March 15, 2003

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 11:19 PM

...

JUST TESTING . . .
Posted by Paul Jaminet at 10:44 PM

'CHEMICAL ALI' GOES TO WAR:


Hundreds flee as Saddam acts to prevent uprising (Times of London, 3/15/2003)
HUNDREDS of Kurds were fleeing to northern Iraq yesterday as President Saddam Hussein’s special forces began a crackdown in the key city of Kirkuk to prevent an uprising in the event of war....

“They were looking for anyone that they suspected might be planning an uprising,” Haval Ravel, Mr Rafiq’s cousin, said. “When they found he had a friend staying from Kurdistan, they arrested both of them and took them away.”

At least ten young Kurdish men from the immediate neighbourhood were arrested that night. By morning the entire Kurdish quarter had been sealed off with roadblocks and the special guards were continuing their searches from house to house, arresting scores more men as they went.

Mr Ravel decided not to stick around to see what would happen when the guards reached his neighbourhood. Taking only the clothes he stood in, he left his house and found a taxi heading out of the city towards the relative safety of the Kurdish-controlled enclave in the north, out of reach of the Iraqi authorities....

All yesterday morning, battered taxis and buses streamed steadily through the Qushatapa checkpoint separating “Saddam Iraq” from the Kurdish north ...

Those fleeing have good reason to be afraid. They said the man leading the crackdown was Ali Hassan Majid, Saddam’s cousin.

To Kurds he is known simply as “Chemical Ali” for his part in the deaths of more than 100,000 Kurds between 1987 and 1989, including the gassing of 5,000 villagers in Halabja.


Saddam is like a whirlwind of war; wherever he is, violence and death are there also. This is why the anti-war folks are not pro-peace. There will be no peace until Saddam is delenda.
Posted by David Cohen at 9:41 PM

Saddam, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship... (politicaobscura)


Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 1974. This is, I suppose, somewhat unfair. Politicians have their pictures taken with lots of people who might turn out to be sadistic dictators armed with weapons of mass destruction and a grandiose world view. On the other hand, my wife wonders if they were lovers.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 PM

THE HOWELLING::

Mashing Our Monster (MAUREEN DOWD, March 16, 2003, NY Times)
Sure, the Bushies might be feeling a bit rattled right now, with the old international system and the North Atlantic alliance crashing down around their ears.

But you can't transfigure the world without ticking off the world.

It's not a simple task, carving new divisions in Europe, just as Europe is moving past the divisions that led to the greatest tragedies of the 20th century.

The Bush hawks never intended to give peace a chance. They intended to give pre-emption a chance.

They never wanted to merely disarm the slimy Saddam. They wanted to dislodge and dispose of him. [...]

The hawks despise the U.N. and if they'd gotten its support, they never would have been able to establish the principle that the U.S. can act wherever and whenever it wants to--a Lone Ranger, no Tontos.

Cheney, Rummy, Wolfy, etc. never wanted Colin Powell to find a diplomatic solution. They hate diplomatic solutions. That's why they gleefully junked so many international treaties, multilateral exercises and trans-Atlantic engagements.

They blame the popular Mr. Powell for persuading Bush 41 to end Desert Storm with Saddam still in power, so that the Army would not look as if it was slaughtering the retreating Iraqi Republican Guard.

Once the war stopped, American troops could not intervene to help Shiite Muslims rising up in the south, a rebellion encouraged by Bush 41. Saddam massacred the rebels.


It's no longer possible to even tell what this woman is trying to say--can she really mean to be suggesting that Mr. Powell was right and she supports those massacres?

And does she really think that Europe's problem was "divisions" rather than the totalitarian ideology adopted on one half of the divide?


Posted by Paul Jaminet at 6:40 PM

NEVER, NEVER FORGET (part 3):


The Marines Who Died (Raleigh-Durham Herald-Sun slideshow)

Neat photos from the Gulf.


Posted by Paul Jaminet at 6:13 PM

THIS ALSO IS VANITY:


Le Bulldozer takes up tap dancing and learns to love himself (Times of London, 3/15/2003)
Jacques Chirac has finally landed himself the starring part as France’s heart-throb, after a lifetime during which the glamorous role in history he had always imagined for himself never quite materialised. M Chirac’s stance over Iraq has provoked fury in Britain and the US, but almost hysterical plaudits in France. “Whatever the immediate future holds, Jacques Chirac has already, by crystallising the feeling of national pride, written the page that was missing from the book of his life,” panted Le Figaro....

M Chirac’s supporters ... say he is acting out of pure, lofty principle. If so, this may be a first ...

Ruthless, smooth and energetic, M Chirac was never accused of believing in anything much; as a consequence, he never achieved anything very substantial. Even his nickname, “Le Bulldozer”, suggested dogged determination rather than talent....

Perhaps these are the actions of a man who, having spent a lifetime believing very little, has belatedly discovered a cause; but more likely they are those of a politician hearing sustained, unfeigned applause for almost the first time in his life.

“The President is in ecstasy,” one aide remarked as M Chirac began collecting the bouquets and billets-doux from an adoring French media. “He’s like a man smoking a cigarette after making love.”


Now this is the kind of unbiased journalism I'd like to see from the American press.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:17 PM

LEAD, FOLLOW, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY:

Paris, Moscow and Berlin Issue Declaration Against Iraq War, Call for Ministers' Gathering (Kim Housego, 3/15/03, AP)
France, Russia and Germany issued a joint declaration Saturday saying there was no justification for a war on Iraq and calling for a meeting of foreign ministers at the U.N. Security Council to set a "realistic" timetable for Saddam Hussein to disarm.

France's foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said his country would accept a "tight timetable" for Iraqi disarmament - but not an ultimatum that would automatically lead to war if missed. But he said war appears increasingly inevitable.

"It is difficult to imagine what could stop this machine," he told France 2 television, before adding "one does not have the right to be discouraged."


They're French; they're born discouraged.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM

HE WAS OUR PRESIDENT:

Ex-Clinton aide reveals Bill lost the nuclear codes (Washington Whispers, 3/15/03, US News)
Former President Clinton lost the codes to nuclear war the day the Monica Lewinsky affair broke, was MIA in the fall of 1998 when a decision was needed on the killing of Osama bin Laden, and was "too busy watching a golf match" to OK a 1996 bombing mission in Iraq, says a blockbuster new book by Clinton's former military aide. Lt. Col. Robert Patterson, who carried the nuclear "football" from May 1996 to May 1998, crosses a line no other "mil aide" has before in condemning his commander in chief in Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America's National Security. "This story had to be told." But a Clinton national security aide, William Danvers, tells us Clinton was never "unavailable for key" decisions and didn't jeopardize U.S. security. One story: The day the Lewinsky scandal broke, Clinton was to trade in his "biscuit" with the nuclear launch codes. But they were missing. "We never did get them back," says Patterson. Then there's bin Laden: Clinton ducked calls from the Situation Room to ok a Tomahawk attack in 1998, then waffled until it was too late.

Never "unavailable"? Can you say "non-denial denial"?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM

KFC--KUWAITI FRIED CHICKEN:

Poison-detecting poultry fried by Kuwait's sand, heat (GORDON DILLOW, 3/15/03, The Orange County Register)
"Alpha Annie" didn't survive her deployment to the Kuwaiti desert with the U.S. Marines. But at least it wasn't NBC that killed her.

Alpha Annie was a chicken, one of the now famous Kuwaiti chickens that were purchased by some Marine ground combat units here to help provide a backup for the high-tech nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) detectors each Marine company is equipped with. It was sort of a modern-day canary-in-the-mine-shaft concept.

Unfortunately, the chicken experiment didn't work. The wind and sand and dust in the barren Kuwaiti desert apparently is even harder on chickens than it is on Marines, because all of the sentinel chickens quickly died of natural causes. Sadly, Alpha Co.'s chicken was among them.

"Alpha Annie lasted the longest of any of them," reports Lt. Nathan Shull, the XO (executive officer) of Alpha Company, part of the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton. "I got to pick out our chicken and I picked the best one, and we kept her in the (sleeping) tent most of the time. But after five or six days she croaked in her sleep. I guess all the dust clogs up their sinuses or something."

The rapid disappearance of the NBC chickens gave rise to a persistent rumor.

"That's what they've been feeding us in the chow tent," says Sgt. James Hepburn, 25, who lives in Orange when he's not eating sand in Kuwait. In fact, Alpha Annie was buried in the desert with appropriate military honors.


Uh oh, PETA's gonna be mad...again. You can hear them now: "First they came for the polutry, but I wasn't a chicken...."
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:37 PM

WALKING GUMCHEW:

Suspected al-Qaida Operative Arrested (AP, Mar 15, 2003)
Pakistani authorities arrested suspected al Qaida operative, Yassir Al-Jazeeri, in Pakistan's eastern Punjab capital of Lahore on Saturday, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:33 PM

SWEDEN WITHOUT MORAL CAPITAL::

Perestroika of the Spirit In Russia, the vocabulary of faith needs interpreters. (Philip Yancey, 03/05/2003, Christianity Today)
Last fall I spent a day with church-going Christians in Sweden, a distinct minority these days.

I mentioned that although many Swedes had abandoned the church, their society continued to live off the moral capital accumulated during centuries of faith. Honesty, peacefulness, generosity, prudence, justice-the Vikings were not noted for such qualities before their conversion.

"What would Sweden look like if we used up our moral capital?" one woman asked. I recommended she visit Russia, the next stop on my trip, for an answer.

There, brilliant leaders with a thoroughly materialistic outlook on life set into motion an experiment on a huge scale. They shuttered 98 of every 100 churches and killed 42,000 priests. Some cathedrals they turned into museums of atheism; village churches they converted into apartments or barns.

An irony played itself out, though, as a society committed to social and economic justice accomplished just the opposite. "With the best of intentions, we ended up creating the greatest monstrosity the world has ever seen," a shaken editor of Pravda told me. Official archives detail the deaths of at least 25 million people at the hands of their own government. A massive economy collapsed of its own incompetence.

By many standards, Russia today finds itself among the world's developing nations. Russian men have a life expectancy of 59. The birth rate has fallen so precipitously that the U.N. is forecasting Russia's population may sink to only 55 million by 2055. Seventy percent of Russian marriages end in divorce, and, according to conservative estimates, the average woman has had four abortions.

Visitors today comment on the scarcity of smiles, rudeness on the subways, the fear of crime, the quantity of alcohol consumed. Russian politicians complain about the lack of honesty and charity, and even commission foreign organizations to teach the Ten Commandments in the schools.

In St. Petersburg I attended a Christian booksellers' convention, a tiny gathering held in an abandoned factory district. The day before, I had visited the Hermitage Museum, where one stunning room displays 25 Rembrandts, including The Return of the Prodigal Son. I watched schoolchildren being ushered through the museum. They would stop at paintings of biblical scenes, which their teachers would attempt to explain.

Talking with the booksellers, I recalled the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8, in which Philip climbed in the chariot and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" That's the task of Christians in Russia, I concluded. The vocabulary already exists: in the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, in the great art at the Hermitage, and in the icons prominent in every church. Someone simply needs to climb in the chariot and explain.


We're profoundly dubious about the possibility of reversing that kind of population decline unless there's a major religious revival. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky may have written great lyrics but a society can't dance to them.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM

DOING THE SPADEWORK FOR THE FOURTH REICH:

Germans Revisit War's Agony, Ending a Taboo (RICHARD BERNSTEIN, March 15, 2003, NY Times)
The photograph, a precious possession, shows gracious, dignified Holbein Street in Dresden before World War II, where the childhood friends Nora Lang, now 72, and Vanila John, 71, lived in apartments across from each other.

"It's nice that Dresden is being restored," Ms. John said, speaking of the many monuments in this once ruined city that are still being rebuilt, stone by stone. "But the old Dresden is gone forever — the houses, the homes and also the people whom I knew, who are gone, too."

Ms. John, who witnessed the nighttime firebombing of Dresden by the Royal Air Force on Feb. 13, 1945--an attack that killed about 35,000 people and destroyed one of the most beautiful cities in Europe — was doing what many Germans have been doing lately: talking about their own suffering in World War II.

For the last few months in fact, television has been showing endless documentaries and discussions of the air war waged by Britain and the United States against Germany in World War II. While this is not exactly a new subject in Germany, there are at least two ways in which the discussion is different from the past.

First, the emphasis in today's articles and discussions is on what Jorg Friedrich, author of a best-selling book on the Allied bombing campaign, calls "Leideform," the form of suffering inflicted on the German civilian population.

In other words, a taboo, by which Germans have remained guiltily silent, at least in public, about their experience of the horrors of war, has been suddenly and rather mysteriously broken.

Second, the new awareness of the Allied bombings and the devastation they wrought has become an important element in German opposition to the expected American war on Iraq. What people like Ms. Lang and Ms. John, both antiwar activists in Dresden, have been saying is something like this: We have direct knowledge of the gruesome effects of war and we don't want anybody else to experience what we have experienced. [...]

Moreover, in what has stirred perhaps the greatest amount of criticism, here and there in his book Mr. Friedrich uses language that until now has been reserved to describing the Holocaust. He refers to the deaths in bomb cellars caused by the carbon monoxide produced by the fires raging above as "death by gassing."

He also uses the word "crematoria" to describe the fires' incinerating effect.

Where he describes attacks on cities that had, in his view, no military significance, he calls the havoc and deaths that resulted "massacres."


Hey, here's an idea: next time don't choose Nazi leaders. Unfortunately, one suspects that this kind of scab-picking and whipping up of anti-American sentiment, added to economic decline and a coming demographic crisis will maker it all the easier for the Germans to prepare themselves psychological for the next genocide they commit--this time against their Muslim immigrant population.
Posted by Paul Jaminet at 4:15 PM

ISRAEL PREPARES FOR TRIAL:

'Pinpoint prevention' could end up in new International Court (Ha'aretz, 3/15/2003)
Judge Advocate General Maj. Gen. Menachem Finkelstein predicted yesterday ... that the methods that might come under the [International Criminal] Court's purview include what Israel refers to as "pinpoint prevention," a euphemism for assassinating terrorists and terrorist commanders....

The leading candidate for the job [of general prosecutor] is South African Justice Richard Goldstone....

Goldstone, a Jew, had recently appeared on Belgian TV and spoke in favor of putting Premier Ariel Sharon on trial for his alleged involvement in the Sabra and Chatila massacres of Beirut during Israel's occupation of the city in 1982....

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said Israel refuses to join the international criminal court treaty "because we have a responsibility toward the IDF, security officials and the political echelon to protect them against fabricated enforcement."


No wonder Goldstone's the leading candidate -- a Jew who wants to prosecute Jews, who could suit the ICC better. Maybe Britain should call for an anti-Semitism conference to follow the anti-Americanism one.
Posted by Paul Jaminet at 4:05 PM

BRITAIN FIRES ANOTHER SHOT:


UK calls for summit on anti-Americanism (EU Observer, 3/14/2003)
The UK will ask Greece, which currently holds the presidency of the EU, to convene a special emergency summit to discuss anti-Americanism and its impact on the Union’s projects....

If it goes ahead the meeting may be crucial point in the fight for control over the future of the EU.


Asking France to attend such a summit is rather like asking the Ku Klux Klan to attend a civil rights rally.
Posted by Paul Jaminet at 3:18 PM

MOTHER OF ALL FIGHTS (via Volokh Conspiracy):

Supreme Court (Scripps-Howard News Service, 3/14/2003)
Supreme Court vacancies? Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., says he's been told there will soon be two, and is rearranging his staff for what is expected to be the mother of all fights on Capitol Hill to stop any Bush nomination.

Note the slip by the reporter -- letting it out that the Democrats want to "stop any Bush nomination."

Well, if fight there must be -- bring it on, baby.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:51 PM

LEST WE EVER FORGET:

Life Expectancy in U.S. Reaches a Record High (Rob Stein, March 15, 2003, Washington Post)
Although the nation's life expectancy reached an all-time high in 2001, the Sept. 11 attacks caused a sharp rise in the homicide rate, countering a decade-long trend, federal officials reported yesterday.

The lifespan for Americans rose from 77 years in 2000 to 77.2 in 2001, continuing a long-term trend of Americans living longer, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The increase was for both men and women and for both whites and blacks. For men, life expectancy increased from 74.3 years in 2000 to 74.4 years in 2001. For women, it increased from 79.7 years to 79.8. For whites overall, the increase was one-tenth of a year, to 77.7 years in 2001; for blacks, it was three-tenths of a year, to 72.2.

At the same time, the age-adjusted death rate hit an all-time low, dropping from 869 deaths per 100,000 people in 2000 to 855 in 2001, according to an annual report from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.

The number of homicides, however, which had been decreasing steadily, jumped 17 percent between 2000 and 2001 -- up from 16,765 to 19,727, according to Robert N. Anderson, a statistician.

But the increase was almost entirely the result of the 2,953 homicides that the CDC officially attributed to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. If those deaths are subtracted, the age-adjusted homicide rate dropped from 5.9 per 100,000 in 2000 to 5.8 per 100,000 in 2002, officials said.

As a result, the CDC created a new subcategory for homicide -- deaths from terrorism -- so officials could monitor the homicide rate separately, Anderson said.


Every time 9-11 recedes to the back of your mind, even just a little bit, there's something like this to bring it back to the forefront and restoke your fury. Good.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM

FOR SOME OF US IT'S THE LONGEST WIN:

The Longest Loss: Colgate Takes Opener in 4 OTs (Bruce Wood, 3/15/03, Valley News)
Freshman Kyle Wilson tipped a wide shot from P.J. Yedon into the left corner of the net 1:05 into the fourth overtime last night at Thompson Arena to give Colgate a 4-3 win over Dartmouth and a 1-0 lead in the ECAC Division I men's hockey tournament quarterfinals after the longest game in the history of either school.

Senior goalie Nick Boucher broke a 36-year-old Dartmouth record for saves with 65 before Wilson's goal ended a game that lasted 121:05, easily surpassing the previous Big Green record of 94:15 set in last year's 5-4 double-overtime win against the Raiders in the first round of the ECACs.

The same two teams were involved in the only other double OT game in Dartmouth history, a 4-3 Colgate win in the 1993 playoffs.

The Big Green (17-12-1) and the Raiders (17-17-4) return to action tonight at 7. A Dartmouth victory would force a third and deciding game tomorrow night, also at 7.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:11 PM

MELISSA'S WISH IS OUR COMMAND:

Remarks by National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice at the National Prayer Breakfast (Washington Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C., February 6, 2003)

I am greatly honored by the invitation to speak here this morning. It is a day when official Washington gathers not as Republicans or Democrats; not as conservatives or liberals; nor as Christians, Jews, or Muslims. Rather, we are gathered as a fellowship of the faithful who share a love of God and who embrace God?s will and ways - even in moments of pain and loss, like right now, when those ways seem so mysterious to us. Today, our Nation?s thoughts are with the seven brave souls taken from us five mornings ago. We pray that in losing their mortal lives they have found life eternal in His care.

I approach the honor of addressing you with a deep sense of humility. I am not a member of any clergy. I am, however, the daughter, the granddaughter and, indeed, the niece, of ordained Presbyterian ministers. So in some ways this occasion feels very familiar to me.

Sundays in my family meant church. It was the center of our lives. In segregated black Birmingham of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the church was not just a place of worship; it was the social and civic center of our community.

Throughout my life I have never doubted the existence of God, but, like most people, I have had some ups and downs in practicing my faith. After I moved to California in 1981 to join the faculty at Stanford, there were a lot of years when I was not attending church regularly. I was traveling a great deal, always in a different time zone, and going to church too often fell by the wayside.

Then something happened that I will always remember. One Sunday morning I was approached at the supermarket by a man buying some things for his church picnic. He asked me, "Do you play the piano by any chance?" I said, "Yes." And he said his congregation was looking for someone to play the piano at their church. It was a small African-American church in the center of Palo Alto and I started playing there every Sunday. And I thought to myself, "My goodness, God has a long reach - all the way to a Lucky?s Supermarket in the spice section on a Sunday morning."

The only problem was, it was a Baptist church and I don?t play gospel very well, unlike our great Attorney General John Ashcroft. I play Brahms. At this church the minister would start with a song and the musicians had to pick it up. I had no idea what I was doing. So I called my mother, who had played for Baptist churches, to ask her for advice. She said, "Honey, just play in C and they?ll come back to you." And that?s true. If you play in C, the foundational key in music, people will come back. Perhaps God plays in C, and that?s why we always seem to find our way back to Him, sometimes in spite of ourselves.

Looking back on the years since I found my way back, it is hard for me to imagine my life without a strong and active faith. Faith is what gives me comfort, and humility, and hope . even through the darkest hours. Like many people - here and abroad - I have turned to God and prayer more and more this past year and a half, including this past Saturday morning. Terror and tragedy have made us more aware of our vulnerability and our own mortality. We are living through a time of testing and consequence - and praying that our wisdom and will are equal to the work before us. And it is at times like these that we are reminded of a paradox, that it is a privilege to struggle. A privilege to struggle for what is right and true. A privilege to struggle for freedom over tyranny. A privilege, even, to struggle with the most difficult and profound moral choices.

American slaves used to sing, "Nobody knows the trouble I?ve seen - Glory Hallelujah!" Growing up, I would often wonder at the seeming contradiction contained in this line. But as I grew older, I came to learn that there is no contradiction at all.

I believe this same message is found in the Bible in Romans 5, where we are told to "rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,and hope does not disappoint us, because God?s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us."

For me, this message has two lessons.

First, there is the lesson that only through struggle do we realize the depths of our resilience and understand that the hardest of blows can be survived and overcome. Too often when all is well, we slip into the false joy and satisfaction of the material and a complacent pride and faith in ourselves. Yet it is through struggle that we find redemption and self-knowledge. In this sense it is a privilege to struggle because it frees one from the idea that the human spirit is fragile, like a house of cards, or that human strength is fleeting.

We see this theme in illustrated in sacred texts the world over. In the Book of Job, God tests Job?s faith by taking from him everything that he cherishes-his wealth, his health, and his family. Early in his trials, one of Job?s friends counsels him to be patient, saying, "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole ... In famine he shall redeem thee from death; and in war from the power of the sword ... And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace ..." In the end, Job?s sufferings strengthen his faith and, we are told, he is rewarded with "twice as much as he had before" and he lived "a hundred and forty years" until he was "old and full of days." We learn in times of personal struggle - the loss of a loved one, illness, or turmoil - that there is a peace that passeth understanding. When our intellect is unequal to the task - the spirit takes over, finding peace in
the midst of pain is the true fulfillment of one?s humanity.

Struggle doesn?t just strengthen us to survive hard times - it is also the key foundation for true optimism and accomplishment. Indeed, personal achievement without struggle somehow feels incomplete and hollow. It is true too for human kind - because nothing of lasting value has ever been achieved without sacrifice.

There is a second, more important, lesson to be learned from struggle and suffering is that we can use the strength it gives us for the good of others. Nothing good is born of personal struggle if it is used to fuel one ?s sense of entitlement, or superiority to those who we perceive to have struggled less than we. Everyone in this room has been blessed, and I am sure we all know that it is dangerous to think about the hand that one has been dealt relative to others if it ends in questioning why someone else has more. It is, on the other hand, sobering and humbling to think about one?s blessings and to ask why you have been given so much when others have so little.

Our goal must not be to get through a struggle so that others can congratulate us on our resilience, nor is it to dwell on struggle as a badge of honor.

Perhaps this is why in describing his personal struggle, the Apostle Paul felt it necessary to say to the Philippians, "Forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead . I press toward the goal for the price of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." We find a similar idea in the Talmud, which says "one should only pray in a house that has windows" - in order that we may remember the outside world. And in the Hadith, we find Muhammad saying: "No one of you is a believer
until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself."

But to direct the energies from our struggles toward the good of others, we must first let go of the pain, and the bad memories, and the sense of unfairness-of "Why me?" - that inevitably accompany deep personal turmoil.

I believe this lesson applies not only to individuals, but to nations. America emerged from the losses of September 11th as a nation that is not only stronger, but hopefully better and more generous. Tragedy made us appreciate our freedom more - and more conscious of the fact that God gives all people, everywhere, the right to be free. It made us more thankful for our own prosperity, for life, and health - and more aware that all people, everywhere deserve the opportunity to build a better future.

It prompted us to cultivate what the President has called "the habit of service" to others so that the "gathering momentum of millions of acts of kindness" may bring hope to people in desperate need. And perhaps most importantly, September 11th reminded us of our heritage as a tolerant nation; one that welcomes people of all faiths, or no faith at all.

Now, as our Nation once again deals with great loss, with fears and uncertainties, let us once again recommit ourselves to those values which define us. Let us renew our quest for understanding the natural world and all the heavens which God has made. Let us renew our commitment to standing for life, and liberty, and peace for all people. Let us renew our commitment to working with all nations to conquer want, and hunger, and disease in every corner of the globe. Let us accept our responsibility to defend the freedom which we are so privileged to enjoy.

If terror and tragedy spur us to rediscover and strengthen these commitments, then we can truly say that some good has come from great loss. And in all the trials that may lie ahead, we will carry these commitments close to our heart so we may leave a better world for those who follow. This is our prayer for our Nation and our people. This is our prayer for all Nations and all peoples. Lord, hear our prayer.


MORE:
Condoleezza Rice's Secret Weapon: How our National Security Adviser finds the strength to defend the free world. (B. Denise Hawkins, September/October 2002, Christian Reader)


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:18 PM

DUMBING DARWIN DOWN:

"Shrunken" Boas Pose Question: Nature or Nurture? (Brian Handwerk, March 14, 2003, National Geographic News)
It's not the large size of boas that interests Auburn University herpetology graduate student Scott Boback. It's the smaller size of the boas found on certain Central American islands. In the Snake Cayes, a group of small islands just off the coast of Belize, boas grow to only a fraction of the size of their mainland relatives.

"You have snakes on the islands that are completely different in size," Boback told the National Geographic Channel. "The mainland snakes are at least twice as long and four or five times as heavy [as those on the islands]." The island snakes are no small fry, averaging some six feet (1.8 meters) in length, but their mainland relatives can grow up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) long or more. Why the discrepancy? No one knows, but Scott Boback hopes to find out. If he can, he might just shed some light on the evolution not only of reptiles-but many other island-dwelling animals as well.

Boback's plan requires research subjects, willing or otherwise. That means the arduous collection of a lot of boa constrictors-specifically females. With his professor, Craig Guyer, and several research assistants, Boback has already gathered 16 female boas from both the islands and the mainland and brought them back to his research lab in Auburn, Alabama, to carefully watch them give birth.

It's the lab-reared generation of snakes that may help Boback to solve this "nature versus nurture" dilemma. He plans to study the offspring carefully to determine whether varying diets or genetics lie behind the differences in island and mainland boa constrictors. By feeding snakes from both locations identical food, raising them in the same environment, and carefully charting their growth, Boback hopes to learn more about the factors determining their differing sizes.

"The questions that I'm asking are critically important to understanding snake biology and evolution in general," he explained.


The size of boa constrictors may be endlessly fascinating--for shut-ins who don't get Red Sox games on the radio--but to refer to the variations as revealing something about "evolution" is just inane. We've increased the average height of the Japenese by almost half a foot since WWII just by improving their diets--and the Chinese are following suit. Yet no one would claim we're evolving them. Call us when the boa constrictors' essential snakeness actually changes and we'll talk.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:43 AM

WHAT OSMAN HATH WROUGHT:

A World Still Haunted by Ottoman Ghosts (DAVID FROMKIN, March 9, 2003, NY Times)
A thousand years ago, Turkish warriors were the last of the nomad horsemen who streamed from Asia to conquer Europe. The riders were a mixed lot. Each band had a leader and a common language. Legend had it that one leader, Osman, led Turkish-speaking warriors, who eventually became the Ottomans.

The Ottomans went to Anatolia, essentially today's Turkey, on the frontier of the Byzantine Empire. Often they would cross the water to Europe, paid to fight for Christian rulers. Later, acting for themselves, they occupied the Balkans. In 1453, they captured Constantinople, now Istanbul, and with it the remains of the Byzantine Empire. At their zenith, the Ottoman armies fought their way to the gates of Vienna.

The Turks prospered on their captured wealth, so in the 19th century, when they stopped expanding, they started to retreat. The decline opened up enticing prospects for Europe's great powers, which expected to annex strategically important territories. The Ottoman Empire had settled the Balkans and the Middle East; these were the land bridges that joined Europe, Asia and Africa. But the European powers were surprised when the indigenous European subjects of the empire - including Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria - won independence for themselves.

After World War I, Britain and France, by defeating the Ottoman Empire, won control of the Arab lands, and with it, a tantalizing bauble: the likelihood that vast deposits of oil might be found there.

The Europeans and their American business partners hoped to establish stable and friendly regimes. After they redrew the borders in the early 1920's, Britain and France introduced a state system, and sought to supply political guidance too. But the system did not endure. Instead, the area grew more turbulent and unsettled.

Looking back, it is clear that many characteristics of the Middle East, some of which President Bush would like to change, were shaped by the five centuries of Ottoman rule. The United States may preach and practice secular politics, but it would have difficulty imposing secularism on the Middle East. It was taught to put religion first by its Turkish rulers, which defined the empire as a Muslim country, not a national one. The importance of religion in the Middle East is a legacy of the sultans who were also caliphs.

The empire also encouraged its perhaps two dozen ethnic and national groups to maintain their separate identities. It is no wonder that they are constantly feuding today - the Ottoman ghosts never far away.


If you can find it, there's a pretty good movie with T.E. Lawrence trying to protect the Arabs from having their borders carved out by the European power: A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1991). Also, Mr. Fromkin's book, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, is supposed to be terrific.
Posted by Paul Jaminet at 11:38 AM

BIN WAITIN' FOR THIS:

Taliban Denies Bin Laden’s Arrest (Islam Online, 3/15/2003)
Al-Sayyed Mortada, leader of the Pakistani Al-Insaf Movement, said Wednesday, March 12, that bin Laden has been arrested by U.S and Pakistani joint forces and that Washington would announce his capture on March 17 or 18 after unleashing war on Iraq....

Pakistani political sources expected Washington to make public bin Laden’s arrest on the eve of its looming war on Iraq with claims he was getting biological weapons from Iraq in a bid to justify the war....

On Thursday, March 6, the White House refused to confirm reports that bin Laden might be arrested soon by U.S. and Pakistani intelligence authorities.

"I'm not in the position to confirm anything about that," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Pakistani officials also dismissed reports of the arrest of Bin Laden as groundless.

But a senior Pakistani official said that there are some very "important pieces of information with us. If the information is accurate, then he (Bin Laden) cannot hide for long," the official said, referring to Sheikh Mohammed's revelations.


I think they've got him.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM

ANGLO-ANTI-GRAVITY:

America's deep Christian faith: Our correspondent gives a personal view on the importance of faith and religious belief in American life. (Justin Webb, BBC)
My wife and I do not believe in God.

In our last posting, in Brussels among the nominally catholic Belgians, unbelief was not a problem.

The Bush administration hums to the sound of prayer. Prayer meetings take place day and night.

Before that in London it was not remotely an issue. With the sole exception of one friend who is an evangelical Christian, I don't recall a single conversation with anyone about religious matters in the years I lived and worked in the capital.

Our house in London was right next to a church. We talked to the tiny congregation about the weather, about the need to prune the rose bushes and mend the fence. But we never talked about God.

How different it is on this side of the Atlantic. The early settlers came here in part to practise their faiths as they saw fit.

Since then the right to trumpet your religious affiliations - loud and clear - has been part of the warp and weft of American life.

And I am not talking about the Bible Belt - or about the loopy folk who live in log cabins in Idaho and Oregon and worry that the government is poisoning their water.

I am talking about Mr and Mrs Average in Normaltown, USA.

Mr and Mrs Average share an uncomplicated faith with its roots in the puritanism of their forebears.

According to that faith there is such a thing as heaven - 86% of Americans, we are told by the pollsters, believe in heaven.

But much more striking to me, and much more pertinent to current world events, is the fact that 76% or three out of four people you meet on any American street believe in hell and the existence of Satan.

They believe that the devil is out to get you. That evil is a force in the world - a force to be engaged in battle. [...]

Having made the decision to fight the good fight - and have no doubt about it President Bush has made that decision - the nagging doubts, the rational fears, the worldly misgivings - all those things felt so strongly by post-religious Europeans - can be set aside.

President Bush looks as tired as Prime Minister Blair sometimes, but never as worried.

Both are religious men but the simple American faith - with heaven and hell, good and evil and right and wrong - appears rather better suited to wartime conditions.


When you read stuff like this, you can't help but share Geoffrey Hill's despair for his native land:
DARK-LAND

Wherein Wesley stood
up from his father's grave,
summoned familiar dust
for strange salvation:
whereto England rous'd,
ignorant, her inane
Midas-like hunger: smoke
engrossed, cloud-encumbered,
a spectral people
raking among the ash;
its freedom a lost haul
of entailed riches.


and think of his poetic assertion in De Jure Belli ac Pacis:
Evil is not good's absence but gravity's
everlasting bedrock and its fatal chains
inert, violent, the suffrage of our days.

What good can come to a people who have ceased to believe in evil and ceased to at least wrestle with the question of God?
Posted by Paul Jaminet at 9:30 AM

RAINES OF TERROR:

The New York Times and Israel (Tom Gross, National Review Online, 3/14/2003)

The Times titled its news report "Bombing Kills An American And 20 Others In Philippines." The first seven paragraphs concerned Hyde, who had lived and worked in the Philippines since 1978, and another American, Barbara Stevens, who had been "slightly wounded" in the attack....

On the next day (March 5), another American Baptist, 14-year-old Abigail Litle, was among 16 people killed by a suicide bomber on a bus in Haifa, Israel. The story and photo caption in the March 6 Times, tucked at the bottom corner of page 1, made no mention of Abigail's name....

Less than 5 percent of Palestinian casualties have been female, and even fewer have been pregnant mothers. Yet when one is killed — as happened on March 2 — the Times takes care to let its readers know: in news reports on March 3 (page 6), March 4 (page 1), March 5 (page 3), and March 9. Readers would be forgiven for assuming that Israel killed pregnant mothers every day, but these stories all refer to the same unnamed woman....

This was an accidental death in the course of a legitimate counterterrorist action. But a number of pregnant Israeli mothers were killed deliberately. If their deaths were reported at all, the Times and other media have referred to them merely as "Israelis" or as "settlers." For example, when a pregnant Israeli, her infant child, and other family members were attacked at their family Passover meal at Elon Moreh on March 28, 2002, the only coverage the Times provided was the following sentence buried in an article about Yasser Arafat: "Even as Mr. Arafat made his pledge, a Palestinian gunmen shot and killed four Israelis in a Jewish settlement near the West Bank city of Nablus." No mention of the seven children left orphaned in that attack.

When the Times has sympathetically profiled women who have died in this conflict, it has more often been the suicide bombers than their Israeli victims. Wada Idris — who killed or wounded 150 innocent civilians on Jerusalem's Jaffa Road on January 27, 2002 — had "chestnut hair curling past her shoulders"; she "raised doves and adored children," James Bennet reported in a front-page article for the Times....

The Times has consistently underplayed Arafat's role in orchestrating the ongoing terror against Israel. It has failed to report how the al-Aqsa Brigades, the militia Arafat set up after launching the Intifada, has been responsible for as many Israeli civilian deaths as Hamas. Even when the al-Aqsa Brigades proudly claims responsibility for killing a mother, her 5- and 4-year-old sons, and two other Israelis at a Kibbutz (as it did on November 10 of last year, posting a photo of the perpetrator on it website), a front-page Times report on December 17, 2002, described the gunman merely as "mysterious" ...

For ten years now, ever since Arafat returned to Gaza, moderate Palestinians — outside the earshot of the dozen different security forces Arafat has set up to safeguard his rule — have long whispered to those Western reporters who would listen that they should help to expose the corrupt, dictatorial, and duplicitous ways of Arafat and his clique. Few reporters have done so....

The distortions of the media ... set back the day when there might be peace and coexistence between Israeli and Palestinian.


Truth is the great cleanser; ugly creepy-crawly things thrive in the dark, but the light of day sends them scurrying. In darkness evil flourishes, but the light of truth discourages the wicked:

There are those who are rebels against the light;
they know not its ways;
they abide not in its paths.
When there is no light the murderer rises,
to kill the poor and needy.
The eye of the adulterer watches for the twilight;
he says, "No eye will see me."
In the night the thief roams about,
and he puts a mask over his face;
in the dark he breaks into houses.
By day they shut themselves in;
none of them know the light. (Job 24:14-16)

We must strive to bring the truth about terror and terrorists to light. It is our responsibility to shame the New York Times and like journalists for their bias. Bravo to Mr. Gross, for so thoroughly documenting the Times's deceit.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 AM

CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION:

Schoolhouse rock gets patriotic paint (ANDREI BLAKELY, 03/14/2003, The Northern Virginia Journal)
The symbolic message rock resting near the flagpoles at West Potomac High School has assumed what the students who recently painted it called a ``pro-war" stance. On Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, 10 upperclassmen at the school used paint brushes, rollers and the illumination of car headlights to paint a U.S. flag and pro-war messages on the large oval rock.


Apparently the rock has already been defaced by protestors. Even if they hate their own country, do they not support our fellow citizen soldiers?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM

DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT:

Farewell to the old world: Iraq is the catalyst for the draining of power from the UN, EU and Nato (Gwyn Prins, March 15, 2003, The Guardian)
The pathway to post-Saddam Iraq becomes daily less misty. Before the fighting starts, we should examine how Iraq links to a series of other, more structurally momentous changes, in Britain, in Europe especially and within the global political order. Large as the military action looms, Iraq may not be the most important game afoot.

It wasn't during the scratchy Commons debate but at the prime minister's February 18 press conference when we saw that the die was cast. The body language was eloquent. Broadcast snippets showed a prime minister pushing forward, boats burning behind him, choices made. Assisted by President Chirac's swansong Gaullism, Blair has made the decision that every prime minister since the second world war has sought to avoid; and his decision to stand with America is for positive reasons. Since then, he has hit his stride for the first time since the Iraq crisis burst, moving to the human rights argument, which matters to him most. Can he now seize - does he yet see - the greatest opportunities of his prime ministership opening before him? [...]

If one interpretation of the French stand on the unprecedented Turkish article IV request for help was that it was intended to kill off Nato so that military functions transfer to the EU - the consistent aim, openly at and since Nice in 2000 - it was unnecessary and too late. This was death by many knives: a murder on the Orient Express.

But the biggest miscalculations of the past few weeks have been about the EU. The EU constitutional convention, as now drafted, is straightforwardly federal. Not a word of what the British and other sceptics said was entertained. When Giscard d'Estaing presented the clauses, he did so with a brutal frankness: this is the future and those who do not like it are free to leave. The assumption is that this is a deadly threat - to be cast out into the cold. But is it? For decades there have been two visions of Europe, but only one to the fore.

The publication of the "letter of eight" in support of US action in Iraq and the statement of the eastern European "Vilnius 10" have together suddenly precipitated the colours of that other European vision. It is inclined to free-market philosophy, is English-speaking and not hostile to America. At the sour EU special summit, Chirac's apparently imprudent castigation of the eastern European applicants, with the thinly veiled threat of punishment for their support of the US, served only to precipitate "new Europe" further. Or was it imprudent? There are those who think that Chirac had a devious purpose: to sink enlargement, the British foil to the federal imperative.

Put now to Giscard's choice, for the first time in decades it becomes realistic to think that the British, the Dutch, Iberians, Scandinavians, current applicants - and who else? - may decline the federal invitation and prefer to become Europeans marching to a different drum. This other Europe contains the more dynamic European economies, would go with the grain of expressed public desires, and it is Blair's to lead.


If nothing else comes of this whole diplomatic train wreck except for a triumph of Euroskepticism and a change of Tony Blair's heart on the wisdom of chaining Britain's future to the EU it will all still have been worthwhile.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:29 AM

WHAT COLOR IS THE SKY IN HIS WORLD?:

BLIX: I'D RATHER BE HUGGING TREES (BRIAN BLOMQUIST, March 15, 2003, NY Post)
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said yesterday he's more worried about global warming than war.

"The environment - that is a creeping danger. I'm more worried about global warming than I am of any major military conflict," the 74-year-old Swede told MTV. [...]

"To me, the question of the environment is more ominous than that of peace and war," Blix added.


This is the clown who Bill Clinton says we should leave our national security decisions to.

MORE: Between Iraq and a Hard Place (MTV, 3/14/2003)

The Iraqis ... tell me that these are not weapons of mass destruction, they are weapons of self-destruction. I agree.

Saddam says Iraq's weapons are only meant for Kurds and Shiites. Blix thinks this will reassure us.
To me the question of the environment is more ominous than that of peace and war. We will have regional conflicts and use of force, but world conflicts I do not believe will happen any longer. But the environment, that is a creeping danger. I'm more worried about global warming than I am of any major military conflict....

I don't think there's any reason for a rant of hysteria [about weapons of mass destruction], no.


This helps explain the intensity of his inspection effort.
We continue to work in an optimistic mood, but it may also be that the work finishes a week from now.

This is the good news.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM

TAKE WEDNESDAY IN YOUR OFFICE POOL:

Tony Blair has asked the Queen not to travel out of the country in the middle of the coming week. The British "constitution" requires him to get her permission before taking the nation to war. Looks like the liberation begins on or about Wednesday.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:21 AM

THE PRICE OF POWER:

Senate approves partial-birth abortion ban (Tom Diemer, 03/14/03, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
A spokesman for Cleveland Democrat Dennis Kucinich, who recently announced his support for a woman's right to choose abortion, said he could not vote for the Senate version if it comes before the House.

"The bill fails to protect the constitutional right of women and does not provide protections for the health of the mother," said his aide, Doug Gordon.


Wow! This is a guy who until he announced for the presidency was opposed to abortion, but now, a mere few weeks into his campaign, has already taken the absolutist "abortion on demand" position that the Democratic Party requires of all its candidates. Greg Louganis wasn't that flexible in his prime.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM

FROM EACH ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITIES:

Germany willing to give aid after Iraq war-Spiegel (Kerstin Gehmlich, 3/15/03, Reuters)
Germany, one of the strongest opponents of a war in Iraq, is willing to provide financial aid and up to 1,000 soldiers for peace missions and reconstruction work after a possible conflict, a magazine said on Saturday.

Germany has so far avoided making clear statements about humanitarian support after a war, saying it believes in a peaceful solution and such discussion would encourage the belief that war had already been decided on.

Der Spiegel news weekly said the government was discussing options for an aid programme by a publicly-owned reconstruction bank and for sending up to 1,000 troops to the region as part of a peace mission.

The Foreign Ministry said it would not comment on the report, but referred to an interview given by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to ARD television on Friday.

Asked what Germany was prepared to do after a war, Schroeder said: "Within the framework of the United Nations, it will always be possible talk with Germany. The United Nations will always be able to count on Germany." He did not elaborate.

In an advance of its report, Spiegel quoted a cabinet member as saying that, if the U.N. sought support from Berlin after a war, Germany could hardly refuse it.


So what's all the fuss about? It's not like they'd be any use in the war itself. The role of following the elephant and cleaning up its scat seems uniquely suited to the Franco-Germans.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM

SWING AWAY (via Paul Cella):

INTERVIEW: Father Richard Neuhaus on the Iraqi Crisis: Editor in Chief of First Things Points to Disarmament as a Just Cause (Father Richard Neuhaus ,MARCH 10, 2003, Zenit.org)
Father Neuhaus: [...] As St. Thomas Aquinas and other teachers of the just war tradition make clear, war may sometimes be a moral duty in order to overturn injustice and protect the innocent. The just cause in this case is the disarmament of Iraq, a cause consistently affirmed by the Holy Father and reinforced by 17 resolutions of the Security Council.

Whether that cause can be vindicated without resort to military force, and whether it would be wiser to wait and see what Iraq might do over a period of months or years, are matters of prudential judgment beyond the competence of religious authority.

In just war doctrine, the Church sets forth the principles which it is the responsibility of government leaders to apply to specific cases -- see Catechism No. 2309.

Saddam Hussein has for 11 years successfully defied international authority. He has used and, it appears, presently possesses and is set upon further developing weapons of mass destruction, and he has publicly stated his support for the Sept. 11 attack and other terrorist actions.

In the judgment of the U.S. and many other countries, he poses a grave and imminent threat to America, world peace and the lives of innumerable innocents. If that judgment is correct, the use of military force to remove that threat, in the absence of plausible alternatives, is both justified and necessary.

Heads of government who are convinced of the correctness of that judgment would be criminally negligent and in violation of their solemn oath to protect their people if they did not act to remove such a threat.

As a theologian and moralist, I have no special competence to assess the threat posed by Iraq. On the basis of available evidence and my considered confidence in those responsible for making the pertinent decisions, I am inclined to believe and I earnestly pray that they will do the right thing.

Q: Strong objections have been raised to the concept of preventive or pre-emptive uses of military force to overthrow threatening regimes or to deal with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Is the use of pre-emptive force justified according to just war principles?

Father Neuhaus: Frequent reference to preventive or pre-emptive use of military force, and even to "wars of choice," have only confused the present discussion.

War, if it is just, is not an option chosen but a duty imposed. In the present circumstance, military action against Iraq by a coalition of the willing is in response to Iraq's aggression; first against Kuwait, then in defiance of the terms of surrender demanding its disarmament, then in support of, if not direct participation in, acts of terrorism.

This is joined to its brutal aggression against its own citizens, and its possession of weapons of mass destruction which it can use or permit others to use for further aggression.

To wait until the worst happens is to wait too long, and leaders guilty of such negligence would rightly be held morally accountable.

In the Catholic tradition there is, in fact, a considerable literature relevant to these questions. Augustine, Aquinas, Francisco de Vitoria and Francisco Suarez, for example, all wrote on prudential action in the face of aggressive threats. The absence of reference to such recognized authorities in the current discussion among Catholics is striking.


This last strikes us as the far greater problem for advocates of war than the question of whether toppling Saddam is just. Having recognized that we have some duty, even just as fellow human beings, to free Iraq, how then do we justify to ourselves leaving so many other of our fellow men in bondage, from N. Korea to Cuba to Libya? American military actions have almost always (always?) been just, but have been so desultory as to call into question their worth. We've an unfortunate tendency to fight far too limited wars, thereby leaving in place tyrannies equally as vicious as the ones we remove. There seems little point in this instance to removing Saddam but leaving Assad, Qaddafi, Arafat, and the rest of their ilk in power.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM

CULTURE CLASH:

Art That Transfigures Science (ALAN LIGHTMAN, March 15, 2003, NY Times)

In Joseph Wright of Derby's painting "An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump," dated 1768, we see a stunning demonstration that air is vital for life. A white cockatoo has been taken from its cage and placed in a covered glass jar, and the air has just been pumped out by levers and pistons. Deprived of oxygen, the beautiful bird languishes at the bottom of its new cage, listlessly stretching one wing, dead within seconds if air is not let back into its container.

In the dimly lighted room, several people stare at the airless container in hypnotized fascination. But there are other reactions as well. A small girl looks up at the bird with pity and dread; another young woman is so overwhelmed that she covers her eyes. A man in a beige jacket points his finger at the bird as if explaining the principles of science involved. Another observer has taken out his watch to time the experiment. The largest figure of all, the lecturer, holds his left hand poised on the cap of the jar, able at any moment to let the precious air back in and thus restore life to the bird. Taken together, the spectators' faces reveal the full range of attitudes about science.


Wright's painting, to my mind, is a magnificent synthesis of science and art. Moreover, it emerged from a long tradition of fusing the two. Lucretius's ancient poem "De Rerum Natura" is a beautiful and sensuous exposition of the theory of atoms. Fontenelle's 17th-century book "Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds" imagines a series of romantic meetings between a lady and gentleman, during which he explains the new science of Copernicus and Descartes. Wright himself kept well abreast of new developments in science. He was a member of the Lunar Society, a group of English scientists, artists and philosophers who met monthly on the Monday nearest the full moon. Later artists inspired by science included Goethe, Mary Shelley, Thomas Eakins, H. G. Wells, Karel Capek, Bertolt Brecht.

The longstanding love affair between scientists and artists continues, as exemplified by the recent films "A Beautiful Mind" and "Pi," the plays "Arcadia" by Tom Stoppard and "Copenhagen" by Michael Frayn, the novels "The Gold Bug Variations" by Richard Powers and "The Mind-Body Problem" by Rebecca Goldstein, and the various exhibitions based on the double helix now in New York. Art has always wrestled with emerging ideas. Science has always been a rich source for those ideas. As Salman Rushdie said to an audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in late 1993, "Many of us writers of my generation have felt that in many ways the cutting edge of the new is to be found in the sciences."

So what exactly does science have to offer the arts? What are the particular ways in which science provokes us, inspires us and examines who we are?


Mr. Lightman's own novel, Einstein's Dreams, is an especially fine example of how art can illuminate science and vice versa. But, as a general matter, modern science has had a catastrophic, though indirect, effect on art.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:24 AM

THE RIGHT MAN:

On Terror and Spying, Ashcroft Expands Reach (ERIC LICHTBLAU with ADAM LIPTAK, March 15, 2003, NY Times)
In the bureaucratic reshuffling over domestic security, Attorney General John Ashcroft came out a winner. Mr. Ashcroft grabbed control of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and with it an issue dear to his conservative agenda, guns. And he shucked responsibility for two areas of law enforcement that had brought ridicule to the Justice Department, the color-coded threat alert system and immigration.

In recent months, Mr. Ashcroft, once regarded as a peripheral, even clumsy, player in the Bush administration, has not only honed his skills as a bureaucratic infighter, he has also patched his tenuous relations with President Bush, who told Mr. Ashcroft last month that he was doing "a fabulous job."

With the addition of nearly 5,000 law enforcement officials from the firearms bureau, Mr. Ashcroft has again expanded the policing authority of the Justice Department, a hallmark of his tenure as attorney general. And with the fight against terrorism as his soapbox, he has pushed the powers of federal law enforcement in directions few thought possible before the Sept. 11 attacks. His reach extends not only to
counterterrorism, but also to issues like the death penalty and gun policy, which he attacks with equal aggressiveness. Despite a years-long effort as a senator from Missouri to shrink government, Mr. Ashcroft has significantly broadened the reach of the attorney general, legal scholars and law enforcement officials agree.

All of which has left his many critics increasingly worried.

Even some of his conservative peers complain that Mr. Ashcroft may have grown too powerful. To his critics, Mr. Ashcroft is a Big Brother figure: an attorney general whose expanding scope has allowed the Justice Department to use wiretaps, backroom decisions, and an expanded street presence to spy on ordinary Americans, read their e-mail messages, or monitor their library checkouts, all in the name of fighting terrorism. And the department's consideration of proposals that could give it still greater, secret counterterrorism authority has provoked a fresh round of concerns. [...]

Mr. Ashcroft has managed to blunt Congressional criticism through the carefully timed announcements of one major terrorist arrest after another. And he has also emerged as a useful political foil for President Bush.

While the president has visited mosques to deliver a message of respect for Muslims, for instance, it was left to Mr. Ashcroft to orchestrate an unpopular program to register Middle Eastern immigrants. And after Mr. Bush last year announced that he wanted to enlist workers for a terrorist "tips" program, Mr. Ashcroft was dispatched to Capitol Hill to defend the unpopular idea.

"I think Ashcroft understands that he's a lightning rod for this administration," said a Justice Department official close to the attorney general who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "He's at the center of so many different policies - terrorism, affirmative action, the death penalty - and he's no stranger to controversy. He's been living it all his life." [...]

Mr. Ashcroft is an unlikely figure to lead the Justice Department's expansion: a politician who sharply attacked big government and privacy intrusions and fought for states' rights is now orchestrating one of the most sweeping federal expansions in law enforcement history.

Two years after he was confirmed by the slimmest margin for an attorney general in 75 years, Mr. Ashcroft has not only survived that bruising fight and a malaise that seemed to follow it, but is drawing comparisons to Robert F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt's attorney general, Francis Biddle, in the muscle and ambition he has brought to the job - for better or worse.

"For Ashcroft, the evils are pervasive," said Nancy Baker, a professor at New Mexico State University who wrote a history of the attorney general's office. "The current attorney general sees himself and the Justice Department as engaged in a systemwide struggle between good and evil, and that therefore requires very aggressive and comprehensive countermeasures." [...]

"John Ashcroft has clearly abused his power," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the A.C.L.U.'s Washington office. "He is supposed to be the chief enforcer of the Constitution for the executive branch, but he has given lip service to constitutional rights and has systematically eroded free speech rights, privacy rights and due process rights, in the context of fighting the war on terrorism."


Mr. Ashcroft is just one of a series of strong managers on the unparalleled Bush team--has any government ever had so many ex-governors and two former presidential chiefs of staff? Had the '00s been like the '90s that wouldn't have mattered too much. But in the wake of 9-11 it's been a huge benefit (consider for a moment William Cohen and Janet Reno running the war on terror). We should, of course, always be vigilant about protecting genuine civil rights, but you'll note that the ACLU is complaining about what are basically manufactured "rights", like privacy rights and due process rights. These are appropriately taken with a grain of salt, particularly in time of war.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:03 AM

FROM RED-GREEN TO BLACK AND BLUE:

Schroeder takes a right turn to revive economy: Political swerve keeps party on board but economists say it may not go far enough (John
Hooper, March 15, 2003, The Guardian)
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wrenched his government to the right yesterday by unveiling of his long-awaited plan to revive the sluggish Germany economy.

His televised speech to parliament had been keenly awaited, and was built up as a turning point in the history of post-war Germany.

Last night he seemed to have succeeded in making his political lurch without provoking a revolt in his Social Democratic party or an open declaration of war by the trade unions.

But it was less clear whether the plan will succeed in its main economic aim.

Economists reacted cautiously, some saying the measures he announced were insufficiently bold. [...]

The main points

The package set out by the chancellor will include:
* A system of subsidised loans for local authorities and homeowners worth EUR15bn · A relaxation of the rules protecting workers from being laid off

* A shortening of the 32-month period during which the jobless are entitled to full unemployment benefits - down to a maximum of 18 months for the over-55s, and 12 months for others

* A cut in the unemployment support that replaces unemployment benefit and currently amounts to 57% of a worker's previous salary

* Measures to encourage competition in the health service by allowing health insurers to make contracts with doctors directly


18 Months!?!? This is barely even a start, though it might, hopefully, clear the way for the next government to drag the country towards actual capitalism.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 AM

THE UNWATCHABLE UNDOABLE:

Stars and strips: Getting naked and faking it for the camera - it's a scenario even the professionals find embarrassing. But screen sex can prove just as toe-curling for viewers. (Michael Holden, March 15, 2003, The Guardian)
Concern that the arts - and by association the world at large - are being overrun with graphic sexuality is as old as communication itself. Now, at last, it's finally happened. Sex is everywhere. Everyone's at it. The bad news is it looks awful and it's as erotic as old roadkill in the rain (if you're lucky). Suddenly art is making pornography look good. Television, as is customary, must take the brunt of the blame. Nine in the evening is now less of a watershed than a last-chance saloon in which one may swill down a final glass of decency before the nightly carousel of reality-styled lust begins again. Even prior to that, no one's safety can be guaranteed. Lest we forget, Mark Fowler's naked and post-coital torso - like some ghastly celestial event - was clearly visible much earlier in the evening at one point last year. But more of Mark later (so to speak).

The grim sex trend has permeated the visual arts to a greater degree than ever before - if you think TV sex is bad then you should keep well clear of the cinema - and now even those on the front line are struggling to keep pace. The Actors Centre in London is running a course this month called Getting Intimate, devoted to "helping young actors negotiate the tricky subject of sex scenes and 'gratuitous exposure'". Stranger still, the course is co-hosted by Helen Baxendale.

Quite why an actress that one associates with acerbic condescension more than overt sexuality should be involved in such a venture merits some investigation. A call to the Actors Centre established that she is an old theatre colleague of the new director, Matthew Lloyd, which kind of explains things. Mr Lloyd wasn't available but they were kind enough to say "we try and keep up with new trends" and described the course in the following terms: "The explicit sex scene is now a staple of film, TV drama and contemporary theatre but, if it goes wrong, the scope for awkwardness and embarrassment is huge and the results can be weak drama and truthless acting. Keeping most of our clothes on, we will look at a range of practical examples that raise questions about nudity, naturalism, dramatic justification and gratuitous exposure."

All very handy for the thesps, but what about those of us who must bear witness? The idea that bad sex is better than no sex at all is as bogus in art as it is in life: as a viewer, it can be even worse.


Like the illustrations in the Kama Sutra--no one's ever actually read it--screen sex requires such unlikely contortions as to cause laughter rather than stimulation. One wishes they'd put more effort into the script and less into the scrump. Keep the actors clothed and let us use our imaginations, eh?
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:46 AM

AWFULLY LATE TO THE BALL:

Obituary: Howard Fast: Prolific radical novelist who championed the cause of America's common people (Eric Homberger, March 14, 2003, The Guardian)
The writer Howard Fast, who has died aged 88, was the last surviving American recipient of the Stalin peace prize. His first novel appeared at the height of the depression, and he was still publishing bestsellers in the 1980s.

Fast was a literary phenomenon of a recognisable American kind. Untouched by the ugly racism of Jack London, and certainly more skilled at the delineation of character and the crafting of a readable plot than Upton Sinclair, he was the champion of the progressive novel in the United States.

For a decade after the second world war, he moved in the upper strata of inter- national anti-fascism and communist propaganda. His historical novels, which ranged from portraits of slave revolts in antiquity, as with Spartacus (1953), to the American revolution, won him a broad readership across the world. In the Soviet Union, his print runs were substantial.

Having refused to cooperate with the House un-American activities committee and provide records of the joint anti-fascist refugee committee, he was convicted of contempt of Congress in 1950, and served three months in jail - it was in effect a congressional imprimatur of his leftwing credentials and integrity. It also meant that, overnight, his books became unpublishable. He was blacklisted. Angus Cameron (obituary, November 30 2002), the editor-in-chief at his publishers, Little Brown, came under fire in 1951 for publishing avowed or secret communist authors, and was forced to resign.

Fast was driven to publishing his own books - including the bestselling Spartacus - until he broke with the American Communist party, which he had joined in 1943. Despite his misgivings about the party, he regarded the rising tide of McCarthyism as a more immediate threat to American liberties. He ran for Congress on the American Labour party ticket in 1952, after it had come under the CP's covert control. He wrote a eulogy of the anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, who had been executed during the 1920s red scare. The party had played a key role in the worldwide campaign against the American legal system.

For this and other services, Fast was awarded the Stalin peace prize in 1954. He was the one truly popular American writer to remain loyal to the Communist party until 1956, when Khrushchev's so-called "secret speech" on Stalin's crimes, and the Red army's crushing of the Hungarian revolution, led three-quarters of the membership of the American Communist party to quit. [...]

He seldom wrote autobiographically; the nearest he came to a self-portrait was in Citizen Tom Paine. For Paine, the greatest revolutionary propagandist of the 18th century, the likely fate of the American revolution of 1776, as well as of the French of 1789, was betrayal and defeat. Paine knew the vicious attacks of enemies in America and abandonment by his friends, as well as persecution and imprisonment in France under the Jacobins.

And, indeed, Fast's novel is a portrait of the writer as revolutionary. It is also a singularly harsh portrayal of the nature of revolution itself, and of the terrible fate awaiting its creators; it belongs on the same shelf as Arthur Koestler's novel of the fate of an old Bolshevik, Darkness At Noon (1940). [...]

It was when Fast learned that the Soviet writer Boris Polovoy had lied to him about the whereabouts of an admired Jewish writer (who had, in fact, been shot), and when he learned that Alexander Fadeyev had lied to Mary McCarthy in 1949 about other "silent" Soviet writers, that Fast saw the moral bankruptcy that was international communism's final legacy. Others, like Dos Passos, had seen it earlier; some never saw it at all. For Fast, Khrushchev's 1956 speech was a final cherry on the cake, when he finally felt able to say much of what he had felt.


Mr. Fast joined the Party too late and stayed loyal too long--including the refusal to reveal who else was working to undermine American society and government--for his crimes to be excused. But given his lifelong focus on freedom and the paradoxical way in which his own writing argue against his personal politics, he can ultimately be forgiven. At any rate, this is an excellent excuse to watch the great film Spartacus this weekend.
Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM

THE COOKIE PUSHERS TRY TO SAVE THEIR PALS:

Democracy Domino Theory 'Not Credible': A State Department report disputes Bush's claim that ousting Hussein will spur reforms in the Mideast, intelligence officials say. (Greg Miller, March 14, 2003, LA Times)
A classified State Department report expresses doubt that installing a new regime in Iraq will foster the spread of democracy in the Middle East, a claim President Bush has made in trying to build support for a war, according to intelligence officials familiar with the document.

The report exposes significant divisions within the Bush administration over the so-called democratic domino theory, one of the arguments that underpins the case for invading Iraq.

The report, which has been distributed to a small group of top government officials but not publicly disclosed, says that daunting economic and social problems are likely to undermine basic stability in the region for years, let alone prospects for democratic reform.

Even if some version of democracy took root - an event the report casts as unlikely - anti-American sentiment is so pervasive that elections in the short term could lead to the rise of Islamic-controlled governments hostile to the United States.

"Liberal democracy would be difficult to achieve," says one passage of the report, according to an intelligence official who agreed to read portions of it to The Times.

"Electoral democracy, were it to emerge, could well be subject to exploitation by anti-American elements."

The thrust of the document, the source said, "is that this idea that you're going to transform the Middle East and fundamentally alter its trajectory is not credible."

Even the document's title appears to dismiss the administration argument. The report is labeled "Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes."

The report was produced by the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the in-house analytical arm. [...]

The report concludes that "political changes conducive to broader and enduring stability throughout the region will be difficult to achieve for a very long time."

Middle East experts said there are other factors working against democratic reform, including a culture that values community and to some extent conformity over individual rights.

"I don't accept the view that the fall of Saddam Hussein is going to prompt quick or even discernible movement toward democratization of the Arab states," said Philip C. Wilcox, director of the Foundation for Middle East Peace and a former top State Department official. "Those countries are held back not by the presence of vicious authoritarian regimes in Baghdad but by a lot of other reasons."

Bush has responded to such assessments by assailing the "soft bigotry of low expectations."


We remain agnostic on the question of whether the Middle East can be successfully democratized before there is an epochal reformation of Islam to allow for the secularization of government. However, a report from the notoriously Arabist State Department has zero credibility. It is the nature of the striped-pants set to favor totalitarian Arab regimes and the stability they supposedly provide over even the interests of America and even more so over democratic Israel. The report may well be right, it may not be possible to transform the Middle East peacefully. But if this is correct--Palestine offers the test case--it is going to have to be transformed militarily--either by American invasion or by pro-Western dictatorships like those that transformed Turkey and Iran. The issue that we are now deciding is whether the future of the region will look more like a Reformation or the Crusades and that decision lies very much in the hands of the Arabs themselves.

MORE:

-ESSAY: Tales from the Bazaar: As individuals, few American diplomats have been as anonymous as the members of the group known as Arabists. And yet as a group, no cadre of diplomats has aroused more suspicion than the Arab experts have. Arabists are frequently accused of romanticism, of having "gone native"--charges brought with a special vehemence as a result of the recent Gulf War and the events leading up to it. Who are the Arabists? Where did they come from? Do they deserve our confidence? (Robert D. Kaplan, August 1992, Atlantic Monthly)

-ESSAY: Democracy by America (Daniel Drezner, 3/12/02, New Republic)

-It's Democracy, Like It or Not (TODD S. PURDUM, March 9, 2003, NY Times)

For more than two centuries, no nation on earth has preached the healing powers of democracy more consistently than the United States. H. L. Mencken summed up the native faith as "the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

Now President Bush pledges that by ridding Iraq of Saddam Hussein, "free people will set the course of history, and free people will keep the peace of the world." [...]

Yet for most of the 19th century, the United States bought or won territory from foreign powers in war, avoided alliances and stood alone. And even though the United States helped found the United Nations and the post-World War II international security framework, it has faced varying degrees of anti-Americanism and charges of hypocrisy.

"It's something much deeper now," said James Chace, a professor of government and public law at Bard College. "What's happening is that the manner in which this administration has largely talked about the world, the kind of general arrogance and bullying tone, just reinforces the sense that we are now seen, and I think rightly, as an imperial power."

"The question," he added, "is whether it will be seen as relatively benevolent, or not."

Shibley Telhami, a Middle East expert at the University of Maryland, said: "It is not about not wanting democracy. I think that we underestimate the extent to which other priorities overtake democracy in our foreign policy."

In a famous speech in 1982 outlining his foreign policy to the British Parliament, Ronald Reagan declared, "The objective I propose is quite simple to state: to foster the infrastructures 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."

But President Reagan often settled for less. The first President Bush protested when a military coup overthrew the democratically elected leader of Haiti, the Rev. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, but was far less exercised around the same time when the Algerian Army canceled the second round of elections that seemed certain to put an Islamic fundamentalist regime in power.

"The romance of democracy is that somehow the results will come out the way you want, but everything we know about democracy is that the result comes out the way the people want," said John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University. "It's a very creaky instrument."

Robert D. Kaplan, a foreign policy expert and author who has twice briefed President Bush, contends that there is no double standard to American ambitions abroad. He argues that the United States should promote democratic change where it can, but not do so irresponsibly in places unready to handle it, where the result could unleash anti-democratic forces.

"Anyone can hold an election," he said, "but building real democratic institutions - police, judges, a constitution - is much harder." He added: "There will always be places where the alternatives are bad, and without hypocrisy you will improve human rights dramatically by going for a more liberal-minded dictator over a Stalinist one. If Saddam were to be replaced tomorrow by an Iraqi general along the lines of Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, real changes would occur."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:00 AM

THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP:

Latest Moves by President Pave the Way for a War (Robin Wright, March 15, 2003, LA Times)
President Bush's two bold steps Friday -- announcing a last-ditch summit with Britain and Spain and pledging to soon release the "road map" for a final Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement -- in effect signal the breakdown of diplomacy on Iraq, U.S. officials and analysts say.

The summit, in the remote Azores islands, is expected to pave the way for war, because the three leaders have now concluded that they almost certainly will not be able to win sufficient backing for a U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, according to U.N. and U.S. officials. [...]

[T]he bigger clue to the status of U.S. diplomatic efforts, six months after Bush's speech appealing for U.N. action to disarm Iraq, was his Rose Garden pledge Friday to jump-start peace efforts on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The administration insisted that its abrupt action was not connected to Iraq but was instead produced by the confluence of three factors: Israel has formed a new government after January elections. The Palestinian Authority is soon to put in place a new prime minister, weakening the autocratic control of Yasser Arafat. And the so-called quartet -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- has in place a road map for peace.

Yet both Republicans and Democrats, Israelis and Arabs greeted the move with cynicism. It is widely seen as a kind of diplomatic quid pro quo that will make it easier for Britain and Spain to stay on board for war by addressing a key concern of both governments and their publics. [...]

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar have badly needed a U.S. commitment to act on the other, older Middle East conflict before they take the last step on Iraq. But so do Arab allies and others among the two dozen nations that administration sources claim are willing to play some role in supporting a U.S.-led war to oust Hussein. [...]

But some experts were skeptical about the administration's sincerity.

"I'm not convinced the president does believe this is the right moment to increase momentum behind a new Palestinian state. Behind closed doors, there are also some in this administration who would like to take the road map and the commitment to a Palestinian state off the table," [Ellen Laipson, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council and now president of the Henry L. Stimson Center] said.


You often read in profiles of George W. Bush's extraordinary loyalty to friends and allies, but we're unaware of any other time in great power history when a leader has been so deferential to the internal political needs of a fellow head of state, especially not one of the opposite political party (broadly speaking). The delay in beginning the war, the search for a UN resolution that explicitly authorizes war, and this announcement of plans for a Middle East road map are all of them gracious and unnecessary motions that George Bush has engaged in solely for the purpose of aiding Tony Blair's personal political fortunes. That's remarkable.