace with Israel. (Applause.)

The United States and other nations are working on a road map for peace. We are setting out the necessary conditions for progress toward the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. It is the commitment of our government -- and my personal commitment -- to implement the road map and to reach that goal. Old patterns of conflict in the Middle East can be broken, if all concerned will let go of bitterness, hatred, and violence, and get on with the serious work of economic development, and political reform, and reconciliation. America will seize every opportunity in pursuit of peace. And the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an opportunity. (Applause.)

In confronting Iraq, the United States is also showing our commitment to effective international institutions. We are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. We helped to create the Security Council. We believe in the Security Council -- so much that we want its words to have meaning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:36 PM


CBS, White House in Dispute Over Saddam Interview (Randall Mikkelsen, February 26, 2003, Reuters)
The White House criticized CBS television on Wednesday over what a spokesman said was a spurned offer to rebut comments by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during an interview to be broadcast on Wednesday evening.

"This seems odd they wouldn't let the White House have a voice," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told Reuters.

He said the White House had offered a representative to counter what he said would be propaganda, lies and irresponsible statements by Saddam in the rare interview, but he said CBS replied it was interested only if President Bush made the response himself.

Reached for comment, Dan Rather said: "I have seen the future, and it works!"
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


New head of House panel says she’ll go to mat on Israel issues (Matthew E. Berger, JTA News)
When Rep. Benjamin Gilman announced he was retiring from Congress last summer, many on Capitol Hill speculated that the House of Representative’s Middle East panel would go with him.

After all, the subcommittee was created in 2001 to give Gilman a forum for his Middle East advocacy when tenure rules forced the New York Republican to turn over the gavel of the House International Relations Committee.

But the subcommittee has been saved, thanks in part to Republican efforts to court the American Jewish community. The panel’s new chair, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), says she is ready to come to the Jewish state’s defense.

“I feel great solidarity with the Israeli people,” Ros-Lehtinen told JTA last week, after leading a congressional delegation to Israel. “I treasure heading this subcommittee and will take it on with a great deal of seriousness.”

Officially entitled the House International Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, in just two years the Mideast panel has become one of the largest forums for lawmakers to express their pro-Israel leanings.

Contrary to most House subcommittees, attendance at hearings by members of the Mideast subcommittee was impressive, with many touting their ties to Israel.

That’s the reason the subcommittee was maintained, one Democratic congressional staffer said.

“I don’t think there’s any question that the Republicans are working very hard on outreach to the Jewish community,” he said. “And this is a forum to highlight a principle objective of the Republican Party to the Jewish community.”

It seems hardly surprising that Ms Ros-Lehtinen, herself part of the Cuban Diaspora, should identify with the plight of Israel.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Americans are the chosen people (Clifford Longley, 23/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
The first settlers to go to America from England were Protestants. They took with them the conviction that God had a unique role for England in world history. England was to be the site of the New Jerusalem, and the English stood in the steps of the ancient Israelites as God's instrument, his Chosen People. The Old Testament was not just their guide to morality. It was God's side of the bargain, telling them for instance that they could take whatever land they wanted (even if that meant turfing out the original occupants) just as the Israelites were told in the Bible they could have the Land of Canaan, and never mind the Canaanites.

By the time of the War of Independence, most Americans saw Britain as their oppressor, just as the Egyptian Pharaoh had oppressed the Israelites at the time of Moses. So the break with Britain was exactly like the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt, the working out of God's will for his new Chosen People. America was their Promised Land. "Americanism" is the belief - exactly as George W Bush displayed in his inaugural address - that God is still in charge of America's "manifest destiny". Whether we lesser mortals like it or not, the domination of the world by America, and American values, is what God wants.

The modern and more inclusive form of all this is often called "American exceptionalism". That makes it less off-putting to Jews, Italians, Irish and other non-Protestant immigrants. But it is still that original English Protestant nationalism in disguise. It has crossed the Atlantic and been given an American accent.

Now I freely admit that, even as a Catholic, many of the things America stands for, I approve of. When I was writing a book on the Chosen People phenomenon last year, I felt increasingly ambivalent - both repelled and attracted - for I belong to the generation that saw British and Americans working side by side to rescue Europe from Nazi tyranny. Without this conviction of being a nation with a unique calling from God, would America have made the enormous sacrifices? I doubt it. Without it, would America be bothering with Iraq? I doubt that too.

Whether you like what America is doing or not, it helps to know where they are coming from. America believes it has a divine mandate to lead the world. Just about oil? I don't think so.

Well, like The Man said:

Standing on the tiny deck of the Arabella in 1630 off the Massachusetts coast, John Winthrop said, “We will be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.” Well, we have not dealt falsely with our God, even if He is temporarily suspended from the classroom.

When I was born my life expectancy was 10 years less than I have already lived – that’s a cause of regret for some people in California, I know. Ninety percent of Americans at that time lived beneath what is considered the poverty line today, three-quarters lived in what is considered substandard housing. Today each of those figures is less than 10 percent. We have increased our life expectancy by wiping out, almost totally, diseases that still ravage mankind in other parts of the world. I doubt if the young people here tonight know the names of some of the diseases that were commonplace when we were growing up. We have more doctors per thousand people than any nation in the world. We have more hospitals that any nation in the world.

When I was your age, believe it or not, none of us knew that we even had a racial problem. When I graduated from college and became a radio sport announcer, broadcasting major league baseball, I didn’t have a Hank Aaron or a Willie Mays to talk about. The Spaulding Guide said baseball was a game for Caucasian gentlemen. Some of us then began editorializing and campaigning against this. Gradually we campaigned against all those other areas where the constitutional rights of a large segment of our citizenry were being denied. We have not finished the job. We still have a long way to go, but we have made more progress in a few years than we have made in more than a century.

One-third of all the students in the world who are pursuing higher education are doing so in the United States. The percentage of our young Negro community that is going to college is greater than the percentage of whites in any other country in the world.

One-half of all the economic activity in the entire history of man has taken place in this republic. We have distributed our wealth more widely among our people than any society known to man. Americans work less hours for a higher standard of living than any other people. Ninety-five percent of all our families have an adequate daily intake of nutrients -- and a part of the five percent that don't are trying to lose weight! Ninety-nine percent have gas or electric refrigeration, 92 percent have televisions, and an equal number have telephones. There are 120 million cars on our streets and highways -- and all of them are on the street at once when you are trying to get home at night. But isn't this just proof of our materialism -- the very thing that we are charged with? Well, we also have more churches, more libraries, we support voluntarily more symphony orchestras, and opera companies, non-profit theaters, and publish more books than all the other nations of the world put together.

Somehow America has bred a kindliness into our people unmatched anywhere, as has been pointed out in that best-selling record by a Canadian journalist. We are not a sick society. A sick society could not produce the men that set foot on the moon, or who are now circling the earth above us in the Skylab. A sick society bereft of morality and courage did not produce the men who went through those year of torture and captivity in Vietnam. Where did we find such men? They are typical of this land as the Founding Fathers were typical. We found them in our streets, in the offices, the shops and the working places of our country and on the farms.

We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, “The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.”

We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


ARIZONA SENATE: Is This A Flake-y Idea? (Campaign Tip Sheet, 2/25/03, Hotline)
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-06) said 2/25 that his thinking of challenging Sen. John McCain (R) in the GOP primary. Flake: "At least in a Republican primary, ideas would be debated. More debate than you would get from a Democratic candidate. That's a party bereft of ideas." Flake said he will make a decision this summer. Flake's remarks came as AZ Dem chair Jim Pederson said that McCain "may have more of a challenge in his own primary." Pederson said there were "too many other priorities for" AZ Dems in '04 and "too little hope of much help from the national party to help fund an uphill race against McCain." But Pederson said a "well-funded conservative" GOPer like Flake or others "could cause some problems for McCain in a primary." [...]

CALIFORNIA SENATE: Could The GOP Look To A Latino To Challenge Boxer?

Island Valley Daily Bulletin's Drucker reports, "The name of" Sen. Barbara Boxer's (D) "opponent in her re-election bid this year could be as close as a ten-or twenty dollar bill." That's because U.S. Treas. Rosario Marin, "whose signature appears on the nation's currency, is being mentioned as a dark horse candidate by some party faithful." And Main's 2/21 address to the CA GOP Convo "did nothing to discourage them, containing all the elements of a stump speech except a declaration of her candidacy." Marin chastised Senate Dems "for threatening to kill with a filibuster Miguel Estrada's nomination" to the DC Court of Appeals. Marin, in an interview following her address to the convo, "sidestepped when pressed on her interest in challenging Boxer next year." Marin: "You never ever say 'never' to anything. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow; I know what I need to do today. I'm so concentrated on doing my job today, what will happen tomorrow, God only knows." [...]

Forget '06 For Rice, What About This Year Post-Recall?

CNN's Novak: "Well, there's important people in California who would like Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser to the president, to run for the Senate next year against Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer -- no stronger candidate against Boxer. But she doesn't -- Dr. Rice doesn't want to be a senator. What I'm told by good sources, however, what she might like to be is governor of California, running for an open seat for governor in 2006. It's a possibility" ("IP," 2/25).

Nothing would give conservatives greater satisfaction than taking down McCain. Nothing would give people with functioning brains greater pleasure than to remove the Senator who doesn't have one. Nothing would be better for the GOP's image than a black woman governor of California, who'd then be the leading contender for VP in 2008, assuming W doesn't tab her in '04.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM


Islam Says Otherwise (Muqtedar Khan, February 16, 2003, Washington Post)
Mr. bin Laden, in the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Benevolent, [...]

I am writing this to make clear that there are Muslims in America and in the world who despise and condemn extremists and have nothing to do with you, and those like you, for whom killing constitutes worship.

Islam was sent as mercy to humanity and not as an ideology of terror or hatred. It advocates plurality and moral equality of all faiths (Quran 2:62, 5:69). To use Islam to justify declaring Armageddon against all non-Muslims is inherently un-Islamic -- it is a despicable distortion of a faith of peace.

One of Allah's 99 names in the Quran is "Al Salam," which means "peace." Thus, in a way, Muslims are the only people who actually worship peace. Today this claim sounds so empty, thanks to people like you, Mr. bin Laden. You and those like you are dedicated to killing and bringing misery to people wherever they are. God blessed you with the capacity to lead and also endowed you with enormous resources. You could have used your influence in Afghanistan to develop it, to bring it out of poverty and show the world what Islam can do for those who believe in it. You chose to provoke and bring war to a people who had already been devastated by wars.

Yes, many innocent people lost their lives in America's war on Afghanistan and many more might lose their lives in Iraq. This is indeed regrettable. But we must never forget that the West is divided and agonizing over this decision to go to war in Iraq. While many Americans and Europeans oppose the war, Muslim nations have already agreed to cooperate in this war. No Muslim leader has tried to play the role of a statesman on this issue. It is a tragedy that there is not a single Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter or Nelson Mandela in the entire Muslim world who would stand up and speak for justice!

While opposition to al Qaeda from within Islam is obviously a good thing, this raises questions about the quality of that opposition. Producing a Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter or Nelson Mandela will hardly be an improvement.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 AM


Forget the Peace Rhetoric, EA Must Back Bush (Martin Mbugua Kimani, February 25, 200, The East African)
Every Hollywood movie has this scene because it works so well: a child holding a teddy bear is shown in a moment of light-hearted play with no inkling that lurking nearby is a monster/ terrorist/ vampire. It is clear that the child stands for good and that around the corner is an evil that must be opposed.

It is this desire for a dramatic clarity between good and evil that both sides in the debate on Iraq seek to invoke. In the media, the question has been framed in a seemingly simple, logical fashion: Either you are with the Americans who are for war or with France and Germany who are for peace.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. What we are seeing is a referendum on the doctrine of pre-emptive action; how to confront anti-Western states pursuing weapons that threaten a pro-Western status quo and, most importantly for Europe, how to contain US hyperpower. If East Africa is to have a meaningful voice in the debate, we need to consider these questions with our self-interest in mind.

To begin with, it is in our interest to limit the spread of chemical and biological weapons. They are cheap force multipliers and are of greatest effect when used against civilian centres. As the largest economy in the region, it is to our strategic advantage if potential foes have to go to the greater expense of building up a conventional arsenal since we can outspend them. This deters ambitions of challenging us militarily and gives us time to build our nations in peace. (I am not suggesting that we are about to go to war with our neighbours, God forbid, but only by being strong can we ensure our peace.)

What do we want from the world and how does this inform the way we engage with it? To mention just a few: We want unfettered access to prosperous markets for our products, cheap oil since we are importers, regional peace since the alternative disables foreign investment and tourism, and a defeat of the major terrorist networks that have killed so many of us. [...]

Finally, on to the matter of the French who, by threatening to veto a second UN resolution on Iraq have donned superhero-for-peace costumes. Their empathy for the little girl with the doll has not always been in evidence - just think of the long parade of African Big Men they have propped up in the past. I mention this not to demonise a people who make really fine wines, but to illustrate the barrenness of morality plays in international relations.

Now that their influence has been on the wane for a century, the old European powers have learned the benefits of multilateralism; it allows them a chance to roll back American power and remain relevant. In school, we used to call it being taken shiko - when some guy studied all night and yet lied to you, saying that he had been at the Carnivore instead. European support for international law is a cynical play for power in a moral guise, let's recognise it as such.

It is probably a good thing to oppose unilateral American action since it can run amok and increase the global insecurity that is so disadvantageous for us. But in the particular case of Iraq, and the overall fight against terrorism, we need to understand that after September 11, the US will pursue its goal of seeking security with or without European help. By siding strongly with it and not with that large camp of doves, we raise our profile in America. To those willing to go America's way when the rest are headed in the opposite direction comes money - just ask Israel and Egypt.

Good to see a man who knows which side his toast is buttered on.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:52 AM


Iraq's U.S. arsenal: Complicity of firms in Saddam's crimes against humanity now well-documented (Paul Rockwell , Metro San Jose)
We now know who supplied Saddam Hussein with materials of mass destruction and where his military regime, notorious for atrocities against Iraqis, Iranians and Kurds, acquired helicopters, germs and lethal chemicals--an arsenal of terror. Iraq acquired its weapons of mass destruction from, among others, the United States and Britain--the very countries preparing all-out war to disarm Iraq.

In December, in the long-awaited 11,000-page report to the United Nations Security Council, an Iraq Weapons Inventory listed more than 150 foreign companies, including European and U.S. companies, that allegedly supplied Saddam Hussein with deadly and dual-use material.

Hoping to downplay its own culpability in Iraq's past war crimes, the U.S. reportedly suppressed the list of firms that contributed to Saddam's arsenal, but the dossier was leaked to a German newspaper, Die Tageszeitung, which published it. More information trickled onto the back pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post. The main facts are no longer in dispute.

The U.S. companies listed, some of which have facilities in Silicon Valley, include Spectra Physics, Honeywell, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, Bechtel, Tektronix, Unisys, Rockwell and Hewlett-Packard. They allegedly provided materials for Iraq's rocket program, planned nuclear weapons program and conventional weapons program, which includes military logistics as well as supplies and materials for building weapons plants.

The complete list included 24 companies with home bases in the United States, along with 50 subsidiaries of foreign companies that conducted their arms business with Iraq from within U.S. borders.

In addition to these companies, another group designated in the report as Iraq's arms suppliers includes the U.S. Ministries of Defense, Energy, Trade and Agriculture, as well as Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia National laboratories.

The article in Die Tageszeitung reported that German involvement with Iraq outstripped that of all other countries combined. The newspaper reported that Siemens had sold Baghdad at least eight sophisticated medical machines used to destroy kidney stones in patients, but which also contain switches that can be used as detonators for atomic bombs.

Great, so we're all agreed that Saddam has these weapons--now let's make up for past mistakes by going and taking them away, right?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 AM


AIDS vaccine mostly a failure: It helps some groups but doesn't work across the board (Tom Abate, February 24, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)
A disappointed and puzzled Brisbane biotech firm announced Sunday that its experimental AIDS vaccine failed to protect white and Latino volunteers against HIV infections, while inexplicably shielding two-thirds of the black, Asian and other non-Latino minority participants.

Officials of VaxGen planned to hold a briefing this morning to elaborate on the unexpected results of the company's three-year study of an experimental vaccine tested primarily on gay men in the United States and Europe.

VaxGen vice president for research Phillip Berman, who began work on the vaccine in 1984, put the best spin on the divided findings.

"This is the first time we have specific numbers to suggest that a vaccine has prevented HIV infection in humans," Berman said, adding "we're not sure yet why certain groups have a better immune response."

As the world's largest and most advanced AIDS vaccine study, VaxGen's clinical trial has been closely watched by researchers worldwide looking for ways to blunt an epidemic that has claimed about 25 million lives since AIDS was first recognized in the early '80s.

Now scientists must figure out why, among the 4,511 white and Latino volunteers, the infection rates were virtually the same among those who received the vaccine and those who took the placebo.

However, among the 314 blacks in the study, those who received the vaccine were 78 percent less likely to contract HIV than those in the placebo group. When another 184 Asian and other non-Latino minority volunteers were added to the African American category, the effectiveness of the vaccine declined slightly to 67 percent -- a figure that still impressed UCSF AIDS researcher Tom Coates.

As the recent discussion here about racial intelligence differences suggested, even normally sensible people have an enormous emotional investment in the fanciful notion that race is merely a socialk construct, rather than a physical reality. But commentators of both the Left and the Right have noted how tortured and politically-correct the write ups on this study have been, merely one more example of how science/medicine has been corrupted by politics.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 AM


N. Korea says U.S. invaded air space: U.S. denies intelligence flight violated air space (The Associated Press, 2/24/03)
North Korea said yesterday that an American reconnaissance plane intruded into its air space on a spying mission.

"This is a premeditated move to find an opportunity to mount a pre-emptive attack on the DPRK," said the North's official Korean Central News Agency. (DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea.)

Hopefully someone at the Pentagon is working on manufacturing a pretext so that we can go in there and bomb the nuclear and missile facilities.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


The arc of moderate Islam, (Tom Rose, Feb. 20, 2003, Jerusalem Post)
Just as many in the West seemed to be resigning themselves to the inexorable force of militant Islam, six Muslim nations convened in the Republic of Kazakhstan last week to break bread with Jewish leaders from the United States.

Israelis seemed transfixed last weekend by two televised images. In Europe, millions of demonstrators choked the streets of nearly every capital to protest US threats to disarm Saddam Hussein. And in Mecca, millions of Muslim pilgrims concluded the annual Haj with repeated chants of "Murder the Jews" and "Death to America."

These taken together, the average viewer would be forgiven for thinking that militant Islam is an unstoppable force - and that the West lacks the will to confront it.

But something else happened last weekend. Far away from international media centers, in the sleepy capital of the newly independent Muslim Republic of Kazakhstan, representatives of six Muslim nations, including three presidents and three foreign ministers, convened to condemn militant Islam, showcase their moderation and encourage greater interaction with the West.

To make their point, they invited a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations to take part in the summit as full participants. Just as many in the West seemed resigned to the inexorable force of militant Islam, six Muslim states were breaking bread with Jewish leaders from the United States.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev hosted an event he called "The International Conference on Peace and Accord." Seated around Nazarbaev's long horseshoe table inside the grand and gilded "Golden Hall" state room were the presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Turkey and Afghanistan. With them sat Mortimer Zuckerman, chairman of the President's Conference and publisher of the New York Daily News, US News and World Report magazine, and former US senator Rudy Boschwitz. [...]

In Kazakhstan, nearly 45% of the country 16 million citizens are non-Muslim, including about 30,000 Jews. Avraham Berkowitz, the executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Commonwealth of Independent States points out that "Kazakhstan is the only Muslim country strongly encouraging Jewish life. Right now, there are 20 synagogues being built across the country, paid for by the state. The government is helping Jewish schools, providing security to Jewish institutions and working to improve relations with Israel."

True or not, Kazakh President Nazarbaev, regularly admonished by human-rights groups for cracking down on political opponents, sees the development of strong ties with Israel and American Jewry as the key to better relations with Washington and faster access to the Western capital he needs to develop his country's natural resources.

"The faster he can deliver that wealth," says [Richard] Perle, "the stronger a bulwark his country can become against militant Islam. If he thinks that the road to Washington goes through Jerusalem, all the better."

Indeed, in addition to extending his offer to negotiate the return of Israeli soldiers kidnapped and held by Hizbullah, Nazarbaev announced that he would allow coalition forces to use Kazakh airspace and facilities in a campaign to disarm Iraq. He made that announcement while on a highly publicized state visit to neighboring India, the purpose of which was to better coordinate the two nations' anti-terrorist campaigns.

"That these nations remain largely unknown," says Perle, "is both a failure and an opportunity. Not only are these states not pursuing sharia [Islamic law], they are leading the fight against it. The opportunity they present is that they will soon provide the living proof that moderate Islamic societies are able to realize real social and political development. The failure is that we have not done our job helping these countries to deliver that example already. If we wait much longer, it may be too late."

If non-Arab Muslim states begin to develop close ties with the West, even with Israel (as Turkey has), then the Arab Middle East ends up extraordinarily isolated as well as surrounded. Don't its leaders--especially the kings in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Hosni Mubbarak in Egypt--have to deal with that at some point?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 AM


Parents say no to 'gay' agenda in schools: Poll: 71% oppose 'normalizing' homosexual relationships (World Net Daily, 2/21/03)

A new survey shows parents don't want their children taught "it's O.K. to be 'gay'" at school.

Seventy-one percent of parents responding to a poll conducted nationally said they opposed sex education programs that teach students that homosexual love relationships are comparable to heterosexual relationships.

The poll of over 1,200 parents of K-12 students was conducted by Zogby International and released Feb. 13.

It's a curious thing but the harder edged the Republicans are ideologically, the better they do--Reagan, George H.W. Bush vs. Dukakis, The Contract in 1994, George W. Bush--and the more moderate the worse they do--Ford, George H.W. Bush in 1992, Dole, Congress in 1996 and 1998, yet still many of them shy away from social issues. Half the Party gets the vapors if anyone talks about abortion or homosexuality, but there's no evidence that adhering to conservative positions on such issues hurts at all and much that it helps.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:15 AM


Kerry Leading New Hampshire; Dean, Gephardt and Lieberman Distant Followers; 63% of Dems Say Bush Likely to be Re-elected, According to Zogby Poll (Zogby, February 25, 2003)
Weekend polling of likely New Hampshire voters in next January's first in the nation Democratic Presidential primary has Massachusetts Senator John Kerry with a strong lead (26%) over his next band of challengers, former Vermont governor Howard Dean (13%), Missouri Congressman Richard Gephardt (11%), and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman (9%). No other contender polled more than 2%. Nearly three in ten (29%) remain undecided. [...]

Bush's job performance took a beating by Democrats in the Granite State, compared to recent national Zogby numbers: nearly three fourths of those
surveyed (74%) rated his job performance as fair or poor, while 26% said is was good or excellent. Four days earlier (February 20-21) on a national basis, 962 likely voters of all parties gave him a 57% good/excellent and 42% fair/poor.

Nonetheless, nearly two out of three (63%) Democratic and Independent likely primary voters in the New Hampshire poll said is was somewhat (44%) or very (19%) likely that Bush would be re-elected.

This may very well be the low point, politically, of the Bush presidency--with the economy floundering and anti-war forces at their peak, yet a large majority of Democrats expect him to be re-elected. When your own rank and file is that dispirited it's very hard to get them fired up to work on campaigns, contribute, etc., and, as the war and the economy turn around, it's only going to get worse.

February 25, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM


Filibusted - Democratic Opposition to Estrada Will Backfire
(Marcelo Rodriguez, Feb 25, 2003, Pacific News Service)
Though Latinos have traditionally leaned toward the Democratic Party, PNS Associate Editor Marcelo Rodriguez says an attempt by Democrats to derail the nomination of a mildly conservative Latino appeals court appointee could begin to tip the scales the other way.

Success in politics is ultimately the aggregation of a lot of little things. And when it comes to Hispanics, President George W. Bush has two crafty little victories to his credit. Each makes it look as though he and the Republicans, more than the Democrats, have the interests of Hispanics at heart.

The first was in 2002, when Bush adopted provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that allowed commercial Mexican trucks to operate within the United States. Democrats, in their die-by-the-sword actions on behalf of job-protecting unions, resorted to ethnically charged accusations about the safety records of Mexican trucks and their drivers.

The second is happening now. By filibustering Bush's appointment of Miguel Estrada to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., Senate Democrats -- along with several legal rights groups such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) that support the filibuster -- are playing right into Bush's hands.

The Democrats lost Bill Nelson today. Significantly, the Senator from Florida has decided he's alienating his large population of Latino voters. Bob Graham, his FL colleague, will announce which way he's going when he decides whether he's running for president or not. If he is, he'll join the filibuster. If not, he'll back Estrada. The politics of that seem fairly obvious, but apparently they aren't to Tom Daschle and company.

Meanwhile, Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch said today that starting Friday the Democrats will have to go 24/7 to keep the filibuster going. How'd you like to be the Democrat picked to hold the floor at 3am on Saturday morning, making sure there's no vote on a Hispanic judge? Think that's why folks joined the party?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM


France and faith -- arcane twist (Uwe Siemon-Netto, February 25, 2003, UPI)
Although church and state are more rigidly separated in France than even in the United States, a succession of French governments has arm-twisted seven Islamic federations into launching an umbrella organization called French Council of Muslim Faith.

Its members will be chosen in congregational elections April 6 and 13. There are approximately 1,500 mosques in France, where the number of Muslims is estimated at 4 million to 5 million.

In December, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy expressed the hope that the umbrella organization would lead to the emergence of "a French Islam with French-speaking imams" supporting "values commensurate with the values of the Republic."

This is indeed the new council's most important task, according to Bruno Guideroni, a prominent Muslim scholar and research director at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics. At present, each of France's seven Muslim organizations is linked to a different foreign country -- and financed by it.

One is loyal to Algeria, another pays allegiance to Morocco, and a third one receives funds from the Gulf States. One is tied to Turkey and one to African nations. Yet another one is close to Pakistan's hard-line "madrasas," or Koranic schools.

This is not healthy, Guiderdoni told United Press International Tuesday. Tariq Ramadan, a Geneva-based scholar who has spent the last years trying to persuade Muslims in French-speaking countries to become loyal and active citizens in their respective nations, is pleading for their independence from foreign influences. [...]

Given the otherwise sharp separation between the secular and the spiritual realms in France, it seems ironic that the government is literally urging the Muslims to hurry up in establishing their equivalent to the Catholic, Protestant or Jewish "institutes," which are religious universities in all but name.

Though the state does not recognize their diplomas, master's degrees or doctorates, it supports these "institutes" financially, justifying this with their cultural accomplishments. Comparatively, you don't have to be Protestant or even a believer to attend the Protestant Institute of Paris and Montpellier. You can do so out of pure intellectual curiosity; thus the state does not favor any particular religion with its generosity.

At any rate, it'll save the Muslims the bother of establishing Islam when they take over the government.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:18 PM


MSNBC axes Phil Donahue (AP, February 25, 2003)
MSNBC fired Phil Donahue on Tuesday, abruptly ending the veteran talk show host's return to television after six months of poor ratings. [...]

The move was not a surprise. MSNBC hoped "Donahue" would provide a liberal counterweight to Fox News Channel's competing "The O'Reilly Factor," but the ratings started poorly and didn't improve. [...]

The political talk show format has yet to prove -- and may never -- that it can support a liberal voice, said Andrew Tyndall, head of ADT Research, a television news consulting firm.

As the great Yogi Berra once said: "If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:08 PM


Labour 'Rebels' to Embarrass UK's Blair Over Iraq (Andrew Cawthorne, February 25, 2003, Reuters)
British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday faces potentially the biggest rebellion yet from within his ruling Labour Party in a parliamentary debate over his pro-American hawkish stance on Iraq.

Up to 100 of Labour's total 410 legislators (MPs) in the British parliament's lower chamber are backing an amendment -- for what is bound to be a fiery debate -- stating that "the case for military action against Iraq is yet unproven."

It is one of three "anti-war" amendments put forward by Labour "rebels" and opposition Liberal Democrats determined to embarrass Blair, who is staunchly backing U.S. leader George W. Bush's hard line against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. [...]

Fortunately for Blair, while up to a quarter of his own party legislators are rebelling, the opposition Conservative Party -- which took Britain into conflict with Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War -- are backing him.

We continue toi believe that the next Tory Prime Minister of Britain will be Tony Blair.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:00 PM


Rocket that could strike at the heart of Israel (James Bone, February 26, 2003, Times of London)
THE missile at the centre of the looming showdown between Iraq and the United Nations may be part of an ambitious secret project to develop a much longer-range missile that could hit Tehran or Tel Aviv, UN and independent missile experts believe.

The specifications of the al-Samoud 2 missile appear to have been designed so that it could be fitted with a second engine, making it a much more potent threat than previously realised, the experts have told The Times. [...]

Dr Blix's inspectors have said that the al-Samoud 2 flew over the maximum permitted range of 150km in only 13 of 40 test flights, reaching a maximum distance of 183km.

But experts say that the specifications of the al-Samoud 2 and its use of a Russian-designed Volga SA2 engine suggest that Iraq might be trying to develop a missile with a much longer range that could threaten the entire region.

One of the most compelling reasons to take out Saddam ourselves, even though he does not pose any serious threat to us, has always been because we are the world's great nation at the moment and it would be craven of us to leave the dirty work to the Israelis, who would have to act because he's obviously a threat to them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


Iran Signs Defence Pact with India against Pakistan: Deafening Silence in Islamabad over Biggest Foreign Policy Setback (Shaheen Sehbai, 2/24/03, South Asia Tribune)
Pakistan is stunned. The intense shrill of silence is deafening. Not even the free media is talking about the issue which is by far the most staggering failure of not only General Pervez Musharraf but the entire military establishment. Apparently the elected political leadership has also been told not to touch the issue, not to raise national security concerns.

No official spokesman, from General Musharraf to PM Jamali to Information Minister Sheikh Rashid to Major General Rashid Qureshi to Foreign Office's Aziz Khan, have yet provided the nation any explanation of how and why the brotherly, Islamic nation and a trusted friend and ally of Pakistan, Iran, has turned into a strategic partner and military ally of India, and shockingly and publicly so, against Pakistan.

The latest word on this sensitive subject has come from world renowned Jane's Defence Weekly, the authentic voice on strategic and defence matters. And all JDW could say in its latest issue was that Pakistan "was expected to respond to the signing of India's recent accord with Iran, which would allow India the use of Iranian military bases in the event of any outbreak of tensions with Pakistan." Can any one believe that this agreement was signed more than one month ago and no one has yet been able to respond in Islamabad.

What has gone wrong with Pak-Iran relations? Iranian President just recently visited Pakistan but while he was in Islamabad, Indian and Iranian officials were finalizing the text of the defence pact under which India can now use Iranian land and air space and military bases against Pakistan. So what was General Musharraf talking about with the Iranian President? Did he indicate that his country was ready to sign a military pact against Pakistan? What did General Musharraf say to him? What has annoyed Teheran so much that the country which once allowed Pakistan to park most of its air force and PIA aircraft during a war with India, is now ready to provide the same facility to Pakistan's enemies?

According to the Jane's Defence Weekly the Indo-Iran "pact had shifted the strategic balance in South Asia and looked very much like an encirclement of Pakistan by India." Following the pact "pressure on Pakistan's defences would be almost overwhelming," the magazine said.

It's hard to believe that Pakistan--with its al Qaeda remnants, rising Islamicism, and inherent instability--won't have to be dealt with at some point. The network of alliances between Israel, Turkey, India, Iran, Russia, and America leaves Pakistan completely surrounded if that reckoning does come.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM


-INTERVIEW: The greening of hate (Fred Pearce, New Scientist)
The poor are to blame for environmental decline because they have been putting their own ecosystems under intolerable population pressure. That's the hidden ideology of far too many environmentalists in the US who really should know better, says Betsy Hartmann, a radical feminist and academic. So much for the "green on the outside, red on the inside" label that's often hung round eco-campaigners; some conservationists, she told Fred Pearce recently, are the new conservatives

Q: What do you think is going on among environmentalists? Is the right wing taking over?

A: I first realised that the right wing was attempting to penetrate the mainstream environment movement when I sat on a panel at an environmental meeting in the University of Oregon in 1994. Beside me was a professor and environmentalist, Virginia Abernethy of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. She seemed to me to blame immigrants for overpopulating our country and destroying our environment. Some of the audience liked her ideas but I thought they were racist.

I started to investigate and found she wasn't alone among conservationists. She was a leader of the group called the Carrying Capacity Network, which sounds like a benign environmental organisation but its main campaign is to halt what it calls mass migration to the US. They blame migrants for destroying pristine America. For instance, they blame Mexican migrants for starting fires in national forests near the border. This group has prominent environmental scientists on its advisory board. People like biologist Tom Lovejoy, the green economist Herman Daly and the ecologist David Pimental. I call this the greening of hate.

Q: It sounds like a conspiracy theory

A: Well, it seems to me that the anti-immigration movement in the US has a strong green wing. For instance, they formed a group within the Sierra Club - a prominent nature protection organisation - trying to push it into a policy of immigration restriction and population reduction. Abernethy has spoken at conferences of the right wing Council of Conservative Citizens. And some of these people are getting funding from groups such as the Pioneer Fund, whose aims, as set out in its charter, are to fund research into genetics and study into "the problems of human race betterment". [...]

Q: Where did the environment come into your thinking on population?

A: I got concerned that conflicts over resources such as forests and land were being framed so that population pressure was seen as the main culprit. A variety of groups, including foundations that fund population work, were linking population and environment issues directly to national security. This seemed like a dangerous mix, especially when it got tied up with the growing anti-immigrant movement in the US, and maybe now in Europe, too.

Q: But isn't population pressure a real environmental issue?

A: It's more than an issue, it's an ideology. Ever since colonial times, Westerners have had what I call a degradation narrative. It says that poor peasants having too many children causes population pressures that degrade the environment and cause more poverty. It is the basic story that many Western environmentalists still tell. And it is now being extended to explain not just the loss of rainforests and species, but also migration and violent conflicts round the world.

Q: You say that this degradation narrative is being used to explain foreign policy disasters. How?

A: From Afghanistan to Gaza to El Salvador to Indonesia to Somalia, some prominent environmentalists have blamed disorder on resource depletion and environmental decay. And foreign policy people have gone along with it. When the slaughter happened in Rwanda in 1994 and the rest of the world stood by and did nothing, we heard a lot about how it was inevitable because of the high population density that was causing land shortages and poverty. Even Timothy Wirth, Clinton's undersecretary of state for global affairs and widely seen as an environmental good-guy, said it. But even some of the theorists behind these ideas, such as Thomas Homer-Dixon, a writer on environmental and security issues, have acknowledged it wasn't really like that. The massacres started where population pressure was least. It was about state-instigated racism, not environmental degradation. It's not that population is always irrelevant, it is just that it gets overemphasised. Blaming poor peasants for deforestation is like blaming conscripts for wars. [...]

Q: But even so, isn't it obvious that more people will cause more environmental damage?

A: Not necessarily. In Brazil, it's often the least populated areas that get trashed - by miners and loggers and cattle ranchers. And in certain contexts population pressure spurs innovation and better farming methods. The economist Julian Simon had a point when he said it provides more brains to think and hands to work as well as more mouths to feed.

Q: As a feminist, you don't sound like a natural supporter of Simon. Ronald Reagan used his ideas to justify his policies against abortion and birth control in the 1980s, didn't he?

A: Yes, I'm not a supporter of Simon. I disagree with his unbridled faith in the free market. But he was not against birth control. He was just a libertarian. People like Simon on the libertarian right have often had better positions on population control than the liberal population establishment, who were often afraid to speak out against coercion and sometimes actively supported it.

Q: Do average Americans buy these ideas?

A: I find even well-educated and well-meaning acquaintances have alarming responses on population issues. They believe the poor create their own problems by breeding, and it absolves the rest of us from responsibility. Even some committed feminists will scapegoat poor women's fertility for the planet's evils. It is a kind of ideological schizophrenia. Phrases like the population bomb and the population explosion breed racism. Few Americans know that, on average, woman round the world have less than three children each. They don't breed like rabbits. And by 2050 a majority of the world's population will be likely to live in countries with fertility levels below what demographers regard as replacement levels. It all avoids looking at the real issues on our own doorstep - of over-consumption, for instance. On climate change, we hype up fears of rising emissions in "overpopulated" India rather than looking at our own consumption patterns. Better a one-child policy there than a one-car policy here. We don't understand that communities all over the world can and do live in sustainable relationships with their environments.

Q: You've claimed that the military is also taking up environmentalism.

A: After the cold war, people were looking for a new political agenda, maybe a new enemy. Along came Robert Kaplan, who wrote a long and influential article called "The coming anarchy" in Atlantic Monthly. It painted a really frightening picture of overpopulation and environmental degradation causing violence and a breakdown of order in Africa. It was to me very racially charged, but it captured the imagination of the liberal establishment. Some of the influential people in the environment movement in the US just loved Kaplan's work. They saw it could raise environmental issues into the high politics of national security. And they were flattered when in 1996 the US National Security Strategy said that "large-scale environmental degradation, exacerbated by rapid population growth, threatens to undermine political stability in many countries". But they were engaging in all sorts of scaremongering images of the Third World. It makes the victims of the modern world into its villains, and encourages policies that attack them and their livelihoods.

Q: For example?

A: At the height of the Zapatista rebellion in the Chiapas region of Mexico in the late 1990s, some environment and security people argued that population pressure was causing deforestation and this environmental decay was in turn the cause of the conflict there. Of course it was much more complex. You might equally argue that Mexican land policies forced the poor to farm in the forests because there was no effective land reform or other economic alternatives. Recently, it has been alleged that that a US-based conservation group working in the region colluded with the Mexican military, helping them identify communities in the forest so they could be removed.

Q: How did that happen?

A: Many environment groups in the US have very little knowledge of international development issues. They buy into things like Chiapas because they don't know any differently. And the imagery is very seductive. Several friends and I have been looking at the imagery used, often subconsciously, to create fear about particular threats, especially in the environment movement. For instance, look at how the Ebola virus encapsulates a lot of fears about Africa and migration. And how the ideas of ecologists about invasive species - alien species as they are often called - sound so similar to anti-immigration rhetoric. Green themes like scarcity and purity and invasion and protection all have right-wing echoes. Hitler's ideas about environmentalism came out of purity, after all.

This is one of the most vile and dishonest things you'll ever read. Ms Hartmann offers chapter and verse on how liberals and evironmental activists are hostile to immigration and population growth, but says that these themes are conservative? It seems hardly necessary to point out that the Left has a rich tradition of Eugenics--advocates of which included Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, the mission of which was to get immigrants to limit their reproduction--and of a more basic hostility towards humans generally, as is the case with Paul Ehrlich, whose book, The Population Bomb, practically the Bible of the population control movement, proposed that the planet's human population be reduced to one billion. If racists and anti-immigrationists are cropping up in the environmental movement, it's not because the Right is trying to take it over, it's because that's their natural home. Environmentalism has throughout its history been a movement of upper-class white people who wish that the poor wouldn't make such a mess of their cities and spoil the natural beauty of the countryside that they want to be able to vacation in. It couldn't be more elitist and separatist.

Meanwhile, Julian Simon a libertarian but nonetheless a man of the Right, was the great scourge of the population controlling, anti-immigrant, depletionist Left that Ehrlich epitomized. Here's a description from a remembrance, Malthus, Watch Out (Ben Wattenberg, February 11, 1998, Wall St. Journal):

His keystone work was "The Ultimate Resource," published in 1981 and updated in 1996 as "The Ultimate Resource 2" (Princeton University Press). Its central point is clear: Supplies of natural resources are not finite in any serious way; they are created by the intellect of man, an always renewable resource. Coal, oil and uranium were not resources at all until mixed well with human intellect.

The notion drove some enviromentalists crazy. If it were true, poof!--there went so many of the crises that justified their existence. From their air-conditioned offices in high-rise buildings, they brayed: Simon believes in a technological fix! The attacks often got personal: Simon's doctorate was in business economics, they sniffed; he had merely been a professor of advertising and marketing, and--get this--he had actually started a mail-order business and written a book about how to do it. Never mind that he also studied population economics for a quarter century.

In fact, it was Simon's knowledge of real-world commerce that gave him an edge in the intellectual wars. He knew firsthand about some things that many environmentalists had only touched gingerly, like prices. If the real resource was the human intellect, Simon reasoned, and the amount of human intellect was increasing, both quantitatively through population growth and qualitatively through education, then the supply of resources would grow, outrunning demand, pushing prices down and giving people more access to what they wanted, with more than enough left over to deal with pollution and congestion. In short, mankind faced the very opposite of a crisis.

Simon rarely presented a sentence not supported by facts--facts arranged in serried ranks to confront the opposition; facts about forests and food, pollution and poverty, nuclear power and nonrenewable resources; facts used as foot soldiers to strike blows for accuracy.

In a famous bet, gloom-meister Paul Ehrlich took up Simon's challenge and wagered that between 1980 and 1990 scarcity would drive resource prices up. Simon bet that progress would push prices down. Simon won the bet, easily. Mr. Ehrlich won a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant. But the wheel turns, and we'll see who's a genius. Fortune magazine listed Simon among "the world's most stimulating thinkers." Mr. Ehrlich didn't make the cut.

Simon sensed the primacy of something else that many environmentalists and crisis-mongers didn't catch on to for a quite a time: Human intellect could best be transformed into beneficial goods and services in an atmosphere of political and economic liberty. At the United Nations' Mexico City population conference in 1984 Simon winced, and counterattacked, when population alarmists caricatured the Reagan-appointed American delegation as promoting the idea that "capitalism is the best contraceptive." It was not a good idea to ridicule capitalism, or free markets, or human liberty, in Simon's presence.

Of course, rising living standards do tend to depress fertility. Living standards do rise faster under democratic market systems. Smart folks now know that the fruits of economic growth can be used to diminish pollution. You don't hear much anymore about how we're running out of everything. (Next task: Simonize the Global Warmists.)

Finally, unlike many of his opponents, Julian was a traditionalist. He did not work on the Sabbath, and the Friday Sabbath dinner at the Simon house was always a gentle and joyous celebration.

Mr. Simon was waging this fight a quarter century ago and Ronald Reagan took America out of the business of aborting foreign babies around the same time--a practice we returned to only when Bill Clinton was President--but we're asked to believe that environmentalism's animus towards the poor, especially those of other skin hues, is something new and that it's being driven by infiltration of the movement by the Right? This is just heinous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 PM


Perle: U.S. also seeks regime change in Iran, Libya, Syria (WORLD TRIBUNE.COM, February 25, 2003)
The United States will not be satisfied with toppling Saddam Hussein, but also seeks to change other regimes throughout the Arab world.

Richard Perle, chairman of the U.S. Defense Advisory Board, said the regimes include those in Iran, Libya and Syria. Perle told Arab journalists during a trip to London last week that the U.S. tactic would differ for each country. [...]

Change is needed in all those three countries [Iran, Libya and Syria], and a few others besides," Perle told the London-based author and analyst Amir Taheri.

But Perle said the regimes in Iran and Syria could be changed without direct U.S. intervention. He said the United States would help democratic reform movements in those countries.

"I think Iran can be changed by the action of the Iranian people," Perle told Taheri, an Iranian exile. "I believe that Syria, too, can organize change from within."

In a separate interview with the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat, Perle listed what Washington would demand from Damascus. The key demand is the expulsion of groups deemed by the State Department as terrorist groups.

"A lot will be required from Syrian President Bashar Assad not only in terms of reform, but also the closure of the offices of terrorist organizations and the return of Lebanon to the Lebanese. [...]

"As for Libya, it is a weird case," Perle said. "For the time being it is out of world reality. But the colonel knows that we have our eyes on him." [...]

"Not a single Arab state is making the slightest move against our policy on this issue," Perle said. "And at least a dozen are actively cooperating with us in whatever field we require. What interests me is that almost all Arab states are showing a sense of realism and an understanding of their own interests on this issue."

If Diogenes had met Richard Perle, he could have rested.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:08 PM


U.S. Officials Say U.N. Future At Stake in Vote: Bush Message Is That a War Is Inevitable, Diplomats Say (Karen DeYoung, February 25, 2003, Washington Post)
As it launches an all-out lobbying campaign to gain United Nations approval, the Bush administration has begun to characterize the decision facing the Security Council not as whether there will be war against Iraq, but whether council members are willing to irrevocably destroy the world body's legitimacy by failing to follow the U.S. lead, senior U.S. and diplomatic sources said.

In meetings yesterday with senior officials in Moscow, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton told the Russian government that "we're going ahead," whether the council agrees or not, a senior administration official said. "The council's unity is at stake here."

A senior diplomat from another council member said his government had heard a similar message and was told not to anguish over whether to vote for war.

"You are not going to decide whether there is war in Iraq or not," the diplomat said U.S. officials told him. "That decision is ours, and we have already made it. It is already final. The only question now is whether the council will go along with it or not."

There's an amusing phrase that's starting to pop up in reporters' pieces on George W. Bush and, on the radio anyway, it's accompanied by a tone of near shock: "This president actually means what he says". If they'd been paying attention from the beginning they'd have had no doubt about how this diplomatic dance ends.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


Californians angry at Davis, wary of Bush (John Wildermuth, February 25, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)
Californians' growing dismay over the state's shaky fiscal future and the possibility of war with Iraq have them angry at Gov. Gray Davis and increasingly wary of President Bush, a new poll showed today.

Only 33 percent of the state's residents are happy with the job Davis is doing as governor, down from 52 percent just three months ago, the survey by the Public Policy Institute of California showed. [...]

"If you thought the voters were cranky (before), now they're really in a sour mood," said Mark Baldassare, the poll's director. "These are numbers I haven't seen since 1994," when California was mired in a deep recession. [...]

"Last year, we were talking about how low Davis' approval ratings were when he was elected," Baldassare said. "Now, he's entered an entirely new territory.

"You begin to wonder how the governor can regain the public's trust when his numbers are as low as they are today, and people are directing their anger and frustration at him."

The poll is based on a telephone survey of 2,004 California adults interviewed between Feb. 6 and Feb. 17. The sampling error for a survey that size is
plus or minus two percentage points.

Poll numbers like that get you this. But, unfortunately, once Saddam falls the markets are going to soar and even deadwood like Gray Davis will rise somewhat with the tide. This couple years has though killed his chances of moving up to national politics...thankfully.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:55 PM


Deborah Cook Is the Typical Bush Judicial Nominee; So Watch Out (ADAM COHEN, 2/25/03, NY Times)
Ms. Cook is no Miguel Estrada, the so-called conservative "stealth nominee," who is facing a Senate filibuster. Blacks are not rallying against her, the way they are against Charles Pickering, the Trent Lott protégé who lobbied the Justice Department to go easy on a convicted cross-burner. Disabled people are not lined up against her, as they are against Jeffrey Sutton, who argued a major case that weakened the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Deborah Cook, a 51-year-old onetime corporate lawyer from Akron, Ohio, may actually be the most utterly typical of the Bush administration's judicial nominees. Which is why, based on her judicial record, we should all be very worried about the future of the federal courts.

In eight years on the Ohio Supreme Court, Justice Cook has been a steady voice against injured workers, discrimination victims and consumers. The court's most prolific dissenter, she frequently breaks with her Republican colleagues to side with big business and insurance companies. Often she reaches for a harsh legal technicality to send a hapless victim home empty-handed.

To bad she isn't Hispanic, then the Democrats would filibuster.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM


The Pope's disapproval worries Blair more than marchers (Matthew d'Ancona, 23/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
It used to be the solemn practice of medieval crusaders to seek the indulgence of the Pope before they rode off on their steeds to the Holy Land. Some wrote impassioned letters to the Pontiff for the good of their souls, but many made the pilgrimage to Rome in person. Yesterday, on the eve of another mighty conflict in the sands of the Middle East, the Prime Minister was granted a private audience by John Paul II. But there was to be no indulgence - no papal imprimatur - for this Christian soldier. Mr Blair may believe that he is embarking on a "just war": the Holy Father does not.

When President Bush called the war on terrorism a "crusade" he was pilloried as a Bible-bashing redneck. It is too easily forgotten that Tony Blair deployed that word first, in a Newsweek article on the Balkan war in 1999, long before the atrocities of September 11. The Prime Minister's robust Christian convictions and his readiness to take military action have always been intimately linked in his own mind. He does not see himself as a crusader in any aggressive sense; but there is no doubt that he seeks authorisation for war, as well as personal spiritual solace, in the Gospels. [...]

The extent of the Prime Minister's attraction to Roman Catholicism remains a matter of controversy. Downing Street was furious in 1998 when the Press Association revealed that he had been attending Mass at Westminster Cathedral on his own. Cardinal Hume wasn't too thrilled either by what appeared to be doctrinal dilettantism. On the Anglican side, it was claimed that the Prime Minister, as an alleged crypto-Catholic, could not make sound appointments to the episcopal bench. I recall an unswervingly Protestant minister seething to me at the time that his boss's decision to take Catholic Communion was "unconscionable": as so often over the centuries, London murmured of a "Popish plot".

Number 10 tried desperately to close the story down: one of the most menacing phone calls I have ever taken from Downing Street was from a spin doctor convinced The Sunday Telegraph was going to disclose an alleged discussion between Mr Blair and a Catholic priest. In short, I would be amazed if the Prime Minister converts to Rome while he is in office. But there is no doubt that he is powerfully drawn to the certainties and liturgy of Catholicism (and to its canon law: visitors to his study have been startled on occasion to see a well-thumbed copy of Paul VI's bull on human reproduction, Humanae Vitae). So yesterday's audience will have been freighted with personal significance for Mr Blair as a station on his own private pilgrimage.

Downing Street insists that the Prime Minister has a "clear conscience" on Iraq, and that may well be so. But that clarity has been hard won. According to one Cabinet Minister, the Prime Minister spent a great deal of time towards the end of last year wrestling with the prospect of war and convincing himself that it was just. "It was very private," the minister told me, "and very intense." The joke among his officials before Christmas was that it was easier to engage the Prime Minister's interest on the nuances of St Thomas Aquinas than on the detail of public service reform.

There has always been a strongly Christian strain in the British Labour movement, of course, but one which has emphasised the duty of the believer to avert war at almost any cost. Labour pacifism and CND have their roots in Christian socialism. The theologian to whom Mr Blair says he owes most, John MacMurray (1891-1976), offers little comfort to the politician about to commit troops to battle. "We went into war in a blaze of idealism," wrote MacMurray of his experience in the Somme and at Arras. "We learned that war was simply stupidity, destruction, waste and futility."

The Prime Minister's faith has led him to a quite different, more muscular position on the morality of conflict. "Christianity is a very tough religion," he wrote in 1993. "It is judgmental. There is right and wrong. There is good and bad." In an interview with this newspaper in 2001, he avowed his belief in "the necessity to make judgments about the human condition" and drew an explicit connection between that conviction and his conduct during the Kosovo crisis. There is, in fact, a consistent recoil from appeasement in what he has said about Christianity over the years.

It seems fair to wonder whether America and Britain would any longer be willing to go to war with evil regimes if they were to be led by non-believers.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:45 PM


Seeing God as `a kind of mascot': Biblical imagery nothing new for U.S. presidents But Bush critics say he's gone to far with `good vs. evil' (BRUCE NOLAN, 2/24/03, Toronto Star)
Does President George W. Bush believe an American war against Iraq is divinely ordained?

It's a provocative question, raised in part by a series of presidential speeches in which Bush, more than any other recent president, has been using explicit religious imagery to define America and to frame his administration's goals.

The images include Bush's vision of the United States as a "blessed" nation, his belief that it is a participant in a providential plan and his confrontation with what he has called "the forces of darkness" in Al Qaeda and Iraq.

"The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain," he told Congress three weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them."

Adopting an image many Christians recognized as a paraphrase of the opening of the Gospel of St. John, he said this in an Ellis Island address on the anniversary of Sept. 11: "This ideal of America is the hope of all mankind .... That hope still lights our way. And the light shines in the darkness. And the darkness will not overcome it."

In his Jan. 28 State of the Union address, he said: "As our nation moves troops and builds alliances to make our world safer, we must also remember our calling as a blessed country is to make this world better.

"Should an attack on Iraq become necessary, he told the National Religious Broadcasters this month, "American troops will act ... in the highest moral traditions of our country."

To some religious leaders, including Bush's fellow evangelicals, such language and the world view it represents are well within the tradition of presidential rhetoric and completely recognizable to millions of Americans.

"There's a history to the use of this kind of language, and I think the American people expect this of their president and respect it," says the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice-president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "I think people ought not get too excited about it."

But other religious leaders are disturbed, including the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, a liberal faith group formed to counter the conservative Christian Coalition.

Gaddy suggests that the president has come to "a growing sense of awareness that he is, in fact, a divinely chosen leader for this particular moment in history," a conviction that may cloud his judgment and yield disastrous consequences.

If Bush does see America's confrontations with Al Qaeda and Iraq in theological terms of light vs. darkness, the danger is that it both oversimplifies the political conversation and drives the stakes through the roof, says Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University.

"It suggests we're in a drama like Lord Of The Rings or a children's story in which the forces of good are battling the forces of evil. And the only end of that story can be the victory of one side and the annihilation of the other."

Is Mr. Gaddy suggesting that God is neutral between America and Saddam Hussein? Is Ms Pagels suggesting that both al Qaeda and America can win?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


Bush Seeks to Help Blair at Home by Going Back to U.N. on Iraq (PATRICK E. TYLER, February 25, 2003, NY Times)
President Bush's decision to go all out to win a second Security Council endorsement to wage war on Iraq was made primarily to help a friend and ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, say experts who follow British affairs. But the determined opposition of France, Germany and Russia expose Mr. Bush to the risk of diplomatic embarrassment.

"He has to do it primarily because it is now a necessary action to ease Tony Blair's problems," with the torrent of popular domestic opposition to war, said James R. Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense and a member of the Defense Policy Board that advises the Pentagon. "It is also an indication of our deep and abiding hope in the efficacy of the U.N.," Mr. Schlesinger added.

As recently as last month, the White House acted as if it would not return to the Security Council for a second resolution. But Mr. Blair, stung by criticism at home, urged the administration to reconsider. It is not clear, however, that Mr. Bush will get the nine votes needed to prevail in the Council. If he does, there is no guarantee that France or Russia or China will not veto the resolution.

Late last week, it was not clear whether Mr. Bush would gamble on the prospect of a highly visible loss in the Security Council after the ebullient highs of last November when the Council voted 15 to 0 to affirm the administration's muscular stand that President Saddam Hussein must disarm immediately.

But suddenly on Saturday morning, Mr. Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, reported a conference call involving the president, the Spanish prime minister, José María Aznar, Mr. Blair and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy to map out the steps at the United Nations that would pave the way to war.

That conference call set off a cascade of diplomatic lobbying on four continents that is continuing. Mr. Bush and the ad hoc coalition he is orchestrating for the coming military campaign are pressing and cajoling governments to adopt the Bush view that the time has come to disarm Mr. Hussein by force.

Mr. Fleischer said today that the President wants, but does not need, United Nations authority to act.

We underestimate sometimes just how much the personal character of even a president may influence their public policies. George W. Bush is famously loyal to friends, staff and allies, so it should come as no surprise that he might delay a war he's more than ready to launch in order to help Tony Blair, who's been a steadfast partner in the war on terror. On the other hand, the war has already begun and since 9-11, short of an Iraqi rising that toppled Saddam for us, there's been nothing that could stop it--that too is a function of the President's character. All the fretting about him letting Saddam off the hook is just silly, precisely because while to do so might win points in the international community, it would be untrue to who he is.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM


Scandal hits Dutch food giant Ahold (Anthony Deutsch, February 25, 2003, AP)

With WorldCom and Enron still fresh in investors' minds, Europe was confronted with its own corporate accounting scandal Monday when the world's third biggest food retailer Ahold admitted vastly overstating earnings over the past two years.

Ahold's top two executives resigned, and several senior U.S. managers were suspended while investigations focused on whether income was booked prematurely at the company's U.S. Foodservice arm. Ahold also owns Stop & Shop; Skokie-based Peapod Inc., the online grocery, and other U.S. supermarket chains. Ahold's problems won't have a material affect on Peapod, a spokesman said.

Ahold shares plunged 63 percent in Amsterdam trading after the company said it had inflated earnings in the last two years by at least $500 million, and will restate earnings for 2001. Merrill Lynch estimated the restatement could wipe 10 to 30 percent off 2002 per-share earnings.

A great deal of nonsense has been written recently about the loss of confidence in American markets and the rising strength of the euro--but while we've worked through our scandals, the Europeans, with looser rules to begin with and greater cronyism, have yet to face the fact that all our problems are multiplied in their system. This is just the tip of the European iceberg and it's going to be very ugly watching the money that 's been flowing there--on the basis of emotion rather than reason--get yanked out and returned to America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Draft Mitch Daniels

He's one of the unsung heroes of the Administration, so it'll be a shame to lose him, and we'd sort of rather he try to knock off Evan Bayh (who may well be the VP pick anyway), but he's definitely headed higher.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 AM


This may not work with all browsers and is a tad slow, but we received a neat Power Point presentation on Iraq over the transom.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:25 AM


Who Is Regis Debray? (JAMES TARANTO, February 24, 2003, Opinion Journal: Best of the Web)
He complains that "the new world of President Bush, postmodern in its technology, seems premodern in its values." What he means is that whereas Bush and those simple-minded Americans use outmoded terms like "evil" when referring to a genocidal dictator, "Europe"--meaning France--"now knows that the planet is too complex, too definitively plural to suffer insertion into a monotheistic binary logic: white or black, good or evil, friend or enemy." Debray characterizes any discussion of good and evil as "fundamentalist," in contrast with Europe's "secular vision of the world." [...]

"Europe has learned modesty," Debray says--an odd assertion coming from a country currently strutting around the world stage pretending it is still a great power. In truth, what "Europe" has learned is not modesty but a facile relativism. Yes, America is moralistic, and that's hard to stomach for a country with France's history of colonialism and collaboration. (So you think it was evil for the French to deport Jews to Nazi Germany? Hey, quit being such a fundamentalist!) Yet to deny the existence of evil in the face of Saddam Hussein's atrocious human-rights record is not so much sophisticated as jaded.[...]

Who is this Régis Debray, anyway? The Times describes him as "a former adviser to President Francois Mitterrand of France, . . . editor of Cahiers de Mediologie and the author of the forthcoming 'The God That Prevailed.' " But a 1995 Wired magazine article tells a more, shall we say, interesting story:

"Twenty-seven years ago, French radical theoretician Regis Debray was sentenced by a Bolivian military tribunal to 30 years in jail. He had been captured with the guerrilla band led by Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Fidel Castro's legendary lieutenant. Released after three years, largely because of the intervention of compatriots such as President Charles de Gaulle, Andre Malraux, and Jean-Paul Sartre, Debray returned to writing. (His 1967 Revolution in the Revolution is considered a primer for guerrilla insurrection.) He spent five years in the early '80s as a special advisor on Latin American relations to French President Francois Mitterrand."

So this defender of reason, this proud opponent of "fundamentalism," spent the 1960s as an acolyte of Che Guevara and an author of a manual for revolution. Mightn't the Times' readers have wanted to know a bit of this background?

We linked to Mr. DeBray's column this weekend, but actually only made it through the first three sentences. Meanwhile, folks elsewhere have done a great job exposing what a whackjob this guy is. I do have one problem with Mr. Taranto's essay: he seems perplexed by the notion that a belief in good and evil is antithetical to secularism and that, in the eyes of the secularist, adherence to morality makes one a de facto fundamentalist. It's hard to place Mr. Taranto on the conservative spectrum, but he seems more libertarian than cultural conservative--at any rate, it's surprising he's unfamiliar with what's a rather well understood phenomenon: the secular Left no longer has any intellectual access to the concept of evil. Moral relativism is not a coincidence but an inevitable outgrowth of secularity.

February 24, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM


Clinton starts her bid to be president (MARK COLEMAN, 2/24/03, The Scotsman)
HILLARY Clinton is spending millions of dollars building up an office that would form the centre of her bid for the presidency, it was claimed last night.

Mrs Clinton raised $3.3 million (E2.09 million) last year for her HILLPAC charity, which was set up to distribute funds to Democratic candidates.

But a study has claimed that most of the money raised has been spent funding her own political campaign.

According to Washington's independent weekly political newspaper, the Hill, only 31 per cent of the money raised has gone where it was intended. The rest has been spent on staff, an office, travel, direct mail and political consultants.

The revelations prompted speculation that Mrs Clinton, 57, a supremely popular figure among rank and file Democrats, could finally be gearing up for an eventual assault on the US presidency.

No person of normal human ambition could look at the Democratic field and not feel the urge to run. Her ambition seems higher than normal.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Egypt threatens to cut off ties with Palestinian terror groups (Khaled Abu Toameh, Feb. 24, 2003, Jerusalem Post)
Egypt has informed radical Palestinian factions that their refusal to accept a temporary cessation of terrorist attacks against Israel could prompt Cairo to sever its ties with them.

A Palestinian official told The Jerusalem Post Monday that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other extremist groups have earned Egypt's opprobrium after they rejected its latest initiative for a one-year cease-fire with Israel.

"The Egyptians are really angry," the official added. "They see the Palestinian groups' stance as a severe blow to Egypt's credibility and prestige."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 PM


Russia plays its economic card over Iraq (Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Kara-Murza, February 23 2003, Financial Times)
Despite Russia's reminder to the US last week that it could still use its UN Security Council veto against military action in Iraq, Moscow's stance has generally been more conciliatory than that adopted by Paris. This may appear surprising given Russia's record of supporting Baghdad, and its opposition to UN and Nato military intervention against Serbia in 1999.

Yet there is a simple explanation. While Russia's relations with Serbia are characterised by long-standing feelings of ethnic, religious and cultural proximity, as well as the pursuit of geopolitical interests in the Balkans, Russia's attitude towards Iraq is pragmatic. To be more precise: its interests are economic. By recognising those interests as legitimate, and by making clear they could be furthered by the removal of the Ba'athist dictatorship, the Anglo-American coalition could win over Russian support.

The first and perhaps easiest issue to resolve is Iraq's $8bn debt to Russia. Needless to say, Moscow wants its money back, yet repayment is outof the question while the UN sanctions regime remains in place. There is, however, another way: the US-UK coalition could recognise Iraq's foreigndebts and guarantee their repayment by the post-Saddam regime.

It's time to stop paying off the creditors of totalitarian regimes. Let a few of these multi-billion dollar debts go begging and let's see who'll be willing to lend tyrants money.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


Computer Made from DNA and Enzymes (Stefan Lovgren, February 24, 2003, National Geographic News)
Israeli scientists have devised a computer that can perform 330 trillion operations per second, more than 100,000 times the speed of the fastest PC. The secret: It runs on DNA.

A year ago, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, unveiled a programmable molecular computing machine composed of enzymes and DNA molecules instead of silicon microchips. Now the team has gone one step further. In the new device, the single DNA molecule that provides the computer with the input data also provides all the necessary fuel.

The design is considered a giant step in DNA computing. The Guinness World Records last week recognized the computer as "the smallest biological computing device" ever constructed. DNA computing is in its infancy, and its implications are only beginning to be explored. But it could transform the future of computers, especially in pharmaceutical and biomedical applications.

Think the Palestinians are doing similar research?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 PM


In with the new...Europe (Larry Kudlow, February 24, 2003, Townhall)
Do not let the fog of war obscure the international trade figures just published by the U.S. Commerce Department. The statistics may be drier than sand, but they reveal a fascinating tale of wartime politics and economics. [...]

Let's look at trade balances by region. First, Western Europe -- or more accurately, Old Europe, to use Donald Rumsfeld's all-too-accurate phrase. U.S. exports to this fading old hag are down 15.6 percent. Pacifist Germany? Minus 11.9 percent. Egocentric and anti-U.S. France? Minus 13.6 percent. Are these guys playing with a thin deck or what? Their economics are just as wussy as their foreign politics.

How about our real friends in the Mediterranean sector of Old Europe? Well, U.S. exports to Jose Aznar's Spain are up 27.6 percent. Silvio Berlusconi's Italy? Up 16.1 percent. Their economies are as strong as their dislike for terrorism.

How about New Europe? U.S. exports to these freedom-loving and Saddam-hating nations in the central and eastern precincts are up 25.5 percent over the past 12 months. A tremendous performance. [...]

Trade figures may not tell the whole economic story, but something good is surely going on in the former Soviet colonies. Just as they value their newfound democracies and political freedoms, they also seem to appreciate their newly established free-market economies and their liberation from communist state controls.

This raises a logical question. Why not a transatlantic free-trade agreement with the willing members of old and new Europe?

The Cold War is over, time to move on.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


N. Korea Launches Test Missile (CBS News, Feb. 24, 2003)
North Korea launched a missile that landed in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said Tuesday.

The Seoul government was investigating whether Monday's launch was a test of a new missile, said the official, who asked to be identified only as Maj. Chun.

The reported land-to-sea missile launch came on the eve of the inauguration of South Korea's new president, Roh Moo-hyun.

It's fifty years past time to rid the planet of the DPRK.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


We've mentioned before that the same account rep sends us and Steven Martinovich of Enter Stage Right books to review. Typically Mr. Martinovich--who has the advantage in at least this regard of being childless--gets the books read well before me, but this week we happen to have stereo-posted reviews of two different very good books:

A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy (2003) (James MacDonald)


REVIEW: by Brothers Judd


Feminist Fantasies (2003) (Phyllis Schlafly)


REVIEW: by Brothers Judd

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM


Apologia pro vita sua (Charles Murtaugh, February 23, 2003)
Responding to my recent post about genetics and IQ, Calpundit Kevin Drum wrote a very long and very thoughtful essay about intelligence, The Bell Curve, and the importance of not ignoring inconvenient facts -- by which he, and I, mean the evidence that intelligence is a real variable with a real (if not all-explaining) genetic component.

He links to a number of the responses that other bloggers made, particularly Atrios (start at the top and scroll down -- he has a lot of posts), almost all of which take him to task for even arguing about The Bell Curve. In Atrios's comments boards, I also get repeatedly called a racist and an idiot, which is why I'm embarking on this lengthy post to set the record straight.

I'll readily acknowledge that I couldn't follow all the data and arguments of The Bell Curve, however, I also don't understand how anyone can both believe in evolution and question the basic premise of the book, which is that there are differences in intelligence between the different races. I've never met anyone who is willing to argue that, for instance, every breed of dog is equally intelligent. Yet those who deny racial differences in intelligence would have us believe that different breeds of humans have ended up with absolutely identical intelligence. Just think about this for a moment: you needn't be a racist to say that you'd be able to pick out the Swede, the Masai, and the Inuit in a police lineup; but we're supposed to pretend that there's no possibility that just as there are significant physical differences among the three there might be even just subtle intelligence differences? By that I don't mean that we have to say, or have any impartial basis for saying, that one is "superior" and one "inferior", but, c'mon, you can't honestly rule out some variation. What kind of natural selection would be able to render two men with completely different skin colors, facial features, hair types, musculatures, etc., but leave their minds totally unaffected?

In his essay, Mr. Murtaugh links to one of the many attacks on Stephen Jay Gould, THE ACCIDENTAL CREATIONIST: Why Stephen Jay Gould is bad for evolution. (ROBERT WRIGHT, Dec. 13, 1999, The New Yorker), by fellow Darwinists for refusing to follow the theory to its inevitable conclusions, and thereby offering succor to the skeptics. But the entire attack on the Bell Curve seems of a piece with Mr. Gould's apostasy. People, especially on the Left, are so wedded to egalitarianism that their political predispositions force them to deny certain aspects of a science that they otherwise consider nearly sacred, just because certain of its implications challenge their philosophy. Mr. Murtaugh, who is a scientist, says that some of the studies that the book's authors relied on are dubious. Fine. But can anyone explain in any kind of logical manner how it might be possible for human intelligence not to vary one iota from Tierra del Fuego to Kamchatka?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:13 PM


U.S., Britain, Spain Challenge U.N. on Iraq (Fox News, February 24, 2003)
The United States, Great Britain and Spain threw down the gauntlet Monday, drawing up a new resolution for submittal to the U.N. Security Council that declares Iraq in "further material breach" of U.N. resolutions and orders Baghdad to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction.

The document, a copy of which was obtained by Fox News, challenges the Security Council to stick to its guns and not back down from Resolution 1441, which was passed in November and calls for the complete and immediate disarmament of Iraq -- or else.

The resolution, to be presented by Great Britain around 3:30 p.m. EST, refers to "serious consequences," but not to using "all necessary means." It does not include any deadline for compliance.

Most of the resolution refers to previous actions, but it adds two lines of new language: The Security Council "decides that Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it in Resolution 1441," and the Security Council "decides to remain seized of the matter."

One notes that the last three world tyrannies--Napoleonic France, Nazism, and Communism--were defeated by some configuration or another of these three resolution sponsors, with at least two and sometimes all three leading the way.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:55 PM


Saddam Challenges Bush To Debate (CBS News, Feb. 24, 2003)
In an exclusive interview with CBS News Anchor Dan Rather, Saddam Hussein has challenged President George W. Bush to a live, international television and radio debate about the looming war.

Saddam envisions it as being along the lines of U.S. presidential campaign debates. The Iraqi president also flatly denies that his al-Samoud missiles are in violation of United Nations' mandates and indicates he does not intend to destroy them or pledge to destroy them as demanded by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. Blix had set a deadline for at least a promise by this weekend.

I know Saddam Hussein; he's a friend of mine; and he's not even Anne Richards.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:47 PM


Also, last night The Blind Boys of Alabama, in their 64th year of making music together, won for Best Traditional Soul Gospel Album with the excellent Higher Ground, featuring both Ben Harper and Robert Randolph. We particularly suggest you give a listen to The Cross, which was written by Prince.

-Interview: Gospel's Fountain of Youth: Clarence Fountain and the Blind Boys of Alabama (Jeffrey Stringer, Borders)
-REVIEW: of Higher Ground (Russ Breimeier, Christianity Today)
-REVIEW: of Higher Ground (Paul Salfen, Dallas Music Guide)
-REVIEW: of Higher Ground (David Lynch, Austin Chronicle)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:16 PM


For Liberals, It's Morning in America: Shock jocks are the progressive answer to Rush Limbaugh (Marc Fisher, February 21, 2003, Slate)
Talk isn't conservative or liberal. Scratch almost any successful radio talker, and you'll find a former Top 40 DJ who has repurposed his quick-lipped skill at dispensing shreds of meaning, moving from music to talk while remaining in the loyal service of his twin masters—the clock and the spots. Content is secondary. These guys are on the radio because they are storytellers and showmen. Their heroes are not Churchill, JFK, or Reagan but Jean Shepherd, Larry Lujack, and Dan Ingram—the legendary radio yakkers and jocks they listened to as shy boys alone in their rooms.

AM talk—Rush, Dr. Laura, Hannity—targets middle-aged white guys. Surprise: They tend to be conservative. But FM talk—Stern, Joyner, Mancow, Don and Mike in Washington, Tom Leykis in Los Angeles—scores with young men, guys who like their radio on the risqué side, with a bulging menu of sex jokes and a powerful message that this is America and you can do whatever you want. Hint to Democrats: You may not like to admit this, but these are your voters.

Yes, they like it raunchy. Most people listen to radio alone in their cars, where no one needs to be PC, where it's still OK to insult women and minorities and foreigners, and no one has to fear being slapped with a harassment charge. And it's OK to chuckle at that coarse humor and still vote Democratic. The PC brigades may find this hard to believe, but shock jocks do quite well with black listeners and with traditional Democratic demographics, such as college graduates and city dwellers. No, Stern and Don Geronimo and Tom Leykis have no interest whatsoever in having Dick Gephardt on the show, at least not unless he's going to remove his pants. And no, they would say, there's no politics on their shows. (Sabo tells DJs who want to be talk-show hosts: "If the topic is national politics, abortion, gun control, death penalty, religion, race, we have no interest. If the topics are movies, TV, personal relationships, your strong personal feelings, stuff about the workplace—things people under 90 talk about, we'd love to hear your tape.") But even if Stern wannabes don't address abortion directly, their daily diet of searingly intimate conversation with callers hits many of those hot-button issues, and they do it almost unfailingly from a left-libertarian perspective—they are classic social liberals.

Shock jocks are this country's progressive talkers, ranting for hours on end on behalf of civil liberties, sexual freedom, the rights of the little guy against the nation's big corporations and institutions (and—sorry, Dems—against affirmative action). They may not share Limbaugh's fascination with electoral politics, but on the issues that divide this country into red and blue, they are every bit as popular and powerful as the supposedly unchallenged conservatives. Shock jocks talk about sex, television, and what's hot. They talk about what people are talking about, which, if you listen carefully, usually are exactly the same issues that determine how people vote: personal freedom, mores, economic well-being, family, what it's like to be a guy or a woman or an American right now.

Well, yes, if racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-intellectual, small government, war-mongering is progressive, these are indeed the voices of liberal America.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:11 PM


BACK TO THE FUTURE (Ed Driscoll, February 24, 2003)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:03 PM


GOP Committees Rake it In (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker and Steve Chaggaris, 2/24/03, CBS News)
"The three Republican campaign committees far outdistanced their Democratic counterparts fundraising in January," reports Roll Call based on reports just filed with the FEC.

The RNC raised $11 million compared to $2.2 million by the DNC. On the House side, the NRCC raised four times as much as the DCCC, $6.9 million compared to $1.7 million.

On the Senate side, the Republican advantage was 2-to-1, with the NRSC raising $1.2 million and the DSCC having receipts of $698,000. But the Democrats have a $6 million debt from the 2002 cycle compared to the $608,000 debt carried by the NRSC.

Democrats have three "victories" to show for the Bush years: Jim Jeffords; the education bill; and Campaign Finance Reform. The Jeffords majority they used to obstruct a popular president and got buried in November. The education bill is being used to create a de facto voucher system. CFR is going to leave them massively outgunned in 2004. Now they're aiming at a fourth, stopping the Estrada nomination. They're quick learners, eh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


Here's an assignment that was given to Hanover school students:

JOSEF STALIN'S LEGACY: As you read about Russia in the Stalin years, look for both positive and negative ways that Stalin affected the country. It is easier to find ways that he hurt his people, but try and think of things that could have been seen as positive especially from the perspective of Russia's history, values and traditions. Write as many as you can in the spaces below.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM


Special "hunter-killer teams and aircraft would target Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein - and his two evil sons - within 48 hours of the launch of any military campaign, The Post has learned.

The moves would include a series of massive, surgical airstrikes and commando raids in the opening hours of the action. Specially trained operatives would target Saddam, sons Uday and Qusay and other key aides.

Qusay, who heads Saddam's personal Republican Guard unit, has orders to unleash weapons of mass destruction should something happen to his father, according to British intelligence.

Saddam's eldest son, Uday, is said to command Iraq's vicious paramilitary groups in charge of sabotaging infrastructure, such as bridges, and committing atrocities against their country's own civilians to blame on the United States.

In the past, Uday has been accused of personally brutally beating Iraqi Olympic athletes, as well has having ties to terrorists. He also is considered the money man who helps fund Saddam's regime.

Taking the fiendish father and sons out would be part of what U.S. military officials and outside defense analysts say is a bold and radical battle plan for Gulf War II. The plan aims to use exotic new weapons and the full range of U.S. military power in a series of nearly simultaneous air and ground attacks on the citadels of Sadda's power in the opening hours.

A massive intelligence-gathering effort - involving electronic eavesdropping and clandestine contacts with potential Iraqi military moles - has been under way for months to try to track the world's best-protected tyrant. [...]

Defense analysts said the planned massive early thrust into Iraq is designed to end the war quickly without directly taking on its army - and with special care given to avoiding civilian casualties and winning over the local people.

You'd have to think there's a pretty good chance that Saddam will already be dead when we announce the war has begun.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:11 PM


Bush Proposes Major Changes in Health Plans: The president's proposals offer a fundamentally different
vision of social welfare policy, many experts say. (ROBIN TONER and ROBERT PEAR, 2/24/03, NY Times)
President Bush has begun one of the most ambitious efforts to reinvent Medicare and Medicaid since the programs were created 38 years ago. Combined with his earlier plan for Social Security, the proposals offer a fundamentally different vision of social welfare policy, many experts say.

Mr. Bush's proposals for Medicare and Medicaid, taking shape in recent weeks, would transform these pillars of the Great Society and their guarantee of health benefits to the elderly, disabled and poor.

States would have far more power to determine who receives what benefits in the Medicaid program, which covers 45 million low-income Americans. The elderly would rely more on private health plans, and less on the government, for their health benefits under Medicare, which covers 40 million elderly and disabled people.

The administration's vision for Medicare and Social Security moves away from the notion that everyone should be in the same government-managed system with the same benefits. It promises individuals more choices, including the option of picking a private health plan or investing some of their Social Security taxes in the stock market.

But critics say these proposals would also mean less security, fewer guaranteed benefits and more financial risk for beneficiaries.

The magnitude of the Bush proposals is only gradually dawning on members of Congress. Unlike President Bill Clinton and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mr. Bush has not boasted about the boldness of his vision for these programs, perhaps because he is mindful of the voters' anxiety about major changes in health care.

Indeed, a senior administration official dismissed the idea that Mr. Bush was attempting fundamental change in Medicare and Medicaid.

Having proposed and/or effected radical transformations of military doctrine and structure, homeland security, social security, health care, public education, taxation, welfare services, etc., etc., etc., it may be almost time to recognize that George W. Bush isn't the do-nothing moderate his father was, eh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


Norah has a firm grip on the Grammy (NEKESA MUMBI MOODY, 2/24/03, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Some other veteran artists added to bulging trophy cases: bluesman B.B. King won two, for 13 in his career, while Johnny Cash won his 11th and Tony Bennett his 10th-- while soul legend Solomon Burke won his first.

The essential silliness of these awards is amply demonstrated by this being Solomon Burke's first. He's been the greatest soul singer on Earth for forty years and this isn't even a particularly good album. On the other hand, if you've not heard Johnny Cash's latest, at least check out the first two tunes--his own The Man Comes Around and Hurt, a cover of a Nine Inch Nails number--which are so harrowing they're difficult to listen to even as they compel you to recue them. And don't take my word for it, check with our Northern neighbor.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


U.S. Approach on N. Korea Strains Alliances in Asia:The showdown over North Korea's nuclear weapons program is testing Washington's alliances with South Korea and Japan. (HOWARD W. FRENCH, 2/24/03, NY Times)
With little of the clamor generated by preparations for war with Iraq, the showdown between the United States and North Korea over that country's nuclear weapons program is severely testing Washington's oldest Asian alliances.

In recent weeks, senior officials in officially pacifist Japan have spoken of mounting a "pre-emptive strike" against North Korea, if it appeared that the heavily armed Communist state intended to use its ballistic missiles against Japan.

"Our nation will use military force as a self-defense measure if they start to resort to arms against Japan," said Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba.

For many Japanese commentators, Mr. Ishiba's statement was meant to draw attention to the fact that Japan in reality has no strike ability. More than as a credible threat against North Korea, it was intended to influence a debate that has gathered momentum during the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi over giving the country's armed forces, which face sharp constitutional limits on their action, a larger role in the country's defense, and in making Japan a player in international security again.

When Secretary of State Colin L. Powell arrives here on Monday for the inauguration of Roh Moo Hyun as president of South Korea, he will try to narrow differences with a man whose response to tensions with North Korea has been virtually the opposite of Japan's and, if anything, even more radical.

Mr. Roh has given strong indications that he intends to accelerate South Korea's embrace of North Korea, even as the United States looks for ways to ratchet up pressure on North Korea.

To the dismay of Washington, Mr. Roh has spoken in recent weeks of establishing an economic community with North Korea, stepping up trade, aid and investment there, ruling out economic sanctions and military strikes against the country and even of personally "guaranteeing" North Korea's security.

The president-elect said he would replace the current armistice agreement with a treaty between the Koreas in order to ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Nations almost always act in their own perceived interests--what's so strange about that? The more important question is why are people arguing that only the United States should not follow suit and act unilaterally?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Firing Leaflets and Electrons, U.S. Wages Information War: The U.S. military is using an arsenal of electronic and psychological weapons to break the Iraqi military's will to fight and sway Iraqi public opinion. (THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT, 2/24/03, NY Times)
As of last week, more than eight million leaflets had been dropped over Iraq — including towns 65 miles south of Baghdad — warning Iraqi antiaircraft missile operators that their bunkers will be destroyed if they track or fire at allied warplanes. In the same way, a blunt offer has gone to Iraqi ground troops: surrender, and live.

But the leaflets are old-fashioned instruments compared with some of the others that are being applied already or are likely to be used soon.

Radio transmitters hauled aloft by Air Force Special Operations EC-130E planes are broadcasting directly to the Iraqi public in Arabic with programs that mimic the program styles of local radio stations and are more sophisticated than the clumsy preachings of previous wartime propaganda efforts.

"Do not let Saddam tarnish the reputation of soldiers any longer," one recent broadcast said. "Saddam uses the military to persecute those who don't agree with his unjust agenda. Make the decision."

Military planners at the United States Central Command expect to rely on many kinds of information warfare — including electronic attacks on power grids, communications systems and computer networks, as well as deception and psychological operations — to break the Iraqi military's will to fight and sway Iraqi public opinion.

It's great fun listening to doves who think they can still stop the war and hawks who think it's up to them to stiffen W's backbone, even as the operation proceeds as planned.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:55 AM


Looking Back at an Ugly Time: An unchallenged war against the very idea of diversity will
turn us back in the direction of segregation. (Bob Herbert, 2/23/03, NY Times)
There's a reason why so many mainstream individuals and groups, and some of the nation's largest corporations, have filed briefs with the Supreme Court in support of Michigan's effort to save its affirmative-action programs. The United States is a better place after a half-century of racial progress and improved educational opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities, and women.

We have all benefited, and voluntary efforts to continue that progress, including the policies at Michigan, are in the interest of us all.

Justice Lewis Powell, who wrote the controlling opinion in the Bakke case in 1978, eloquently addressed the matter of campus diversity when he said that "a robust exchange of ideas" is of "transcendent value to us all."

An unchallenged right-wing war against the very idea of diversity will turn us back in the direction of the noxious beliefs spewed out by National Review in 1957.

The question is not whether diversity may be valuable for some people or desirable to them, but whether it is in fact a "transcendent value" and should be made compulsory even for those who do not desire it. To start with, no one actually believes that diversity broadly is a transcendent value--no one proposes that white supremacists, paedophiles, cannibals, misogynists, etc. have reserved spots in our universities so that we can all be exposed to a genuine diversity of opinion. In fact, schools have largely headed in the opposite direction, requiring a uniformity of opinion on many issues, lest anyone be offended by thoughts that are "different". Few would find fault with banning Nazism from the classroom, but if the increasing diversity of the student body requires that a shrinking range of opinions be presented--so, for instance, that racial differences on IQ tests, or social effects of immigration, or demographic effects of abortion, or health effects of homosexuality, or similar topics, are considered out of bounds--then it seems fair to ask whether diversity has added something to the educational experience or subtracted something.

The next question is why it is thought helpful to admit people who are objectively unqualified. By this we don't mean that they are inferior per se, but that they have not met the entrance standards that their classmates have met. Here there are two possibilities--one can argue that the standards don't matter and that the diversity itself is more important or one can argue that it is only circumstances that lead to one student meeting the standards and the other not. Both of these are essentially arguments for extreme egalitarianism and they raise the question why not just select student bodies via a random lottery? If you truly believe all people to be equal at their core, then why isn't the heterosexual WASP male who doesn't qualify just as much a victim of his upbringing as the black girl from the ghetto? If you take a less drastic view of nature vs. nurture and argue that but for the disadvantages of their prior education some minority students would be qualified, it seems fair to point out that while this may be true it also implicates character. No one, I don't think, would argue that a person who is innately qualified could not have met admission standards had they prepared themselves better. We can recognize the external reasons why they failed to do so without then turning around and absolving them of any responsibility for this failure. Surely there are many majority students who are in the same boat, but we don't--for good reason--cut them any slack. The effect of this influx of the unqualified has, for obvious reason, been the complete degradation of the grading system in college, inflating average grades to the point where they mean nothing. Here again, we're left to ask whether diversity has in practice improved education or decimated it.

The next argument folks like Mr. Herbert have to fall back on is that it is good simply to have different types of people in every setting, that the sole basis for diversity is skin color or gender or whatever. [This is, of course, an argument that they do not apply to fields where blacks, women and such predominate. Thus they don't propose "improving" the NBA by forcing teams to take white, Latino, or Asian players. They don't propound diversity in women's sports, allowing men to compete for spots on the teams. They don't object--or most don't--to historically black or women's colleges.] In effect they are asking us to judge people solely by the color of their skin (or some other immutable characteristic). But then they also demand that only the judgment they've settled upon be allowed. They ask that we freight race with enormous meaning but that only they be allowed to tell us what the meaning is. Why, for instance, if the very quality of being black is so important is it only reasoinable to mix the races in some government derived proportion? Why might someone not think as different proportion was valid? Why might someone not say that homogeneity was more important, at least in certain areas? From whence do folks like Mr. Herbert receive their wisdom that race is a sufficient reason to admit exactly 10% blacks to the University of Michigan or 4% of Asians to UCLA or 51% women to colleges generally, or whatever arbitrary measures they wish us to accept are transcendent? Regardless, we're left with a system where because we now think it wrong that Student A would not have been admitted to College B in 1930 because of his race, he now must be admitted because of his race. We can bicker about the relative motivations of the two regimes, but all we've done is replace one variant of racism with another.

At the end of the day, it is impossible to accept any of the proffered reasons for diversity and we're left to look at the results in order to discern motives. It seems apparent from that perspective that the point really is to impose a utopian egalitarian vision. It is an attack on ability (which is, unfortunately, unevenly distributed amongst us); on opinions that do not conform to the idea of absolute equality; on elite institutions in and of themselves (so that we today graduate kids from college knowing no more than their grandparents learned in high school); and, in toto, on the very bases of Western Civilization--on the free exchange of ideas, on individual achievement, on character, on responsibility, and on natural hierarchy. It is the levelling wind and it's already bent us too far..

February 23, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM


Unspeakable Conversations (HARRIET McBRYDE JOHNSON, February 16, 2003, NY Times Magazine)
He insists he doesn't want to kill me. He simply thinks it would have been better, all things considered, to have given my parents the option of killing the baby I once was, and to let other parents kill similar babies as they come along and thereby avoid the suffering that comes with lives like mine and satisfy the reasonable preferences of parents for a different kind of child. It has nothing to do with me. I should not feel threatened.

Whenever I try to wrap my head around his tight string of syllogisms, my brain gets so fried it's . . . almost fun. Mercy! It's like ''Alice in Wonderland.''

It is a chilly Monday in late March, just less than a year ago. I am at Princeton University. My host is Prof. Peter Singer, often called -- and not just by his book publicist -- the most influential philosopher of our time. He is the man who wants me dead. No, that's not at all fair. He wants to legalize the killing of certain babies who might come to be like me if allowed to live. He also says he believes that it should be lawful under some circumstances to kill, at any age, individuals with cognitive impairments so severe that he doesn't consider them ''persons.'' What does it take to be a person? Awareness of your own existence in time. The capacity to harbor preferences as to the future, including the preference for continuing to live.

At this stage of my life, he says, I am a person. However, as an infant, I wasn't. I, like all humans, was born without self-awareness. And eventually, assuming my brain finally gets so fried that I fall into that wonderland where self and other and present and past and future blur into one boundless, formless all or nothing, then I'll lose my personhood and therefore my right to life. Then, he says, my family and doctors might put me out of my misery, or out of my bliss or oblivion, and no one count it murder. [...]

In the lecture hall that afternoon, Singer lays it all out. The ''illogic'' of allowing abortion but not infanticide, of allowing withdrawal of life support but not active killing. Applying the basic assumptions of preference utilitarianism, he spins out his bone-chilling argument for letting parents kill disabled babies and replace them with nondisabled babies who have a greater chance at happiness. It is all about allowing as many individuals as possible to fulfill as many of their preferences as possible.

As soon as he's done, I get the microphone and say I'd like to discuss selective infanticide. As a lawyer, I disagree with his jurisprudential assumptions. Logical inconsistency is not a sufficient reason to change the law. As an atheist, I object to his using religious terms (''the doctrine of the sanctity of human life'') to characterize his critics. Singer takes a note pad out of his pocket and jots down my points, apparently eager to take them on, and I proceed to the heart of my argument: that the presence or absence of a disability doesn't predict quality of life. I question his replacement-baby theory, with its assumption of ''other things equal,'' arguing that people are not fungible. I draw out a comparison of myself and my nondisabled brother Mac (the next-born after me), each of us with a combination of gifts and flaws so peculiar that we can't be measured on the same scale.

He responds to each point with clear and lucid counterarguments. He proceeds with the assumption that I am one of the people who might rightly have been killed at birth. He sticks to his guns, conceding just enough to show himself open-minded and flexible. We go back and forth for 10 long minutes. Even as I am horrified by what he says, and by the fact that I have been sucked into a civil discussion of whether I ought to exist, I can't help being dazzled by his verbal facility. He is so respectful, so free of condescension, so focused on the argument, that by the time the show is over, I'm not exactly angry with him. Yes, I am shaking, furious, enraged -- but it's for the big room, 200 of my fellow Charlestonians who have listened with polite interest, when in decency they should have run him out of town on a rail. [...]

When I put the phone down, my argumentative nature feels frustrated. In my mind, I replay the conversation, but this time defend my position.

''He's not exactly a monster. He just has some strange ways of looking at things.''

''He's advocating genocide.''

''That's the thing. In his mind, he isn't. He's only giving parents a choice. He thinks the humans he is talking about aren't people, aren't 'persons.'''

''But that's the way it always works, isn't it? They're always animals or vermin or chattel goods. Objects, not persons. He's repackaging some old ideas. Making them acceptable.''

''I think his ideas are new, in a way. It's not old-fashioned hate. It's a twisted, misinformed, warped kind of beneficence. His motive is to do good.''

''What do you care about motives?'' she asks. ''Doesn't this beneficent killing make disabled brothers and sisters just as dead?''

''But he isn't killing anyone. It's just talk.''

''Just talk? It's talk with an agenda, talk aimed at forming policy. Talk that's getting a receptive audience. You of all people know the power of that kind of talk.''

''Well, sure, but--''

''If talk didn't matter, would you make it your life's work?''

''But,'' I say, ''his talk won't matter in the end. He won't succeed in reinventing morality. He stirs the pot, brings things out into the open. But ultimately we'll make a world that's fit to live in, a society that has room for all its flawed creatures. History will remember Singer as a curious example of the bizarre things that can happen when paradigms collide.''

''What if you're wrong? What if he convinces people that there's no morally significant difference between a fetus and a newborn, and just as disabled fetuses are routinely aborted now, so disabled babies are routinely killed? Might some future generation take it further than Singer wants to go? Might some say there's no morally significant line between a newborn and a 3-year-old?''

''Sure. Singer concedes that a bright line cannot be drawn. But he doesn't propose killing anyone who prefers to live.''

''That overarching respect for the individual's preference for life -might some say it's a fiction, a fetish, a quasi-religious belief?''

''Yes,'' I say. ''That's pretty close to what I think. As an atheist, I think all preferences are moot once you kill someone. The injury is entirely to the surviving community.''

''So what if that view wins out, but you can't break disability prejudice? What if you wind up in a world where the disabled person's 'irrational' preference to live must yield to society's 'rational' interest in reducing the incidence of disability? Doesn't horror kick in somewhere? Maybe as you watch the door close behind whoever has wheeled you into the gas chamber?''

''That's not going to happen.''

In all the discussion of this piece from last week's NY Times Magazine, the most important and ineffably sad point seems to have been mentioned little: Ms Johnson effectively supports Mr. Singer's case. As an atheist she has no belief in the intrinsic value of life and no conception of good and evil, she's forced to fall back on ad hoc definitions. The definition of human that she has chosen, so far as one can tell, is anyone who has been born. So she talks about her fear that disabled infants could come to be treated like fetuses, which is to say not human and therefore disposable. But she assures herself: "He won't succeed in reinventing morality." This ignores the fact that the wholesale killing of fetuses required just such a reinvention of morality, a new definition of who is not human and who is disposable. Nor is even that definition consistently applied--as for instance when someone is charged with murder if they shoot a pregnant woman kill the baby--nor accepted by even a simple majority of society.

If the value of life is to be determined solely by the definitions we choose, as to who's human and who's not, we don't even have any ground to criticize slaveholders, who after all had merely defined blacks as not fully human or the Nazis who believed Jews to be sub-human. And, if we should one day, perhaps under the pressure of rising medical costs, decide that the disabled, the terminal, the extremely elderly, the Alzheimer's ridden, etc., are not what we choose at that moment to define as human, then how can someone who believes in nothing more than definitionalism quarrel with that result? Ms Johnson's subjectivism leaves her with no defense against the subjectivism of the majority.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:03 PM


Chairman's Speech (Judge Evan Wallach of the United States Court of International Trade, 9/21/01, Hughes Hall, Cambridge)
When President Richards invited me to speak here some months past, I had in mind a few words about my personal history at Hughes, and some specific thoughts about how much Cambridge has meant to the cause of freedom. I meant to speak about how England stood alone and undaunted in those dark days of May and June, 1940, as the only bulwark between the free world and the dark night of unending barbarism. Long before we Americans were forced into the affair, even before her empire could effectively rally to the colors, this island held the line; and this small town, with its great university, was at the center of that resistance, providing many of its pilots, much of its intelligence apparatus, and a great deal of its military leadership.

My original thought was to come here to thank you yet again, and to speak about the links forged in that crucible of war which bind us still. As much as those links were forged in war, they were also woven in peace. The warp and woof of that great tapestry are shaded with majestic blues, and running through it as long continuing threads are the blue and white of Hughes Hall.

Those mystic threads join us through space and time with all who have gone before and all the generations yet unborn. This special, gentle quiet place has given us each, as some magical point in our lives, a period to reflect, explore, change and grow. The experience is quite unlike any other.

In my heart, and I dare say in many others', the memories of Hughes Hall and Cambridge are co-joined with a certain almost Platonic ideal of happiness. The opportunity to share those pleasures, recall those days, and to continue and advance them is one not to be lightly foresworn. That opportunity is why, despite the events of September 11, I completed this pilgrimage from New York.

That was before Tuesday, September 11.

On that morning I was talking to my secretary Linda Sue as she prepared coffee. When we heard the first explosion I thought it was a bomb. We were relieved when the television said it was an airplane. It had to be an accident. We watched the second aircraft fly into the WTC. In one second it changed everything. We knew we were at war.

New Yorkers reacted very well. They reminded me so much of Londoners in the Blitz. Our court is exactly a half mile from the WTC. There was no panic. People helped someone when they stumbled, urged one another on, and were kind to strangers. It was as Dickens says, the best of times and the worst of times.

We are much a family, we Americans, a very large, very extended and often very dysfunctional family. When our brothers and sisters come into harm's way we react as does any family; we cry, we grieve, we pray, we hold each other close, and then we go on living.

Make no mistake about it, we will go on. The continental Europeans have a conception of America which has a strong kernel of truth. We are still, somewhat, the vaguely isolationist, happy-go-lucky plough boy who can be insulted by foreign waiters, eucered by a sidewalk grifter, blow his month's pay on a pretty bar girl, and still go home convinced he had a real nice time in the big city.

But when you slap us across the face, we know we've been wronged and it is not in our nature to slap you in return. Rather, our national instinct is to destroy your armies, drive your population into exile, pillage your cities and plow salt into the ground where they stood; in short, to act like Europeans. Then, however, being Americans we pass out chewing gum and foreign aid to help rebuild what we just destroyed.

That baser instinct, however, is fortunately also mitigated by one equally strong which we suckled at the breast of our mother country with the milk of Magna Carta. I refer, of course, to the sanctity of the rule of law. As Edmund Burke said in 1775:

In this character of the Americans a love of freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole...This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies, probably, than in any other people of the earth [because] the people of the colonies are descendants of Englishmen.

We learned our lessons well at your knee. We learned from Entick v. Carrington that though a citizen lives in the rudest hut with no door or window, though the wind may blow through and the rain may pour in, the King of England with all his armies may not pass over his thresh hold without an invitation to enter.

We have taken the rights and liberties of Englishmen and extended them even further. We have enshrined them in a written Constitution, and from time to time, as we have done wrong to individuals and learned our lesson from that wrong doing, we have added additional protections.

We have been attacked by people from one particular part of the world. I am not an Arabist or a scholar of that region's history to any great degree but I think I can say those who planned this attack are mistaken about the United States in many ways. I believe they thought to wound us deeply by attacking our national symbols, and that they viewed the WTC as one such symbol. They thought, I imagine, that as a capitalist state, worshiping the almighty dollar, we would reel back, shaken and demoralized, by the loss of this great temple of Mammon. Truly they mistake us.

We reel back, not at the loss of a building, because bricks and mortar can always be restacked; we usually tear down our great edifices every few decades or so anyway, to construct something larger and more modern. What wounded us, what cut us to our souls, what enraged us beyond the comprehension of these bombers, was the loss of five thousand souls; sons and daughters, moms and dads, firemen, policemen, janitors, bankers, doctors and lawyers. Not just Americans, but Britons, Frenchmen, Germans, Indians, Pakistanis; by they hundreds they died with us in that pyre, five thousand souls swept away on an evil whim. For this we shall not forgive the perpetrators; this we shall never forget. They are sadly mistaken.

If I could say one thing to those attackers and to their followers it would be this:

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits...Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits shall ye know them.

I trust we will not again make the mistake of the Second World War and presume that because an individual or his forefathers came from that region or worships our common God in its way, that he is anything other than someone entitled to mutual rights and mutual respect. There will be no mass roundups based on race, there will be no mass internment camps based on religion. We are not the same people as we were in 1941, and thank God, we are not the same people as those with whom we are at war.

I take some pride, that as a member of the federal judiciary I have taken an oath to do equal justice to all who come before me, and I have great confidence that not only shall we honor that oath, but that the executive branch will equally honor its obligation to protect the rights of those who reside within our nation whatever their race or religion. If restrictions there are, and there will be, if some limitations arise on the freedom from government interference with our ability to travel, and there will be, they will be applied equally. If individual officials make mistakes simply because of someone's color or creed, we will correct those mistakes as quickly as possible and apologize for the error. We will all face the burden together, we shall spread it as fairly as possible, and we shall bear it with quiet determination and good humor, for we are at war.

Make no mistake about it, we are at war. It is a different war than those of the recent past, and we Americans tend to be so forward looking that we confine our vision only to the front, but there is historical precedent for what we are about to do. When our nation was still in its infancy we fought an undeclared war with your neighbors across the Channel, we sent our young navy to the Mediterranean to battle the corsairs of Barbary, and over the years we have chased bandits and pirates beyond our borders whenever our national interest required it. Often, and for many decades, we shared that job with the Royal Navy.

I cannot, in this English language, say anything about the endeavor upon which we now embark in any way better than my hero who led your fight for civilization in the last world war. Let me quote from two speeches by Mr. Churchill:

There shall be no halting or half measures, there shall be no compromise or parley. These gangs of bandits have sought to darken the light of the world; have sought to stand between the common people and their inheritance. They shall themselves be cast into the pit of death and shame, and only when the earth has been cleansed and purged of their crimes and villainy shall we turn from the task they have forced upon us, a task which we were reluctant to undertake, but which we shall now most faithfully and punctiliously discharge.

We do not war primarily with races as such. Tyranny is our foe, whatever trappings or disguise it wears, whatever language it speaks, be it external or internal, we must forever be on our guard, ever mobilized, ever vigilant, always ready to spring at its throat. In this, we march together.

In this indeed, I know, we shall march together. In this indeed I know we shall triumph.

It is to that triumph, to the triumph of the human spirit, to the triumph of freedom of thought and expression and belief, to the triumph of justice seasoned with mercy and force restrained by law, to all the freedoms and ideals so keenly represented by this great university, and most particularly by this dear and beloved college, to the international friendship and ties for which Hughes Hall so clearly stands, to all our professors, tutors, staff and graduates, and to the continuation and growth of our traditions of excellence and kindness that I ask you now to raise your glasses.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Hughes Hall Society.

I know we're not supposed to question each others patriotism and stuff, but it's difficult to read that and not think that anyone who doesn't believe its words simply is not an American.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 PM


Laura Bush doth protest too much (Jeff Guinn, Feb. 15, 2003, Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram)
And just what, exactly, did Laura Bush expect?

When the first lady announced a Feb. 12 White House symposium honoring poets Langston Hughes, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, that trio of honorees included two avowed social radicals and one closet disdainer of government. Among the modern-day poets invited to be part of the program were Sam Hamill, an outspoken pacifist, and Galway Kinnell, whose resume includes both a Pulitzer Prize and prominent 1960s and '70s opposition to U.S. war policies in Vietnam.

President George W. Bush is about to lead the nation into war with Iraq, though opinion polls indicate there's growing public opposition to such an act. In both modern and ancient history, there's a tradition of poets, playwrights and authors leading protests against war. [...]

Had the event been held as scheduled, though, Kinnell believes the three or four poets who agreed to host the program would have stuck to the White House agenda of reading some works by Whitman, Dickinson and Hughes and discussing their lives.

"Somewhere along the line, a question about the war might have come up, but it would not have been the travesty that the Laura Bush reaction made it appear it would be," Kinnell said. "It's very unlikely the day would have turned into a rant of anti-war poems."

Kinnell says he turned down the invitation to participate because, "from one point of view, what Laura Bush is doing with literary symposiums is a good thing. But I also think these literary events are an attempt to put a human face on the Bush administration and its questionable policies, and I can't separate that." [...]

A side benefit, Morrow said he hopes, will be "reminding people of the force poetry can have, causing them to read it a little bit more."

Here are a couple of things Mrs. Bush might have expected: (1) that poets, having been summoned to an event to celebrate their betters, might not choose to turn the event into a solipsistic wallow; (2) that they might have decent manners, and not try to embarrass their hosts. That she should have known better is amply demonstrated by the comment of Mr. Kinnell, who apparently thinks the Bush administration is not "human", but that poets are and by Mr. Morrow's belief that this will get people to read more poetry.

President Bush's new head of the National Endowment for the Arts happens to be a poet, Dana Gioia, who has famously (infamously if you're a left-wing poet) asked: Can Poetry Matter?. In his essay he suggested that the world of poetry has become an insular subculture that no longer interacts with the larger society. This little contretemps with the White House perfectly illustrates the point. Given an opportunity, with White House imprimatur, to celebrate poetry, these poets sought instead to turn the event into a denunciation of the American government and people, who contrary to the author's assertion, support the coming war in record numbers. Little wonder then that so few of us think modern poetry is intended for our ears, but is instead the mental onanism of an effete, ivory-towered, intellectual elite.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 AM


Why Saddam will never disarm: the Iraqi leader is prepared to go to any lengths to hold on to his deadly weapons (William Shawcross, February 23, 2003, The Observer)
Saddam's obsession with his WMD has deep roots at home as well as abroad. First, he sees the threat of such weapons as a means of internal control over the 60 per cent of Iraqis who are Shia. The use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in 1998 taught the Shia the dangers of revolt. In 1999 a Shia revolt in the town of Najaf was crushed by Saddam's security forces accompanied by troops in white uniforms wearing gas masks. People were terrified that Saddam was about to gas them - with the weapons that Saddam denies having and for which the UN is still vainly searching. The Shia have been mostly cowed since.

WMD also helps to keep the regular armed forces in line, according to Amatzia Baram, of the Saban Centre at the Brookings Institution in Washington. They are controlled by the Special Security Organisation, which is loyal to Saddam. This serves as a counterweight to the regular army, whose officers Saddam does not trust. The army knows his ultimate power lies elsewhere.

Abroad, the benefits seem even more obvious. Saddam believes that Iraq's victory over Iran in 19[8]8 was largely to do with Iraq's massive use of chemical weapons. He also believes that that was one of the principal reasons the Allies did not march on Baghdad in 1991. Watching the stand-off with North Korea he may have concluded that only nuclear weapons provide an unassailable deterrent.

His third incentive is his desire to become the unquestioned leader of the Arab world. His failure to seize Kuwait's oil resources in 1991 convinced him that nuclear weapons were essential. With nuclear weapons he would feel able to confront Israel in a spectacular way.

Saddam apologists here in the West tend to make a big production out of the idea that he's a secularist, a Ba'Athist, rather than an Islamicist, and so can not ever work with the likes of al Qaeda and should not be considered part and parcel of the war on terror. In his excellent profile of Saddam, Mark Bowden demonstrated why this logic is faulty, and dangerous, Tales of the Tyrant:
What does Saddam want? By all accounts, he is not interested in money. This is not the case with other members of his family. His wife, Sajida, is known to have gone on million-dollar shopping sprees in New York and London, back in the days of Saddam's good relations with the West. Uday drives expensive cars and wears custom-tailored suits of his own design. Saddam himself isn't a hedonist; he lives a well-regulated, somewhat abstemious existence. He seems far more interested in fame than in money, desiring above all to be admired, remembered, and revered. A nineteen-volume official biography is mandatory reading for Iraqi government officials, and Saddam has also commissioned a six-hour film about his life, called The Long Days, which was edited by Terence Young, best known for directing three James Bond films. Saddam told his official biographer that he isn't interested in what people think of him today, only in what they will think of him in five hundred years. The root of Saddam's bloody, single-minded pursuit of power appears to be simple vanity. [...]

Each time Saddam has escaped death-when he survived, with a minor wound to his leg, a failed attempt in 1959 to assassinate Iraqi President Abd al-Karim Qasim; when he avoided the ultimate punishment in 1964 for his part in a failed Baath Party uprising; when he survived being trapped behind Iranian lines in the Iran-Iraq war; when he survived attempted coups d'etat; when he survived America's smart-bombing campaign against Baghdad, in 1991; when he survived the nationwide revolt after the Gulf War-it has strengthened his conviction that his path is divinely inspired and that greatness is his destiny. Because his world view is essentially tribal and patriarchal, destiny means blood. So he has ordered genealogists to construct a plausible family tree linking him to Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad. Saddam sees the prophet less as the bearer of divine revelation than as a political precursor-a great leader who unified the Arab peoples and inspired a flowering of Arab power and culture. The concocted link of bloodlines to Muhammad is symbolized by a 600-page hand-lettered copy of the Koran that was written with Saddam's own blood, which he donated a pint at a time over three years. It is now on display in a Baghdad museum.

If Saddam has a religion, it is a belief in the superiority of Arab history and culture, a tradition that he is convinced will rise up again and rattle the world. His imperial view of the grandeur that was Arabia is romantic, replete with fanciful visions of great palaces and wise and powerful sultans and caliphs. His notion of history has nothing to do with progress, with the advance of knowledge, with the evolution of individual rights and liberties, with any of the things that matter most to Western civilization. It has to do simply with power. To Saddam, the present global domination by the West, particularly the United States, is just a phase. America is infidel and inferior. It lacks the rich ancient heritage of Iraq and other Arab states. Its place at the summit of the world powers is just a historical quirk, an aberration, a consequence of its having acquired technological advantages. It cannot endure.

In a speech this past January 17, the eleventh anniversary of the start of the Gulf War, Saddam explained, "The Americans have not yet established a civilization, in the deep and comprehensive sense we give to civilization. What they have established is a metropolis of force ... Some people, perhaps including Arabs and plenty of Muslims and more than these in the wide world ... considered the ascent of the U.S. to the summit as the last scene in the world picture, after which there will be no more summits and no one will try to ascend and sit comfortably there. They considered it the end of the world as they hoped for, or as their scared souls suggested it to them."

Arabia, which Saddam sees as the wellspring of civilization, will one day own that summit again. When that day comes, whether in his lifetime or a century or even five centuries hence, his name will rank with those of the great men in history. Saddam sees himself as an established member of the pantheon of great men-conquerors, prophets, kings and presidents, scholars, poets, scientists. It doesn't matter if he understands their contributions and ideas. It matters only that they are the ones history has remembered and honored for their accomplishments.

This derangement makes it obvious that Saddam need not be a believing Muslim in order to be one of the most dangerous men in the Islamic world and a de facto ally of Islamicism.

Saddam Hussein breathes fear, lives in fear, deals in fear (RICK MONTGOMERY, 2/23/03, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 AM


Libertarians challenge Bush to answer 10 questions before going to war with Iraq (Libertarian Party Online, February 20, 2003)
The Libertarian Party is challenging President Bush to answer 10 simple, but important, questions about his policy of waging war against Iraq.

From what we hear, the President is too busy these days to answer every quarrelsome interrogatory from every marginal group in America, so we'll give it a shot (the LP's questions are indented):
(1) Isn't it possible that invading Iraq will cause more terrorism than it prevents?

Of course, it's possible. But here's what we know for sure: al Qaeda considers Saddam's retention of power after the 19991 war too have been a victory for Islam over the West and one in a series of such triumphs that they use as a recruiting tool because it shows their jihad is "winning".
(2) If Saddam is really a threat to the Middle East, why do his neighbors seem to fear him less than the U.S. government does?

We don't fear him, his own people do. Soon they won't have to.
(3) Why do you maintain that Iraq poses a more immediate threat than North Korea?

It's not--we'll deal with N. Korea next, but we happen to have already moved our forces to the Gulf. Presumably, having acknowledged the North Korean threat, you'll be on board for the pre-emptive strikes there?
(4) Why do you believe a U.S.-led "regime change" will do any more good in Iraq than it did in Panama, Haiti, or Bosnia?

Do any of those nations sponsor terrorism?
(5) You say Saddam has refused to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors. Does that mean that you intend to subject Americans to U.N. mandates in the future?

No, only our enemies.
(6) You point out that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that "could" be turned over to terrorists. But couldn't the same be said of Pakistan, North Korea, and dozens of other nations? And do you intend to launch pre-emptive strikes against them as well?

Yes, if necessary to protect American security.
(7) Won't attacking Iraq make Saddam more likely to launch a biological or chemical attack?

Yes, if he can and I'm glad you acknowledge that inspections have done nothing to deprive him of WMD. However, the universal mantra of those who oppose the war, that Saddam will launch WMD if he has nothing left to lose, suggests that he might do so if he were diagnosed with cancer--are you willing to risk our safety on the health status of an aging crackpot?
(8) Considering that many of the September 11 hijackers were Saudi nationals - not Iraqis - why haven't you publicly accused the Saudi government of sponsoring terrorism?

Because they weren't sponsored by the Saudi government?
(9) Why have you stopped mentioning the name of the one individual who has been most closely linked to the 9/11 attacks: Osama bin Laden?

He's dead.
(10) Finally, Mr. President, if your Iraq policy is so successful, why are Americans more afraid than ever?

Because we're going to be vulnerable to anti-Western terrorism until those regimes and terrorist organizations that perpetrate it are annihilated.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


BOOKNOTES: Freedom: A History of US by Joy Hakim (C-SPAN, February 23, 2003)

-ESSAY: 'Freedom' tells America's storied past (Dusty Saunders, January 4, 2003, Rocky Mountain News)

Producer Philip Kunhardt, responsible for numerous PBS historical documentaries (Lincoln, The American Presidents and Echoes From the White House) has been thinking of the "freedom theme'' since his 1992 production of Lincoln. [...]

One hour, dealing with the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is "a very important example of how civil liberties came under duress during times of national problems," according to Kunhardt. "This has been one of our recurrent problems."

An hour?

-Freedom: A History of US (PBS)
-BOOK SITE: Freedom: A History of US: The companion volume to a major 8-part PBS series hosted by Katie Couric (OUP)
-Meet the Writers: Joy Hakim: Biography (Barnes & Noble)
-LECTURE: Remarks by Joy Hakim (Upon Receipt Of The 1997 Michener Prize In Writing)
-ESSAY: Joy Hakim Should Not Write About the History of Europe (Alice Whealey, Textbook League)
-ESSAY: Textbook-Writers Promote Religious Tales as "History" (Earl Hautala, Textbook League)
-ESSAY: A History of US subjects students to religious indoctrination (Textbook League)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 AM


On Mars, Curveballs become Screwballs (Robert Roy Britt, 21 February 2003, Space.com)
If a baseball team traveled to Mars for an interplanetary away game, shortstops and second basemen would become instant sluggers, benefiting from the reduced gravity and thinner air.

And according to a new study, pitchers might find their curveballs behaving like screwballs. The reverse behavior would owe to Mars' practically nonexistent atmosphere and the complex "fluid dynamics" that make a spinning ball curve. [...]

Here's how a curveball works, again looking at it all from above:

A spinning object creates a whirlpool of air around it. On the left side of a curveball, this whirlpool is moving in the same direction as wind that's zipping past the ball, generating increased air speed. On the right side, the whirlpool opposes the oncoming wind, slowing it down.

As any airplane wing designer knows, faster-moving air means less pressure (wings are designed to make air move more quickly over the top, thus providing lift). With our curveball, the left side experiences less pressure than the right side, pulling the pitch to the left.

The phenomenon is called Magnus force.

In thin air, however, the whole whirlpool process breaks down if the distance a molecule must travel to hit another molecule is greater than the diameter of the spinning object. In this case, another process governs the ball's movement.

Now, sans a whirlpool, our intended curve ball interacts directly with incoming air.

"The side of the ball facing the incoming gas molecules will deflect these in the direction given by the rotation," researcher Hanno Essen, of Stockholm University, explained in an e-mail interview. "The ball will therefore (according to the law of action and reaction) tend in the opposite direction." Meaning the molecules go left, the ball goes right.

Those of us of a certain age can still recall teachers telling us that the break of a baseball was nothing more than an optical illusion, that it was physically impossible for it to actually curve in flight. So, when he was, all too briefly, Commissioner of Baseball, Bart Giammatti got a fellow Yale Professor, Robert Kemp Adair, to write a terrific little book about the The Physics of Baseball. It created kind of a cottage industry among physicists/baseball fans and made more than one of us want to hunt down an old teacher and say: Told you so!

-The Crack-of-the-Bat: The Acoustics of the Bat Hitting the Ball (Robert Kemp Adair, Yale University, Presented Friday afternoon, June 8, 2001, 141st ASA Meeting, Chicago, IL)
-AUDIO: Bats, Balls and the Wind (The Weather Notebook)
-Fastball Feats: The Split-Second Act of Putting Bat on Ball (Paul Recer, The Associated Press)
-The Physics of Baseball (Alan Nathan)
-Baseball HR Simulator
-The Physics of Ball on Bat (Ned Rozell, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks)
-The Physics of Baseballs: Foul Ball?: Unraveling the mystery of why it's so easy to hit a home run (Curtis Rist, May 2001, Discover)
-Science of Baseball (Exploratorium)
-Physicist Maps Bat's Sweet Spot (Kenneth Chang, 9/08/98, ABCNEWS.com)
-Playball (Beyond 2000)
-Batspeed.com: offers over 50 detailed pages covering the latest research in baseball and softball hitting mechanics
-Beyond the Physics of Baseball (Don Malcolm, Baseball Primer)
-How To Neuter Coors: Taking the pop out of baseball's highest-scoring park. (John Pastier, July 5, 2002, Slate)
-REVIEW: of The Physics of Baseball (Michael J. Mehl)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


Strange world awaits Bantus in metro area (MARK BIXLER, 02/23/03, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Sometime this spring, in cities around the United States, the first of nearly 12,000 African refugees will step off airplanes and into a modern world as alien and strange as the bottom of the ocean. They will come with hopes of work, education and safety, at last, from a legacy of persecution.

They are Somali Bantus, a people devastated by massacre and rape after Somalia crumbled into civil war in 1991. Thousands left rural homes for refugee camps in Kenya. They have languished there for the last dozen years. Now the United States is opening its doors to the Bantus in one of the most ambitious and complex refugee resettlement initiatives in recent years. [...]

They will come in need of more help than most refugees. Few speak English. Many cannot read or write even in their native language. Only in the last few months have most seen telephones, flush toilets and clocks, in classes on American culture at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, on the sweltering plain of northwest Kenya. Some saw a bathtub for the first time and asked whether it was some sort of boat, said Sasha Chanoff, who coordinates the classes for the International Organization for Migration.

"They really don't have any exposure to modern development," he said.

The Bantus are descended from natives of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania who were enslaved and taken to Somalia in the 1800s. They eventually won freedom but remained frequent victims of discrimination. They performed menial jobs and lacked political power and access to education. The Bantus also lacked clan affiliation, which made them easy prey for all sides in Somalia's civil war.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees sought to resettle the Bantus in one of their ancestral homes, Mozambique, but that plan fell through in 1997. Two years later, the State Department recognized the Bantus as a group eligible for resettlement on humanitarian grounds. [...]

There are various groups of Bantus, but the ones coming to the United States are those who volunteered to go to Mozambique in 1997. Nearly all belong to a Bantu branch called the Mushunguli. They were subsistence farmers who shunned society. Other Somalis sometimes refer to them with derogatory terms such as jareer, which refers to the characteristic kinky hair of Bantus, gosha, a Somali term for "forest dweller" and adoon, which means "slave."

That puts resettlement agencies in a tricky spot. They need Somali-speaking caseworkers but must find staffers able to give even-handed treatment.

Our racist past offers fertile soil for those who wish to revile America, but it says pretty much all you need to know about us that where African nations won't take in these folk, we are. And, in February 2021, you'll be reading about how a child from this group is valedictorian of her high school and is headed to Harvard.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


The French Lesson (ReGIS DeBRAY, February 23, 2003, NY Times)
In the year 212, Emperor Caracalla granted citizenship to all free men in the Roman Empire. Emboldened by that precedent, a friend of mine, a former high French official, once asked a president of the United States to treat Europeans as compatriots. It was an agreeable fantasy; only vassals were wanted.

For the current trans-Atlantic crisis to be defused, the White House would do well to steer between those extremes and to treat its European allies as what they are - citizens of independent states, each with an idiosyncratic history and geography. That approach would spare us many a useless bout of hysteria as the Security Council this week considers Iraq. To each its own geopolitics.

Eight out of 10 Europeans on the street agree with the French-German position, and the governments of Britain, Spain, Italy, et al., have cut themselves off from public opinion. In confronting that awkwardness, the United States has chosen France as its scapegoat. Not having any training as a satellite state, unlike the countries of Eastern Europe, France has assumed the right to judge for itself (despite a number of elites firmly in the American camp).

Holy incoherence, Batman! First he asks to be subsumed into the American Empire and granted American citizenship. Then he starts prattling about how Europeans want to be independent. Then he apparently writes Vichy France out of existence, that unfortunate episode when the proud French made themselves a satellite of Nazi Germany. Does anyone edit the Times?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Iraq unbound:You don't picture amusement parks, free elections and a (mostly) free press in the nation of Saddam Hussein. But that's reality in the 12-year-old Kurdish autonomous zone, reports (STEPHANIE NOLEN, Feb. 22, 2003, Globe & Mail)
In a smoky coffee shop in the Kurdish town of Salahuddin, two dozen men sat around a big-screen TV last weekend, watching the footage from peace demonstrations all over the world. And scowling.

"No war with Iraq?" one elderly man hissed. "What do those people know about war? They should spend five minutes as a Kurd. That would change their minds."

The men around him -- dressed in the traditional baggy trousers, cummerbund and turban of Kurdish warriors, or peshmerga -- all nodded in agreement. "So they say 'no war,' " another man said. "They made this regime, but now they do not want to fix the mess they made."

These days, people here in the Kurdish self-rule area of northern Iraq keep their TVs tuned to Fox News. The hawkish American news channel is right in sync with Kurdish sentiment.

You mean they don't watch Donahue, Chris Matthews and Pat Buchanan on the America First channel?

February 22, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM


BBC viewers vent their anger at 'anti-US' bias of Iraq coverage (David Bamber and Chris Hastings, 23/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
The BBC has received an unprecedented number of complaints at the alleged anti-war and anti-American tone of its coverage of the Iraqi crisis.

More than 400 viewers have rung the corporation in the past few weeks to complain that it has shown overwhelming bias. It is one of the largest reactions from viewers ever recorded.

One programme to attract opprobrium was the screening of a debate on Newsnight two weeks ago in which Tony Blair was savaged by an overwhelmingly anti-war audience. A Panorama programme on the crisis three weeks ago, which featured very few speakers in favour of military action, also provoked a hostile reaction.

Viewers have complained that BBC interviews with "ordinary Iraqis" in Baghdad routinely fail to point out that they risk death if they criticise Saddam Hussein. Many others have been incensed by BBC journalists seeming to add personal comment to their reports that is openly opposed to American policy and a possible war.

Some viewers were angered about a piece by Angus Roxburgh, the BBC's Brussels correspondent, on the BBC website on February 12, which was headlined: "Europe's new gang resists US 'bullying' ". He wrote: "President Bush's attitude has reminded Russians of the bad old days when American presidents branded Russia the axis of evil."

Yes, well, if the BBC still can't accept that communism was evil they're hardly going to believe that Saddam is, are they?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:47 PM


Apologia for Evil (Rod Dreher, January 27, 2003, Breakpoint)
I try to do right by my wife. I make a decent living, which provides a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food on our table. I do my best to be caring, thoughtful, and dependable. Though he¹s only three years old, our son shows her love as best he can. "I love you," he tells her all the time. We're not the Cleaver family, but all in all, things seem to be going pretty well at our house.

Now that I've seen The Hours, though, I know that if she were to decide one day, out of nowhere, to walk out on the boy and me . . . well, life is like that. The heart wants what it wants, and nobody has any business judging her. She¹s just doing what she has to to be happy.

The Hours is a feminist movie that has been praised to the skies by critics, took home some major Golden Globe awards, and is expected to do well in upcoming Academy Award nominations. I think the movie is pure poison, and am going to tell you why (warning: Major spoilers ahead). Then again, Gloria Steinem figured I'd react that way.

In a Los Angeles Times essay lauding the film, Steinem wrote, "Some male moviegoers emerged bewildered about why Laura wasn't happy with just her nice
house, nice marriage, and nice son

Well, call me a caveman, but yes, I did wonder why Laura (Julianne Moore), a 1950s suburban housewife with a loving husband and a small boy who adores
her, was made so miserable by her existence that she came close to killing herself, even though she was pregnant, and ultimately abandoned her husband and two young children to run off to Canada. It's telling that Steinem, who probably still thinks the National Organization for Women speaks for the entire female population, assumes that all women naturally understand Laura's decision (guess what, they don't).

To sharpen the point, it's not that Laura's unhappiness is hard to grasp, though she never talks to her nice-guy husband, or anybody else, about what she¹s
feeling. The objectionable thing is the film's view that Laura owed nothing to her husband and children, not even an explanation, and that her pursuit of happiness should trump everything else

That's the philosophical heart of this film: Individual happiness is the highest good in anyone's life, and brave are those who have the courage to put personal
fulfillment above any other entanglement. The Hours is a fairytale for contemporary narcissists. No wonder Hollywood loves it so.

Mr. Dreher, even with all that, is more charitable than we were to the book.

Pathos or Bathos? (Claudia Winkler, January 24, 2003, Weekly Standard)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:02 PM


Notes of faith: Gospel choirs gain popularity in public schools (Colette M. Jenkins, Feb. 15, 2003, Akron Beacon Journal)
Gospel music is a source of inspiration and hope for Sarah Miller.

"I feel something way beyond the music,'' the Buchtel High School senior says. "It encourages me and strengthens my faith in God through its messages.''

Miller is among the students making up a growing number of gospel choirs in public schools, colleges and universities. In addition to bringing inspiration to audiences, the choirs have brought cultural renewal and fellowship to many of those who participate.

While the choirs primarily attract African-Americans and Christians, members of other faith groups and ethnic backgrounds also participate. (One local choir director remembers an atheist who joined the choir and later became a Christian.)

We had a gospel chorus at our elementary school (which I was the only white person in) and we used to go on field trips to sing at churches in Newark. Hard to believe folks can still do so without the ACLU getting its panties in a twist.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Hispanic nominee terrifies Democrats (Ruben Navarrette Jr., 2/13/2003, Boston Globe)
[W]ho's afraid of Miguel Estrada?

Why Senate Democrats, of course. Why else would they have come out with guns blazing, turning the routine process of confirming an appellate court judge into a shootout at the O.K. Corral? With the exceptions of Justice Clarence Thomas and a few others, most Supreme Court nominations didn't even send this much lead flying.

In threatening to filibuster the nomination, Democrats accuse Estrada of being an inexperienced ''stealth nominee'' whose views on hot-button issues are still unknown despite their best attempts to drag them out. And yet, at the same time, they seem confident that his views -- if they were known -- would be too extreme for most Americans.

Huh? You can't fault Democrats for the doubletalk. If they told you the truth, you'd lose what little respect you have left for them.

The truth is that Democrats want to make an example of Miguel Estrada, whose appointment to the bench could make Hispanic voters look more favorably on the Bush administration. They also want to send a message to the White House that when it comes to confirming federal judges, there are some things they simply will not tolerate. Apparently at the top of the list: Independent-minded Hispanic hotshots who don't go around thanking liberals for everything that the nominees have accomplished on their own. [...]

Of course, Democrats insist their opposition to Estrada has nothing to do with the fact that he is Hispanic. But that claim has nothing to do with reality. While it may not be fair to suggest Democrats are opposing Estrada just because he is Hispanic, it would be naive to think that they would oppose him as aggressively as they have if he were not Hispanic. [...]

If Estrada makes it onto the appellate court -- despite the best efforts of Senate Democrats to prevent it -- Hispanics might ask what the party of Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy has done for them lately.

That question--"What have you done for us lately?"--must give Terry McAuliffe night terrors, especially since even Donna Brazile has started to ask it aloud.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM


A Nation Bound by Faith: Of all its national traits, America's religiosity is probably the most baffling-and infuriating-for the rest of the world. Where does it come from? Why do Americans think they're on the side of right? And why it will not go away (Dirk Johnson, 2/24/03, NEWSWEEK)
When it comes to matters of might and right, Americans look to the heavens in a way that bewilders much of the rest of the world-especially Europe. A majority of Americans say religion shapes their lives, and it clearly shapes politics. Regular churchgoers are far more likely to vote Republican than Democratic, according to polls, and it's well known that the religious right is the Bush administration's political base. The president himself sometimes sounds like the nation's commander in the pulpit. His State of the Union address last month repeatedly invoked divine power, declaring confidence in "the loving God behind all of life and all of history." "May He guide us now," George W. Bush beseeched. [...]

According to polls, 80 percent of Americans say a belief in God shapes their views. Conservative, evangelical churches have seen strong growth across the country in recent years, while more liberal denominations struggle to fill their pews. A popular wristband reads wwjd, or "What would Jesus do?" Many Americans today want prayer in schools and sex-education campaigns to consist solely of teaching abstinence. The Boy Scouts of America excludes gays and atheists. Pro-football players point to the heavens in gratitude for scoring a touchdown, then praise Jesus in post game television interviews. [...]

Americans tend to see their country as being on the side of mercy and righteousness. What is good for America, the thinking goes, is good for the rest of the world, whether it realizes it or not.

This notion of American exceptionalism was the underpinning of Manifest Destiny, the mid-19th-century idea that America had a right and duty to extend its reach of power. The self-image of benevolence, with regard to international affairs, was burnished by America's role in the two world wars of the 20th century. Given that -Americans sent millions of men to fight tyranny in Europe, and then helped rebuild war-ravaged nations, the voices of pacifism coming from the Continent ring painfully hollow.

Many Americans agree with the White House that the looming war with Iraq is a battle against tyranny, a righteous act of liberating an oppressed people. "When Americans see a picture of a woman who is suffering, they say simply, `I want to help'," says Zainab Salbi, a 33-year-old Iraqi immigrant who founded Women for Women in Washington. "This is not something I see in the rest of the world." The flip side of that generosity, she adds, is the sometimes naive view that America "can fix everything-and always knows what's best." Benevolent or arrogant, perhaps some of both, Americans are praying for peace in the eleventh hour. But their faith may also bring them war.

Perhaps this is a case where arrogance and benevolence are intertwined. Confucius said: To see the right and not to do it is cowardice. Maybe it's just American self-confidence, even overweening self-confidence, that gives us a foolhardy courage to at least try and do the right thing?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 AM


HYMIETOWN REDUX (NY Post, February 22, 2003)
When Manhattan Democrat Robert Jackson was asked on a radio talk show Thursday why an anti-war resolution is foundering in the City Council - only 12 of its 51 members are on board - he had an immediate answer.

He blamed the Jews.

"New York City is the home away from home for most Jews," said the freshman legislator, "and this is seen by many members of the Jewish community as a resolution that will go against [President] Bush and, in the long run, will not be in the best interests of the state of Israel."

According to Jackson, several of his council colleagues have been intimidated into silence by the pro-Israel crowd: "They've expressed concern," he said, "and I think that that is an issue."

Indeed, he warned ominously, "people are not talking about this" - "this" being the fact that "this whole issue" of support for Israel, along with post-9/11 sentiment, "is what's tying up this resolution."

So there you have it: Not only do the Jews run New York City, but they've cowed their opponents into silence.

The prevalence of such attitudes in black America makes it suicidal for the Democrats to nominate Joe Lieberman.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Chirac is 'uniting world', says Mugabe (Alex Duval Smith, 22 February 2003, Independent)
Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, and his wife, Grace, left their five-star Paris hotel last night at the end of the France-Africa summit, praising French hospitality and President Jacques Chirac's role in "uniting the world. "We've had tremendous hospitality, we felt at home," said Mr Mugabe, who woke up yesterday, his 79th birthday, in the palatial Plaza Athenee hotel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM


The George W. Diet: Lose unsightly pounds by eating like a pig. (Michael Kinsley, February 20, 2003, Slate)
[T]his is essentially the logic adopted by the Bush administration and the Republican congressional leadership to rationalize turning the federal budget surplus back into huge deficits...[t]hey say that deficits are actually a good thing--despite what you may have heard from Ronald Reagan and almost every Republican before and since--because deficits create pressure for smaller government. "Conservatives Now See Deficits as a Tool to Fight Spending" was the headline on a recent New York Times article quoting a slew of them--including the chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, Glenn Hubbard.

This line of patter started a couple of years ago, when Bush inherited a budget in surplus. There is some sense in the idea that a surplus stimulates appetites and that prudence suggests giving the money back before it gets spent. But "giving back" money you don't have turns prudence on its head.

Back in the 1980s, liberals used to suspect that Reagan was up to something similar--purposely producing a deficit to discredit the government--and would leap with a great "aha" on any Reaganite remark half-implying as much. Today, what used to be the ulterior motive has become the public excuse. The Bushies apparently would rather be thought of as insanely Machiavellian than as shamefully irresponsible.

In case the chief White House economist, the House majority leader (Tom DeLay), and others actually believe in this magical fairy dust, we'd better explain patiently why it is unlikely to succeed. You see, boys and girls, the trouble with spending is that it costs money. If the government could spend money it doesn't have without running up debts that have to be paid back (with interest), there would be little reason to object. So running up those debts in order to reduce spending is a bit self-defeating.

This reminded us of a quote from Macaulay's History of England:
At every stage of the growth of the debt the nation has set up the same cry of anguish and despair....[After the Napoleonic Wars] the funded debt of
England...was in truth a fabulous debt; and we can hardly wonder that the cry of despair should have been louder than ever. Yet like Addison's valetudinarian, who continued to whimper that he was dying of consumption till he became so fat that he was shamed into silence, [England] went on complaining that she was sunk in poverty till her wealth showed itself by tokens which made her complaints ridiculous....The beggared, the bankrupt society not only proved able to meet all its obligations, but while meeting these obligations, grew richer and richer so fast that the growth could almost be discerned by the eye.

Sure it would be nice to have a government so small we could pay for it again, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. But the complaint, heard from Republicans until Ronald Reagan's deficits and corresponding economic boom proved it to be ridiculous, that running a deficit has any appreciable effect on the health of a society, is by now so outmoded as to seem like hypochondriacal raving, as it does here from Mr. Kinsley. It should suffice to point out that here, in the midst of what may come to be called the Fourth World War, the total government debt is $6.4 trillion, with a GDP of over $10 trillion--let's call it about 65% of GDP. By comparison, the debt rose above GDP during the Second World War (and the debt Mr. Macauly was reffering to was three times GDP), yet Republicans were denied control of Congress for sixty years when they called for balancing the budget. Democrats are more than welcome to this perennial loser of an issue.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Country Girl: Barricades & Brickwalls--and motherhood--won't keep Kasey Chambers from you (Zac Crain, Feb 06, 2003, Dallas Observer)
Here's the most significant way having a baby has changed Kasey Chambers' life: "I used to, as soon as I walked off stage, I would go straight to the back room and have a cigarette. And soon as I got pregnant, I gave up smoking. And now, I walk straight off stage and breast-feed my baby." She laughs, which she does often. "It's a little bit different."

You can occasionally hear the cause of that difference, her 8-month-old son, Talon, in the background as she speaks. Chambers' mom is looking after him while she does a few interviews from her home in Australia, about two hours north of Sydney. It's a week before Chambers is set to come to the United States for a five-week tour supporting her latest album, last year's Barricades & Brickwalls, and she's more than a little excited: "I'm like a little kid waiting for Christmas," she says and, of course, laughs. Touring is something she hasn't been able to do much since the record was released, because Talon was released not long after. She's ready to give her "itchy feet" a good scratch.

She won't be alone. Not like Chambers ever really has been. Well, OK, she was when she was growing up, when she was listening to her sacred country albums while her friends got their teen-age kicks with rock and roll. "I'm not much like my generation," Chambers sang on her debut, 2000's The Captain. "Their music only hurts my ears."

Australia? I thought she was from Austin...

-REVIEW: of Barricades & Brickwalls (MICHAEL D. CLARK, Houston Chronicle)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


European Governments On One Side, Voters On The Other (Clive Crook, Feb. 21, 2003, National Journal)
The White House apparently believes that divisions in Europe over the need to confront Saddam Hussein are of small concern. In many ways, it is right.
America does not need Europe's help to deal with threats to its security. Militarily, it may be better off alone -- or with just a few allies that are strategically placed or competent for niche tasks. The objections to war being expressed by the governments of France, Germany, Russia and others are unpersuasive. America has made its case repeatedly and at length, and the dissenters have failed to offer any plausible alternative to war. Given their earlier agreement to "serious consequences" for Saddam if he failed to disarm, their good faith is now in question. [...]

On top of all this is the desire -- unworthy, but understandable -- to let America carry the burden alone, so that Britain does not become a terrorist target. Britain is not immune to the logic of weakness, the desire to free ride on another's strength. Perhaps it is less inclined than some to dress this up as moral superiority, but it is not immune to that either. The opinion polls do suggest that a majority would support a war against Iraq so long as a second resolution at the United Nations explicitly authorized it. If you recall, that was the position in the United States as well, up until Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's recent presentation to the Security Council. That was when a good number of Americans decided that if Powell's evidence had failed to persuade the U.N., it was the U.N. that was at fault. There has been no corresponding shift of opinion in Britain. In recent days, views have moved the other way. And for now, a U.N. resolution explicitly authorizing war looks out of reach. [...]

If Britain had a constitution like America's, Blair would be unable to deliver the military support he has promised. The country is not evenly divided: A substantial majority of the public opposes war on the terms that now present themselves.

That last bit seems exactly backwards. Mr. Blair could at any moment lose the support of his own party and be thrown out of office, at which point British military support for the United States would evaporate. If Britain had a constitution like ours, he'd be immune to such overly direct democracy--barring impeachment--and his party would risk defeat at the next poll if it emasculated its own leader. This creates pressure, as we saw with Bill Clinton in the Balkans, for even an anti-war party to support practically any intervention that their leader drags them into.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Warning over sex disease 'crisis' (BBC, 2/22/03)
A national safe sex campaign is needed to counter a dramatic rise in the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases, a group of MPs has warned.

They described the problem as a full blown crisis and said it particularly affects young people who have become complacent about the risks.

One of the groups causing the most concern was young women, who were increasingly likely to be infected. [...]

The latest official figures show a big rise in the number of HIV cases, but there is a similar increase in the incidence of more traditional diseases like gonorrhoea and syphilis.

Gee, who'da thunk that the government telling youngsters to engage in anal sex would lead to a rise in disease?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM


Battles are won, an audience is lost: The grand war scenes are a high achievement, but the grandiloquent talk brings 'Gods' down. (Kevin Thomas, February 21 2003, LA Times)
Just as the Civil War revealed a nation divided, Ronald F. Maxwell's "Gods and Generals," a prequel to his 1993 "Gettysburg," is a film divided. With an awesome sense of authenticity and scope, he has staged three major battles leading up to the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, but he has populated his film with paragons rather than people.

Worse, they talk and talk and talk; this film is in danger of talking itself to death before the Union and the Confederacy are able to decimate each other. The battle scenes, however, attain a level of accomplishment that is likely to intrigue and please legions of Civil War buffs, especially battle re-enactors who participated extensively in the making of this film.

But all that yapping! -- great swaths of quotations from the Bible and the classics, countless ringing speeches, endless stretches of flowery dialogue. It's as if the scores of actors are portraying people who believe their every phrase and gesture was being recorded for posterity by an omniscient documentarian. Such overwhelming self-consciousness threatens to stifle the humanity of everyone within camera range. [...]

None of this may bother anyone able to view a battlefield as a place of glory rather than of folly, the site of the ultimate breakdown of civilization -- of mankind's failure to mediate its differences. To his credit, Maxwell does not flinch from showing the carnage of battle but never wallows in it. Unfortunately, his legions of soldiers too often seem more heroic than human.

The idea that a war that freed the slaves represented the "ultimate breakdown of civilization", as opposed to a mediated solution, which presumably would have kept at least some blacks enslaved, is so bizarre as to be unanswerable. Here, as in the question of whether it's morally justified to dethrone Saddam, such people seem to be members of a different "civilization" than the rest of us.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM


U.S. Defeats Soviet Squad In Olympic Hockey by 4-3 (Gerald Eskenazi, 2/22/03, The New York Times
In one of the most startling and dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog United States hockey team, composed in great part of collegians, defeated the defending champion Soviet squad by 4-3 tonight. [...]

The American goal that broke a 3-3 tie tonight was scored midway through the final period by a player who typifies the makeup of the United States team.

His name is Mike Eruzione, he is from Winthrop, Mass., he is the American team's captain and he was plucked from the obscurity of the Toledo Blades of the International League. His opponents tonight included world-renounced stars, some of them performing in the Olympics for the third time.

The Soviet team has captured the previous four Olympic hockey tournaments, going back to 1964, and five of the last six. The only club to defeat them since 1956 was the United States team of 1960, which won the gold medal at Squaw Valley, Calif.

Few victories in American Olympic play have provoked reaction comparable to tonight's decision at the red-seated, smallish Olympic Field House. At the final buzzer, after the fans had chanted seconds away, fathers and mothers and friends of the United Sates players dashed onto the ice, hugging anyone they could find in red, white and blue uniforms.

Meanwhile, in the stands, most of the 10,000 fans - including about 1,500 standees, who paid $24.40 apiece for a ticket - shouted "U.S.A.," over and over, and hundreds outside waved American flags.[...]

No hockey game is played nonstop for 60 minutes, but this one came close. The Russians have been famed for their conditioning techniques. They also were considered the finest hockey team in the world.

Unless you lived through the godforsaken '70s, as described below, you'll not be able to comprehend how huge this moment was. If our parents remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, we remember where we were when the US beat the Russkies.

It's not too much to say that it was here the worm began to turn and America began to believe in itself again and in the possibility of eventual triumph over the Soviet Union. As the 1972 theft of the Olympic gold in Men's Basketball became a metaphor for American ineffectiveness in the face of Soviet ruthlessness, so did the 1980 hockey win seem a metaphor for an America rising from the ashes of Vietnam, Watergate, energy crisis, and Iran hostage-taking. It may be merely a coincidence, but if so a providential one, that five days later Ronald Reagan, with his mantra of waging and winning the Cold War, scored a crushing upset victory over George H. W. Bush in the NH primary. And the American people never looked back...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM


A Lifelong Dissident Defies Iran's Rulers on Torture (ELAINE SCIOLINO, February 22, 2003, NY Times)
Ezatollah Sahabi is a war horse of the revolution. He began his dissident activity half a century ago after the Central Intelligence Agency staged a coup that overthrew the government and reinstated the monarchy. He spent 12 years in the shah's prisons, and in the heady early days of revolution he was rewarded with a seat on the ruling Revolutionary Council.

Then, repulsed by repression in the name of Islam, Mr. Sahabi turned against the system he helped create, writing and speaking out for the cause of freedom. In 2000, he was silenced - with prison.

Now, in his mid-70's, Mr. Sahabi is free again, in a manner of speaking. And he has dared the Islamic Republic to execute him. Death, he said, is preferable to the torment he suffers at the hands of a justice system that has broken him and continues to pursue him.

"If you believe I'm such a dangerous person, rid yourself and the country of me with my execution, for the sake of the country, the nation, the revolution and Islam," Mr. Sahabi wrote in a letter to the three branches of government that was written last summer and recently made public. "After all," he added, "there is another world, where we will all be accountable before God."

Mr. Sahabi's letter is the latest and perhaps most dramatic manifestation of a battle between political dissidents and a justice system run by clerics that uses various forms of repression, including torture. "This is one of the most important documents in the past decade," said Mohsen Kadivar, a mid-level cleric who was imprisoned for 18 months on charges of spreading lies, defaming Islam and disturbing public opinion with his writings. "There is a struggle today between democracy and dictatorship." [...]

Torture of political prisoners had been a linchpin of the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, and many of Iran's revolutionaries had suffered in his prisons. So the Islamic utopia on earth envisioned by its makers was supposed to abolish a repressive system that inflicted pain on those who opposed it.

Symbolically, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini made that point from the moment he stepped on Iranian soil in 1979 to make his revolution. The first place he visited was the graves of the political prisoners who had died at the hands of Savak, the shah's secret police force.

Legally, the Islamic Republic's Constitution explicitly bans torture, saying, "All forms of torture for the purpose of extracting confessions or acquiring information are forbidden," adding, "Any testimony, confession or oath obtained under duress is devoid of value."

The Islamic Republic did not end the repression, but simply introduced a new form of it. In addition to physical abuse, there is an open-ended effort to degrade prisoners by bringing morals charges against them and their families, including detailed accusations about sexual habits and activities.

The great tragedy of the Shah's Iran is that things like Savak and the exorbitant splendor with which he celebrated the 2500 years of Persian kingdom created such a distance between ruler and ruled that it undermined his legitimacy, even though much of the Westernization he'd brought and things like land reform had made him reasonably popular. Given the totalitarian definition of the state that Ayatollah Khomeini propounded Revolutionary Iran was never going to be successful:
The fundamental difference between Islamic government, on the one hand, and constitutional monarchies and republics, on the other, is this: whereas the representatives of the people or the monarch in such regimes engage in legislation, in Islam the legislative power and competence to establish laws belongs exclusively to God Almighty. The Sacred Legislator of Islam is the sole legislative power. No one has the right to legislate and no law may be executed except the law of the Divine Legislator. It is for this reason that in an Islamic government, a simple planning body takes the place of the legislative assembly that is one of the three branches of government. This body draws up programs for the different ministries in the light of the ordinances of Islam and thereby determines how public services are to be provided across the country.

...but, by resorting to the same tactics as the Shah employed, the mullahs have delegitimized their own relatively popular movement too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 AM


That Devil Ashcroft (David Tell, for the Editors, 03/03/2003, Weekly Standard)
A FEW WEEKS BACK, a Washington-based "investigative research" outfit called the Center for Public Integrity announced that it had recently "obtained" a large and significant set of confidential legal papers from someone inside the Justice Department--a someone whose name the Center for Public Integrity did not make public, his integrity being of a sort that bar association ethics panels and the department's own Office of Professional Responsibility tend not to recognize.

Never mind that, though. For CPI executive director Charles Lewis, the leak was a stroke of purest good fortune. He runs a scrupulously nonpartisan shop, you understand, and his donor list represents the full spectrum of American viewpoints, from the Gaia Fund to the Streisand Foundation and everything in between, and he cares only for the public interest, let the chips fall where they may. Okay, sure: If by chance, when fall they do, those chips should happen to embarrass a Republican, like that awful John Ashcroft fellow, well, then the good folks at CPI probably aren't going to start weeping in their beer, exactly. But never mind that, either. What matters is that an anonymous, self-styled whistle-blower gave Charles Lewis a copy of the latest "secret" Big Brother plan being hatched by awful John Ashcroft's awful staff henchmen, and that Lewis then made out like Paul Revere, rushing to warn each Middlesex village and farm--and all the Justice Department beat reporters, too--of an imminent and positively "breathtaking" threat to the Republic and its freedoms.

Also, Lewis made a photographic facsimile of the document in question--apparently an advanced but less-than-final draft of omnibus anti-terrorism legislation provisionally entitled the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003"--and posted it on CPI's Internet home page. Where it remains to this day, and where anybody interested might long ago have tracked it down and read the thing.

Which otherwise humble and obvious piece of information turns out to be the entire episode's explanatory linchpin, and much the most depressing aspect of all the overheated commentary it's occasioned. Because, as anybody who does take the trouble to track down and read the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003" very quickly begins to suspect, the overheated commentary it's occasioned is ill-informed--so freakishly ill-informed, in fact, as to constitute something close to an outright hoax, the punditry equivalent of one of those "I am treasurer of the Nigerian exile government" e-mail money scams. You wouldn't think it possible, but in this case, unfortunately, it cannot be dismissed out of hand: The pundits involved, Charles "Public Integrity" Lewis included, may barely have glanced at, much less earnestly studied, the very same Justice Department proposal they claim to find scandalous. [...]

No one need feel sorry for John Ashcroft personally; he doesn't seem to mind his critics all that much. Neither should anyone suppose that the mere existence of their criticism poses a consequential public policy problem in and of itself. Quite the contrary: Even in times of relative calm, how the attorney general of the United States balances considerations of public safety and individual rights in his administration of federal law is a subject of enormous importance. And any related proposal he advances should therefore warrant scrupulous public attention. The "Domestic Security Enhancement Act," should it ever formally debut, will be such a proposal. It ought to get some serious criticism.

But that's not what's happening. The criticism isn't serious; it is uniformly self-indulgent, heedless of detail, and hysterical. And especially in an age of terrorism, an insistence on the right kind of public debate should count as more than merely an aspirational nicety of goo-goo political science. Yes, civil liberties are at stake. But people's lives are, too. Executive-branch initiatives intended to help save those lives do not become "instruments of repression used by totalitarian states" (as the San Francisco Chronicle has lately suggested)--and ought not be set aside on that basis--purely by dint of the fact that they originate at staff levels of a Justice Department led by a Republican named Ashcroft. Nobody's civil liberties are advanced by lying about the government this way.

It was Richard Nixon who said that every Cabinet should have one potential future president in it. His was John Connally, who later spent $13 million to secure one delegate to the Republican convention, suggesting that here, as in so many other areas, Mr. Nixon's judgment was a tad sketchy. However, the basic point, that a president should be grooming a future party leader and must have the confidence to create alternate power centers even within his own government, remains valid.

The Clinton administration was conspicuous for the absence of such figures, at least until Bill Richardson came on board. (Bruce Babbitt was the closest thing in the initial cabinet, but was soon mired in scandal.) George W. Bush, on the other hand, in an early indication of the serene self-confidence that his critics still can't grasp, chose a cabinet that has a minimum of four people who'd be credible presidents--Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, John Ashcroft--and, significantly, they were put in charge of America's foreign and domestic security apparati. To the nation's great good fortune, this meant that when 9-11 struck there were competent and forceful figures running the agencies that mattered. Don Rumsfeld soon emerged as the star, but no one has had a better couple years than Mr. Ashcroft.

With every step he's taken, civil libertarians and fellow travelers (most of whom really just oppose the war and would gladly round up Muslims if only we'd return to isolationism) have accused him of wanting to shred the Constitution and impose some kind of dictatorship. But in courtroom after courtroom and judicial opinion after opinion he's been vindicated. We may well look back in ten or twenty years and tut-tut about this measure or that measure, but the Justice Department has proceeded in a reasonable manner throughout and, unlike his predecessors during WWI, WWII, and Vietnam, it appears Mr. Ashcroft will have nothing to be ashamed of and much to be proud of.

Officials Say Case Against Florida Professor Had Been Hindered: Law enforcement officials long suspected Sami Al-Arian of posing a national security risk, but were slow to act because of legal, political and operational roadblocks. (ERIC LICHTBLAU and JUDITH MILLER, 2/21/03, NY Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:42 AM


Boom Before the Bombs: American ordnance may soon rain over Iraq. But prices for homes and land are going nowhere but up these days (Melinda Liu, 2/24/03, NEWSWEEK)
Iraqi real estate may sound like a terrible investment right now. Yet the market is booming in all but a few places like Safwan, on the Kuwaiti border, where people worry that the soil is dangerously contaminated with depleted-uranium ammunition from Desert Storm. "Prices have doubled in the past three months," says Adnan Abd Al-Ridh, a real-estate agent in Basra. He quit his job as a car salesman six months ago to cash in on the boom. "The prices of both land and houses are rising," says a Western diplomat in Baghdad. "People think they'll be even higher in two months." Even the fear of U.S. firepower doesn't seem to deter buyers, who may be placing their faith in America's smart bombs. "Houses are riskier than land, because of the possibility of heavy bombing," a Baghdad real-estate agent says. "But people are used to bombardment in the no-fly zones. They know that ordinary houses are not normally a target."

Few people dare to say what the market will do after the war. The prospect of regime change is a risky topic. But watch what Iraqis are doing; their optimism is unmistakable. The Baghdad stock exchange is soaring, and private construction plans are pushing ahead. Sarmad Majeed, 36, whose family runs a coffee shop overhanging the Tigris in Baghdad, says he's investing 180 million dinars in a 14,000-square-foot shopping arcade. Two months ago he paid 60 million to buy land-use rights for the project. "Six months from now it will be worth 70 million," he predicts. An older employee, Naama Isa, recalls when the shop was so quiet that water buffalo liked to hang out in the shade beneath it. Asked why the market is surging now, both men pause a bit too long and then speak a bit too quickly. "The area is a desirable one," says Isa. In the same breath, Majeed answers: "We love our country."

Senior Iraqis 'are preparing to desert Saddam' - but not just yet (Anton La Guardia, 21/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
Senior members of the Iraqi regime are "preparing their bolt-holes" in the conviction that Saddam Hussein is doomed, but are unlikely to risk staging a coup until a war begins, Whitehall sources said yesterday.

America and Britain have long hoped that the build-up to war might break the regime without the need for military action. But at present fear of Saddam within the Iraqi government is still greater than the fear of war.

None the less British officials say they have picked up signs that "people are preparing for the day after".

One said: "They are preparing bolt-holes overseas. They are sending messages out. Most people in the regime, even those at a very high level but not including Saddam Hussein, realise that time is short.

"They are not prepared to go down with Saddam. They will try to melt away into the greater Arab world. They are preparing as far as they can for the inevitable. But they have to be very careful. If they are spotted, they will be seen by the regime as potential traitors."

Iraq deserter says military personnel eager to quit (Jonathan S. Landay, February 22, 2003, Knight Ridder Newspapers)
An Iraqi army deserter yesterday described Saddam Hussein's military as being rife with corruption, outfitted with inoperable equipment and populated by troops ready to surrender the instant that U.S. forces attack.

"The regular army won't fight and my friends are looking forward to the day the Americans begin the war so that they can surrender," said Ali Qadir Jadir, a veteran tank mechanic of the 34th Brigade of the 1st Mechanized Division who fled to the Kurdish held north of Iraq.

Ali said none of the 128 soldiers in his unit, the Qurtuba Battalion, are willing to die for Saddam. But few will risk desertion before a U.S. invasion, preferring to surrender en masse when it begins, he said.

Time to light this candle.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


'Gutsy' Dean rouses Democrats with call to arms (Donald Lambro, February 22, 2003, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The Democrats' bitter split over Iraq broke wide open yesterday at their winter meeting when presidential candidate Howard Dean won standing ovations as he sharply rebuked party leaders and his political rivals for backing President Bush's war policies.

The long-simmering division in the party over whether to go to war to disarm Saddam Hussein erupted at the second day of the Democratic National Committee's gathering to preview its presidential contenders, who denounced many of Mr. Bush's policies and vowed to defeat him in 2004.

"What I want to know is, why is the Democratic Party leadership supporting the president's unilateral war on Iraq?" the former Vermont governor asked DNC members who were packed into a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Capitol Hill, with an overflow audience in two adjacent rooms. Why, he asked, jabbing a finger into the air for emphasis, did three of his Democratic rivals back the administration's war resolution in Congress? [...]

Compared with Mr. Dean's reception, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut received a tepid response when they explained their reasons for supporting Mr. Bush's war plans in Iraq. The response to former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun of Illinois was somewhat muted despite her opposition to military action.

When Mr. Gephardt said, "I'm proud that I wrote the resolution that helped lead the president to make his case to the United Nations," someone in the audience shouted, "Shame." [...]

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said that "Dean won the day hands down," adding that his feisty delivery and anti-war rhetoric "could carry the day in many state primaries." But she did not see his anti-war agenda "winning the White House, because people want to be sure that we protect our national security and our homeland."

Noam Schreiber has just written, in the New Republic, that the Democrats have become captives of opinion polling--even of a few particular pollsters--and that it's made them cautious on issues like Iraq. But in a presidential nomination fight this effect is mitigated both because there are so many candidates there are necessarily a wide variety of pollsters and because they poll Democrats, not the whole country. Unfortunately for the Democrats, this is far more likely to be disastrous for them than the phenomenon that Mr. Schreiber is concerned with. That's because the Second Iraq War is the most popular in our nation's history before we've even won it, but it's terribly unpopular among the Democrat faithful. And it's impossible to imagine that subsequent actions--in North Korea, Syria, South Lebanon, or wherever--are going to be any more acceptable to primary voters. This is going to push the field Left and exacerbate their weakness on National Security at a time when the nation genuinely cares about such things.

February 21, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:51 PM


Arrogance of France boosts eastern Europe's admiration for US (Robin Gedye, 2/22/03, Daily Telegraph)
President Jacques Chirac's tirade against eastern Europe's fledgling democracies was the best news residents of the Polish village of Bidla Podlaska have had since the last Soviet tank rolled out of the nearby base nearly 10 years ago.

Hard against Poland's eastern border with Russia, about 100 miles out of Warsaw on Route 80, Bidla Podlaska is tipped to become the new American military headquarters in Europe if American forces relocate from the increasingly hostile German environment.

Equipped with a barracks for several thousand men and a hospital to treat front-line casualties, its airfield would provide the perfect headquarters for America's new army in a new Europe.

Poland believes that M Chirac's intervention has raised the likelihood of a move by several notches.

That would not create problems for the Poles. Their love affair with America, which endured covertly under communist rule, now flourishes. [...]

"What Chirac said was horrible, truly awful. It has above all served to encourage the Eurosceptics while reinforcing the Rumsfeld doctrine by speaking of a 'family' that was old Europe and 'candidates' that are new Europe."

When Poles were asked in a recent Wprost opinion poll to name countries they considered "friends", 50 per cent put America first, 34 per cent Germany and 25 per cent France. At the same time, 50 per cent considered Poland's greatest enemy to be Russia, 40 per cent said it was Germany and seven per cent Iraq.

And that was even before M Chirac's outburst. "We understand that the fact that when Poland dared to express its opinion, it caused some confusion," said Poland's foreign minister, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.

"But the fact is that France and Germany did not consult Poland when they put out their statement.

"The letter [from eight European leaders, including Tony Blair, backing America's Iraq policy] that we signed was to underline the significance of the transatlantic relationship. It was not about America and it was not about Europe. It was about America and Europe, the most important relationship of the 20th century."

Ya' gotta love that 40% of Poles still consider Germany to be the enemy.

Poles Cherish U.S. as Friend, Fondly Recalling Its Support (CRAIG S. SMITH, February 22, 2003, NY Times)
Anti-Europeanism in America (Timothy Garton Ash, February 13, 2003, The New York Review of Books)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


Pastor guilty of aiding genocide (Reuters, 2/19/03)
A Rwandan pastor and his son were found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide by a U.N. tribunal on Wednesday, and sentenced to 10 and 25 years respectively for helping to massacre ethnic Tutsis.

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son Gerard were accused of herding large groups of Tutsi men, women and children into a church and hospital compound in the Kibuye region of western Rwanda in 1994 and then calling Hutus to come and kill them.

The 78-year-old Seventh Day Adventist pastor was found guilty of aiding and abetting genocide, a U.N. spokesman at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said. His 45-year-old son Gerard, a doctor, was found guilty of the same charge and of genocide. The verdicts were unanimous. [...]

Rights groups say several church leaders from various denominations played a leading role in the killings, using their authority to encourage the massacres of Tutsis who tried to take refuge in the country's churches.

There's a genuinely bizarre trope making the rounds amongst the usual suspects about how this episode indicates something important about Christianity or religion in general. Bunk.

Obviously religion has a bloody history of persecuting unbelievers and it would be silly to deny it. What's that have to do with this? There's no suggestion that the violence here was sectarian in nature.

In fact, if anything, this seems to have been an episode of simple Darwinism at work. One tribe (one group of selfish genes) sought a competitive advantage over another. At least Christianity instructs us that what the pastor did was evil and unacceptable. For an evolutionist what he did was entirely natural and, if unfortunate, understandable. It was just that kind of inevitable logic of evolution that led Stephen Jay Gould--who could not accept the Holocaust as merely a function of competing gene pools--to become an apostate. Even if he could never come to full terms with what his revulsion should have told his head, at least he had the decency to feel it in his gut.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM


A World of Enemies: Is It All Reagan's Fault? (Nicholas Stix, 2/19/03, Toogood Reports)
People usually seek to explain the fall of the Soviet Union and the East Bloc, via either of two competing theories. A theory popular in the U.S.,
especially among Republicans, holds that Ronald Reagan's 1980s arms buildup forced the Soviets to compete with us, a competition that eventually
exhausted their economy, and caused their system to collapse. By contrast, the theory of choice among many American leftists and foreigners is that the
Soviet Union and East Bloc were brought down by a bloodless, popular revolution - what fans (among them, journalist Paul Berman) of Czechoslovakian dissident playwright and contemporary President of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel and his group, Charter 77, called the former Czechoslovakia's "Velvet Revolution."

During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan engineered the biggest peacetime arms buildup ever. On June 12, 1987 in West Berlin, he told the Soviet premier--thanks to speechwriter Peter Robinson - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" And beginning in June, 1989, less than six months after Reagan handed over the reins of power to George Herbert Walker Bush, the world saw the biggest liberation, in terms of sheer numbers, in history. What's not to like?

If the conventional wisdom in the U.S. is correct, and Ronald Reagan's arms buildup caused the collapse of the Soviet Union, then Reagan must get both
the credit and the blame for today's world order, or lack thereof. With all due respect, however, I don't think he deserves either. Reagan cared deeply
about the millions oppressed by Soviet totalitarianism, but he did not cause The Wall to come down.

Alternatively, we are to believe that, inspired by a group of poets and artists who signed petitions and wrote editorials, in 1989, the Czechoslovakian people "shouted down" their communist rulers, and young East Germans simply decided to tear down the Berlin Wall. So, for 44 years, the Czechoslovakians and East Germans (not to mention all the other nationalities who suffered under the boot of Soviet terror) had needed only to mass in the street, and start shouting! Think of all of the missed opportunities! Such silliness will not convince any sober person above the age of consent, much less anyone familiar with the history of Soviet communism.

It was Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev that caused The Wall to fall, but not because Ronald Reagan had succeeded in converting him to the cause of
freedom, and not because Gorbachev sought to end the Soviet Union and the East Bloc. Rather, Gorbachev was a vain, confused man. Dreaming of being a beloved dictator, he sought to be both the dictator and the liberator of his people. As Stalin, Hitler, and Mao had already shown, however, the way to become a beloved dictator, is through murdering millions of one's own people, and terrorizing the rest. Most of the citizens whom a tyrant has not yet murdered, will learn to fear him, others will learn to love him, and some will feel both emotions for him. Witness the nostalgia for the "certainty" and "security" Stalin supposedly provided that is still widespread in "free" Russia, and the former Soviet Republics and East Bloc nations.

Gorbachev was a tyrant who stopped tyrannizing. In a tyranny, such a man is soon out of a job, if not dead. Gorbachev expected the Soviets to embrace
him as their leader. Instead, they no longer recognized him as leader, but as the cause of a vacuum in leadership. Soon enough, Gorby was an ex-leader.
In 1991, his resignation as Premier of the Soviet Union was redundant, since as many observers have commented, he was the ruler of a nation that no longer existed. Gorbachev is lucky to still be alive.

Mr. Stix is always an interesting writer, but this seems a bit sketchy. He's offered up three things that are not at all incompatible--the Reagan buildup, internal pressure from dissidents, and Gorbachev's incompetence--as competing causes of the fall of the Wall. In fact the three interlocked quite nicely.

What the Reaganite confrontation with the USSR did--following a decade of detente and three decades+ of containment--was demonstrate to the Soviet leaders that they were going to have to compete with capitalist democracy in development, construction, and deployment of new and sophisticated technologies and militarily defend the most unstable parts of the Soviet Bloc (Grenada, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan). It was obvious as early as the 1940s that they could do no such thing, that just maintaining rough parity required acquiescence by American leaders. So when it came to things like stealth technology and space-based weapons it was apparent that major reform of the Soviet system would be required.

Mikhail Gorbachev, and those around him, had deluded themselves into believing that they could control such reform and steer it in the directions they wanted. The most important error in this regard was their belief that the Communist Revolution itself was still popular and that it might have worked, but that betrayal of its ideals by Stalin had corrupted it both in terms of popular support and its functionality. So Gorbachev unleashed Perestroika, the campaign to allow more open criticism of what had gone wrong in the Soviet Union, with the expectation that it would be Stalin who bore the brunt of the attacks. Instead, as David Remnick details in his indispensable Lenin's Tomb, the dissidents went after Lenin himself and undermined the very foundations of the Revolution. They showed that, far from being a good thing gone bad, communism had been an anti-human catastrophe from the start. And what is the point of reforming something evil? Why not scrap it and start over?

Meanwhile, having delegitimized the Soviet Union itself, how was Gorbachev supposed to keep its satellites in orbit? And once Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan (1989) and in Nicaragua the Sandinistas lost to Violetta Chamorro (1990), what realistic chance was there to keep the Eastern Europeans oppressed under a system they despised? As prior unrest had shown, in the end it was only Soviet tanks that could prop up the various governments of the Warsaw Pact nations--how was a military that couldn't defeat the mujahadeen supposed to put down uprisings in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, etc., all at the same time, all while the natives were getting restless at home, and all with a newly confrontational America seemingly just waiting for an excuse to attack?

It's impossible to assign blame/credit precisely among the three players--Reagan, the dissidents, and Gorbachev--but safe to say all three were integral to the process as it played out. Still, we--especially conservatives--should note that in the long run none of them mattered that much: communism was doomed because of what it is, not because of what anyone did. It's just as possible that had there been no Reagan the Soviet Union would have tried to reform a few years earlier and fallen apart then. It's possible that had a hard-liner taken over instead of Gorbachev he'd have tried keeping up with the U.S. for longer and done even more damage to Russia, maybe even tried to "win" in Afghanistan and clamp down on protests in Eastern Europe. This would have been bloodier but would not have delayed the collapse for long, might even have hastened it by sending the lumpenproletariat, whose sons were geing slaughtered in the Afghan War, into the street. Who knows? None of these plays of the hand were dealt.

Here's what we do know: by the 70s even normally sensible Republicans, like Henry Kissinger, considered communism to be a viable political/economic system that the West would have to learn to co-exist with for the duration. To the best of our knowledge, there was no reform movement at the high levels of Soviet government. Dissidents existed but went largely unheard. President Carter fairly accurately captured the dispiritedness of Westen man in his "malaise" speech. It seemed like the Cold War would end, at best in a draw, at worst with American capitalism collapsing upon itself.

And we know that this is what Ronald Reagan had to say to those who counseled accomodation (then, as now, a majority in Old Europe and on the American Left):

We are witnessing today a great revolutionary crisis, a crisis where the demands of the economic order are conflicting directly with those of the political order. But the crisis is happening not in the free, non-Marxist West but in the home of Marxism- Leninism, the Soviet Union. It is the Soviet Union that runs against the tide of history by denying human freedom and human dignity to its citizens. It also is in deep economic difficulty. The rate of growth in the national product has been steadily declining since the fifties and is less than half of what it was then.

The dimensions of this failure are astounding: a country which employs one-fifth of its population in agriculture is unable to feed its own people. Were it not for the private sector, the tiny private sector tolerated in Soviet agriculture, the country might be on the brink of famine. These private plots occupy a bare 3 percent of the arable land but account for nearly one-quarter of Soviet farm output and nearly one-third of meat products and vegetables. Overcentralized, with little or no incentives, year after year the Soviet system pours its best resources into the making of instruments of destruction. The constant shrinkage of economic growth combined with the growth of military production is putting a heavy strain on the Soviet people. What we see here is a political structure that no longer corresponds to its economic base, a society where productive forced are hampered by political ones.

The decay of the Soviet experiment should come as no surprise to us. Wherever the comparisons have been made between free and closed societies -- West Germany and East Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, Malaysia and Vietnam -- it is the democratic countries that are prosperous and responsive to the needs of their people. And one of the simple but overwhelming facts of our time is this: of all the millions of refugees we've seen in the modern world, their flight is always away from, not toward the Communist world. Today on the NATO line, our military forces face east to prevent a possible invasion. On the other side of the line, the Soviet forces also face east to prevent their people from leaving.

The hard evidence of totalitarian rule has caused in mankind an uprising of the intellect and will. Whether it is the growth of the new schools of economics in America or England or the appearance of the so-called new philosophers in France, there is one unifying thread running through the intellectual work of these groups -- rejection of the arbitrary power of the state, the refusal to subordinate the rights of the individual to the superstate, the realization that collectivism stifles all the best human impulses....

Chairman Brezhnev repeatedly has stressed that the competition of ideas and systems must continue and that this is entirely consistent with relaxation of tensions and peace.

Well, we ask only that these systems begin by living up to their own constitutions, abiding by their own laws, and complying with the international obligations they have undertaken. We ask only for a process, a direction, a basic code of decency, not for an instant transformation.

We cannot ignore the fact that even without our encouragement there has been and will continue to be repeated explosion against repression and dictatorships. The Soviet Union itself is not immune to this reality. Any system is inherently unstable that has no peaceful means to legitimize its leaders. In such cases, the very repressiveness of the state ultimately drives people to resist it, if necessary, by force.

While we must be cautious about forcing the pace of change, we must not hesitate to declare our ultimate objectives and to take concrete actions to move toward them. We must be staunch in our conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a lucky few but the inalienable and universal right of all human beings. So states the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which, among other things, guarantees free elections.

The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructure of democracy, the system of a free press, unions, political parties, universities, which allows a people to choose their own way to develop their own culture, to reconcile their own differences through peaceful means.

This is not cultural imperialism; it is providing the means for genuine self-determination and protection for diversity. Democracy already flourishes in countries with very different cultures and historical experiences. It would be cultural condescension, or worse, to say that any people prefer dictatorship to democracy. Who would voluntarily choose not to have the right to vote, decide to purchase government propaganda handouts instead of independent newspapers, prefer government to worker-controlled unions, opt for land to be owned by the state instead of those who till it, want government repression of religious liberty, a single political party instead of a free choice, a rigid cultural orthodoxy instead of democratic tolerance and diversity.

Since 1917 the Soviet Union has given covert political training and assistance to Marxist-Leninists in many countries. Of course, it also has promoted the use of violence and subversion by these same forces. Over the past several decades, West European and other social democrats, Christian democrats, and leaders have offered open assistance to fraternal, political, and social institutions to bring about peaceful and democratic progress. Appropriately, for a vigorous new democracy, the Federal Republic of Germany's political foundations have become a major force in this effort.

We in America now intend to take additional steps, as many of our allies have already done, toward realizing this same goal. The chairmen and other leaders of the national Republican and Democratic party organizations are initiating a study with the bipartisan American Political Foundation to determine how the United States can best contribute as a nation to the global campaign for democracy now gathering force. They will have the cooperation of congressional leaders of both parties, along with representatives of business, labor, and other major institutions in our society. I look forward to receiving their recommendations and to working with these institutions and the Congress in the common task of strengthening democracy throughout the world.

It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation -- in both the public and private sectors -- to assisting democratic development....

What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term -- the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people. And that's why we must continue our efforts to strengthen NATO even as we move forward with our zero-option initiative in the negotiations on intermediate-range forces and our proposal for a one-third reduction in strategic ballistic missile warheads.

Our military strength is a prerequisite to peace, but let it be clear we maintain this strength in the hope it will never be used, for the ultimate determinant in the struggle that's now going on in the world will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas, a trial of spiritual resolve, the values we hold, the beliefs we cherish, the ideals to which we are dedicated.

The British people know that, given strong leadership, time, and a little bit of hope, the forces of good ultimately rally and triumph over evil. Here among you is the cradle of self-government, the Mother of Parliaments. Here is the enduring greatness of the British contribution to mankind, the great civilized ideas: individual liberty, representative government, and the rule of law under God.

Reagan said it. The dissidents believed it and repeated it. Gorbachev and his cronies feared it and sought to avoid it. It turned out to be true and the Wall came down. The great civilized ideas prevailed. There would seem to be plenty of credit to go around.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


Profile in Conservative Courage (James K. Glassman, Feb. 21, 2003, Jewish World Review)
After months of noisy foreplay, Michael Powell has failed to produce. Today, one Republican and two Democrat members of the Federal Communications Commission forged a new working majority and thwarted their own chairman's plan to strip states of their power--and the four giant Bell companies of their telecom competitors.

The FCC decision was important. It means that the process of deregulation, begun with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, supported by every
conservative in the House and Senate, can continue. The Bells, the established regional monopolies in local service, have now entered the long-distance business in 70 percent of the states, and smaller competitive local exchange carriers, or CLECs, are now battling the Bells in the local arena and broadband, or fast Internet connections. The result: lower prices and better services for families and small businesses.

But with today's vote - an unusual and some would say humiliating defeat for the chairman of a powerful independent agency - the recriminations have

In an embarrassingly intemperate statement, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the FCC decision "another body blow to the American economy" and heaped personal vituperation on Kevin Martin, the Republican who opposed Powell, calling him "a renegade" and the perpetrator of "a palace coup" and saying that "reform had been stabbed in the back." [...]

Well before the vote, the game for pro-Bell politicians and analysts has been to attack Martin - and any other Republican who opposes their position--as being disloyal to conservative principles.

But what do you call someone who says that the states, rather than the federal government, should make local decisions? Someone who believes that
competition, not Washington-dictated industrial policy, should determine winners and losers? Someone who thinks that investors need certainty before
committing their capital? Someone who believes that, when Congress passes a law, it should mean what it says, not what a group of changeable regulators opines?

I would call someone like that a conservative. [...]

Still, the Bells were not completely shut out. They did get what they wanted in broadband. And now they have to perform. They have to prove that they
will make the kind of investments in fast Internet connections that they have promised. We'll see.

Just hearing this on the radio this morning it sounded like they'd given the pols the right to regulate the old technology and deregulated the new. That seems like a reasonable deal. Let the bureaucrats tinker with something that's already dying and leave the future alone.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


-OBIT: Malcolm X Shot to Death at Rally Here Malcolm Knew He Was a 'Marked Man' (Theodore Jones, 2/21/03, NY Times)
I live like a man who's already dead," Malcolm X said last Thursday in a two-hour interview in the Harlem office of his Organization for Afro-American Unity.

"I'm a marked man," he said slowly as he fingered the horn-rimmed glasses he wore and leaned forward to give emphasis to his words. "It doesn't frighten me for myself as long as I felt they would not hurt my family."

Asked about "they," Malcolm smiled, shook his head, and said, "those folks down at 116th Street and that man in Chicago."

The references, Malcolm quickly confirmed, were to his former associates in the Black Muslim movement and to Elijah Muhammad, the organizer and head of the movement. Before Malcolm X left the movement 18 months ago, he was the minister of the Black Muslim's Harlem mosque at 116th Street and Lenox Avenue.

"No one can get out with out trouble," Malcolm continued, "and this thing with me will be resolved by death and violence."

Why were they after him? "Because I'm me," he replied.

It's always seemed to me that the loss of Brother Malcolm was the most significant of the 60s--more than either Kennedy or Martin Luther King--because he was the one who was capable of thinking outside the box and had shown such personal growth before his murder. If his haj to Mecca really had the tranformative effect on his previously racist thinking that he claimed it did and if he'd maintained his message of self-help and self-improvement imagine how much different the past thirty years of black history might have been. Suppose that instead of, like Jesse Jackson, mau-mauing Washington for special privileges and benefits, the most charismatic black leader in America had demanded of blacks that they raise themselves up? Could black society be any worse off than it is today and mightn't it be much healthier?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:58 PM


British Teens Told to Experiment with Oral Sex (Reuters, 2/21/03)
School children under 16 are being encouraged to experiment with oral sex as part of a Government-backed drive to cut Britain's sky-high teenage pregnancy rate, newspapers reported on Friday. The Times said the scheme, pioneered by Exeter University and backed by the Departments of Health and Education, trains teachers to discuss pre-sex "stopping points."

The idea is to reduce promiscuity by encouraging pupils to discover "levels of intimacy," including oral sex, instead of full sexual intercourse.

But family campaigners condemned the course, saying it would only encourage children to experiment with sex.

Robert Whelan, director of the Family Education Trust, told the newspaper: "I don't think that anyone believes that teaching pupils about oral sex will stop them having full sex--it is more likely to make them want to try it and it doesn't protect them against sexually transmitted diseases."

What ever happened to teaching them Algebra?

But wait, it gets worse:

Lynda Brine, a teacher from a Doncaster comprehensive who recently attended a training day for the course, says in today’s Times Educational Supplement that she was primed to deal with detailed questions about oral and anal sex. “I was amazed. Are these really the sort of questions to which we as a profession should be responding?” she writes.

“There was no framework for talking about responsibility or the emotional side of relationships. By following this course, I feel that teachers are implicitly supporting under-age sexual activity.”

If you've ever read And the Band Played On you can't be sanguine about anyone having anal sex. If you've not, suffice it to say there are reasons that our disease rates went down when we reduced our contact with fecal matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:46 PM


Frustrated Democrat Makes Friends in G.O.P. (KATHARINE Q. SEELYE,February 21, 2003, NY Times)
Two years ago, Donna Brazile, then Al Gore's campaign manager, was engaged in daily combat with Karl Rove, then George W. Bush's top campaign strategist.

Today, they chirpily exchange e-mail, chat on the phone and write letters, indulging in their shared zeal for the inner workings of politics.

"I like her a lot," said Mr. Rove, now ensconced in the West Wing as President Bush's chief political adviser.

Ms. Brazile, a committed Democrat who was the first black woman to manage a presidential campaign, has built similar relationships with other Republicans, like Grover Norquist, an influential conservative strategist. And her coziness with them comes as she is deeply frustrated with her own party for what she calls years of taking African-Americans for granted and for failing to organize for elections in a coherent way.

In fact, Ms. Brazile's alienation could well be viewed as emblematic of a Democratic Party in disarray. [...]

[A]s the new presidential season approaches, Ms. Brazile has spurned overtures from most of the Democratic candidates and opted out of the 2004 primaries. For the first time in her two decades in politics, she has hung out a shingle as a consultant who wants to be paid as well as other top Democratic strategists for her advice.

These days she pointedly calls herself a "totally independent Democrat." And she is not defensive about her chattiness with Republicans.

"I call Republicans because I can talk outside the box with them," she said. "I can talk with Democrats, but when I talk with Republicans, I learn a lot more." [...]

"The Republicans are in charge," she said. "I don't want African-Americans to wait four years or eight years for the Democrats to get back in the game before we make progress."

First Marty Peretz, now Donna Brazile...the Gorebots move Right?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


-REVIEW: of Gods and Generals (RogerEbert, Chicago Sun-Times)
Here is a Civil War movie that Trent Lott might enjoy. Less enlightened than "Gone With the Wind," obsessed with military strategy, impartial between South and North, religiously devout, it waits 70 minutes before introducing the first of its two speaking roles for African Americans; "Stonewall" Jackson assures his black cook that the South will free him, and the cook looks cautiously optimistic. If World War II were handled this way, there'd be hell to pay.

The movie is essentially about brave men on both sides who fought and died so that ... well, so that they could fight and die. They are led by generals of blinding brilliance and nobility, although one Northern general makes a stupid error and the movie shows hundreds of his men being slaughtered at great length as the result of it. [...]

"Gods and Generals" is the kind of movie beloved by people who never go to the movies, because they are primarily interested in something else--the Civil War, for example--and think historical accuracy is a virtue instead of an attribute. The film plays like a special issue of American Heritage.

When's the last time you saw a Frenchman in a John Wayne movie? Why should the people about whom a war is being fought be central characters if they aren't central to the fighting?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


An Axis of Appeasement: Why the "Old Europe" Balks (Daniel Pipes, February 21, 2003, NY Post)
"Appeasement" may sound like an insult, but it is a serious policy with a long history - and an enduring appeal highly relevant to today's circumstances.

Yale historian Paul Kennedy defines appeasement as a way of settling quarrels "by admitting and satisfying grievances through rational negotiation and compromise, thereby avoiding the resort to an armed conflict which would be expensive, bloody and possibly very dangerous."

The British Empire relied heavily on appeasement from the 1860s on, with good results - avoiding costly colonial conflicts while preserving the international status quo. To a lesser extent, other European governments also adopted the policy.

Then came 1914, when in a fit of delirium nearly all Europe abandoned appeasement and rushed into World War I with what Yale historian Peter Gay calls "a fervor bordering on a religious experience." A century had passed since the continent had experienced the miseries of war, and their memory had vanished. Worse, thinkers such as the German Friedrich Nietzsche developed theories glorifying war.

Four years (1914-18) of hell, especially in the trenches of northern France, then prompted immense guilt about the jubilation of 1914. A new consensus emerged: Never again would Europeans rush into war.

Appeasement looked better than ever. And so, as Adolf Hitler threatened in the 1930s, British and French leaders tried to buy him off. Of course, what worked in colonial wars had utterly disastrous results when dealing with an enemy like the Nazis.

This led to the policy of buying off totalitarian opponents being discredited. Throughout the Cold War, it appeared the Europeans had learned a lesson they would never forget. But forget they did, soon after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

In a brilliant Weekly Standard essay, Yale's David Gelernter recently explained how this happened. The power of appeasement was temporarily hidden by World War II and the Cold War, but with the passage of time, "The effects of the Second World War are vanishing while the effects of the First endure."

Why? Because, writes Gelernter, the First World War is far more comprehensible than the Second, which is "too big for the mind to grasp." Politically and spiritually, it feels increasingly as though World War II never took place.

It's not so much WWII that the Europeans wish to forget but the Cold War, when American hegemony forced them to confront a Soviet Union that they would just as soon have appeased. This resulted in a forty year period in which we made them defy their own nature and it unsettled them terribly. Nor is it readily apparent that this was a wise decision on our part. It seems likely that the Soviet Union would have fallen apart just as quickly had we withdrawn back into our typical isolation and it would certainly have crumbled even faster had it tried taking over and controlling all of continental Europe. It would have been ridiculously over-extended.

The correct lesson of the Cold War--given its cost in dollars, lives, and disruption of civil society--may well be that appeasement would have been preferable to containment. Of course, immediate preventative war with the Soviets in 1945 would have been the best option of all, but we've so much national pride invested in our Cold War "victory" that we find it impossible to accept such an idea. Still, it seems unfair to whip the Europeans with their attachment to appeasement when we're guilty of a just as deluded attachment to an equally wrongheaded containment, which remains at least as popular here as appeasement is in Europe.

The Thirties revisited (Paul Greenberg, 2/21/03, Jewish World Review)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


The immorality of losing (Hillel Halkin, 2/20/03, Jewish World Review)
I didn't have to move to Israel to outgrow my left-wing sympathies, nor to acknowledge the brutal nature of the North Vietnamese regime that took over South Vietnam, from which hundreds of thousands of "boat people" risked (and often lost) their lives fleeing; or the genocidal barbarism of its Khmer Rouge ally in Cambodia, which perpetrated an Asian Holocaust on its own people.

And I could have remained in America and realized that wherever in the world democratic, pro-American countries were compared with totalitarian, anti-American ones - South and North Korea, for example - the comparison was between prosperity and freedom on the one hand, and poverty, degradation and fear on the other.

There was nothing intrinsically wrong about the American intervention in Vietnam. It was a terrible war and the American conduct of it was often reprehensible. And yet had America won, not only would the peoples of Indochina have been far better off, the world would have been a safer place.

It might have been a world, for example, in which the Soviets thought twice about invading Afghanistan a few years later, thus setting off a chain of events that ended with the Taliban in power.

The perspective of Israel is hardly necessary to grasp this, even if it does help one to imagine more clearly how many South Vietnamese must have felt toward America in the 1960s: grateful that it cared about them, insecure about its ultimate intentions, and fearful of being cruelly abandoned by it - as indeed they eventually were.

It was not fighting the war in Vietnam that was immoral. It was losing it. Or rather, it was immoral to fight it if there was reason to believe it could not be won.

Perhaps, given the situation in Vietnam in those years, in which a series of weak and corrupt governments in Saigon could not rally the support of their own people, this was indeed the case. But Americans like me who did not make the distinction between a war that deserved to be fought if it was winnable and a war that did not deserve to be fought at all helped, by their protests, to make it unwinnable.

Those who still do not make this distinction are now marching blindly against a war in Iraq.

If anyone has failed to learn the lesson of Vietnam, it is they.

Unfortunately Mr. Halkin hasn't learned the lesson yet either and is, therefore, nowhere near harsh enough on himself for opposing America during the Vietnam War. Even though domestic opposition may have forced us to fight the war in ways that made little sense--for instance, not simply attacking North Vietnam--we nonetheless did manage to win it, in the sense of crushing the Viet Cong and leaving the South in a position where it was able to maintain itself against the North. It was only the subsequent cut off of all aid by the Democrats in Congress and the refusal to continue strategic bombing that enabled the North to finally triumph.

The lesson to be learned, as suggested below, is that we may well "win"a series of battles in the war on Islamicism--toppling the Taliban, Saddam, and maybe a couple other regimes--but sooner or later the opponents will prevail, long before the war has been seen to its completion, and we'll leave a sufficient problem in place that we'll end up having to go back in a few years and start the whole process over again. It may well be immoral to "lose", but we always do because we refuse to "win".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


The Liberal Power (Peter Beinart, 02.19.03, New Republic)

"Last time, this nation entered a war to make the world safe for democracy and establish permanent peace; it was betrayed in the event because its aims were not embodied in the peace settlement. Do we now risk such a betrayal again?" Looking back to World War I, this journal asked that question on August 25, 1941, in an editorial called "For a Declaration of War." And that is the question again today.

Today's war debate also occurs against the backdrop of a past betrayal. The first Bush administration rallied the country behind war in the Gulf with impassioned denunciations of Saddam Hussein's cruelty. And that moralistic language helped win over the small contingent of hawkish liberals--people like Al Gore, Joseph Lieberman, Bob Graham, and the editors of this magazine--who gave the war its bipartisan veneer. But, when the Shia and Kurds rose up against Saddam, in the naive belief that the United States cared more about their freedom than Riyadh's displeasure, Saddam slaughtered them as America's nearby army watched. [...]

The unhappy truth is that, if the Bush administration wins the war but betrays the peace, the political consequences for the president will be small. Once the fighting is over, the American press will turn its attention elsewhere, just as it has in post-Taliban Afghanistan. But the consequences for hawkish liberalism will be great. Having been played for fools, most liberal hawks will retreat to a deep skepticism of American power. They will end up on the decent, feckless left--in the company of those who sincerely condemn men such as Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam but have no strategy for toppling them except empty exhortations to people power. And that soft isolationism will likely retake the Democratic Party. On the right, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney won't lose sleep if Chevron and Crown Prince Abdullah run things in post-Saddam Baghdad rather than Kanan Makiya. Paul Wolfowitz will either shut up or resign.

Many people would consider this ideological reshuffling an improvement. At home, liberals could reclaim the language of human rights for themselves, secure in the knowledge that it, and they, would no longer be sullied by an association with the 82nd Airborne. The collapse of hawkish liberalism might actually diminish anti-Americanism abroad since, absent their liberal allies, Rumsfeld and Cheney would be less likely to drape their actions in the moralistic talk Europeans find so grating. After all, no one protests Russia's intervention in Chechnya on the streets of Paris and Rome.

But, when the next Bosnia did come along, its leaders wouldn't find America's new separation between liberalism and power nearly so refreshing; between the realist left and the McGovernite left, they would have nowhere to turn. The truth is that liberalism has to try to harness American military power for its purposes because American tanks and bombs are often the only things that bring evil to heel. Opposing this war might have helped liberals retain their purity, but it would have done nothing for the people suffering under Saddam. If liberals are betrayed a second time in the Gulf, hawkish liberalism may well go into temporary eclipse. But one day we, and they, will need it again.

This is almost too funny for words. Note the "liberal" betrayal that goes unmentioned here, the descent of the Iron Curtain around ann Eastern Europe that FDR and Truman betrayed. This has little or nothing to do with liberalism or conservatism, it has everything to do with the fundamental weaknesses of democracy.

In a political system where the great mass of people make the decisions it's deuced hard to focus the state on anything beyond folks' narrow personal interests and they're seldom interested in expending their cash and blood on the freedom of strangers. So war almost always requires a spectacular provocation (often fake or at least overblown). That gives the nation's leaders just enough leeway to embark on a war of vengeance and destroy the malefactor (real or imagined). But by the time the war is approaching its logical conclusion--the rooting out of the ideologies with which you were at war and the restoration of freedom to states that weren't directly implicated--the peoples' attention has wandered back to their own bellies and no consensus any longer exists for the pursuit of such policies. Thus, we ended WWI with the Soviets in control of Russia. After WWII we left Eastern Europe under a communism indistinguishable from the Nazism we'd just "freed the world" of. We left North Korea in place. We bailed on South Vietnam even though it looked like they could hold out on their own with just minimal help from us. We've left Castro in place for forty years, even though he could have been toppled at any time. We left Saddam in power in '91 and we'll almost certainly end this war on terrorism with people like Assad and Qaddafi and Arafat and the rest still in power, meaning that we'll have had only a marginal impact on the Islamicism that created 9-11. In fact, the only real hope that we'll see the war through to its conclusion is if we're attacked again, preferably several times and with massive casualties. For it's only when we fear we might be the next to die that we're typically willing to lift our attention from our own navels. Mr. Beinart should know better than to believe that has anything to do with "hawkish liberals": it's just human nature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 AM


Golden Calf still with us --- except it has multiplied (Rabbi Berel Wein, 2/21/03, Jewish World Review)
The narrative of the incident of Israel and the Golden Calf -- read this week publicly from the Torah -- is so riveting and fascinating that we return to it year after year with renewed and refreshed interest.

How did human beings that experienced godly Revelation at Sinai revert to worshipping a Golden Calf just a few short weeks later? What happened to the "the kingdom of priests and holy nation" to cause this terrible reversal of course?

The great biblical commentators and, in fact, the Jewish people itself, in its deepest soul, have all wrestled with the problem of understanding this unfathomable fall of Israel and its consequences. And even though a full solution to this problem is not present, at least not in this limited space, I think that there are a number of insights that are apparent from this event, and that these insights are pertinent and necessary to us, personally and nationally, today as well. [...]

In a wholesale manner, Jews are abandoning Judaism and are being encouraged to do so by others whose commitment to Judaism and Jewish survival is tepid, at best. In the present society's permissive atmosphere that allows one to construct the rules of one's own religion as one wishes, the "eiruv rav" agitates for the destruction of tradition and the elimination of explicitly stated Torah values and behavior. Is it any wonder, then, that the people yet dance around the Golden Calf?

Lastly, I wish to point out that saving the Jewish people from the clutches of the Golden Calf is not always pleasant and joyful work. When Moses returns to the encampment of the Jews and sees for himself the destruction -- both physical and moral -- that the creation of the Golden Calf has wrought, he calls for action, even for civil war in order to save the people. "Who is unto G-d, let him come unto me!" is his battle cry. And the men of the tribe of Levi who rallied to his cause at that fateful moment in Jewish history, slew thousands in order to save Israel from the wrath of Godly destruction.

Moses remembers the loyalty of Levi to the cause of Jewish survival in his final blessings to the people of Israel. "They spared not even family in their loyalty to G-d's covenant," he exclaims. Moses allows no compromise with the Golden Calf, for that will only lead the people down the slippery slope of spiritual annihilation.
It is an insight that we should ponder in our current society as well.

Secularization is an especially odd phenomenon in Israel--evidenced most recently in the electoral success of Shinui. Why should Israel exist if it's not a distinctly Jewish state?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:32 AM


W(ystan) H(ugh) Auden (1907-73) was born in York, England on January 21, 1907. Here's a favorite:
Friday's Child
(In memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
martyred at Flossenburg, April 9th, 1945)

He told us we were free to choose
But, children as we were, we thought—
'Paternal Love will only use
Force in the last resort

On those too bumptious to repent'--
Accustomed to religious dread,
It never crossed our minds He meant
Exactly what he said.

Perhaps He frowns, perhaps He grieves,
But it seems idle to discuss
If anger or compassion leaves
The bigger bangs to us.

What reverence is rightly paid
To a Divinity so odd
He lets the Adam whom He made
Perform the Acts of God?

It might be jolly if we felt
Awe at this Universal Man
(When kings were local, people knelt);
Some try to, but who can?

The self-observed observing Mind
We meet when we observe at all
Is not alarming or unkind
But utterly banal.

Though instruments at Its command
Make wish and counterwish come true,
It clearly cannot understand
What It can clearly do.

Since the analogies are rot
Our senses based belief upon,
We have no means of learning what
Is really going on,

And must put up with having learned
All proofs or disproofs that we tender
Of His existence are returned
Unopened to the sender.

Now, did He really break the seal
And rise again? We dare not say;
But conscious unbelievers feel
Quite sure of Judgment Day.

Meanwhile, a silence on the cross,
As dead as we shall ever be,
Speaks of some total gain or loss,
And you and I are free

To guess from the insulted face
Just what Appearances He saves
By suffering in a public places
A death reserved for slaves.

WH Auden (kirjasto)
- Audio Reading: W. H. Auden (A reading by W. H. Auden, at the 92nd St. Y's Poetry Center, March 27, 1972)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 AM


Group asks Las Cruces, N.M., to stop using cross logo (The Associated Press, 02.19.03)

The city of Las Cruces has been asked to stop using its logo, which a group says is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

The logo has three crosses inside a symbol of the sun. Cruces is Spanish for “crosses.”

The southern New Mexico chapter of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State contends the logo violates the separation of church and state under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Jesse Chavez, chapter president, said that “the present logo is divisive, symbolizing an affiliation with a particular religion, that excludes those not so affiliated.”

“There is no justification for the city to adopt a logo that has this effect on its residents,” he said in a letter earlier this month to Jim Ericson, city manager.

These people really are out to expunge all evidence of religion from our public lives.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:18 AM


Film of the Week: 'Gods and Generals' (Steve Sailer, 2/20/03, UPI)
Recounting the first two years of the war, "Gods and Generals" tracks three heroes. Two are natural warriors from Virginia: Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee and stage veteran Stephen Lang as Stonewall Jackson. The other is a painfully self-made one from Maine: Jeff Daniels as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the professor of rhetoric who may have single-handedly saved the Union at Gettysburg. [...]

[L]ang's Jackson, the central character, stands in battle like the proverbial stonewall, serenely convinced that his fate is in God's hands, but also ferociously willing to help as many Yanks as possible meet their fates. Lang's volcanic performance as this Old Testament prophet-conqueror demonstrates that Stonewall was a great man indeed (although perhaps Jackson was not so common and boring as to be wholly sane).

In a Hollywood that lusts after the under-25 demographic, Maxwell has done something very strange. He has made "Gods and Generals" in the style that his 19th century characters would have thought fitting. The pace of this nearly four-hour film is bucolic, the dialogue reverent, the people heroic, and the vision romantic.

Modern audiences will have particular trouble with the literary formality with which characters address each other. They speak in ways that seem unnatural to us -- they read the Bible aloud together and quote from memory 17th century poetry and Suetonius' Roman history.

Yet, that's how the educated classes talked in the 1860s. They read more than we do now, but owned less printed material. So, they read classics over and
over. Lincoln, for example, was marinated in the King James Bible and Shakespeare. They were adept at high rhetoric and loved orations.

"Gods and Generals" embodies what Greil Marcus, biographer of Bob Dylan (who contributes the closing song), called "the old, weird America:" those peculiar little communities that existed before mass media, rapid transportation, and widespread military service rationalized and homogenized our culture.

Perhaps Hollywood noticed that the top 6 grossing films of 2002 were essentially based on the themes of "old, weird America": Spider-Man; Star Wars: Attack of the Clones; The Two Towers; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; My Big Fat Greek Wedding; and Signs. They are steeped in ideas like the struggle between good & evil; responsibility; loyalty; respect, even adoration, for tradition; the orderliness of the Universe; etc.. Hollywood may be a den of iniquity, but they do notice what sells, and traditional Western values are moving product right now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:17 AM


We're Rich: But why is it so hard to admit? (Andy Crouch, February, 2003, Christianity Today)
There are a handful of Americans who consider themselves rich. I have met a few of them, and they generally are neither spendthrift nor spoiled, especially if they are Christ-followers. They possess what a friend calls the one true advantage of wealth: the personal and irrefutable proof that wealth cannot make you happy. Consequently, they are both diffident and shrewd about their riches.

But most Americans I know think that someone else is wealthy. Most of my friends are in the top third of Americans by household income, but few of us speak of wealth. We are just getting by, with enough to pay for the car and the rent, prepare for retirement and our children's college, and enjoy a few cups of tea in faraway places. We talk about our money the same way that Harvard students talk about their grades—in terms guarded, vague, and self-deprecating all at once. "How did you do on your paper?" "Oh, not so well-terribly, really." (One would later find that student's name on the short list for a Fulbright.) We won't say how much we have or make, but it certainly isn't ever enough.

In my imagination, I found myself trying to explain to Mary why I wasn't really rich. Somehow I'd have to help her understand the costs of daycare (although she has two children), the paradoxical costs borne by a two-income home (her husband works in a city five hours away), the price of college (in Kenya, school fees begin in first grade), the price of housing (outside the slums, Nairobi real estate is not much less expensive than that of many American cities). Somehow I'd have to explain that an American passport and fluent English aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Then again, I could just admit what God and the whole world already know is true. We are—I am—wealthy. Simply rich. Why is that so hard for us to say? Such an admission would, of course, make us responsible for the stewardship of our riches. It would put an end to both complaining and complacency. And since the Christian life starts where self-pity and self-justification end, to admit we are rich might also lead us closer to the life that is really life.

It's too bad we've lost the language and the intellectual framework with which to discuss such things as aristocracy, because in a sense that's what Americans are: the world's aristocracy. The part of that where we're the filthiest stinkin' rich people who ever lived is kind of fun, but we're dealing less well with the obligations that such status imposes upon us. (Of those to whom much is given, much should be expected.) And, of course, the Europeans are handling even less well the knowledge that they've been replaced by us.

February 20, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 PM


Glenn Orbits Earth 3 Times Safely (Richard Witkin, 2/20/62, The New York Times)
John H. Glenn Jr. orbited three times around the earth today and landed safely to become the first American to make such a flight.

The 40-year-old Marine Corps lieutenant colonel traveled about 81,000 miles in 4 hours 56 minutes before splashing into the Atlantic at 2:43 P.M. Eastern Standard Time.

He had been launched from here at 9:47 A. M.

The astronaut's safe return was no less a relief than a thrill to the Project Mercury team, because there had been real concern that the Friendship 7 capsule might disintegrate as it rammed back into the atmosphere.

There had also been a serious question whether Colonel Glenn could complete three orbits as planned. But despite persistent control problems, he managed to complete the entire flight plan.

It's worth remembering that at this time twenty years ago John Glenn was considered a, if not the, front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


US plan for new nuclear arsenal: Secret talks may lead to breaking treaties (Julian Borger, February 19, 2003, The Guardian)
The Bush administration is planning a secret meeting in August to discuss the construction of a new generation of nuclear weapons, including "mini-nukes", "bunker-busters" and neutron bombs designed to destroy chemical or biological agents, according to a leaked Pentagon document.

The meeting of senior military officials and US nuclear scientists at the Omaha headquarters of the US Strategic Command would also decide whether to restart nuclear testing and how to convince the American public that the new weapons are necessary.

The leaked preparations for the meeting are the clearest sign yet that the administration is determined to overhaul its nuclear arsenal so that it could be used as part of the new "Bush doctrine" of pre-emption, to strike the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons of rogue states.

North Korea offers a uniquely appropriate opportunity to begin to enforce a more serious form of nuclear deterrence. The U.S. should use whatever weapons are necessary to eliminate both its nuclear and its missile capabilities and warn other rogue nations that they face similar fates unless they desist in their own programs. If we instead demonstrate that the development of nukes suffices to make us back down then it would be irresponsible for these dictatorships not to try to get ahold of such weapons.

S Korean alert at jet incursion (BBC, 2/20/03)

South Korea has responded strongly to what it said was a violation of its airspace by a North Korean fighter jet early on Thursday.

The South scrambled two fighters to intercept the North Korean MiG-19 and put an anti-aircraft missile base on battle alert, the Defence Ministry in Seoul said.

The two-minute border crossing was the first aerial incursion by the North for 20 years. South Korea called it a provocation and said it would lodge a strong protest.

The incident came hours after the United States announced that Secretary of State Colin Powell would attend the inauguration of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun next week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:56 PM


Who's the Real Peace Candidate?: With Kucinich in, the anti-war vote is up for grabs (Doug Ireland, 2/21/03, LA Weekly)
Kucinich's late entry means he doesn't even have the bare bones of a campaign yet, and there are other problems. Although he's a passionate orator with red-white-and-blue rhetoric who can bring audiences to their feet, the diminutive, excitable Kucinich's demeanor provokes references to what journalists usually demurely call his “gravitas problem."

Then there's Kucinich's long record of voting against federal funding for abortions in Congress: A believer in "life from the moment of conception," Kucinich has gone so far as to vote against allowing female soldiers and military dependents to have an abortion in an overseas military hospital even if they pay for it themselves.

Kucinich is also considered a little flaky by the national media (a reputation not helped by his public embrace of New Age guru Marianne Williamson).

Kucinich is not alone in competing for the anti-war vote. There is, of course, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, who scores points with anti-war audiences by scolding his opponents for voting the blank check. Yet Dean's shifting positions on Iraq leave one wondering if they aren't propelled more by his desire to position himself against the rest of the field than by deep analysis and conviction. [...]

Then there's Al Sharpton, whose opposition to the war in Iraq is without nuance (nor is it his principal message). Sharpton is weighted down by too much baggage. Whenever he is grilled by the news media, Rev. Al has to spend much of his time explaining his false accusations in the Tawana Brawley rape hoax, his years as an FBI informant, his past financial scams, and his previous remarks tinged with anti-Semitism--so much so that his substantive message just can't get through.

His vote will be further undercut by former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile's scheme to run "favorite son" black candidates in those states where Sharpton is expected to make an important effort, to dilute Rev. Al's appeal. Brazile has now found a favorite daughter: Former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (who was chased from office by the voters in a hail of money and ethics scandals) is--at Brazile's urging--about to launch a presidential candidacy that would pit her against Sharpton in all the states. She, too, says she'll run as an anti-war candidate. [...]

As of now, it looks as though anti-war Democratic primary voters will have to choose among the unacceptable and the merely flawed.

Perhaps the message is attracting the messengers it deserves?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Friend details gruesome visit to cryogenics lab (ESPN.com, February 19, 2003)
What would Ted Williams have thought if he knew his body would be hanging upside down in a nitrogen-filled tank with perhaps four other full bodies and five heads at a cryogenics lab inside a strip mall in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Williams' close friend, Buzz Hamon, said the last time he spoke with The Splendid Splinter, Williams said, "I need a lawyer ... Because I made a mistake."

Then the phone went dead. [...]

When Ted Williams died last July 5, John Henry arranged to have his father's body frozen and moved to Alcor.

Sources familiar with what took place that day told the Daily News that the minute Williams drew his last breath, hospital officials filled his body with blood thinner and stuffed it into a bag filled with dry ice for transportation to the airport in Ocala, Fla., where a plane chartered by Alcor was waiting on the tarmac to fly it to Arizona. [...]

With the help of Bobbie Sgrillo, a friend and former mortician who lives in Phoenix, Hamon gained access to Alcor. According to the Daily News, Sgrillo's knowledge of the mortuary business enabled her to gain the confidence of overly protective Alcor officials, who -- after interviewing her for a half-hour -- agreed to give her a tour of the facility. She then asked if she could bring along Hamon, whom she introduced to them as "my friend Art, a public-relations man."

"After what I saw and experienced, I just can't contain myself any longer," Hamon told the Daily News by phone Tuesday. "I want the whole world to know what they've done to Ted. This was absolutely horrifying."

Hamon told the newspaper he was "appalled" by the cluttered conditions inside the facility, then gave the Daily News the following account of entering the containment room where Williams' body is stored:

"There were six huge cylinders along the wall, one of which was filled with liquid nitrogen to supply the other five. I was stunned when [Alcor CEO Jerry Lemler] told me they had 55 'patients,' as he called them. How could they have so many?

"Then he told me there were four full bodies and five heads in each of the cylinders. In addition, there were two short cylinders with just heads in them."

Hamon said he "was horrified" to hear that Williams' body was not stored in a separate cylinder.

"All I could think of was Ted and what he would have thought if he'd known what John Henry had done to him," Hamon told the Daily News. "It was bad enough knowing that somewhere in one of these cylinders, Ted was hanging suspended, upside down, with his head in a bucket. But he was in there with four or five other bodies and assorted heads.

"For all the money this supposedly cost John Henry, he wouldn't even see to it that Ted was alone."

What a crappy way to treat your father.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


Rift With Europe Runs Deep: U.S. views on war, guns, religion strain the alliance that has defined Western democracy. (Sebastian Rotella, February 18, 2003, LA Times)
Some Europeans foresee a split with the United States, as increasingly hostile cultures disagree over fundamental values and issues: war, guns, the death penalty, the role of religion in everyday life.

"The biblical references in politics, the division of the world between good and evil, these are things that we simply don't get," said Francois Heisbourg, director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, a Paris think tank. "In a number of areas, it seems that we are no longer part of the same civilization. You have a fairly religious society on one hand and generally secular societies on the other operating with different references. What would unite us does not seem to be in the forefront."

As if to prove the point below.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM


Fetus or baby? (Christine Chinlund, 2/17/2003, Boston Globe)
THE GLOBE WAS technically correct when it referred to the youngest shooting victim in the Feb. 5 MBTA Orange Line tragedy as a ''fetus.'' But sometimes you can be technically correct and wrong at the same time.This was one of those times.

The facts: On the night of Feb. 5, Hawa Adama Barry, in the ninth month of pregnancy, was shot in the abdomen during a stand-off between two groups of young men on the T.

Early reports from authorities suggested that the baby died in the womb. Thus, the Globe's headline the next day read: ''Passenger shot, her fetus dies as men clash on T.'' Other media outlets had similar accounts but used ''unborn baby'' rather than ''fetus.''

Readers were quick to object to ''fetus.'' A few echoed the abortion-related debate about when life begins, but most argued that the use of such a clinical word to describe an almost full-term baby made the Globe look silly and insensitive. [...]

While I agree with critics who say ''fetus'' was not the best word choice for this story, I don't agree its use had anything to do with political correctness or the abortion debate. Some pretty impartial sources, from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to Webster's Dictionary, say that any unborn child is considered a fetus. The US Supreme Court has said so, too. The Globe had plenty of reason to use the word other than to please abortion rights activists or make a political statement on behalf of abortion rights.

So how was the decision to use ''fetus'' made?

The night of the shooting, night desk staffers -- who didn't receive the story until after midnight -- debated the word choice question. There were clear arguments on both sides, says Night Editor David Jrolf. Finally, as third edition deadline loomed, he telephoned Michael Larkin, deputy managing editor for news operations, at home. Larkin ruled in favor of ''fetus,'' and the paper went to press.

The next day -- as newsroom discussion continued -- the issue was made moot by new information: The baby had been delivered in the hospital and had lived a short time. Thus, he died as a newborn. Globe stories thereafter switched from ''fetus'' to ''baby'' (further confusing some readers).

Larkin says be believed ''fetus'' was the correct word for the first-day story because Webster's definition clearly fit: ''An unborn offspring, especially in its later stages and specifically in humans, from about the eighth week after conception until birth.''

Case closed? Maybe not. The Globe's editor thinks the matter merits more discussion.

Remarkable the linguistic knots you can tie yourself into when you have to encode words to rob them of meaning.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:57 PM


Playing From the Men's Tee (NY Times, 2/19/03)
Ms. Sorenstam will be the first woman to challenge the men from their back tees since 1945 when Babe Didrikson Zaharias, the multi-sport Olympic legend, struck a blow for postwar feminism. She missed the cut after three rounds, a fact that will undoubtedly drive Ms. Sorenstam. At 5 feet 2 inches, she has great power and accuracy off the tee that is matched by a competitive zeal in which she does hundreds of sit-ups a day and maps a course with spreadsheets highlighting every peril and shot. Tiger is wise not to bow and scrape.

The beauty of this tournament will be in the game, not the hype. It should be a simple, free-flowing salute to a bit of creative progress, whoever wins. It may also serve as a needed antidote to the controversy over all-male admissions policies of Augusta National, host to the Masters.

Setting aside for the moment the fact that the only controversy over the Masters has been drummed up by the Times, real "progress" will come only when women take their claims seriously enough to give up the crutch of a "Ladies" golf tour and contend with men as equals.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:44 PM


This is how the filibuster will fall to pieces (Byron York, 2/19/03, The Hill)
Republicans know there are some moderate Democrats who do not passionately oppose Estrada but who have so far stuck with the party in upholding the filibuster. Republicans also realize that, since hard-line Democratic leaders have made specific demands and vowed Estrada would not be confirmed unless the White House met those demands, those moderate Democrats will need some sort of Republican gesture they can use as cover to change their minds and stop supporting the filibuster.

That might already be happening. It has not been widely reported, but while the filibuster has been going on, Estrada has met with several Democratic senators, among them Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Bill Nelson (Neb.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), and Thomas Carper (Del.). Presumably he has been answering some questions.

A few more such meetings, along with some reassuring words about the content of the Justice Department memos, and some moderate Democratic minds might change.

Mr. York explains in some detail--too long to quote--how the GOP can make, has already made, the necessary gestures.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:23 PM

GIVE THE PEOPLE A CHOICE (via Reductio ad Absurdum)

Worst Choice: Why We'd be Better Off Without Roe (Jeffrey Rosen, 02.19.03, New Republic)
Rather than hanging by a five-to-four thread, the core principle of Roe is supported by six justices. And, even in the unlikely event that Roe were overturned, the core right it protects--the right to choose abortion early in pregnancy--isn't likely to be threatened on a broad scale. For the past 30 years, national polls have revealed a consistent and moderate consensus on abortion: Majorities strongly oppose bans on early-term abortions and strongly support restrictions on late-term abortions. If Roe were overturned, the relative political weakness of the extreme pro-life position would be exposed, and the Republican Party would be torn apart at the seams because many Republicans oppose early-term bans and would desert the party in droves. "The last thing in the world the White House would want is that Roe v. Wade is overturned," says a prominent Republican congressional aide. "The reason being is that it would energize the nation's pro-choice constituency, ... and it would cause a huge fissure in the Republican Party, which has been generally harmonious over the issue because of the belief that the pro-life position will never truly be tested." At the same time, if Roe were overturned, the expanded and moderate Democratic majority would be free to distance itself from extremists in the pro-choice movement who persist in fighting restrictions on late-term abortions, which most Americans embrace. In short, 30 years later, it seems increasingly clear that this pro-choice magazine was correct in 1973 when it criticized Roe on constitutional grounds. Its overturning would be the best thing that could happen to the federal judiciary, the pro-choice movement, and the moderate majority of the American people. [...]

In the 30 years since the decision, public opinion about abortion has remained remarkably stable. As Everett Ladd and Karlyn Bowman of the American Enterprise Institute have noted, national polls from 1975 to the present suggest that public opinion on abortion for the past three decades has consistently included extremes on both sides that favor either no restrictions or total bans--each of which command about 30 and 20 percent support, respectively--and a vast majority in the middle that opposes both early-term bans and late-term abortions. Americans have reached a moderate consensus: In a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll last month, 66 percent said abortion should be legal during the first three months of pregnancy; by the second trimester, when the fetus becomes viable, only 25 percent said abortion should be legal; and, by the third trimester, when so-called partial-birth abortions would be performed, only 10 percent say abortion should be legal. These numbers, too, have remained entirely consistent during the three decades since Roe was decided.

Despite these national trends, if Roe were overturned, it's true that some states would try to regulate early-term abortions. The precise number is hard to estimate. [...]

[E]ven if a handful of state legislatures did pass restrictions on first-term abortions, the political consequences would energize the pro-choice movement and hurt the Republican Party far more than it now benefits from pandering to the pro-life extremists. "You have a sizable number of Republican women and men who are in the vast middle group that tilt more toward the choice side," says Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. If Roe were overturned, "it would help to redefine the Republican Party as a pro-life party. If anything could lead to realignment, I imagine this could do it. We're talking about a country at parity, and, if we see a shift of two or three or four percent, it could make a significant difference." [...]

The fact that we are about to fight another Supreme Court nomination battle by flyspecking the nominees' views on Roe points to the real costs of the decision today. Thirty years after Roe, the finest constitutional minds in the country still have not been able to produce a constitutional justification for striking down restrictions on early-term abortions that is substantially more convincing than Justice Harry Blackmun's famously artless opinion itself. As a result, the pro-choice majority asks nominees to swear allegiance to the decision without being able to identify an intelligible principle to support it. And the pro-life minority can criticize the legal weakness of the decision without having to acknowledge its political weakness in the country as a whole.

Thirty years ago, opposing Roe on constitutional grounds, Alexander Bickel wrote for the editors of this pro-choice magazine, "[I]t may take some time before the realization comes that this will not do." After three decades, it has become more obvious than ever that Bickel was correct and that the costs of retaining Roe outweigh any benefits. For better or for worse, Roe will not be overturned any time soon. But, if it were, the Democrats, the federal judiciary, and the moderate majority of American people could breathe a sigh of relief.

For our money the most hilarious theory of 2002--given official credence by Timesman Rick Berke--was that George W. Bush and Karl Rove secretly hoped the Democrats would keep control of the Senate so that the Administration wouldn't have to pass any conservative legislation and could instead run against the do-nothing Democrats, while triangulation between the Republican House and the Democrat Senate would allow him to compromise and reach the moderate ends the President truly believes in. This is of a piece with the speculation in 2000 that George Bush didn't really want tax cuts, in 2001 that he was a closet protectionist, etc., etc., etc.... There may be no politician in modern memory who has had greater trouble getting people to believe what he says, at least none whose actions have so consistently matched his words but has still been unable to get people to believe him. Thus, before the State of the Union you got pundit pabulum predicting that Mr. Bush would not propose anything too extraordinary. Instead he came out with massive new tax cuts, a privatization plan for Medicare, a radical restructuring of retirement savings accounts, etc. Similarly, using his executive power he's effecting a conservative takeover of the judiciary, pushing his Faith-Based Initiative, removing environmental and business regulations, and so on and so forth.

But, comes now Jeffrey Rosen to tell us that George W. Bush secretly supports Roe v. Wade, even as Mr. Rosen himself acknowledges that it is an unprincipled, anti-Constitutional, and socially costly decision. But even if we assume that Mr. Bush doesn't sincerely care about the moral issue involved, and that he's unbothered by the judicial usurpation and misuse of power involved, it's difficult to follow Mr. Rosen's reasoning here. We currently have a legal regime where abortion is available on demand, even though large majorities of Americans support a variety of restrictions. Overturning Roe would, as Mr. Rosen says, probably only lead to complete bans in a very few states and complete permissiveness in a few, with the remainder allowing abortion but only in certain circumstances. So, what we'd have in the post-Roe political world is the GOP securing a series of victories that majorities support while Democrats oppose them at every step of the way. How exactly does that hurt Republicans?

Meanwhile, if we return to the moral, Constitutional, and social issues--it seems self-evident that bringing abortion law back into line with democratic legal structures and opinion and inhibiting the ease of getting an abortion all serves conservative purposes. Moreover, Mr. Rosen seems to have discounted the raw authority that the Supreme Court carries in our society. Even its most controversial rulings--Brown v. Bd. of Ed.; Miranda; Roe itself--have a tendency to be accepted by the American people. It would be all to the good for society to grapple with the idea that abortion is not a "right" and is therefore not secured by the Constitution, but a privilege and therefore granted by us as voters. Rather than being able to duck responsibility and blame the Court and Constitution, each of us will have to reckon with our own culpability in every abortion we allow. What's the downside of making us take responsibility for the moral choices of our own culture?

If Roe v. Wade is overruled, what arguments should abortion rights supporters use? those who support abortion rights must be prepared to argue, even if fetuses are accorded the legal status of persons, that women should still retain the right to choose an abortion (Alec Walen, FindLaw.com)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM


Kicking the Secularist Habit: A six-step program (David Brooks, March 2003, The Atlantic Monthly)
Like a lot of people these days, I'm a recovering secularist. Until September 11 I accepted the notion that as the world becomes richer and better educated, it becomes less religious. Extrapolating from a tiny and unrepresentative sample of humanity (in Western Europe and parts of North America), this theory holds that as history moves forward, science displaces dogma and reason replaces unthinking obedience. A region that has not yet had a reformation and an enlightenment, such as the Arab world, sooner or later will.

It's now clear that the secularization theory is untrue. The human race does not necessarily get less religious as it grows richer and better educated. We are living through one of the great periods of scientific progress and the creation of wealth. At the same time, we are in the midst of a religious boom. Islam is surging. Orthodox Judaism is growing among young people, and Israel has gotten more religious as it has become more affluent. The growth of Christianity surpasses that of all other faiths. In 1942 this magazine published an essay called "Will the Christian Church Survive?" Sixty years later there are two billion Christians in the world; by 2050, according to some estimates, there will be three billion. As Philip Jenkins, a Distinguished Professor of History and Religious Studies at Pennsylvania State University, has observed, perhaps the most successful social movement of our age is Pentecostalism (see "The Next Christianity," October Atlantic). Having gotten its start in Los Angeles about a century ago, it now embraces 400 million people—a number that, according to Jenkins, could reach a billion or more by the half-century mark. [...]

Secularism is not the future; it is yesterday's incorrect vision of the future. This realization sends us recovering secularists to the bookstore or the library in a desperate attempt to figure out what is going on in the world. I suspect I am not the only one who since September 11 has found himself reading a paperback edition of the Koran that was bought a few years ago in a fit of high-mindedness but was never actually opened. I'm probably not the only one boning up on the teachings of Ahmad ibn Taymiyya, Sayyid Qutb, and Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.

There are six steps in the recovery process.[...]

The third step is getting angry. I now get extremely annoyed by the secular fundamentalists who are content to remain smugly ignorant of enormous shifts occurring all around them. They haven't learned anything about religion, at home or abroad. They don't know who Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are, even though those co-authors have sold 42 million copies of their books. They still don't know what makes a Pentecostal a Pentecostal (you could walk through an American newsroom and ask that question, and the only people who might be able to answer would be the secretaries and the janitorial staff). They still don't know about Michel Aflaq, the mystical Arab nationalist who served as a guru to Saddam Hussein. A great Niagara of religious fervor is cascading down around them while they stand obtuse and dry in the little cave of their own parochialism—and many of them are journalists and policy analysts, who are paid to keep up with these things.

The fourth step toward recovery is to resist the impulse to find a materialistic explanation for everything. During the centuries when secularism seemed the wave of the future, Western intellectuals developed social-science models of extraordinary persuasiveness. Marx explained history through class struggle, other economists explained it through profit maximization. Professors of international affairs used conflict-of-interest doctrines and game theory to predict the dynamics between nation-states.

All these models are seductive and partly true. This country has built powerful institutions, such as the State Department and the CIA, that use them to try to develop sound policies. But none of the models can adequately account for religious ideas, impulses, and actions, because religious fervor can't be quantified and standardized. Religious motivations can't be explained by cost-benefit analysis.

Over the past twenty years domestic-policy analysts have thought hard about the roles that religion and character play in public life. Our foreign-policy elites are at least two decades behind. They go for months ignoring the force of religion; then, when confronted with something inescapably religious, such as the Iranian revolution or the Taliban, they begin talking of religious zealotry and fanaticism, which suddenly explains everything. After a few days of shaking their heads over the fanatics, they revert to their usual secular analyses. We do not yet have, and sorely need, a mode of analysis that attempts to merge the spiritual and the material.

The recovering secularist has to resist the temptation to treat religion as a mere conduit for thwarted economic impulses. For example, we often say that young Arab men who have no decent prospects turn to radical Islam. There's obviously some truth to this observation. But it's not the whole story: neither Mohammed Atta nor Osama bin Laden, for example, was poor or oppressed. And although it's possible to construct theories that explain their radicalism as the result of alienation or some other secular factor, it makes more sense to acknowledge that faith is its own force, independent of and perhaps greater than economic resentment.

Human beings yearn for righteous rule, for a just world or a world that reflects God's will—in many cases at least as strongly as they yearn for money or success. Thinking about that yearning means moving away from scientific analysis and into the realm of moral judgment. The crucial question is not What incentives does this yearning respond to? but Do individuals pursue a moral vision of righteous rule? And do they do so in virtuous ways, or are they, like Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, evil in their vision and methods?

One of the more interesting discussions that goes on here--probably annoying to most of you by now--concerns Darwinism generally, and evolutionary psychology in particular, and their fundamental incompatibility with the idea of Free Will and moral choice. What we find especially fascinating is the vigor with which even self-proclaimed evolutionary absolutists refuse to accept the logical conclusions of the theory and protest that they can have the best of both worlds--Man created wholly by forces of Nature, but then men with consciences and souls that are wholly their own creation. So do even the materialists among us deny the dictates of pure reason and cling to the spiritual.

This is rather reassuring, on the one hand, because it suggests that no matter how ungodly such folks may wish to think themselves, they remain tightly moored to the traditional ways in which we in the West have comprehended ourselves. On the other, it points up a major problem with modern culture, because the prevailing philosophy of our intellectuals--rationalist, materialist, Darwinist--is implicitly acknowledged to be incoherent and inadequate at least to our psychological needs. One curious function of this cultural schizophrenia is that it is only the religious who are viewed as intolerant and fundamentalist, and it is demanded that they pay obeisance to such things as evolution, or else be adjudged somehow unfit for modernity. Meanwhile, it is never deemed proper to require the intellectual classes to acknowledge the reality of the spiritual realm. The element of faith that colors their own thinking must be ignored, like Grandma's goiter.

It's little wonder then that the two sides have such difficulty communicating with one another or even respecting each other. But, as Mr. Brooks points out, it is necessary to find ways around the barriers between the two sides because, where the secularists have for centuries assumed that time would prove them right, that religious belief, like other "superstitions" would merely fade away, it instead appears to be secularized society that dies off, as witness Japan, Western Europe, etc.--societies on such a demographic downslope that even if you only look at them from a Darwinian perspective you're forced to say that Natural Selection has selected them for extinction.

It can come as little surprise--though it has to many secularists--that the responses of America and Western Europe to the threat of Islamicism have been so different. The French and Germans, already headed towards minority ethnic status in their own countries and unable to access moral reasoning any longer, seem content to await their dooms. Compare their lassitude to the moral passion with which Americans--as exemplified by George W. Bush--discuss this confrontation and the seriousness with which America--a nation of rising population and still fervent faith--is responding. Mr. Brooks speaks of men like Osama and Saddam as pursuing evil visions and methods. Such a judgment imposes an obligation on those who believe in morality and righteousness to contend with that evil. But in a secular world there is no good, no evil, and no obligation. And, since ceasing to believe in evil seems unlikely to get rid of it, there may in short order be no secular society.

Can We Be Good Without God?: On the political meaning of Christianity (Glenn Tinder, December 1989, Atlantic Monthly)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM


Down with Wilco (Yep Roc) (Robert Wilonsky. 2/20/03, Dallas Observer)
If you haven't figured it out by now--and how could you miss it, given the sudden ubiquity of The Band Warners Paid Twice to Release Once--Wilco's best selling point is its front man's nostalgia for an era when "pop" meant AM free-form, not FM formula; Jeff Tweedy thinks he's still on Reprise, only it's 30 years ago and Joni Mitchell's waiting on the tour bus to split an ounce with Van Dyke Parks and Neil Young. Sure, the albums may be getting "weirder" and more "eccentric," but all that static and heebie-keybie distortion's just there to throw the detectives off the scent of a man in his 30s pretending to be a man in his 50s stuck in the '60s while he crawls into the '70s. He could scrape a rusted nail across a tin bucket and shoot off a cannon in a closet, and still you'd hear in all that racket a perfectly formed tune that'd put a smiley smile on Roger McGuinn's beard.

This collaboration with old Fresh Fellow Scott McCaughey, Tweedy's Wilcomates, Pete Buck, Ken Stringfellow and assorted small-stars (Rebecca Gates, Sean O'Hagen, other people surprisingly not Jim O'Rourke) strips away the weapons of mass obfuscation that mar recent Wilco-etc. releases, especially that years-old Loose Fur art project just unleashed just 'cause. The noise that annoys has vanished, so you no longer have to assume that somewhere in all the perfectly placed clutter is a great song dying for some sun and air. You might even walk away from this joint humming a verse or whistling a chorus; nice to hear the band grinning again, which is what usually happens when friends gather in studios late at night to impress and outdo one another over a bottle or blunt.

But, alas, this ain't a Wilco record, because it's still Scott M.'s show, meaning he's still singing, meaning he's still whining, meaning he's still grating...

Ouch! Though the politics are sketchy, the Mermaid Avenue cds were good.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


Gephardt, Taking Aim at White House, Sharply Attacks Bush (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 2/20/03, NY Times)
Mr. Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat who stepped down as House minority leader after Democrats failed to win control of Congress in November, used his announcement speech in St. Louis this morning to offer some of the harshest criticism of Mr. Bush voiced so far by any Democratic presidential candidate.

He portrayed the White House as overridden with "special interest lobbyists," and said that Mr. Bush's policies had undermined the nation's economic recovery, soiled the environment and neglected public schools. Attacking the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's economic plan, Mr. Gephardt vowed to "scrap the vast majority of the Bush tax cuts for wealthier Americans and corporations." [...]

Mr. Gephardt devoted barely 2 of the speech's 43 minutes to foreign policy, and that included an affirmation of support for Mr. Bush's effort to disarm Saddam Hussein--including military action if necessary.

His overriding and relatively detailed focus on domestic issues, coming as the nation seems to be on the verge of war, contrasted sharply with many of his major rivals. The focus appeared intended to reinforce his credentials with Democratic activists and labor unions who could prove crucial in the early presidential nominating caucuses.

Even setting aside all his other problems--well detailed in Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes--the early schedule is gruesome for Mr. Gephardt. He has to win Iowa, having done so last time, but can't wing NH, which will go to John Kerry, as MA politicians always win here. This will seem to nip what little momentum he had in the bud and to get it back he'll have to win in Southern states, despite black opponents, Southern opponents, and more hawkish opponents, and the reality that unions aren't that important in the region. Stick a fork in him.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:24 PM


Landry unapologetic for 'tiny brains' comment about poor (The Canadian Press, February 20, 2003)
An unflappable Premier Bernard Landry refused to apologize yesterday for saying poor people should manage to feed their children because even birds -- with their tiny brains -- can do it.

Mr. Landry admitted he made the comment during a private meeting with officials from poverty groups, women's groups and advocates for single-parent families last Friday.

However, he said the remarks were misinterpreted and he expressed shock that some people were offended.

"I am surprised, I am disappointed and I regret that comments aimed at comforting the least fortunate, were interpreted to the contrary," Mr. Landry told reporters. [...]

Last Friday, Mr. Landry told a private gathering of social activists he didn't understand why many Quebec schoolchildren go to class hungry.

"If birds, with the brains they have, feed their young in the morning, how is it that there are still people who don't feed their children," Mr. Landry was quoted as saying in a government transcript released yesterday.

Somewhere James Watt smiles.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM


Klein's conservatives plan to raise separatist spectre (Mark Reid and Rick Mofina, February 20, 2003, Ottawa Citizen)
Alberta's Progressive Conservative Party will discuss the issue of separation at the party's upcoming annual meeting, but Premier Ralph Klein says he doesn't want the debate to overshadow the convention. [...]

The issue of separation arose earlier this week during the provincial government's throne speech when it asserted that Alberta's ability to be a partner in Canada is compromised by the federal government.

Mr. Klein said the comment in the throne speech should not be construed as a threat to separate, but rather to put the federal government on notice that Alberta intends to "strongly defend" its interests.

"Alberta's ability to be a partner in Canada is compromised by the current federal government, which does not listen to the people of this province," Mr. Klein's Conservative government said in its throne speech.

Following the throne speech, Mr. Klein said Alberta can't be part of the "Canadian family if big brother down there in Ottawa doesn't want you to be part of the family." [...]

Rob James, a member of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party and gun registry opponent, has drafted a resolution calling for a referendum on separation, but party executive director Marilyn Haley said it won't be debated on the convention floor.

Mr. Klein's political opponents in Alberta, along with some political experts, say there simply isn't strong support for separation in the province, and accused the premier of "trotting" out the spectre of separation to deflect attention from troubles on the homefront.

"This is just something the province trots out when things get a little bit hot on the provincial level, to try to distract people from problems at home," said University of Calgary political scientist Doreen Barrie.

Randy Thorsteinson, leader of the fledgling Alberta Alliance party, said "there is a tremendous amount of frustration in Alberta," but added Mr. Klein's comments are nothing but "hollow rhetoric" after his recent failure to stop the federal government from implementing the Kyoto Protocol, and his inability to obtain major concessions in health care.

It's all about oil.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:06 AM


European clash over UK spending plans (George Parker, February 18 2003, Financial Times)
Gordon Brown, UK finance minister, on Tuesday clashed with EU colleagues over his spending plans, providing more ammunition for British opponents of joining the euro.

Some ministers implied Mr Brown should raise taxes or trim his programme to rebuild Britain's public services, because he risked breaching the EU's budget rules. The chancellor left the meeting early. His aides made it clear he had no intention of heeding the warnings.

Opponents of the euro are likely to use the dispute as proof that Britain's fiscal room for manoeuvre could be limited inside the single currency zone.

Even if the economics are dubious, the politics are good. Anything that keeps Britain out of the EU is helpful.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


Daily Philosophical Quotation (20 Feb 2003)
However jewel-like the good will may be in its own right, there is a morally significant difference between rescuing someone from a burning building and dropping him from a twelfth-storey window while trying to rescue him.
--Thomas Nagel, Mortal Questions

I don't get it: what, in moral terms, is the difference between succeeding and failing so long as you're trying to do the right thing?

February 19, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 PM


Botched vaccinations blamed for Aids in Africa: An international team of scientists says only 30 per cent of HIV cases were sexually transmitted (Nigel Hawkes and Michael Dynes, February 20, 2003, Times of London)
THE African Aids pandemic was caused more by careless use of needles in healthcare than by unsafe sex, a report published today by an international group of scientists says.

They estimate that more than half the cases of Aids in Africa before 1988 were caused by unsterilised needles. The claim, directly challenging the belief that 90 per cent of cases were sexually transmitted, implies that the African Aids pandemic is largely the result of unsafe medical practices and mismanaged vaccination campaigns.

Thus does political correctness blind science.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM


Honky-tonk stylist and outlaw Johnny Paycheck dies after lengthy illness. (TOM ROLAND, 2/19/03, The Tennessean)
''All my friends are dressed in black and they're standing reverently/Let's have a few moments silence for the late and great me.''

Johnny Paycheck examined the possibility of his own death - a death caused by heartache - in a 1960s recording called The Late and Great Me. That possibility came to pass, as Mr. Paycheck, 64, died in his sleep overnight Tuesday after a lengthy illness. The Grand Ole Opry, of which he was a member, confirmed his death, though no other details were immediately available. [...]

Mr. Paycheck was born May 31, 1938, in Greenfield, Ohio, with the given name of Donald Eugene Lytle. He received his first guitar at age 6, entered talent contests before turning 10, and in his early teens, became a regular performer at Club 28, a Greenfield honky-tonk owned by family friend Paul Angel.

At age 15, he became, he once said, a ''gypsy,'' jumping trains or hitchhiking, traveling around the eastern U.S. He scored another regular club gig in Columbus, Ohio, at age 16, then headed to Toledo, where he joined the Navy. There, while still a teen-ager, he was court-martialed for reportedly fracturing the skull of a superior officer. He escaped twice from a military prison during his subsequent incarceration.

Returning to his wanderlust after his release in 1958, Mr. Paycheck ended up in Nashville, where bass player Buddy Killen helped him get a recording contract with Decca Records. Under the name Donny Young, Mr. Paycheck recorded four songs for Decca, then another two for Mercury.

Killen, who later ran Sony/Tree publishing and would produce Exile and soul man Joe Tex, played bass on George Jones' 1959 hit White Lightning, on which Mr. Paycheck provided backing vocals. It was an early moment in Mr. Paycheck's career as a sideman. He toured - still under the name of Donny Young - with Jones, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young and Ray Price, his raucous carousing contributing to his revolving employment.

There are those who believe that Jones' inimitable, lonesome vocal style was derived from his on-again, off-again work with Mr. Paycheck during that period.

In 1965, he took the name of Johnny Paycheck from a Midwestern boxer, legally adopting the name the following year. [...]

In 1966, Mr. Paycheck scored his first Top 10 hit, The Lovin' Machine, a celebration of the automobile. It marked the beginning of a period at Little Darlin' Records that many critics have viewed as the most remarkable of his career. Mr. Paycheck embraced a series of strange characters and soap opera storylines through such oddly titled songs as (Pardon Me) I've Got Someone to Kill, He's in a Hurry (To Get Home to My Wife), Don't Monkey with Another Monkey's Monkey and If I'm Gonna Sink (I Might as Well Go to the Bottom).

Getting thrown out of a George Jones band for drunkenness seems difficult.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 PM


Winnie Mandela - Iraqi 'human shield' Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has offered to go to Iraq as a human shield. (BBC News, 2/19/2003)
Her office said that she would first consult with the women's league of South Africa's ruling African National Congress, which she still heads.

Her former husband, Nelson Mandela, is also opposed to the United States-led plans to attack Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


FRANCE: SADDAM'S ALLY (Dick Morris, Feb. 05, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Throughout the '90s, France constantly pushed for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq. Bemoaning the fate of the Iraqi people, the French pushed to allow Saddam to sell oil on the global market (the so-called oil-for-food program). When America and Britain demanded tough controls on the funds from oil sales to be sure they did not go for arms, France objected that such controls would undermine Iraqi sovereignty. Largely as a result of French pressure, the oil-for-food program was implemented, allowing Saddam to sell 500,000 barrels per day on the open market (about a sixth of his pre-war production).

But Saddam couldn't do much rearming with the oil money, because U.N. inspectors were looking over his shoulder. So in November 1997, he announced that he would bar Americans from the 77-member inspection team. The other inspectors withdrew in protest and solidarity with their American mates. The world was plunged into crisis. Once again, France took Saddam's side. President Bill Clinton sent two aircraft carriers to the gulf and vowed that Saddam "must comply unconditionally with the will of the international community." French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine criticized Clinton for giving Saddam the impression that "there would never be a way out of the tunnel [of sanctions]," even if he got rid of all his weapons programs."

France demanded an end to all sanctions and called for unlimited oil sales by Iraq. Then suddenly Saddam seemed to back down in the face of Clinton's pressure and admitted the U.S. inspectors back in. Had there been concessions to Saddam? Oh no, said Deputy National Security Adviser Sandy Berger: "There's no deal. There's no concessions." But the French knew better. As Vedrine said, "The Americans bent a little." Pushed by France, the United States agreed to let Saddam increase his oil sales, ultimately letting sales grow to 2 million barrels per day. A concession to Iraq? No way, said Clinton's people: It was a concession to France; we were not giving in to Saddam. Then, the next year, Saddam barred all U.N. inspectors.

The final nail in the coffin of controls on Iraq came in 1999 when, again as a result of a French initiative, all limits on Iraqi oil sales were lifted. With no U.N. inspectors to inhibit him and $20 million a day in oil revenues, Saddam could build whatever weapons he wanted. Courtesy of France. The only consistency in French policy toward Iraq since the Gulf War has been support for Saddam Hussein to weaken U.N. and U.S. measures against him. [...]

Mark Twain known for his insights and aphorisms, wrote: "France has neither winter nor summer nor morals. Apart from these drawbacks, it is a fine country." Twain died in 1910, but his comment is as timely as ever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


'McCain-Feingold School' Finds Many Bewildered (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 2/19/03, NY Times)
Benjamin L. Ginsberg, a Republican Party lawyer who has conducted seminars for the other side of the aisle, said lawmakers were startled to hear that once-standard practices like acting as host at a fund-raiser for a home-state governor might now be illegal. "There's an initial stage where the reaction is, 'This can't be true,' " Mr. Ginsberg said. "And then there's the actual anger stage."

The chief provision of McCain-Feingold was a ban on the national parties' raising of soft money, the large, little-regulated contributions that were supposed to encourage general party-building activities but as a practical matter had become the chief method of raising millions from the wealthy during the campaign season.

Most of the party lawyers and fund-raising officials now explaining the new law were never fans of it to begin with. Adjusting to the measure's detailed workings, however, has proved bewildering and anxiety-producing even among those who supported it. As members of Congress begin refilling their coffers for 2004, the law's full effect is just beginning to sink in.

The law, being challenged as unconstitutional by dozens of groups spanning the political spectrum, has already had sobering financial consequences for the Democrats, who, it is becoming clear, have been put at a decided fund-raising disadvantage by a measure that many of them championed.

With federal candidates and national party committees now barred from raising soft money, they have been forced to finance their activities from the contributions of hard-money donors, who are limited to $2,000 per candidate in any one election.

Soft-money contributions were previously the main source of financing for the national Democratic Party, which roughly kept pace with the Republicans in collecting them. By contrast, Republicans last year raised nearly twice as much hard money as the Democrats, evidence of a much broader base of contributors that Democrats believe has put the Republicans in a dominant fund-raising position as the 2004 presidential and Congressional races approach. While campaign experts had predicted that the Republicans would have an advantage, the gap has been even wider than expected.

The law is, of course, unconstitutional and we'd support the impeachment of George W. Bush for signing it, but you can see why it was so hard to resist politically. The Democrats will have very little money with which to spread their incoherent messages in the coming elections, increasing the already great likelihood that 2004 will be a watershed.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


The heroes (AFP, FEB 20, 2003)
More commuters might have died if not for two engineers who sacrificed their own lives to save others trapped in the underground subway fire.

Mr Chang Dae Sung, 37, and Mr Kim Sang Man, 32, led panicky passengers by the hand up the stairs to safety. Then they turned back to help more.

But their second trip was one way. [...]

'We are taking shelter with some 10 other passengers inside the machinery room,' one of them said in a phone call to subway colleagues.

When rescuers finally reached the scene, their bodies were found huddled close to the rest inside the room.

If they were Americans their names would be on all our tongues. We honor their courage and their sacrifice.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 PM


Jackson meant for these moments (MARK BROWN, February 18, 2003, Chicago SUN-TIMES)
Derrick Mosley is an upstart community activist who thought he had something special to contribute in the aftermath of Monday's deadly stampede at the E2 Chicago nightclub: a letter he says he sent two months ago to the club's president warning about overcrowded conditions and the potential for "catastrophic" results.

Mosley brought copies of his letter to Rainbow PUSH headquarters, where the Rev. Jesse Jackson was holding a combination prayer vigil and press briefing. Mosley said he'd been invited. It seemed like the kind of thing Jackson might showcase.

But when he started passing out his letters, Mosley found himself about as welcome as the proverbial skunk at a garden party. Urged to cool it, he kept quiet during Jackson's presentation. Afterward, when he consented to interviews, he was told by PUSH personnel to take it outside.

"There's a time and a season for all things," Jackson explained later.

Jackson said Monday's meeting, attended by the grieving family members of victim Antonio Myers, wasn't the time to be discussing who did what wrong at the nightclub.

Mosley found that a little odd, especially when it came out during the press briefing that Jackson had gone to bat for the club last summer at a time when city officials were seeking to crack down on the establishment.

"I don't know what their angle is, but I just don't think they're dealing with this candidly," Mosley said of Jackson and PUSH.

Before Central America turned her looney, Joan Didion said something quite profound, which the Jesse Jacksons of the world seem intent on keeping black America from discovering: "The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life is the source from which self-respect springs."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:08 PM



Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:45 PM


The shame! We've mischaracterized the French (Tony Blankley, Jewish World Review, Feb. 19, 2003)
[T]his Monday, in the European Union meeting, M. Jacque Chirac...revealed himself to be a vulgar, unsubtle, bullying thug. According to the Associated Press, M. Chirac "launched a withering attack ... on eastern European nations who signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq ..." He accused them of acting irresponsibly by expressing their opinions. France, which can't stop talking herself, would silence others who speak but rarely. [...]

The list of countries under the French whip is ironic: Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania and Bulgaria. All these countries were on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain during the Age of Communism.

They were unlucky enough to be occupied by the Soviet Red Army in the closing months of WWII and thus lived in enforced slavery for half a century. But geography was destiny. France was occupied by American, British, Canadian and other British Empire troops, and was thus saved from such a fate by their English-speaking liberators.

It is worth recalling that while French soldiers were throwing down their rifles in 1940 as the Germans advanced, the flower of Polish manhood charged into the invading Nazi tanks on horseback in the last and most gallant cavalry charge in history. Of course, they were killed to the last man. While the Poles were dying with their boots on, the French were living on their knee-pads (during which, they cheerfully ferreted out and shipped their French Jews off to the German death camps).

How dare the French attempt to blackmail the Poles -- of all people (and the Czechs and Slovaks, who they helped to sell out at Munich).

He left out the French refusal to be part of the NATO military structure during the Cold War, which would have let them off the hook had WWIII commenced, a war that would have determined whether these countries were liberated or remained under Soviet tyranny.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:31 PM


Administration fine-tunes religious rights in public education (Terry Eastland, Feb. 19, 2003, Jewish World Review)
Every so often, news is made that tells a story larger than first appears. That happened earlier this month when the Education Department issued a four-page document titled "Guidance on Constitutionally Protected Prayer in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools."

The document drew restrained interest from the media, probably because half of it was a dry statement of familiar constitutional principles and the other half was an attempt to apply those principles to particular situations. The document looked like the sort of thing that only school administrators and lawyers might read. Yet the guidance is the latest chapter in a story that involves much more than the public schools. [...]

The Bush Education Department's "guidance" builds on the Clinton guidelines. That itself is worth noting, for it is clear there is little difference between the current president and his predecessor on the matter of ensuring religious freedom in the public schools. Indeed, in an interview, a Bush administration attorney who advised on the just-released guidance praised the Clinton guidelines: "They were great. They laid out the rights of students, and they made clear that schools don't have to be religion-free zones."

The Bush guidance is more explicit than the Clinton guidelines about students' free-exercise rights. And it makes clear that teachers also have rights: They may meet with each other for prayer or other religious purposes before school or after lunch – so long as they aren't acting in official capacities. The guidance embraces a basic First Amendment principle: Government speech endorsing religion is forbidden, but private speech endorsing religion is protected.

The Bush guidance isn't merely an exercise in updating the Clinton guidelines. The "No Child Left Behind" law of 2001 actually requires a document from the Education Department on "constitutionally protected prayer" in the schools. Schools are to use the department's guidance to make sure they aren't abridging rights. Indeed, the law imposes on the schools a requirement that they comply with the guidance. A school that fails to do that stands to lose federal funds. As the administration attorney told me, "We didn't have a stick before. We have one now."

There's just all kinds of good stuff in the No Child Left Behind Act, eh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:22 PM


Parties Gamble on Estrada Nomination: Fight Over Appeals Court Hopeful May Set Tone for '04 Presidential Campaign (Mike Allen, February 19, 2003, Washington Post)
One of the early skirmishes of next year's presidential race is being fought over President Bush's nomination of a Hispanic lawyer to a federal appeals court, with both parties gambling that their decision to engage in a Senate stalemate over his confirmation is worth the political risk.

Republicans see the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia as a chance to build goodwill among Hispanics and erode Democrats' solid standing among minority voters. Democrats contend that Bush is trying to run roughshod over the Senate to try to pack the federal courts with conservatives.

Both parties are treating this as a dress rehearsal for Bush's first Supreme Court nomination. Estrada -- who has no judicial experience -- often appears on GOP lists of potential Bush nominees to the high court, and the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District is often viewed as the nation's second most powerful court because it rules on the constitutionality of federal laws and regulations, and resolves disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

Thus Democrats have refused to let the nomination come to a vote, mounting what is effectively a filibuster, although the Republicans have not yet called their bluff by demanding round-the-clock talkathons. [...]

A drawn-out battle poses problems for both parties. Republicans hope to repeat their success of last fall in using a deadlock over the creation of a Department of Homeland Security to paint Democrats as obstructionist. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Friday that Democrats were sending a message of "obstruction, obstruction, obstruction."

Democrats argue that Republicans will be blamed for gridlock and bickering now that they control the Senate.

How is this a risk for the GOP: it either gets a conservative Hispanic judge or an issue with which to stir Latino resentment of the Democrats? And what conceivable upside is there for Democrats, who either lose or get an equally conservative nominee in his place, having alienated Hispanics either way?

And let's see how long the Democrats are willing to bring Senate business to a halt once the war starts...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:13 PM


Toxic Talk on War (Lawrence F. Kaplan, February 18, 2003, Washington Post)
From the musty precincts of the Old Right, the contention that Israel and a powerful "cabal" of its American supporters have manufactured the present crisis with Iraq has become canonical. Buchanan, who writes that President Bush has become a client of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the "neoconservative war party," has transformed his new magazine, the American Conservative, into a regular forum for those who share this conviction. One of its contributors, University of Illinois history professor Paul W. Schroeder, deems it self-evident that the plan for an invasion "is being promoted in the interests of Israel."

"Certainly it is being pushed very hard by a number of influential supporters of Israel of the hawkish neoconservative stripe in and outside the administration (Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, and others)," Schroeder writes.

Seconding this appraisal, conservative writer Georgie Anne Geyer, whose column appears weekly in the Washington Times, reveals how "the fanatic neoconservatives around the administration, the rabid Israel supporters in the White House and the Pentagon," plan to wage war in Iraq and then to "democratize the entire Middle East, including Syria and Saudi Arabia, if necessary by military means, in order to secure Ariel Sharon's Israel."

Meanwhile on the left -- where many cannot fathom why, absent the urging of Israelis and their American co-religionists, the Bush administration would be so eager to topple Saddam Hussein -- the socialism of fools has been enjoying something of a vogue. Writing in the Nation, Jason Vest reports that the Bush team's "attack-Iraq chorus," working in tandem with "far-right American Zionists," subscribes to "articles of faith that effectively hold there is no difference between U.S. and Israeli national security interests." The respected liberal intellectual Ian Buruma has managed to locate the reasons for a U.S. war against Iraq in, among other places, "Jewish-American hysteria" and the fact that "macho images of suntanned Jewish soldiers gathered round laughing tough guys such as Ariel Sharon wiped out, as it were, 2,000 years of being Woody Allen."

Nor is this sort of fare the exclusive property of the political fringe. The ubiquitous talk-show host Chris Matthews pins blame for the impending war on "conservative people out there, some of them Jewish, who are very tough on foreign policy. They believe we should fight the Arabs and take them down. They believe that if we don't fight Iraq, Israel will be in danger." Matthews even thinks that Sharon is "writing [Bush's] speeches sometimes" and that Sharon's cabinet ministers are "in bed with the vice president's office and the Defense Department." Syndicated columnist Robert Novak has described the U.S conflict with Iraq as "Sharon's war," adding that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's branding of Hezbollah as the world's most dangerous terrorist organization suggests that "the U.S. war against terrorism, accused of being Iraq-centric, actually is Israel-centric." Twice in
recent speeches, former senator Gary Hart has said that we "must not let our role in the world be dictated by Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests."

One interesting offshoot of this, though it's necessarily anecdotal, is that many Jews oppose the war precisely because it stirs up anti-Semitism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:05 PM


Post-Gore Marty Re-Refurbishing The New Republic (Sridhar Pappu, 2/19/03, New Republic)
Here we go again: The New Republic's railing on the Democratic Party. This time, they've got a publicist calling up reporters, touting a hot new redesign and bragging that the magazine is getting "daring" and "more conservative."

This happens from time to time. The New Republic has a long tradition of within-the-party tree shaking, including stances against Jimmy Carter's foreign policy and to nuclear freezes. It supported the deployment of advance missiles to Germany; it opposed what owner Martin Peretz deemed the "racialization" of the party by men like Jesse Jackson. During that time, remembered former editor Michael Kinsley, The Wall Street Journal's editorial board accused the magazine of "attacking conservatives while stealing their ideas," and staffers joked that TNR should change its name to "Even the Liberal New Republic Says", because it was used so many times to support conservative positions.

Now, amid the George W. Bush era--and, it should be noted with Mr. Peretz's guy, Al Gore, out of the 2004 presidential race--TNR's going after its woebegone Democratic flesh and blood with renewed vigor.

"It's back to the future," said TNR editor Peter Beinart.

We're not sure how daring it is to be a predictable liberal rag except for when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush usher in conservative epochs.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:41 PM

EXPANDED VIEW (via Kevin Whited):

Kucinich opens campaign with change on abortion (Tom Diemer, 02/17/03, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa- U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich opened a long-shot bid for the White House yesterday by altering one of his long-standing positions, promising Iowa Democrats he would be "pro-choice" on the question of abortion.

Kucinich, starting his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in a state that will host the first major contest of the 2004 presidential race,
said in answer to a question that "as president, I would protect that right [to abortion], and I would also make sure that appointees to the Supreme
Court protected that right."

In Congress, Kucinich, who represents Cleveland's West Side and western suburbs, has generally voted against abortion rights and has consistently opposed federal funding of abortion for poor women, a record he acknowledged at a later stop in Iowa City.

He was met in that college town by three women holding abortion-rights placards.

"He has a very poor record with Planned Parenthood," said Gina Shatteman, holding a sign that read "No Forced Motherhood."

Outside the small caucus meetings in the two cities, Kucinich conceded that he had expanded his view on abortion. He said he had grown "increasingly uncomfortable" with debates in Congress that focused narrowly on that issue while ignoring the needs of poor families.

This was inevitable, but even cynics like us have to be startled by the rapidity with which Mr. Kucinich just sold his soul to the Democrats' abortion lobby. one might parse his campaign this way, he's willing to kill American babies in order to stop George W. Bush from killing an evil dictator. So here's the question if you're a voter: if he'd reverse his core beliefs on the most important moral question of our time just to get elected, what wouldn't he do? Who wouldn't he kill?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:50 AM


A small-town Republican revolt (Christopher Caldwell, February 18 2003, Financial Times)
Disaffection with "untrammelled" capitalism is rising among America's conservatively inclined, in a way that could mean trouble for Republicans. The suburbs and edge cities where the vast majority of Americans now live - and where "big-box" corporate retail outlets have left their deepest mark - appear to be shifting their political allegiance. Republicans held the suburbs from the moment they were first built until Bill Clinton wrested them from Bob Dole in the 1996 elections.

That defeat could be explained away as the work of an extraordinarily weak Republican candidate, but George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in the suburbs by only 2 percentage points. Given that Mr Bush won southern suburbs by 20 percentage points, that amounted to a Democratic landslide in non- Sunbelt suburban America - the part of the country with a culture vulnerable to being wiped out by mall-builders.

David Brooks, the taxonomist of information-age society, has shown that "Bobos" and others on the commanding heights of the new economy tend to vote liberal - 13 of the country's 17 richest congressional districts are solidly Democratic. But those voters appear to be balanced out electorally by another Brooksian new-economy creature: "Patio Man", the appliance-buying denizen of the outer suburbs, who tends to vote Republican.

Now Patio Man's world is being turned upside-down. One of exurbia's bulwarks, the bankrupt chain Kmart, has undergone two rounds of closures in the past year, wiping out 607 stores and 57,000 jobs. In the world Kauffman describes - communities that had vibrant small businesses before Kmarts arrived - the now-vanished chain store appears as little more than an economic wrecking ball. Even in newer communities, such closures may signal the departure of the only job base the now heavily populated area has known. [...]

The political fallout of the shrinking suburban and rural economy is still unclear. But it is unlikely to include an endorsement of the untrammelled free market. At the zenith of small-government Republicanism almost a decade ago, voters who were asked to choose between lower taxes and more government services opted for the tax cuts by a margin of two to one. Today, that position barely gets a majority. In the last elections, Democrats were so giddy at this shift that they ignored the war on terrorism and got a well-deserved trouncing. Republicans would be unwise to count on similar luck next time.

Mr. Caldwell is usually more sensible than this. Within a couple miles of almost every one of those closing K-Marts there is likely a Wal-Mart that's cheaper, better run, and employs more people. We can certainly lament the closing of country stores and other local businesses, but to view the replacement of one mammoth chainstore by another as the end of an era is ludicrous.

Even worse, as far as the political analysis here is concerned, he says that George W. Bush won big in the suburbs that have already been Wal-martified (the Sun Belt) and lost in those that hadn't succumbed yet. So if there's a relationship between the strip mall and voting Republican, isn't the free market about to hand the GOP those other suburbs too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM

ZBIG MISTAKE (via Kevin Whited):

Why Unity Is Essential (Zbigniew Brzezinski, February 19, 2003, Washington Post)
The manner in which the United States has reacted to European reservations regarding Iraq has created the impression that some U.S. leaders confuse NATO with the Warsaw Pact. Even worse, the glee in Washington over European division regarding the U.S. position has nurtured the European penchant for conspiracy theories. Not only is the United States suspected of welcoming European disunity; some Europeans are beginning to believe that the United States, largely under the influence of those policymakers most eager for war, is actually planning a grand strategic realignment. The Atlantic alliance would be replaced by a coalition of non-European states, such as Russia, India and Israel, each with special hostility toward various parts of the Muslim world. [...]

Several basic conclusions thus follow:

* The United States should not engage in tit-for-tat polemics directed at its most important allies. That is as demeaning as it is destructive. There is an urgent need for a reaffirmation at the highest level of the priority of the Atlantic alliance as the anchor point of America's engagement in world.

Mr. Brzezinski is an elderly man with a disappointing career behind him and it must be painful to watch the continent of his birth pass into its twilight years too, but the above is a reflection of a mind that's stuck in the 1970s, or earlier. The simple truth is that the Europeans aren't our most important allies anymore and that the Muslim world, about which they are unconcerned, does contain the main threat to our security in the world today. Europe (or France and Germany which is what we mean when we say Europe) with its post-Western belief systems, declining population, ever growing welfare states, and its lunatic project for a massive authoritarian bureaucracy is, unless a radical retrenchment can be affected, doomed to rapid and catastrophic decline. It has more to fear from exploding deficits and large and unassimilated cohorts of Muslim immigrants than it does from nations like Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and North Korea and its people will under no circumstances tolerate the diversion of welfare dollars to a military build-up, so it's pointless to look to Europe as a strategic ally any longer.

It is therefore logical and necessary to forge a new coalition of the states whose economic futures are brighter and whose interests lie in confronting Islamicist terror and in reforming the Muslim world to bring it freedom, peace, and prosperity. In this regard, and because of its historic rivalry with the last significant communist state (China), India is our most important 21st Century ally in trade and military terms. Several states of dubious economic promise are nevertheless key allies because of geography, military prowess, shared values, or all three: these include, especially, Israel, Turkey, and Taiwan. There is, further, a set of states, less important in geostrategic terms, with whom we are bound by a shared past or a common culture: Latin America, maybe still Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth, perhaps Eastern Europe, and probably an increasingingly Christianized Africa. They will become or remain allies just because we're relatively similar.

For fifty years, the Atlantic Alliance served its purpose and served it rather badly. While we confronted the Soviet Union we allowed our European allies a nearly free military ride during which they became addicted to government services and, as wards of the state, jettisoned old religious and philosophical beliefs and the structures of civil society--church, family, neighborhood, etc.--leaving the individual with only one relationship that really matters, that with the government, which dispenses benefits and cares for all material needs. Sure, communism was eventually driven from the continent, but what remains of Europe? Naught but an atomized people with no care beyond where their next check is coming from.

I'd always been inclined to accept Paul Kennedy's argument that it is large military budgets that pose the greatest threat to the stability of Great Powers. But now it may be time to start considering an alternative possibility, perhaps largish military budgets divert a sufficient amount of money from social spending that they act as a brake on economism. H.W. Brands has written that America almost accidentally became something of a welfare state because the American Right allowed the Left higher social spending as the cost for getting higher military spending. Yet, thinking about it now, what's most noticable about America's welfare system is not that we have one but that it's so much less extensive than that of other Western nations. Perhaps it was precisely the Cold War military budgets that kept us from becoming France? Whatever the case, the fact remains, we avoided the fate of Western Europe and, if we privatize things like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and primary education, we may just be able to avoid it for much longer.

What we're left with at the end of the day though is the perhaps sad realization that just as Europe no longer matters much in military terms and soon won't matter much in economic terms, we no longer even share a similar vision of the proper division of responsibility in a state between the people, social institutions, business, and the government. Mr. Brzezinski is in effect trying to force us down a path we chose not to take, one that seems to have little future. The American future, as always, lies in freedom, not security, in risky ascent, not in comfortable decline. France and Germany need not be our enemies--they hardly matter enough to even warrant the term--but the way they've chosen to structure their cultures is antithetical to the American way. Their ideas, if not they themselves, are the enemy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


Another March of Folly? (CHRISTOPHER BUCKLEY, February 19, 2003, NY Times)
Twenty years ago this month, I was an aide to Vice President George Bush during another trans-Atlantic crisis. There were demonstrations in European capitals in which America was portrayed as the threat to world peace and the American president was called a warmonger, a "cowboy" and worse. Vice President Bush's response in February 1983 may hold some lessons for President Bush in February 2003.

Two decades ago the vice president was dispatched to London to calm things down, to hold hands, to remind our European friends and allies that we were still all in this together. What made his trip necessary was the controversy over deployment of nuclear missiles in Europe; several years earlier, the Europeans had requested that the United States place Pershing 2 missiles in Europe to counter Soviet medium-range missiles that were aimed at the Continent.

But when the missiles were ready to be put in place, Europe changed its mind. We don't want those missiles after all, Europe decided, under pressure from its left and the Soviet Union. You'll just use them to wage nuclear war on our soil. [...]

That night in Guildhall, as the vice president gave a positively brilliant speech, the shouting of the demonstrators seemed loud enough to rattle the stained-glass windows of the historic building. There was a question-and-answer session afterward. A politician wearing the clerical collar of the Church of England rose and in a tone of high moral revulsion denounced the United States for bringing emotions in Europe to the present boil and for forcing on an unwilling England and Continent these ghastly weapons. He had children, he announced with umbrage, and he rather hoped he would be able to see them grow up and not be incinerated in a nuclear exchange initiated by America.

The vice president began to answer, in his usual earnest, thoughtful and patient way. And then he stopped. I saw the air go out of him. He sighed. It was as eloquent and sincere a sigh as I have ever heard from a politician.

"Look, I have kids too," he said. "Don't you think I want to see them grow up?"

He followed this remark by saying that these missiles--he did not add, "That you asked us for, bub"--were intended to make Europe safer, not more dangerous. He reminded the gentleman that President Ronald Reagan had pledged to meet with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev "at any time" and "any place" to sign an agreement eliminating all intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

The moment was defused. I had never seen the vice president in better form.

It's a moment in time that it's vitally important we remember, even as the Left tries to forget. Appeasement wasn't one brief mistaken moment in the 1930s; it's been the strategy of Europe and of American liberals for decades. Perhaps because their political ideology is based on the fundamental goodness and ultimate perfectibility of mankind, they seem to believe that we can change the behavior of the world's worst regime simply by being nice to them. So they (one or the other or both) left the USSR
in control of Eastern Europe
, so they refused to carry the Korean War to China, so they refused to carry the Vietnam War to even North Vietnam and then undercut the South Vietnamese when it looked like they'd be able to hold out without us, so they countenanced and then defended Castro in Cuba and the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and so they fought to preserve the Soviet Union (via detente) rather than confront and finally defeat it. And so, today, they seek to prop up Saddam, and Yassar Arafat, and Assad, and all the rest, rather than face the tragic flaw in their own worldview and accept that evil is real, that it must be dealt with by the good, and that we are justified in judging others to be the former and ourselves to be the latter.

If you can stomach listening to an interview with the one of the protestors who're out in the streets these days, you'll hear them talk about the uniqueness of their movement, in its size, passion, moral position, and power. That's bunk. They resemble nothing so much as those '80s marches against the intermediate missile upgrade and SDI and in favor of the Nuclear Freeze. In fact, the issues don't much matter; they'd march for any anti-Western cause you trotted out. Because the real point of their protests is a futile attempt to assert control over our enemies. It is necessary for them to believe that Saddam is not a bad man who's beyond our control, but an essentially decent and reasonable man who our own actions have caused to behave badly.

Many have wondered why these folks would bad mouth their own countries and political systems and cuddle up to every two-bit dictatorship that comes down the pike. And people are mystified by the obvious disregard that such demonstrators have for the victims of such tyrannical rulers: how can these ostensible humanitarians care so little about particular humans, like those in the Gulag, then, or in Iraq now? The answer, of course, is that the protests aren't about the lives and rights of people in other countries; they're a desperate assertion of personal powerfulness by the demonstrators themselves. They are an act of contempt for Saddam and the Iraqi people, an attempt to reduce them to mere results of our own behavior rather than serious moral agents in their own right, responsible for the Iraq they've created, a place of evil.

So, when George W. Bush and Tony Blair declare their intent to hold the Iraqi regime responsible for its actions and the peace movement demands that this not be done, it's not a question of the Left disagreeing that those actions were terrible, but rather they disagree that Iraq is responsible. Only we can be responsible, because if what the Right calls "evil" can exist without our having created it ourselves then all of Leftist ideology is a lie and the world, which is truly beyond our control, is too scary a place to even be contemplated.

We should hardly be surprised then that the Western Left--already buffeted by the collapse of communism and socialism as viable alternatives to capitalism, and reeling from the American people's ready acceptance of the idea that 9-11 and after represents a clash between good and evil--has poured into the streets to hysterically proclaim that it's all our own fault, that it's big oil, or fundamentalist Christians, or our arming of Saddam, or our support of the Afghan mujahadeen, or our support of Zionism, or whatever...that has "caused" the conflict. The Left believes it can control the world, can reshape humans, and can create a utopia. Such a dream must die hard and we can't expect its death throes to look pretty. Were they not abetting evil, it might even be possible to pity these folk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:12 AM


If Democrats lay low on war, Bush will defeat himself (DeWayne Wickham, 2/18/03, USA TODAY)
It's time for Democrats who oppose George W. Bush's push for war with Iraq to shut up.

Congressional Democrats, in particular, should muzzle their criticism of the president. Instead of publicly questioning his reasons for wanting to invade Iraq, they should voice strong support for the men and women Bush will send into battle — and give the president no reason to blame them for the bad things that almost certainly will result from his handling of this situation.

In the coming weeks, the president is expected to order a "first strike" on Iraq. The televised images of U.S. troops pouring into that Muslim country will be a recruitment poster for Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization and the cause of widespread protests around the world.

"If they continue to criticize Bush, Democrats will be blamed for creating the atmosphere for his failure to build multilateral support for war with Iraq," said William Gray, the former Democratic Pennsylvania congressman who was the House majority whip during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. [...]

If Bush proceeds, it's a good bet that, although Saddam Hussein's regime will be gone by the time the 2004 presidential campaign gets underway, thousands of U.S. troops still will be in Iraq. The price tag for both the war and the "nation building" that will follow this conflict will deepen the federal deficit and push the United States closer to a recession.

By the time voters go to the polls in the next presidential election, the question on the minds of many will be the one Ronald Reagan used so effectively against Jimmy Carter in 1980: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? This is the fight that Democrats must wage--and it is the one they have the best chance of winning, if they don't get bogged down in protesting a war they lack the power to stop.

"Democrats have to avoid being cast as obstructionists when it comes to war with Iraq," Gray said. "They had their say last year, when the war resolution was before Congress--and they lost that vote. If it happens, this will be Bush's war."

He's right. The body bags and the price tag will all be the president's cross to bear.

You know, we used to labor under the delusion that Democrats were patriots first and partisans second. Anyone who really thought this scenario was going to play out but kept silent about it would be unworthy of governing his fellow citizens.

But, bad enough that he'd give such despicable advice, Mr. Wickham is simply blind to what's going on around him. This strategy might make some sense from a purely political standpoint, if stasis were going to follow the fall of Saddam. But if the Democrats fade to black while the Administration moves on to deal with places like North Korea, Iran, Palestine, Syria, South Lebanon, etc., they'll rightly be seen as the party of insignificance.

Even recognizing that it's only mid-February, this one may have locked up worst column of the year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Confusion and Power: Victory Watch: A time for bold words and bolder deeds (Angelo M. Codevilla, February 17, 2003, Claremont.org)
By mid-winter 2003, President Bush and his team had spoken so long and so vehemently, and had moved so many troops, as to well-nigh guarantee that spring would bring either military success against Iraq, or the administration's discredit. Moreover, the Bush team's internal confusion and delay had so eroded the American people's precious post-September 11 resolve, as well as foreigners' support for America, that the president and his secretary of state had to scramble to build support for war. Even after the president's State of the Union address, and Secretary Powell's dramatic February 5 appeal to the United Nations, the Bush team remained of two minds about whether to change Iraq's regime or merely "disarm" it. The president had not resolved disagreements over whether anti-American terrorism is the work of renegade individuals, or of regimes that use them as cut-outs. Nor had he explained what part military action against Iraq would play in the "war on terrorism." Was it a diversion from the "war," as some in the administration charged, or was it, as others maintained, the war's proper centerpiece?

At the outset of the "war on terror," the Pentagon argued that the path to victory lay in changing hostile Arab regimes. President Bush, however, sided with Colin Powell's State Department, the CIA, as well as the earlier Bush Administration's "best and brightest," and rejected the connection between regimes and terrorism (except for friendless, hapless Afghanistan). He chose to work with Saudis and other "friendly" Arab regimes against "shadowy networks," and to track down killers "one at a time."

By summer 2002, Bush somehow decided that Saddam's regime had to be toppled. Whatever his reasoning, he did not break with his earlier decision's premises and with the advisers who personified them. He spoke not of "regime change" but of "disarming" Saddam. He claimed that he had not decided whether to attack, and that he thought it necessary, or at any rate useful, to obtain the endorsement of the U.N. This proved too clever by half. Whereas in the summer of 2002 polls had been running heavily in favor of overthrowing Saddam, by January 27, 2003, opposition to attacking Iraq, and to President Bush, had risen sharply.

This is sort of the archetypal column for all the worry warts who think we've lost already. Personally, I have to question anyone who thinks that George W. Bush didn't decide, even before he became president, to change the regime in Iraq.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 AM


Time for a Boxer rebellion?: Republicans lining up for the chance to replace state's liberal poster child (Doug Gamble, February 18, 2003, Orange County Register)
A few weeks before the Democrats moved into the White House in 1993, Vice President Dan Quayle told me the defeat that stung the most, aside from that suffered by the Bush/Quayle ticket, was Bruce Herschensohn's loss to Barbara Boxer in California's Senate race.

The conservative Los Angeles radio and TV commentator and ex-Nixon aide had kept the 1992 campaign close until its waning days, when he was blindsided by a smear of his character sprung by state Democratic political director Bob Mulholland. It made the difference in a five-point Boxer victory.

The GOP's hope for revenge in 1998 evaporated when their senatorial nominee - bland, moderate state Treasurer Matt Fong - allowed Boxer to get away with portraying him as a right-wing lunatic. He was also unable to raise enough money to be competitive with ads, and was off the air most of the fall.

For California Republicans, this was the first of three election efforts that can best be described as the axis of awful: Fong in 1998, Attorney General Dan Lungren's pathetic performance against Gray Davis in the 1998 governor's race and Bill Simon's laugh-a-thon campaign against Davis last year.

But redemption may be at hand. With Boxer up for re-election next year, potential challengers are forming a line on the right, including radio talk-show hosts Michael Reagan and Dennis Prager, Reps. Doug Ose, Darrell Issa and George Radanovich, Assemblyman Abel Maldonado, Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona and Simon.

Her initial win wasn't that disturbing, in what was a very bad year for the GOP. But the failure to knock her off in '98 was galling. She is after all, besides being extremely liberal and personally corrupt, widely recognized as one of the least bright congressmen now serving, no mean feat.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Al Qaeda's Nightmare Scenario Emerges: Does Osama bin Laden plan to become the ultimate suicide bomber? (Mansoor Ijaz, 02/19/2003, Weekly Standard)
OSAMA BIN LADEN, or some good likeness of him, spoke from the ether again on two occasions last week, releasing two undated audiotapes as Muslims completed their pilgrimages to Mecca. His call to Jihad did not stop at tying himself to Iraq's people, by which he had clearly hoped to provoke Washington into immediate unilateral military action against Saddam Hussein. Nor did it end with his messianic recitation of verses in the Koran that clearly demonstrated he knows the end game is near. Predicting his martyrdom this year, he vowed to die in "the belly of the Eagle," an Islamist reference to ending his life in a final act of terror against the United States on our soil. The man, put simply, is on the run.

Bin Laden's cowardice shines through his rhetoric. For the first time since the September 11 attacks against the United States, bin Laden demonstrated fear through his choice of words. In setting forth plans for his suicide, he probably came to the conclusion that al Qaeda's retaliation infrastructure around the world had been so effectively and systematically dismantled by western intelligence that his terrorists may not be able to mount a credible response to any planned U.S. military action in Iraq in the near future. Like many Mafia bosses before him, he appears to have decided that when the going looks tough--the poison network in Europe, for example, has been decimated by defections and confessions--it's better to exit stage left.

While bin Laden's vision of dividing the West and driving a wedge between the United States and her allies, whether Arab or European, has become a political reality, his terrorist acts have not yet reached their intended crescendo--to use a weapon of mass destruction against civilians. That is why bin Laden spoke and why we need to quickly and effectively decipher what he is really trying to tell us.

A plethora of available but seemingly unconnected evidence provides important clues for what may be bin Laden's final act.

Slim Pickens is dead, and Osama's as good as.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 AM


Eastern Europe rounds on Paris (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Kate Connolly and Matthew Day, 19/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
One diplomat from the region said M Chirac spoke in a tone that not even the Soviet Union would have used with its Warsaw Pact clients during its 40-year dominance of the region.

But M Chirac's comments were taken up by the French defence minister, Michle Alliot-Marie, who reminded the eight states preparing for EU accession on May Day next year that their place in the club was not guaranteed. A blocking referendum could be called at any time in any EU member state before then, she noted.

"We could have expected that the countries that want to join us strike up a cautious position," she said, alluding to two sets of letters signed by 13 "New Europe" states in opposition to France and Germany's anti-war stance.

"I'm worried, and I say it very clearly, because the entry into the EU has to be ratified. In the interest of these countries themselves, I say take care that there will not be a reaction from citizens, saying these countries do not want peace inside the European family."

Her comments left it unclear whether it is now the French government's policy to unpick the agreement reached at the EU summit in Copenhagen last December, which gave the final go-ahead for Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Cyprus, and Malta to join the EU in 2004, with Bulgaria and Romania following in 2007, and Turkey later.

Britain yesterday sought to make the most of the French outburst. Tony Blair said he would have liked leaders of the accession countries to have been at Monday's EU summit, from which they were excluded at the insistence of France and Germany.

"They have as much right to speak up as Britain or France or any other member of the EU today because they are coming in next year as full members of the EU," he said.

Eastern Europe had recent experience of tyranny and of the value of close transatlantic relations in defeating it. "They know the value of Europe and America standing together."

The analogy of France to the Soviet Union and the EU to the Warsaw Pact is unfortunately apt. It's imperative that we seize the opportunity we've been handed to keep these nations from sacrificing what could be bright futures in a rush to join an organization which will lead only to dominance by the French and Germans and decline for the whole continent.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 AM


Indonesia is slowly regaining control (Jusuf Wanandi, February 17 2003, Financial Times)
In spite of a weak leadership, conflict in its regions and economic, political and social crises, Indonesia has, since the October 12 Bali bombing, moved firmly against both regional and local terrorists. With international support, its police force has caught almost all of the Jemaah Islamiah members responsible for terrorist acts carried out over the past three years. In doing so it has gained self-respect and public confidence, and is now going after Indonesia's other terrorist groups, forcing them on to the defensive.

Debilitating local conflicts have been overcome in central Kalimantan, south Sulawesi (Poso) and the Moluccas. In Aceh, which has endured a separatist insurgency for the past 20 years, a road map for peace has been agreed between the government and the rebels with the assistance of the Henri Dunant Centre in Geneva. This outlines a process for ending hostilities and allowing the rebels to participate in the political process. And at last Jakarta is granting greater autonomy to Papua, after long years of neglect.

On the economic front, too, the indicators have improved: inflation - 10 per cent in 2002 - is under control; growth is 3.5 per cent (although still not adequate to absorb 2m people entering the workforce each year); the currency has stabilised; and the fiscal deficit is manageable.

However, there are still serious weaknesses. The judicial system is unreliable and corruption remains rampant; decentralisation and the devolution of autonomy to the regions are are not proceeding smoothly, discouraging new investors; and labour unions are apt to be irresponsible. Political reform remains a touch and go process because of corruption within parliament and the political parties, while reforms of the security services are slow and uneven.

Only civil society, academia and the media can be depended on to support the reform process. To this end, it is good that Indonesia is seeing the emergence of moderate Muslim leadership and groups. In spite of the presence of small radical Muslim groups and terrorists, the moderates are now defining the debate about what Islam is, and especially about its role in a pluralistic society such as Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country. This development could have a real influence on Islam in other regions, including the Middle East.

The most critical issue in Indonesia is the weakness of the national leadership - not only the president but also parliament, the political parties and the highest courts. This must be overcome in the 2004 parliamentary and presidential election. For that, more credible candidates are needed - but so far the picture is not encouraging.

While Indonesia has moved in the right direction, too many weaknesses remain. Only a credible national leadership can ensure that reform is sustained. That means next year's general elections are crucial - not just for Indonesia but for the region.

It's hard to see how, realistically, one central government can ever "control" such a diversity of peoples, spread across so many islands.

February 18, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM


Proclaiming Our Principles (Gertrude Himmelfarb, February 17, 2003, Washington Post)
We once had "Founding Fathers." Today we have the neutered "Founders." We once celebrated Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays. Today we celebrate the anonymous "Presidents' Day." We have lost a good deal in this homogenization and dilution of our language. We have lost not only a vital part of our history but also a way of honoring and transmitting that history.

The memory of Abraham Lincoln might have recalled for us his address in 1838 to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Ill. The title of that address, "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions," could not be more timely today. Long before he himself was called upon to preserve and perpetuate our institutions by force of arms, he reminded those young men (he was not much older than they) of the necessity of inspiring future generations with a proper respect, almost a religious respect, for the institutions unique to this country.

"Let reverence for the laws," he said, "be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges. Let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in the courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation."

The word "patriotism" -- indeed, the idea of patriotism -- has not been in good repute in recent years. If we have forgotten to teach and preach the virtues of patriotism, as Lincoln would have had us do, it is because we have lost that "reverence for the laws" -- not for any laws but for our laws -- that have distinguished our country, that have made it unique and that have deserved our reverence. And we have lost that reverence because we have forgotten our history -- forgotten it because, in the most literal sense, we have neglected to teach it. [...]

At this time, more than ever, when our institutions and traditions are threatened by terrorists and terror-inspired regimes, we have all the more need to recall the message of Lincoln. Let us teach, and preach, and proclaim, and enforce those principles of liberty and law that are our honorable heritage.

One of the worst aspects of our current political focus on education is just this, we seem to have completely lost sight of why we have a system of public education in the first place. It is not intended to produce good students but good citizens of the republic.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Has War Begun?: U.S. Teams Already Attempting to Undermine Iraq's Military Strength (John McWethy, Feb. 17, 2003, ABC News)
U.S. warplanes are bombing Iraqi air defenses almost every day. Other aircraft are dropping millions of leaflets all over Iraq warning people things are about to change.

Small numbers of CIA and U.S. military operatives are secretly working inside Iraq.

American commando teams have been operating in Iraq's western desert, where the United States believes Saddam Hussein has hidden Scud missiles capable of hitting Israel or Jordan with nerve gas, sources told ABCNEWS.

These teams are dropped by helicopter in darkness. They stay for one to two days in order to hunt for missiles, scout for future bases and plant surveillance equipment.

Other teams, operating more openly, have set up small bases in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. They are working with tribal leaders, assessing their willingness and ability to fight.

The United States is also conducting a major psychological operation. The most secret part is aimed at Iraq's top military commanders.

The United States is sending e-mails to the commanders' private accounts, calling them on private cell phones, urging them to consider overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

At a minimum, it's intended to rattle them.

"Let them know that we can reach out and touch them personally," said Michael Vickers, a former special forces officer. "We know who they are. Let them know that we are watching their behavior."

And this is stuff even the Networks know...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Russia finds itself between old Europe and new America (DMITRI TRENIN, Bangkok Post)
President Vladimir Putin's hints that Russia may change its position on Iraq are a key sign that Moscow is emerging from its post-Soviet hubris and is increasingly capable of seeing where its true interests lie. But hints do not make a policy.

Since the start of the Iraq crisis, Russia has let France lead the charge within the United Nations Security Council against American "unilateralism''. President Putin also has refrained from joining German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's public opposition to any military action against Baghdad.

Mr Putin shrewdly sees the difference in the way Americans perceive France and Germany, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other. The lingering empathy for France and Germany born of the Cold War alliance stands in stark contrast to the American foreign policy community's wariness towards post-Soviet Russia. If Mr Putin thoughtlessly joined the Franco-German chorus of doubters, he would squander much of the goodwill and reputation for reliability that he has painstakingly accumulated.

The difference between Paris/Berlin and Moscow, however, is deeper. France is not merely interested in Iraqi oil, nor is Germany's chancellor simply taking notice of opinion polls (on his own government's performance, not just Iraq). For both France and Germany, the Iraq issue is a crucible for forging an autonomous foreign/security policy for the European Union.

That is a serious goal, but it is also a challenge to America, and Mr Putin knows it. Washington identifies it as such, and has welcomed the help of "new Europe'' (which includes large chunks of the "old'' communist eastern Europe) in tilting the balance on the continent back in America's favour.

At this remarkable point in Europe's history, some in Russia may be tempted to revive the old policy of fueling transatlantic divisions. It is a defunct and anachronistic policy, but one that is nonetheless remembered fondly by many in Russia's foreign policy elite. Others may view siding with France and Germany as a means for Russia to "join Europe'' on more equal terms than what is now on offer. Both views are delusions.

It's nonsense that Old Europe represents any kind of threat to America. The real danger is that it poses a threat to New Europe. It may be their inevitable destiny, but it would be a shame to see the nations of Eastern Europe go directly from totalitarian communism to the authoritarian bureaucracy of the EU without at least trying to see if they can function as American-style liberal democratic capitalist republics.

You can almost feel sympathy for Mr. Putin though. Russia has spent centuries dithering over whether it's part of Europe or of Asia and now it's faced with a third option: part of the American-led West.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 PM

Digital Destruction: Will Saddam Fall Victim to the Elusive E-bomb?: If war is declared against Iraq, American cruise missiles could deliver electronic explosions in the form o

If e-bombs are released in Iraq - and work as advertised - Saddam Hussein would quickly become the electronic equivalent of deaf, dumb and blind. His phones would go dead, his lights would go out and he would be electronically cut off from the rest of the world.

"Virtually any solid state device is going to go, whether it's a cell phone or a $6 million computer," ABCNEWS military analyst Anthony Cordesman said.

E-bombs can fire millions of watts of energy in microwaves that are able to knock out electronic equipment and the weapons that rely on them. They can target and destroy computers, radios, telephones, and almost anything that uses transistors, circuits, and wiring.

E-bombs knock out electrical equipment by rapidly creating and transmitting a huge burst of electrical energy into the atmosphere. That sudden explosion of energy results in an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP.

The circuits and wiring in electrical devices act like antennas and pick up the invisible EMP wave as it moves through the air. The affected electronics will either become temporarily disabled or completely overloaded and destroyed by the excess energy.

It is believed that Saddam's underground command-and-control stations would be near the top of the E-bomb target list. Iraq's newly-built fiber-optic communications network would also experience the destruction of such an attack, and links between Saddam and his commanders would be short circuited.

These will be even more important in North Korea so that Kim Jong Il can't give a command to launch nuclear weapons while we're destroying his capacity to deliver them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 PM


The State of Oral Sex: A New Debate Over Safety in Sucking (Duncan Osborne, February 19 - 25, 2003, Village Voice)
How safe is oral sex? That question has been on the tip of many tongues ever since AIDS raised its deadly head. Now one expert says that fellatio may not be risky at all, at least when it comes to spreading HIV.

Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, who heads the sexually transmitted disease prevention effort at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, bases his conclusion on a new study of 239 gay or bisexual men who reported no anal or vaginal sex and no injection-drug use in the prior six months. Ninety-eight percent said they had given head without condoms. Twenty-eight percent said they knew their partner was HIV-positive, and of those, 39 percent said they had swallowed semen. None of the men became infected.

The risk of HIV transmission via oral sex, Klausner maintains, "is very, very, very, very, very low and may be zero."

This has been self-evident for twenty years but like much about the disease has been little discussed for political reasons. Any data that tends to reveal how limited are the circumstances under which you can contract AIDs gets swept under the rug.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


Britain in plea to US for Iraq war delay: Blair wants March 14 crunch talks at UN (Philip Webster, Political Editor and Roland Watson, February 19, 2003, Times of London)
BRITAIN has mounted a behind-the-scenes operation to persuade America to give diplomacy three more weeks before the United Nations is asked to trigger military action against Iraq.

Tactical differences have emerged between London and an impatient Bush Administration, with Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, suggesting that the crunch meeting of the UN could take place on March 14.

They argue that the delay could provide enough time to convince France and other waverers that President Saddam Hussein has failed to co- operate with the inspectors and that a war resolution should be approved. The Prime Minister hinted at the moves when he told his monthly press conference yesterday that he still wanted a second resolution. He added: "I still think there is a lot of debate to go on before we get to the point of decision there in the United Nations." [...]

America is well aware of the political pressures on Mr Blair, and President Bush went further than before yesterday in saying that he wanted to secure fresh UN authority to use force. "We want to work with our friends and allies to see if we can get a second resolution," he said. "That's what we're doing right now."

It was also announced yesterday that Mr Blair, accompanied by his wife, Cherie, will meet the Pope in Rome on Saturday after his visit to Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister. Pope John Paul has emerged as one of the leading opponents of military action.

Although officials insisted that he and Mr Blair had expressed a mutual interest in meeting some time ago, it is inevitable that Iraq will figure in their discussions. Mr Blair has shown an interest in Roman Catholicism and his wife is a Catholic, but friends denied his visit signalled any intention to convert.

Mr. Blair has certainly earned a week or two, if he feels he needs it. Such a decision also serves our long term interests, provided that Mr. Bush emphasizes that it's an extraordinary and personal concession. When Britain fails to budge France and Germany we want it to be sufficiently infuriating that Mr. Blair is weaned away from the EU and UN permanently.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 PM


Schools Rethink Definition of Gifted (The Associated Press, February 17, 2003)
Maryland school districts and nonprofit groups are trying to address the under-representation of minority children in gifted programs.

Officials want to correct biases in the ways children are determined to be gifted. They're trying to make sure precocious pupils from poor families don't lose out on gifted programs simply because their parents don't know about them.

"Because you're poor does not mean you're not gifted," said Christine Johns, deputy superintendent of Baltimore County schools. The county's pilot program identifies gifted minority students and then gives them enriched instruction that lets them thrive.

The program expanded the list of factors used to identify children as gifted beyond standardized test scores. It also sent "gifted and talented resource teachers" to 20 schools in low-income neighborhoods to help find these children.

Pardon our skepticism about the idea that you can be gifted and yet unable to figure out standardized tests.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


French delegation brings $50,000 to aid Mumia's appeals (Thomas Merton Center)
As Mumia Abu-Jamal awaits appellate court rulings on two major appeals initiated by his new team of lawyers, he continues writing at a rapid rate, turning out columns for posting on the web site maintained by his Philadelphia-based support group, the International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal.

And he receives increasing support from people opposed to the death penalty in general and concerned about the injustices of his case in particular. Mumia got a firm indication of that support on July 29 when a delegation from France visited him at the prison and showed him a check for $50,000, given by contributors to the French Movement Against Racism and for Friendship with the Peoples (MRAP).

The visitors brought a letter of support from Danielle Mitterand, the former First Lady of France, who wrote: "Your president?s administration concentrates all its energy fighting terrorists of its own creation."

The group also informed Mumia that a section on his case has been included in a textbook used by high school students throughout France.

These gestures are only the latest of those given Mumia by supporters in France. Last December the Paris city government named him an honorary citizen - an honor given to only two others: Pablo Picasso in the 1970s and the writer Richard Wright in 1947.

What, no check for the widow of the cop Abu-Jamal killed?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:21 PM


Democrats riled by race-, gender-biased bake sale (Nicolas Taborek, 2/17/03, DAILY BRUIN)
An affirmative action bake sale organized by the Bruin Republicans last week has provoked impassioned responses from a top California Democrat and
political student groups on campus.

The sale, held on Bruin Walk on Feb. 3, offered cookies at different prices depending on the customer's race and gender. Black, Latina and American Indian females were charged 25 cents for cookies that cost males of minority descent 50 cents. White females were charged $1, and white males and all Asian Americans were charged $2.

Students selling the cookies were assigned name tags portraying them as "Uncle Tom," "The White Oppressor" and "Self-Hating Hispanic Race Traitor."

Somebody's been reading Letters to a Young Conservative . That's exactly the kind of thing that Mr. D'Souza recommends--using humor to get your point across and inflame opinion--though this may well be funnier than anything the Dartmouth Review guys ever did.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


Cuba praised for its Aids programme (Clive Cookson, February 16 2003, Financial Times)
Cuba has much to teach the world about tackling Aids, the American Association for the Advancement of Science heard on Sunday. A wide-ranging prevention and treatment programme, backed by strong political action, has given the Caribbean country the lowest prevalence of Aids disease and HIV infection in the western hemisphere - and one of the lowest rates in the world. [...]

As soon as Aids appeared on the island, an aggressive HIV screening programme swung into action, with compulsory testing for all expectant mothers, people with sexually transmitted diseases and sexual contacts of HIV patients. There was also extensive voluntary testing. More than 20m HIV tests have been performed on the Cuban population since 1986, Dr Barksdale said. At the same time condoms were introduced to Cuba and promoted to prevent sexual transmission of HIV.

The most controversial part of the programme - at least among outside observers - was compulsory quarantining of everyone who tested positive in special HIV sanatoria. This was relaxed in 1994, when long-term residence became voluntary, but anyone who is newly diagnosed still has to go to a sanatorium for "eight weeks of education," Dr Barksdale said.

This is just vile, not unlike congratulting the Nazis for their efforts to control Tay Sacks disease. Castro's regime has been notoriously repressive towards homosexuals, like the dissident writer Reinaldo Arenas. Just look at the measures even this article talks about: forced testing, quarantine, and re-education. Obviously if we recreate the political environments that made homosexuality difficult to consumate it will reduce AIDs cases, but is that what people want, homophobic repression on a global scale?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM


Wolf blitzers: Legends Los Lobos push forward artistically and remain a vital force (Alan Sculley, Cincinnati City Beat)
After 25 years of recording together, Los Lobos can be counted as one of the few bands that seems as creatively restless and musically inspired as when they formed. Saxophonist/keyboard player Steve Berlin says the continued vitality of the band, which formed in East Los Angeles in 1974, is no illusion.

"I think we're still looking for the stuff that rocks us," Berlin says, commenting on the continued vitality of the band, whose first record, Del Este De Los Angeles, was released in 1978. "By no means do we feel like we've arrived anywhere. I think that's probably part of it. I think another part of it might be that we still feel like we're still struggling to be heard in many respects, fighting I guess what would be called a good fight for decency in music, soulfulness and all the stuff that sort of seems to have gone away from modern music.

"I guess when you feel like you're in a war, more or less, or you at least when you feel like you have an agenda, it makes a lot of other stuff easier to deal with and you fight a little harder. That and the fact that I think we've always been incredibly wide open to anything, any idea musically, within the band. It helps us stay together and stay focused just because everything is always a possibility."

The high level of creativity among the five members of Los Lobos -- guitarist/singer David Hidalgo, guitarist/singer Cesar Rosas, drummer/guitarist Louie Perez, bassist Conrad Lozano and Berlin (who joined in 1984) -- has been plenty apparent in the group's releases over the past decade. Building on a foundation of Rock, Blues, Soul and the Mexican music that reflects the original four's heritage, the albums How Will the Wolf Survive (1984), Kiko (1992), Colossal Head (1996) and The Time (1999) have combined consistently strong songwriting with adventurous arrangements and unusual sonic flourishes.

Those albums offer convincing evidence that Los Lobos has been arguably the world's premier Roots Rock band for well over than a decade.

They had their 15 minutes at the time How Will the Wolf Survive was released, but they're consistently excellent.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM


American Conservatism and the Present Crisis (Harry V. Jaffa, February 12, 2003, Claremont Institute)
In the more than 200 years of our history, the most difficult of all truths, and the one most often and most profoundly subject to censure or misinterpretation, is that beginning, "We hold these truths to be self-evidentÉ." In 1860-61, 11 states justified "secession" from the Union, and forming a separate government, on the ground that they were exercising the right, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, to withdraw their consent to be governed. Yet the secessionists denied categorically the assertion of the universal equality of human rights in the same Declaration of Independence, which was the moral and logically necessary ground of consent. The doctrine of states' rights—central to much of American conservatism in the 20th century—has from the beginning divorced political right from the equal natural rights of individual human beings, under "the laws of nature and of nature's God." This was the principal ground of difference in the struggles against Jim Crow and for civil rights. Today, in the controversy over "affirmative action" in its many guises and embodiments we find the former leaders in the movement for civil rights—amazingly and paradoxically—demanding rewards and privileges, not as individuals but on the basis of their collective racial or ethnic identities. And we find conservatives (or at least some of them) on the other side—no less paradoxically—opposing affirmative action as contrary to the individual rights proclaimed in the Declaration! Clearly, precision concerning the real meaning of the Declaration of Independence, and its bearing on the institutions of government (especially the Constitution), is the most urgent order of business for us. [...]

[A]ddressing the Gregorian Institute in Rome in 1996, Justice Antonin Scalia commented:

"It seems to me incompatible with democratic theory that it is good and right for the state to do something that the majority of the people do not want done. Once you adopt democratic theory, it seems to me, you accept that proposition. If the people do not want it, the state should be able to prohibit it."

And again:

"The whole theory of democracyÉis that the majority rules; that is the whole theory of it. You protect minorities only because the majority determines that there are certain minority positions that deserve protection."

And again:

"You either agree with democratic theory or you do not. But you cannot have democratic theory and then say, but what about the minority? The minority loses, except to the extent that the majority, in its document of government, has agreed to accord the minority rights."

Saddam Hussein recently held an election in which he received over 99% of the vote. Does that make him democratically elected? Does that make his regime any less tyrannical? Strictly speaking, what we call minority rights are not rights of the minority as such. They are rights of individuals, possessed equally by all. It is to secure these rights—the rights of man under the laws of nature and of nature's God—that governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. Government, and majority rule, extend only to these "just powers." Adoption by a majority does not make an unjust power just, e.g., the taking of private property without just compensation, the extension of slavery, the waging of aggressive war. Majority rule, in itself, is not a justification of anything. It may be called democratic only within a process in which there is free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, of the press, and of association. The ends served by majority rule are not decided by majority rule. [...]

[M]odern conservatism suffers from the same nihilism and postmodernism that dominate liberalism and that suppress dissent on our campuses. If conservatism is not to become a mirror-image of decadent liberalism, we have to return the movement to its roots in the political thought and actions of the American Founders and Abraham Lincoln. Nothing is at stake but the soul of the American Revolution, and the salvation of Western civilization.

Maybe I'm missing something, but hasn't Mr. Jaffa just proven the case for secession? Obviously there's no "right" to a Union, so why, unless you revert to the majoritarian analysis, can the majority force the minority to stay in it?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM


New Republic gets makeover (Chicago Sun-Times, February 18, 2003)
Starting with the issue dated March 3, the venerable New Republic magazine gets a more contemporary look with bolder typeface and graphics.

The design makeover is the culmination of a year of changes at the 89-year-old magazine. In early 2002, New York financiers Roger Hertog and Michael Steinhardt invested in the magazine with editor in chief Martin Peretz. Among other things, the additional capital has allowed the magazine to launch, effective Friday, a new digital product--New Republic Digital, which will allow digital subscribers to access content on the magazine's Web site the Friday before it hits newsstands.

In conjunction with the dramatic makeover, the New Republic is taking what it terms more "daring" editorial stances, including support for a war in Iraq, rejection of George W. Bush's tax cut and a call for Democrats to shun presidential candidate Al Sharpton.

The New Republic has had more editorial gyrations over the last fifteen years or so (recall that Fred Barnes used to write for them, not the Weekly Standard) than Hillary Clinton has had hairstyles.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:27 AM


SAKHAROV'S ADVICE (Michael Barone, 2/24/03, US News)
As this is written, it is not known whether another U.N. resolution against Iraq--the 18th, as Donald Rumsfeld points out, not the second--will be proposed and approved. And it is not known what the course of action will be. But it is already time to talk about what comes next. Guidance comes from two of the authentic heroes of our times, the Soviet dissidents Andrei Sakharov, who died in December 1989, and Natan Sharansky, who is now deputy prime mini-ster of Israel. In the early 1970s, Sakharov and Sharansky opposed U.S. detente with the Soviet Union, and today Sharansky recalls Sakharov's advice to American policymakers: "Do not trust governments more than governments trust their own people." Woodrow Wilson sought to make the world safe for democracy through instrumentalities of international law. Democracy was imperiled when those instrumentalities failed. Sharansky and Sakharov teach that the world can be made safe for democracy only by more democracy. Safety is possible only when people are free.

Sakharov lived long enough to see this lesson partially proved. Sharansky describes what was happening in Russia in the 1980s and early 1990s: "Themoment you give people a little bit of freedom, they want it all; the moment the virus of freedom is set loose, there is no way back. The soldier with his gun was tired." America and Russia have been at peace since 1991. Sharansky saw what happened when Israel rejected this lesson in 1993 when it sought peace with Yasser Arafat in Oslo. Yitzhak Rabin argued then that Arafat could be trusted to suppress terrorism because he would not be constrained by a "Supreme Court, human-rights organizations, and free press." But Arafat is a dictator and, as Sharansky argues, a dictator's "primary goal, and greatest headache, is how to keep the people under control. To do so, he always needs an enemy, against whom he can constantly mobilize his people." Arafat, given the choice of 98 percent of his goals or terrorism, chose terrorism.

The leaders of the states sponsoring terrorism in the Middle East give practical and ideological support to terrorists--Saddam Hussein, the Iranian mullahs, and Syria's Bashar Assad openly, the Saudis covertly--because they are dictators desperate to control their people.

WAITING FOR WAR IN DAMASCUS: Syria has been opening up. A war will shut it down. (Helena Cobban, Boston Review)
The stasis in the country’s governmental bodies has been remarkable. Many of the ministers who were in office when I used to travel to Syria in the late 1970s were still sitting in (more or less) the same dusty offices two decades later. Predictable merit-based policies for hiring, training, and promoting civil servants; standard operating procedures across the board; the maintenance of efficient internal archives—all the mundane features of an organization that enable it to perform well and generate effective replacement leadership have been notably missing from Syria’s ministries. And so, according to my Syrian acquaintances, many of the attempts that Asad fils started to make to bring in new faces ended up failing rather badly. It often proved impossible to find anyone with the knowledge base needed to take over. The older-generation folks whom the president sought to replace were not always eager to share their own knowledge of their work with their successors, and in many ministries the institutional archives simply don’t exist.

For a while, however, the new president seemed to be trying to open up the political system. In November 2000, just five months after his inauguration, he gave presidential amnesty to some six hundred political prisoners, some of whom had been in jail for decades. In January 2001 he announced that the emergency law that had been in force for nearly forty years had been “frozen”—though it was not rescinded completely.

Throughout the following half-year the country experienced a phenomenon that has been described by some as a “Damascus spring.” But the intended reference to the “Prague spring” of 1968 is overdrawn. In 2001 Damascus witnessed nothing of an intensity comparable to the remarkable flowering (and subsequent crushing) of prodemocratic forces that Prague saw in 1968. In early 2001 a number of prodemocracy intellectuals, including two parliamentarians, started to quietly host small gatherings inside their homes to discuss ideas for building a democratic movement. They sketched the outlines of what some prodemocracy organizations might look like. Independent parliamentarian Riad al-Seif reportedly was planning to start a political party called the Movement for Social Peace. Economist Arif Dalila helped to found a network called Committees for the Revival of Civil Society. Lawyer Habib Issa and physician Walid al-Bunni helped found the Human Rights Association of Syria. . . . That was about it. Heady stuff in a country where projects like these had not been attempted for more than forty years, but not earth-shattering.

For some months, the regime stepped back and let the discussions continue, though everyone assumed the Mukhabarat knew more or less what was going on. A complex cat-and-mouse game ensued, especially in cyberspace. In an irony of history, expanding Internet access for Syrians had long been one of Bashar al-Asad’s personal campaigns; by 2001 the country had two state-sanctioned Internet service providers that served some tens of thousands of Syrians at a base cost of around $10 per month. The democracy advocates set up their own websites; when the government managed to block them, they would switch to proxy servers.

In early August 2001 one of the prodemocracy parliamentarians, Mamoun al-Homsi, apparently crossed a significant red line. The state authorities charge that on August 7 he began a hunger strike in support of his prodemocracy demands. Two days later he was arrested. He was charged with trying to change the constitution by illegal means, harming national unity, and defaming the state—and also with owing around $1 million in back taxes. In September nine more prodemocracy activists were arrested, including those named above. At the end of the month Asad issued a decree that further tightened existing restrictions on the press. Among its provisions were a ban on publishing “details of secret trials” (such as the ones the ten activists were undergoing) and a ban on anyone owning periodicals who was not a “Syrian Arab.” [...]

One key sign that the regime has not considered itself to be in mortal danger has been its relatively relaxed reaction to the manifestations of popular discontent that continued to occur even after the arrests of late 2001. There have reportedly been some tens of such protests, most of them apparently spontaneous or nearly so. Most of them concerned the Palestinian question, an issue on which, admittedly, the strong popular sentiment runs in the same direction as official rhetoric. But on some occasions demonstrators challenged the regime. For example, one friend said that fall 2002 saw a couple of demonstrations in Damascus protesting zoning laws that mandated demolition of a number of homes to make way for new highways. One of those demonstrations, my friend said, had been quite spirited, and the conflict was resolved only after several days of open confrontation between the government and protestors. [...]

In Syria, as in all the other countries of the Middle East, there is considerable popular and governmental apprehension about the possibly calamitous knock-on effects of an American strike against Iraq. But one outcome that no one in or near the government seems to fear, and that none of the people I met during my recent visit to Damascus even judged worth mentioning, was the prospect that such a war might provoke a democratic opening in Syria. The major political reaction in Arab societies to attempts by outsiders to impose their will by force is to resist those attempts and to breathe new life into the tired old arguments that repressive regimes use about the overriding importance of “national unity” and “national security.” Democracy will certainly come to Syria someday, through persistent, careful, and sometimes dangerous organizing work by the country’s own homegrown
democratizers. Democracy will come in spite of American military posturing and military adventures in the region, not because of them.

Some of us are old enough to recall the eagerness with which the Left continually proclaimed that the peoples behind the Iron Curtain actually liked being communist, as evidenced by the way they'd turn out to protest various American actions. Of course as soon as Soviet control of Eastern Europe crumbled the same folks who'd been protesting sought out Western media to tell them that they'd been forced to participate in anti-Western demonstrations.

Ms Cobban apparently believes that the Assad regime is relatively popular, as evidenced by how few protesters there are in the streets. And, in what we'll charitably describe as a moment of mild myopia, she makes much of the fact that repression of the nascent pro-democracy movement lightened in late 2001. It might have been worthwhile for her to note that this coincided with George W. Bush's announcement of an Axis of Evil and that Mr. Assad may have preferred not to be added to it. It also seems a bit dubious for her to have put so much weight on a few--how does she put it?-- apparently nearly spontaneous protests calling for the regime to be more pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. One might equally well have lauded Hitler for not cracking down on anti-Semitic demonstrations. Does she really not recognize that scapegoating is an age-old tool of dictatorial regimes?

Between columns like this and the marches this weekend--so reminiscent of those back in the Reagan era, decrying the U.S. plan to upgrade our intermediate-range missiles and demanding a nuclear freeze--it seems fair to wonder whether the Left learned anything from the final, victorious years of the Cold War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM

Here's a link (that I think will work) to the Michael Barone piece we were so taken with last week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM


Broad Issues Put Bush and Democratic Contenders on a Collision Course (Ronald Brownstein, February 17, 2003, LA Times)
However it turns out, the Senate Democratic filibuster against President Bush's nomination of Miguel A. Estrada to a U.S. appellate court is a straw in the wind. It's a signal that in the months ahead, the political conflict at home is likely to be as intense as the military conflict abroad.

If the United States goes to war with Iraq, don't look for the kind of home-front unity that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Across the full range of issues, the gap between the parties is expanding at an increasing velocity. Each side's trajectory points toward a tumultuous congressional session and a 2004 presidential election that will present the country with the starkest choice it has faced since 1984, and arguably 1972.

On almost every front, the internal pressures on Bush and his potential Democratic rivals for 2004 are widening the distance between them. From the outset of his presidency, Bush has appeared determined -- at times almost fixated -- on deepening his support among the base Republican voters whose disillusionment helped sink his father's reelection campaign in 1992.

Even amid his planning for war, Bush this year has produced a domestic agenda of stunning ambition -- from massive tax cuts to fundamental restructuring of social programs -- that excites those voters as much as it stuns and angers Democrats. The prospect of war with Iraq has only deepened the lines of division. Unlike the pursuit of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, this war is substantially dividing the public along lines of partisanship and ideology, polls show.

With Bush pushing forward so insistently on domestic and foreign issues, Democrats -- especially the party's 2004 presidential contenders -- are facing enormous pressure from their base to resist him more forcefully than the party did last year. It's a telling measure that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a candidate for the 2004 nomination, routinely draws loud applause when he tells audiences he's running to represent "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

None of the other contenders (other than longshot Al Sharpton) may follow Dean as far to the left, but the antipathy among activists for Bush's agenda is affecting all of them; even Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), who appears determined to run largely as a centrist, started a recent stump speech in South Carolina by growling, "If you came here looking for Republican-lite, you are in the wrong room."

Watching the presidential race develop in these circumstances is like watching two cars speed off in opposite directions on a narrow racetrack: while they are heading away from each other, it's only a matter of time until they crash head-on.

The list of likely collisions is rapidly lengthening.

One need hardly point out that the Democrats were annihilated in 1972 and 1984 and succeeded in winning back the White House only by nominating two Republican-lite candidates, both of whom ran to the Right of liberal/moderate Republican opponents. If the two parties are in cars racing in opposite directions, the Democrats aren't on the racetrack, they're locked in Thelma and Louise's trunk.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:31 AM


A Long Journey From Iraq Leads to Backing for War: Nation craves liberation, says one who escaped. (Zainab Al-Suwaij, February 18, 2003, LA Times)
I lived through war almost my entire childhood in Iraq. When I was in fourth grade in 1980, Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. For the next eight years, my hometown of Basra suffered daily Iranian bombing raids.

Outside our school, my friends and I used to wave at passing military cars with young soldiers in the back, heading off to the front. We would flash them victory signs, but they would shake their fingers at us and make an upside down V -- the opposite of victory. With hundreds dying every week on the front lines and capital punishment the penalty for deserters, these young men were bitter because they knew their lives had been stolen from them for no reason other than Hussein's deadly ambition.

Throughout the war with Iran, students were forced to attend staged rallies praising Hussein and our "martyrs" dying for a holy cause at the front. Teachers would end school early, and police carrying whips would force us out into the streets and hand us signs to hold up for the cameras. The government propaganda made me sick, and I always tried to run away, but the police prevented it. In the late 1980s, the war with Iran (Iraqis call it the first Gulf War) ended, but Hussein's war against his own people continued. Iraq was a dead end, so after graduating from high school in 1990, I left for Kuwait. But Hussein followed me south a few weeks later, with his invasion of Kuwait and terror campaign against its civilians. [...]

As Hussein's forces withdrew from Kuwait, the Iraqi people, encouraged by U.S. leaders, rose up. With very few weapons, thousands desperate for freedom suddenly took to the streets and confronted Hussein's forces. Although I was only 20 years old and a woman, I joined in the fighting. American help never came, and Hussein's forces regrouped and killed thousands to regain control of Iraq. Those of us who survived scattered across Iraq and around the world. Our hopes crushed, we tried to forget what it was like to taste freedom for a few days.

Today in the U.S., as I watch soldiers shipping off, I see protesters chanting against American ambition and greed. Having lived through wars that were all about one man's ambition and greed, I am pained to see how these protesters have missed the mark. On behalf of Iraqis who cannot speak openly with reporters or who have given their lives trying to free Iraq from Hussein's brutal rule, let me say clearly: American, British and other allied soldiers are a sign of hope and liberation.

Heard on of the protest organizers on NPR yesterday and she said that there is no circumstance under which it would be appropriate to remove Saddam Hussein by violence, that the Iraqi people have to do it themselves, and only by democratic means. It's impossible to take such a view seriously.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 AM


A Fox News Ad Roils Some Readers of The Nation (THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 17, 2003)
Many readers of The Nation, a magazine of the political left, seek shelter in its pages from what they consider the news media's conservative bias. So executives at the magazine anticipated some criticism when they accepted a full-page advertisement from the Fox News channel, one of those outlets considered to fall in the enemy camp.

What they did not expect after accepting a back-page ad (and $8,100) from Fox News was roughly 250 vehemently angry letters, e-mail messages and phone calls, and more than 50 subscription cancellations.

"The words that they're using are outraged, shocked, confused, absolutely appalled, dismayed and dumbfounded," said Ellen Bollinger, vice president for advertising at the magazine.

One e-mail message even read, "It is like an ad for Klan News."

Attempts by Ms. Bollinger to soothe jangled nerves by explaining the magazine's advertising policy have met mixed results. That policy, crafted in 1978 after The Nation was criticized for running an ad for mink coats, directs the staff to presume that ads should be accepted even when the views they express seem offensive.

In summary, Ms. Bollinger explained, "Repugnant is right."

This does seem unfair: Nation readers want to hear about how socialism is thriving in Cuba and free trade is causing AIDs in Africa, not about how most cable news viewers choose to watch a conservative news network.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM


Blair pushes EU leaders towards war (George Jones and Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 18/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
European leaders clashed with President Jacques Chirac of France last night as they toughened their stance on Iraq, agreeing that weapons inspections could not continue indefinitely without full co-operation from Saddam Hussein.

After tense discussions at an emergency summit in Brussels, they said that war was not inevitable. But for the first time they accepted that force could be used as a last resort. [...]

The deep divisions among European leaders were highlighted when M Chirac, who has taken the lead in opposing American-led military action, said there was no need at present for a second UN resolution authorising war. "We consider that war is always the worst solution," he said.

M Chirac underlined his opposition to early military action and attacked east European countries that had publicly backed American policy on Iraq.

Making a veiled threat to block their entry into the European Union, he said their behaviour was "childish and dangerous" and that they had "missed a good opportunity to keep silent".

There were angry exchanges after Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, told the summit that the Security Council would have to face its responsibilities and said that transatlantic disagreements could make it more difficult to resolve the crisis.

M Chirac intervened to say that they were talking about the "life and death" of thousands of men and women a long way from Brussels.

British officials said that Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, had argued that other EU leaders were just as concerned about life and death.

He cited September 11 and the Bali bombing and said he was worried that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction could fall into the wrong hands.

The Dutch premier, Jan Peter Balkenende, said the central issue was Iraq and its defiance.

What had happened at the UN last week, when deep divisions emerged in the Security Council, had been "a victory for Iraq".

Bertie Ahern, the Irish premier, said the authority of the United Nations was at stake.

Mr Blair urged the leaders not to wobble but to back Britain and America in threatening the use of force if Saddam Hussein did not disarm.

"If Saddam stays, Iraqis will pay with their lives," he said.

Oh gosh, look at that, sometime in March is when we reach "last resort".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM


Reuniting the Security Council (NY Times, 2/18/03)
The most hawkish figures in the Bush administration never wanted to bring the Iraq issue before the United Nations. With last Friday's show of resistance in the Security Council to early military action against Baghdad, it's easy to imagine some of them saying "I told you so," and urging President Bush to bypass the Council and prepare for an invasion joined only by Britain and a narrow coalition of smaller nations. That would be a damaging mistake.

Walking away from the U.N. and important European allies over this issue is not in America's long-term interests.

Israel's second-class status at the UN (Anne Bayefsky, February 18, 2003, National Post)
Last week Israel's second-class status at the UN was again demonstrated by the defeat of the Israeli candidate for the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Yehudit Karp is the committee's current rapporteur. In the past, she had been chosen by fellow members as vice-chair and was a seasoned, well-respected committee member.

Her defeat follows the defeat of the Israeli candidate for the election to the UN Human Rights Committee in September 2002; the defeat of the Israeli candidate and sitting member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women in August 2002; and the defeat of the Israeli candidate for election to the UN Racial Discrimination Committee in January 2002. In fact, the only remaining elected Israeli on a UN body anywhere is Mayer Gabay, vice-chair of the UN Administrative Tribunal -- whose term ends in December of this year and who is not permitted by general rules concerning time limits to stand for re-election.

By contrast, Egypt has members on all six of the UN human rights treaty bodies. In fact, the Egyptian candidate for the Committee on the Rights of the Child was elected with the highest number of votes by the 191 parties to the Child Convention. This is despite the fact that the leading child rights international NGO (based in Geneva) put out an advisory to countries before the vote. It said: "NGOs feel that she is not very knowledgeable nor reliable on the issues ... due to her strong affiliation and history with the Egyptian government." Translation: When countries of interest to Egypt are considered by the committee, an Egyptian government official sits close to the "independent" Egyptian member just to make sure they get it right. [...]

Algeria, Bahrain, China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, and Zimbabwe pass judgment on human rights at the UN Commission on Human Rights. China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates specialize in the rights of women at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Iran is one of five members on the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan scrutinize the implementation of labour standards on the Governing Council of the International Labour Organization.

In the meantime, representatives and experts from the democratic and Jewish state of Israel are disqualified, blackballed, or left standing in the halls of UN bodies everywhere.

Here's a simple reform the UN should undergo before we even consider working through it: No non-democracies shall be members.

February 17, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 PM


Chirac blasts eastern Europeans over pro-American stance, warns on EU membership (Paul Ames, February 17, 2003, Associated Press)
French President Jacques Chirac launched a withering attack Monday on eastern European nations who signed letters backing the U.S. position on Iraq, warning itcould jeopardize their chances of joining the European Union.

"It is not really responsible behavior," he told a news conference. "It is not well brought up behavior. They missed a good opportunity to keep quiet."

Chirac was angered when EU candidates Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined pro-U.S. EU members such as Britain, Spain and Italy last month in a letter supporting Washington's line on Iraq against the more dovish stance of France and Germany.

Paris was further upset when 10 other eastern European nations signed a similar letter a few days later.

France argued that the moves aggravated splits in the 15-nation EU and backed the ideas put forward by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld who had earlier spoke of France and Germany as "old Europe" in contrast to the easterners seeking to join the EU and NATO.

"Concerning the candidate countries, honestly I felt they acted frivolously because entry into the European Union implies a minimum of understanding for the others," Chirac told reporters after an emergency EU summit on Iraq.

He warned the candidates the position could be "dangerous" because the parliaments of the 15 EU nations still have to ratify last December's decision for 10 new members to join the bloc on May 1, 2004.

Chirac particularly warned Romania and Bulgaria, who are still negotiating to enter the bloc in 2007.

"Romania and Bulgaria were particularly irresponsible to (sign the letter) when their position is really delicate," Chirac said. "If they wanted to diminish their chances of joining Europe they could not have found a better way."

Supposedly Mr. Chirac left a rabbit boiling on the stove in the Bulgarian embassy and spraypainted "I will not be ignored!" on the sidewalk in front of the Romanian.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 PM


Schroeder agrees war might be last resort in Iraq (Emma Thomasson, Feb 17, 2003, Reuters)
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder reluctantly agreed on Monday to a European Union resolution on Iraq that accepted that force might be necessary as a last resort to compel Baghdad to disarm.

Schroeder, whose anti-war stance has infuriated Washington, said last month that Germany, which holds one of the 10 rotating seats on the U.N. Security Council, would not support any new U.N. resolution that authorised military action against Baghdad.

Schroeder admitted he had compromised in agreeing to the EU statement that "force can only be used as a last resort" but insisted it did not mark a fundamental change in Berlin's position and he remained committed to a peaceful solution.

He said Germany's involvement in conflicts such as the 1999 Kosovo war, when German troops played a combat role for the first time since World War Two, and in the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic extremists showed it was not shy about military action.

"In the question of Kosovo and in the Balkans and in Enduring Freedom -- the fight against international terrorism -- we have intervened militarily," he told a news conference after EU leaders met in Brussels for an emergency summit on Iraq.

"This government has never taken the position that cannot be possible as a last resort," he said. "As a principle, history shows we have never ruled that out, nor could we rule it out."

But Schroeder's agreement to the EU statement saying force might be necessary in the case of Iraq could be interpreted as an attempt to get out of the corner he has backed himself into by ruling out backing a war under any circumstances.

What could be more fun than watching the French and Germans fight over who gets to stab the other in the back first and hop on the war bandwagon?

It's important to note how these two (France and Germany) reacted here, at the height of their influence--after what folks have been whining about as a shift of momentum following the UN meeting last week and the protests this weekend--they folded almost completely. Oh ye of little faith...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:42 PM


Iraqi defence minister 'under house arrest' (Luke Harding, February 18, 2003, The Guardian)
Saddam Hussein was last night reported to have placed his defence minister and close relative under house arrest in an extraordinary move apparently designed to prevent a coup.

Iraqi opposition newspapers, citing sources in Baghdad, yesterday claimed that the head of the Iraqi military, Lieutenant-General Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Jabburi Tai, was now effectively a prisoner in his home in the capital.

The minister's apparent detention, also reported by Cairo-based al-Ahram newspaper, is surprising. He is not only a member of President Saddam's inner circle, but also a close relative by marriage. His daughter is married to Qusay Hussein, the dictator's 36-year-old younger son - considered by many as his heir apparent.

Reports of the general's arrest came amid signs of growing apprehension in Baghdad that the Iraqi army, including the elite Republican Guard, might desert in the event of an attack on Iraq.

Last night one independent source in Baghdad contacted by the Guardian confirmed that Gen Sultan was in custody. "He continues to attend cabinet meetings and appear on Iraqi TV, so that everything seems normal," said the source, a high-ranking official with connections to Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party. "But in reality his house and family are surrounded by Saddam's personal guards. They are there so he can't flee."

The source also claimed that several other high-ranking military and government officials had been arrested in the past few days. Any signs of dissent within Baghdad will be watched very closely by US and other intelligence services.

The Saudi regime has been taking the lead in attempting to foment unrest within Baghdad. Under a proposal put forward by the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, all but President Saddam's innermost circle would be granted immunity from war crimes prosecution - the hope being that such a guarantee would encourage senior members of the Iraqi government to stage a coup.

All it may take is one hard shove....
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 PM


Former NATO Head Clark Mulling Presidential Bid (Christina Ling, February 16, 2003, Reuters)
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme commander, said on Sunday he had been asked to run for president in 2004 and was considering a challenge to President Bush.

"Sure I've thought about it and a lot of people have come to me and asked me to think about it," Clark told NBC's "Meet the Press" program, during which he criticized Bush's handling of the weapons inspections process in Iraq.

It was Clark's first public admission he was considering a run, although media and politicians have speculated for months he could become a Democratic Party candidate.

"I haven't declared a party, but it would be hard to conceive of running as a Republican only because the administration's policies are what is causing me to have these concerns," he said, adding he had no deadline for making a decision. [...]

Clark, 58, said Bush had failed to respect the reservations of key allies like France, Germany and Russia that are calling for the United States not to rush into war with Iraq over alleged weapons of mass destruction but allow United Nations inspectors more time to do their work.

"As long as the United States stands with Europe we can move the world," he said.

The concept of basing a campaign on the idea that your opponent hasn't been solicitous enough of France and Germany smacks of lunacy.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:22 PM


Sharpton bid a nightmare for Democrats (Donald Lambro, 2/17/03, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
The Rev. Al Sharpton's presidential bid is sending shudders through the Democrats' rank and file, who fear that his fiery, racial rhetoric could divide their party and lead to defeat in 2004.

Almost 10 months before the presidential primary contests begin, the black civil rights activist is coming under surprisingly sharp attack from Democratic-leaning journals and party activists, who say his agenda is rooted in racial polarization that poses a "nightmarish" scenario for Democrats next year.

Few Democrats — especially the spokesmen for the six other presidential contenders — want to talk on the record about what they think of Mr. Sharpton's prospective presidential candidacy. "Do you really think I'm going to respond to this?" asked a spokesman for one of Mr. Sharpton's rivals.

But privately some of them worry Mr. Sharpton's brand of racial politics will tar their party and repel white Democrats in the South and independent swing voters across the country.

"This is not good for our party. This could take us back to the 1980s when Jesse Jackson's candidacy divided the electorate and led us down the road to defeat," said a Democratic adviser and campaign strategist who did not want to be identified. [...]

Mr. Sharpton may soon have some competition for the overwhelmingly Democratic black vote. Former Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun of Illinois plans to run, and some say she is being urged to do so to divide blacks and prevent Mr. Sharpton from winning key primaries in the South, where blacks make up 40 percent or more of the Democratic vote.

Somebody better tell the Reverend that the assigned role of blacks is to vote Democrat for nothing in return.

A Conspiracy Theory for Everything (Terry M. Neal, February 17, 2003, Washington Post)

A question is circulating through some Washington circles: What happens if two African Americans, both with strong antiwar messages, run for the Democratic presidential nomination?

Will they split black voters' attention, allowing the half-dozen white candidates to focus on courting moderate and independent white voters whom both parties covet, particularly in the South?

Former senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-Ill.), the only black woman elected to the Senate, plans to announce her presidential candidacy Tuesday in Chicago. Some see her move as an effort to steal momentum from Al Sharpton of New York, whom some Democrats would like to usher off the stage. [...]

The conspiracy theory being kicked around is that some prominent Democrats urged Moseley-Braun to join the race, figuring that her background as a senator, an ambassador to New Zealand and a law professor at DePaul University would make her a more attractive black contender than Sharpton, who continues to suffer the taint of the Tawana Brawley affair and other controversies.

Last month, Sharpton implied as much in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, questioning Moseley-Braun's support levels. "Who will go on the record saying they will support her?" he demanded.

In an interview last week, Donna Brazile, chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute, laughed off the conspiracy theories. She acknowledged that she had urged Moseley-Braun to run, but only because of her appeal as one of the few women to reach the Senate.

Ms Brazile seems to have hired a judas goat.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Iran Reports Sweep Against Qaeda Smugglers (ELAINE SCIOLINO with ERIC SCHMITT, February 17, 2003, NY Times)
Iran has arrested several suspected members of Al Qaeda in recent weeks as part of a crackdown that American and Iranian officials say has shut down a major smuggling operation on the Iranian border with Pakistan.

The most important disruption of activities of would-be terrorists who had sought refuge in Iran came in mid-January, Iranian officials said in early February.

It was then that Iranian security forces uncovered and dismantled a network used to smuggle Afghans or Afghan-Arabs — some of them linked to Al Qaeda--across the porous border of Pakistan into the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan.

A Defense Department official who monitors reports of Qaeda movements confirmed the Iranian crackdown, saying: "Iran has made some arrests. It's made some of the terrorists there uneasy. They're not too comfortable being there anymore."

The Pentagon official did not know precisely how many suspected Qaeda members Iran had been arrested or what the Iranian authorities had done with them.

"There's something going on there," the official said. "Maybe the government has decided it doesn't want to be the next target" of an American attack.

Iran looks increasingly like low hanging fruit.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


The Cost of 'Stop the War'...Why I'm not going wobbly on Iraq. (Tony Blair, 2/17/03, Wall Street Journal)
At every stage, we should seek to avoid war. But if the threat cannot be removed peacefully, please let us not fall for the delusion that it can be safely ignored. If we do not confront these twin menaces of rogue states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, they will not disappear. They will just feed and grow on our weakness.

When people say if you act, you will provoke these people; when they say now: take a lower profile and these people will leave us alone, remember: al Qaeda attacked the U.S., not the other way round. Were the people of Bali in the forefront of the antiterror campaign? Did Indonesia "make itself a target"? The terrorists won't be nice to us if we're nice to them. When Saddam drew us into the Gulf War, he wasn't provoked. He invaded Kuwait.

So where has it come to? Everyone agrees Saddam must be disarmed. Everyone agrees without disarmament, he is a danger.

No-one seriously believes he is yet cooperating fully. In all honesty, most people don't really believe he ever will. So what holds people back? What brings thousands of people out in protests across the world? And let's not pretend, not really, that in March or April or May or June, people will feel different. It's not really an issue of timing or 200 inspectors versus 100. It is a right and entirely understandable hatred of war. It is moral purpose, and I respect that.

It is as one woman put it to me: I abhor the consequences of war.

And I know many in our own party, many here today will agree with her; and don't understand why I press the case so insistently. And I have given you the geopolitical reason--the threat of weapons of mass destruction and its link with terrorism. And I believe it.

If I am honest about it, there is another reason why I feel so strongly about this issue. It is a reason less to do with my being prime minister than being a member of the Labour Party, to do with the progressive politics in which we believe. The moral case against war has a moral answer: It is the moral case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the United Nations mandate on weapons of mass destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.

Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove Saddam by force, people will die, and some will be innocent. And we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended ones.

But there are also consequences of "stop the war."

If I took that advice, and did not insist on disarmament, yes, there would be no war. But there would still be Saddam. Many of the people marching will say they hate Saddam. But the consequences of taking their advice is that he stays in charge of Iraq, ruling the Iraqi people. A country that in 1978, the year before he seized power, was richer than Malaysia or Portugal. A country where today, 135 out of every 1,000 Iraqi children die before the age of five--70% of these deaths are from diarrhea and respiratory infections that are easily preventable. Where almost a third of children born in the center and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition.

Where 60% of the people depend on food aid.

Where half the population of rural areas have no safe water.

Where every year and now, as we speak, tens of thousands of political prisoners languish in appalling conditions in Saddam's jails and are routinely executed.

Where in the past 15 years over 150,000 Shia Muslims in Southern Iraq and Muslim Kurds in northern Iraq have been butchered; with up to four million Iraqis in exile round the world, including 350,000 now in Britain.

This isn't a regime with weapons of mass destruction that is otherwise benign. This is a regime that contravenes every single principle or value anyone of our politics believes in.

There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children who die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers, which, if he is left in power, will be left in being.

I rejoice that we live in a country where peaceful protest is a natural part of our democratic process.

But I ask the marchers to understand this.

I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honor. But sometimes it is the price of leadership. And the cost of conviction.

But as you watch your TV pictures of the march, ponder this:

If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for.

If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started.

Ideally, after Labour dumps him and the UN and EU have proven that multiteral institutions are incapable of following moral principles, he'll either take over and revitalize the Tories or form a genuine alternative to both parties. Barring that, he'll get a whopping book deal from a US publisher and, one would hope, a big time job offer from George W. Bush--maybe NSC advisor when Condi Rice runs for VP in the second term, or Secretary of State if Colin Powell decides to move on.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 PM


Liberal Radio Is Planned by Rich Group of Democrats (JIM RUTENBERG, February 17, 2003, NY Times)
A group of wealthy Democratic donors is planning to start a liberal radio network to counterbalance the conservative tenor of radio programs like "The Rush Limbaugh Show."

The group, led by Sheldon and Anita Drobny, venture capitalists from Chicago who have been major campaign donors for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, is in talks with Al Franken, the comedian and author of "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot." It hopes to enlist other well-known entertainers with a liberal point of view for a 14-hour, daily slate of commercial programs that would heavily rely on comedy and political satire.

The plan faces several business and content challenges, from finding a network of radio stations to buy the program to overcoming the poor track record of liberal radio shows. But it is the most ambitious undertaking yet to come from liberal Democrats who believe they are overshadowed in the political propaganda wars by conservative radio and television personalities.

Here's another handy example of why all humor is conservative: compare the Rush Limbaugh parody that Charles McCord writes for the Imus in the Morning show with Al Franken's sublimely unfunny book. Mr. Limbaugh is nearly a parody of himself, so Mr. Franken's inability to work him for laughs is particularly instructive. Liberal talk radio fails because you can't be well informed about reality and remain a liberal and you because the liberal worldview leads to seeing the news of the day as unending tragedy. It's radio for mopes.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 PM


Report: Iraq to replace Saudis as U.S. headquarters in region (SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM, February 17, 2003)
The United States plans to move troops from Saudi Arabia to Iraq as part of a realignment of interests in the Gulf, a new study says.

The study published under the auspices of the government in the United Arab Emirates, reports on the drafting of an emerging U.S. national security policy that will vigorously promote democracy in the Middle East and launch an offensive against groups deemed as terrorists as well as their state sponsors. [...]

The UAE study said the United States envisions regime changes in Iran and Syria in wake of the toppling of the Saddam regime, Middle East Newsline reported. The study also warned that Egypt could be affected by a new U.S. policy. [...]

The UAE study reported that the administration has drafted a document that envisioned military attacks on organizations deemed as terrorists, the control of global oil resources and fostering regional leaders such as Israel and Turkey. He said the document was drafted soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by Al Qaida on New York.

"Although such an approach does not exactly reflect the official American policy, it has become an excuse to launch a military strike against Iraq," the study said. "Statements by the U.S. officials indicate clearly that Iraq will just be the beginning. This means the offensive against Iraq will be the start of a large-scale military and diplomatic operation with the aim of bringing about radical changes to the region, where Iraq will have the first constitutional government in the Arab world, to be the first democratic system in a series of democratic changes."

It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 PM


Pop Strife: Can there be a conservative reclamation of popular music? (Mark Gauvreau Judge, February 14, 2003, Claremont Institute)
Try to identify the source of the following quotation:

"I'm frustrated by what I hear [in popular music]. Maybe it's not meant for me. Personally, I'm way too bright for a lot of the hip-hop lyrics to affect. I'm much too smart to think that jewelry or how cool I am is really going to change much about my personality. If you're dumb enough that it entertains you, have a great time. But I am seeking more than that."

Bill Bennett? Michael Medved? Actually it's Tom Petty, the craggy middle-aged rock musician, interviewed in Rolling Stone last Fall. Petty is barking mad these days. He thinks most radio stinks and pop music is terrible, too often delivered by pubescent girls made up to look like street walkers. "It's disgusting," Petty grunts. "It's not just pop music, it's fashion, it's TV, it's advertising, it's every element of our culture. Young women are not being respected, children aren't being respected. Why are we creating a country of child molesters? Could it be that we're dressing up nine-year-old women to look sexy?"

Because God loves irony so much, Petty's words appeared the very same issue that featured a bare-naked Christina Aguilera on the cover. Not long ago, Aguilera was a teen pop singer who worked for Disney. These days she's trying to maintain her position in rock's pecking order by defining herself down.

Petty's words reflect something that I've been anticipating for quite some time —a conservative reclamation of popular music. Since the 1960s, the countercultural Left has had a stranglehold on pop music—or rather, a stranglehold on the conception of what popular music is supposed to be about. For almost 40 years now, we've been told constantly that "It's all about rebellion," despite the fact that the music of the Beatles and Elvis had more in common with swing and Tin Pan Alley than punk and rap. But, no, the received wisdom is that pop is about annoying parents, clearing rooms, and, of course, sex.

In fact, music is about sound.

If pop is made by and marketed to the young and the young are, by definition, inexperienced and ignorant, why would we ever expect their music to become predominantly conservative? What's important from a conservative perspective is to point out that most of it's garbage and shouldn't be taken seriously--which is why so many on the Right improbably appreciated the punk rock phenomenon, the ultimate in puncturing pretensions.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM


U.S. official to Israel: We'll deal with Syria, Iran after Iraq war (Aluf Benn and Sharon Sadeh, 2/17/03, Haaretz)
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials on Monday that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq, and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.

Bolton, who is undersecretary for arms control and international security, is in Israel for meetings about preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

In a meeting with Bolton on Monday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that Israel is concerned about the security threat posed by Iran. It's important to deal with Iran even while American attention is turned toward Iraq, Sharon said.

Bolton also met with Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Housing and Construction Minister Natan Sharansky.

It's no surprise that Democrats and Europeans haven't figured this out yet, but it's disappointing that so many conservatives remain so dim. The same folks who still think that George W. Bush is a protectionist because of the steel tariffs have now convinced themselves that he's wobbly because Saddam isn't gone yet. Conservatives are supposed to be the adults here, not petulant children like the liberals. What gives?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM


Letters to the Editor / PRESS RELEASE (Frederick Glaysher, 2/06/03)
The New York Times Book Review
229 W. 43rd Street
New York, New York 10036

Feb. 6, 2003

In predictable fashion The New York Times Book Review and much of the media have chosen to support the more radical and supposedly "enlightened" viewpoint on the tiff with The White House and Laura Bush.

A more misguided and wrong-headed response could not exist. It's so fraught with cliches I hardly know where to start. In general, it's a pity that Sam Hamill, and others who think like him, demonstrate once again that poetry, as defined by them at least, indeed doesn't matter, so complete is their inability to think seriously about the threat represented by Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Their ridiculous pose of mounting  the barricades is really quite contemptible. It is clear that the crowd  alluded to by Mr. Hamill summons poetry to their own radical  distortions and agendas, achieving only a further marginalization of an art that has all too often, among some, lost allegiance to the civilizing values of peace, which require defense never more so than now.

Far from "the conscience of our culture," such poets have no sense of history and the deep obligations of our country, to ourselves and to the world, which the burden of power lays upon us at this juncture. President Bush is right to call the United  Nations to live up to its founding Charter, to be a common refuge of defense, "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war," not merely consultation, reduced to babel. At this time of national and international crisis, poets who betray their nation, art, and humanity merit no audience at The White House.

For a different view of the issues involved, I invite your readers to consider my essay "The Victory of World Governance". 

Frederick Glaysher

While we're less sanguine than Mr. Glaysher about the potential of the U.N. to be an effective enforcer of international law, we highly recommend his narrative poem, The Bower of Nil. And here's an interview we did with him.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:58 AM


A New Power in the Streets: President Bush appears to be eyeball to eyeball with a tenacious new adversary: world public opinion. (PATRICK E. TYLER, 2/17/03, NY Times)
The fracturing of the Western alliance over Iraq and the huge antiwar demonstrations around the world this weekend are reminders that there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

In his campaign to disarm Iraq, by war if necessary, President Bush appears to be eyeball to eyeball with a tenacious new adversary: millions of people who flooded the streets of New York and dozens of other world cities to say they are against war based on the evidence at hand. [...]

The fresh outpouring of antiwar sentiment may not be enough to dissuade Mr. Bush or his advisers from their resolute preparations for war. But the sheer number of protesters offers a potent message that any rush to war may have political consequences for nations that support Mr. Bush's march into the Tigris and Euphrates valleys.

This may have been the reason that foreign ministers for 22 Arab nations, meeting in Cairo today, called on all Arab countries to "refrain from offering any kind of assistance or facilities for any military action that leads to the threat of Iraq's security, safety and territorial integrity."

War, like politics, is affected by psychology and momentum. The strong surge in momentum the Bush administration felt after Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's Feb. 5 presentation to the Security Council on the case for war has been undermined by at least four converging negatives.

The most obvious is the rupture in relations between Mr. Bush and some of his principal partners in Europe: France and Germany, now joined by Russia, China and a growing list of other countries. Just weeks ago, it seemed that Mr. Bush was successfully coaxing France and Germany into the war camp, especially after one of the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, Hans Blix, delivered a negative report on Jan. 27 on Iraqi compliance.

But the swell of popular opposition to war across Europe, the second negative, plus the corrosive effects of the hawkish jibes that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have hurled across the Atlantic, have only roiled the waters further. Washington discovered just how deeply Western unity had been sundered when it asked for defensive NATO deployments to Turkey to protect that front-line state from Iraqi intimidation--a request that brought opposition and contentious debate that were resolved today.

It's too bad the war is starting so soon, because it would serve Administration purposes to let these protests and UN/EU posturing go on a bit longer, becoming ever more self-important, before ignoring them and demonstrating their essential triviality.

February 16, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM

AFTER IRAQ: The plan to remake the Middle East. (NICHOLAS LEMANN, 2003-02-17, The New Yorker)

In 1999, [David Wurmser, who is now a senior adviser to John Bolton, the Under-Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, and the State Department's most hawkish senior official,] published a book (with a foreword by Richard Perle) called "Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein." It provides a detailed description of a dramatically improved Middle East, from the hawk point of view, after regime change in Iraq. Although Wurmser certainly doesn't lack moral fervor, he is a strategic thinker who wants to realign the power relationships in the region. For Wurmser, the larger enemy is the ideology of Pan-Arabism, which he presents as the Middle East's version of the various forms of totalitarianism that swept across Europe in the twentieth century. The true choice in the region is between "the traditional Arab elite and revolutionary Arab nationalists." In the latter category are Saddam Hussein, the Assad family of Syria (who, like Saddam, subscribe to the Pan-Arabist ideology of Baathism), and the mullahs of Iran—even though those countries have, at times, been mortal enemies. Bringing down Saddam, Wurmser predicts, would have the happy effect of destabilizing both Syria and Iran. "A collapse in either Syria or Iraq would affect the other profoundly," he writes. "Ideologically, a failure of Ba'thism in one implicitly indicts the regime of the other as well." As for Iran: "Launching a policy and resolutely carrying it through until it razes Saddam's Ba'thism to the ground will send terrifying shock waves into Teheran." In Wurmser's scenario, a post-Saddam government in Iraq that includes meaningful participation by Iraq's Shiite majority will remove the Iranian mullahs' most powerful claim to legitimacy, which is that they represent the only regional power center for Shiites. (It's a sign of how rapidly Washington opinion has moved that, writing only four years ago, even Wurmser considered it inadvisable for the United States "to go to war solo, to liberate and occupy an Arab capital," and recommended the empowerment of the Iraqi National Congress to overthrow Saddam.)

One can easily derive from Wurmser's book a crisp series of post-Saddam moves across the chessboard of the Middle East. The regime in Iran would either fall or be eased out of power by an alliance of the radical students and the more moderate mullahs, with the United States doing what it could to encourage the process. After regime change, the United States would persuade Iran to end its nuclear-weapons program and its support for terrorists elsewhere in the Middle East, especially Hezbollah. Syria, now surrounded by the pro-American powers of Turkey, the reconfigured Iraq, Jordan, and Israel, and no longer dependent on Saddam for oil, could be pressured to cošperate with efforts to clean out Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. As Syria moved to a more pro-American stand, so would its client state, Lebanon. That would leave Hezbollah, which has its headquarters in Lebanon, without state support. The Palestinian Authority, with most of its regional allies stripped away, would have no choice but to renounce terrorism categorically. Saudi Arabia would have much less sway over the United States because it would no longer be America's only major source of oil and base of military operations in the region, and so it might finally be persuaded to stop funding Hamas and Al Qaeda through Islamic charities.

A few things should be said about this vision of the near-term future in the Middle East. It is breathtakingly ambitious and optimistic. It might plausibly be described as a spreading of democracy but, perhaps more important, it would also involve, as the "Clean Break" paper said, forcefully altering the regional balance of power. And it differs greatly from the vision of the future of the Middle East that will prevail among liberals, both here and abroad, after the war in Iraq. It treats Pan-Arab nationalism as illegitimate. It does not accept the widespread assumption that no regional good can follow the fall of Saddam unless peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority begin immediately. And it sees the fall of Saddam Hussein less as the end of a great diplomatic and military effort than as a step in an ongoing process.

In some ways the last may be the most important point. Folks, especially those like the protestors this weekend, have worked themselves up to a fever pitch,, as if the future of humankind hangs on this moment. But the war is going ahead regardless of them, will be over fairly quickly, and then it's on to the next phase, whether facing down N. Korea or getting rid of Assad in Syria or helping the democracy movement in Iran or helping Israel unilaterally declare a Palestinian state or whatever. You often see a bumper sticker that says "Think Globally, Act Locally" on these peoples' Volvos, but they're doing the opposite, trying to act on a global scale even though their concerns are personal. This seems to have blinded them to the big picture and deafened them to the oft-repeated statements of George W. Bush that there's an Axis of Evil, not just one evil ruler; that the war on terror is a long term process, not a quick dust-up in Afghanistan or Iraq and then we come home; that Muslim people deserve to live in freedom; etc.; etc.; etc... The Left and the Franco-Germans have put so much on the line in a battle that they can't win, one wonders what they'll have left over for the rest of the war?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 PM


After a Weekend of Protests, Blair Looks Lonely (ALAN COWELL, February 16, 2003, NY Times)
After a watershed weekend following setbacks at the United Nations and on the streets of his own capital, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain--Washington's main ally in the effort to disarm Iraq--looked lonely today, his destiny pinned to the uncertain progress of the campaign against Saddam Hussein. [...]

As millions across this divided continent marched in Europe's biggest antiwar demonstrations on Saturday, with at least 750,000 in London, Mr. Blair seemed to acknowledge that his increasingly vocal moral commitment to ousting Saddam Hussein had set him apart from many of his own people.

"I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honor," Mr. Blair told a meeting of his Labor Party in Glasgow, billed as a major attempt to swing his fractious party behind him. "But sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction."

His shift to an appeal for a moral crusade--sidestepping the diplomatic formulations of the United Nations Security Council--was perhaps the most telling response to the antiwar protests this weekend that turned out their biggest numbers for the pro-American governments in London, Rome and Madrid.

"Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity," Mr. Blair said in Glasgow, in what was widely taken to be an unequivocal commitment to regime change, the policy long espoused by Pentagon hawks. "It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane."

It has seemed all along that Mr. Blair was being led by his pro-Western gut, even as his Europeanist head made him try to intellectualize Britain's participation in the campaign as a mere enforcement of international law. But now the French and Germans and the British Left have shown, not surprisingly, that they don't give a fig for anything but their own creature comforts. Reason can not sway them, so Mr. Blair is falling back on his gut, on the morality that says, even after you strip away every other issue, it is still a good thing to depose a dictator. When the deed is done, even if he too is toppled from power, he'll have followed the dictates of his conscience. Should he survive in power, hopefully he'll realize that Britain and America do not share common values with France and Germany, nor does he share common values with many in his own Party. Upon that realization we may hope that he'll seek to steer whathever portion of Britain he leads towards a more value-based, moralistic politics.

Regardless, with Saddam gone, his opponents will have lost the argument and will be left with nothing but the knowledge that they acted out of pure selfishness. Somehow, Mr. Blair's loneliness seems awfully attractive.

Cabinet puts on show of support for beleaguered Blair but ministers could resign (Nigel Morris, 17 February 2003, Independent)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 PM


Al-Qaeda had planned attacks on US on Feb 12: Report (Press Trust of India, February 16, 2003)
The US has credible intelligence that al Qaeda had an attack or multiple attacks set to begin at some point last week and that members of the Congress could have been the terrorist outfit's likely target, a media report said today.

Counter-terrorism officials were today quoted as saying that they had received a phone tip that members of the United States Congress could have beene targets of assassination attempts by Islamic fundamentalists.

Intelligence reports gathered from human and electronic sources around the world suggested what intelligence officials had suspected for weeks- al Qaeda operatives "Are in the execution phase of some of their operations," a senior US offficial was quoted by 'Time' magazine as saying.

Officials said the intelligence specifically mentioned that the likely targets were New York City and Washington on February 12.

It seems increasingly likely that when we finally find out everything that's been going on, this threat will prove to be why Bill Frist did not make Senate Democrats maintain their Miguel Estrada filibuster through this holiday.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM


Kevin Whited already had the conservative answer to Art& Letters Daily, but he's just redesigned Reductio ad Absurdum and it's, if possible, even more fabulous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM


Thousands of Schools May Run Afoul of New Law: Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, many public schools may find themselves designated as "failing," allowing parents to transfer their children elsewhere. (SAM DILLON, 2/15/03, NY Times)
The formula used to identify underperforming schools is so unwieldy that President Bush described a Michigan elementary school he visited last year as "excelling" just three months before it was declared below standard.

The law says that every racial and demographic group in each school must score higher on standardized tests every year; if any group fails to advance for two consecutive years, a school is labeled "needing improvement." A school that does not shed the label by improving students' scores may have its principal and teachers replaced and face other sanctions, including closing. [...]

The goal of the law is to improve the achievements of all students, but especially those of poor and minority students. In recent weeks the top education officials of many states have complained that the federal regulations prescribing how states must assess academic quality are overly punitive and inflexible and will eventually lead to labeling a majority of America's 90,000 public schools as failing.

That does not worry Eugene W. Hickok, the federal under secretary of education, who has been negotiating with the state authorities to put the law into effect.

"This is going to force educators to rethink what it means to be a successful school," Mr. Hickok said in an interview. "A lot of, quote, successful suburban school districts with high test scores and nice campuses for the first time may find that they have populations of students that are experiencing an achievement gap."

Can it really have taken the Times this long to figure out that the education bill was a Trojan Horse. Ted Kennedy was complaining, even before the ink of George W. Bush's signature was dry, that Democrats had been duped into passing a bill that would effectively create a nationwide voucher system for public schools and lay the groundwork for wholesale firing of teachers. That's the point of the whole exercise, and why conservatives are being so dimwitted when they criticize the law.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Rifts Appear at Arab Ministers' Talks on Iraq (Andrew Hammond and Esmat Salaheddin, February 16, 2003, Reuters)
Arab foreign ministers' talks on Iraq hit a snag Sunday amid discussions on a draft declaration that would call on Arab states to refuse Washington any help for a war on Iraq, Arab League sources said.

They said the rift between traditional U.S. allies like Egypt and oil-rich Gulf monarchies, and states like Syria, centers around whether Washington or Baghdad had to cooperate more to resolve the crisis and avert a war.

The rift emerged as the foreign ministers discussed holding an emergency Arab summit on Iraq. It also came as the ministers were studying a separate draft declaration on denying the U.S. any help in any war. [...]

The sources said traditional U.S. allies such as Egypt and the Gulf states wanted the forthcoming summit to urge Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to be more cooperative with U.N. weapons inspections and abide by United Nations resolutions.

But states which have more troubled ties with Washington, such as Syria, Libya and Sudan, argue that a summit of Arab heads of state would be worthless unless it sent a strong message to the United States, rejecting its policies which they say destabilize the volatile region.

It's that simple: who ya' gonna side with, the Junior Axis of Evil (Syria, Libya and Sudan), or the U.S.?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:35 PM


New alliance: GOP, black Democrats?: Potential coalition could bring radical change to politics in S.C. (JENNIFER TALHELM, Feb. 16, 2003, Charlotte Observer)
Legislative black caucus members say newly elected Republican Gov. Mark Sanford and others in the GOP have proven in recent years to be more open to black legislators than white Democrats.

"(GOP control) will not impact my legislative agenda, and in some ways, it may help it," said Sen. Darrell Jackson, a Richland County Democrat.

Among the issues they hope to find common ground on are health care for the poor, tapping lottery profits to help poor schools, a crackdown on predatory lending and efforts to decrease domestic violence.

In the first week of the legislative session, Jackson and Sen. Glenn McConnell, a Republican from Charleston, co-sponsored a bill to fund historically black colleges with lottery proceeds.

If the two sides build a coalition, it would mean a radical change in politics in South Carolina, where whites identify heavily with the Republican Party and blacks almost always vote Democratic. [...]

"I think you are seeing the potential for a sea change in how politics in South Carolina works right now," said Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland, former black caucus chairman. "I think we're waiting to see in the African American community just what this is. He (Sanford) still has not shown us the details of what he is going to do. But the signals have been strong. He continues to be open to input from all segments of the legislature."

South Carolina is an overwhelmingly Republican state anyway, but if the GOP can craft a blueprint for co-operating with blacks and duplicate it elsewhere it would be catastrophic for the Democrats. Blacks don't even need to leave the Democratic Party in order drastically alter American politics; it would suffice that they not turn out in force to vote against Republicans.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:21 PM


Joerg Haider: "Saddam poses no threat to the world" (The Associated Press, Feb. 16, 2003)
Austrian far-rightist Joerg Haider sharply condemned Washington's policy toward Iraq and suggested that giving the United States some control over Iraq's oil reserves could result in a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis.

In the latest issue of the weekly magazine Profil, the former leader of the rightist Freedom Party accused US President George W. Bush's administration of planning a war against Iraq in order to gain control of that country's oil.

"Oil is the main reason for the war," Haider said. He also suggested that any possession by Iraq of weapons of mass destruction would be justified due to the threat posed by the United States.

He said that he himself could play a key role in negotiating a peace settlement with Baghdad due to his "constant contact" with President Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi leaders.

"It could become necessary (for me) to contribute in one way or another," said Haider. "I can imagine negotiating concrete solutions and transferring information" during a future visit to Baghdad.

He said Iraq would be willing to grant greater control of its oil reserves to Washington, and that the United Nations could also play a role in organizing such a solution.

"One must give the Americans stronger control over Iraq's oil. That is the solution," said Haider, the controversial former leader of the anti-immigrant party. In the past, Haider has praised some of Adolf Hitler's policies and made veiled slights of Jews, drawing allegations of anti-Semitism.

Who can question a cause that unites Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy, Sean Penn (back together with Madonna at last), Communists, Nazis, China, the French, and the Germans? But I repeat myself...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM


Weird beard: The festering darkness at the heart of Kenny Rogers' mystique (Becky Olsen, Portland Willamette Week)
[H]ere's the paradox. The Rogers Paradox, if you will. At the same time ol' Kenny established himself as the most anodyne of cultural figures, he based almost his entire song catalog on total sociopathy. Beneath his bland exterior, and somehow beyond the notice of most of his fans, Kenny Rogers was consumed by an obsession with evil.

To be fair, the man has done some "good" things. It was Kenny who took the only known photo of Dolly Parton that does not focus on cleavage. (It's very tasteful.) He has donated much time and energy to fighting hunger and homelessness; he created the World Hunger Media Awards; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development named him Hero of Public Housing in '95. In 1990, he won the Horatio Alger Award, bestowed upon those who distinguish themselves despite humble origins.

But more than any of the other male country singers who dominated the '70s and '80s--except maybe Conway Twitty--Rogers embodied the cuddly sicko. His perversity was both surreptitious and surreal. You looked at him and thought, "Santa." And then he would belt out the heart-wrenching tale of a creep gone mad with lust for a teenage stripper ("Scarlet Fever"). Or a brooding tale about a pathetic farmer who catches his wife hitting on some rube in a bar, after she's abandoned him with their passel of brats (that would be "Lucille," and admittedly your sympathy decreases when you figure out the lyric is "four hungry children," not "400 children"). And my personal favorite, "Ruby," the story of a crippled war vet who has to sit in his wheelchair and watch his cheatin'-hearted wife get dolled up to prowl for some fresh, unparalyzed nookie ("If I could move, I'd get my gun and put her in the ground/ Oh Ruby, don't take yer love to town...").

Not sure why they had to drag the beard into it...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:25 PM


Iraq gloats over wave of peace protests (NIKO PRICE, February 16, 2003, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Iraq on Sunday gloated over the global outpouring of opposition to the U.S. threat of attack, saying anti-war demonstrations in dozens of countries signaled an Iraqi victory and "the defeat and isolation of America."

Iraq's tightly controlled news media gave prominent coverage to anti-war demonstrations staged around the world on Saturday. Iraqi television showed footage of millions marching in the world's cities-- under the logo "International Day of Confronting the Aggression."

"The world said with one voice: 'No to aggression on Iraq,"' read a headline in the government daily Al-Jumhuriya. "The world rises against American aggression and the arrogance of naked force," read a front page headline in the army daily Al-Qadissiya.

"These demonstrations expressed in their spirit, meaning and slogans the decisive Iraqi victory and the defeat and isolation of America," Al-Jumhuriya said in a commentary.

I'll not even pretend that this is fair, but you have to wonder if these protestors, who believe their own intentions and purposes to be pure, are even bothered about providing aid and comfort to one of the world's most brutal dictators. Even if they're objectively right, how can they bear to abet evil?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:39 AM


Article VI, Section III: The No Religious Test Ban Clause (Researched and edited by Jim Allison)

FEBRUARY 8, 1788

FEDERALIST PAPERS #52 (Excerpt from)

JAMES MADISON. The qualifications of the elected, being less carefully and properly defined by the State constitutions, and being at the same time more susceptible of uniformity, have been very properly considered and regulated by the convention.. A representative of the United States must be of the age of twenty-five years; must have been seven years a citizen of the United States; must, at the time of his election, be an inhabitant of the State he is to represent; and, during the time of his service, must be in no office under the United States. Under these reasonable limitations the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.

FEBRUARY 11, 1788

Since the Federal Constitution has had so calm, dispassionate, and rational a discussion, and so happy an issue, in the late worthy Convention of this state, I did not expect any members of that honorable body to be challenged in a newspaper, and especially by name and by anonymous writers, on account of their opinion, or decently expressing their sentiments relative to the great subject then under consideration or any part of it. Nor do I yet see the propriety or happy issue of such a proceeding. However, as a gentleman in your paper feels uneasy that every sentiment contained in his publications (tho in general they are well written) is not received with perfect acquiescence and submission, I will endeavor to satisfy' him, or the candid reader, by the same channel that I am not so reprehensible as he supposes, in the matter referred to.

When the clause in the 6th Article, which provides that "no religious test should ever be required as a qualification to any office Or trust, etc." came under consideration, I observed I should have chose that sentence, and anything relating to a religious test, had been totally omitted rather than stand as it did; but still more wished something of the kind should have been inserted, but with a reverse sense so far as to require an explicit acknowledgment of the being of a God, His perfections, and His providence, and to have been prefixed to, and stand as, the first introductory ords of the Constitution in the following or similar terms, viz.: *We the people of the United Slates, in a firm belief of the being and perfections of the one living and true God, the creator and supreme Governor of the world, in His universal providence and the authority of His laws: that He will require of ail moral agents an account of their conduct, that all rightful powers among men are ordained of, and mediately derived from God, therefore in a dependence oil His blessing and acknowledgment of His efficient protection in establishing our Independence, whereby it is become necessary to agree upon and settle a Constitution of federal government for ourselves,* and in order to form a more perfect union, etc., as it is expressed in the present introduction, do ordain, etc. And instead of none, that no other religious testshould ever he required, etc. And that supposing, but not granting, this would be no security at all, that it would make hypocrites etc.;: yet this would not be a sufficient reason against it, as it would be a public declaration against, and disapprobation of, men who did not, even with sincerity, make such a profession, and they must be left to the Searcher of Hearts; that it would, however, be the voice of the great body of the people and an acknowledgment proper and highly becoming them to express on this great and only occasion, and, according to the course of Providence, one means of obtaining blessings from the Most High. But that since it was not, and so difficult and dubious to get it inserted, I would not wish to make it a capital objection; that I had no more idea of a religious test which should restrain offices to any particular sect, class, or denomination of men or Christians, in the long list of diversity, than to regulate their bestowments by tile stature or. dress of the candidate. Nor did I believe one sensible catholic man in the state wished for such a limitation; and that therefore the newspaper observations and reasonings (I named no author) against a test, in favor of any one denomination of Christians, and the sacrilegious injunctions of the test laws of England, etc., combated objections which did not exist and was building up a man of straw and Knocking him down again. These are the same and only ideas and sentiments I endeavored to communicate on that subject, tho perhaps not precisely in the same terms, as I had not written, nor preconceived them, except the proposed test; and whether there is any reason in them or not, I submit to the public.

I freely confess such a test and acknowledgment would have given me great additional satisfaction; and I conceive the arguments against it, on the score of hypocrisy, would apply with equal force against requiring an oath from any officer of the united or individual states, and, with little abatement, to any oath in any case whatever. But divine and human wisdom, with universal experience, have approved and established them as useful and a security to mankind.

I thought it was my duty to make the observations in this behalf, which I did, and to bear my testimony for God. And that it was also my duty to say the Constitution, with this and some other faults of another kind, was yet too wise and too necessary to be rejected.

P.S. 1 could not have suspected the Landholder (if I know him) to be the author of the piece referred to; but if he or any other is pleased to reply, without the signature of his proper name, he will receive no further answer or notice from me.

Source of Information:

Letter written by William Williams to the Printer American Mercury and published in same on February 11, 1788. It was also published in the Connecticut Courant March 3, 1788.The Documentary History of the Ratification of the Constitution, Vol. III. Ratification of the Constitution by the States, Pennsylvania, Edited by Merrill Jensen, Madison State Historical Society of Wis, 1978, pp 588-590.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


-REVIEW: of The Dissenting Opinions of Mr. Justice Holmes, Mr. Justice Holmes (H.L. Mencken, May 1930, The American Mercury)
My suspicion is that the hopeful Liberals of the 20s, frantically eager to find at least one judge who was not violently and implacably against them, seized upon certain of Mr. Justice Holmes's opinions without examining the rest, and read into them an attitude that was actually as foreign to his ways of thinking as it was to those of Mr. Chief Justice Hughes. Finding him, now and then, defending eloquently a new and uplifting law which his colleagues proposed to strike of the books, they concluded that he was a sworn advocate of the rights of man. But all the while, if I do not misread his plain words, he was actually no more than an advocate of the rights of lawmakers. There, indeed, is the clue to his whole jurisprudence. He believed that the law-making bodies should be free to experiment almost ad libitum, that the courts should not call a halt upon them until they clearly passed the uttermost bounds of reason, that everything should be sacrificed to their autonomy, including apparently, even the Bill of Rights. If this [sic] is liberalism, then all I can say is that Liberalism is not what it was when I was young.

In those remote days, sucking wisdom from the primeval springs, I was taught that the very aim of the Constitution was to keep law-makers from running amok, and that it was the highest duty of the Supreme Court, following Marbury v. Madison, to safeguard it against their forays. It was not sufficient, so my instructors maintained, for Congress or a State Legislature to give assurance that its intentions were noble; noble or not, it had to keep squarely within the limits of the Bill of Rights, and the moment it went beyond them its most virtuous acts were null and void. But Mr. Justice Holmes apparently thought otherwise. He held, it would seem, that violating the Bill of Rights is a rare and deliberate malice, and that it is chief business of the Supreme Court to keep the Constitution loose and elastic, so that blasting holes through it may not be too onerous. Bear this doctrine in mind, and you will have an adequate explanation, on the one hand, of those forward-looking opinions which console the Liberals- for example in Lochner v. New York (the bakery case), in the child labor case, and in the Virginia case involving the compulsory sterilization for imbeciles- and on the other hand, of the reactionary opinions which they so politely overlook- for example in the Debs case, in Bartels v. Iowa (a war-time case, involving the prohibition of foreign-language teaching), in the Mann Act case (in which Dr. Holmes concurred with the majority of the court, [sic] and thereby helped pave the way for the wholesale blackmail which Mr. Justice McKenna, who dissented, warned against), and finally in the long line of Volstead Act cases.

Like any other man, of course, a judge sometimes permits himself the luxury of inconsistency. Mr. Justice Holmes, it seems to me, did so in the wiretapping case and again in the Abrams case, in which his dissenting opinion was clearly at variance with the prevailing opinion in the Debs case, written by him. But I think it is quite fair to say that his fundamental attitude was precisely as I have stated it. Over and over again, in these opinions, he advocated giving the legislature full head-room, and over and over again he protested against using the Fourteenth Amendment to upset novel and oppressive laws, aimed frankly at helpless minorities. If what he said in some of those opinions were accepted literally, there would be scarcely any brake at all upon lawmaking, and the Bill of Rights would have no more significance than the Code of Manu.

Speaking of pragmatism...here's a devastating assessment of the jurisprudence of Oliver Wendell Holmes by H.L. Mencken, which nearly by itself demonstrates just why conservatives continue to believe Mr. Mencken an important essayist. And, just to tie it all together, here's a comparison of Orwell & Mencken, -ESSAY: Mencken and Orwell, Social Critics With Little (and Much) in Common (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, October 26, 2002, NY Times)

And for more on the unfortunate legal legacy of Justice Holmes, see Law Without Values: The Life, Work, and Legacy of Justice Holmes (Albert W. Alschuler)


REVIEW : of Law Without Values The Life, Work, and Legacy of Justice Holmes. By Albert W. Alschuler (Jeffrey Rosen, NY Times Book Review)

-REVIEW: of Law Without Values (Phillip E. Johnson, First Things)

-REVIEW: of Law Without Values. (The Economist)

-REVIEW: of Law Without Values (Peter Schuler , University of Chicago Chronicle)

: of Law Without Values
(Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review)
Law without Values (Peter Berkowitz, Times Literary Supplement)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Aspidistra (Leon Wieseltier, 02.11.03, New Republic)
For The New Yorker's authority on Orwell, the danger lies not in the fading of the concept of objective truth, but in the clinging to the concept of objective truth. Menand thinks that truth is merely a warrant for terrorism, that objectivity is just an early form of fanaticism, that certainty only kills. "Moral certainty of any kind can lead to bloodshed," he asserts in Raritan, in a piece that is critical of the abolitionists of the nineteenth century. "Of any kind": All certainty is like all other certainty, its content is insignificant, all that matters are its consequences. Menand has risen above substance. He is indifferent, and afraid. His fear is understandable: When one has renounced the inquiry into truth and falsity, certainty must seem terrifying. Every conviction must look like an absolute. And so he notes that "in defining the United States as a civilization in opposition to militant Islam, even President Bush found himself, in his speech before Congress right after the attacks, explaining that moral certainty is precisely what makes the enemy so dangerous." Do you follow? A war against jihad is itself a jihad. There is no distinction between a just war and a holy war. What a haul of irony! In this way "the modernist paradox is complete: Americans now find themselves in the position of fighting, and being willing to die, for the belief that no one should be made to die for a belief." Menand is fond of that miserably apathetic sentence: He published it also in The New Yorker last fall, in a review of books about the catastrophe of September 11, adding there that "Americans hold it to be a transcendent truth that it is possible to live a good life without loyalty to a transcendent cause." Philosophy is finished. Go shopping.

Who are these Americans whose spiritual condition Menand intuits so clearly? Myself, I have less anecdotal evidence for the population's perfect post-modernity. I have met Americans who are willing to fight and to die for a belief, and Americans who are not willing; and Americans who would like to discuss the particular belief a little more. And if we are indeed a nation of suave anti-foundationalists, too enlightened or too embarrassed about transcendent causes, then I see no reason to worry about, say, John Ashcroft and the political Christianity that he faithfully and inappropriately serves. Ashcroft is a nasty creature of certainty, no question about it; but his opponents are no less certain that his certainty is false. And so they should be, in my view. In Menand's view, however, the argument can never be closed. He derides Orwell's linguistic contributions to modern liberalism--"Big Brother," "doublethink," "thought police"--as "belong[ing] to the same category as `liar' and `pervert' and `madman.' They are conversation-stoppers." But why should some conversations not be stopped, not concluded with the demonstration that a man who was called a liar actually lied? Or is stopping the conversation in this way like stopping the conversation in the totalitarian way? John Brown in Pottawatomie and Mohammed Atta in Manhattan acted in a similar spirit, but it is significant that the former dreamed of freeing enslaved people and the latter dreamed of enslaving free people. The notion that the hatred of slavery was an excess of hatred, and perhaps that the Civil War was not quite a war worth fighting, is bizarre. With their metaphysics, Menand writes, the world of the abolitionists and the world of the slave-owners "seem to have more in common with each other than either does with our own." There speaks the pragmatist: fascinating at a dinner, useless in a struggle. Unlike Menand's Orwell, the pragmatist is not "a misfit." He is a fit.

Orwell, right or wrong? (Tim Rutten, February 15, 2003, LA Times)
Menand, Hitchens said, "either misread or is misreading Orwell. The motive here is: 'Who wants to write another piece saying Orwell is a great guy?' Orwell's reputation does involve a certain kind of piety. Therefore, there's a certain itch or temptation toward iconoclasm that is just about excusable. To say this guy is overrated is also to implicitly say you have the courage to challenge the consensus."

But, according to Hitchens -- who recently has completed a major introductory essay to a new single-volume edition of "Animal Farm" and "1984" -- what Menand wrote was closer to distortion than misunderstanding.

"Orwell's attitude toward war with Hitler initially was shaped by his anxiety that the Tories would not wage a total war on fascism, but a half-hearted war of empire. He wanted a people's war.

"It only slowly came to him that the Churchill wing was willing to make a real fight of it. I think that's a perfectly honorable evolution. Menand represents him as a bit of an appeaser, which is disgraceful."

Hitchens also takes strong exception to Menand's dismissal of Orwell's opposition to imperialism, fascism and totalitarianism: "Actually, very few were against all of it at the same time. It was quite rare then -- and still is, as a matter of fact.

"To sum it up, Menand had a contrarian itch, the integrity of which is compromised by his failure to read Orwell with attention and by misrepresenting him on this crucial matter of the war."

For many of you this will be redundant, for which we apologize, but our essay about the Menand review is here and here's our review of Mr. Menand's book, The Metaphysical Club.

-Brothers Judd Orwell reviews
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


Kucinich Plans to Launch Presidential Run (MALIA RULON, February 15, 2003, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Rep. Dennis Kucinich plans to file papers to launch a presidential campaign next week, a source familiar with the Ohio Democrat's plans said Saturday.

His entry into the 2004 presidential race bumps the Democratic field of candidates to eight.

Kucinich has said voters need to hear alternative points of view on Iraq, trade and the nation's economic policies, all issues expected to be at the center of his campaign.

The most interesting question about Mr. Kucinich is when he will join Joe Lieberman, Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, Gary Hart, etc. in rejecting either the teachings of his religion, the dictates of conscience, and/or previously stated political positions to switch from pro-life to pro-abortion. Opposition to the war makes nice padding for the resume, but the single issue by which modern progressivism defines itself is unfettered abortion.

Dennis J. Kucinich's Action and Information Center
Congressional Progressive Caucus
A Prayer for America (US Rep Dennis Kucinich, February 26, 2002, Common Dreams)
Kucinich Rocks the Boat (John Nichols, March 25, 2002, The Nation)
Kucinich Is the One (Studs Terkel, May 6, 2002, The Nation)
Thank you, Katha: Single Voice Points Out Democrat Darling's Tragic Flaw (Laura Flanders, May 16, 2002, WorkingforChange.com)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:26 AM


INTERVIEW: Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order by Robert Kagan (C-SPAN, Sunday, February 16, 2003, 8 & 11 pm).

The book is an expansion of his influential essay, Power and Weakness (Robert Kagan, June 2002, Policy Review).

And, if you're a real policy wonk/news junkie/Tony the Tory fan, stay tuned afterwards for Prime Minister's Question Time, which never fails to entertain, especially now that Mr. Blair is fighting off his own backbenchers.

-Robert Kagan (Project for the New American Century)
-Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Robert Kagan, Senior Associate
-PBS: Think Tank: Biography: Robert Kagan
-COLUMN ARCHIVES: Robert Kagan (Washington Post)
-COLUMN ARCHIVES: Robert Kagan (The Globalist)
-ESSAY: Power and Weakness (Robert Kagan, June 2002, Policy Review)
-ESSAY: Merci, M. de Villepin: Why we owe a debt to our friends the French. (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 02/03/2003, Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: The U.N. Trap?: What does the Iraq resolution really mean? (William Kristol and Robert Kagan, 11/18/2002, , Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: France's Dream World (Robert Kagan, November 3, 2002, Washington Post)
-ESSAY: Europe's Miracle: The German Lion and the French Lamb (Robert Kagan, August 21, 2002, The Globalist)
-ESSAY: The Cowboy and the Saloon Keeper (Robert Kagan, August 14, 2002, The Globalist)
-ESSAY: Iraq: The Day After (Robert Kagan, July 21, 2002, Washington Post)
-ESSAY: Still Time for an Investigation: An independent commission is in the president's interest. (William Kristol and Rober Kagan, 05/31/2002 , Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: Going Wobbly?: Is the president backing away from regime change in Iraq? (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 05/24/2002 , Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: Time for an Investigation: It's time for Republicans and Democrats to seriously look at the warning signs (William Kristol and Robert Kagan,
05/17/2002, Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: Back on Track? (Robert Kagan & William Kristol, 04/29/2002,, Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: "Senior White House Aides:" Speak Up!: The leak-proof White House is telling reporters--on background--that the administration is souring on Ariel Sharon. Who are these rogues? (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 04/11/2002 , Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: Powell's Disastrous Trip, cont.: It's dangerous waters ahead for the war on terrorism. (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 04/10/2002 , Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: The Detour (Robert Kagan & William Kristol, 04/08/2002, Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: Remember the Bush Doctrine: Colin Powell's trip to the Middle East could be either helpful, or a disaster. (William Kristol & Robert Kagan, 04/05/2002 , Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: Cheney Trips Up: The vice president's Middle East expedition didn't help the war on terror. (Robert Kagan & William Kristol, 04/01/2002, Weekly Standard)
-ESSAY: The Bush Era: In his State of the Union address, President Bush fundamentally changed our foreign policy. (William Kristol and Robert Kagan, 02/01/2002 , Weekly Standard)
-REVIEW: of The Coming Anarchy: Shattering the Dreams of the Post-Cold War by Robert D. Kaplan (Robert Kagan, New Republic)
-REVIEW: of The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History by Don Oberdorfer (Robert Kagan, New Republic)
-REVIEW: of War in a Time of Peace by David Halberstam (Robert Kagan, New Republic)
-QUESTIONS FOR ROBERT KAGAN: Europeans Are Sissies (Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON, February 16, 2003, NY Times Magazine)
-INTERVIEW: Interview: Robert Kagan and Charles Kupchan Discuss the Relationship Between the U.S. and Europe (Weekend Edition Sunday: February 9, 2003, NPR)
-INTERVIEW: Robert Kagan (ADM's Glenn Baker, Center for Defense Information)
-INTERVIEW: Interview: Robert Kagan and Joseph Nye Weigh the Option of a Military Campaign Against Iraq (Weekend Edition Saturday: September 21, 2002 , NPR)
-DIALOGUE: Should NATO Send in Ground Troops? (Robert Kagan, March 31, 1999, Slate)
-ARCHIVES: "robert kagan" (Find Articles)
-REVIEW: of Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order by Robert Kagan (James Rubin, NY Observer)
-REVIEW: of A TWILIGHT STRUGGLE American Power and Nicaragua, 1977-1990. By Robert Kagan (Sam Dillon, NY Times Book Review)

February 15, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:00 PM


"Dramatic effect" of HIV/AIDS prevention programmes (UN Integrated Regional Information Networks, February 14, 2003)
HIV/AIDS prevention programmes have had a dramatic effect on changing risky sexual behaviour, authors of a five-year study in Ethiopia said on Friday.

The study, which was carried out among 1,500 factory workers in Ethiopia and started in 1997, showed a marked drop in casual sex and an increase in condom use. Prevalence rates of the virus also plummeted.

Dr Yared Mekonnen, of the Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute, told IRIN that HIV testing should be promoted across Africa.

"At the beginning, risky sexual behaviour was quite common among these people," Dr Yared said. "Most of them have extra marital sex, they go to sex workers and condom use is very low in this group. Sexually transmitted diseases are also very common." [...]

Yared said that surveys in Ethiopia revealed that one in five people have extra marital sex, but added that in their survey group it was now almost negligible.

Which is one more reason this was unjust.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:39 PM


What now for NATO? (Brendan O'Neill, 14 February 2003, Spiked Online)
Commentators on both sides of the Atlantic have their own views about who is to blame for the parlous state of NATO. For the pro-war lobby, it is France and Germany's dithering over military action against Iraq that is ripping apart the Western alliance. The French and Germans have caused 'the deepest crisis [in NATO] since the 1960s', claims one report.

According to liberal commentators, the Bush administration's determination to invade Iraq no matter what - unilaterally if necessary - is bringing NATO to its knees. For one writer, President Bush's bellicose war talk has 'split international bodies, and could end up disabling them', causing future conflict between America and Europe.

In truth, NATO's current crisis is part of much bigger divisions between Western powers. The spat between America and France and Germany over what to do about Iraq may be pushing NATO over the edge - but this international body has been dying on its feet since the end of the Cold War 15 years ago. [...]

Today, still, new roles are being sought for NATO, as America and the Franco/German alliance remain at loggerheads over Iraq. But it is the changes and shifts since the end of the Cold War that exposed the fault lines between American and European interests, and which brought to the fore the differences between the former North Atlantic allies. And the increasingly makeshift attempts to forge (yet another) new role for NATO are highly unlikely to overcome such profound tensions.

In the noughties, European and American officials have called for NATO to be transformed into a peacekeeping force, and are now even proposing that it should be expanded to include more of the old Eastern European states that were once its sworn enemies. According to one US writer: 'An American looking for a little transatlantic support and sympathy would be well advised to book a ticket to "new Europe": the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe that have emerged as some of Washington's strongest diplomatic allies.'

Yet these attempts to magic up a peacekeeping role for a former military alliance, or to balance out the disagreements between NATO's member states by bringing on some of the more US-compliant states in Eastern Europe, will do little to resolve the deeper crisis and uncertainty in international affairs. You cannot have a geographical or organisational solution to what is fundamentally a political problem.

And such desperate lashing around for a new role - any role - can only further expose the hole at NATO's heart, and the divisions within the West.

Without excusing Europe at all, we'd do well to recognize that American aid (like the Marshall Plan) and military protection, has enabled (in the AA sense) Europeans to build up a soul draining social welfare system that has rendered it nearly worthless as an ally in the defense of Western Civilization. The best thing we could do right now might well be to borrow a page from French Connection II and make them go cold turkey. Breaking the cycle of dependence and making them face the need to either move money from social spending to national security spending or acknowledge that they're such insular and selfish societies that they no longer care about anything except where their next government benefit is coming from could not help but have a salutary shock effect on them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM


I'm Just a Bill (Music & Lyrics: Dave Frishberg)
}} {Woof! You sure gotta climb a lotta steps to get to this Capitol Building here in Washington! But I wonder who that sad little scrap of paper is?}

I'm just a bill,
Yes, I'm only a bill,
And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill.
Well, it's a long, long journey
To the capital city,
It's a long, long wait
While I'm sitting in committee,
But I know I'll be a law someday...
At least I hope and pray that I will,
But today I'm still just a bill.

}} {Gee, bill, you certainly have a lot of patience and courage!}
{Well I got *this* far. When I started, I wasn't even a *bill* - I was just an idea. Some folks back home decided they wanted a law passed, so they called their local congressman and he "You're right, there ought to be a law." Then he sat down and wrote me out and introduced me to Congress, and I became a bill. And I'll remain a bill until they decide to make me a law.}

I'm just a bill,
Yes I'm only a bill,
And I got as far as Capitol Hill.
Well now I'm stuck in committee
And I sit here and wait
While a few key congressmen
Discuss and debate
Whether they should
Let me be a law...
Oh how I hope and pray that they will,
But today I am still just a bill.

}} {Listen to those congressmen arguing! Is all that discussion and
}} debate about you?}
{Yes. I'm one of the lucky ones. Most bills never even get this far. I hope they decide to report on me favourably, otherwise I may die.}
}} {"Die?"}
{Yeah: die in committee. Oooh! But it looks like I'm gonna live. Now I go to the House of Representatives and they vote on me.}
}} {If they vote "yes", what happens?}
{Then I go to the Senate and the whole thing starts all over again.}
}} {Oh no!}
{Oh yes!}

I'm just a bill,
Yes I'm only a bill,
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill,
Well then I'm off to the White House
Where I'll wait in a line
With a lot of other bills
For the President to sign.
And if he signs me then I'll be a law...
Oh, how I hope and pray that he will,
But today I am still just a bill.

}} {You mean even if the whole Congress says you should be a law, the
}} President can still say no?}
{Yes, that's called a "veto". If the President vetoes me, I have to go back to Congress, and they vote on me again, and by that time it's...}
}} {By that time, it's very unlikely that you'll *become* a law! It's not easy to become a law, is it?}

No! But how I hope and I pray that I will,
But today I am still just a bill!

}} {He signed you, bill! Now you're a law!}
{Oh yes!}
The Simpsons "Amendment Song" (Alf Clausen and John Schwartzelder)

Krusty: Well, Itchy and Scratchy are gone, but here's a cartoon that tries to make learning fun! Sorry about this, kids. But stay tuned. We've got some real good toy commercials coming right up. I swear.

Boy: Say, who left all this garbage on the steps of Congress?


I'm not garbage.
I'm an amendment to be.
Yes, an amendment to be.
And I'm hoping that they'll ratify me.

There's a lot of flag burners
Who have got too much freedom.
I want to make it legal for policemen to beat 'em.
'Cause there's limits to our liberties.
'Least I hope and pray that there are.
'Cause those liberal freaks go too far.

Boy: But why can't we just make a lawagainst flag burning?

Amendment-to-be: Because that law would be unconstitutional. But if we changethe Constitution...

Boy: Then we could make all sorts of crazy laws.

Amendment-to-be: Now you're catching on.

Bart: What the hell is this?

Lisa: It's one of those campy seventies throwbacks that appeals to generation x-ers.

Bart: We need another Vietnam to thin out their ranks a little.

Boy: But what if people say you're not good enough to be in the Constitution?


Then I'll crush all opposition to me
And I'll make Ted Kennedy pay.
If he fights back, I'll say that he's gay.

Narrator: Good news, amendment. They ratified you. You're in the U.S. Constitution.

Amendment-to-be: Oh, yeah! Door's open, boys!

Lisa: So it's true. Some cartoons do encourage violence.

Fresh Air saluted the Simpsons yesterday in honor of their 300th show and played this tune from one episode. They even got the School House Rock sound dead to rights.

N.B. Did you know Harry Shearer was the original Eddie Haskell?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 PM


Scotty: All the news that's fit to schmooze: a review of Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism by John F. Stacks (Andrew Ferguson, 02/24/2003, Weekly Standard)
JOURNALISM is a character defect. I think most non-journalists would agree with this. It is life lived at a safe remove: standing off to one side of the parade as it passes, noting its flaws, offering glib and unworkable suggestions for its improvement. Every journalist must know that this is not, really, how a serious-minded person would choose to spend his days. Serious-minded people do things; a journalist chatters about the things serious-minded people do, and so, not coincidentally, avoids having to do them himself. A significant body of research indicates that non-journalists find us insufferable, perhaps for this reason.

Every so often, however, the itch to join the parade proves irresistible, and where that happens you are apt to find a career like that of James B. Reston. More commonly known by his childhood nickname "Scotty," Reston was the Washington bureau chief of the New York Times and for forty years its marquee columnist. He is nearly forgotten today, though he died not so long ago, in 1995, at the age of eighty-six. It seems only journalists remember him, and not many of them. One of these is John F. Stacks, a former reporter for Time magazine who spent ten years researching and writing Reston's biography, published as
"Scotty: James B. Reston and the Rise and Fall of American Journalism." [...]

The keys to success he possessed as a natural gift. He wrote well. He had unqualified confidence in his own opinions, no matter how ignorant he was of the subject, and he wore his omniscience casually, like a rumpled Burberry. He knew how to charm sources and impress them with his discretion. Just as important, he could oscillate gracefully between abject sycophancy and Olympian condescension. Churchill's description of the German national character--they are "either at your feet or at your throat"--exaggerates the Reston style, but only slightly. He was generous to those, like his clerks, who were so far below him on the ladder as to pose no challenge. To those holding on for dear life a rung or two above, he was friendly but cunning; and to the Ochs and Sulzberger families, who owned the Times and controlled the ladder, he was boundlessly solicitous. [...]

The recent canons of the trade, such as they are, require a contemporary reporter to be shocked at this chumminess between hack and source. Stacks's view is less righteously indignant, and more ambivalent--and in the end, sorry to say, incoherent. He seems relatively undisturbed that Reston served as stenographer to Vandenberg, Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson, and other figures of the dimming past; then he erupts in disgust when, at the end of his career, Reston shared the same relationship with figures of more recent memory--Henry Kissinger, for example. What accounts for Stacks's shifting judgment isn't clear. Incoherence is a common hazard for journalists who dabble in ethical judgments.

IN THE END, of course, Reston's intimate involvement in the affairs he covered isn't hard to explain. He wasn't comfortable with the pose of the contemporary journalist, standing off to one side, watching the parade as it passes. He wanted to join in. "There was, at the heart of Reston's style of journalism, a sense of common purpose with the government and political leaders," Stacks writes. "The press and the government . . . were seen by Reston as collaborators in one enterprise, the preservation of the United States of America."

Reston began his career at the Times the day Germany crossed into Poland. He wrote his last column the year the Berlin Wall came down. His style of journalism was an artifact of the Cold War. When he let Kennedy use his column to send signals to Nikita Khrushchev, or lent his skill to Vandenberg to reinforce the anti-Soviet consensus in American diplomacy, he wasn't acting as a reporter but as a patriot. This urge may be a dereliction of duty in the journalist, but it is a sign of decency in the man. That the two impulses in journalism should so often be at odds--duty versus decency--tells us more about the trade than most of us care to know.

In a universe that includes such folk as Christopher Buckley, P.J. O'Rourke, James Lileks, Mugger, and numerous others, it's no small feat to be the most deft humorist of the Right, but Andrew Ferguson is just that, as the savage wit of this review demonstrates.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


-REVIEW: of Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures by Tyler Cowen (Clifford Geertz, The New Republic)
Apologetics -- the argumentative defense of how matters play out in the world, the formal and systematic vindication of the received design of things -- used to be a theological specialty, most particularly a Christian one. The demonstration that, despite appearances to the contrary on almost every hand, our universe is rationally put together, and is good, and that our place within it, if only we would realize it, is blessed: this was the central task of "the science of things divine" from the councils of Nicaea onward. Its success, given the magnitude of the task and the thinness of the evidence, was at best equivocal. Malt, as Housman said, can do more than Milton to justify God's ways to man. But aside from some abstruse philosophizing -- Hegel and all that -- it was the only game in town.

With the advent of modernity and the decline of other-worldly explanations for this-worldly phenomena, the task of reconciling us to the ordained and the inevitable by demonstrating that what looks like shadow is, when rightly seen, actually light, has fallen into other hands -- most notably, this being the age of reckoning, to economics. If you want to argue that some feature of contemporary life that seems unfortunate on its face -- income inequality, power imbalances, sweatshops, the terms of trade, the sexual division of labor, spare-the-rich taxation -- is both unavoidable and, in the long run, progressive, bracing, and self-correcting, things as they must and should be, then economics, especially neo-liberal economics, is the talk to talk.

Mr. Geertz has come so close to a great insight here and pure free marketeers probably do overstate their case, but, in fact, it seems more accurate to say that it is evolutionary psychology that has replaced Christian apologetics (in the minds of intellectual elites anyway) in propounding the theory that this is the best of all possible worlds, or at least that we bear no responsibility for what the world has become. After all, evolutionary psychology even explains away such pathologies as rape.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 AM


A Bush-Sharon doctrine? (Arnaud de Borchgrave, February 14, 2003, Washington Times)
The strategic objectives of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East have gradually merged into a now cohesive Bush-Sharon Doctrine. But this gets lost in the deafening cacophony of talking heads playing armchair generals in the coming war to change regimes in Baghdad.

On Feb. 9, The Washington Post's Bob Kaiser finally broke through the sound barrier to document what has long been reported in encrypted diplomatic e-mails from foreign embassies to dozens of foreign governments: Washington's "Likudniks" - Ariel Sharon's powerful backers in the Bush administration - have been in charge of U.S. policy in the Middle East since President Bush was sworn into office.

In alliance with Evangelical Christians, these policy-makers include some of the most powerful players in the Bush administration. The course they plotted for Mr. Bush began with benign neglect of the Mideast peace process as Intifada II escalated. September 11 provided the impulse for a military campaign to consign Saddam Hussein to the dustbin of history.

Mr. Sharon provided the geopolitical ammo by convincing Mr. Bush that the war on Palestinian terrorism was identical to the global war on terror. Next came a campaign to convince U.S. public opinion that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were allies in their war against America. [...]

But the Saddam-bin Laden nexus was barely Step One in the Bush-Sharon Doctrine. The strategic objective is the antithesis of Middle Eastern stability. The destabilization of "despotic regimes" comes next. In the Arab bowling alley, one ball aimed at Saddam is designed to achieve a 10-strike that would discombobulate authoritarian and/or despotic regimes in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Emirates and sheikhdoms.

The ultimate phase would see Israel surrounded by democratic regimes that would provide 5 million Israelis - soon to be surrounded by 300 million Arabs - with peace and security for at least a generation. A meritorious plan if it achieves all its objectives.

Close U.S. allies Jordan and Turkey were to form an axis along with Israel to weaken and "roll back" Syria.

Boy, you can''t sneak anything by old Arnaud... Hasn't this been explicit U.S. policy since at least early last year, after President Bush's "axis of evil" and Palestinian reform speeches?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM


Iran Expects: Will Iraq's liberation help free its neighbor too? (Fouad Ajami, February 13, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
Iran and Iraq are different, and the Bush administration knows the difference. Iran has the elements of change within it; Iraq will have to be changed by force. U.S. policy has been more subtle on Iran than its critics would have us believe. No credible American scenario envisages a war against Iran once the dust of battle settles in Iraq. The Iranians must know this, even as their clerical rulers protest their inclusion in the "axis of evil." Patience, deadly and dangerous in dealing with Iraq (in my view), could work in Iran's case. In this regard, the policy of the Bush administration has been on the mark. There has been no urge to court Iran. The zeal with which the Clinton administration pursued an accommodation with Iran's rulers has been cast aside. This has been one of the lessons of Sept. 11: Why court hated rulers if this only gets you the enmity of their resentful populations? It was in this vein that President Bush pitched his policy on Iran in his State of the Union address. A distinction was made between the Iranian theocracy and Iraq: "Different threats require different strategies." The regime in Iran was put on notice for its support of terror and its pursuit of weapons of destruction. But the people of Iran and their "aspirations to live in freedom" were embraced.

A silent revolution is under way in Iran; it lacks the fury of what played out in 1978-79. It is the imploding of the theocratic edifice, the aging of a revolution that has lost the consent of its children. A young Iranian-American author, Afshin Molavi, in a compelling new book, "Persian Pilgrimages," has just brought us fragments of that burdened land. It is of green cards and visas to foreign lands that the young of Iran now dream; in the year 2000, some 200,000 Iranian professionals quit their native land for Western shores. In a recent public-opinion survey, three out of four Iranians said they favored restoring relations with Washington. Iran is at the crossroads. In one vision of things, Tehran would barter the influence it has in Lebanon, through its sponsorship of Hezbollah, for a deal with Israel and a return to that covert understanding that once bound the Jewish state to Iran. In this vision, there would be a gradual accommodation with the U.S., an acceptance of America's primacy in the Persian Gulf. In the rival vision, Iran would continue to muddle through, alternating terror and diplomacy, hinting at moderation and then pulling back, offering its betrayed people more sterility, and a diet of anti-Americanism at odds with the fixation of young Iranians.

As Iran battles its own demons, we needn't let our obsession with the power of the Iranian revolution that paralyzed American power after Desert Storm do so again in Iraq. Our fear of Iran was a factor of no small consequence in our walking away from the Shia and Kurdish rebellions that erupted against Saddam. America didn't know that world, and it was easy to see the Shiites of Iraq as followers of the Iranian clerical regime, a potential "sister republic" in Iran's image. But the Shiites of Iraq are Iraqis and Arabs through and through. The Arabic literary tradition is their pride, the Arab tribal norms their defining culture. They are their country's majority, and thus eager to maintain its independence. The sacred geography of Shiism is in Iraq--in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala and Samarra. Before Saddam shattered the autonomy of Iraq's clerical Shiite establishment, a healthy measure of competition was the norm between the Shiite clerical seminarians of Iraq and those of Iran. In the 1980s, the Shiites of Iraq faced the choice between religious faith and patriotism; they chose the later, fought Saddam's war against Iran, and paid dearly for it. Few Iraqis, I would hazard to guess, would want their country to slip into Iran's orbit.

It is in the nature of things today, in an Iranian society deeply divided between those who would bury the revolution and join the world, and others hell-bent on keeping the theocracy, and their own dominion, intact, that the American drive against Iraq would be defined by that chasm. For those who want to normalize Iran, the thunder of war against Iraq is the coming of a blessed rain. The Americans would be nearby, but what of it? Liberty is rarely a foreigner's gift, and no American war in Iran's neighborhood will settle the fight between theocratic zealots and those in Iran who have twice, in presidential elections, cast their votes for a reform that never came. But the "contagion effect" of a liberated Iraq will no doubt have a role to play in the fight for Iran's future. In Persia, there will be multitudes hoping that the foreigner's storm will be mighty enough to clear their foul sky.

Whatever way it happens, it seems certain that Iran and America will be allies and friends again in the not too distant future, after a brief and unfortunate separation.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 AM


In Valley Cold, Even the Igloos Get Put on Hold (Omar Sacirbey, 2/15/03, Valley News)
Call it a polar paradox, but it's too cold to build igloos.

Yesterday's record-breaking cold temperatures coupled with forecasts that they will continue forced the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich to cancel today's annual Igloo Build. [...]

The Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vt., recorded a low yesterday in Lebanon of 27 below zero, shattering the old Valentine's Day mark of 16 below, set in 1955, Fairbanks meteorologist Stephen Maleski said. The warmest Valentine's Day recorded in Lebanon was 53 degrees in 1946. The average temperature for the day is 22 degrees, while the average high and low are 34 and 11.

It's not the (lack of) heat, it's the (lack of) humidity.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Life, Liberty And Property (Michael Barone, Feb. 14, 2003, National Journal) (it appears you may need to be signed up for the e-mail report to access the full essay)
In the first two-thirds of the 20th century, this country was industrial America, a country that was moving toward standardization and centralization. This was an America of ever-bigger corporations, a bigger and more bureaucratized government and standardized professions and scientific communities. Such an America led to the assimilation of immigrants, to cultural conformity, and to common social experiences such as the comprehensive high school and the military draft. It was a society temperamentally inclined toward centralization, normalization, standardization. In that America, Theodore Roosevelt's Republicans and Woodrow Wilson's Democrats competed for the first third of the century over which was the better centralizing party. But after the Depression of the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt's Democrats had a huge advantage as the party favoring vigorous and active government.

In the last third of the 20th century and now in the first third of the 21st, we are living in postindustrial, Information Age America. The economy is increasingly decentralized and market-driven rather than regulated by government or manipulated by oligopolies; American culture is increasingly variegated, as people feel free to choose different lifestyles and as new peoples come from other lands; affluence and surging economic growth produce many economic and cultural niches in which Americans can choose to live comfortably. It is a society temperamentally inclined toward decentralization, away from bureaucracies and toward markets, toward individual choice rather than standardization. This America has a natural tendency to vote Republican, although it is willing to vote for Democrats, such as Bill Clinton, who fashion their public policies and political tactics to suit its predispositions. George W. Bush seems to understand the character of this society: A theme running through his 2000 platform -- tax cuts, education, Medicare, Social Security -- is allowing more individual choice rather than requiring everyone to fit into the same bureaucratically defined template.

There is a similar contrast in how Americans fight their wars. Industrial America fought its wars by using its centralized industrial strength. Large military forces made up of draftees and armed with unsophisticated, mass-produced weapons and mat’riel -- these were what we brought to World War I and what enabled us to win World War II and to avoid defeat in Korea. But as industrial America became postindustrial America, industrial war fighting worked less well in Vietnam. Now postindustrial, Information Age America is winning its wars with a volunteer military, with tactics that put a premium on skill and personal initiative, and with highly sophisticated equipment far beyond the capacity of any other country. We saw this in the Persian Gulf War; we saw it even more in Afghanistan; we will likely see it soon in Iraq. This military is an institution that reflects the basic character of the nation led by George W. Bush, a leader who understands his nation far better than do those who ooze with contempt for him.

On the performance of this military, and of this president, much depends -- including the course of American politics for the next several years, perhaps the next several decades. But it is clear that this nation at peril, alike though it is in its basic character, is importantly different in its politics from the 49 percent nation that we thought we knew so well until the 2002 election returns started coming in.

Mr. Barone's long, detailed, and persuasive case for a sea change in American politics comports well with what we know of historical norms, but, as a conservative, it just seems too good to be true. We hope, but doubt.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Hey fellas, if, like us, you're periodically forced to forego worthwhile movies for ones that the wife wants to watch, and if this particular weekend, what with Valentine's Day and all, finds you perplexedly searching for a video compromise that has some redeeming qualities, allow us to suggest Kate & Leopold, a conservative morality tale masquerading as a romantic comedy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 AM


Disarming Iraq (The New York Times, February 15, 2003)
The only way short of war to get Saddam Hussein to reverse course at this late hour is to make clear that the Security Council is united in its determination to disarm him and is now ready to call in the cavalry to get the job done. America and Britain are prepared to take that step. The time has come for the others to quit pretending that inspections alone are the solution.

The Security Council, as we said the other day, needs to pass a new resolution that sets a deadline for unconditional Iraqi compliance and authorizes military action if Baghdad falls short. Without that, the French proposal that Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei report again in mid-March is the diplomatic equivalent of treading water. It practically invites President Bush to take the undesirable step of going to war without the support of the Security Council. [...]

Mr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei cannot be left to play games of hide-and-seek. This is not like Washington's unproved assertions about an alliance between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. There is ample evidence that Iraq has produced highly toxic VX nerve gas and anthrax and has the capacity to produce a lot more. It has concealed these materials, lied about them, and more recently failed to account for them to the current inspectors. The Security Council doesn't need to sit through more months of inconclusive reports. It needs full and immediate Iraqi disarmament. It needs to say so, backed by the threat of military force.

Has even the Times climbed aboard the war wagon?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


The Maine Blown Up: Terrible Explosion on Board the United States Battleship in Havana Harbor (NY Times, Feb. 15, 1898)
At 9:45 o'clock this evening a terrible explosion took place on board the United States battleship Maine in Havana Harbor.

Many persons were killed or wounded. All the boats of the Spanish cruiser Alfonso XII. are assisting.

As yet the cause of the explosion is not apparent. The wounded sailors of the Maine are unable to explain it. It is believed that the battleship is totally destroyed.

The explosion shook the whole city. The windows were broken in nearly all the houses.

The correspondent of the Associated Press says he has conversed with several of the wounded sailors and understands from them that the explosion took place while they were asleep, so that they can give no particulars as to the cause.

We used to be so much better at seizing phony pretexts to start just wars.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


The Crude Crusader (Richard Cohen, February 11, 2003, Washington Post)
It's not that I don't think [George W. Bush] is right about Saddam Hussein and, if need be, the necessity to deal with him through war. It's rather that I see America going to war; he sees us embarking on a crusade. His cause is right because he feels right about it.

The rest of the world, particularly Western Europe, recoils from that approach. It senses in Bush's body language, not to mention his oft-repeated references to God, a man who is tone deaf to subtleties and nuances -- "In Texas, we don't do nuance," he once told CNN's Candy Crowley -- and whose speech evinces not suppleness but a certain crudeness. Even in the high formality of the State of the Union address, he said of al Qaeda terrorists who had been killed, "Let's put it this way, they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies." It was a rhetorical smirk.

Recently, Bush has been telling us something in his walk. It is virtually a strut, the parade-walk of a man who has puffed himself up to show determination, leadership -- something like that. Whatever it is, it is not welcoming. It has a "no trespassing" sign all over it.

Bush's rigidity can come across as smugness. This has always been his least appealing quality, and it was on display, or so I was told, at a lunch he had for network anchors before the State of the Union message. He reportedly came across as cocky, not so much sure of himself as too sure of himself.

It has taken an iron sense of mission for Bush to confront the United Nations -- not just Saddam Hussein -- with its obligations. Another man might not have done as well. But this narrowness of focus is disquieting, because it suggests that Bush does not see the bigger picture. Is Iraq so pressing a menace that the imminence of a North Korean bomb can be put on the back burner? Is the Israeli-Arab conflict peripheral or, just maybe, central to what's happening in the Middle East? How does going to war with Iraq fit in with America's other challenges?

Maybe this single-mindedness of the president's is the product of his deep religious belief -- the conviction that he has been chosen for the task of decking Hussein. This, too, is unsettling, especially in Europe, which is much more secular than America. Destiny and providence are a siren's call that assures some, unnerves others. "I have been saved, destiny has chosen me, providence has preserved me," said Adolf Hitler after he survived an assassination attempt.

By no stretch of the imagination am I putting Bush in the same category as Hitler.

No, not at all--where would we get that impression?

Here though is the interesting thing about this type of analysis of George W. Bush and his administration--an analysis by no means unique to Mr. Cohen: he thinks the current conflict is about Saddam Hussein personally and says that Mr. Bush, who thinks it's about the lack of Western values (like democracy) in the Middle East (and North Korea), has too narrow a focus. If you can make sense of that we'd welcome an explanation. It strikes us that such critics have a rather shallow, People Magazine-style, understanding of what's going on in the world, while the Administration has adopted a deeper clash of civilizations view. This does in fact give the war on terror the savor of a crusade, but it also grounds it in ideas rather than personalities. Meanwhile, we wonder whether it's really appropriate for someone who's entire vision consists of "Saddam is bad" to be criticizing someone for lack of nuance who opposes the entire form of repression that Saddam is merely a representative of, even if the worst representative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 AM


Court to Hear Texas Case on Gay Rights: Challenge to State's Sodomy Statute Could Lead to Landmark Ruling (Charles Lane, December 3, 2002, Washington Post)
The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear a Texas gay couple's challenge to that state's ban on homosexual sodomy, setting the stage for what could be a landmark ruling on gay rights.

The question of whether states may criminalize private consensual sexual conduct between members of the same sex had apparently been settled in 1986, when the court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution permitted Georgia to punish a gay man for violating its sodomy statute.

But yesterday's announcement by the court, whose personnel has changed considerably since 1986, appears to suggest interest by at least some justices in reassessing that ruling. In their appeal petition, lawyers for the Texas couple specifically urged the court to overturn the 1986 decision, which held that the right to privacy did not include a right to homosexual sex.

The number of states with sodomy laws that apply to all people has declined from 24 to 13 since 1986, and only four states -- Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, in addition to Texas -- have laws that criminalize only homosexual sex. But both proponents and opponents of the Texas law are treating the case as one of potentially major significance.

The advisability of maintaining sodomy statutes in this day and age is a fit subject for debate: we support keeping them, as an appropriate expression of community morality, but not prosecuting under them, except in extraordinary circumstances. However, there is no reasonable construction of the U.S. Constitution under which you can fiind these laws to violate any of its provisions. The Constitution is devoid of privacy rights. If folks want to add them then they should use the democratic process and offer an amendment. They don't because they know it would not pass and, having not passed, would call into question the legitimacy of judge created "privacy rights".
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


Sanity and Justice Slipping Away: Ashcroft rolls over legal rights to pursue a demented terror suspect. (Jonathan Turley, February 10, 2003, LA Times)

Accused terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has spent the last two years like a freak on a leash -- raving his hate-filled fantasies as Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft pulls him from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in search of a speedy execution.

Now Ashcroft is upset that a federal court ruled against the government in a critical motion, and he may yank Moussaoui out of his civilian trial and send him to a military tribunal where the attorney general's notion of justice will not be impeded by legal process.

When he was first charged, Moussaoui was presented as the 20th hijacker -- the sole survivor of the 9/11 conspiracy who would pay for that crime with his life. To better guarantee execution, Ashcroft had Moussaoui sent from Minnesota to Virginia, where the notorious "rocket docket" makes fast work of criminal defendants.

From the beginning, however, there was doubt that Moussaoui was ever a part of the conspiracy, and there is growing agreement that he is a barking lunatic. Now the Justice Department is facing the prospect of losing all or part of its high-profile case to a hate-spewing, rug-chewing maniac. Worse still, the government's growing disaster is of its own making.

Lacking any meaningful evidence linking Moussaoui to the 9/11 plot, the government wrote an indictment that reads like a bad dime-store novel, describing shadowy figures and loosely imputing their actions to Moussaoui. A central character in this criminal novelette is alleged 9/11 mastermind Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who figures so prominently in the indictment that the government named him an unindicted co-conspirator.

That made Bin al-Shibh a material witness in the case, but the Justice Department was not concerned about his being called to confirm these facts because Bin al-Shibh was at large and believed to be possibly dead. That changed last September when a very much alive Bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan.

Under interrogation, Bin al-Shibh has reportedly given the CIA some valuable information, but also one highly unwelcome tidbit: Al Qaeda thinks Moussaoui is as crazy as we do.

Bin al-Shibh reportedly stated that he did send money to Moussaoui as a type of terrorist retainer. However, he also stated that no one trusted the unhinged Moussaoui for such an important mission and that Moussaoui was never made part of the 9/11 conspiracy.

Such evidence might prove Moussaoui was part of a terrorist group and even secure a lengthy sentence. But Ashcroft doesn't want to convict some terrorist wannabe with the dubious distinction of flunking out of suicide bomber school. He wants to execute the 20th hijacker and give Americans a sense of retribution for 9/11.

Among the many rotten bequests of the OJ trial, the Clinton impeachment and Florida 2000 is the plague of lawyer/analysts in the media. These folk have no more annoying trait than their frequent insistence on analyzing everything through the lens of legalism rather than of common sense. Mr. Turley's is only the most recent in a long string of essays about Zaccarias Moussaoui in which lawyers hold the government to the standard that would be required to attain a guilty verdict in a court of law. This apparently entitles them to ignore the obvious and inctrovertible evidence that Moussaoui was to be the 20th hijacker.

Though not, to the best of my knowledge, a lawyer, Here's how Seymour Hersh described the case against Moussaoui, THE TWENTIETH MAN: Has the Justice Department mishandled the case against Zacarias Moussaoui? ( SEYMOUR M. HERSH, 2002-09-23, The New Yorker)

In February, 2001, Moussaoui showed up at the Airman Flight School, in Norman, Oklahoma. He was now thirty-two, and had continued to travel in pursuit of fundamentalist causes. He had been in Afghanistan (where he is alleged to have spent time in an Al Qaeda training camp), in Pakistan, and in Malaysia, while maintaining a base of sorts at a radical mosque in North London. When he arrived in America, two weeks after returning to London from a trip to Pakistan, he told customs he had thirty-five thousand dollars in cash. His sudden interest in flying had led him to pay five thousand dollars, in advance, for a series of lessons that should have allowed him to earn a pilot's license. Over the next three months, Moussaoui took fifty-seven hours of flight instruction, far more than the twenty hours most students need before flying solo. But he left the school in late May without a license. [?]

The evidence that the government has presented thus far is largely circumstantial. The search of Moussaoui's computer-a warrant was granted on the afternoon of September 11th-apparently yielded nothing that would have foretold the attack or tied him to it. The indictment depicts Moussaoui as having followed a pattern of activity similar to that of many of the hijackers. Like them, he spent months in flight training, he bought flight-deck videos for commercial airplanes from a pilots' store in Ohio, and he joined a gym. Two of the hijackers are also said to have visited the flight school in Oklahoma the year before Moussaoui did. In the fall of 2000, Moussaoui had been given a letter stating that he was being retained as a "marketing consultant" by Infocus Tech, a Malaysian company; the company's managing director was later linked in press reports to some of the hijackers.

The most specific evidence in the indictment linking Moussaoui to the September 11th conspirators is that, in August, 2001, someone using the name of Ahad Sabet wired fourteen thousand dollars to him from train stations in Hamburg and Dsseldorf. Ahad Sabet is the alias of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a known Al Qaeda intermediary, who also funnelled money to at least one of the hijackers and was named as a co-conspirator in the Moussaoui indictment. He had sought four times before September 11th to get a visa to the United States, and, in a broadcast on Al-Jazeera on the day after the anniversary of the attacks, he claimed that he was meant to be the twentieth hijacker. The indictment also notes that Moussaoui and al-Shibh were in London at the same time, in December, 2000, just before Moussaoui flew to Pakistan. The government's theory is that al-Shibh's visa problems forced the conspirators to turn to Moussaoui. Through careful detective work, German police were able to recover al-Shibh's fingerprint on a Western Union receipt for a payment sent to Moussaoui in Ahad Sabet's name, helping to establish that the men were one and the same. [?]

If the government's case is built on the similarities between Moussaoui's activities and those of the known hijackers, it must account for the fact that, though he shared their allegiance to Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, his behavior in America was strikingly different from theirs. The government has found evidence of e-mails and meetings among the nineteen, but none between any of them and Moussaoui. The hijackers tried to fit in to American life-drinking in bars, for instance. Moussaoui, while in Oklahoma, remained largely aloof, although he was voluble about his Islamic beliefs. He criticized members of a mosque in Norman for not lowering their gaze when meeting women and for looking at lightly clad cheerleaders. "He went around making a nuisance of himself everywhere he went," Frank W. Dunham, Jr., the federal public defender in charge of Moussaoui's defense team, said. "He was not flying under the radar by any means." Another Moussaoui attorney depicted him as "wearing his fundamentalism on his sleeve," and said, "He was incredibly argumentative-always."

Soet us reiterate some advice we offered to Mr. Hersh (and had previously offered to law professor Michael Mello): perhaps Mr. Turley could use Occam's Razor as he does his next column. Here is what one has to believe to accept the premise of his story, that Zacarias Moussaoui was not involved in 9-11:
(1) That this mope just suddenly showed up in America on his own--at an opportune moment for the purposes of the hijacking plot--with boatloads of cash after a trip to Pakistan.

(2) That he spontaneously decided it would be neat to figure out how to fly (but not land) jumbo jets (like those that were hijacked), though he wasn't seeking a license. That he bought videos and manuals about such jets from the same store as the other hijackers on a whim.

(3) That it is sheer coincidence that he was wired money by the man who was originally to be the 20th hijacker, until he ran into visa problems.

(4) That there was no 20th hijacker, that one group of terrorists (note it is the one that failed) was to be configured completely differently than the other three, or that there's a twentieth guy who would have done all these same things but who we haven't noticed yet.

Here, on the other hand, is the most difficult thing you have to accept if you are to believe John Ashcroft's version of the story:
(1) That the terrorists were in such desperate need of a twentieth guy once al-Shibh couldn't get into the country that they grabbed Moussoaui, even though they knew he was a screw-up, and then kept him quarantined from the other 19 so that if he did foul up he couldn't betray his comrades.

We'll leave it to you to decide which places a greater strain on credulity.

Obviously this is all circumstantial evidence and, as a lawyer, Mr. Turley would be perfectly justified in criticizing the strength of the case that the government has developed, if it is seeking a legal conviction. However, the tone with which Mr. Turley attacks John Ashcroft and the government for treating Moussaoui like the 20th hijacker is completely inappropriate given that no reasonable person copuld come to any other conclusion but that he was in fact a part--even if an unstable and, therefore, carefully segregated part--of the attack. And the idea that a government, the primary purpose of which is to safeguard the national security, would treat this case only legally, rather than rationally, is ultimately unserious, reflecting a failure to come to grips with the fact that we are at war with terror, rather than in the midst of an episode of Perry Mason. Regardless of whether the Justice Department can ever "prove" that Zaccarias Moussaoui would have been the 5th man on Flight 93, he must be incarcerated until the day he dies.

February 14, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


The Best Dissent Has Never Been Anti-American (Michael Kazin, February 9, 2003, Washington Post)
As the U.S. military prepares for war, millions of Americans are seeking a way to stop it. Hundreds of thousands of them have attended national demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco. Local protest--on campuses, in churches and by labor union members--is broader and louder than at any time since the Vietnam War, more than three decades ago. Most Democrats running for president, eager to keep step with the party's base, have warned the White House against rushing into war.

But the American left, the natural vehicle for opponents of imperial overreach, remains a tiny persuasion -- and a sharply divided one at that. The organizers of the recent Washington and San Francisco marches refuse to say anything critical of Saddam Hussein; many belong to the Workers World Party, whose stated goal is "solidarity of all the workers and oppressed against this criminal imperialist system." That viewpoint dismays liberals such as philosopher and editor Michael Walzer, who calls for a "decent" left that would never apologize for tyrants. But whatever their views on Iraq, no one in the current peace movement has put forth a moral vision that might unite and sustain it beyond the precipice of war.

Progressives once had such a vision, and they derived it from unimpeachable sources -- the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They articulated American ideals -- of social equality, individual liberty and grass-roots democracy -- and accused governing elites of betraying them in practice. Through most of U.S. history, this brand of patriotism was indispensable to the cause of social change. It made the protests and rebellions of leftists comprehensible to their fellow citizens and helped inscribe those movements within a common national narrative.

Well, except that social equality and grass-roots democracy aren't actually American ideals, that they're antithetical to individual freedom, and that they're perfectly consistent with an unthinking pacifism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 PM


-REVIEW: of Freedom Evolves by Daniel C Dennett: Does human evolution move onwards and upwards towards liberty and progress? (John Gray, The Independent)
If natural selection had been discovered in India, China or Japan, it is hard to imagine it making much of a stir. Darwin's discovery signalled a major advance in human knowledge, but its cultural impact came from the fact that it was made in a milieu permeated by the Judaeo-Christian belief in human uniqueness. If - along with hundreds of millions of Hindus and Buddhists - you have never believed that humans differ from everything else in the natural world in having an immortal soul, you will find it hard to get worked up by a theory that shows how much we have in common with other animals.

Among us, in contrast, it has triggered savage and unending controversy. In the 19th century, the conflict was waged between Darwinists and Christians. Now, the controversy is played out between Darwinism and humanists, who seek to defend a revised version of Western ideas about the special nature of humans.

In Freedom Evolves, Daniel Dennett has produced the most powerful and ingenious attempt at reconciling Darwinism with the belief in human freedom to date. Writing with a verve that puts to shame the leaden prose that has become the trademark of academic philosophy, Dennett presents the definitive argument that the human mind is a product of evolution, not something that stands outside the natural world.

Making full use of his seminal writings on consciousness, he contends that we do not need to believe in free will to be able to think of ourselves as responsible moral beings. On the contrary, moral agency is a by-product of natural selection. In that sense, it is an accident; but once it has come about, we can "bootstrap ourselves" into freedom. The evolution of human culture enables us to be free as no other animal can be. "Human freedom," Dennett writes, "is not an illusion; it is an objective phenomenon, distinct from all other biological conditions and found in only one species, us."

The ringing tone of Dennett's declaration of human uniqueness provokes a certain suspicion regarding the scientific character of his argument. After all, the notion that humans are free in a way that other animals are not does not come from science. Its origins are in religion--above all, in Christianity.

This may be the rock upon which Darwinism finally falters, the too slow recognition that to accept it is to deny our own uniqueness and the very idea of free will.

-REVIEW: of Freedom Evolves by Daniel C Dennett (Kenan Malik)
-ESSAY: Conscious objector: The ultra-modern view of consciousness turns science upside down (Colin Tudge, January 30, 2003, The Guardian)
Genetics: why Prince Charles is so wrong: Genes work just like computer software, says this writer - which is why the luddites don't get it, but their children probably will. (Richard Dawkins, January 28, 2003, Checkbiotech)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM


Census proves the force of Christianity (Jonathan Petre, 14/02/2003, Daily Telegraph))
Most people in England and Wales - 71.1 per cent - still regard themselves as Christians, the first official count of religious affiliation has found.

Despite the sharp decline in churchgoing and the growth of secularism, 37.3 million described their religion as Christianity, according to the 2001 Census published yesterday.

That residual hold of Christianity may be all we need to know to explain why Britain is behaving so much differently than other Western European nations.


Brighton also surfaced as the spiritual home of an unlikely movement which can now claim more adherents than the Sikhs, Jews or Buddhists - the Jedi Knights.

Star Wars devotees were encouraged by an internet campaign to register themselves as Jedi, intergalactic warriors able to harness a mysterious energy field called the Force, under the misapprehension that, if more than 10,000 did, it would be recognised as an official religion.

Despite the efforts of census officials to counter the campaign, 390,000 people (0.7 per cent), mostly in university towns, gave their religion as Jedi.

Maybe it's just the Force acting through them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:27 PM


Unkind thoughts swell as the Europeans think Yank (NY Times, February 15 2003)
[E]uropean anti-Americanism is more than just opposition to the policies of the Bush Administration. There is a growing sense on the left here that many of America's most admirable qualities - its respect for its great cacophony of voices, its belief in freedom, its proud democratic principles, have been trampled into oblivion by the debate over war.

"Something has gone terribly wrong in America," said Jacqueline Rose, a feminist scholar in Britain. "America established a certain tradition of public dissent, with the civil rights and feminist and anti-Vietnam movements. But post-September 11 there is a feeling that the American left has largely gone silent."

Writing in The Times recently, the novelist John le Carre went further. "America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember.

"The freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded."

Opposition to the war is everywhere in western Europe. With millions of people expected to take part in antiwar protests around the world over the weekend, more and more people have been signing petitions, publishing anti-war articles in newspapers and on the internet, and giving speeches at rallies.

In France and Germany, dozens of influential writers, artists, scientists and others - including Guenter Grass, Christa Wolf and Jacques Derrida - signed a statement opposing the war.

In Britain, a petition appeared on Thursday in The Guardian, signed by, among others, the musicians Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins, the playwright David Hare and the actors Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman.

In Spain, where the film establishment turned a recent film awards ceremony into an anti-war demonstration several weeks ago, the director Pedro Almodovar plans to present an antiwar manifesto at a rally in Madrid today.

These freakin' idiots really believe that because there's not much dissent in America against the war there must be a pall of oppression settling over the nation. It never occurs to them that the war on terror might be a function of the popular will.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM


Leaked memo attacks NATO trio (From correspondents in Brussels, 15feb03, Courier Mail)
NATO chief George Robertson has accused three European countries of "vandalising" the alliance by blocking an agreement on defending Turkey, according to a leaked memo seen by AFP today.

The memo also says NATO intelligence indicates Iraq has moved missiles close to the Kuwaiti border and could use them pre-emptively.

"Today's (NATO) intelligence reporting ... shows that Saddam has moved CBW-capable ballistic missiles close to the Kuwait border," Robertson says in the memo, originally reported by Belgian state television.

The NATO chief asks himself why the missiles would be moved to such a vulnerable position. "There can be only one reason: that Saddam is planning to use these weapons pre-emptively," he says.

There was a choice moment in Tariq Aziz's press availability at the Vatican today, when he warned Europe of the consequences of attacking Iraq. His willingness to threaten them pretty much tells you what Saddam thinks of his European allies.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:50 PM


Q: What's the difference between an American and an American bomb?
A: The bomb is smart enough to know where to find Iraq

What do you call someone who speaks three languages? --"Multilingual".
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? --"Bilingual".
What do you call someone who speaks one language? --"An American".

In America, what do you call a worker who can fit a round peg in a round hole?
Answer: overqualifed.

An American was telling one of his favorite jokes to a group of friends.

"Hell is a place where the cooks are British, the waiters are French, the policemen are Germans, and the trains are run by Italians." The lone European in the group pondered all this for a second and responded, "I can't say about the police and the trains, but you're probably right about going out to eat. A restaurant in Hell would be one where the cooks are British and the waiters are French -- and the customers are all Americans."

How many American tourists does it take to change a light bulb? Fifteen: Five to figure out how much the bulb costs in the local currency, four to comment on "how funny-looking" local light bulbs are, three to hire local person to change the bulb, two to take pictures, and one to buy postcards in case the pictures don't come out.

What's the difference between Americans and the engines of the jets on which they travel abroad? After they land, the engines of the jets quit whining.

If there was any remaing doubt that all humor is conservative, this should silence it. Is this really the best the anti-Americans can do?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:00 PM


The death (and rebirth) of hip-hop: Why does the mainstream resist hip-hop artists who reach beyond the material world? (Kevin Britton, 2/05/03, Cincinnati City Beat)
I was talking with a sister who I ran into at the Greenwich Tavern during a recent poetry set sponsored by Atlanta-based RaRa Enterprises. We were commenting on the positive vibe felt throughout the evening that featured a number of regional artists and poets including Zebra Killah, Embrya, Olufemi, rapper Pryzless, and the night's headlining act, the Watusi Tribe. We both shared the perspective that there was a certain comfort in hearing artists who spoke from the soul, mostly unencumbered by the conformity and materialism that plagues popular music today.

Yet, why is it that artists with "conscious leanings" do not enjoy the same degree of media exposure as more mainstream artists? Is it the unnatural juxtaposition of Western values (i.e., capitalism and consumerism) onto the Afro-Latino tradition of Hip Hop that results in conscious Hip Hop's absence from mainstream pop culture? Or are media powerbrokers determined to create barriers preventing messages of self-knowledge and empowerment from reaching a broad audience?

Author/rapper/activist Sista Souljah is quoted in Angela Ard's 1999 treatise, "Rhyme and Resist" (The Nation), as stating, "It's very difficult to mix education and consciousness with capitalism. And most people, when confronted with an option, will pick money over everything else." Wu Tang issued the same warning back in 1993 when they declared that "cash rules everything (around me)."

The question--why doesn't the media cover unpopular art?--obviously answers itself. A more appropriate question would be: why are these "conscious leaning" artists unpopular? Terry Gross interviewed ?uestlove, from The Roots, last week, and he said that as far as he and his manager could determine, they're the only hip-hop band where the members actually know how to play musical instruments themselves. That could limit the appeal of the form, eh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM


Broderick gets to twist, shout in 'Music Man' (PHIL ROSENTHAL, February 14, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
Come on. Look at that face. Broderick's putative music teacher may not actually toot his own clarinet here ("Never took one lesson!"), but it is impossible to look at his Hill turning on his boyish charm, singing, dancing, leading a parade and generally holding sway in this three-hour musical...without seeing the ever-modern Ferris wheel and deal his way out of trouble time and again.

This could have posed a problem (with a small p) for this turn-of-the-20th-century tale set in a preciously quaint town that puts the colic in bucolic.

Fortunately, leather-lunged elfin Kristin Chenoweth's Marian the librarian steals the show out from under the con man.

Professor Hill, as played to a blustery tee by Robert Preston, may have owned Willson's 1957 Broadway hit and the subsequent 1962 movie that set the stage (and tone) for many a high school production.

But the star of this "Music Man"--from the producers of the Oscar-nominated "Chicago" and ABC's brilliant revival of "Annie" a couple years back--is not the music man, but the female foil who initially, until melted by Hill's charm, is so tight that she could squeeze a properly placed lump of coal into a diamond.

Meredith Willson's The Music Man (Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly)
Broderick, slight of frame and thin of voice, can't fit into Preston's brogans, but he dances nimbly and can rattle off Hill's con spiels with impressive speed. I just have a little trouble believing that this sweet-faced fellow could really bamboozle the town into buying his expensive instruments and band uniforms while hiding the fact that he doesn't know how to read or teach a note of music.

Still, with the grand aid of Chenoweth as his romantic partner, Broderick actually becomes an example of author Willson's central idea -- that sincerity and idealism, coated with true love, can overcome limitations of skill. Just as Harold Hill gains deserved authority by bringing joy and pride to River City as he instills his young charges with boldness and falls in genuine love with Marian, so does Broderick's performance in ''The Music Man'' gather strength and zip as the TV movie proceeds. Showcasing fine, funny turns by Molly Shannon as Garber's dippy but earnest wife and Debra Monk as Marian's big-hearted mother, as well as the choreography of Kathleen Marshall (who knows how to scale down big stage effects for the intimacy of the television cameras), this is a ''Music Man'' that'll have you marching around the living room, leading your own parade of gratefulness for such a glowing evening of entertainment.

EW Grade: A-

It's great that their showing this American classic, and it'll be a worthy change of pace from the typical garbage on network TV, but why not just show the definitive original?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 AM


Nearing Red in D.C. (Washington Whispers, 2/14/03, US News)
Indications from government sources are that the already heightened Code Orange security alert Washington, D.C., is operating under may be increased to Code Red in the next 24 hours because of heightened concern about a possible terrorist attack. While a top Bush aide said that a change from orange to red–the highest alert–isn't imminent, other moves suggest otherwise. Whispers learns that lawmakers are being encouraged to send their families back to their home states. Other government sources are freely talking about the increased security alert possibly coming as soon as Friday.

It may be a mundane point, but this would explain Bill Frist not forcing the Democrats to continue their filibuster right now.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM


Can Sentient Machines Evolve (Space Daily, Feb 12, 2003)
In the 1960s, Holland created the field of genetic algorithms, a process in which computers solve problems by mimicking biological evolution. By adapting concepts of natural selection and sexual reproduction to computer programming, Holland showed that computers could "evolve" their programming to solve complex problems in ways that even their creators did not fully understand. [...]

But evolving solutions for well-defined optimization problems is distinctly different than synthesizing something as opened-ended as consciousness or freewill.

According to Holland, the problem with developing artificial intelligence through things like genetic algorithms is that researchers don't yet understand how to define what computer programs should be evolving toward.

Human beings did not evolve to be intelligent--they evolved to survive. Intelligence was just one of many traits that human beings exploited to increase their odds of survival, and the test for survival was absolute.

Defining an equivalent test of fitness for targeting intelligence as an evolutionary goal for machines, however, has been elusive. Thus, it is difficult to draw comparisons between how human intelligence developed and how artificial intelligence could evolve.

"We don't understand enough about how our own human software works to come even close to replicating it on a computer," says Holland.

Note the rather inappropriate certitude with which we assume that our eventual ability to "evolve" sentience and freewill in another "species", which will require that we know what we're aiming towards, is completely different than how our sentience and free will evolved. Thus does the religious faith in Darwinism and materialism blind us to any alternatives.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 AM


Great Shakes?: Do expensive salts really make a difference? (Dave Faries, 2/13/03, Dallas Observer)
Dish "Why not have a salt party?" asks David McMillan, holding a plate piled with a gray-white substance.

The executive chef of Nana apparently doesn't get out much. Either that, or he thinks of tame suburban gatherings--Tupperware parties, for instance--as wild, wicked affairs. In the 1960s, shindigs lauding plastic containers were all the rage. Instead of flopping around bra-less and engaging in free love, suburban women marveled at Tupperware's patented "burp" and its ability to preserve hot dog buns for an extra day or so. "This," McMillan says, still holding a plate of ground salt, "is the new Tupperware."

His fascination with the condiment is understandable. There are 14,000 uses for salt, or so we're told. It can be sprinkled on fries, employed as a preservative, dumped on icy roads or rubbed into open wounds; vengeful gods sometimes turn malefactors into pillars of the stuff. [...]

Most chefs spurn iodized table salt, at least in the kitchen. They cook instead with kosher salt, a coarse-grained product familiar to all margarita aficionados. "Kosher is easy to work with since you are grabbing it with your hands," says Chris Svalesen, executive chef at 36 Degrees, "and it's not as salty." The lighter flavor makes kosher salt a little more forgiving. Table salt, McMillan explains, "is slow to dissolve, and there's a fair amount of collateral chemicals." It generally contains iodine as well as an anti-caking agent to prevent clumping. Gilbert Garza of Suze refers to iodized salt as "disgusting stuff." The Green Room even removed salt shakers from its dining room.

"A dish should go out seasoned just right," explains Marc Cassel, executive chef of the Deep Ellum institution. "If they are used to eating at Applebee's, they automatically reach for the salt shaker, then complain that it's oversalted."

Beyond these two basic salts, however, little agreement exists. "Americans just get on a fad and buy things because they're supposed to," scoffs Brian C. Luscher, executive chef at The Grape. "It makes a difference in certain situations, but mostly you have people who spend 20 bucks on salt but don't know what to do with it."

"They season things," Garza says of the high-end salts. "That's what they do. It's interesting for five minutes."

The kosher definitely seems to work better in a cast-iron skillet.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


SHAME ON YOU AMERICAN-HATING LIBERALS (Tony Parsons, 9/11/02, London Daily Mirror)
AMERICA could have turned a large chunk of the world into a parking lot. That it didn't is a sign of strength.

American voices are already being raised against attacking Iraq - that's what a democracy is for. How many in the Islamic world will have a minute's silence for the slaughtered innocents of 9/11? How many Islamic leaders will have the guts to say that the mass murder of 9/11 was an abomination?

When the news of 9/11 broke on the West Bank, those freedom-loving Palestinians were dancing in the street. America watched all of that - and didn't push the button. We should thank the stars that America is the most powerful nation in the world. I still find it incredible that 9/11 did not provoke all-out war. Not a "war on terrorism". A real war.

The fundamentalist dudes are talking about "opening the gates of hell", if America attacks Iraq. Well, America could have opened the gates of hell like you wouldn't believe.

The US is the most militarily powerful nation that ever strode the face of the earth.

The campaign in Afghanistan may have been less than perfect and the planned war on Iraq may be misconceived.

But don't blame America for not bringing peace and light to these wretched countries. How many democracies are there in the Middle East, or in the Muslim world? You can count them on the fingers of one hand - assuming you haven't had any chopped off for minor shoplifting.

I love America, yet America is hated. I guess that makes me Bush's poodle. But I would rather be a dog in New York City than a Prince in Riyadh.

This column, published on the anniversary of the attacks, was so good, from such a surprising source, and so hard to find in the papers archives, that it came to be considered a hoax. Happily, it's genuine and someone's tracked it down to its original source.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


A Warning on Iraq, From a Friend: Despite its longstanding friendship with the United States, France has reasons to be cautious in the matter of military intervention in Iraq. ( JEAN-DAVID LEVITTE, 2/14/03, NY Times)
Reading the papers from both sides of the Atlantic, I sometimes wonder whether the impending war is not between France and the United States.

It might be if they actually presented a military threat to anyone besides their own domestic Semitic populations.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 AM


Spending Bill Is Scorned but Is a Sure Vote-Getter: Thousands of pet projects received billions of dollars in the foot-high, 3,000-page spending package that finances most federal agencies through Sept. 30. (CARL HULSE, 2/14/03, NY Times)
With dollars for programs like highways, libraries, parks, water projects, and $5 million for an anticrime program that features McGruff the Crime Dog, the so-called omnibus spending bill takes a $397.4 billion bite out of the federal Treasury.

Written mainly in private after Congress gave up trying to pass spending measures last fall, the bill was described by Representative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, senior Democrat on the Appropriations Committee, as the "biggest back-room deal" in the history of Congressional spending.

Experienced appropriations aides conceded that passing this sort of measure, which would not be read by many of those asked to vote on it, was made easier by the fact that it contained a little something for nearly everyone.

Of course it's an awful bill, but this one criticism, about no one having read it, is asinine. We long ago passed the point where the budget had grown so voluminous that no adult of average or better reading speed could open its foirst page on January 1 and be done reading by December 31. The simple truth is that no one knows, in its entirety, what's in the budget.

But the Democrats are on to something and it might offer the basis of some excellent reforms:

(1) US law and regulations, the tax code and the budget should be whittled down to the point where they can be read in one year.

(2) No congressman should be allowed to vote on any measure unless they can pass a pop quiz about what's in it.

(3) All measures should be written in plain language such that any American can read and comprehend what the bill states and should be published in its final written form prior to the congressional vote.

In addition, Democrats are certainly correct that the measure is too pork-laden, which is an excellent argument for reviving the Line Item Veto, but this time amending the Constitution to allow it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


U.S. Increased Alert on Evidence Qaeda Was Planning 2 Attacks: American intelligence obtained evidence that agents of Al Qaeda might be positioning themselves to carry out two major attacks, including one inside the U.S. (JAMES RISEN, 2/14/03, NY Times)
Officials said there were indications that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, believed to be one of the central planners of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, might be involved in the current operations. But officials indicated that they were now most concerned with identifying and tracking the lower level Qaeda operatives who might already have been sent on missions.

The intelligence indicates two distinct strands of activity among Qaeda operatives. American analysts believe that signifies two separate terrorist plots in the works, officials said. The intelligence is fragmentary, but the discussions among Qaeda operatives of the movement of personnel and other activity seems to be going in two directions.

"They are seeing a lot of activity, and it doesn't all seem related to the same thing," said one official. "The evidence seems to break into two piles."

Much of the intelligence collected by the United States in recent days and weeks comes from intercepted communications among suspected Qaeda operatives. Analysts began to see an increased level of communications recently, and some of those intercepts apparently refer to the movement of personnel and other signs of action.

But American officials also said today that the intelligence pointing to an imminent threat went beyond the communications intercepts, although they declined to provide details about what other specific information they had obtained.

While they would not provide specifics, one crucial indicator used by American counterterrorism officials to track Qaeda's movements is to follow evidence of financial transactions among supporters of the terrorist network. The money trail can sometimes aid in tracking the movements of Qaeda operatives.

One official said that concerns within the intelligence community rose even higher Wednesday night, when "chatter" among Qaeda operatives suddenly dropped off. The official said there were fears that the operatives, having moved into place, were quiet because they had finished their prepearations and were poised for an attack.

Although government officials said today that they had no immediate plans to raise the threat level further, a jittery nation stayed on a high level of alert today.

How many times in the last few days have you heard some Maureen Dowd type claim that this was ginned up to gain support for the war? Unfortunately, if an attack is foiled no one believes it ever existed in the first place and if it succeeds, it's unseemly for the government to say, told you so.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


Coalition plans disobedience campaign when war starts (Christopher Walker, February 14, 2003 , Times of London)
ORGANISERS of tomorrow’s anti-war march in London plan to follow it with a campaign of civil disobedience throughout the country designed to last while any conflict in Iraq persists.

Ghada Razuki, a leading member of the Stop the War Coalition, said that the action would begin on the day war was declared with demonstrations designed to bring the country to a standstill. [...]

Leaders of five of Britain’s biggest unions have given warning that there could be widespread strikes if an attack on Iraq were launched. They stopped short of encouraging industrial action but demanded a recall of the TUC, which they claimed was allowed for by the organisation’s constitution.

Speaking at a meeting organised by the coalition, Paul Mackney, general secretary of the lecturers’ union Natfhe, said that the day the war started could see “massive protests in every industry”.

There's been some concern expressed about a recent NY Sun editorial that suggested NY police keep a close eye on this weekend's protests, with a mind towards potential future prosecutions for treason. Obviously just marching around with signs doesn't qualify as such, but a co-ordinated campaign to intentionally disrupt the functioning of your nation while it is prosecuting a war surely does.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


Berlin tirade widens rift with Washington: Franco-German axis Schroeder signals further opposition to military strike (John Hooper and Ian Black, February 14, 2003, The Guardian)
Germany has been seething since Mr Rumsfeld last week bracketed Germany with Cuba and Libya as nations that had withheld support for the US build-up against Iraq.

"It's just unacceptable," said Mr Struck. "It's beyond impertinent. It is even un-American when one considers fairness is practically an American virtue."

Chancellor Gerhard Schršder had earlier given a vigorous defence of Germany's position.

Staking a claim to the moral high ground, Mr Schršder told MPs: "The chief duty of international politics is to prevent war. No politics of expediency or security doctrine should lead us to become accustomed to war as normal political means."

In a remark suggesting Germany was bent on opposing a second UN resolution authorising military action, he said: "To reject a war is not to be condemned to appeasement."

Mr. Struck is mostly right, but Mr. Schroeder is almost entirely wrong. In its relations with the Europeans over the last century or so, America has kind of played the role of the big brother in a quarrelsome brood. We've mostly ignored the sniping of the immature siblings, sublime in the knowledge of our superior power and wisdom. But periodically we've had to break up fights amongst the brats and now, for maybe the first time, a couple of the worst behaved have finally goaded us into administering a somewhat gratuitous drubbing. If you've brothers and sisters, you know how it works--big brother is usually content to use a tiff arm to hold little brother away while he cartwheels his arms futilely, but every once in a while, if a lucky punch lands or the process just gets too annoying, big brother ends the charade and cold cocks the twerp, who typically can't believe what just happened. Thus America, long put upon, especially by the French, has, perhaps somewhat petulantly, been forced to smack down a few uppity Europeans. This surely must come as a shock, having grown accustomed to our not responding, so Mr. Struck is right, this isn't a usual American reaction.

Mr. Schroeder on the other hand, like his coconspirator, Jacques Chirac, has elevated the avoidance of war to the be all and end all of foreign policy. This may not be identical to appeasement, but always requires it. To make peace an end in itself is to accept all of the means required to preserve it. Since evil is always willing to push the envelope, it requires surrender to such pushing. That's truly un-American.

February 13, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:34 PM


What Is "Multilateral"? (John Van Oudenaren, Policy Review)

[I]t is worth identifying some of the key conceptual issues that might be used to frame a more productive transatlantic discussion of multilateralism. Five in particular stand out: the importance of norms versus numbers, universal versus non-universal arrangements, the problem of ?dysfunctional multilateralism,? enforcement and the role of international organizations, and the relationship between multilateralism and European integration.

Norms vs. numbers [...]

Universal vs. nonuniversal arrangements [...]

Dysfunctional multilateralism [...]

Institutions and compliance [...]

Unilateralism and European integration

This is a reasonable enough discussion of the topic, but it unintentionally illustrates Daniel Drezner's point below. By the very question that he sets out to answer, Mr. Van Oudenaren has adopted what we might call the European position, that multilateralism is an end in itself. The question Americans must ask is: Why "Multilateralism"?

Perhaps we can get some purchase on the difference by looking at it this way: Most Americans, and more importantly the Administration, have determined that regime change in Iraq serves the security interests of the United States. Several major "allies" have determined that at least their own security interests are not best served by removing Saddam. The question, it would seem, is which is more important to us, our security or unanimity with other nations? The Democrats have pretty clearly chosen the latter and, in that sense, must be said to be willing to put U.S. national security at risk. Their end is the world alliance itself, rather than our security. There may be reasons why they are right to make that decision, but those are the terms in which it shouldd be discussed and the American people should have an opportunity to decide if they're willing to live with a party that thinks that way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


Lawsuits challenge prison program (WILLIAM PETROSKI, 02/13/2003, Des Moines Register)
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said Wednesday it is launching a major legal challenge against a nationally recognized Iowa prison program in which 210 inmates immerse themselves in Christian-oriented values.

The Newton Correctional Facility program, known as the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, is sponsored by Prison Fellowship. President Bush has called InnerChange a model for faith-based social services. Similar programs operate in Texas, Kansas and Minnesota. [...]

The Bible-based program has been at the Newton prison since October 1999, with inmates spending days in academic and Christian education, counseling and work. There is an emphasis on morality, helping others and on personal responsibility.

The Newton program has about eight staff members, paid with private money, and there are scores of church volunteers. Each inmate has a mentor and a sponsoring church when he is released.

Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said this week that the Newton program does not use taxpayer money for religious education or counseling. Public money does pay for food, housing, clothing and other services similar to those provided to all general population inmates, he said.

The Newton program has had participation by Jews, Muslims and atheists and does not discriminate against anyone, said Jerry Wilger of Durango, Colo., national director of InnerChange Freedom Initiative.

"The government is interested in reducing recidivism, increasing public safety, and reducing the burden of government, and that is what we partner with them to do," Wilger said.

The lawsuits contend InnerChange inmates have privileges not accorded other prisoners, including keys to their cells; access to private bathrooms; free telephone calls to family; and access to big-screen TVs, computers and art supplies.

Here is modern liberalism carried to its final demented conclusion. Rather than support a program that appears to be having some success rehabilitating prisoners, the Left demands it be stopped because it has a religious (though non-denominational) focus. Better that these guys be recidivists than that Norman Lear's delicate sensibilities be offended.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:43 PM


REVIEW: of Alone In IZ World (Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo`ole) (Jamie O'Brien, Rambles)
First of all, it is no exaggeration to say that Alone In IZ World is the most popular Hawaiian album ever issued. It is the first to jump into the No. 1 spot on Billboard's world music charts--in fact, it's the first independent release ever to do that. To understand why the album has created such a stir, it's important to begin to understand the phenomenon of IZ: who Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was.

IZ was a big man, in more ways than one. He was 6'2" and at one time reputed to weigh 750 pounds. For 18 years, he was a member of the legendary Makaha Sons of Ni'ihau; a giant of a man, dwarfing the ukulele he used to accompany his singing so well, with a pure tenor voice. He died of respiratory failure in 1997 and was only the fifth person to lie in state in the Capitol Building. A crowd of 10,000 filed past his casket. IZ meant a lot to many people. [...]

This album, sensitively produced by Jon de Mello, friend and colleague of IZ, is a perfect introduction to the man and his music. Many of the tracks are simply IZ, his voice and his ukulele, while others feature tasteful overdubs by musicians who understand his approach to music and life. [...]

The album is sprinkled with gems, many in Hawaiian. There are some songs from the islands, familiar through the work of other artists such as Gabby Pahinui and Dennis Kamakahi, as well as from elsewhere -- a delightful incorporation of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," or a magical interpretation of "Over The Rainbow."

Songs like the moving "Starting All Over," with its heartfelt spoken introduction, are almost guaranteed to stop you in your tracks. IZ, singing with simplicity and humility, has touched something deep and universal. He was only 38 when he died, but his short life had had its complications and problems. His experiences are apparent in the depth of feeling one hears in his voice.

For whatever reason, they had this disc at our library today. The cover features the six or seven hundred pound Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo`ole floating in a pool. It seemed worth giving a listen, particularly since our high temperature was negative 5 today.

It's hard to describe how ethereal he sounds, but if you're familiar with Ted Hawkins--whose The Next Hundred Years came out and brought him improbable popular notice just before he died--there's a similar quality here, which surely we must read into the music to some degree, of someone singing his farewells. Don't know about the tunes that are sung in Hawaiian, but In This Life and Starting All Over Again are like someone singing his own eulogy, but rather joyfully.

You can check out some samples here. It's quite beautiful.

-ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Alone in IZ World (Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo`ole) (2002 NA HOKU HANOHANO AWARDS)
-ESSAY: "IZ" will always be: The revered isle singer, beset with respiratory and other medical problems, dies at 38 (Catherine Kekoa Enomoto and Gregg K. Kakesako, Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
-ESSAY: `n Dis Life' Israel touched many: His legacy continues through the message of his music (Catherine Kekoa Enomoto and Tim Ryan, Honolulu Star-Bulletin)
-TRIBUTE SITE: Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo`ole (Hawaiian Island Music)
-Israel Kamakawiwo`ole Memorial Page (Born May 20, 1959--Died June 26, 1997)
-Bradda Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: This page is dedicated to the Hawaiian Supah-man, Bradda IZ!
-Mountain Apple Company

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 PM


$2 Federal Cigarette Tax Hike Sought: Increase Could Cut Use And Save Lives, Health Commission Tells Bush (Ceci Connolly, February 13, 2003, Washington Post)
A federal health commission on smoking is recommending that the Bush administration raise the federal tax on cigarettes from 39 cents to $2.39 a pack, arguing that the huge increase could prevent 3 million premature deaths and help 5 million Americans quit smoking within a year.

At least half of the $28 billion expected to be generated by the tax increase would be invested in anti-tobacco efforts such as a national quit line, a major advertising campaign and insurance coverage for federal workers seeking treatment.

Better take that $28 billion and put it into Social Security. We save a lot of money when these folks die prematurely and don't pull down the benefits they'd get over a full lifetime.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


CIA 'sabotaged inspections and hid weapons details' (Andrew Buncombe, 14 February 2003, Independent uk)
Senior democrats have accused the CIA of sabotaging weapons inspections in Iraq by refusing to co-operate fully with the UN and withholding crucial information about Saddam Hussein's arsenal. Led by Senator Carl Levin, the Democrats accused the CIA of making an assessment that the inspections were unlikely to be a success and then ensuring they would not be. They have accused the CIA director of lying about what information on the suspected location of weapons of mass destruction had been passed on.

Are the Democrats aware that the 70s are over?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


Mexico Detains Iraqis At Tijuana Airport: Suspects Thought To Have Been Headed To United States (AP, February 13, 2003)
Mexican authorities have detained six Iraqi citizens who they believe intended to cross into the United States from Tijuana.

The five men and one woman claimed to be German citizens when they arrived at the Tijuana airport Tuesday night on a flight from Mexico City.

10 Iraqis detained in Jamaica were headed to Belize (News5 Online)
F.B.I. agents on Tuesday were questioning ten Iraqi men who were detained at Montego Bay's airport, Jamaican police said, but did not say why they are being held. The police detained the ten men on Monday after reviewing airport passenger lists and discovering they all held Iraqi passports, police spokesman Lancelot Tyrell said Tuesday. The men had arrived on Sunday on a flight from Havana and had been scheduled to leave Monday night for Belize, he said.

A team of about twenty F.B.I. agents arrived in this north-coast tourist town Tuesday and began interrogating the suspects, who were being held at an undisclosed location, Tyrell said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 PM


Frist Rescinds Recess Threat, Will Allow Senate Full Week Off (Paul Kane, Feb. 13, 2003, Roll Call)
Backing down from a threat he issued earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Thursday the chamber would have its full Presidents Day recess next week.

Thus, ever, is the GOP the Stupid Party.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


One for All (Daniel W. Drezner, 02.12.03, New Republic)
In its foreign economic policy, the administration has played the part of responsible hegemon to the European Union's petulant protectionism. Yes, the farm bill and the steel tariffs were problematic. But one can argue that these steps were necessary evils to secure congressional backing for trade promotion authority (and that they pale in comparison to EU protectionism). The United States took the lead in jump-starting the latest round of World Trade Organization talks. On both agricultural and manufacturing barriers, U.S. trade negotiators have demonstrated a willingness to liberalize that makes their European counterparts blanch. The United States has been equally aggressive in pushing a hemispheric free trade area, as well as free trade agreements with Southern Africa, Morocco, and Australia. The administration has bolstered its foreign aid budget by 50 percent and pushed for more concessionary spending from the international financial institutions. [...]

[W]hy does the Bush administration receive no credit for its multilateralism? Part of the explanation is obvious. [...]

The second reason is that the American view of multilateralism differs from most other countries. For the United States, multilateralism is a means to an end. The Bush NSS explicitly states: "In all cases, international obligations are to be taken seriously. They are not to be undertaken symbolically to rally support for an ideal without furthering its attainment." This administration is consistent on this point--when multilateral rules are broken, be they IMF lending agreements or UN Security Council resolutions, the United States will use the necessary means to enforce the norms underlying those multilateral institutions.

For much of Europe and the rest of the world, multilateralism remains an end in itself.

Very well balanced essay, especially for the New Republic. (Should we expect it to wobble back to the Right now that Al Gore is retired?) And Mr. Drezner gets big bonus points for openly stating what should have been obvious to everyone about George W. Bush's trade tactics for two years now.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM


Deadlock Over Estrada Deepens: White House Rejects Democrats' Request for Nominee's Memos (Helen Dewar, February 13, 2003, Washington Post)
In another development, Bush last night nominated a member of former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr's team to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, based in St. Louis.

The nominee, Steven M. Colloton of Iowa, was a law clerk for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Democrats had wanted Bush to nominate Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ronnie White, a witness for the opposition during Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's confirmation battle.

After they pick up some more Senate seats in '04, it would be enormously satisfying to see the Administration nominate Starr to the Supreme Court.

Landrieu disavows Estrada ads (Stephen Dinan, 2/13/03, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, who is now opposing the nomination of Miguel Estrada to a federal appeals court judgeship, ran Spanish-language radio ads during her campaign for a December runoff election saying she supported his nomination.

The ads, which ran on a New Orleans radio station for almost two weeks, praised Mrs. Landrieu's outreach to Hispanics and specifically noted Mr. Estrada.

"Mary Landrieu also supported the candidacy of the Honduran Miguel Estrada for the federal court of appeals," the ad said, according to an English translation provided by the Republican National Committee.

In a statement, Mrs. Landrieu acknowledged the ads ran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:25 PM


Dennis Miller Takes on a Whining Phil Donahue (Media Research, 2/13/03)
MSNBC viewers got a lively hour Wednesday night/late afternoon as Donahue came live from Los Angeles at 5pm PST/8pm EST with Dennis Miller as the guest for the hour. So much good stuff, but only so much time to transcribe it. But we got down some of the best parts.

Miller so flustered Donahue that he went on a rant about how people like Miller are trying to marginalize" liberals. Becoming a parody of himself, Donahue whined about how "you're making us to be some sort of wimpy kind of people who, woo, woo, we don't get it. We don't see evil. We think everything is a nice fairy tale. That is an attempt to marginalize us."

Donahue also claimed to be a conservative Republican: "We do not think one man should have the Army, Navy, and Marines to send the war all by himself and without the advice and consent of Congress as the Constitution calls us, upon us to do. That makes me conservative. I'm for the Constitution. I would make a good Republican."

When Donahue charged that dropping "incendiary devices on a crowded city at night where old people and children are sleeping" will give "Osama a poster for recruiting more angry young Islamic militants," an incredulous Miller fired back: "Oh, you believe he needs that, Phil? Do you really believe that he needs that?"

It got so ugly it was hard to watch. If you believed in conspiracy it wouldn't be hard to convince yourself that Mr. Donahue was a Republican and that he was acting as a double agent to make liberalism look ridiculous.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM


Now Blair clashes with Germans (Charles Reiss, 13 February 2003, Evening Standard)
A fresh rift opened today between Britain and Germany as Tony Blair condemned Iraq for a " significant breach" of United Nations rules--only to be slapped down by Berlin.

The trigger for the latest in a series of bitter rows was the report that weapons inspectors had uncovered damning evidence that Saddam Hussein is building long-range ballistic missiles.

The chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, is set to report that Iraq al-Samoud 2 missiles break a 150km limit imposed by the UN.

The Prime Minister was in no doubt about the consequences. He said: "If these reports are correct, it is very serious. It would be not just a failure to declare and disclose information but a breach of Resolution 1441."

Mr Blair was backed by Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, at Downing Street for talks. He called it "another example of Iraq's refusal to abide by the Security Council."

Within minutes, Germany denied that this was the "smoking gun" needed to trigger a war.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told his parliament that there was still no evidence to show that the regime of Saddam Hussein was in "material breach" of UN rules. He renewed his insistence that the weapons inspectors should be given more time to do their job before any resort to war.

We get it: until Saddam lobs a nuke into Paris or Munich there's no such thing as a breach, is there?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 PM


Washington Wrap: The More the Merrier (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker and Steve Chaggaris, Feb. 13, 2003, CBS News Political Unit)
With former Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun planning to file presidential committee papers with the FEC next week and others getting close to following her, the six-pack of Democratic candidates may be a keg by springtime.

Florida Sen. Bob Graham, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Sen. Gary Hart all are all making loud noises about running. Two other senators, Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut, have repeatedly been mentioned as possible candidates; Dodd says he'll decide in the next few weeks but Biden says he'll wait until the fall.

Clark, the former NATO Supreme Commander who's been working at an investment firm in his native Arkansas since retiring from the military, has been the flirtiest of the prospective candidates so far, possibly because his job as a CNN military analyst would be in jeopardy if he declares his candidacy.

Last week, after AFL-CIO political chairman Gerald McEntee told the AP that the retired general would announce plans to run within three weeks, Clark told the AP: "I'm not a member of a political party, I'm not a candidate, I haven't raised any political money. I don't have any timeline."

On Monday, however, Clark is heading to every Democrat's favorite winter hotspot, Manchester, N.H., for a meeting with Democratic activists, according to the political website PoliticsNH.com. A cynic might argue that's an odd trip for a man without presidential ambitions.

As we reported earlier this week, Graham plans to file presidential committee papers with the FEC in the next two or three weeks. He also plans to start hiring key staffers and has been actively lining up key Democratic wallets for a campaign. Graham, still recovering from Jan. 31 heart valve replacement surgery, has said he'll make a final, definite decision on running by mid-April. Filing papers with the FEC will allow him to start raising money, however.

Kucinich - a liberal House member, former Cleveland mayor and ardent opponent of war against Iraq - starts a five-day visit to Iowa over the weekend. His associates tell the AP that he plans to announce his decision in the next week, which would allow him to have a speaking slot at the Feb. 20-22 DNC winter meeting in Washington.

Hart - who ran for president twice before, in 1984 and 1988, before his political career was derailed by the Donna Rice affair – has spent the last few months traveling the country making policy speeches, focusing particularly on what he considers the Bush administration's lack of focus on the threat of new terrorist attacks. Hart has said he'll make a final decision on making a third presidential bid in April.

The Democratic presidential primaries are starting to resemble the barroom scene in Star Wars.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 PM


Born at 12 1/2 ounces, baby now home (UPI, 2/13/03)
Michael Despain spent his first full day at his Monee, Ill., home Wednesday, four months after being born at just 12 1/2 ounces. [...]

Michael was delivered by Caesarean section Oct. 18, a month after doctors had determined Michael and his twin had stopped growing after 22 weeks gestation and their heartbeats were irregular. Janet Despain, 28, said her newborns were so tiny she could have held them in one hand.

Doctors said Michael was less than half the size of a normal 26-week fetus, but though he suffered a collapsed lung at birth, he did not experience other problems that generally plague premature infants, including brain hemorrhaging, heart problems and infections. Janet's lungs, however, were less mature than Michael's and she died six hours after birth.

According to Ms Lee's libertarianism, Michael Despain was not an individual on the morning of October 18th and therefore had no rights.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:35 PM


Fresh blow dealt to Nato's credibility (Judy Dempsey, February 12 2003, Financial Times)
Nato's credibility Wednesday night suffered another blow after France, Belgium and Germany again blocked plans to make contingency plans to defend Turkey against any attack from Iraq.

Lord Robertson, Nato secretary-general, had been warned by France it would not consider any of the US requests to provide security guarantees to Turkey.

Paris had wanted to wait until Thursday's meeting in New York when Hans Blix, United Nations chief weapons inspector, will deliver another report to the UN Security Council.

Lord Robertson, however, called yet another meeting of the North Atlantic Council - the alliance's highest political body, which is headed by the 19 ambassadors - despite being told agreement was not forthcoming.

France, supported by Gerhard Schršder, German chancellor, insisted they wanted to pursue all diplomatic efforts before committing Nato to taking any military decisions.

France believes the US is using Nato as a cover for US troops in Turkey in addition to providing a diplomatic and political prop to US war aims in Iraq.

Two questions:

(1) Why does France have a say in this if they aren't part of the NATO military structure?

(2) Why do people consider a nation that won't commit its military to that structure to be an ally?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 PM


Blix douses plan to add inspectors: Says the real issue is Iraqi co-operation; comments lend support to U.S. case for war (Steven Edwards, 2/13/03, National Post)
In a statement that appeared to bolster Washington's case for disarming Iraq by force, the United Nations' chief weapons inspector yesterday dismissed a Franco-German plan to do the job through beefed-up inspections.

Hans Blix, in charge of the hunt for biological and chemical weapons, said no amount of inspectors can disarm Iraq unless Baghdad co-operates fully. He said increasing the number of inspectors would be "useful" but is "not the essential thing."

"One can have more inspectors, but we do already mount quite a few inspection teams every day," he said.

"[It] still remains vital that you have good co-operation from the Iraqis on substance, not only on process."

Mr. Blix's remarks, combined with a statement earlier this week that Iraq has failed to account for chemical and biological weapons known to the UN, suggest he will give an unfavourable report on the extent of Iraqi co-operation when he next reports to the Security Council on Friday. [...]

Mr. Blix stopped short yesterday of saying there is a case for abandoning inspections, which resumed on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus imposed by Baghdad. "This is a little short to call it a day," he said.

However, he said he detected no "drastic change" in Iraq's attitude following meetings with leaders of the regime in Baghdad on the weekend.

"There were some more focused explanations on central issues like VX [gas] and anthrax," Mr. Blix said. "One original document was handed to us, and they informed us about a new commission that will try to find more documents in Iraq. But I think they had better work very fast."

NECN (New England Cable News) did a piece last night with a correspondent from Baghdad. He said the inspectors felt like they'd been humiliated. On Monday when they arrived they thought they had a prior agreement for U-2 overflights, private interviews with scientists, "Parliamentary legislation" disavowing the development of WMD, and release of paperwork explaining where the VX and other chemicals had gone. Instead, the records were a joke, the legislation is contemplated for some time in the future, several scientists just didn't show up for scheduled interviews, and the overflight agreement was conditional.

Folks who insist that Saddam is a rational actor, interested only in his own survival, rather than a megalomaniac, have some 'splainin' to do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


Rev. Al no longer only black Prez hopeful (JOEL SIEGEL, February 13th, 2003, NY DAILY NEWS)
The Rev. Al Sharpton's goal of becoming an influential player in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes suffered a potential blow yesterday when another black politician signaled that she's running, too. [...]

Some Democrats - certainly those around Sharpton - suspect she's running at the request of Democratic leaders who hope she can siphon votes from him and diminish his influence in the race. [...]

Some Sharpton backers blasted Moseley Braun. "This is a dirty trick on the Democratic Party's part," said Hermene Hartman, publisher of In-Digo, a Chicago newspaper aimed at black readers.

As Harry Belafonte would say: This is just another case of using the House hands to keep the Field hands in their place.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 AM


Keep Talking About Miguel Estrada (NY Times, February 13, 2003)
The Bush administration is missing the point in the Senate battle over Miguel Estrada, its controversial nominee to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Democrats who have vowed to filibuster the nomination are not engaging in "shameful politics," as the president has put it, nor are they anti-Latino, as Republicans have cynically charged. They are insisting that the White House respect the Senate's role in confirming judicial nominees.

The Bush administration has shown no interest in working with Senate Democrats to select nominees who could be approved by consensus, and has dug in its heels on its most controversial choices.

This is completely disingenuous. If there were no consensus in favor of Mr. Estrada the Democrats could just let the vote go to the floor. They're filibustering because he'd be confirmed with a majority of at least 55 and probably closer to 60 votes. The Constitution nowhere suggests that a supermajority should be required for judicial appointments, which does make this a political matter rather than a dispute about the Senate's role in judiciary appointments. Of course there's nothing wrong with playing politics, nor even with trying to stop a nominee because of his ethnicity, so long as you're willing to pay a political price for it. Talk away...
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 AM


C-SPAN host wants to get to know writers (Sylvia A. Smith, Feb. 02, 2003, The Journal Gazette)
He asked what S&M sex is. He asked who Abraham Lincoln was. He asked Jimmy Carter to analyze his role as a father. He asks why authors dedicate their books to the people they did; where they write; what their parents think of the book.

When Brian Lamb sits down with an author for an hour on C-SPAN's "Booknotes," as he has weekly since 1989, the conversation has one point:

To teach someone something. On the best of days, that someone is Lamb. [...]

Lamb stands out among author interviewer on two counts. He reads the book, and he asks short questions that allow the author to talk - often at length. On one typical show last month, in fact, the "Booknotes" guest spoke 8,026 words. Lamb uttered 1,251.

"One of the things about interviewers in television is they abhor a vacuum," Lamb said. "Commercial television doesn't allow them to have a pause. Interviewers are almost trained putting words in people's mouths. They ask closed questions. They say to the guest: You think that George Bush is a great president, don't you? Well, we have just the opposite approach: What kind of president do you think George Bush is?

"That person can take that anywhere they want to. You're not prejudicing their answer. You're not forcing them to say, 'No, I don't think he's a great president.' It flows. They're not used to that."

Lamb readily acknowledges that C-SPAN's Joe Friday approach doesn't appeal to everyone. But its fans are diehards. [...]

Zacher's book sold out after his "Booknotes" appearance. So did "Carnegie," a biography by Peter Krass that was aired Nov. 24.

"There was a huge spike in sales," Krass said, noting that before his "Booknotes" interview, "Carnegie" was ranked about 2,000th on Amazon.com, where rankings are based on sales. After the program, he said, "it skyrocketed to 300."

Count us among the diehards. We know the Krass family a little--see book review--and Mr. Krass says Brian Lamb is exactly as nice as he seems.

If you aren't hooked yet, this week's show looks terrific: Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order by Robert Kagan (C-SPAN, Sunday, February 16, 2003, 8 & 11 pm). The book expands upon this outstanding piece Power and Weakness, which foreshadowed the current NATO crack-up and explains that, contrary to those who think this is all a matter of temper tantrums, the split between Europe and America is a function of the clash of civilizations--Europe having become post-Western.

Brian Lamb's America (David Brooks, Weekly Standard)

THE QUINTESSENTIAL C-SPAN MOMENT came during a Booknotes program in 1991, while host Brian Lamb was interviewing Martin Gilbert, the author of a biography of Winston Churchill. Gilbert was talking about the interplay between private scandal and public life when the following exchange took place:

Gilbert: When Churchill was 20 and a young soldier, he was accused of buggery, and, you know, that’s, you know, a terrible accusation. Well, he ended up prime minister for just quite a long time.

Lamb: Why was he accused of buggery and what is it?

Gilbert: You don’t know what buggery is?

Lamb: Define it, please.

Gilbert: Oh dear. Well, I—I’m sorry. I thought the word we—buggery is what used to be called a—the—an unnatural act of the Oscar Wilde type is how it was actually phrased in the euphemism of the British papers. It’s—you don’t know what buggery is?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 AM


I'm Persuaded (Mary McGrory, February 6, 2003, Washington Post)
Of course, Bush chose Powell to make the case before the United Nations. He has no one else who so commands the country's respect -- or the world's.

Powell took his seat in the United Nations and put his shoulder to the wheel. He was to talk for almost an hour and a half. His voice was strong and unwavering. He made his case without histrionics of any kind, with no verbal embellishments. He aired his tapes of conversations between Iraqi army officers who might well be supposed to be concealing toxic materials or enterprises.

He talked of the mobile factories concealed in trains and trucks that move along roads and rails while manufacturing biological agents. I was struck by their ingenuity and the insistence on manufacturing agents that cause diseases such as gangrene, plague, cholera, camelpox and hemorrhagic fever.

Would Saddam Hussein use them? He already has, against his own people and Iranians. He has produced four tons of deadly VX: "A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes." The cumulative effect was stunning. I was reminded of the day long ago when John Dean, a White House toady, unloaded on Richard Nixon and you could see the dismay written on Republican faces that knew impeachment was inevitable.

I wasn't so sure about the al Qaeda connection. But I had heard enough to know that Saddam Hussein, with his stockpiles of nerve gas and death-dealing chemicals, is more of a menace than I had thought. I'm not ready for war yet. But Colin Powell has convinced me that it might be the only way to stop a fiend, and that if we do go, there is reason.

Shield Us From War (Mary McGrory, February 13, 2003, Washington Post)
The pope, God bless him, has the right idea. He has sent a cardinal, his personal emissary, to Baghdad.

He is Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, and he is carrying a message to Saddam Hussein. May his eminence make a lengthy stay. And when he returns to Rome, the other 170 members of the College of Cardinals -- some of whom might welcome a chance to do good -- should follow him, one by one, to Iraq.

It is a papal variation on a theme composed by "Old Europe": wimpy, out-of-it Germany and France, which want to flood Baghdad with visitors whom the faith-based, hellbent White House hawk will dare not bomb. [...]

These measures may not cancel the bloody enterprise that consumes the White House. They may only delay it, and not for long. But everyone needs a respite from the encircling apprehension and dread. Beginning with the president, all should take a deep breath and reassess. Colin Powell is working overtime to close the loop on Iraq's ties to al Qaeda. In his masterly U.N. speech he made the case against Saddam Hussein, but not the case for war.

Anybody know a good personal injury attorney: these columnists are causing an epidemic of whiplash in their readers. We're thinking class-action suit....

February 12, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:29 PM


We're still not past postmodernism: An archly ironic view continues to permeate pop culture despite claims that irony was dead after 9/11. (ROBERT W. BUTLER, February 9, 2003, The Kansas City Star)
One big attraction of postmodernism is its playfulness. Rather than becoming aggravated by the told-in-reverse chronology of the film "Memento," postmodern audiences find pleasure in experiencing this cinematic puzzle.

The downside is that postmodernism can seem terribly cool and uninvolving.

"It creates an intellectualized film-going experience," Poe said. "The problem is that it's more fun to think about some of these films than to actually experience them."

Thompson describes postmodernism as "all smoke and mirrors. It never lights on a topic. It refuses to be taken seriously."

Postmodernism is not so much about things, as about how we perceive things.

" 'Adaptation' is a good thing for American movies," Thompson continued. "It makes us question the nature of storytelling. For every corny movie like 'Titanic' that you have to let wash over you, it's nice to have another movie that brings attention to the process itself."

Even so, the appeal of postmodernism is limited, Thompson says: "A movie like 'Adaptation' is like a trip to your grandmother's house. It's really satisfying to visit now and then, but you don't want to move into your grandma's house."

Poe puts it this way: "Most people pay their seven bucks for the right to identify with the characters on the screen. Popcorn tends to go better with feeling than with thinking."

And Basinger doesn't see the old narrative conventions vanishing any time soon.

"People go to a movie that they can respond to," she said. "They find it, they tell each other about it, they go see it. As long as that process is still going on, the traditional movie has a future."

One of our favorite things about post-modernism is that it was central to the first novel, Don Quijote--where, in the second book, characters "recognize" the Don, having read about him in the first book--making it a pre-modern innovation.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 PM


China boom argument ignores the golden rule (Jake van der Kamp, February 13, 2003, South China Morning Post)
The key to a successful industrial boom is not primarily low wages and the application of new technology. It is first of all money - the raising of it, the right application of it, the judicious control of how it is spent and the return on investment of it. For this you need a financial system that operates on market principles.

But the mainland has no such thing. Most of the money its banks raise from the public is invested into a growing fiscal deficit, construction of public works of questionable usefulness and the propping up of loss-making state enterprises that should have long been shut down. A good proportion of it is also simply "misplaced". There is not much left over for financing of private sector industrial enterprise. [...]

If Beijing welcomes foreign corporations such as Wal-Mart to source low-cost quality goods in the mainland at low operating costs then the United States retail giant is only too happy to extract all the profits for itself and book them elsewhere.

Take note that this is not how the Industrial Revolution worked in Britain or America in the last half of the 19th century. Both of these had as sophisticated a financial system as was possible at the time and could apply it to new technologies on their own. They grew wealthy by being the investors in their industries as well as having the workshops of those industries located in their territories.

So when our headline on Mr Xie's piece says that China will dominate the world economy for a decade we need to refine things a little. If China's capital account remains closed and Beijing continues to dictate where money raised domestically will go, then it is more likely that foreign invested enterprises will come to dominate the Chinese economy. In fact they do so already.

What difference would it then make that the workshops are located in China? How does that constitute domination of the world economy?

Things would actually be the other way round. The word you are looking for here is "exploit" in its full unhappy sense of take advantage of hardworking people whose wages are suppressed and of a government willing to make big tax concessions and then laugh all the way to the bank, a foreign bank.

China is in effect a modern colony of the West. Once imperialists sought colonies so that they could extract natural resources and ship them home to be manufactured into finished goods by a domestic labor force. Today the natural resource that we're looking for is the labor force itself, any that's relatively skilled and will work for less than the rate that our own asks. This fact hides a number of great weakness in those countries that do manufacturing, chief among them that the products being made are designed, marketed, etc. abroad. The brain work stays in the imperial nations. Only the scut work is done in places like China. And every few years some other country comes along with a population willing to work cheaper than yours, so unless you've really taken advantage of your little boomlet to diversify and modernize your economy and to learn the culture of the imperial
powers, you're soon left in the dust, as witness Japan. So far there are few signs that China is learning anything.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:20 PM


Belgium asserts right to try Sharon (Ian Black, February 13, 2003, The Guardian)
Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, can be tried for genocide in Belgium once he has left office, the Belgian appeal court ruled last night.

The judgment opens the way for survivors of a 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees in Beirut to press their case against the Likud leader when his retirement loses him his immunity from prosecution. [...]

Last month the Belgian senate amended the 1993 "universal jurisdiction" law to let prosecutors to investigate suspected war criminals even if they do not live in Belgium, removing the restriction which has so far prevented them investigating cases abroad.

There have been attempts to bring similar cases against other world leaders, including the Cuban president, Fidel Castro, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, and the former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Just for the sake of form--so that their opposition to the Iraq war doesn't seem mostly driven by anti-Semitism and so they seem mildly concerned about the plight of the Iraqi people--couldn't they indict Saddam instead?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 PM


We all now know what Americans think of the French. Here a leading Paris journalist bites back (Annick Cojean, February 13, 2003, The Guardian)
What capitulation! Frankly, my Anglo-Saxon friends, I can't think of any other word to use. Capitulation. Capitulation of thought. Capitulation of independence. Capitulation of investigation, of research, of analysis, of putting things into perspective, of the spirit of openness, and of the sense of history. Capitulation of respect for peoples and their freedom of expression. Capitulation of debate, of real debate, where one listens to another without rejecting them straight away; where one tries to understand and explain one's point of view, without coarsely characterising it; where one avoids cliches and stereotypes.

It might be easier to move away from stereotypes if she didn't use the word "capitulation" seven times in one paragraph. Was a crowd of Germans moving towards her?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


For two hundred years we had sawed and sawed and sawed at the branch we were sitting on. And in the end, much more suddenly than anyone had foreseen, our efforts were rewarded, and down we came. But unfortunately there had been a little mistake. The thing at the bottom was not a bed of roses after all, it was a cesspool full of barbed wire.
-George Orwell, 1940

One can hardly wait to hear folks try to square this with the notion that Orwell was not essentially a conservative by his later years.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:07 PM


Baptists Boycott French Wines & German Beer (Dean Peters, Blogs4God)

The Wife is already boycotting French brie, though I tried to explain California is no better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:49 PM


Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll: Libertarians have more fun--and make more sense. (SUSAN LEE, February 12, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
[P]erhaps the single distinguishing feature between conservatives and libertarians is that libertarians are concerned with individual rights and responsibilities over government--or community--rights and responsibilities. Consider how conservatives and libertarians divide over cultural issues or social policy. Libertarians are not comfortable with normative questions. They admit to one moral principle from which all preferences follow; that principle is self-ownership--individuals have the right to control their own bodies, in action and speech, as long as they do not infringe on the same rights for others. The only role for government is to help people defend themselves from force or fraud. Libertarians do not concern themselves with questions of "best behavior" in social or cultural matters.

By contrast, conservatives are comfortable with normative issues. Conservative thought works within a hierarchical structure for behavior that has, at its top, absolute and enduring values. These values are not the result of the agnostic process of the free market; they are ontologically inherent. Because conservatives assume that there is a recognizable standard of excellence, they deal easily with notions of virtue and moral behavior. For example, they argue that the state of marriage between a man and a woman possesses great virtue. And they can go on to distinguish lesser states of virtue in other types of relationships. This process of distinguishing isn't an entirely epistemological argument, however; it is based, in part, on tradition and, in part, on sociology taken from assumptions about "best behavior."

Libertarians believe that marriage between a man and a woman is just one among other equally permissible relationships; they eschew the question of whether there is inherent virtue in each possible state. The only virtue to be inferred is a grand one--that those involved are freely consenting and thus expressing individual preferences in a free market competition among these states. It is no wonder, then, that the cultural debate between conservatives and libertarians takes place over a great divide. Unlike debates over economic policies, there are no liminal issues. Indeed, there cannot be any because the strictness of the divide is a consequence of opposing matrices. Conservative thought proceeds from absolutes, hierarchies and exclusivity. Libertarian thought promotes relativism and inclusiveness--although, admittedly, this tolerance comes from indifference to moral questions, not from a greater inborn talent to live and let live. Conservatives favor tradition and communitarian solutions, and resort to central authority when it serves their purpose. Libertarians value individual creativity and are invariably against central authority.

All this falls to the bottom line in obvious ways. Conservatives are against gay marriage, they are often ambivalent toward immigrants, and patronizing toward women; they view popular culture as mostly decadent and want to censor music, movies, video games and the Internet. They crusade against medical marijuana. For their part, libertarians argue for legalizing drugs; they are in favor of abortion and against the government prohibition of sex practices among consenting adults. They abhor censorship. In the conservative caricature, libertarians believe in sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll--but it is not far from the truth. Unfortunately, these debates are often animated by the fact that conservatives see libertarianism only as the face of what it defends: transgendered persons adopting children, video games of violent sadism and, yes, cloning. Simply put, the shocking and repellent decline of civilization. But for libertarians, these are merely some of the many aspects of a civilization that is advancing through vast and minute experiments. The exercise of freedom trumps the discomforts of novelty.

There are any number of entirely likable and perfectly charming libertarians around--mainly wealthy young white men, especially technocrats--but whenever they open their mouths complete nonsense like this tends to come spewing out. We've previously discussed libertarianism rather fully with one of its most gracious adherents, Perry de Havilland, and amply demonstrated the incoherence of libertarian support for bio-engineering. For the purposes of Ms Lee's essay, perhaps one point will suffice: in order to arrive at the position that abortion and cloning and the like are permissible, libertarians have to make exactly the kind of normative judgment that she claims is anathema.

The judgment is rather simple and absolute, though unlike most such is quite new: that fetuses aren't individuals. Obviously if they were individuals then they would be entitled to the entire panoply of freedoms that libertarians claim for themselves--which would put a crimp in all that free sex stuff and, unless they believe in freedom so blindly that they think new borns should fend for themselves, might impose responsibilities (horrors!) on parents. Therefore, it is necessary to strip the fetus of the recognition and protection that it once enjoyed.

Many people, even non-libertarians, believe this is appropriate, however few are willing to follow the logic to its end. Having granted themselves the power to determine who's an entitled human being, an individual with rights, there's no reason to limit themselves to just writing off the fetus. It's a short step to dismissing the terminally ill or the profoundly handicapped or severely retarded, etc.. And, retrospectively, it's easy to see how the same thinking made it possible to marginalize blacks and endorse slavery. In fact, though libertarians were loud in their denunciations of Trent Lott, it is a bizarre and ugly truth that there's a strong and vocal libertarian critique of Abraham Lincoln for fighting Secession and freeing the slaves, who were mere property at the time. Lew Rockwell even has an entire King Lincoln Archive dedicated to the cause of redeeming the South and vilifying Lincoln--they blame the war not on slavery but on the South's opposition to tariffs. Get it? By being for Free Trade the Southerners become the side fighting for liberty. The archive even opens with a letter from one of the godfathers of libertarianism, Lord Acton, because, as they say: "The great classical liberal was, of course, pro-Confederacy."

The crowning achievement of these libertarians is Thomas DiLorenzo's recent book The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War--the author has numerous pieces in the aforementioned archive--which has won plaudits from all the usual suspects: Joseph R. Stromberg, The Ludwig von Mises Institute, WorldNetDaily, Laissez Faire Books, Future of Freedom Foundation, etc., etc., etc... If you want a disturbing education about libertarianism just put "dilorenzo" and "lincoln" in your Google search box and brace yourself.

Now, there are plenty of other libertarians--David Boaz & Virginia Postrel come to mind--who would, to their credit, distance themselves from these views. However, they can't distance themselves from the reality that their political views lend themselves to such thinking. So long as you base your politics on an absolute individualism and reserve the right to define who qualifies as an individual, you must bear some responsibility for the treatment of the non-individuals. And though you may be comfortable with who you've defined out of humanity today, you ought to be conscious of who your fellow believers defined out of humanity yesterday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:10 PM


Old Europe/New Europe: Rumsfeld ruffles feathers (Allston Mitchell, Tiscali Europe)
The US Secretary of Defense has been called "happy go lucky" by some and accused of having an impressionistic approach to human rights by others but nobody would be foolish enough to credit him with possessing an overabundance of tact and foresight.

The French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder recently used a glittering celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Elysee Treaty to announce their joint opposition to war against Iraq, much to the surprise of some other European leaders.

Donald Rumsfeld, responding to this united front offered by Chirac and Schroeder in refusing to be bullied into a war they deemed precipitous, dangerous if not entirely unnecessary, dubbed France and Germany the two grandes dames of Old Europe. This was not a compliment. They were countries that had missed the train and which remained reluctant to bend themselves to the new US golf-cart diplomacy where the grim details of foreign diplomacy amounted to Slovakia and Slovenia being much the same thing.

"Going to war without France is like going on a deer hunt without the accordion," said one senior Washington defence official derisively. This set the tone.

The journalistic ethics are dubious, but they even provide a helpul hint as to who the accordionist was:

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:40 PM


At long last we're engaging in a national, even international, discussion, one that should have occurred when the Iron Curtain fell, about just how much a declining Europe really matters to the American and world future. The sides are drawn along roughly from Left to Right--with Democrats convinced that a Europe which shares their bureaucratic, socialist, multiculturalist worldview must still be of central importance, while conservatives are mostly prepared to write Europe off, at least Western Europe (minus Great Britain and the Iberian penninsula), for pretty much the same reasons. The Right recognizes that countries like France and Germany have ceased to believe in Western Civilization and are therefore unfit to defend it. So the conservatives have turned their attention to formerly Third World nations--Turkey, India, etc.--that see their way out of poverty and twards effective government in adopting Western values.

The resulting debate has given us hawkish statements dismissing Europe, like the following:

Pardon me if I don't take seriously all the Euro-whining about the Bush policies toward Iraq--for one very simple reason: It strikes me as deeply unserious. It's not that there are no serious arguments to be made against war in Iraq. There are plenty. It's just that so much of what one hears coming from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac are not serious arguments. They are station identification.

They are not the arguments of people who have really gotten beyond the distorted Arab press and tapped into what young Arabs are saying about their aspirations for democracy and how much they blame Saddam Hussein and his ilk for the poor state of their region. Rather, they are the diplomatic equivalent of smoking cancerous cigarettes while rejecting harmless G.M.O.'s--an assertion of identity by trying to be whatever the Americans are not, regardless of the real interests or stakes.

And where this comes from, alas, is weakness. Being weak after being powerful is a terrible thing. It can make you stupid. It can make you reject U.S. policies simply to differentiate yourself from the world's only superpower. Or, in the case of Mr. Chirac, it can even prompt you to invite Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe--a terrible tyrant--to visit Paris just to spite Tony Blair. Ah, those principled French.

and, like this one, looking ahead to a new alliance focused on current ideals rather than outdated ethnic history:
Sometimes I wish that the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council could be chosen like the starting five for the N.B.A. All-Star team--with a vote by the fans. If so, I would certainly vote France off the Council and replace it with India. Then the perm-five would be Russia, China, India, Britain and the United States. That's more like it.

Why replace France with India? Because India is the world's biggest democracy, the world's largest Hindu nation and the world's second-largest Muslim nation, and, quite frankly, India is just so much more serious than France these days. France is so caught up with its need to differentiate itself from America to feel important, it's become silly. India has grown out of that game. India may be ambivalent about war in Iraq, but it comes to its ambivalence honestly. Also, France can't see how the world has changed since the end of the cold war. India can. [...]

The French position is utterly incoherent.

Opposed to these, we have dovish, Europhilic, Atlanticist, die-hards who are still defending the "unserious" and "incoherent" French (and their Belgian & German lapdogs):
The tension that is now rising within the Western alliance, NATO and the U.N. over how to deal with Iraq is deeply disturbing. It raises fears that the postwar security system, which stabilized the world for 50 years, could come unglued if America intervenes alone in Iraq. At the birth of this security system, Secretary of State Dean Acheson wrote a memoir titled "Present at the Creation." Can we deal with Iraq and still ensure that Secretary of State Colin Powell's memoir is not titled "Present at the Destruction"?

Yes, we can--if we, the Russians, the Chinese and the French all take a deep breath, understand our common interests and pursue them with a little more common sense and a little less bluster.

That means the Bush hawks need to realize they cannot achieve their ultimate aim of disarming and transforming Iraq without maximum international legitimacy. And the Euro-doves need to realize they cannot achieve their aims of a peaceful solution in Iraq and preserving the U.N. and the whole multilateral order without a credible threat of force against Saddam Hussein.

Let's start with the Bush hawks.

Those in the former camp would obviously ask those in the latter to explain why it's necessary to take incoherence and lack of seriousness seriously, but.... Wait. What's that? I'm sorry, we've just been informed that Tom Friedman wrote all three of those columns in rapid succession for the NY Times. It appears that it's not only NATO that's cracking up but a two-time Pulitzer prize-winning columnist. Either that or Howell Raines, Paul Krugman, and Maureen Dowd made him run the gauntlet and then write the last as penance. At the Gray Lady, apparently, the wages of deviationism is re-education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:34 AM

DOES ANYONE EDIT THE TIMES (part googleplex +1):

Pass the Duct Tape (MAUREEN DOWD, 2/12/03, NY Times)
To get Saddam, the Bush administration is even willing to remind the American public that it failed to get bin Laden. Its fixation on Saddam seems to have blinded it to the possibility that Osama might be perversely encouraging America in this war.

The administration and Al Qaeda both have a purpose for invading Iraq, and both want a regime change.

Both talk about "liberating" the Arab people, but Osama's vision is apocalyptic. He wants the Middle East--Israel and the Arab monarchies--to go up in flames. By Zionizing our battle with Iraq and promising an anti-American theocracy, he hopes to radicalize recruits for a jihad against an American occupation of Arab land.

Osama's own fanaticism was forged by foreign occupations--the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan and American forces stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Wow! We're not big fans of Ms Dowd, but this seems like a bit much for even her. "Zionizing"? Does she really wish to associate herself with conspiracy nuts, like Osama, and portray us as fighting primarily at the bidding of Jews? And, maybe more astonishing, is there any way to read that last bit so that it doesn't equate our defense of Saudi Arabia in 1991 the moral equivalent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? Can even a Times' columnist truly hate America this much?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


Twenty-Four Years of Religious Revolution (SMCCDI: Public Statement, February 11, 2003)
Almost a quarter of a century ago on the 11th of February 1979 (22 of Bahman 1357) many Iranians of the time gathered around a man who had made promises to them such as Ali's Just Government, freedom, and basic commodities for free. With an unprecedented trickery, abusing their religious beliefs and their simple-minded understanding of politics, he brought about a fundamental change not only in the lives of the active generation of the time, but also in the lives of generations to follow. Thousands of Iranians with various beliefs, which in some ways were different and even opposed to one another, gathered around a "seyed" (descendant of Ali) by the name of Ruhollah Khomeini whom, by his own admission, felt "nothing" towards his country and nation, and whose only goal was to satisfy his personal vengeance and create a platform for spreading his Stone Age ideas within the framework of an Islamic world order.

These backward movements in a progressive society, which due to various socio-political reasons had encountered a crisis of legitimacy, turned into an unprecedented change that was labeled a revolution. A revolution that provided the conditions for creating the first religious government in the civilized world of the time. A government whose base and thought was formed upon the doctrine of "sharia" (Islamic Law), and whose rule, by refuting any kind of national rule, in their own words, was based upon the rule of God's representatives on earth; and, from the beginning, they would kill their opponents as they still do. A government in which the major issues of its technocrats whom had been to the West was the radiance from women's hair and the direction relative to Mecca that bathrooms should be aligned, and, whose subsequent actions, all, are evidence to the Stone Age beliefs of its founders. A sharia government that continues, despite the passage of 24 years from the movement of its founder, everyday, for the continuance of its illegitimate existence, requires the spilling of the freedom-lovers blood and the amputation of their hands and tongues, and, which continues to stone the women in Iran, so that it can pay large sums from the national wealth of the poor nation of this country to the foreign profiteers. A government, which for maintaining itself in Iran and for propagating its expansionist religious goals has not overlooked the use of any capacity at hand, in many parts of the world by utilizing the politics of terror has created catastrophes, and has sullied the good name of Iran and Iranians.

Without doubt, the result of the unripe action of the previous generation in Iran who had placed their hopes and fate in the story of a man and a belief from Saudi Arabia of 1400 years ago, could not have a conclusion other than the black and red report of the past 24 years in our country. Black to the extent of the calamity that befell the nation like a heavenly catastrophe, and red from the beflowered corpses of thousands of freedom-loving nationalists that for more than two decades have been sacrificing their lives to Iran for humane values and to make up for the mistakes of their predecessors.

In these 24 years, the wise have been witness to the daily destruction of more and more of the positive accomplishments of many generations of Iranians, and continue to bear witness to such; for, despite the claims of the deceiving mullahs replacing Ruhollah Khomeini, not only have the conditions of Iran and the Iranians not improved, without exaggeration, every day another life is taken away from the people and another ransom is taken from the country- only to continue the existence of the charlatan replacements of Khomeini and the Republic of charlatans.

Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, on the one hand the impatience of the Iranian people who are sickened by the continuance of the religio-fascist policies and attacks on the lives, culture, and wealth of their country and nation, and on the other hand, the international reaction under American leadership in confronting the fundamentalist and terrorist foreign policy of the regime, which roots out from the ideology of its leaders, the Islamic revolution and its sour fruit are faced with a dual crisis. The new generation of Iran, which constitutes more than 70% of the population, nowadays, due to a long-term and ripe thought, have tended to the reasons of the decline of the country and to finding a way for liberating themselves from the problems that have arisen I order to attain Liberty, equality, modernity, and a comfortable living standard along with defending their national and humane values and maintaining a proper relation with other nations of the world, and now it has been a while that they have seen to an in-depth approach to the problem. The unprecedented beliefs and reactions bode well for a blooming and bright future for Iran and Iranians. The speed of this socio-political evolving thought process, especially in the aftermath of the end to the dream of "reforms from within", and the expansion of access to modern communications and media, have intensified. The important understating of this point that ideologic regimes are un-reformable, and that only a democratic secular government can avoid sacrificing the national wealth to ideologic views. The Iranians have now understood that the foundation of any future regime must be democratic, responsible to the nation, and servants of the people.

Also, due to the present international conditions, especially in the Persian Gulf region and the Middle East, and the efforts of the free world under American Leadership to end the life of fundamentalist regimes on the one hand, and on the other hand the establishment of the new world order, which can be a great boon to the economic progress of tomorrow's free Iran. An Iran that currently possesses a great educated work-force and our fellow countrymen and countrywomen with their detailed observation have come to know the limits of the regime's oppressive capabilities and who utilize the international opportunities that arise. Yes, the Islamic Republic, now, almost every day is confronted with demonstrations, strikes, and various civil disobediences from millions of Iranians and sometimes encounters the armed confrontation of youth who have lost hope; and thus, the regime has lost another leg of its governance, after deity and sharia, and now, the Iranians, despite being aware of the very high price [in casualties] it will have to pay, is actively- not inactively anymore- confronting the regime and its lackeys. The new generation in Iran, particularly the students and the women, who constitute more then 55% of the population and despite the present environment of prejudice are more aware and modernized than the women of many modernized countries, during the past months and various actions, have shown over and over that they not only are not afraid of the Islamic Republic, but that they also greet any activity to show their rejection of the Islamic Republic and want the disappearance of its and its dirty legacy from the scene of our country.

Under such circumstances, the remnants of Ruhollah Khomeini observe the 24th year of their vile revolution. A revolution that can be compared to a bulldozer that has come to demolish Iran and has placed its soil and the bodies and spirit of its children in the depths of its digging, and now, its blades have hit the hardened trunk of the people's resistance, and bit by bit it breaks.

Now, at the beginning of the anniversary of the establishment of the religious government in Iran, it is not hidden to anyone that its end is near, and that Iran and its new generation wisened by the bitter experience of nearly a quarter century and devoid of ideologic and dogmatic beliefs, are moving forward to establish a civilized, modern, and intellectual government upon the ruins of the first theocracy in today's world, based upon national goals, so that they will be joined to other progressive countries in the world and regain their rightful place among the international society.

Long Live Freedom!
Established be Secularism!

February 11, 2003 (22 Bahman 1381)

The "Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran" (SMCCDI)

Though this seems a bleak time in world affairs, it's entirely possible that we'll look back on it as the moment when democracy finally blossomed in the Islamic world, leading millions of still devout Muslims into a better, brighter future. Established be Secularism indeed.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:25 AM


Greenspan Throws Cold Water on Bush Tax Plan: Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, rebutted many of President Bush's arguments in favor of big new tax cuts. (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, 2/12/03, NY Times)
"I am not one of those who is convinced that stimulus is desirable policy at this point," he told lawmakers at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. "My own judgment is that fiscal stimulus is premature." [...]

Mr. Greenspan bluntly challenged the administration's contention that big budget deficits pose little danger or that the government can largely offset them through faster economic growth.

"We are all too aware that government spending programs and tax preferences can be easy to initiate or expand but extraordinarily difficult to trim or shut down," Mr. Greenspan told the Senate panel.

"Faster economic growth, doubtless, would make deficits easier to contain," he added. "But faster economic growth alone is not likely to be the full solution to the currently projected long-term deficits."

Mr. Greenspan also took issue with the Bush administration's arguments that budget deficits have little effect on interest rates.

"Contrary to what some have said, it does affect long-term interest rates and it does have an impact on the economy," he said.

Mr. Greenspan is right in the first instance and wrong in the second. There is no need for immediate stimulus, something the Administration has made clear by instead proposing a package of long term reforms in the guise of stimulus. They should be passed because they are good for the structure of economy.

On the other hand--obligatory economicspeak--interest rates fell for twenty years while we ran sizeable deficits, but as soon as we headed into surplus the Fed started cranking rates up again, exacerbating, if not causing, the current slow growth economy. This was of course the exact opposite of what we'd been promised for decades; if only we got our fiscal house in order, lower rates would be the reward. Today, with the return of deficits, rates are low. Let the economy begin to show signs of robust recovery and Mr. Greenspan will raise them again. Fool us once; shame on you. Fool us twice; shame on us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:13 AM


Filibuster on Judgeship Halts Business in the Senate (NEIL A. LEWIS, 2/12/03, NY Times)
Senate Democrats began a filibuster today, speaking on the Senate floor without respite, to block a vote on President Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada to a federal appeals court in Washington. [...]

For their part, Republicans responded defiantly: talk all you want, we won't stop you, said Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the Republican conference chairman. But, Mr. Santorum warned, be prepared to stay here through a planned recess and keep talking. Congress is out next week for the President's Day recess.

It remains unclear whether the current procedure will resemble those of old in which filibustering senators engaged in marathon oratorical sessions to to put off a vote.

But for now, other Senate business has come to a halt over the nomination of Mr. Estrada, a 42-year-old Washington lawyer named by Mr. Bush to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, widely seen as second in importance only to the Supreme Court.

With a 51-member majority in the 100-member Senate, Republicans have the votes to confirm Mr. Estrada as the first Hispanic judge on the appeals court in Washington. But they would need at least 9 Democrats to reach the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster.

Is this really a campaign platform the Democrats can win with: We shut down the government in wartime just to keep one Hispanic off the bench?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 AM


-ESSAY: ON LANGUAGE: Four Score and Seven (WILLIAM SAFIRE, February 9, 2003, NY Times Magazine)
In 1954, Congress added the phrase under God to the Pledge of Allegiance after the phrase ''one nation.'' That was recently challenged by some who feel that an official evocation of the deity breaches the constitutional wall of separation between church and state.

Neither the Nicolay copy nor the Hay copy has that phrase in it. But all three copies he later made for gifts did read ''that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom.'' So did the speech as transcribed by different reporters on the scene at Gettysburg that was published contemporaneously. Did he ad-lib those two words? ''He wouldn't have improvised,'' says David Donald, this generation's leading Lincoln biographer. ''That would have been highly uncharacteristic. That would be unlike Lincoln. But I would say he did, in fact, say it during the speech.''

That suggests to me that Lincoln inserted under God into his reading copy, which has vanished. (If you find it in your attic, call the Library of Congress.) Forget the ''back-of-the-envelope'' myth; that final addition shows he was polishing that speech right until the time came to deliver it.

Unfortunately, the best account of the drafting of the Address is found in Garry Wills's, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America, which, like all his books, is partisan Leftism wrapped in readable history. But the most interesting dispute over the meaning of Lincoln's words comes from Willmoore Kendal, Harry Jaffa and Harvey Mansfield. And the best introduction to that dispute and its deeper significances is probably here: Jaffa Versus Mansfield: Does America Have A Constitutional or A "Declaration of Independence" Soul? (Thomas G. West, Claremont Institute).
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


Digging Deeper: Excavating hip hop's history with the Roots (Britt Robson, 2/12/03, City Pages)
Through its first quarter-century of existence, hip hop has spawned merely two self-contained live bands whose influence has had any longevity. The first was Stetsasonic, featuring DBC doubling on drums and keyboards and Prince Paul slicing and dicing the mix. When I slapped my vinyl version of On Fire, Stet's 1986 debut, on the turntable the other day, the anachronistic, nursery-rhyme flow mimicked Run-D.M.C.--albeit with buoyantly live beats, and, on "Rock De La Stet," some inspired guitar wankery. Although Stetsasonic would go on to release two more records over the next five years, they soon became an obscure footnote in hip-hop history: Members Prince Paul and Fruitkwan found more lucrative, higher-profile settings with De La Soul and Gravediggaz.

Then there is the second band: the Roots. A decade after dropping their first disc (the now out-of-print Organix), the Philly stalwarts sound better than ever--indeed, better than anybody. With Phrenology, the band's masterfully ambitious sixth CD, the Roots take a quantum leap forward, living up to their name by exposing and enlivening the essence of hip hop. Phrenology makes explicit the connective roots between rock and rap music--specifically the mutual debt both genres owe to blues and gospel--as the group delivers ferocious, electrified updates of hollers from the cotton fields, gin joints, and pulpits of (mostly Afro-) America. (Southern bass music and hip hop from the Cash Money and No Limit labels provide the cartoon version of this history, which isn't all bad.)

Friends since high school, founding members Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter had, before Phrenology, been somewhat covert about their affinity for rock. But even then, its resonance was unmistakable, especially onstage. ?uestlove's precise snare-drum accents resembled no one so much as the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts (that's a compliment, young'uns), and rapper Black Thought customarily lost points among followers of Jay-Z, Nas, and the late Biggie because his conservative flow emphasized thrust over gymnastics and message overwordplay.

I'm fairly certain that's the first time anyone's ever said that emphasizing thrust is conservative.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 AM

IT MUST BE A NEOCON PLOT (via Paul Cella):

Santa Ana's parents revolt in favor of English (Daniel Weintraub, February 11, 2003, Sacramento Bee)
The recall from office of a school board member in a medium-size Southern California city wouldn't normally be big news. But the ouster last week of Santa Ana Unified School District's Nativo Lopez should send a signal to ethnic-enclave politicians across the state, if not the nation. [...]

The issue that finally caught up with him was bilingual education. He was an outspoken opponent of Proposition 227, the 1998 ballot measure that sought to eliminate bilingual education and to protect the rights of immigrant parents who wanted their children taught in English. After the measure passed, Lopez led an effort to persuade (some would say harass) Santa Ana parents to sign waivers that would allow the schools to continue to teach their children in Spanish.

The recall effort was started by parents at one Santa Ana school who were frustrated that they could not enroll their children in English-immersion classes. Children who were speaking English at home and didn't even know Spanish were being forced into classes taught mainly in Spanish.

The effort was joined by a group of parents from the north side of town opposed to the construction of a new school in their neighborhood. All seven members of the majority-Latino City Council endorsed the recall. Local business leaders and bilingual education opponent Ron Unz also joined the fight, eventually contributing more than $250,000 to the recall campaign. Lopez spent more than $150,000 on his campaign.

The results were stunning. Lopez got just 29 percent, while more than 70 percent of voters approved the measure to remove him from office. He was replaced by a white former City Council member. Predictably, Lopez blamed his defeat on racism. [...]

Arturo Lomeli, a Santa Ana dentist who was born in Mexico and who is president of the Downtown Business Association, told the Los Angeles Times that he voted for the recall because he was convinced that Lopez was trying to re-create Mexico in Santa Ana.

"You don't come to the United States and say, 'I'd like to live in a city that looks like Mexico.' ... You want nice things. You don't get them with a Nativo Lopez," Lomeli said.

And Mary Helen Milanes, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Mexico, told the Orange County Register that she opposed Lopez because of his separatist tendencies.

"I hate it when people say because he's a Latino, he's going to do things for Latinos," Milanes said. "I think they should be doing it for the community."

Boy, the folks at V-Dare must hate it when immigrants act like they actually came here to fit in.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 AM


March Permit Officialy Denied (Newsday, Feb 11, 2003)
A federal judge in Manhattan has denied antiwar demonstrators the right to march in front of the U.N.

U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones concluded that heightened security concerns posed by up to 100,000 protesters would threaten the public safety and security of the U.N.

In her 26-page ruling, Jones said that the First Amendment guaranteed the right to protest but did not ensure the right to march.

She noted that demonstrators could hold a stationary rally sanctioned by the city at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, located at 47th Street Between First and Second Avenues. An overflow crowd could gather two blocks north along 49th Street between First and Second.

Christopher Dunn, a lawyer for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the group would immediately appeal Jones's ruling.

"There is no question in our mind that the First Amendment entitles people to march in the street to protest their opposition to a possible American war in Iraq," he said. "We believe this decision is wrong and intend to appeal it immediately."

Here it is:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Shutting down traffic and taking over the street is, on its face, not peaceable assembly.

February 11, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:54 PM


Big 3 Doom Nazism and Reich Militarism; Agree on Freed Lands and Oaks Voting; Convoke United Nations in U.S. April 25 (Lansing Warren, 2/12/1945, The New York Times)
Allied decisions sealing the doom of Nazi Germany and German militarism, coordinating military plans for Germany's occupation and control and maintaining order and establishing popular governments in liberated countries were signed yesterday by President Roosevelt, Marshal Stalin and Prime Minister Churchill near Yalta in the Crimea, the White House announced today.

The conference, held in the summer palace of former Czar Nicholas II on the black Sea shore, also called for a United Nations security conference in San Francisco on April 25. [...]

The three Chiefs of State were assisted by their Foreign Ministers, chiefs of military staffs and numerous other experts, as was the case in the previous three-power meetings. Besides Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr., President Roosevelt was accompanied by Harry L. Hopkins, his special assistant, and Justice James F. Byrnes, Director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.

Other United States delegates included W. Averell Harriman, Ambassador to the Soviet Union; H. Freeman Matthews, the State Department's Director of European Affairs; Alger Hiss, Deputy Director of Special Political Affairs, and Charles E. Bohlen, assistant to the Secretary of State. [...]

At the close of the conference President Roosevelt presented to Marshal Stalin a number of decorations awarded by the United States to military men in the Red Army. Those to be decorated will receive the rank of commander in the Legion of Merit. They include Marshal Alexander M. Vasilevsky, Chief of the General Staff of the Red Army; Air Chief Marshal Alexander A. Novikoff, commanding general of the Red Air Forces; Gen. A. K. Repin, Chief of the Soviet Military Mission to the United States; Lieutenant General Brendal, Lieutenant Colonel Krolenko, Major General Levanovich, Major General Slavin, Deputy Chief of the Red Army Staff, and Colonel Byaz.

The decorations were given in recognition of distinguished services in connection with their cooperation in American Air Force shuttle-bombing operations in Germany.

Fitting, isn't it, that the UN was gestating while we (led by communists and fellow travelers) appeased a totalitarian dictator, effectively losing WWII.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 PM


Open Letter to Europe: Many of us in America are doing everything in our power to change our government's policy toward Iraq. However, we fear this war cannot be stopped without the strong support of the people of European nations. Please sign this letter/petition thanking our friends in Europe and asking them to stand in solidarity with us this weekend against the Bush administration's push to make war on Iraq. (MoveOn.org and AlterNet.org)

Dear friends,

We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America, are writing to ask for your help.

We are already grateful for your principled opposition to our government's misguided and dangerous policy toward Iraq. Despite the deceptive claims of the Bush Administration and the poor coverage of the crisis by our media, huge numbers of Americans have evaluated the facts for themselves and join with you to oppose our government's drive toward war.

Like many of you, we believe that war will not lead to future peace in the Middle East but to more violence and death -- not just in Iraq but eventually throughout the region, as well as in the United States and across the globe. With you, we believe that war will not bring about the liberation of the Iraqi people but visit upon them even greater catastrophe than in the past. [...]

Finally, we ask that, when the threat of war recedes, you join together with us in non-violent efforts to help the long-suffering Iraqi people in their struggle for democracy and freedom.

What non-violent efforts? Are they protesting in front of Iraqi embassies, demanding that Saddam honor the UN Resolution that requires him to liberalize Iraq's government? What are they doing to free Iraq?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 PM


The Candlemakers' Petition: An Economic Fable (Frederic Bastiat)
A Petition From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, Candlesticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from the Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting.

To the Honourable Members of the Chamber of Deputies.


You are on the right track. You reject abstract theories and have little regard for abundance and low prices. You concern yourselves mainly with the fate of the producer. You wish to free him from foreign competition, that is, to reserve the domestic market for domestic industry.

We come to offer you a wonderful opportunity for applying your-what shall we call it? Your theory? No, nothing is more deceptive than theory. Your doctrine? Your system? Your principle? But you dislike doctrines, you have a horror of systems, and, as for principles, you deny that there are any in political economy; therefore we shall call it your practice-your practice without theory and without principle.

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly that we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us.

We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds-in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries with which, we are proud to say, we have endowed the country, a country that cannot, without betraying ingratitude, abandon us today to so unequal a combat.

Be good enough, honourable deputies, to take our request seriously, and do not reject it without at least hearing the reasons that we have to advance in its support.

If the candlemakers had a union, the Democrats would at least consider this seriously.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 PM


Bismarck must be spinning in his grave at Germany's blunder (Josef Joffe, 12/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
How the once-mighty have stumbled! In the old days (not that they were such good days), the Germans simply used to overrun Belgium - and triggered two world wars in the process. Now they hide behind this tiny country in order to kick Uncle Sam in the shin.

Though Berlin did not formally veto Nato planning for the defence of Turkey in case of an Iraqi war, German Nato diplomats earlier this week egged on France and Belgium to say "Non".

Making a mouse roar, to do in Nato? This is a new one in the annals of diplomacy, and it adds inanity to injury. Or, to quote the French master cynic Talleyrand, who served both Napoleon and the restored monarchy: "This was worse than a crime, it was a mistake." [...]

This is a gamble the German chancellor may well lose. Unlike Mr Schröder, Mr Chirac and Mr Putin have not tied their hands; indeed, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is well on its way toward the Middle East. In the end, neither France nor Russia will risk their American connection, let alone a seat at the table where the post-war fate of Iraq will be thrashed out.

Germany as the odd man out? This must be the nightmare now wafting through the chancellor's office. Can it be banished? Yes, if coldly calculated interest prevails. It whispers ever so loudly: "Don't mess with Mr Big unless the stronger battalions are on your side." Belgium is not enough.

Shouldn't a successor to Bismarck know better than to muck around with those for whom God has a Special Providence?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:49 PM


Cheatin' husband didn't merit death (JACQUIELYNN FLOYD, 02/11/2003, The Dallas Morning News)
David Harris isn't around to defend himself, but the available evidence suggests that he may have been a bit of a jerk, that he was vain and selfish and shallow.

He cheated on his wife, then candidly told her he was entitled because his girlfriend nagged him less and had a better body. He told his wife that, by comparison, she was loud and pushy and fat, that she paid too much attention to the kids.

He grudgingly agreed to end the affair to keep his marriage and family together. But instead, on the evening of the promised breakup, he took his girlfriend to a hotel room--in the same hotel where his wedding had been held 10 years earlier.

You can't blame David Harris' wife for being mad. He was a jerk.

But being a jerk isn't a capital offense. David Harris, a prosperous orthodontist, was killed on the spot in the hotel parking lot by his wife, Houston dentist Clara Harris. She ran over him either once (according to the defense) or at least three times (according to the prosecution) with her silver Mercedes-Benz. She knelt on the pavement and apologized to her crushed, bloody husband while he died.

He's the one who should have apologized.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 PM


Dems Say They Can Block Vote on Judge (JESSE J. HOLLAND, 2/11/03, Associated Press)
President Bush appealed to the Senate on Tuesday to stop talking and start voting on his nomination of Miguel Estrada to the federal appeals bench, but Senate Democrats said they had the votes to block an immediate confirmation vote.

After threatening a filibuster for weeks, Democrats emerged from their weekly policy luncheon Tuesday with enough support within their ranks to take on the White House and the Republican Senate majority in an increasingly contentious battle over Estrada's nomination.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, threatened to force the Democrats to stay in session until a final vote was taken.

"If they want to stay through the weekend, we'll stay through the weekend,'' said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

The GOP really needs to not squander this golden opportunity. Keep them in session. Have the President mention it every day. And if the Democrats eventually do hold together, make Mr. Estrada the next Supreme Court nominee.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


US names its choice to succeed Saddam (Toby Harnden, 12/02/2003, Daily Telegraph)
America is planning to install the leader of a London-based opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, as the interim president of Iraq once Saddam Hussein is toppled.

Ahmad Chalabi, 57, a Shi'ite exile who fled Iraq with his family when he was 12 and attended a British boarding school, is currently in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and may remain there until an invasion begins. [...]

Once military victory was achieved, the official said, Gen Tommy Franks would be the de facto ruler of the country.

However, the Bush administration has decided that a leader in the mould of Gen Douglas MacArthur would only heighten accusations of American imperialism.

The current plan would be for Mr Chalabi to take over from Gen Franks once a conference of Iraqi opposition leaders could be convened inside the country. A principal American goal would be to hand Iraq over to a democratic government as swiftly as feasible so that US forces could withdraw. [...]

The official, who said the debate over whether to go to war "is over", stressed that Mr Chalabi would not be a puppet leader propped up by America and that free democratic elections would take place in Iraq as soon as practicable.

Did China, France, Germany, & Belgium okay this?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 PM

1 IN 100::

Cosmic bolt probed in shuttle disaster: Scientists poring over 'infrasonic' sound waves (Sabin Russell, February 7, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)
Federal scientists are looking for evidence that a bolt of electricity in the upper atmosphere might have doomed the space shuttle Columbia as it streaked over California, The Chronicle has learned.

Investigators are combing records from a network of ultra-sensitive instruments that might have detected a faint thunderclap in the upper atmosphere at the same time a photograph taken by a San Francisco astronomer appears to show a purplish bolt of lightning striking the shuttle.

Should the photo turn out to be an authentic image of an electrical event on Columbia, it would not only change the focus of the crash investigation, but it could open a door on a new realm of science.

"We're working hard on the data set. We have an obligation," said Alfred Bedard, a scientist at the federal Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. He said the lab was providing the data to NASA but that it was too early to draw any conclusions from the sounds of the shuttle re-entry.

The lab has been listening to the sounds of ghostly electromagnetic phenomena in the upper atmosphere, dubbed sprites, blue jets and elves. For some time, scientists have speculated on whether these events could endanger airliners or returning spacecraft.

A study conducted 10 years ago for NASA found that there is a 1-in-100 chance that a space shuttle could fly through a sprite, although it concluded that the consequences of such an event were unclear. And in 1989, an upper- atmospheric electrical strike "shot down" a high-altitude NASA balloon 129,000 feet over Dallas.

That's about the ratio for the shuttle, right? This would be the one out of a 120+. There will be folks who say that's an unacceptable risk, but it--even including seven lives--seems a fair price to pay for the adventure.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


Why Liberty Flourished in the West (Jim Powell, Spring 2001, Policy)
Despite the claims of those who say one culture is as good as another, the West is clearly superior in at least one crucial respect: it brought liberty into the modern world, and liberty has made possible many other good things. [...]

[A]side from some fragmentary thoughts attributed to the Chinese wise man Lab Tzu, almost all the ideas of liberty are Western: individual rights, secure private property, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of trade, separation of powers, equality before the law, and so on.

Similarly, all the protections for liberty, such as a written constitution, a bill of rights, an independent judiciary, privatisation, and term limits, developed in the West. The West was the first civilisation to abolish slavery. While there have been conquerors in the West, there has also been a distinguished anti-militarist tradition, with dissidents courageously speaking out against military conscription and for peace.

Why, then, did liberty originate and develop furthest in the West? [...]

When all is said and done, liberty flourished where enough courageous independent thinkers risked their lives for it. We in the West are the fortunate beneficiaries of the courage of somebody who stuck his neck out first and encouraged another and another until the tradition of liberty became well established.

Okay, why did the West produce those thinkers?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 PM


'Bin Laden' Urges Suicide Attacks (CBS News, Feb. 11, 2003)
A new audiotape apparently from Osama bin Laden calls on Muslims around the world to support Saddam Hussein in the looming war with the United States and urges suicide attacks against Americans.

"We stress the importance of suicide bombings against the enemy, these attacks that have scared Americans and Israelis like never before," he says on the tape, aired Tuesday by the al-Jazeera Arab satellite station.

To buck up the morale of Iraqis facing an onslaught by the world's most powerful military, he tells them not to fear America's laser-guided bombs which failed to kill him when he was trapped in the caves of Tora Bora.

"For more than two hours bombs were dropped on us, about 30 bombs," he says. "But the American forces did not dare storm our stronghold because they were cowards."

If bin Laden were alive there'd be a videotape, but it's amusing that whoever made the tape hasn't been reading the anti-war talking points about how al Qaeda and Iraq are mortal enemies.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 PM


God and Empire: Some Theological Reflections on the State of the Union (Gregory Dunn, January 2003, Ashbrook)
The telling moment came toward the very end of his speech. "The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God¹s gift to humanity," he said. This merits attention. The Roman and British Empires, the critics say, thought they possessed the epitome of civilization and, therefore, it was their duty to bring this civilization to the world

Not so, says Bush. By insisting that liberty is God's, not America's, gift to the world, he is saying that freedom is not something America possesses and, so, can dispense as it pleases but, rather, something that all human persons, by virtue of their created nature, already possess by right. America does not "bring" freedom to the peoples of the world but strives to actualize the freedom they hold in potential. In other words, when "we exercise power without conquest" and "sacrifice for the liberty of strangers" (two more telling phrases), we do so because it is the right thing to do. America acts on behalf of freedom not because it is benevolent (though it often is), nor because it wields its power prudently (though it often does), but because defending freedom is the right thing to do. God created people for freedom. America and all other nations are called, by divine mandate, to recognize this freedom. It is a justice instituted by God; so, when we fight, we fight on God's side.

Folks who are understandably skeptical about the existence of God unfortunately seem unaware of how important this point is. The alternative, if rights don't come from God, is that they are granted by the State, however a society decides to structure that State. But this, of course, makes all rights illusory, because we can simply change the State or in many (all) cases, the State, once formed, can simply begin aggrandizing power to itself. Yet if rights don't predate the State, if they are part and parcel of governance, then anything the State has power to do it is entitled to do. That's why the secularization of Western European society has led not to greater freedom but to less. Europeans have destroyed the one institution that effectively intervened between them and the State.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM


Graham Planning to File Papers to Run for President (Associated Press, 2/11/03)
Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham plans to file papers launching a presidential campaign in the next two or three weeks to begin raising money but will not make a formal decision on a White House bid until mid-April, associates said Tuesday.

Graham, now in his third term, had planned to join the crowded Democratic field this month, but he delayed his decision when he learned he needed heart surgery. Graham underwent successful surgery Jan. 31 and has been recovering at his daughter's Virginia home.

Associates of the former Florida governor said Graham would file papers with the Federal Election Commission in late February or early March that would allow him to begin fund-raising. The move also ensures that major contributors keep Graham in mind when they consider potential candidates. [...]

The other announced Democratic candidates include Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and John Edwards of North Carolina, as well as Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt is expected to announced his plans by month's end.

Dennis Kucinich is supposedly about to get in, as are Chris Dodd and Carol Mosley Braun, with Wesley Clark at least considering. And Hillary is seriously looking at it, which means she's going to run. At this point it seems fair to ask Democrats why they aren't running: "Congressman/Governor/Senator why do these clowns think they could be President but you don't think you could?"
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:07 PM

THE FREE TRADER (via John Thacker):

U.S. Ready to End Tariffs on Textiles in Hemisphere (ELIZABETH BECKER, February 11, 2003, NY Times)
As the first stage in negotiations to expand free trade throughout the Western Hemisphere, the Bush administration is offering to lift all tariffs on textiles and apparel within five years.

The proposal will be presented on Tuesday by Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, who prepared the offer to cover duties on everything from beef to lamps while making special concessions for the poorest nations, a senior trade official said. The goal, Mr. Zoellick said, is the eventual elimination of duties on goods and services from throughout North and South America.

But the administration will refuse to discuss reducing America's multibillion-dollar agricultural subsidies in the negotiations because they are not tariffs, the senior official said. [...]

But Brazil, the largest Latin American economy and a leading agricultural exporter, is the co-chairman of those talks with the United States and is expected to demand a reduction in farm subsidies.

"Agriculture subsidies are the critical issue here," said Riordan Roett, director of Western Hemisphere studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. "This offer is not going to fly unless there is some give on subsidies."

Last year, the United States approved an 80 percent increase in farm subsidies, promising to pay the nation's biggest producers nearly $180 billion over 10 years to grow wheat, corn, soybeans, rice and cotton. One-third of those crops are exported, amounting to a huge unfair trade barrier, according to many agricultural and trade experts.

The administration says that it will not abandon the farm subsidies until Europe does the same through negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

"Otherwise, we would be disarming unilaterally," the senior trade official said.

It would be nice to get the Europeans to trade freely but it's not going to happen. We sould just disarm unilaterally and let them subsidize our diets if that's what they coose to do. Meanwhile, a year ago all you heard from libertarians was how protectionist George W. Bush was--presumably they're still polishing their apologies.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


UK Profs Nix Israel: Their sympathy for Arabs is one more example of compassion as contempt. (Theodore Dalrymple, 4 February 2003, City Journal)
There's nothing British academics like more than a good academic boycott. It makes them feel they are at the center of things, important cogs in the motor of history—and virtuous into the bargain: for virtue these days is more a matter of making the right gestures and expressing the "right" opinions than of conforming one's behavior to inconvenient ethical standards. It allows one to be a libertine on a Neronian scale and yet detect the odor of sanctity emanating powerfully from oneself.

The Guardian reported several weeks ago that the British academic boycott of Israel is gathering steam. Colin Blakemore, Professor of Physiology at Oxford, for example, noted that he does not know of a single British academic who has been to a conference in Israel in the past year. The overweening snobbery in what Professor Blakemore says is characteristically British: after all, he implies, he knows everyone worth knowing.

But why Israel, you may ask, when the world pullulates with undesirable regimes whose performance would make Israel's seem positively splendid even if every last accusation against it were true? The most obvious answer is anti-Semitism, but this would not be wholly correct. The boycott's most prominent public advocate has been neurobiologist Steven Rose--himself Jewish--whom the Guardian rather coyly describes as having been active in left-wing causes for many years. This is a bit like describing Dr. Goebbels as "not a multiculturalist": true, but not quite the whole truth. Professor Rose is, and has been for years, a hard-line Marxist, quite unmoved by the millions killed in the doctrine's name. For him, Marxism is like Chesterton's Christianity: it hasn't been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.

Mr. Dalrymple seems incapable of writing an essay that fails to entertain.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:51 PM


Iraqi Women Brutalized by Saddam (Wendy McElroy, February 11, 2003, FOX News)
Amnesty International has documented the brutal executions of Iraqi women accused of prostitution. For example, Najat Mohammad Haydar, an obstetrician in Baghdad, was beheaded in October 2000 after criticizing corruption within local health services. According to another report, in October 2000 "a group of men led by Saddam Hussein's son Uday, beheaded with knives 50 young women in Baghdad. The heads of these women were hung on the doors of their houses for a few days."

The Iraq Foundation joins Amnesty International in chronicling human rights violations, such as the methods of torture in prison, which include rape and "bringing in a female relative, especially the wife or the mother, and raping her in front of the detainee."

Why then does the Feminist Majority site have a "Help Afghan Women" button but no "Help Iraqi Women?" Why does an Oct. 10, 2002 press release from NOW warn, "A U.S. invasion of Iraq will likely entail ... dangers to the safety and rights of Iraqi women who currently enjoy more rights and freedoms than women in other Gulf nations, such as Saudi Arabia."

Why does Women's eNews run an article by Yasmine Bahrani who states, "As it happens, women's equality is one of the few aspects of the nation's ruling ideology ... that has survived the brutality that has marked Iraqi political life."

The theme seems to be that Saddam may brutally violate human rights but his presence is good for women. For example, the Bahrani article mentions "a recent report" compiled under the auspices of the United Nations in which Iraq "scored highest in women's empowerment" for that region. (Saddam's motives are not mentioned. "Advances," such as mandating five years' maternity leave for women from employers and equal pay with men allowed him both to curry favor with the West and to regulate the economy.)

Why Feminism Is AWOL on Islam (Kay S. Hymowitz, Winter 2003, City Journal)
The great contribution of Western feminism was to expand the definition of human dignity and freedom. It insisted that all human beings were worthy of liberty. Feminists now have the opportunity to make that claim on behalf of women who in their oppression have not so much as imagined that its promise could include them, too. At its best, feminism has stood for a rich idea of personal choice in shaping a meaningful life, one that respects not only the woman who wants to crash through glass ceilings but also the one who wants to stay home with her children and bake cookies or to wear a veil and fast on Ramadan. Why shouldn’t feminists want to shout out their own profound discovery for the world to hear?

Perhaps, finally, because to do so would be to acknowledge the freedom they themselves enjoy, thanks to Western ideals and institutions. Not only would such an admission force them to give up their own simmering resentments; it would be bad for business. The truth is that the free institutions—an independent judiciary, a free press, open elections—that protect the rights of women are the same ones that protect the rights of men. The separation of church and state that would allow women to escape the burqa would also free men from having their hands amputated for theft. The education system that would teach girls to read would also empower millions of illiterate boys. The capitalist economies that bring clean water, cheap clothes, and washing machines that change the lives of women are the same ones that lead to healthier, freer men. In other words, to address the problems of Muslim women honestly, feminists would have to recognize that free men and women need the same things—and that those are things that they themselves already have. And recognizing that would mean an end to feminism as we know it.

In the words of the great Phyllis Schlafly:
Of all the classes of people who have ever lived, the American woman is the most privileged. We have the most rights and rewards, and the fewest duties. Our unique status is the result of a fortunate combination of circumstances.

We have the immense good fortune to live in a civilization that respects the family as the basic unit of society. This respect is part and parcel of our laws and customs. It is based on the fact of life--which no legislation or agitation can erase--that women have babies and men don't.

If you don't like this fundamental difference, you will have to take up your complaint with God because He created us this way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Glos calls for overthrow of Schroeder (Der Spiegel, 11 February 2003)
"I feel they have to go, no matter what the price, as long as it's done democratically," said Michael Glos, who heads the CSU delegation in Germany's Bundestag. The cleanest way to do this, said Glos, was an early election. Volker Kauder, the parliamentary deputy whip for the CDU, said that no federal government had ever been in such a catastrophic foreign-policy position.

Volker Ruhe, a CDU politician with foreign-policy expertise, warned that NATO might break apart. This was a real risk, RŸhe told tabloid newspaper Bildzeitung. "When an alliance partner such as Turkey feels threatened but planning for protective measures is prevented within NATO, the very core of a military alliance is called into question," said Ruhe, who heads the external relations committee of the Bundestag; RŸhe served as Germany's defense minister in the previous CDU administration under chancellor Helmut Kohl.

What's the German phrase for "banana republic"?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:09 AM


Consumption tax theory (Bruce Bartlett, February 11, 2003, townhall.com)
The idea of taxing consumption rather than income has been around for almost 500 years. In 1651, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes wrote in "Leviathan" that taxing what people consume is more fair than taxing what they earn. The former, he thought, represented what people take out of society, while the latter showed what they contributed.

Hobbes asked, Why should a rich man who saves much and consumes little be more heavily taxed than one of modest means who consumes all he earns and more by going into debt? The first is giving something to society by saving, while the second makes society poorer.

At almost the same time, Sir William Petty also made a strong case for taxing consumption on the grounds that the goods and services that people consume are a truer measure of their well being than what they earn. "Every man should pay according to what he actually enjoyeth," Petty wrote in 1662. And taxes should be light on those "who please to be content with natural necessities."

In the 18th century, the great Scottish philosopher David Hume argued that a principal benefit of consumption taxes is that they are to a certain extent voluntary, because people can choose whether or not to consume the taxed commodity. This view was endorsed by Alexander Hamilton in Federalist No. 21. Consequently, he thought that taxes on consumption were less likely to become excessive.

I bring this history up only to indicate that taxing consumption, rather than income, is not a radical new idea, but one that has a long and distinguished pedigree. It fell out of favor in the 20th century because of Keynesian economics and the popularity of income redistribution as a central tenet of liberalism. Keynes saw saving as bad for growth, and income taxation discourages saving by including it in the tax base, which would not be the case under a consumption tax. And income taxation also supported liberalism by justifying heavy taxes on forms of income mainly accruing to the wealthy, such as capital gains and dividends.

Keynes bad. Hamilton good.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Daily Philosophical Quotation (2/11/03)
If the question is asked, what are the most intelligent and all-round-capable things on earth, the answer is obvious: human beings. Everyone knows this, except certain religious people. A person is certainly a believer in some religion if he thinks, for example, that there are on earth millions of invisible and immortal nonhuman beings which are far more intelligent and capable than we are. But that is exactly what sociobiologists do think, about genes. Sociobiology, then, is a religion: one which has genes as its gods.

David Stove (A New Religion)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM

GROVER'S CORNERED (via Barry Meislin):

US conservatives split on support for radical Islamists (Caroline Glick, Feb. 11, 2003, Jerusalem Post)
A public controversy broke out in Washington late last week between two prominent Republican conservatives with close ties to the Bush administration.

The spat centers around the administration's outreach to Islamic fundamentalist organizations and, according to Washington insiders, could have implications on proposed measures to enhance US homeland security in the fight against global terrorism.

The two warring parties are Grover Norquist, a prominent political organizer who is closely allied with President George W. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy think tank in Washington. [...]

In a letter made public last Wednesday, Norquist accused Gaffney of "bigotry and racism"for questioning the reliability of White House staffer Ali Tulbah for inviting representatives of two radical Islamic organizations, the American Muslim Council (AMC) and the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), to a White House briefing on January 16.

Norquist further attacked Gaffney for past comments against former White House staffer Suhail Khan, who was removed from his position after it became known that his father, a prominent Wahhabi Islamic cleric on the West Coast, had hosted an al-Qaida operative on two separate visits to the US.

Both AMC and CAIR, which purport to represent the interests of American Muslims, have been widely criticized since September 11, 2001 for supporting terrorist organizations, like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaida.

According to US Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, both represent the "extremist Saudi, Wahhabi brand of Islam"that views jihad against Western civilization as a primary end of Islam.

Mr. Norquist has done yeomanlike work in the vineyards of the Right, and his brainstorm--that Muslims are a natural conservative constituency--seems sensible enough on its face and may indeed prove true in the long run. It may even be correct to note a double standard when American Muslim ties to terror fronts are concerned, after all, the Clintons paid no political price for playing footsie with Puerto Rican Nationalist terrorists and the Democrats happily overlooked Irish-American collusion with the IRA for years. But Mr. Norquist has somehow failed to adjust his ideas to the changed realities after 9-11 and to the fact that George W. Bush is a genuine social conservative, rather than just a tax-cutting libertarian.

In one particularly unfortunate instance of pique, Mr. Norquist, just weeks before the November blowout, penned a column arguing that President Bush would not be able to use his political popularity to elect fellow Republicans, in fact he argued that such popularity had become a "white elephant". In an Administration that values loyalty above all else, Mr. Norquist's embarrassing of the President in setting up these meetings, his opposition to the Bush social agenda and to "civil liberties" encroachments in the war on terror, and the way that he's personalizing these disagreements are inexorably isolating a guy who's entire being is wrapped up in being a "player". It's hard to see how lashing out like this is going to help him any. Memo to Mr. Norquist: stop digging.

Islamists' White House gatekeeper (Frank J. Gaffney, Jr., February 11, 2003, townhall.com)

One of the hardiest perennials in the Washington political scene is the spectacle of conservatives publicly disagreeing with one another. The vicious personal attacks launched against me last week by Grover Norquist, however, went way beyond the kind of dispute that so often enlivens policy discourse, usually to the delight -- and advantage -- of liberals who agree with neither camp.

So why would Mr. Norquist, a colleague well-known and widely admired for his work on tax reduction and conservative activism with whom I have often worked collaboratively over the years, publish a letter and take to the airwaves to accuse me of "racism," "bigotry" and "lying"? [...]

Wahhabi/Saudi funding appears to have been instrumental in creating and sustaining a large number of organizations involved in such troubling activities as: prison recruitment of American felons, indoctrination of U.S. military personnel, proselytizing on more than 500 college campuses across the United States, charitable fund-raising for terrorists and, of course, underwriting -- and, therefore, controlling -- as many as 70-80 percent of the Nation's mosques.

Given the politically attuned nature of the CPAC audience, I expressed particular concern about one of the most insidious of the Wahhabis' activities -- a concerted attempt to penetrate and otherwise influence political circles in Washington. I noted that among the several groups engaged in such activities, the American Muslim Council (AMC), had issued a press release gloating about a recent success: their invitation to participate in a January 16th White House "dialogue" with Muslim and Arab-American organizations opposed to the Bush Administration's registration of aliens from terrorist-sponsoring and -harboring nations. [...]

Grover Norquist's intemperate and defamatory attack on me says much less about my behavior and character than it does about his own relationship to this Wahhabi political influence operation and the role of the Islamic Institute he formerly chaired in facilitating its access to the Bush team. Let us hope that his own conduct has not caused irreparable damage to either this President or the conservative movement.

BOOKNOTES: Nina Easton, Gang of Five: Leaders at the Center of the Conservative Crusade (C-SPAN, 10/01/2000)
STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: Grover Norquist and Abdurahman Alamoudi (SETH GITELL, Boston Phoenix)
Fevered Pitch: GROVER NORQUIST'S STRANGE ALLIANCE WITH RADICAL ISLAM. (Franklin Foer, 11.01.01, New Republic)
On the afternoon of September 26, George W. Bush gathered 15 prominent Muslim- and Arab-Americans at the White House. With cameras rolling, the president proclaimed that "the teachings of Islam are teachings of peace and good." It was a critically important moment, a statement to the world that America's Muslim leaders unambiguously reject the terror committed in Islam's name.

Unfortunately, many of the leaders present hadn't unambiguously rejected it. To the president's left sat Dr. Yahya Basha, president of the American Muslim Council, an organization whose leaders have repeatedly called Hamas "freedom fighters." Also in attendance was Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, who on the afternoon of September 11 told a Los Angeles public radio audience that "we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list." And sitting right next to President Bush was Muzammil Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America, who last fall told a Washington crowd chanting pro-Hezbollah slogans, "America has to learn if you remain on the side of injustice, the wrath of God will come." Days later, after a conservative activist confronted Karl Rove with dossiers about some of Bush's new friends, Rove replied, according to the activist, "I wish I had known before the event took place."

If the administration was caught unaware, it may be because they placed their trust in one of the right's most influential activists: Grover Norquist.

CORRESPONDENCE: Wild Pitch? (Grover Norquist, 11.08.01, New Republic)
To the editors:

Franklin Foer is right to be bitter and fearful that George W. Bush and the Republican Party increased their support among American Muslims from 40 percent in 1996 to more than 70 percent in 2000 ("Fevered Pitch," November 12). That increase alone won Florida many times over. Bush demonstrated that a conservative can speak with respect, seriousness, and compassion to immigrants and minorities; that we earn their votes, not by moving left and offering patronage and welfare, but by campaigning for lower taxes, reforming social security, strong families, and respect for people of faith--all faiths.

Muslims are 'natural conservatives' in America (DEAL HUDSON, Crisis Magazine)
How Did Muslims Vote in 2000? (Alexander Rose, Summer 2001, Middle East Quarterly)
Conservative "Dismay" at the Times: The New York Times says religious conservatives are unhappy with John Ashcroft. Which is news to them. (Jonathan V. Last, 07/24/2002, Weekly Standard)
For several years, Norquist has been trying to convince Republicans that Muslims are a natural GOP constituency (see Franklin Foer's informative New Republic piece on Norquist, Fevered Pitch [above]). September 11 threw a spanner in the works of Norquist's project, especially as American Muslim groups reacted with ambivalence, if not hostility, to the fact that the war on terrorism, of necessity, would focus on Arabs. In the ongoing struggle between these groups and the Justice Department, Norquist has been a consistent critic of Ashcroft. This is also in keeping with Norquist's longstanding, anti-government brand of conservatism--his so-called "leave-us-alone coalition," which has been a harder sell since last September. Not that Norquist has relented. After the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, he kept his powder dry for less than a week. By September 17, he was denouncing Ashcroft's plans for the war on terror as "a real danger for civil liberties."

So Norquist has an Islamo-libertarian axe to grind. Bully for him. But that makes him doubly unreliable as a guide to the feelings of "religious conservatives"--unless by that phrase the Times means Norquist's American Muslim allies, who are, indeed, dismayed by Ashcroft's policies.

Gary Bauer, another religious conservative, says, "I think that Mr. Norquist needs to take a deep breath and realize that the danger to American liberties does not rest in the office of John Ashcroft, but rather in the radical Islamists who are trying to destroy America."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:21 AM


Send him coward's feather (The Sun uk, 2/11/03)

THE Sun today prints a single white feather to show our disgust at cowardly French President Jacques Chirac.

And we urge our ten million readers to post it to Chirac’s headquarters in Paris to symbolise British anger at France’s soft stance on Saddam Hussein.

The Order of the White Feather was founded in August 1914 by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald.

The organisation encouraged women to give white feathers to young men who failed to join the British Army as the First World War raged. [...]

To send your white feather protest print this page and send to: President Jacques Chirac, Palais de Elysee, 75000, Paris.

Boy, that's harsher than our Statue of Liberty idea, but perhaps less poetic?

February 10, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 PM


A worldly passion foils the revolution (February 8 2003
Ever since Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, by far the most relentless battle for control of public space has been over the way women look.

The Koran says that "believing women" should "draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty". They can go bareheaded in front of other women, their husbands, fathers, sons, nephews, servants, slaves and small children who "have no sense of the shame of sex".

Still, early in the revolution, women were allowed to go bareheaded. Since the Koranic verse was viewed as subject to interpretation, a law had to be passed requiring women to observe good "hijab" (literally "curtain") by concealing the shape of their bodies and covering their hair.

But that has not stopped women from wanting to look good. Just as hair care is a major industry, the question of showing or hiding hair is a national obsession.

So a guerrilla struggle rages between women who want to show their hair and conservative elements determined to preserve what they see as Islamic purity. Hair, in short, has become a measure of resistance to the forced will of the Islamic Republic.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the father of Iran's revolution, called beauty salons "dens of corruption" and tried to ban them. He failed. Beauty salons remain havens for women.

"Having beautiful hair is vital in this country, as vital as electricity or water," said a Tehran beautician. "And forcing women to hide it is just part of a bigger power struggle against women."

This is just one of the ways in which a religion that is frozen in time, fourteen centuries ago, can not govern a modern society effectively. In the words of Kemal Attaturk: "If a society does not wage a common struggle to attain a common goal with its women and men, scientifically there is no way for it to get civilized or developed"
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:23 PM


Bush Seeks to Recast Federal Ties to the Poor: States Would Gain Control Over Services; Funds for Some Programs Would Be Cut (Amy Goldstein and Jonathan Weisman, February 9, 2003, Washington Post)
President Bush has embarked on a far-reaching campaign to transform the federal government's relationship with the nation's poor, seeking to tip control over social services to the states, reduce the funding of some programs, and require more proof that low-income people are eligible for public help.

The $2.23 trillion budget that Bush proposed to Congress last week would loosen federal standards and hand states vast new authority, if they want it, over housing subsidies, unemployment benefits, health insurance and a preschool program for children from disadvantaged families, which is known as Head Start. It would also make outright cuts in some poverty programs, such as a reduction by a fourth in the amount the government devoted last year to "community services" grants for dispossessed neighborhoods. [...]

Affecting many federal agencies, the changes Bush wants to make in anti-poverty efforts reveal a bold aspect of his vision of government that he seldom discusses publicly. The proposals were not among the positions he staked out during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Aside from a plan to redesign the health insurance program, Medicaid, administration officials have drawn scant attention this year to their policies for addressing poverty as they released a budget that concentrates on defeating terrorism and building the economy. The president has not even publicly acknowledged this year's most dramatic tax proposal -- a plan to establish new savings accounts that would allow families to shield tens of thousands of dollars a year from all capital gains, interest and dividend taxation.

All of these policies are, in a sense, ideological heirs to previous conservative attempts to spur economic growth through the tax code and to limit the federal role in social welfare -- starting with President Ronald Reagan two decades ago and surging again in the mid-1990s, when congressional Republicans tried to "devolve" many federal responsibilities to the states. [...]

[P]olicy analysts across the ideological spectrum say that the changes imbedded in Bush's budget, if adopted, would be virtually unrivaled in scale and scope. "Just the sheer volume of proposals . . . across an array of low-income programs . . . is breathtaking," said Mark Greenberg, policy director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonprofit group that specializes in family and welfare issues.

While Libertarians, Harvard men, and various others have convinced themselves that George W. Bush is a closet Rockefeller, he continues to use his executive powers to effect a quiet conservative revolution.

President To Push Vouchers For D.C.: Bush Moving Ahead Despite City Opposition (Valerie Strauss, February 8, 2003, Washington Post)
Guidelines on School Prayer Issued: Resistance Could Jeopardize Federal Funds, Education Dept. Says (Ben Feller, February 9, 2003, Associated Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


US must use its sword, or else... (FAREED ZAKARIA, FEB 11, 2003, NEWSWEEK)
IF IT turns out the American President is bluffing about 'serious consequences', what will happen the next time the United States makes threats?

When a policy-maker says we should do something 'to maintain our credibility', it conjures up a tragic event - Vietnam. The experts all agree we foolishly bloodied ourselves and slaughtered others just to prove we wouldn't back down.

But with Iraq, the need to maintain resolve seems obvious. I cannot see how America can back down without damaging its, well, credibility. [...]

A senior Asian diplomat told me recently that before this month, he had never fully understood the saying: 'When you have drawn your sword, you must use it.' He added: 'But watching the current confrontation between the US and Iraq, it's clear. You've drawn your sword. Now you must use it.'

One odd thing about this column is that Mr. Zakaria doesn't even mention that it would represent another win for the Islamicists, in a long series of wins against the West that they date back to at least the Kahane assassination and maybe to the Marine barracks attack in Lebanon.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 PM


Senate Continues Debate on Estrada Nomination (Liza Porteus, February 10, 2003, FOX News)
The Senate is expected to vote on the controversial judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada on Monday, but a Democratic filibuster may hold the entire process up. [...]

Democrats say that even if they don't get the votes, they will attempt to filibuster anyway, on the theory that an uncontested loss "would be worse than no contest," sources told Fox News.

Republicans say they are prepared to debate Estrada's nomination "as long as it takes, for days, weeks, if necessary," one source told Fox News.

"This is going to be an unprecedented fight over a nominee," the source said.

If the Democrats really think it's good for them to filibuster a Hispanic nominee and lose than to just stop digging their own graves, maybe we are witnessing a true crisis in the Party. They're powerless; they seem to be leaderless; and now they're going for the trifecta: clueless.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM


Schroeder's coalition near collapse over leak (Roger Boyes, February 11, 2003, The Times of London)
GERMANY'S coalition Government was on the brink of collapse yesterday as details emerged of a row between Gerhard Schröder, the Chancellor, and Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister, who threatened to quit over differences on Iraq. Herr Fischer, the leader of the Green Party, was enraged over weekend press leaks of a Franco-German plan to establish a UN protectorate in Iraq. The leak, to Der Spiegel magazine, appeared to come from the Chancellery or Social Democrat headquarters. [...]

Herr Fischer has now been snubbed at least three times by the Chancellor. He was not warned in advance when Herr Schroeder started to mobilise voter support during the general election campaign by warning against a US-led war. He was also wrong-footed when the Chancellor announced that Germany would never accept a UN resolution "legitimising a war" against Iraq. Herr Schröder has also mocked and publicly called to order one of Herr Fischer's key diplomats, the German envoy to the UN.

Herr Fischer's authority depends on public support from the Chancellor, on close European co-operation beyond the Franco-German axis, on the trust of Washington and on discipline within his Green Party. All these pillars have crumbled since the general election six months ago.

When rumours of resignation spread three weeks ago, the Chancellor called in Herr Fischer for a "clarifying talk". But for two hours the men, formerly friends who forged the idea of a Social Democratic-Green alliance in a pub conversation some 20 years ago, conducted a shouting match.

Later the Chancellor declared, to the irritation of Herr Fischer: "Let's face it, the grass roots of the Green Party are closer to me than to the Foreign Minister."

I don't know how German elections work, but presumably if the government fell they'd have new ones, in which the Christian Democrats would likely prevail, running as a pro-U.S. party. That would leave Jacques Chirac rather far up the Seine without a paddle, eh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


Mugabe outfoxes his critics: Mugabe has played his cards skilfully on the world stage (Joseph Winter, 10 February, 2003, BBC News Online)
[M]r Mugabe's government has committed its worst human rights abuse during this period - the politicisation of food aid at a time when half the population is facing starvation.

Those queuing to receive hand-outs across the country must produce membership cards of Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

Opposition supporters are told to "get food from Tony Blair". [...]

Mr Mugabe has cleverly turned the old colonial trick of divide and rule to his advantage within international bodies.

He has exploited the long-standing diplomatic rivalry between France and the UK to get an invitation to the Franco-African summit, conveniently scheduled for the day after the 12-month EU travel ban expires.

And key African powers Nigeria and South Africa are lobbying on his behalf within the Commonwealth.

"France has a long history of associating with African dictatorships," Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) foreign affairs spokesman Moses Mzila Ndlovu said.

While Nigeria and South Africa seem to have accepted Mr Mugabe's argument that he is still fighting colonialism.

Is the tyranny of Mr. Mugabe and the starving of his people less important to us because the parties are black? That certainly would seem to be the case as the American government remains relatively silent about this and leaves our friend Tony Blair twisting in the wind. Here's an idea for Republicans: want blacks to give the Party a second look? Pretend Africans deserve decent lives too.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:18 PM


Democrats Split on Plan to Block Bush Nominee: Senators Weigh Risks of Filibuster (Helen Dewar, February 9, 2003, Washington Post)
With all 51 Republicans and at least three Democrats supporting him, Estrada would clearly win a simple majority vote. But 60 votes are needed to break a filibuster, and Democrats would need 41 of their 49-member caucus to keep it going -- which one Democratic leader said is possible but not likely.

Politically at least, there are risks regardless of which course the Democrats take.

If they back off a fight that they have elevated to an important test of constitutional rights and duties, they are liable to be accused by liberal loyalists, part of their core constituency, of political cowardice.

If they block Estrada, they will almost certainly be accused by Republicans of "obstructionism" in an echo of charges raised in last year's campaign, which resulted in the GOP takeover of the Senate. Republicans, eager to renew the charge, accused Democrats of threatening a filibuster before they even took up the question.

"It's always politically risky when you stick your neck out . . . but failure to act has consequences as well," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who voted against Estrada's nomination as a member of the Judiciary Committee and advocates a filibuster now that the nomination is before the Senate.

The question "gives people a nervous stomach," said Sen. John Breaux (La.), one of three Democratic senators who support Estrada and oppose a filibuster. "The filibuster is the only weapon we have, and it's got to involve something people understand . . . not just lawyer-speak," he added.

The biggest problem for Democrats is that while the reason for their filibuster is abortion, they can't say that, so their argument is legalese, whereas the GOP will just say that the Democrats are blocking him because he's Hispanic. That latter narrative line is much, much cleaner.

Nor do Democrats stand to fare any better strategically. If they go through with this they have to win or look impotent. But winning means taking out a Hispanic nominee who's on track to become a Supreme Court Justice. That has to have some effect among Latino voters. Moreover, having gone to the mattresses against Mr. Estrada, when George Bush just goes ahead and nominates someone equally conservative, but perhaps Anglo, can the Democrats muster 60 votes again, and what about the third and fourth nominees? And if the final result of their filibuster is that some conservative ofay ends up on the bench instead of Mr. Estrada then what was the point? Other than blocking a conservative Hispanic from eventually reaching the Supreme Court?

Democrats on defense with Hispanics (Donald Lambro, 2/10/03, The Washington Times)

[T]here were growing complaints that Senate Democratic opposition to Mr. Bush's nomination of Miguel Estrada to be the first Hispanic judge on the U.S. Appeals Court in the District is alienating Hispanic voters.

"It doesn't sit well among the majority of the [Hispanic] community. They ask what is it about him that's so extreme. That's where the Democrats fall down," said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens. LULAC, the nation's largest Latino grass-roots organization, is supporting the Estrada nomination.

Mr. Wilkes said that if Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle decides to wage a filibuster to block a vote on the nomination, "I think it will hurt them. There is going to be that swing vote in the Hispanic community wondering what ... is going on."

"I don't think the party feels the Democrats are handling the Latino vote very well. They are fumbling. They have not had an adequate response to the Republicans. It's clear the Democratic Party is struggling," Mr. Wilkes said in an interview.

Other Hispanic and Latino leaders privately say that Senate Democrats are being pushed into opposing the conservative judicial nominee by the party's liberal constituencies, including feminist groups, pro-choice Democrats, and civil rights organizations such as the NAACP.

But other Democratic insiders who do not want to be identified say that Mr. Daschle and the Democratic National Committee have been getting complaints from some grass-roots Democrats that the party's opposition to Mr. Estrada is not playing well with many Hispanics in their states.

AN UGLY STALL (RUDOLPH GIULIANI, February 10, 2003, NY Post)
LET me share with you a great American success story.

A 17-year-old named Miguel Estrada immigrates to this country from Honduras, speaking only a few words of English. He attends Columbia College, making Phi Beta Kappa and graduating magna cum laude, then Harvard Law School, becoming editor of the Law Review.

Next, he serves as a clerk first to U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Amalya L. Kearse (a President Carter appointee), and then to Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. From there, he joins the Solicitor General's Office, serving as assistant to the solicitor general of the United States for a year under President George H.W. Bush and for four years under President Clinton.

Then Estrada becomes a partner in a prestigious private law practice - yet finds the time to perform significant pro bono service, including some four hundred hours representing a death row inmate before the Supreme Court.

In recognition of his special abilities and achievements, President Bush nominates Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He is supported by no fewer than 16 Hispanic groups, who express enormous pride at the prospect of the first Hispanic joining one of America's most prestigious courts. Also supporting him are numerous prominent Democrats, including President Clinton's solicitor general and Vice President Gore's counselor and chief of Staff.

Sounds pretty good? Well, here's where this story runs the risk of a most unhappy - and unfair - ending.

For nearly two years, Senate Democrats have delayed action on the nomination of Miguel Estrada.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM


In Mel Gibson's The Patriot, a film that has numerous drawbacks, there's one very effective device that we might borrow. His character, Benjamin Martin, watches helplessly as his brave but foolhardy young son is gunned down by a savage British dragoon. When Benjamin sets out to take his vengeance he melts down the boy's lead soldiers and molds them into bulletts, allowing the dead boy to participate spiritually in the fight for a freedom he'll never get to enjoy himself. Perhaps it might be appropriate at this time to do the same thing with the Statue of Liberty.

If there ever was a time when the French cared about Liberty--a proposition about which I'm skeptical--that day died long ago, as witness their willingness to let the Iraqi people suffer under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. Suppose then that in the spirit of a France that once was, perhaps in the spirit of Lafayette, we melt down the Statue of Liberty and use it in the first warhead we launch during this coming war?

Americans' Opinions of France Drop to New Low: Germany and North Korea also rated more unfavorably this year (Frank Newport, February 10, 2003, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE)

Americans have a sharply more unfavorable image of France than they have had at any point over the past decade. Favorable opinions of the country have dropped 20 points in the last year, while unfavorable opinions have risen by 17 points. Americans' attitudes toward Germany, which, like France, has balked at approving the U.S. position on the necessity of military action against Iraq, have also become substantially more negative since last year. The image of North Korea in the minds of Americans, already quite negative, has become even more so this year compared to last.

Britain richly deserves it's top ranking. In case you missed it, C-SPAN rebroadcasts Prime Minister's Question Time and they've a video of the session of 1/29/03 that's truly extraordinary. If you skip to the 29th minute (there's more on Iraq earlier but this is the best part) you'll get Mr. Blair facing down his own backbenchers and his declaration that North Korea is next and we won't stop there. It's quite thrilling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:16 PM


Iran's Failed Revolution: The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic movement has oppressed its young, disillusioned its veterans and silenced ayatollahs who question its course. (NY Times, 2/10/03)
Few Iranians have been celebrating the 24th anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution this month. It is easy to understand why. A movement that once brought millions into the streets demanding freedom from the shah's dictatorship has gone on to oppress its young, disillusion its middle-aged veterans and silence even grand ayatollahs who question its course.

Of course, revolutions generally extinguish rather than enhance freedoms, but anyone wishing to understand the particular failure of Khomeini's Revolution need look no further than his own book, Islamic Government:
The fundamental difference between Islamic government, on the one hand, and constitutional monarchies and republics, on the other, is this: whereas the representatives of the people or the monarch in such regimes engage in legislation, in Islam the legislative power and competence to establish laws belongs exclusively to God Almighty. The Sacred Legislator of Islam is the sole legislative power.  No one has the right to legislate and no law may be executed except the law of the Divine Legislator. It is for this reason that in an Islamic government, a simple planning body takes the place of the legislative assembly that is one of the three branches of government. This body draws up programs for the different ministries in the light of the ordinances of Islam and thereby determines how public services are to be provided across the country.

Thus did the Iranian people (with probable NY Times approval) shuck off the relatively benign and Westernizing authoritarianism of the Shah and don the totalitarianism of the mullahs. Like all totalitarianisms this one has been a disaster. What remains to be seen is whether it is possible to have a government that is Islamic in character without a radical Reformation of Islam. We suspect not.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM


Powers is Freed by Soviet in an Exchange for Abel; U-2 Pilot on Way to U.S. (Tom Wicker, 2/10/62, The New York Times)
Francis Gary Powers has been released by the Soviet Union in exchange for the release of Col. Rudolf Abel, the convicted Soviet spy, the White House announced at 3:20 A. M.

Frederic L. Pryor, an American student held by East German authorities since August, 1961, also has been released. He was turned over to the American authorities in Berlin.

Mr. Powers, the White House said, is in Berlin en route to the United States.

Colonel Abel was deported and has been released in Berlin.

Michael Beschloss wrote an excellent book about the U-2 affair, Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushchev and the U-2 Affair (1986), in which one of his key arguments was that the continued overflights provided Eisenhower with evidence of how feeble the Soviet Union was militarily, knowledge which Ike, I believe disastrously, kept out of the public domain. Even today and even among conservatives there's little comprehension of how dominant the U.S. capabilities were throughout the Cold War and how poorly the USSR functioned for its entire history. Folks therefore do things like credit Kennedy for "avoiding WWIII" in the Cuban Missile Crisis, when in fact we likely would have won such a war rather easily, with little or no damage to the homeland, well into the 60s.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


A Terrorist With a Deadly Past: Experts agree that Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi is a terrorist, but not all see him as a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. (DON VAN NATTA Jr. with DAVID JOHNSTON, 2/10/03, NY Times)
Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi's disfigured body shows the hard reality of his life. A scar runs along the left side of his face, possibly the product of an accident with improvised explosives. He wears a prosthetic leg, fitted in Baghdad last spring where he received treatment for injuries caused by an American bomb in Afghanistan. [...]

In Germany, officials have investigated Mr. Zarqawi for more than a year, but Mr. Powell's assertion surprised them. "We have been investigating Mr. Zarqawi for some time," said a senior German intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We need to examine the evidence that Powell has drawn from, and it is possible that he knows things that we don't. But as of yet we have seen no indication of a direct link between Zarqawi and Baghdad."

We convicted Dr. Mudd for providing not dissimilar medical assistance.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


Christian community in the shadow of Hegel, Nietzsche, and Fukuyama (Peter Sellick, 2/10/03, Online Opinion)
John Locke, in his essay Second Treatise of Civil Government [1690] derived the idea of rights, not from the traditions of Israel and of the church but from natural theology. Natural theology relies on a theology of creation that has God create the physical world. Being God's creation, the physical world demonstrates his handiwork and his laws. Thus we arrive at the idea of natural law. Human rights are thence derived from this law as self evident and needing no other warrant. Human beings are created free and possess inalienable rights by the fact of their creation. This idea has become so widespread that it is impossible to discuss issues of justice without it.

Paradoxically, although the idea of human rights is based on theism it is profoundly atheistic in that it denies God's demand for justice. Instead of understanding the wellbeing of human beings as vested in God, the language of human rights makes it a property of the individual.

If we do not accept the premises of natural theology and the existence of self-evident natural law, then human rights have no basis other than ideology. Secular people, who have no faith or belief in God, continue to chant the mantra of human rights with no understanding of their origin. Indeed, the language of human rights has crippled ethical discussion because the warrant for them is hidden: they rely on simple assertion to carry the day. These assertions have grown from the original three, of liberty, fraternity and the right to property, to include anything that seems like a good thing in the councils of the United Nations. The assertion of rights produces not community and cooperation but a jostling for precedence among overlapping and conflicting claims. As Walker Percy has pointed out, such language easily leads to convoluted ethical outcomes as when the unborn or the old are killed because they have a right not to live lives of senseless suffering.

Human rights also breed a dependent mentality. This has happened because the original Judeo/Christian tradition about freedom has become ideology, in theological terms it has become an idol and idols never produce freedom and life but suffocation and death. [...]

So there is a way that we can see liberal democracy as a fruit of the gospel, but it is not the gospel itself. As such it is not any kind of end or telos. History or geography may still sweep Western culture away, even end the species. We would be mistaken to identify our cozy position in life with the kingdom. Such a conclusion would pre-empt the kingdom and close the future. It would also strengthen the hubris of the West. The establishment of liberal democracy does not end our waiting. For as John says in his first letter:

"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)

This is the arrow of history, this waiting and not knowing, this leaning into an unknown history to reveal what we already know in part that we will know in full.

These are two of the central points of Robert Kraynak, in his Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World (2001), that absent God and Man being Created, there is no intellectual basis for the claim of human rights, only bald assertion; and that liberal democracy and freedom can not be ends in themselves, but merely means (and not necessarily the best means) to create a better world.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM


Military Radar Saw Unidentified Object Near Shuttle Columbia (AFP, Feb 09, 2003)
Military radar picked up images of a small object still of unknown origin near the shuttle Columbia on the second day of its fatal mission, a NASA spokesman said Sunday.

"It's only raw data coming in. We don't know whether it was a space debris that passed by the space shuttle or something that came off from the shuttle," Bill Jeffs said at Houston's Johnson Space Center.

Hopefully it was a meteorite hitting the shuttle, just to shut all the critics up.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:13 AM


business in Afghanistan
(Isobel Coleman, February 9 2003, Financial Times)
If Afghanistan can productively capitalise on international support over the next decade, it has the potential to achieve economic stability and even a role in the world economy. It could regain its status as a 1970s exporter of agricultural products such as fruit, flowers and livestock. It could earn not insignificant economic rents from a long sought after oil pipeline across the country and as a transportation hub linking the Middle East, central Asia and the Indian sub-continent. Rough estimates for that road-tunnel network through the country's mountainous terrain reach as high as $300bn - a huge public works project that international sources would fund only if there were stability in the country and a central government was able to collect tolls.

Opium production and drug trafficking will inevitably be another source of economic activity, but a stable and growing economy should relegate that to the margins. Likewise, it is inevitable that some warlords will replace their paramilitary ambitions with Russian-style mafia empire-building. The Afghans' challenge is to create economic incentives and rule of law to channel that activity into more productive areas such as construction and trade.

In December, Mr Bush signed the Afghan Freedom Support Act authorising $3.3bn in economic, political, humanitarian and security assistance over the next four years. Congress must now follow through and appropriate at least that much for a country that could so easily slide back into chaos. Continuing to track down Taliban troublemakers is necessary, but not sufficient, to ensure Afghanistan's stability.

As Afghanistan was one of the breeding grounds of the fall of the Soviet Union and of the rise of Islamicism, so might it now be a testing ground for a new kind of Middle East, one dedicated to building stability and prosperity against long odds. It's hard to be optimistic about the possibility but seems well worth offering what help we can give.

February 9, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM


Why I became a conservative (Roger Scruton, February 2003, NewCriterion)
The view has for a long time prevailed in England that conservatism is simply no longer available—even if it ever has been really available to an intelligent person—as a social and political creed. Maybe, if you are an aristocrat or a child of wealthy and settled parents, you might inherit conservative beliefs, in the way that you might inherit a speech impediment or a Habsburg jaw. But you couldn’t possibly acquire them—certainly not by any process of rational enquiry or serious thought. And yet there I was, in the early 1970s, fresh from the shock of 1968, and from the countervailing shock of legal studies, with a fully articulate set of conservative beliefs. Where could I look for the people who shared them, for the thinkers who had spelled them out at proper length, for the social, economic, and political theory that would give them force and authority sufficient to argue them in the forum of academic opinion?

To my rescue came Burke. Although not widely read at the time in our universities, he had not been dismissed as stupid, reactionary, or absurd. He was simply irrelevant, of interest largely because he got everything wrong about the French Revolution and therefore could be studied as illustrating an episode in intellectual pathology. Students were still permitted to read him, usually in conjunction with the immeasurably less interesting Tom Paine, and from time to time you heard tell of a “Burkean” philosophy, which was one strand within nineteenth-century British conservatism. Burke was of additional interest to me on account of the intellectual path that he had trod. His first work, like mine, was in aesthetics. And although I didn’t find much of philosophical significance in his Essay on the Sublime and the Beautiful, I could see that, in the right cultural climate, it would convey a powerful sense of the meaning of aesthetic judgment and of its indispensable place in our lives. I suppose that, in so far as I had received any intimations of my future career as an intellectual pariah, it was through my early reactions to modern architecture, and to the desecration of my childhood landscape by the faceless boxes of suburbia. I learned as a teenager that aesthetic judgment matters, that it is not merely a subjective opinion, unargued because unarguable, and of no significance to anyone besides oneself. I saw—though I did not have the philosophy to justify this—that aesthetic judgment lays a claim upon the world, that it issues from a deep social imperative, and that it matters to us in just the way that other people matter to us, when we strive to live with them in a community. And, so it seemed to me, the aesthetics of modernism, with its denial of the past, its vandalization of the landscape and townscape, and its attempt to purge the world of history, was also a denial of community, home, and settlement. Modernism in architecture was an attempt to remake the world as though it contained nothing save atomic individuals, disinfected of the past, and living like ants within their metallic and functional shells.

Like Burke, therefore, I made the passage from aesthetics to conservative politics with no sense of intellectual incongruity, believing that, in each case, I was in search of a lost experience of home. And I suppose that, underlying that sense of loss is the permanent belief that what has been lost can also be recaptured—not necessarily as it was when it first slipped from our grasp, but as it will be when consciously regained and remodelled, to reward us for all the toil of separation through which we are condemned by our original transgression. That belief is the romantic core of conservatism, as you find it—very differently expressed—in Burke and Hegel, and also in T. S. Eliot, whose poetry was the greatest influence on me during my teenage years.

When I first read Burke’s account of the French Revolution I was inclined to accept, since I knew no other, the liberal humanist view of the Revolution as a triumph of freedom over oppression, a liberation of a people from the yoke of absolute power. Although there were excesses—and no honest historian had ever denied this—the official humanist view was that they should be seen in retrospect as the birth-pangs of a new order, which would offer a model of popular sovereignty to the world. I therefore assumed that Burke’s early doubts—expressed, remember, when the Revolution was in its very first infancy, and the King had not yet been executed nor the Terror begun—were simply alarmist reactions to an ill-understood event. What interested me in the Reflections was the positive political philosophy, distinguished from all the leftist literature that was currently a la mode, by its absolute concretion, and its close reading of the human psyche in its ordinary and unexalted forms. Burke was not writing about socialism, but about revolution. Nevertheless he persuaded me that the utopian promises of socialism go hand in hand with a wholly abstract vision of the human mind—a geometrical version of our mental processes which has only the vaguest relation to the thoughts and feelings by which real human beings live. He persuaded me that societies are not and cannot be organized according to a plan or a goal, that there is no direction to history, and no such thing as moral or spiritual progress.

Most of all he emphasized that the new forms of politics, which hope to organize society around the rational pursuit of liberty, equality, fraternity, or their modernist equivalents, are actually forms of militant irrationality. There is no way in which people can collectively pursue liberty, equality, and fraternity, not only because those things are lamentably underdescribed and merely abstractly defined, but also because collective reason doesn’t work that way.

Mr. Scruton may be the British Russell Kirk we were looking for the other day. He's written often about the meaning of conservatism, but one wonders if only for an American audience?

As for the French Revolution, we're with Jeffrey Hart: "When I heard about the French Revolution, my reaction was that I was against it." If you want to see why one must be against it, check out Eric Rohmer's great film The Lady and the Duke.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM


Lebanese leader: Bush a 'mad emperor': Lawmaker says his 'joy was great' over death of Israeli astronaut (WorldNetDaily.com , February 8, 2003)
An opposition member of Lebanon's Parliament says the true axis of evil is one of "oil and Jews," calling President George W. Bush a "mad emperor" and Prime Minister Tony Blair an "imperial servant" with a "peacock appearance."

He'll fit right in with the rest of this motley crew.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 PM


Rumsfeld interview: 'We will defy Paris and Berlin. They will be judged by their people' (Robert Thomson, February 10, 2003, Times of London)
Q. What is the plan for Iraq after war?

A. [...] My guess is that it would be like the bicycle. The Iraqis would figure out a uniquely Iraqi solution and the coalition forces would get the weapons of mass destruction out and make sure the systems were working. The country has a highly educated population. They are intelligent. They are industrious. They have got oil, and the oil in that country is the Iraq people’s oil. Unlike Afghanistan, they have resources.

There are a lot of people prepared, in the event force is used, or in the event that he flees, which is my first choice. Goodness knows, the first choice has to be a solution that allows the international community to get in there and deal with the weapons of mass destruction. The only way that is going to happen is if he is gone, and the preferable way to get him gone is for him to go.

Q. Could you promise him an amnesty?

A. The country that receives him could promise not to extradite him. I am sure there are plenty of countries that would have him. I am not a lawyer, but my impression is that there clearly would be a country that would try demand it (extradition) but if he goes to a country that agrees before the fact not to extradite him, then he is fine. There are plenty of people like that around the world ... Idi Amin Dada is in Saudi Arabia ... “Baby Doc” Duvalier is in France. [...]

Q. What about the Nato conflict over Turkey?

A. Nato will survive, but if the partners announce what they are intending to do (if France, Germany and Belgium block the transfer of defensive equipment) ... they will be judged by their own people and they'll be judged by other Nato countries. I think it’s a shame because Turkey is an important country ... my guess is that Turkey will survive. It will work with other countries in Nato. It would be such a surprising and breathtaking event that I suspect it would reverberate for a while.

That implication, that France is a suitable home for retired dictators, is a nice touch.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM


Decide if you're relevant, Bush tells U.N. (United Press International, 2/9/2003)
President George W. Bush said Sunday the United Nations was facing a "moment of truth" over the Iraq issue and the world body had to decide if it would remain relevant.

"It is clear that not only is Saddam Hussein deceiving, it is clear he's not disarming," Bush told congressional Republicans at a policy conference in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. "And so you'll see us over the next short period of time working with friends and allies and the United Nations to bring that body along."

The United States maintains that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted and must be disarmed with force if necessary.

Saddam "wants the world to think that hide-and-seek is a game that we should play," Bush said Sunday. "And it's over."

Washington says if the United Nations doesn't act against Iraq, then it will do so unilaterally.

Putin almost wholly agrees with French, German Iraq proposals (Agence France-Presse, 09-Feb-2003)
Russia is "almost completely in agreement" with proposals by France and Germany to disarm Iraq by peaceful means, President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday.

As Secretary Rumsfeld has been trying to tell the Europeans, their efforts to hamstring the US via the UN are about to have a paradoxical effect, rather than slow us they're going to destroy the credibility (such as it is) of the one international institution that Americans even recognize as having some slight legitimacy. That's a fine thing, but not what Old Europe meant to do.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:31 PM


The Wifely Duty: Marriage used to provide access to sex. Now it provides access to celibacy (Caitlin Flanagan, January 2003, Atlantic Monthly)
During two strange days in New York last winter, three married people—one after another—confessed to me either that they had stopped having sex or that they knew a married person who had stopped having sex. Like a sensible person, I booked an early flight home and chalked the whole thing up to the magic and mystery that is New York. But no sooner had I put my coat on the peg than it started up again. A number of the mothers in my set began making sardonic comments along similar lines. The daytime talk shows to which I am mildly and happily addicted worried the subject to death, revived it, and worried it some more. Dr. Phil—who, like his mentor Oprah Winfrey, has an uncannily precise sense of what American women in the aggregate are thinking about—noted on his Web site that "sexless marriages are an undeniable epidemic." Mass-circulation magazines aimed at married women rarely go to press these days without an earnest review of some new sexual technique or gadget, the information always presented in the context of how to relight a long-doused fire. (And I must say that an article in Redbook that warns desperate couples away from a product called Good Head Oral Delight Gel—"the consistency is like congealed turkey fat"—deserves some kind of award for service journalism.) Patricia Heaton, a star of Everybody Loves Raymond, has published a memoir called Motherhood and Hollywood, in which she observes, "Sex? Forget about it. I mean that literally." Books with titles such as Okay, So I Don't Have a Headache and I'm Not in the Mood have become immediate hits, and another popular book, For Women Only, lists various techniques that married women use to avoid sex, from the age-old strategy of feigning sleep to the quite modern practice of taking on household night-owl projects. And Allison Pearson's much loved novel about a busy working mother, I Don't Know How She Does It (which opens with the main character engaged in just such a late-night project), features a woman so tired that she's frantic to escape sex with her husband, prompting Margaret Carlson, of Time magazine, to observe, "Sleep is the new sex." It has become impossible not to suspect that a large number of relatively young and otherwise healthy married people are forgoing sex for long periods of time and that many have given it up altogether. [...]

All of this makes me reflect that those repressed and much pitied 1950s wives—their sexless college years! their boorish husbands, who couldn't locate the clitoris with a flashlight and a copy of Gray's Anatomy!—were apparently getting a lot more action than many of today's most liberated and sexually experienced married women. In the old days, of course, there was the wifely duty. A housewife understood that in addition to ironing her husband's shirts and cooking the Sunday roast, she was—with some regularity—going to have relations with the man of the house. Perhaps, as some feminists would have us believe, these were grimly efficient interludes during which the poor humped-upon wife stared at the ceiling and silently composed the grocery list. Or perhaps not. Maybe, as Davis and her "new" findings suggest, once you get the canoe out in the water, everybody starts
happily paddling. The notion that female sexuality was unleashed forty years ago, after lying dormant lo these uncountable millennia, is silly; more recent is the sexual shutdown that apparently takes place in many marriages soon after they have been legalized.

Jane Greer, Redbook's online sex therapist, has a thriving midtown-Manhattan practice. When I asked her about what I had been hearing, she told me that she has seen many married couples who have gone without sex for periods of time ranging from six months to six years. Why? "Marriage has changed," she told me. "In the old days the husband was the breadwinner. The wife had the expectation of raising the children and pleasing him. Now they're both working and both taking care of the children, and they're too exhausted and resentful to have sex." I asked Greer the obvious question: If a couple is not having sex because of job pressures and one partner quits working, does the couple have more sex? The answer was immediate and unequivocal: "Absolutely!"

(What follows is purely speculative--even moreso than usual:)
It's easy enough to believe that the violence done to gender roles and family structure over the last fifty years has had an effect on sexual relationships in marriage. However, one wonders if this "crisis" doesn't start from a faulty premise. Thanks to things like no-fault divorce, the acceptance of alternate lifestyles, welfare subsidies for single mothers, and the like, stable marriages--which is obviously what would be required in order for there to be long periods without sex, since in a short and fractious one you'd not notice the sex going missing--aren't as common as once they were and would appear to be nearly the private preserve of folks who are serious about their commitment to one another and the obligation to create a family. Mightn't we need to consider that the pool of people we're examining are sort of a self-selected traditionalist, middle class bunch? And mightn't it be the case that they come to marriage with a different set of expectations than their grandparents--and, more importantly, everyone else's grandparents--once did. In a world that frowned on--or even made illegal--premarital sex, bastardy, abortion. etc., marriage provided the only safe haven for those who were primarily interested in sex, didn't it? (Unless, like Gaugin, they could go to Tahiti.) But today, if sex is your primary focus in life, why marry? You've reduced your available options from 6 billion to one--that hardly seems like a sensible thing to do.

If, on the other hand, you've met someone you intend to spend your life with, raising children and growing old together, someone who you actually like, a subject rather than an object, perhaps sex doesn't have the imperative it would for someone who is fundamentally alone. Perhaps, in fact, this is very much like what marriages among such people have been like. Maybe the image of the somewhat desexualized 50s was not an elaborate Potemkin Village erected to obscure the dark seething passions behind the scenes. Maybe that's what an affluent, middle class, world of family life really looks like. And maybe rather than being some new trend this one is just more noticeable because people discuss sex more openly than they once did and because the people in stable marriages are so much at odds with the sexualized culture of the day. Most of all, maybe they're telling the truth where others aren't. After all, if you're single and living in a world where skantily-clad no-talents are icons and whose motto is "If it feels good do it", it would be rather embarrassing to admit that you aren't getting much, wouldn't it? Who wants to acknowledge that they're not only unloved but unsexed? In this sense, much of adult modernity resembles our old college days, where at least half your friends were virgins but only 1% would fess up.

I'd be interested to hear what y'all have to say on the topic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


Bi For Now: Call them hasbians. Women who came out of the closet only to end up in heterosexual relationships. Switching teams is never easy--no matter which side you're on. (Amy Sohn, New York)
If the lipstick lesbian was the gay icon of the nineties, these days she's been replaced by her more controversial counterpart, the hasbian: a woman who used to date women but now dates men. Though Anne Heche is the most prominent example, many hasbians (sometimes called LUGS: lesbians until graduation) are by-products of nineties liberal-arts educations. Caught up in the gay scene at school, they came out at 20 or 21 and now, five or ten years later, are finding themselves in the odd position of coming out all over again--as heterosexuals.

Some hasbians identify as bisexual, while others say they're straight and describe their lesbianism as a meaningful but finite phase of their lives, like listening to a lot of Morrissey or campaigning for Dukakis.

One of the most interesting but little discussed aspects of homosexuality is that no one really takes lesbianism seriously. It seems understood that lesbians have just had bad experiences with the men in their lives or don't care to try to deal with men, so they opt out of heterosexuality, at least for awhile. In fact, one can read Andrew Sullivan's fine book on the politics of homosexuality, Virtually Normal, and barely get an inkling that lesbians exist.

But suggest that male homosexuality is similarly psychological--rather than genetic or in some other fashion biological--and you're likely to be greeted with outrage.

UPDATE (via Entertainment Weekly):
An apt line from this week's Will & Grace, by someone named Jack: "Man, making someone gay is exhausting. I don't know how my mother did it."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:54 AM


A Look Inside Tan Dun's 'Water Passion' (Morning Edition, 2/08/03, NPR)
Composer Tan Dun's tribute to Bach -- "Water Passion after St. Matthew" -- debuted in New York last fall. Jeff Lunden, who reports on cultural topics, gives NPR an inside look at the performance. He was among the voices in the Dessoff Choirs, an amateur group that provided the composition's unusual vocal element.

The excerpts they played, of Water Passion after St. Matthew, sounded exactly as unusual as you'd expect from Tan Dun, the composer who did Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM


Complex proposal to simplify savings (Kathleen Pender, February 9, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)
For many people, President Bush's plan to simplify savings would be anything but simple.

Bush proposes creating three new savings accounts -- one workplace retirement plan, one for retirement savings outside of work and one for all other savings.

Let's make the naive assumption that Congress approves all three accounts without imposing any income limits, phase-in periods or special rules for guys who wear polka-dotted boxers.

People who are just starting to save would find the new choices far simpler than the exasperating array of options that exist today.

But if you're in middle age or older, you've probably got a ragtag collection of deductible, non-deductible, Roth and/or rollover IRAs, college savings and workplace retirement plans.

This seems like a case of a columnist making the best the enemy of the better.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM


Kurdish Political Leader Killed in Iraq (BORZOU DARAGAHI, 2/09/03, Associated Press)
Gunmen posing as defectors from an Islamic extremist group killed a political leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and two other Kurdish officials, a party commander said Sunday.

The commander blamed the Ansar al-Islam organization for the Saturday night attack on Gen. Shawkat Haji Mushir, a member of the political leadership of the party, which controls the eastern section of the Kurdish autonomous region of northeast Iraq.

Sheik Jaffar Mustafa, party military commander of the town of Halabja, said the three attackers also killed Hekmat Osman, security chief of the Sirwan district, and Sardar Qafoor, military commander of Sirwan district. Three civilians - a man, a woman and a child - were also killed.

Mohamad Tawfiq, security chief of Halabja, was seriously injured, and six civilians and three other Kurdish soldiers also were hurt, he said.

Ansar al-Islam, which the PUK says has ties to the al-Qaida network, was singled out by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell as a terrorist-linked organization during his appearance before the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday.

Recall that just before the 9-11 attack al Qaeda murdered the legendary Ahmad Shah Massoud, who led the resistance to the Taliban and would have been the natural leader of a post-Taliban Afghanistan. This was the payoff to Osama's hosts for their protection.

How far-fetched is the supposition that this assassination is a pay off to Saddam? And/or, more frightening, a "passive" signal to operatives abroad to launch a new 9-11 style attack?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:20 AM


World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability by Amy Chua (C-SPAN, February 9, 2003, 8 & 11 pm)
The point...is this: In the numerous countries around the world that have pervasive poverty and a market-dominant minority, democracy and markets -- at least in the form in which they are currently being promoted -- can proceed only in deep tension with each other. In such conditions, the combined pursuit of free markets and democratization has repeatedly catalyzed ethnic conflict in highly predictable ways. This has been the sobering lesson of globalization in the last twenty years.

-Amy L. Chua: Professor of Law: Yale Law School
-REVIEW: of World on Fire (Michelle Goldberg, Salon)
-REVIEW: of World on Fire (Chris Lehmann, Mother Jones)
-REVIEW: of World on Fire (Paul Magnusson, Business Week)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


The Satirist of the Fall (F.H. Buckley, January 2003, The Crisis)
With Quintillian, the conservative might almost say, Satura tota nostra est: Satire is all our own. The most acidic satires have come from the pens of conservative writers: Juvenal, Butler, Dryden, Pope, Swift, Johnson, Chesterton, Belloc, Mordecai Richler, Florence King, Tom Wolfe, P.J. O'Rourke, and Mark Steyn. A Walter Olson or Dave Barry simply reports on a piece of fatuous liberalism and exclaims, "I'm not making this up!"

Best of all, there is [Evelyn] Waugh (1903-1966), whose centenary we celebrate this year. The greatest satirist since Swift and the best stylist of his generation, Waugh was a deeply conservative convert to Catholicism who saw in it the only bulwark against a corrosive modernism. Waugh's satire is so mordant and politically incorrect that one is almost surprised to see it displayed openly on booksellers' shelves. [...]

Waugh abruptly abandoned his pose of modernity in 1929 when his empty-headed first wife left him for another man. "I did not know it was possible to be so miserable and live," he wrote Harold Acton, "but I am told that it is a common experience." Of a sudden, Waugh rediscovered a serious side which is never wholly absent from the satirist. "I know very few young people," said Vile Bodies's Father Rothschild (Father Martin D'Arcy, S.J.), "but it seems to me that they are all possessed with an almost fatal hunger for permanence." In Waugh's case, this took him to Father D'Arcy in Mayfair and to the Catholic Church.

Waugh's conversion was an affair of the head, not the heart. He said that reading St. John of the Cross was like reading "about the habits of some strange tribe." Father D'Arcy himself said, "I have never myself met a convert who so strongly based his assents on truth.... He had convinced himself very unsentimentally-with only an intellectual passion-of the truth of the Catholic faith." [...]

Waugh's intellectual assent rested on his belief in Christianity and Father D'Arcy's apologetics. More than this, Waugh had retreated in horror from the destruction of values that the collapse of his marriage had symbolized. Graham Greene said that Waugh "needed to cling to something solid and strong and unchanging." Like Burke, Waugh recognized that "the essential issue is no longer between Catholicism, on one side, and Protestantism, on the other, but between Christianity and Chaos."

The standard line on Waugh is that the satirist was spoiled by his religion. The madcap author of Decline and Fall and Vile Bodies turned glum on his conversion, abandoning the icy brilliance of his earlier novels. The truth is just the opposite.

Many thanks to Jed Roberts for sending this along. Evelyn Waugh is a prime exhibit in our arguments both that all comedy is fundamentally conservative and that the enduring novels of the 20th Century will be, not those by Joyce and Woolf and Proust but, the conservative ones. If you've never read him, The Loved One is an especially good place to start.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:30 AM


The Rat That Roared: Jacques Chirac has a lot of Gaul. (CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, February 8, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
We are all aware of the fact that French companies and the French state are owed immense sums of money by Saddam Hussein. We all very much hope that no private gifts to any French political figures have been made by the Iraqi Baath Party, even though such scruple on either side would be anomalous to say the very least. Is it possible that there is any more to it than that? The future government in Baghdad may very well not consider itself responsible for paying Saddam's debts.

It is intolerable that democratic successors to a fascistic cult of personality be held responsible for the debts of the old regime. If the people of a nation had no say about incurring the debt, how can they be held liable for it? Let the French go begging and let's see how eager they are to assist other totalitarians.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


Turning the Tide: Powell's speech on Iraq was a success, but the U.S. must keep pressing to win over world opinion (Kenneth M. Pollack, February 7, 2003, LA Times)
Although Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation on Iraq was made to the U.N. Security Council, this was probably his least important audience. The council's members are not going to vote based on the evidence he presented. They are going to make their decisions based on politics, as they always do.

In truth, all council members already know that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction and is deceiving the inspectors. As a former CIA analyst and National Security Council director on the Persian Gulf, I never met a foreign government official -- not even from France, Russia or China -- who argued that Iraq did not still have weapons of mass destruction.

All they ever disputed was how best to deal with the problem. In fact, although Germany is most loudly opposed to war, it is the German intelligence agency whose assessments of Iraqi capabilities are the most alarming of all of the Western services. [...]

The hardest audience to judge is the citizenry of foreign nations. In recent weeks, the diplomatic tide has turned decidedly in favor of the Bush administration. After the Hans Blix inspection report and the diplomatic missteps by France and Germany, more countries have been signaling a willingness to support a war against Iraq. However, they are telling Washington that they need political cover with their own populations -- few of which are comfortable with a war.

Powell's presentation was a strong first step toward convincing these constituencies to support a war, but it was only a first step. What is necessary now is sustained follow-through. Especially for foreign citizens who will be most likely to dismiss Powell's arguments or believe Iraqi claims that the evidence was manufactured. [...]

If the administration aggressively follows up on Powell's lead-off homer, it should be able to build the domestic political support and foreign commitments necessary for a broadly supported war with Iraq while effectively inoculating itself against whatever half-concessions Hussein suddenly may make.

That's a curious formulation by Mr. Pollack, conceding on the one hand that the evidence doesn't much matter and that folks are simply pursuing their own political agendas, but then, on the other hand, arguing that the Administration can change the internal politics of our "allies". Aren't people who would be inclined to believe Saddam rather than Colin Powell so different from us in political viewpoint that trying to convince them of anything is futile?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:48 AM


In bed with Bush, and it's hard to sleep: Don't think for a minute that the Prime Minister is completely comfortable with his stance on Iraq. (Paul Sheehan [psheehan@smh.com.au], February 6 2003, Sydney Morning Herald)
'ABU Ghraib is the biggest prison in the country [Iraq]. Until recently, it housed maybe 50,000 men, although to my knowledge there are no official figures on this ... Over the years human rights organisations have reported that mass executions took place regularly ... every Wednesday was execution day at the prison. An old-fashioned Indian hanging machine had been used for a while, but a problem arose with noise. There was a terrific banging sound every time the machine dropped and people living near the prison had been begun keeping track of the executions by counting the bangs," the Iraqi exile said.

"The old gallows was replaced by a quiet modern device, but the locals still knew when executions were taking place because the condemned men ululated as they went to their deaths. In our culture, this is something that only women do, when they are happy. But the men in Abu Ghraib make the sound because they are so relieved that they are finally going to die."

This description, extracted from a superb inside portrait of Iraq by Jon Lee Anderson in The New Yorker of November 25 (and thus subject to the magazine's legendary fact-checking department), presents a dilemma for all the moral virgins who fill the debate over Iraq.

Like most Australians, I'm against the Bush Administration's war, but that doesn't mean that we in the majority can congratulate ourselves about our moral superiority. All those offering a variety of peaceful, patient, reasonable and bloodless options should at least have the honesty to acknowledge that if Saddam Hussein retains power in this stand-off with George Bush, the anti-war movement will have delivered a de facto victory for a psychotic, genocidal tyranny. And not for the first time.

It really is a tortured choice. Do we participate with the Bush Administration in a hot conflict that Australia does not need to join? Do we thus help a son complete the unfinished work of his father? Do we participate in a full-scale armed intervention that mobilised after Bush announced last April, "Saddam needs to go"? Do we acquiesce with an Administration that considers nuclear weapons a first-strike option? Do we trust the same people who botched the endgame against al-Qaeda during the war in Afghanistan? Do we support an Administration that still makes no connections between its Iraq policy and the blank cheque it provides to Israel?

The Australian public has said "No" to all of the above. I agree with them.

This is an admirably honest formulation by Mr. Sheehan, acknowledging that "human rights" advocates can have the best of both worlds: they know the U.S. is going to depose Saddam regardless of what they or their countrymen do, but they can keep their own skirts clean as far as war is concerned by opposing the U.S.. It's not a serious moral position, but it is refreshingly frank.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:35 AM


White House Floats Idea of Dropping Income Tax Overhaul (EDMUND L. ANDREWS, February 8, 2003, NY Times)
President Bush, having already set off a firestorm over his proposals to cut taxes and revamp retirement accounts, suggested today that the time might be near to drop the income tax as a whole and replace it with some form of consumption tax.

The idea was outlined in the White House's annual economic report to Congress. The report, prepared by the White House Council of Economic Advisers and signed by Mr. Bush, offers a scathing critique of the current system and an exuberant description of radical alternatives. [...]

By eliminating the complexity and the thousands of arcane preferences in today's tax code, the report says, a consumption tax would not only increase efficiency but promote investment and growth.

"Most estimates suggest that a shift to a consumption tax base would generally increase the size of the capital stock in the long run," the report said. Economic output could increase as much as 6 percent, it added.

Michael Graetz, a professor of tax policy at Yale Law School and a longtime advocate of a tax on consumption, said the report was a clear signal about the administration's long-term thinking.

"It's unusual for something like that to be in the economic report of the president," Mr. Graetz said. "I don't believe the president has made a decision about what he would like to do. On the other hand, this shows they are serious about fundamental tax reform." [...]

At its simplest, a consumption tax would eliminate traditional income taxes for most if not all taxpayers and replace those taxes with some kind of tax on spending. Corporations might still pay taxes, but they would abandon most of the rules for depreciating investment in new equipment or buildings and simply write off those costs as expenses in the year they occur.

The allure of such systems is their simplicity. Fans of the consumption tax said it would save ordinary taxpayers billions of dollars, eliminate the wasteful gaming of current rules and ultimately be more fair. [...]

Republican lawmakers and policy analysts generally doubt Mr. Bush will push for a radical tax overhaul anytime soon, given his already sprawling agenda of a likely war with Iraq and the huge tax bills he
wants to push through this year.

But if Mr. Bush succeeds in pushing through his current agenda, and wins re-election in 2004, the report could turn out to be a blueprint for his goals in a second presidential term.

One of the greatest mistakes Ronald Reagan ever made was to run his re-election campaign in 1984 on only a feel-good message, rather than running on a couple big ideas. This left his second term rather directionless, so that all he really achieved was the continued focus on defeating the Soviet Union, which is no small thing, and a temporary jiggering of the tax code, but one amenable to folks like Bill Bradley.

It's a risky strategy--and incumbents are risk averse--but President Bush should run on a complete tax overhaul and privatization of current entitlement programs. One way that he could detoxify the tax issue and get himself a salesman who would allay peoples' fears is to get John McCain on board. If we take Senator McCain at his word about how much he wants to get special interests out of the business of government, nothing would have a greater effect than to simplify the tax code and get rid of the Byzantine system of tax breaks we now have. Lobbying and campaign donations are sound business investments when you can get a line added to the tax code thay will repay your efforts many times over. Remove the payoffs and you'll reduce the efforts to secure them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:18 AM


Lunar-tics (JACK HITT, February 9, 2003, NY Times Magazine)
[Bart] Sibrel is part of a new generation of conspiracy mega-theorists. They don't toy with the small stuff. Ever since the passing of that sweet, simpler time -- when the Trilateral Commission ordered the hit on John Kennedy and the Queen of England managed the drug cartels -- the narratives of big suspicion have been distorted by the same force that has reshaped our partisan politics, action movies and morning TV talk shows: outrage inflation. To be noticed now, a theory must be of a scope only Stephen Hawking could measure, and it must be promulgated by an amiable spokesman who can deftly juggle often absurd contradictions. Sibrel is not your father's conspiracy theorist -- some grumpy autodidact with a self-published book raging at the gates of the establishment. Sibrel came of age in the post-Watergate era. He has absorbed the real lesson of the last two decades: push for belief in ever bolder and more unlikely ideas. Plus, he knows how to make decent television.

Sibrel's first documentary, ''A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon,