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July 31, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 PM

HOW HARD IS IT TO SINK THE MAINE?

Some Iraqi Scientists Are Cooperating, CIA Weapons Adviser Says: 'Solid Evidence' of WMD Programs Being
Gathered, Kay Tells Senate Committee (Walter Pincus, July 31, 2003, The Washington Post)
Some Iraq scientists are cooperating in the hunt for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, including leading searchers to sensitive sites, according to David Kay, the CIA's adviser on the search for weapons.

After appearing this morning for three hours before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Kay told reporters, "We are gaining the cooperation, the active cooperation of Iraqis who were involved in that program. We are, as we speak, involved in sensitive exploitation of sites that we are being led to by Iraqis."

While Kay said "solid evidence" is being produced, it would not be made public "until we have full confidence it is solid proof of what we're to talk about."

Kay took issue with a story in today's Washington Post that quoted administration sources as saying the Iraqi Survey Team, which Kay is helping direct, is studying documents but not visiting sites.

Kay said sites being visited are new and "almost every one of them is one that we did not know about until we were led to it by Iraqis or the documentation we have seized."

Just plant some stuff and come home.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM

FROM WICKED CARRY US AWAY

Six Jews airlifted to Israel from Iraq (Debbie Berman, July 27, 2003, Israel Insider)
Six elderly Iraqi Jews were airlifted on a Jordanian jet from Baghdad to Israel in a secret immigration mission this weekend.

The mission, entitled Ezra Me'Zion [Help from Zion], was jointly coordinated by the Jewish Agency and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which have been investigating the status of the Jewish community in the country since the American war against Iraq. [...]

Jews were exiled 2,700 years ago by King Nebuchadnezzar to Babylonia, where they formed one of the most influential Jewish Diaspora communities whose crowning achievement was the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud. In the early 1950s some 130,000 Iraqi Jews immigrated to Israel during the "Ezra and Nehemiah" campaign, named after the Babylonian Jewish leaders referenced in the Bible. An additional 10,000 Jews gradually the country gradually left the country during the ensuing years. [...]

Although the remnant of the once-flourishing Diaspora community now live in poverty and fear, 29 Iraqi Jews declined the offer to relocate to Israel.

The remaining Jews do not function as a community, do not attend services in Baghdad's Meir Tweig Synagogue, and have almost no contact with each other. Most rarely leave their homes in fear that their Jewish identity will be discovered.

HIA Vice President Rachel Zelon described the poor living conditions of Iraqi Jews, whose possessions were confiscated by the state during Saddam Hussein's regime: "Most of them live in bitter poverty in subhuman conditions...The small Jewish community has been living in a society that hates Israel and despises Jews. Most of them tried to hide their Jewish identities, telling only close friends."

No truth to the rumor that the plane flew the whole way with its left turn signal on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM

IF HE WERE ANY DUMBER...PART II (via John Resnick)

Ideology and the courts (William F. Buckley Jr., July 30, 2003, Sacramento Bee)
The observer I write of is a liberal, even though he is very bright and has been extensively educated (Yale, Rhodes scholar, Supreme Court clerk). What brought him to utter despair was the nomination a fortnight ago of Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. What is wrong here, in his view, is the following:

-- The D.C. Circuit is the second most influential court in the United States. Its decisions are often if not themselves dispositive, way stations to the Supreme Court on constitutional issues. An ill-advised nomination to a relatively obscure court of appeals is less damaging, potentially, than a nomination to this court.

-- Ms. Brown's deliberative qualifications are inconspicuous. She sits now on the California Supreme Court, where she has done nothing of note. Before that she was legal affairs secretary to Gov. Pete Wilson. There she exercised administrative responsibilities and served as legal liaison between the governor's office and the executive departments. Before that, she practiced law, specializing in transportation and housing.

-- She has ruled against affirmative action and against abortion rights.

-- Ms. Brown is an African-American. She would be the third woman appointed to the Supreme Court, if she traveled from the D.C. Court upstairs, that being the implicit logic in her nomination. To filibuster against a black woman would test the mettle of the hardiest liberal, leaving us with a journey undertaken that would land an(other) ideologue on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The administrative experience bodes well for making her Chief.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:43 PM

THE BURNING TIME

King of Morocco outlaws Islamic parties on fourth anniversary of his reign (Elizabeth Nash, 01 August 2003, The Independent)
King Mohammed of Morocco has declared that Islamic parties will be banned, insisting he is the North African country's only representative of Islam. [...]

On the eve of King Mohammed's anniversary, Algeria offered to end decades of tension with its neighbour, and to re-establish links. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told Morocco that he wanted "to close ranks and strengthen relations ... between our two countries".

Both countries want to please the US and are likely to be responsive to American desires to secure oil and gas supplies, and to guarantee stability in the region. The rapprochement is thought to augur a possible solution to the Western Sahara conflict...

Morocco is one of the nations that Fareed Zakaria mentions in his Future of Freedom as potentially becoming a liberal democracy in the not too distant future. One of the key elements--and it's startling when you hear the statistic--is that it has a per capita GDP between $3,000 and $6,000. Amazing, isn't it, that such a low standard of living by our terms offers such stability by the rest of the world's?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM

IF HE WERE ANY DUMBER... (via Mike Daley)

State Dept. Sees North Korea as Ready for 6-Way Negotiations (DAVID STOUT, July 31, 2003, NY Times)
North Korea now appears to be ready to talk to the United States and four other nations about its nuclear weapons program in what could be a significant diplomatic thaw, Bush administration officials said today.

The North Korean government has long insisted on one-on-one talks with Washington on nuclear issues, but the Bush administration has always rejected that idea, saying it would not give in to what it called "blackmail."

So if North Korea has indeed shifted its stance, and if the shift is more than momentary, the way could be open for talks that would include not only diplomats from Pyongyang and Washington but representatives from China, South Korea, Russia and Japan as well. There was no immediate word on where or when these new talks might take place

What does that make the score?

Shrub--12

Conventional Wisdom--0

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 PM

THE EMPIRE EXPANDS AS THE LEFT COLLUDES

West African leaders pledge peace force, Taylor's departure (Alexandra Zavis, 7/31/2003, AP)
West African leaders committed Thursday to deploy the first peace troops to warring Liberia by the start of next week, and said President Charles Taylor would go into exile three days later.

The leaders, meeting in Ghana, agreed to send a vanguard of 1,500 peacekeepers, expected to be two battalions from Nigeria. Ghana, Mali, Benin, Senegal and Togo also have promised 3,250 soldiers for an eventual 5,000-strong force. [...]

In Monrovia, tens of thousands of Liberians emerged from hiding places Thursday to welcome a West African-U.S. advance team they hoped signaled the imminent arrival of peacekeepers.

People in Liberia's capital passed one of the quietest nights in the last two months of rebel offensives against government forces. Gunfire rattled, but there was some relief from the rocket and mortar volleys of recent days, allowing starving families to scurry out in search of food.

The advance team of 10 West African and U.S. officials, which is led by a Nigerian commander and has one American, set off jubilant celebrations in Monrovia as it passed shacks with tin roofs peeled back by explosives. Unexploded shells laid in the streets.

''This is a sign of peace coming,'' refugee Hamilton Woods said with a smile.

Let's hope Mr. Woods is right.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 5:38 PM

NO PRIDE HERE

Bush Says He Respects Gays, But Opposes Their Marrying (AP & Wall Street Journal, 7/31/2003)
"I think it is very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country," Mr. Bush said....

"I am mindful that we're all sinners, and I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they got a log in their own," the president said, invoking a biblical passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew....

Gay-rights activists took offense at Mr. Bush's comment that "we're all sinners," interpreting the remark as directed at them.

"While we respect President Bush's religious views, it is unbecoming of the president of the United States to characterize same-sex couples as "sinners,'" said Matt Foreman, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's executive director. "It's also sad that, at a moment in history that cries out for leadership and moral courage, President Bush has instead opted for the divisive, anti-gay politics of the past."

We'll get right on those revisions of Christian theology, Mr. Foreman, now that we know that gays, like Christ, do not sin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:53 PM

THE NEW DEMOCRATS?

Backers pressure Gore to run again next year (Alexander Bolton, 7/30/03, The Hill)
Former Vice-President Al Gore is coming under pressure from political supporters and friends to jump into the 2004 presidential campaign even though he ruled himself out in December.

Gore’s spokesperson denied that there was any change of plans, but a former Democratic National Committee official close to Gore told The Hill he believes the former vice president may enter the Democratic primary this fall. [...]

A Time/CNN poll conducted between May 21 and 22 showed that if Gore changed his mind and ran for president, 40 percent of Democrats and Independents who lean Democratic nationwide would vote for him. The Democratic runners-up, Sen. Joe Lieberman (Conn.), Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), and Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.), would each draw 7 percent of that vote. [...]

The fluid situation has apparently kept a core group of Democratic fundraisers who played key roles in Gore’s 2000 campaign to remain aloof from the current candidates despite being courted intensely.

As visions of Adlai Stevenson dance in his head.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 AM

MEDIEVAL McCARTHYISM

Who Burned the Witches? (Sandra Miesel, October 2001, The Crisis)
Since the Enlightenment, rationalists have liked to cite witch-burning as a prime example of medieval ignorance and religious (usually Catholic) bigotry run amok. (Leftists today still denounce it as a cynical plot by the strong against the weak.) Writing history that way was simple: Historians catalogued horrors, disparaged religion (or at least someone else's religion), and celebrated the triumph of science and liberal government. The history of witchcraft seemed a settled issue in 1969 when Hugh Trevor-Roper published his classic essay, "The European Witch-Craze of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries."

[H]istorians have now realized that witch-hunting was not primarily a medieval phenomenon. It peaked in the 17th century, during the
rationalist age of Descartes, Newton, and St. Vincent de Paul. Persecuting suspected witches was not an elite plot against the poor; nor was practicing witchcraft a mode of peasant resistance. Catholics and Protestants hunted witches with comparable vigor. Church and state
alike tried and executed them. It took more than pure Reason to end the witch craze.

Nor were witches secret pagans serving an ancient Triple Goddess and Horned God, as the neopagans claim. In fact, no witch was ever executed for worshiping a pagan deity. Matilda Gage's estimate of nine million women burned is more than 200 times the best current estimate of 30,000 to 50,000 killed during the 400 years from 1400 to 1800-a large number but no Holocaust. And it wasn't all a burning time. Witches were hanged, strangled, and beheaded as well. Witch-hunting was not woman-hunting: At least 20 percent of all suspected witches were male. Midwives were not especially targeted; nor were witches liquidated as obstacles to professionalized medicine and mechanistic science.

This revised set of facts should not entirely comfort Catholics, however. Catholics have been misled-at times deliberately misled-about
the Church's role in the witch-hunts by apologists eager to present the Church as innocent of witches' blood so as to refute the Enlightenment theory that witch-burning was almost entirely a Catholic phenomenon. Catholics should know that the thinking that set the great witch-hunt in motion was developed by Catholic clerics before the Reformation. [...]

Slowly, the critics were vindicated, and ashes cooled all across Europe during the 18th century. This was no simple triumph of Enlightenment wisdom. Witch beliefs persisted-as they do today-but witches no longer faced stakes, gallows, or swords. The great witch-panics had left a kind of psychic weariness in their wake. Realizing that innocents had been cruelly sent to their deaths, people no longer trusted their courts' judgments. As Montaigne had written 200 years earlier, "It is putting a very high price on one's conjectures to have a man roasted alive because of them."

After a 20th century unmatched for bloodshed, the world today is in no position to disparage early modern Europe. Witch-hunts have much in common with our own political purges, imagined conspiracies, and rumors of ritualized child abuse. Our capacity to project enormities on the enemy Other is as strong as ever.

The truth about witch-hunting is worth knowing for its own sake. But the issue has added significance for Catholics because it has provided
ammunition for rationalists, pagans, and radical feminists to attack the Church. It is helpful to know that the number of victims has been grossly exaggerated, and that the reasons for the persecutions had as much to do with social factors as with religious ones.

But although Catholics have been fed comforting errors by overeager apologists about the Church's part in persecuting witches, we must face our own tragic past. Fellow Catholics, to whom we are forever bound in the communion of saints, did sin grievously against people accused of witchcraft. If our historical memory can be truly purified, then the smoke from the Burning Times can finally disperse.

They were witches though, right? So what's the problem? By what logic is a state or society obligated to tolerate those who are so alienated from its organizing principles that they would seek to undermine them? Are constitutions and social covenants in fact suicide pacts?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM

NOT IN MY SCHOOL YARD

School Vouchers and Suburbanites (Frederick M. Hess, American Enterprise)
Proponents of school choice today find themselves in much the same position that the social-engineering Left inhabited after LBJ's sweep a generation ago. Their ideas are ascendant, they stand on the side of social justice, they have strong allies and spokespersons, and are winning prominent legal battles. Yet amidst the fruits of victory, something is missing: full approval from the mass of the American middle class.

Like the architects of LBJ's Great Society, voucherites express puzzlement as to why many suburbanites don't share their enthusiasm for school choice. Increasingly, I find myself in education reform meetings where voucher advocates end up quietly berating white suburban families for showing insufficient regard for the education of disadvantaged urban children. Conservative school choice proponents nod along as compelling advocates for the urban underclass--like Howard Fuller, Robert Aguirre, and Floyd Flake--voice frustration that suburban whites have not fully embraced choice as a way to free minority children from failed urban schools.

That's no way to win a policy fight. Thirty years ago, the Great Society's champions berated and nagged middle-class America smack into the arms of the opposition. Enthralled by their own virtue and the elegance of their domestic policy prescriptions, Great Society liberals forgot about simple democratic notions like self-interest, concern about unintended consequences, and the public's natural risk aversion. They tried to guilt-trip the public into supporting their bold reforms. But showing the caution and good sense typical of a democratic majority, voters eventually opted for Republicans and moderate Democrats who were less likely to belittle their reservations.

Conservative advocates for school vouchers risk repeating this mistake. The dominant wings of the voucher movement are free-marketers on the one hand, and urban minorities tired of waiting for public school improvement on the other. The result has been a sometimes awkward marriage that has permitted conservatives to claim the potent language of civil rights, and tempted Republicans into believing they could make political inroads with black and Latino voters.

What these advocates have overlooked is the resistance to vouchers and other choice plans among suburban homeowners. While vouchers routinely win the support of 70 percent or more of urban populations, support levels are barely half that in the suburbs, even in favorably worded polls. This resistance has made voucher proponents increasingly frustrated. Are suburbanites just too naive and timid to see the problems with today's inefficient school monopolies? Or do they not care about issues of equity and equal opportunity?

It's time for choice proponents to recognize that suburban resistance to school choice is entirely rational, based largely on self-interest, and unlikely to go away. Otherwise the political clumsiness of voucherites could eventually create an unfortunate suburban backlash against school choice--in much the same way that ramrodding the Great Society programs through did in the late 1970s.

A number of folks wrote to quarrel with the assertion that the main stumbling block to school choice, at least on the Right, is the fear of Republican legislators that their white constituents don't want inner-city black kids being brought into their kids' schools. Here are a bunch of stories about the phenomenon, which is not particularly a matter of dispute. Please note that our assertion is not an accusation of racism per se: it is entirely reasonable to want to defend the quality of your own child's school and to be worried that an influx of undereducated poor kids will have a negative impact. Their race, though a factor at some level, is to a greater degree incidental.

The broader point remains though: if widespread voucherization of public schools does not become a reality it will not be because of liberal teachers' unions, but because of mainstream Republicans.

MORE:
-School Choice Plans Need Suburbs (Case Western Reserve, 7/10/02)
-The Political Economy of School Choice (James E. Ryan and Michael Heise, Yale Law Journal)
This Article examines the political economy of school choice and focuses on the role of suburbanites. This group has received little attention in the commentary but is probably the most important and powerful stakeholder in choice debates. Suburbanites generally do not support school choice pol- icies either public or private. They are largely satisfied with the schools in their neighborhoods and want to protect the physical and financial independence of those schools, as well as suburban property values, which are tied to the perceived quality of local schools. School choice threatens the independence of suburban schools by creating the possibility that outsiders, especially urban students, will enter suburban schools and that local funds will exit local schools.

When suburbanites face threats to their schools, they fight back, and they usually win. As this Article documents, sub- urbanites succeeded in insulating their schools from prior education reforms, including efforts to integrate schools and alter school funding regimes. A similar pattern is emerging in school choice plans, almost all of which work to protect the physical and financial autonomy of suburban schools and residents. If this pattern continues, school choice plans will be geographically constrained, will tend to be intradistrict, and will exist primarily in urban districts. These constraints will limit the ability of school choice to stimulate student academic improvement, racial and socioeconomic integration, and productive competition among public schools. Simply put, limited school choice plans will have limited impact, so that school choice will be neither a panacea, as its proponents argue, nor a serious threat to traditional public schools, as its opponents contend. To achieve the full theoretical benefits of school choice, we suggest that the choices offered to students must be broadened, especially in ways that will pro- vide greater opportunities for socioeconomic integration. In the final Part of the Article we consider ways to do so, including through increased access to government-funded, though not necessarily government-operated, preschools.

-The Influence of Race in School Finance Reform (JAMES E. RYAN, June 1999, University of Virginia Law School, Legal Studies Working Paper)
Abstract:
There is some evidence, from past social science studies, that school finance reform is seen by citizens--and especially white parents--through a racial lens. This Article picks up that point--which is nothing more than a hint, really--and tries to explore the role of race in school finance reform by surveying the history and success of minority districts in school finance reform litigation. The Article examines how predominantly minority districts have fared in school finance litigation (and subsequent legislative reforms) as compared to predominantly white districts, and concludes that minority districts fare worse than their white counterparts both in court and before the legislature. Based on this and other evidence, this Article contends that there are strong reasons to believe that the racial composition of the school district plays an influential role in determining success or failure in school finance litigation and legislative reform.

As the Article explains, this evidence has important academic, historical, and practical implications. Indeed, if the Article is correct in asserting that race plays an influential role in school finance reform, school finance scholars and practitioners should begin paying closer attention than they have to the dynamics of race relations and school desegregation; historians and legal scholars should recognize with added confidence the wisdom of the NAACP's desegregation strategy; and civil rights attorneys, courts, critical race theorists, and conservative critcs of desegregation should hesitate before abandoning the goal of desegregation.

-School Data and Suburban Power (David A DeSchryver, October 9, 2002, The Doyle Report)
In "The Political Economy of School Choice," James Ryan and Michael Heise make a compelling argument that suburbs have little tolerance for anything that impinges on their safe haven. Through white-flight and bright-flight they chose to live in the suburbs and send their children to better public schools. They are not about to relinquish the advantage and, under the law, they cannot be forced to take part in another district's school choice program. It's each district for itself. "Suburbanites, by and large, are not wild about school choice, either public or private. Suburban parents are generally satisfied with the public schools their children attend, and they want to protect both the physical and the financial sanctity of these schools." It is a position, say the authors, that contributed to the failure of school finance litigation which sought to shift education dollars away from the local tax base to a uniform system of allocation; and it will likely make school choice little more than a passing trend. Pockets of intra-district choice may appear, but the movement will remain isolated and do nothing to encourage soci-economic mixing and inter-district choice programs.

Ryan and Heise make another insightful political observation that could prove quite important. There are gaps between the leadership and the core constituents of the Democratic and Republican parties on the matter of school choice. The leadership of the Democratic Party remains opposed to school choice while African Americans, especially the younger generations, consistently express strong support for vouchers. Republican leaders support more competition in public education and more school choice, but white collar suburb constituents tend to oppose the idea. It is classic "not in my backyard" (NIMBY), to be sure. It appears to be an incongruity, say the authors, that will not soon go away and that comports with the idea that "crisis exists in the cities but not in the suburbs and that some efforts should be made to address those crises, provided that doing so does not simultaneously threaten suburban school autonomy."

Best Chances for Vouchers Lie in the Cities (ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS, 6/29/03)
In New York, as in other states, Republican voters are concentrated in the suburbs. Although vouchers have been a bedrock conservative issue, suburban voters support their public schools, and Republican candidates may find support for vouchers politically risky.

"I think it's ripe if you have that minority voice come forward in New York," said Joseph P. Viteritti, director of the program on education and civil society at New York University. "It's going to emerge from the cities, not the suburbs, and it has to be a Democratic issue, not a Republican issue."

In Cleveland and Milwaukee, which have voucher programs, a similar dynamic has been at work. In both cities, the impetus for vouchers came from urban minority communities.

In Milwaukee, the fight for school vouchers was led by Polly Williams, a black single mother forced by unemployment to go temporarily on welfare. Drawn into politics by her unwillingness to have her child bused to a school outside her neighborhood, she was elected to the Wisconsin Assembly from the predominantly black Near North district of Milwaukee.

In Cleveland, one of the leaders of the voucher movement was Fannie Lewis, also the black mother of a school-age child, who was elected to the City Council from the low-income community of Hough.

-School Vouchers Urged For Minorities (Anjetta McQueen, August 24, 2000, AP)
Virginia Walden-Ford grew up a true believer in public schools. Her father was a top administrator in the District of Columbia school system and her sisters taught there.

But she now thinks blacks should get government financial aid to attend private schools. On Thursday, she joined a group of black parents, educators, pastors and politicians to launch an ad campaign for the idea that's been championed by Republican presidential candidate Gov. George W. Bush. [...]

Critics have little to worry about, said David Bositis, an expert on black voting patterns with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington.

"The Republican Party is not viewed by African Americans as a viable alternative, and vouchers are not going to change that," he said.

Even if more blacks do support voucher initiatives, that wouldn't be enough to get them enacted, he said. "Look at who will vote against it ... senior citizens, white suburbanites and the teachers unions. That's a winning combination."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:10 AM

MAN MADE MEN

What it means to be a man (Margaret Wente, 7/26/03, Globe & Mail)
Johnnie's pep talk uses basketball as a metaphor for the game of life. It's part of an intensive program to show these kids what it takes to succeed. Around the room are other adult mentors who have volunteered their time to shoot hoops with the kids, take them to sporting events, and supply informal coaching on the game of life. Many are teachers or principals in the Toronto school system, and all of them are black. One of the principals wears his hair in dreads, tied up in a ponytail. The school system is definitely doing something right.

But this program wasn't started by a bureaucrat. It's the brainchild of Chris Spence, a remarkable educator who is now, lucky for us, a school superintendent. He's an education entrepreneur, a passionate, committed leader determined to make a difference. The program he founded is called Boys to Men, and it's really about values, not just education. Its most important message is what it means to be a man. And the three key words are Pride, Dignity, Respect. [...]

Before this program, some of these kids have never been out of their own neighbourhoods. And far too many of them believe they'll live there all their lives. And doing well in school attracts suspicion, not respect.

"People say, 'You're selling out,' " says Andre Patterson, the school principal with the dreadlocks. "But I say, 'You're negotiating the system.' "

The other message the kids get drummed into them is that they will not wind up in the NBA. "The first thing black males identify with is their athletic ability," says Mr. Patterson. "We have to break down that image. The fact is that they have a better chance of becoming a doctor or lawyer than an NBA player. We need more mentors to come out and say it and do something about it."

Chris Spence always knew he wanted to teach in what are known as "special-needs" schools. When he walked into his first classroom 12 years ago, he recalls, the kids could scarcely believe their eyes. "I told you, I told you. . . . He is black and he is our teacher," they marvelled. The kids were in middle school, but some of them could barely write their names. He and some of the other teachers were deeply dismayed. They also were unwilling to settle for the status quo. "I never made peace with the fact that these kids were almost out of the race of life at such an early age because they lacked an education," he writes in his recently published school memoir. (It's called On Time! On Task! On a Mission!) "Our response to this was to have school on Saturdays, during vacations, and at night to make up the difference -- whatever it takes."

This was the start of Boys to Men, a program that has now expanded to two dozen schools. No bureaucrat dreamed it up. No one waited for a government grant to get it going. It's entirely a grassroots movement, and Chris Spence believes that's its strength.

Whatever it takes...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 AM

REVENGE OF THE SANDINISTAS

A Good Idea With Bad Press (HAL R. VARIAN, July 31, 2003, NY Times)
The Iowa Electronic Markets, www.biz.uiowa .edu/iem/, has been predicting election results for 12 years using a system very much like the one that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Pentagon proposed.

One of the markets the Iowa exchange offered was in vote shares: what fraction of the vote went to the Democratic or Republican candidate. It is particularly easy to assess the outcome of such a market and to compare it with alternative forecasts, like public opinion polls.

As it turns out, these political stock markets provided somewhat better forecasts than polls right before the election--and they provide much better (and less volatile) forecasts several months before the elections. Thus, markets do best exactly where the public opinion polls and expert opinion polls are weakest.

This is not an isolated example. Similar markets have been organized to predict shifts in Federal Reserve monetary policy, the outcome of political conventions and sales of consumer products. The results are that markets typically perform at least as well, and generally better, than feasible alternatives, and they are much cheaper to organize. [...]

There is good reason to believe that a market set up to forecast the sort of political instability that leads to terrorism might work well, too. At least, there is enough reason to warrant an experiment, given the high payoff to having better forecasts of these events.

This is why the Pentagon thought it was important to finance research in this area.

The objections raised by politicians and opinion writers were generally based on misunderstandings of what was actually proposed.

Unfortunately, the objections were just based on misunderstanding of the proposal, but on hatred of the proposer. As confirmation hearings for folks like Otto Reich demonstrated and as the hysterical reaction to appointments of folks like Admiral Poindexter and Elliot Abrams confirms, many on the Left remain unreconciled to the victory of the Reagan administration-backed contras over the Sandinistas in the 1980s. Any chance they get to attack a Poindexter project they will take advantage of, regardless of the underlying value of the idea.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:45 AM

PAGING DICK GEPHARDT

In Defense of "Trade Deficits": A nation isn't harmed when it imports more than it exports, which is why the trade deficit is the most dangerous statistic collected by government. (Daniel J. Mitchell, March 22, 2003, Capitalism Magazine)
It is people who trade, not countries, and people trade because it makes them better off. This is true if someone in Virginia trades with someone in Maryland, and it is also true if someone in Kansas trades with someone in Singapore.

Protectionists usually will admit that free trade is a good idea, at least in theory, but then argue that the "trade deficit" shows there's an imbalance that must be corrected. Yet, they offer no evidence for this hypothesis. I have trade deficits with my local supermarket, movie theater and gas station: I buy lots of things from them and they never buy anything from me. Why is that bad? Should politicians and bureaucrats be allowed to limit my freedom to make these purchases in order to "protect" me from a trade deficit?

The same analysis applies to the overall economy. At any given point in time, Virginia may have a trade deficit with Maryland and the United States may have a trade deficit with Germany. But these deficits are merely the result of millions of voluntary transactions between producers and consumers. And unless we're willing to assume that people are idiots, those transactions benefited both buyers and sellers. Would these people be better off if politicians and bureaucrats used quotas and trade taxes to hinder trade?

The evidence clearly says no. The 1930 Smoot-Hawley legislation was supposed to protect American jobs, but instead it helped cause record unemployment and the Great Depression. Countries today with high trade barriers - like Japan - suffer from anemic growth, while free-trade jurisdictions prosper. Unfortunately, protectionists won't heed economic arguments. They seem convinced that a trade deficit is like cancer, something that's always bad news.

How can it still be necessary to convince people that freer trade is good for economies?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM

OOH, OOH, OOH, PICK ME, PICK ME

Rice Takes Responsibility for Bush Speech (WILL LESTER, 07/30/2003, AP)
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that she feels responsible for the questionable statement in President Bush's State of the Union address about Iraqi plans to buy uranium in Africa.

"I certainly feel personal responsibility for this entire episode," she said in an interview on PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." "What I feel most responsible for is that this is detracting from the very strong case the president has been making."

Rice was the latest administration official, including CIA Director George Tenet and the president himself, to take responsibility for the
now-discredited claim. Rice has come under mounting criticism in connection with the speech, and has also been accused of making misleading remarks about what the White House knew before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Forgive us our cynicism, but bureaucrats fight over credit, not blame. It seems increasingly likely that they think they're going to be vindicated.

MORE:
U.S. May Already Have Iraq?s WMDs (Joel Mowbray, July 31, 2003, Town Hall)
As WMD hysteria reaches a frenzied pitch, comments by the head of the U.S. team searching Iraq for WMD evidence should give pause to the "Bush lied" crowd.

Dr. David Kay--the 63-year-old former U.N. weapons inspector now heading up the American WMD team--recently remarked that the United States will be "starting to reveal" WMD evidence in six months.

Though he was circumspect at best, Dr. Kay?s comments could indicate that U.S. investigators know quite a bit more than they have revealed thus far.

Buzz inside the beltway has been intensifying in recent days that the administration may have significantly more evidence than it has publicly
released, and Dr. Kay's comments have triggered even more chatter. Some of it may be wishful thinking, but considering that some of the people doing the talking are administration officials, declarations that there are no WMDs may be premature.

Why would the Bush folks keep such politically high-value information secret?

The bigger question is how do they so consistently manage to exercise the internal discipline required to keep things secret until they choose to announce them. Think, most recently, of the Africa AIDs initiative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 AM

IF YOU SEND IT THEY WILL SPEND

In One Florida Town, Parents Getting Refund Checks Fulfill Bush's Hopes (MICHAEL JANOFSKY, 7/31/03, NY Times)
The refund checks have started arriving, and for many residents here, the $400-a-child tax credit, part of President Bush's latest effort to stimulate the economy, could not come at a better time.

Matt Ross, a father of two, said he intended to pay a few bills and, with school starting in a few weeks, buy new clothes for his children. Robert and Sharee McCutcheon, who also have two children, said their money would go for school supplies and Christmas presents. Roger Kintz, father of two girls, including an aspiring Olympic gymnast who is competing this week in Detroit, said his money would help pay for the trip.

Bridgett Bedwell, the mother of two boys, was thinking about her family dentist. "I'm fixing to have braces for my kids' teeth," she said. "That check really helps me out, especially when the braces are costing me $4,000."

Spend. Spend. Spend. This is precisely what President Bush and Republican lawmakers were hoping for in enacting tax cuts that included an increase to $1,000 from $600 in the tax credit for children. Against concerns about the rising federal deficit (now projected at a record $455 billion) or the cost of maintaining troops in Iraq (almost $1 billion a week), supporters of the tax cuts, which passed the House largely on a party-line vote, argued that a sluggish economy was best improved by Americans' keeping more of their money so they could spend it. On Friday, the Treasury Department began mailing out the first of more than 25 million checks, $400 for each child who was 16 or younger in 2002.

25 million checks. It's a good start.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:55 AM

MYSTERY TRAIN I RIDE

Rock 'n' roll pioneer producer Sam Phillips dead at 80 (AP, July 31, 2003)
Record producer Sam Phillips, who discovered Elvis Presley and helped usher in the rock 'n' roll revolution, died Wednesday. He was 80.

Phillips died at St. Francis Hospital, spokeswoman Gwendolyn McClain said. No details were immediately available about the cause of death or how long he had been hospitalized.

Phillips founded Sun Records in Memphis in 1952 and helped launch the career of Presley, then a young singer who had moved from Tupelo, Miss.

In the summer of 1953, Presley went to the Sun studio to record two songs for his mother's birthday. Phillips noticed him and decided Presley deserved a recording contract.

Phillips produced Presley's first record, the 1954 single that featured "That's All Right, Mama'' and "Blue Moon of Kentucky,'' and nine more.

"God only knows that we didn't know it would have the response that it would have,'' Phillips said in an interview in 1997.

"But I always knew that the rebellion of young people, which is as natural as breathing, would be a part of that breakthrough,'' he said.

Phillips was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 2000, the A&E cable network ran a two-hour biography called "Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll.'' [...]

Born Samuel Cornelius Phillips in Florence, Ala., Phillips worked as an announcer at radio stations in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and Decatur, Ala., and Nashville, Tenn., before settling in Memphis in 1945. Before founding Sun Records, he was a talent scout who recommended artists and recordings to record labels such as Chess and Modern. He also worked as an announcer in Memphis.

Is it just us, or has this been a particularly tough year for genuinely talented and important folks from the arts dying?

July 30, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 PM

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE

Minority Republicans play their hand to partial victory (Alexa H. Bluth, July 30, 2003, Sacramento Bee)
They control no statewide offices and are the minority party in both legislative chambers.

But for one month in California -- including a dramatic and exhausting 29-hour finale -- political strategists, lawmakers and others agreed: Republicans held all the cards.

"They won," declared a weary Democratic assemblyman, Lloyd Levine of Van Nuys, after the Assembly on Tuesday afternoon approved an overdue budget following an all-night session.

The central victory was simple. The $100 billion plan that will be sent to Gov. Gray Davis does not include the tax increases that Democrats, including Davis, had previously said they would insist upon to help fill the $38.2 billion budget deficit. [...]

[H]anging over this year's debate was the ongoing effort to recall Davis, focused largely on what his critics call his mishandling of state spending. Just as the Senate leaders finished a deal last week, state officials announced that the recall had qualified for the ballot and that an Oct. 7 election would be held.

"There was a political cloud over the whole debate," said Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

Then came a stumble that many considered key to pushing lawmakers into a budget deal.

A group of liberal Democrats were caught discussing the potential political gain from holding up a budget and the implications of the delay on the recall race.

Before the incident, observers say, Democrats may have been persuasive in their complaints that Republicans were holding up the budget to help the recall.

"I think that exposed Democrats," said Assemblyman John Campbell, R-Irvine. "I think it made a difference for them."

Which all goes to show you: Sometimes, nothin' is a real cool hand.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 PM

SUGAR-COATING THE BITTER TRUTH

Why the US fears Cuba: Hostility to the Castro regime doesn't stem from its failings, but from its achievements (Seumas Milne, July 31, 2003, The Guardian)
[U]S hostility to Cuba does not stem from the regime's human rights failings, but its social and political successes and the challenge its unyielding independence offers to other US and western satellite states. Saddled with a siege economy and a wartime political culture for more than 40 years, Cuba has achieved first world health and education standards in a third world country, its infant mortality and literacy rates now rivalling or outstripping those of the US, its class sizes a third smaller than in Britain - while next door, in the US-backed "democracy" of Haiti, half the population is unable to read and infant mortality is over 10 times higher. Those, too, are human rights, recognised by the UN declaration and European convention. Despite the catastrophic withdrawal of Soviet support more than a decade ago and the social damage wrought by dollarisation and mass tourism, Cuba has developed biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries acknowledged by the US to be the most advanced in Latin America. Meanwhile, it has sent 50,000 doctors to work for free in 93 third world countries (currently there are 1,000 working in Venezuela's slums) and given a free university education to 1,000 third world students a year. How much of that would survive a takeover by the Miami-backed opposition?

The historical importance of Cuba's struggle for social justice and sovereignty and its creative social mobilisation will continue to echo beyond its time and place: from the self-sacrificing internationalism of Che to the crucial role played by Cuban troops in bringing an end to apartheid through the defeat of South Africa at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1988. But those relying on the death of Castro (the "biological solution") to restore Cuba swiftly to its traditional proprietors may be disappointed, while the Iraq imbroglio may have checked the US neo-conservatives' enthusiasm for military intervention against a far more popular regime in Cuba. That suggests Cuba will have to expect yet more destabilisation, further complicating the defence of the social and political gains of the revolution in the years to come. The greatest contribution those genuinely concerned about human rights and democracy in Cuba can make is to help get the US and its European friends off the Cubans' backs.

Cuba GDP per capita: $2,300

United States GDP per capita: $36,300

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 PM

THE DEMOCRATS' LITMUS TEST, FOR EACH OTHER (via ef brown)

Democratic rivals spar over Bush's tax cuts (AP, 7/30/03)
Presidential rivals Howard Dean and John Kerry, who have been at odds over national security, quarreled Wednesday over what Democrats should do with President Bush's tax cuts.

Poised to deliver remarks on the economy in Iowa and New Hampshire later in the day, the primary foes rushed to criticize each other, even if it meant upstaging their own speeches. Kerry fired the first salvo.

"Real Democrats don't walk away from the middle class," the Massachusetts senator said. "They don't take away a tax credit for families struggling to raise their children or bring back a tax penalty for married couples who are starting out or penalize teachers and waitresses by raising taxes on the middle class."

The Kerry campaign provided an advanced text of his remarks to The Associated Press, assailing Dean's call for a repeal of Bush's tax cuts.

Kerry's speech did not mention Dean by name, but aides made sure the speech was provided to the media before Dean addressed the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union in Iowa. Contacted for a response, Dean answered back in an interview.

"Real Democrats don't make promises they can't keep," the former Vermont governor said. "Working Americans have a choice: They can have the president's tax cuts or they can have health care that can't be taken away. They can't have both." [...]

Dean contended that Kerry's plan to retain some of the tax and provide health coverage will make him vulnerable to the other common complaint about Democrats: Big spender.

"That's one of the problems of the Democratic Party," Dean said in his speech.

Kerry's response: "Real Democrats are straight about who they'll fight for."

Since their dialogue has reached the "Yo Mama" level, instead of the next debate maybe they could just play the dozens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:02 PM

THE ANTI-HUMANISTS

Master and Pupil (Robert Royal, Crisis)
[A] touching relationship, long known to students of Camus's work, can be traced more fully now with the publication of Albert Camus & Jean Grenier: Correspondence 1932-1960 (University of Nebraska Press), translated by Jan F. Rigaud. These letters record a lifelong intellectual and spiritual friendship. Grenier began it by going out of his way as Camus's teacher to visit him in his poor home. Camus was encouraged by this show of respect to exert himself in order to become a worthy conversation partner. More concretely, Grenier convinced Camus's poor family to let him continue his education.

This had intellectual as well as personal dimensions. Grenier oversaw Camus's thesis on "Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism," a subject that attracted master and pupil alike for its intrinsic interest--a comparison of two high points of the human spirit, one Christian, one pagan--but also because it was a subject that had engaged a great ancient predecessor in the region, St. Augustine. Both were open to a larger horizon than was typical among contemporary intellectuals. Or as Camus was to formulate it later, Grenier "prevented me from being a humanist in the sense that it is understood today--I mean a man blinded by narrow certainties. ' Contrary to almost the whole of modern French thought, Camus believed that it was better to be "a good bourgeois than a bad intellectual or a mediocre writer," and he and Grenier strove to avoid the vanity and self-deception endemic to French intellectuals.

Both had intermittent attractions to Christianity, especially Catholicism, because, as Grenier put it, it reflected the principle that there is "no truth for man that is not incarnated." And Grenier could be merciless toward what he believed was a "dilettantism of despair" among many French intellectuals. But they were also put off by the harsh tone of many people in the French Church at the time, which seemed particularly offensive because of the Church's historical failings, as they saw it. Camus confesses at one point: "Catholic thought always seems bittersweet to me. It seduces me then offends me. Undoubtedly, I lack what is essential." That may be true, but it is also a sad commentary on Catholic history in France that these two good men, flawed and perhaps blinded as they may have been by certain modern intellectual currents, felt such ambivalence. The sense of guilt (personal and universal) in the later Camus is so palpable and profound that many people believe that had he not died at age 47, he would have eventually become a Christian. It1s a pious wish, but I have always thought it ignored certain invincible circumstances. These letters have not changed my mind.

But what a wonderful record of human honesty and affection they offer, especially for our time. Both had seen the results of murderous philosophies of human perfection, and Camus would be pilloried by the French intellectual establishment, particularly Jean-Paul Sartre, for his deep critique of Marxism in his L'Homme Revolte (The Rebel). In it, Camus argued that we have an obligation to rebel against injustice but must never allow that just impulse to become absolute revolution against the human condition. Because when we do, we turn into perpetrators of injustices worse than those we seek to eliminate. Or as he put it in the opening sentence of that work, a line that could almost serve as a motto for his and Grenier's work in the face of so much that was--and is--simply mad among French intellectuals: "There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic."

A lynching or a pogrom is a crime of passion. The Holocaust was a crime of logic. Both kinds of crime are terrible, but the difference is significant. It's a distinction the humanist must deny.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 PM

STEVEN PLAUT MEET <~text text="PAUL TIBBETTS">

King Sweeney Meets Bin Laden (Steven Plaut, July 30, 2003, Israel National News)
One of the unchallenged axioms of American civic religion is that each and every group of people on earth must consist of an "overwhelmingly vast majority of decent, hard-working, honest people, who want peace and are tolerant and freedom-loving and anti-violence."

It is an unchallengeable presumption of this theology that "vast majorities" of not only each and every racial/religious/ethnic group may be so described, but even vast majorities of each and any subgroup within society. Hence, we even sometimes hear assertions that the vast majority of prisoners, prostitutes, drug users, gang members, etc. are also decent, honest, peace-loving, honorable people.

The one imponderable in American civic theology is the idea that somewhere out there someplace there just might be a group of people - the majority of whom are not peace-loving or honest or tolerant. This belief in universal peacefulness in the minds of Americans is the main obstacle to Americans ever understanding the Middle East. The simple fact of the matter is that the overwhelmingly vast majority of Arabs, and the overwhelmingly vast majority of Moslems, are not peace-loving and are not opposed to violence. [...]

The vast majority of Moslems do not personally engage in violence and terror in their daily lives. The vast majority of Germans did not take personal part in the Holocaust. Indeed, as a blanket statement regarding Arabs in Israel, I would say that most Arabs behave in a far more polite daily manner than Jews, exhibiting on average far better manners and more consideration than do Jewish Israelis. But, of course, that is hardly the point.

What a positively bizarre assertion to make about an America that treated the Indians rather brutally, enslaved Africans, segregated African-Americans, imprisoned Japanese-Americans, fire-bombed the Germans and the Japanese (then nuked the Japanese for good measure), has the highest proportion of its population in porison of any nation on Earth, etc., etc., etc. If anything, Americans seem to--because we determine our nation's policies--hold entire nation's, whether free or not, responsible for the actions of their governments. There's been much made of the Administration supposedly trying to tie Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda--here's something to consider: the difference between our waging a war of liberation with minimal casualties in Iraq and our waging a war of extermination, with Baghdad irradiated, was probably only a function of our not believing they were involved in 9-11. If Israel fought the Arabs the way America fights its wars there might be no Palestinians, never mind a Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:45 PM

BEST OF A BAD LOT

Edwards Advances Health Insurance Plan in N.H.: Focus Is on Children, Low-Income Adults (Jim VandeHei, July 29, 2003, Washington Post)
Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards today proposed mandating government-subsidized health care coverage for all Americans under 21 and providing assistance to millions of lower-income adults.

The North Carolina senator, seeking to boost a campaign trailing badly in the polls, called for a new tax credit that parents could use to help buy health insurance for their children, either through private plans or the government's existing program for children. Every child would be required by the government to have insurance, which would be heavily subsidized for the poorest Americans. A family of four making around $60,000 would pay $30 per month to cover both children, Edwards said.

"If we are going fix this broken health care system, the responsible place to start is with the greatest injustice -- uninsured kids," Edwards said after touring a children's health facility here. More than 9 million Americans under the age of 18 do not have health coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

This at least approaches being sensible. How about just requiring that every child have $2000 per year going into an MSA--with contributions coming from parents' employers and/or parents' pre-tax income and/or a federal subsidy for those who work but are below the poverty level and/or anyone else (grandparents, etc.) who cares to contribute, with pre-payments allowed?

Posted by David Cohen at 8:07 PM

SO CONFUSING.

Foreign Office stands by uranium claims (Telegraph, 7/30/03).
The Foreign Office has again defended the Government's contraversial claim that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium for its nuclear weapons programme from the west African state of Niger.

In a letter to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC), it insists that there had been no need to include a 'health warning' on the claim in the Government's dossier on Iraqi weapons as it was confident in the underlying intelligence.

There has been growing controversy over the claim since the US Central Intelligence Agency publicly cast doubt over its validity, saying it should not have been included in President George Bush's State of the Union address.
Even before the war, the International Atomic Energy Authority said that documents it had received relating to the allegation had been crude forgeries.

Britain, however, has insisted that it received separate intelligence from a third country - widely assumed to be France - which it could not share with the Americans.
Now, on NPR this afternoon, they said (I'm paraphrasing) that "the President had taken responsibility for a widely discredited statement included in the State of the Union. The President had justified the war on Iraq largely on the basis the it had weapons of mass destruction."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM

DISMALISTICS

Economic Turnaround? (Robert J. Samuelson, July 30, 2003, washingtonpost.com)
On the economy, we're all dunces. There's so much conflicting evidence that almost any story -- hopeful, dismal or in between -- can be told with conviction. You, too, can play Alan Greenspan. Although he's better informed, your story could turn out right. [...]

One problem is that we don't always know which numbers to believe. Consider jobs. Two government surveys disagree sharply. One asks businesses how many workers are on their payrolls; the other questions households about who's employed. Since early 2001 the payroll survey shows a job loss of 2.6 million; that figure is widely quoted. But the household survey shows a loss of only 108,000 since early 2001 and a gain of 1.9 million over the past year. Most economists trust the payroll survey, but David Wyss of Standard & Poor's thinks the household survey may be more reliable. He suspects that companies have hired "contract" workers who aren't on firms' payrolls but who count themselves as employed.

Who knows? Everyone's guessing. Confusion is the only honest conclusion.

Nice look at the conflicting reasons to be either hopeful or pessimistic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:04 PM

I AM NOT A POTTED PLANT (via John Resnick)

Elderly Activist Faults News Network for 'Misleading' Audience (Marc Morano, July 30, 2003, CNSNews.com)
The latest complaint regarding the habit of television news networks describing liberal political lobbyists as typical retirees complaining about the cost of prescription drugs comes from one of the lobbyists herself.

Barbara Kaufman, president of the senior citizen lobbying group, the Minnesota Senior Federation, was featured on ABC World News Tonight Friday, complaining about the high cost of prescription drugs. But there was no mention about her affiliation with organizations currently advocating a federal prescription drug entitlement, according to a Media Research Center transcript of the program.

Kaufman calls ABC's decision "misleading."

"I would have preferred it if [ABC News] had...identified me as the president of the Minnesota Senior Federation because I think that lends more credibility," Kaufman told CNSNews.com.

Credibility?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:56 PM

MUCH ADO

Bush takes responsibility for Niger claim (The Guardian, July 30, 2003)
The US president, George Bush, today accepted personal responsibility for citing a controversial claim that the former Iraqi regime tried to obtain nuclear material in Africa.

"I take personal responsibility for everything I say, absolutely," the president said at a White House news conference when asked about the now discredited accusation.

In one of those great, albeit unintentional, moments that demonstrate how silly the President's critics sound, NPR today ran a commentary by Eric Liu, who is apparently a former Clinton speechwriter (given that he never gave a good one, would you put that on your resume?), wherein Mr. Liu chided Mr. Bush for not accepting responsibility for the uranium claim, just 15 minutes after the President had done so. There's an interesting assumption at work here: the Left thinks he was ducking responsibility because the claim is obviously an intentional lie and will be a big deal. Mr. Bush, on the other hand, has largely ignored the issue, and now accepted responsibility, seemingly because he believed it to be true at least at the time and quite insignificant.

MORE:
Responsibility: A Capital Minuet (Dana Milbank, July 29, 2003, washingtonpost.com)
For President Bush and the press corps that covers him, the month of July has been one long cat-and-mouse game. Five times, questioners have invited the president to take responsibility for the Iraq-uranium allegation that found its way into his State of the Union address. Five times, Bush has deflected the question.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:46 PM

MR. MISUNDERESTIMATABLE

Text: Bush News Conference on Iraq (July 30, 2003)
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Mr. President, many of your supporters believe that homosexuality is immoral. They believe that it's been given too much acceptance in policy terms and culturally. As someone who's spoken out in strongly moral terms, what's your view on homosexuality?

BUSH: Yes, I am mindful that we're all sinners. And I caution those who may try to take the speck out of the neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own.

I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country.

On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage. And that's really where the issue is headed here in Washington, and that is the definition of marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. And we've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that. [...]

QUESTION: Mr. President, you often speak about the need for accountability in many areas.

I wonder then why is Dr. Condoleezza Rice not being held accountable for the statement that your own White House has acknowledged was a mistake in your State of the Union address regarding Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium? And also, do you take personal responsibility for that inaccuracy?

BUSH: I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course. Absolutely. I also take responsibility for making decisions on war and peace. And I analyzed a thorough body of intelligence--good, solid, sound intelligence that led me to come to the conclusion that it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

We gave the world a chance to do it. We had--remember, there was--again, I don't want to get repetitive here but it's important to remind everybody that there was 12 resolutions that came out of the United Nations because others recognized the threat of Saddam Hussein. Twelve times the United Nations Security Council passed resolutions in recognition of the threat that he posed. And the difference was is that some were not willing to act on those resolutions. We were, along with a lot of other countries, because he posed a threat. Dr. Condoleezza Rice is an honest, fabulous person, and America is lucky to have her service. Period.

QUESTION: Mr. President, with no opponent, how can you spend $170 million or more on your primary campaign?

BUSH: Just watch.

(LAUGHTER)

Here are just three moments from the press conference that make you wonder what the President's opponents are thinking. The Democrats think they're winning on the uranium isse, but their victory puts Mr. Bush in the position of defending a black woman's honor. The Right thinks he's not been shrieking loudly enough about the recent Supreme Court decision, even though such whining wouldn't change the ruling. Meanwhile, one of the main stories coming out of the press conference will be his support for a measure to bar gay marriage, but he handled it with great sensitivity [for example, Bush Looking for Means to Prevent Gay Marriage in U.S. (DAVID STOUT, July 30, 2003, NY Times)]. Last, the press thinks that people really care about how our campaigns are financed and run. Mr. Bush's taunt suggests he understands the people better.

MORE:
And here's one for the Islamicists and the civil libertarians:
You know, let me talk about Al Qaida just for a second. I made the statement that we're dismantling senior management, and we are. Our people have done a really good job of hauling in a lot of the key operators. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Abu Zubaida. Ramzi--Ramzi alshibh or whatever the guy's name was.

(LAUGHTER)

Sorry, Ramzi, if I got it wrong.

(LAUGHTER)

Binalshibh. Excuse me.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:23 PM

BABY STEPS...BUT STEPS

Iraq council names first president to serve one-month rotation (Steven R. Hurst, 7/30/2003, Associated Press)
After weeks of struggling to choose a leader, Iraq's American-picked interim government Wednesday named its first president -- a Shiite Muslim from a political party banned by Saddam Hussein. He will be the first of nine men serving one-month rotations leading postwar Iraq. [...]

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite Muslim and chief spokesman for the Islamic Dawa Party, will serve as council president for August. The party once was based in neighboring Iran.

So, how many of the "40 lies" does that dispel?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM

)

President Bush: A radical with a plan (Steven E. Schier, 7/30/03, The Hill)
Bush's goal is a big one--to make the Republicans the natural, default party of government. Karl Rove, the president's chief political strategist, frequently mentions durable GOP dominance as a major goal of the Bush presidency. Bush seeks lasting conservative rule over American politics, completion of the rightward revolution begun by Ronald Reagan. The Bush administration is working steadily to create conservative dominance over political institutions, party and interest group alignments and the terms of policy debate.

In the terms of Yale University political scientist Stephen Skowronek, Bush is an "orthodox innovator" trying to adapt the Reagan approach for the 21st century. As James K. Polk restored the Democratic Party in the 1840s and Teddy Roosevelt reinvigorated the GOP at the turn of the 20th century, so Bush hopes to create a new Republican political coalition than can dominate national politics long after he leaves the White House.

The risk for such orthodox-innovators, according to Skowronek, is that their innovations split their coalitions and end their party's dominance, as Roosevelt's progressivism divided the GOP in 1912. So far, Bush has avoided that fate.

It's actually even more radical than that, because what TR and John McCain (who consciously patterned himself after Roosevelt) both tried to do was to widen the Party's appeal by moving it Left, towards where non-Republicans were. What Mr. Bush proposes is to move the Party to the Right and move people who aren't now Republicans to the Right with it. One example may suffice to demonstrate: vouchers. The mainstream of the Party--at least the elected officials--is ill-disposed towards educational vouchers, because they fear their constituents anger at a system that would allow blacks kids from the inner-city to attend what are now predominantly white schools. Mr. Bush, by pushing vouchers, is using a conservative idea--bringing market forces to bear on education and fostering private options--that appeals to those voters who are least likely to vote Republican at this point: blacks. The difference between the TR approach and the Bush approach makes the latter's plan even more audacious and potentially revolutionary. Had TR succeeded he'd have changed the GOP and the nation for the worse (Wilson proved the latter). If Mr. Bush succeeds he may transform the Party and the country for the better.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:46 PM

DOOR NUMBER ONE? OR DOOR NUMBER TWO?

Billions and billions of demons (Richard Lewontin, January 9, 1997, The New York Review)
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

Mr. Lewontin, with admirable honesty, identifies the most dangerous error that rationalists make, their belief that reason compels reason, that it is sufficient unto itself. In fact, as he acknowledges, reason follows only after one has made a choice of faiths, in this case the faith that the world is entirely material. Having made this choice for oneself, then none of the inconsistencies of reason matter, because one simply assumes that one has not reasoned deeply enough. This is the best of all possible worlds because there must be some rational explanation for everything that happens, and that explantion must ultimately be accessible to man, the creature who reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:58 AM

"UNPARALLELED BATTLE"

Cruiser Sunk, 1,196 Casualties; Took Atom Bomb Cargo to Guam (NY Times, July 30, 1945)
After a tremendous double explosion, believed caused by one or two torpedoes fired by an undetected Japanese submarine in a moonlit sea, the Indianapolis sank within fifteen minutes near Peleliu just past midnight July 30 [East Longitude date].

The 315 survivors were picked up 100 hours and more later after an unparalleled battle with the sea in which the only armor for most of the men were kapok lifejackets and courage. At least 200 lost the battle and drowned, some insane from exhaustion and the effects of sea water, sun and thirst. The remainder went down with the ship.

The ship's commander, Captain McVay, son of a retired admiral, was saved by one of the rescue vessels summoned to the scene when a Navy plane on routine anti-submarine patrol happened to sight some of the men in the water three and a half days after the ship had gone down. Captain McVay was one of the fortunate few in a life raft; the vessel sank so rapidly that only six rafts were released in time.

The Indianapolis was traveling without escort. This had been her frequent practice, and the men aboard were in the habit of saying to each other, three-fourths in jest, that "some day she was going to get it."

And "Get it she did," a haggard survivor, his skin blotched with the great running scabs of "immersion ulcers," remarked grimly today.

Like, we're sure, most of you, we first heard of the USS Indianapolis and the horrific events surrounding its sinking in the movie Jaws.  You'll recall the Robert Shaw character telling about being adrift in the waters of the Pacific as sharks circled and attacked the helpless men.  This story has such a compelling fascination that it has spawned a series of books, documentaries and even a TV movie.  Doug Stanton's In Harm's Way can take its place with the very best of them.  Drawing heavily on interviews with survivors and on Captain Charles Butler McVay's account of the sinking and the ensuing ordeal, Stanton
presents the story with an immediacy and intimacy that makes it all the more terrible. Most recommended.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM

THE CONTRADICTIONS HAVE BEEN FORCED

Gulf Arabs: Window of opportunity for reform (Sean Foley, 7/30. 03, Asia Times)
While many of the international and domestic problems of Gulf Arab monarchies have been building for years, the US overthrow of Iraq's government puts these issues in a different context. On the regional scene, this change has improved the security of these countries yet it has also opened new pressures - or opportunities - for domestic reform.
There were few states in the world that looked on the 2003 war in Iraq with greater fear and anticipation than the six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). On one hand, the US-led military operation promised to overthrow a regime that had occupied one of their fellow states and repeatedly threatened the region's stability. On the other hand, it strained an already difficult situation for GCC states in balancing their need for close ties with Washington with the opposition of their peoples and the wider Arab-Islamic world to US policies in the Middle East. [...]

The GCC benefits as well from the new balance of power in the Gulf, in which the United States dominates without deployments to a set of sensitive regional bases. An Iraq that is stable, unified, democratic, wealthy, and in which Shi'ites participate in government in proportion to their demographic majority, could be a real force for stability in the region and a long-term check on Iranian power. Finally, recent US government commitments to reinvigorate the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and negotiate free trade treaties between the United States and the Middle East could help GCC states justify their close ties to Washington.

The new dynamic created by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government also presents a number of long-term challenges to GCC states. Many of these challenges may exacerbate the long-standing problems that each GCC state faces, to differing degrees, in foreign affairs (military weakness in relation to neighboring states and the desire to balance domestic views on foreign policy with close US ties), domestic politics (reconciling tribal and autocratic governance with demands for liberalized, consultative political institutions; politically-inspired violence and Islam; and succession), and social-economic affairs (heavy dependence on petroleum exports and expatriate works, privatization, population growth, and the budgetary issues).

Serious economic and political disputes among GCC states have already exacerbated these problems and limited the ability of the states to speak in a single voice on international affairs. Any of the following scenarios - US failure to both rebuild Iraq and form a legitimate government in a timely manner, sustained Iraqi resistance to the US administration, a significant increase in Iranian influence with Iraq, and the emergence of a Shi'ite theocratic state in Iraq - together or individually could lead to a degree of instability in Gulf Arab societies larger than that of any period since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

The impact of such a future might even be worse than that of past impacts because of the ability of Arab satellite news networks and the Internet to deliver uncensored news rapidly and the close ethnic, tribal and religious linkages between the Gulf Arabs and Iraqis. A democratic Iraq would also be a more compelling client for the United States in the Gulf than the monarchies of the GCC, as well as a very potent symbol for Shi'ites and other groups pushing for change in Arab Gulf societies.

While it is still too early to make any definitive judgments as to what form the long-term impact of the war in Iraq will have on Gulf Arabs, this essay will argue that the governments of the GCC states and their peoples have an enormous amount at stake in the development process in Iraq and the need to reform their own societies generally. Though no GCC state is threatened by invasion or economic collapse in the near or medium term, Gulf Arabs must begin to reform their societies and develop new collective, integrated institutions with their allies to guarantee a secure and prosperous future.

As Ralph Peters had argued long before the war, in cases--like the Middle East--where the status quo does not favor America and its beliefs, embracing instability may be our best policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:40 AM

SIKH AND YE SHALL FIND (A MAJORITY) [via Mike Daley]

Vote for a turban and a beard: The Sikh knocking at the door of the Senate (The Economist, Jul 24th 2003)
WITH Lake Michigan sparkling in the distance and long beards flapping in the evening breeze, they clutched their turbans or ties and vowed to unite behind Chirinjeev Singh Kathuria. An assembly of Sikhs and Hindus and even a token Muslim set aside their differences and turned out on July 22nd on the roof of a posh downtown high-rise to endorse the first American from the Indian subcontinent ever to run for the Senate.

It is not going to be easy for Mr Kathuria, a millionaire Sikh businessman and a Republican. He remembers the insults he faced in airliners and on street corners after the terrorist attacks of 2001, when his Sikh turban and beard got him mistaken for a Muslim. He still carefully keeps an American flag pinned to his lapel.

There is also the fact that he is a Republican. Grover Norquist, a Republican anti-tax campaigner with influential friends in the White House, claims that “Indian-Americans are natural Republicans and natural conservatives.” They are on the whole well-educated and well-to-do; they respect family values, and like working for themselves. Bobby Jindal, a young Indian-American, is the leading Republican candidate for the governorship of Louisiana. Still, about 70% of them voted Democrat in the 2000 election.

The Indian-American community more than doubled in size in the 1990s, and now totals over 1.6m. That makes it America's third-largest Asian group. Mr Norquist and Karl Rove, George Bush's main strategist, have urged their party to embrace Muslim-Americans and Americans with roots in other parts of Asia. At the moment all seven Asian-Americans in Congress—five in the House and two senators—are Democrats.

If it's hard to figure out why Jews are still voting in lockstep for Democrats, it's impossible to figure out--aside from the parties' respective reputations on race--why Asian-Americans don't vote Republican.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

PRYOR RESTRAINT

Dems plan Pryor filibuster: Assail GOP charge of anti-Catholic bias by opponents (Jonathan E. Kaplan, 7/30/03, The Hill)
"There will be a filibuster and we will prevail," Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said following a weekly luncheon meeting of Senate Democrats. "I would be surprised if there was not a filibuster." [...]

Meantime, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) scheduled cloture votes throughout this week in an effort to allow the Senate to vote on several other federal appeals court nominees. A cloture motion, which requires 60 votes, failed yesterday to overcome the filibuster of Judge Priscilla Owen of Texas. The Senate will take a cloture vote on Pryor Thursday; its failure would signal that the filibuster has begun.

[Alabama Attorney General William Pryor Jr.]'s nomination has been slowed because of an ongoing investigation into whether he lied about his fundraising activities while he led the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The Judiciary Committee voted 10 to 9, along party lines, last Wednesday to advance the 41-year-old Pryor's nomination. All nine Democrats voted "no, under protest."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a former U.S. attorney for whom Pryor once worked, ignited the firestorm over religion at last week's committee vote.

"Can a person with orthodox Catholic views on abortion be affirmed as a federal judge? [Pryor's nomination] raises that question," he told The Hill yesterday.

Even Mark Shields has acknowledged that the Party is in fact anti-Catholic at this point because the only issue it truly cares about is abortion, Dems doing worst to lose 'Catholic vote' (Mark Shields, 7/22/02, CNN)
in a deliberate act of political bigotry, the Democratic National Committee is daily telling Catholic voters to get lost. Do you think I exaggerate? Then go to the Democratic National Committee website. There you will finds "links of interest from the Democratic National Committee."

If your interests include the environment or veterans or Gay and Lesbian or Jewish-American or pro-choice or African-American, the DNC will happily suggest dozens of places for you to spend time. There is under "Catholic" only one Democratic Party-endorsed site to visit: the absolutely unflinching champions of abortion on demand, "Catholics for a Free Choice." [...]

It does make you wonder if any national Democrat even bothered to read the Los Angeles Times national exit poll taken on Election Day 2000, which found that 14 percent of the electorate -- that translates into14.7 million live voters -- named abortion as the most important issue in deciding their presidential vote.

That same group of voters chose Bush over Gore by 58 percent to 41 percent, which translates into a Bush advantage on the abortion issue of 2.5 million votes in an election in which Gore nationally won 540,000 more votes. [...]

Uncritical, unrestricted access to abortion for all has become the litmus test for the national Democratic Party. The DNC may be run by single-issue voters. But Catholics, as they have shown to the consternation of conservatives time and again, are anything but single-issue voters. Will any national Democratic leader have the decency and the intelligence to apologize to Catholic voters for the Democratic National Committee's insults? I wonder.

It seems fair to ask whether it's possible for any religious person of even mildly orthodox persuasion to in good conscience be a Democrat.

MORE:
The Democratic Delay Democrats attack the Pryor nomination with questions, questions, and more questions. (Byron York, June 20, 2003, National Review)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:42 AM

THE REAL COMMODITY IS INFORMATION

What Peculiar Futures Can You Buy?: A guide to online prediction markets (Brendan I. Koerner, July 29, 2003, Slate)
The Pentagon has scrapped its plans to operate the Policy Analysis Market, which would have allowed online traders to wager on the likelihood of future terrorist attacks. Aside from commodities like pork bellies, what sorts of futures can wannabe brokers buy and sell?

A whole galaxy, thanks to the proliferation of Internet-based prediction markets, also known as decision markets. These online bazaars allow punters to plunk down money, real or imagined, on the potential of films, ideas, or the U.S. military's success in snagging Saddam Hussein. It may sound like nothing more than glorified sports gambling, but many economists believe that such markets can suss out vital, hidden information about future events—much in the same way that a soaring stock on Wall Street can indicate that good things are afoot for the company in question. That's why the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has been funding so much research on the topic, hoping that prediction markets can assist military planners.

The granddad of online prediction markets is the Iowa Electronic Markets, which was started in 1988 to forecast the fortunes of presidential candidates; the market now covers the Fed's interest rate decisions as well. IEM participants can use real money, with starting accounts capped at $500. The market is regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. [...]

The Foresight Exchange Prediction Market allows traders to bet on the likelihood of a range of events, from the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld by October to a devastating earthquake in the western United States by 2010. (A celebrity version of the Foresight Exchange is Long Bets, where pundits are encouraged to lay down a few thousand bucks on such outré prophecies as whether there'll be a four-day work week in the year 2070.)

If you ever had trouble making sense of the blogosphere, Blogshares may help separate the wheat from the chaff. No money's exchanged on this market—though there is a $500 contest taking place right now—but it does give bloggers bragging rights as to the popularity of their daily thoughts among Web surfers.

These markets on politicians and bloggers are delightfully ironic, since many of the folks complaining most loudly today about the commodification of terror may in effect be commodities themselves.

July 29, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM

KICKIN' BACK IN CRAWFORD

Bush headed to Crawford for August (Chuck Lindell, July 29, 2003, Austin AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
President Bush will spend most of August at his Crawford ranch, but frequent trips will take him to key electoral states in the Midwest and on the West Coast.

Bush will be in Crawford's "Western White House" from Aug. 2 to 31, but at least seven of those days will be spent outside Texas on trips that combine fund-raisers with events promoting two key policy areas - conservation and the economy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM

0 for 10

Judging the Courts: Ninth Circuit strikes out (Susan Blake, Charles Hobson, July 29, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco is holding up the parade. The parade of justice, that is. A review of the significant decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court this last term reveals that an inordinate amount of judicial attention was directed to correcting bad decisions from the Ninth Circuit. Although sympathetic court commentators have skewed the particulars in order to make the Ninth Circuit appear mainstream, in terms of criminal law the court could hardly be worse.

Of 72 cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2002-03 term, 28 of them were criminal cases or directly related to issues of criminal law. Ten of these 28 were from the Ninth Circuit and all 10 were reversed. That means the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit 100 percent of the time when considering criminal cases. The Supreme Court had to expend more than one third of its attention in criminal law just curing judicial defects from the Ninth. Two of these cases were reversed summarily, meaning the decisions were so obviously wrong that the high court did not even need to hear oral argument.

By comparison, the Supreme Court took 10 criminal cases from the remaining 10 U.S. circuit courts of appeal and reversed nine of them. From state courts, the Supreme Court took eight criminal cases, reversing five. While these reversal rates are nearly as high, bear in mind that the cases came from the rest of the nation. The Ninth Circuit contributes as much trouble as all the other circuits -- and more than all the states combined. [...]

While other circuits have had cases reversed, none have even come close to the magnitude of 10 for 10. The Supreme Court took no criminal cases from the First, Third, Tenth or Eleventh circuits. The court took only one criminal case from each of the Fourth, Seventh and Eighth circuits and two criminal cases each from the Second, Fifth and Sixth circuits. Evidently, all the other circuit courts of appeals are deciding criminal cases with legal consistency. It is the Ninth that is so frequently rewriting criminal law that the Supreme Court must step in and correct the problems.

The Ninth--which most folks will remember for the reprehensible Pledge of Allegiance ruling--has been a national embarrassment for a long time now, but going 0 for 10 is really appalling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM

DOWN AND DIRTY

Dancing the "Down-Low" (Frank Leon Roberts, July 22, 2003, Pacific News Service)
African American men who are on the D.L., "down-low," have sex with men unbeknownst to their girlfriends (if they have one) and families. They don't consider themselves gay, and they identify with hip-hop despite the music's homophobia. They've been a source of controversy in the black community.

Black Entertainment Television ran an entire special on the "growing" presence of D.L.s, complete with "how-to-know" guides for black women questioning their man's sexuality. A recent episode of "E.R." featured an HIV-positive D.L. brother who "risked" infecting his girlfriend. The black literary world is rife with D.L characters, subplots and sensibilities. Author James Earl Hardy's" B-Boy Blues" and "The Day Eazy-E Died" got things started. E. Lynn Harris' series -- "Invisible Life," "Just as I am" and "Any Way the Wind Blows" -- is still insanely popular.

The controversy swings from seeing the D.L. brother as the primary spreader of AIDS in the "mainstream" black community to an insistence that they "come out of the closet" so they can be "out and proud." But as the brother at the train station told me, he was out, but in a new kind of way. Moreover, he was going to get his groove on at the sex party, safely.

Behind these AIDS fears lies the heterosexist assumption that AIDS is born and bred in gay communities and then venomously spread outward. Much of the anti-D.L. rhetoric from the black media hides the painful fact that many straight black women and men are HIV-positive and spread the disease among themselves, without any help from "evil" gay black men.

Heterosexist assumption? Where does Mr. Roberts think AIDs was born and bred? The late Randy Shilts wrote a terrific book tracing the trail of AIDs through the gay community and the horrific toll it took--starting with the predatory flight attendant known as Patient Zero and ultimately taking even Mr. Shilts's own life. And Michael Fumento described in his book, The Myth of Heterosexual AIDs, how many HIV-positive men--particularly black and Hispanic men whose communities are more hostile to homosexuality--would routinely lie about their sexuality or, like the men in this story, did not consider themselves gay or bisexual even though they routinely had sex with men.

Mr. Roberts suggestion that AIDs is instead primarily spread by women--a near impossibility--and straight men--equally unlikely unless they are or were intravenous drug users--is not only ridiculous but irresponsible for a journalist.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 PM

BUT WHAT DOES IT DO TO PEPPERED MOTHS?

The butterfly flap: In 1999, research suggested that genetically-modified corn might be killing off the monarch butterfly. What followed was exactly the kind of argument that is good for public health (Peter Pringle, July 2003, Prospect uk)
In the spring of 1999, as the monarchs embarked on their return flight north, a young Cornell University entomologist named John Losey reported in the journal Nature that the monarch's future appeared to be endangered; not from urban sprawl or toxic waste, but from eating the pollen of genetically-modified corn. At the time, 20m acres of American farmland, representing a quarter of the US corn crop, had been planted with seeds that included a toxin-producing gene from the common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. The insect-poisoning power of Bt had been known for over a century and the first commercial spray was developed in Europe during the second world war. It even became a favourite of organic farmers. Half a century later, there were 182 Bt products registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Two other big crops-cotton and potatoes-had also been fitted out with the Bt gene. But in corn, the Bt toxin was designed primarily to kill the European corn borer, a caterpillar that destroys more than $1bn worth of the crop each year. The toxin punctures the delicate membranes of the caterpillar digestive tract, causing it to wither and die.

Most of the monarchs born in the midwest corn belt start life on a milkweed leaf in or around the edges of a farmer's land. When the corn sheds its pollen during July and August, pollen grains containing the Bt toxin are blown by the wind onto milkweed leaves. From earlier studies, Losey knew that Bt toxin could harm butterflies and moths, and he wondered if the monarch larvae might also suffer.

In a no-frills experiment at his laboratory at Cornell in upstate New York, he fed monarch larvae with Bt pollen. If they showed signs of harm, he intended to do more research in the field. In his lab, he misted milkweed leaves with water and sprinkled on the Bt corn pollen to a density that looked like the pollen he had observed on the milkweed in a cornfield. He then placed five three-day-old monarch larvae-caterpillars no bigger than a raindrop-on each milkweed leaf and watched them feed. The experiment was repeated five times. After four days, nearly half of the larvae were dead. Those that survived were half the weight of his control group feeding on milkweed leaves with no pollen. Larvae fed on leaves sprinkled with conventional hybrid corn pollen were still munching away, apparently no worse off. [...]

To test public reaction to their experiment, Losey and his co-researchers at Cornell first shared the results with colleagues. All were in favour of publication. However, a senior entomology professor at Cornell, Anthony Shelton, warned the younger researcher that he didn't have a "story." Shelton, a believer in biotech, would become increasingly unhappy that Losey's experiment had been confined to a laboratory. The results, he would complain, were "not pertinent to the real world." [...]

In a Cornell University press release, Shelton attacked Losey's experiment: "If I went to the movies and bought a hundred pounds of salted popcorn, because I like salted popcorn and then I ate those salted popcorn all at once, I'd probably die," Shelton was quoted as saying. "Eating that much salted popcorn simply is not a real-world situation, but if I died it may be reported that salted popcorn was lethal. The same thing holds true for monarch butterflies and pollen. Scientists need to make assessments that are pertinent to the real world... Few entomologists or weed scientists familiar with the butterflies or corn production give credence to the Nature article."

well, you can probably figure out where that's hheaded, eh? But you read the long and fascinating article,about a process driven at least as much by politics as science, and you get to this conclusion:
[M]ost of those involved-academics, industry and other environmentalists-thought the monarch case was a "blueprint" for how to do research in the public interest. Margaret Mellon of the UCS agreed. "It brought scientists, environmental and government folks together with industry, found a pot of money, set a research agenda and got it done."

And because of what has come before, whether you agree with that assessment or not is likely to be determined almost entirely by your politics, not by the underlying science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:50 PM

THEY'RE JUST FRESH AIR KIDS WITH AN ATTITUDE PROBLEM

No Choice but Guilty: Lackawanna Case Highlights Legal Tilt (Michael Powell, July 29, 2003, Washington Post)
Even now, after the arrests and the anger and the world media spotlight, the mystery for neighbors in this old steel town remains this: Why would six of their young men so readily agree to plead guilty to terror charges, accepting long prison terms far from home?

"These knuckleheads betrayed our trust, and we're disgusted with their attendance at the camps in Afghanistan," Mohammed Albanna, 52, a leader in the Yemeni community here, said of the six men who have admitted to attending an al Qaeda training camp two years ago. "But the punishment doesn't fit the crime, or the government's rhetoric. It's ridiculous."

But defense attorneys say the answer is straightforward: The federal government implicitly threatened to toss the defendants into a secret military prison without trial, where they could languish indefinitely without access to courts or lawyers.

That prospect terrified the men. They accepted prison terms of 6 1/2 to 9 years.

Okay, we'll bite: what should be the penalty for attending the training camp of a terrorist organization that's trying to destroy your country?

Posted by David Cohen at 8:37 PM

WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD.

Church strives to lose fuddy-duddy image on sex (Jonathan Petre, Telegraph, 7/30/03)
The Church of England sought to shed its puritanical image on sexual issues yesterday in a report that could pave the way for further liberalisation.

Its Doctrine Commission admits that the Church has 'acquired a reputation for being negative about sex'. It should celebrate it as 'a wonderful gift from God'.

Pejorative language, such as the phrase 'living in sin', is absent from the report, which instead encourages 'covenanted relationships'.

The Rt Rev Stephen Sykes, the commission's chairman, says that any man and woman who make a lifelong commitment to each other are in such a relationship, whether or not they are married.
Is the Church of England allowed to be Puritanical?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:36 PM

HOME, HOME, ON DERANGE

Bring 'em On!: The Bush administration's top 40 lies about war and terrorism (Steve Perry, 7/30/03, City Pages)
1) The administration was not bent on war with Iraq from 9/11 onward. [...]

2) The invasion of Iraq was based on a reasonable belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a threat to the U.S., a belief supported by available intelligence evidence. [...]

8) Saddam was involved with bin Laden and al Qaeda in the plotting of 9/11. [...]

9) The U.S. wants democracy in Iraq and the Middle East. [...]

11) The United States is waging a war on terror. [...]

12) The U.S. has made progress against world terrorist elements, in particular by crippling al Qaeda. [...]

13) The Bush administration has made Americans safer from terror on U.S. soil. [...]

15) U.S. air defenses functioned according to protocols on September 11, 2001. [...]

23) The Bush administration is seeking to create a viable Palestinian state. [...]

24) People detained by the U.S. after 9/11 were legitimate terror suspects. [...]

25) The U.S. is obeying the Geneva conventions in its treatment of terror-related suspects, prisoners, and detainees. [...]

39) "The Iraqi people are now free." [...]

40) God told Bush to invade Iraq.

Not long after the September 11 attacks, neoconservative high priest Norman Podhoretz wrote: "One hears that Bush, who entered the White House without a clear sense of what he wanted to do there, now feels there was a purpose behind his election all along; as a born-again Christian, it is said, he believes he was chosen by God to eradicate the evil of terrorism from the world."

No, he really believes it, or so he would like us to think. The Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that Bush made the following pronouncement during a recent meeting between the two: "God told me to strike at al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East."

Oddly, it never got much play back home.

This is a terribly strange collection of things no one ever maintained (that Saddam helped plan 9-11?), things only paranoid conspiracists believe (that the "real" events of 9-11 are being covered up), things that are indisputably true (it is reasonable to believe Saddam had WMD, the U.S. has made progress against terror), and things that are now and may ultimately be unprovable (that America is safer, that President Bush truly wants a Palestinian state, that God told him to invade Iraq). The couple of statements that may indeed be lies--that we had credible reports that Iraq tried to buy uranium or that it was capable of launching WMD on 45 minute notice--are so obscured by these other scurrilous and sometimes lunatic charges as to fatally weaken the rest of the case.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 PM

WHY DID ADMIRAL POINDEXTER WANT AN INFORMATION MARKET?

Managing Uncertainty (Jim Surowiecki, January 22, 1997, Motley Fool)
We live in a world in which events -- whether they be jumps in the price of Microsoft or blizzards in the Midwest or Super Bowl victories for the Cowboys -- are caused by certain things and not by others. The nature of those causal relationships, though, often remains obscure. We may feel comfortable drawing some conclusion about the market from a rise in Microsoft's stock price, but we would probably feel much less comfortable saying that one thing had caused that rise.

More importantly, even if we can state with some certainty why something happened, that leaves us a long way from being able to state with similar certainty what will happen. We can read the past for portents of the future, but we can never be sure that we're looking at the right evidence, which is just another way of saying that we can never be sure we're looking at the right past. Those disclaimers at the bottom of mutual fund ads are not, in the end, there simply to keep the funds from getting sued. Past performance is no guarantor of future performance, either for the market or for money managers. Things change. Things always change.

The problem, then, is that we want -- and have -- to make decisions about the future, but we do so without perfect knowledge. Peter Bernstein's new book, Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk, takes on this problem by constructing a kind of history of risk management. [...]

In a curious way, in fact, Bernstein has written a history of risk management that ends by leaving us more aware than ever of the impossibility of fully managing risk or comprehending the workings of complex systems. There's always something just beyond our grasp, something of which we will be unable to make sense. Risk itself, after all, is the product of uncertainty. That said, some risks are better than others.

How, then, can one know which risks are better? We can take a pretty good stab at predicting, for example, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average is going to be in five years, and we can base that prediction on specific reasons. If we could actually foresee those reasons and those results, we could either make an enormous amount of money or protect ourselves against losing an enormous amount of money. Bernstein quotes a fund manager's thoughts about information as it pertains to investing:

The information you have is not the information you want.

The information you want is not the information you need.

The information you need is not the information you can obtain.

The information you can obtain costs more than you want to pay.

But sometimes the information you have is precisely the information you need, and sometimes the information you can obtain is priced perfectly, and you catch a glimpse of what the market is going to do.

The problem is that you don't know you've caught a glimpse until after it's all over. The hope is that the more information you have, the more work you do, and the better attuned you are to the underlying realities of the businesses in question, the better your chances of prediction.

Listening to the various Senators bloviate about the terrorism market today was even more painful than usual. On the one hand, these guys want the national security agencies to produce better information to protect against terrorist attacks. On the other, introduce a new but not even innovative means of generating that information and they squeal like stuck pigs. Makes it awfully hard to take them seriously.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:30 PM

WHY CAN'T THEY LEAVE POOR JESUS ALONE.

Ala. Gov.: Christian Duty to Boost Taxes (AP, 7/29/03).
Alabama's new governor is trying to persuade voters to approve the biggest tax increase in state history by telling them it is their Christian duty. And for a state in the Bible Belt, that might seem like a winning strategy.

Instead, Republican Gov. Bob Riley's $1.2 billion tax package is alienating even the Christian Coalition and other supporters, who see Riley as a Judas. Riley had consistently opposed new taxes while in Congress. . . .

Riley, a Southern Baptist, says Alabama has taxed its poorest too harshly for too long.

"According to our Christian ethics, we're supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor,'' he said. "It is immoral to charge somebody making $5,000 an income tax.''
When Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar", He wasn't praising Caesar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM

THE LEFT'S TIN EAR

What's Wrong with Twinkling Buttocks? (Theodore Dalrymple, Summer 2003, City Journal)
It is in the arts and literary pages of our newspapers that the elite's continuing demand for the erosion of restraint, and its unreflective antinomianism, is most clearly on view. Take for example the June 8 arts section of the Observer, Britain's most prestigious liberal Sunday paper. The section's two most important and eye-catching articles celebrated pop singer Marilyn Manson and writer Glen Duncan.

Of the pop singer, the Observer's critic wrote: "Marilyn Manson's ability to shock has swung like a pendulum in a high wind . . . . He was really scary at first, when [he] burst out of [his] native Florida and declared war on all Middle America holds dear. Manson spun convincing tales of smoking exhumed bones for kicks. . . . But . . . Manson's autobiography revealed a smart, funny man-even if he did enjoy covering hearing-impaired groupies in raw meat for sexual sport. He turned into an artist, rather than the incarnation of evil. Church groups still picketed his gigs, which often echoed Nazi rallies (they still do). But any fool could see that Manson was making a valid point about rock `n' roll gigs and mass behavior, as well as flirting with fascist style."

The author of this review...fastidiously balks at using the word "deaf" for the hearing-impaired but appears not to mind too much if they are exploited for perverted sexual gratification...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM

)

Old Europe Cannot Be a Counterweight to the American Imperium (Paul Kennedy, Summer 2003, New Perspectives Quarterly)
My basic problem with the Derrida-Habermas proclamation is neither their concern about unrestrained American power, nor their real hope that Europe should have greater unity, identity and common policies. My problem is that their document isn't practical enough; that is to say, the authors hardly ever indicate what an alternative (European) superpower would do if it existed and, more importantly, what should be done-apart from constitutional "deepening" measures-to get there. The American plans for a Middle East may be floundering right now, but at least they have a "road map." The way to a powerful Europe is not even sketched out. It is an aspiration, not a policy. [...]

But the real issue raised by the Derrida-Habermas appeal is the extent to which the movement should be defined by the mass anti-White House protests that burst out on February, and are seen as historic and symbolic (in fact, the title of their article reads, in English, February 15th, or What Binds Europeans Together). For if the real aim is to create a deliberate counterweight to the United States, the policy is unlikely to succeed-it will lose Britain and Spain, possibly Italy and the Netherlands, and certainly most of the Central and East European states. And here is another obvious problem. The fact that this call for a "core Europe" comes from a French and a German scholar-a sort of philosophical echo of the Chirac and Shroeder criticisms of the White House-will not only amuse or irritate the Americans, but it also will seem to other Europeans like a rehash of the de Gaulle-Adenauer axis, which was not popular outside of Paris and Bonn. All the rather thoughtless assertions by their successors today that France and Germany have a special, elevated and "core" role, with the other European states following, just gives ammunition to the anti-federal critics within Europe itself. To add that this Franco-German biumverate will lead the charge against America will make the discontents all that stronger.

Moreover, all this misses the point. The fact is that, whether Europe is to become an effective counterweight to a unilateralist America in the years to come, or an amiable and near-equal world partner, it really has to make some tough practical decisions, and achieve tough practical policies, in order to move ahead. Constitutional decisions, like creating the office of a single foreign minister, go part of the way, but that is almost like the icing on the cake if Europe itself is not made stronger.

So, here, for consideration, are a half-dozen nettles that might be grasped in order to make Europe stronger, to raise her in the eyes of the world, and to contribute to the greater sense of European identity which professors Derrida and Habermas yearn for: [...]

But, here's the rub, and why the Derrida-Habermas and Chirac-Schroeder strategies look doubtful. The resistance to these tough reform fields is deepest, not in the so-called "new Europe" and pro-American countries like Britain, Spain and Poland but precisely in the "old" or "core Europe" countries like France, Belgium and Germany.

Mr. Kennedy had the bad fortune to write a very fine book about why we should not have been fighting the Cold War at the very moment Ronald Reagan was ending it successfully. The basic truth of his thesis was therefore lost in the obvious inaccuracy of his prediction that America would decline. What's most interesting in this essay is that it's basically a plea for Europe to breakout of its decline, in fact to re-engage itself in many of the behaviors that Mr. Kennedy in that earlier book argued end up leading to decline--large military expenditures, entangling alliances, etc.. The other "nettles" essentially consist of a set of free market reforms. He's basically saying that Europe, in order to counter-balance America, needs to become more like America. But, even setting aside the complete improbability of their doing so, one wonders why--if they somehow were to Americanize--these two similar powers seek to balance one another instead of work together to achieve precisely the things America, nearly alone, is doing today?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:12 PM

"WHEN I ANALYZE THE STENCH"

REVIEW: of Buffalo Soldiers (James Bowman, July 29, 2003)
Though it may have been bad for the filmmakers, there is at least one good thing for audiences in the fact that Miramax had to postpone the release of Buffalo Soldiers after the events of September 11th, 2001 - and then again the following spring when focus groups tested badly, and then again earlier this year as the Iraq war loomed. For two years ago it would have been just a routine example of Hollywood's bashing of the American armed forces and military life in general. Now it is a perfect time capsule from a vanished era of movie history.

You will never again see a picture quite as bad as this one, or at least not bad in the same way.

It's easy to forget, now, the unrelieved bleakness of the cinematic prospect when it came to soldiers and soldiering between M*A*S*H (1970) and September 11. For more than three decades there was hardly a military hero to be found, unless he was first and foremost a victim of the time-servers, thugs and psychopaths that were supposed to have made up the preponderance of any military organization, or of the alleged insanity of military discipline itself.

To be sure, by the 1990s the anti-war, anti-military ethos showed signs of degenerating into a parody of itself in such preposterous idiocies as The Rock or The General's Daughter, but even the otherwise pro-military Saving Private Ryan was marred by a depiction of war as fundamentally senseless, apart from its eponymous rescue mission. Buffalo Soldiers, adapted from a book by Robert O'Connor and directed by the Australian Gregor Jordan, is solidly in the tradition of the preposterous idiocies.

Let's go out on a limb and predict that you won't see that blurb on the video package: "Buffalo Soldiers...is solidly in the tradition of the preposterous idiocies."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM

YOUR OWN PERSONAL JESUS?

Gays Help Reclaim Jesus' Words (Fenton Johnson, July 29, 2003, LA Times)
I began my return to Bible study with the notion that the liberal left had allowed the term "Christian" to be hijacked. I believed that the word ought properly to describe someone who was more like - well - me. Then I actually reread the Gospels, only to discover that they made me squirm. [...]

Regarding the issues that threaten Episcopalian schism, the presumed challenge to marriage is the more easily addressed. The convention is being asked only to ratify blessing of same-gender unions, a rite distinct from its official marriage ceremony. In addition, the Gospels refer only obliquely to marriage, which in Jesus' time was generally a private transaction arranged between families and individuals. Western Christianity did not institutionalize marriage until more than 1,000 years after Jesus' death, at which point it defined marriage as a sacrament consummated by the couple, with sex as its sine qua non. Technically, the Christian church does not marry anyone; rather it officiates at marriages that the couples themselves create. To do so, it employs rites that emerged for reasons that had as much to do with enhancing ecclesiastical power as encouraging stable households.

Homosexuality presents a greater challenge, since here the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are explicit in their prohibitions. Prominent Christians, notably Harvard Memorial Church minister Peter J. Gomes, have constructed elaborate arguments that these passages have been mistranslated or misinterpreted, but their arguments miss the point. Once the Bible passed from oral tradition into writing, religion faced the task of keeping its traditions alive, rather than treating them as preserved in stone at some date shortly before Jesus (for Jews) or in the late Roman era (for Christians).

The Jews developed the Talmud and, later, ongoing rabbinic commentaries that in effect keep the Hebrew Bible alive. Christians have no equivalent and must work instead to keep Jesus' teachings alive by seeking to recognize how each generation challenges their reinterpretation. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Christians struggled with and rejected the Bible's condoning of slavery. Now we are struggling to reinterpret pronouncements about sexual behavior.

The notion that each generation or each of us individually should get to re-interpret the Gospels so that we're more comfortable with them is obviously insipid. What is the point of religion and morality if the demands they place on you do not make you squirm? if they say you should do or think whatever you want?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:27 PM

WHERE'S WALL? D'OH!

The Sleepy Superpower Awakes: The U.S. is on the move again around the globe, and it's about time (CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, Aug. 04, 2003, TIME)
The Great Wall of China, roughly defining the northern contours of the Chinese empire, has stood in the same place for 2,200 years. The Great Wall of America--the barrier of bases set up around the world to define the contours of the free world and hold back the Soviet empire--is about to disappear after just 50 years.

We are living a revolution, and hardly anyone has noticed. In just the three months since the end of the Iraq war, the Pentagon has announced the essential evacuation of the U.S. military from its air bases in Saudi Arabia, from the Demilitarized Zone in Korea and from the vast Incirlik air base in Turkey--in addition to a radical drawdown of U.S. military personnel in Germany, the mainstay of the Great American Wall since 1945.

For a country that is seen by so much of the world as a rogue nation, recklessly throwing its weight around, this is a lot of withdrawing. The fact is that since 9/11, when America awoke from its post--cold war end-of-history illusions, the U.S. has not, as most believe, been expanding. It has been moving--lightening its footprint, rationalizing its deployments, rearranging its forces, waking from a decade of slumber during which it sat on its Great Wall, oblivious to its immobility and utter obsolescence. [...]

We are in the midst of a revolution, and it has two parts. The first is leaving places where we are not wanted. America is moving out of old Europe, which sees its liberty as coming with the air it breathes, and being welcomed in the new Europe of Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, which have a living memory of tyranny and a deep understanding of America's role in winning their liberty. South Koreans regularly demonstrate against the U.S. presence in their country. Since the reason for that presence is for Americans to die in defense of Seoul, one has to ask oneself at what point strategic altruism becomes strategic masochism.

The second part is leaving places that mark the battle lines of a long-dead war.

The lesson that the Buchanacons correctly urge us to learn here is that sixty years from now we may well just be defending a new Great Wall, even though the new threat will have long since vanished.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:18 PM

THE BEST LAID PLANS...

Riordan Is Closer to Recall Run: Schwarzenegger's candidacy appears less likely. Former mayor meets with strategist. (Michael Finnegan, July 29, 2003, LA Times)
With rising doubts over whether Arnold Schwarzenegger will run for governor, another moderate Republican, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, edged closer Monday to becoming a candidate to replace Gov. Gray Davis.

Noelia Rodriguez, press secretary to First Lady Laura Bush and Riordan's former close aide, spent Monday at his house in Brentwood helping him assemble a possible campaign team, sources said.

President Bush supported Riordan when he ran for governor last year. But until now, White House officials have kept their distance from the recall.

For Riordan, the Oct. 7 recall election offers a chance at revenge against the Democratic incumbent. Davis' scathing television ads helped to crush Riordan's candidacy last year in the gubernatorial primary.

For moderate Republicans, a Riordan campaign would also be a boost. They often have blamed the power of conservatives in GOP primaries for their party's repeated losses to Democrats. [...]

Schwarzenegger and Riordan had planned to hold a news conference Monday to make a joint announcement: Schwarzenegger would not run, but Riordan would, according to a top Republican, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. But the event did not occur.

Schwarzenegger "wants to pass the baton to Riordan, but Riordan doesn't seem to be quite ready for that," the Republican said.

Davis has based his strategy on the recall being a right-wing plot, with himself as the wronged party. Meawhile, Riordan is a moderate, if not a liberal, and is widely perceived as having been subjected to a hatchet job by Davis in the 2002 election. Now what does Mr. Davis say?

MORE:
Assembly approves new budget: Governor Davis is expected to sign the $100 billion spending plan (TOM CHORNEAU, July 29, 2003, The Associated Press)
The state Assembly today approved a compromise budget that alleviates a record deficit by slashing spending, raising fees and relying on borrowing, but still leaves the state facing a big deficit to solve next summer.

The deal approved in the house's longest session in history avoids raising sales and income taxes, but counts on a $4 billion annual car tax increase that state officials triggered earlier this year and on the elimination of a tax break for manufacturers.

After more than 27 hours of negotiations, the budget bill passed 56-22 after $300 million was added in spending to benefit local governments, law enforcement, schools and farmers. [...]

Republican Leader Dave Cox claimed victory, saying his party was "able to get a budget that didn't increase taxes for Californians. It was a victory for our side." [...]

The monthlong deadlock was caused by a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans over tax increases and spending cuts. The final vote received support from 45 Democrats and 11 Republicans. Two Assembly members, one from each party, were excused and did not vote. Two Democrats voted against the budget.

Democrats, who hold big majorities in both houses but need Republican help to muster budget-approving two-thirds votes, wanted a half-cent sales tax to help close the budget gap. Republicans said the gap could be closed using existing revenues and deep cuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:02 PM

WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE JEWISH TO BE BAR MITVAHED?

What Marriage Is For : Children need mothers and fathers. (Maggie Gallagher, 08/04/2003, Weekly Standard)
IN ORDERING GAY MARRIAGE on June 10, 2003, the highest court in Ontario, Canada, explicitly endorsed a brand new vision of marriage along the lines Wolfson suggests: "Marriage is, without dispute, one of the most significant forms of personal relationships. . . . Through the institution of marriage, individuals can publicly express their love and commitment to each other. Through this institution, society publicly recognizes expressions of love and commitment between individuals, granting them respect and legitimacy as a couple."

The Ontario court views marriage as a kind of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that government stamps on certain registered intimacies because, well, for no particular reason the court can articulate except that society likes to recognize expressions of love and commitment. In this view, endorsement of gay marriage is a no-brainer, for nothing really important rides on whether anyone gets married or stays married. Marriage is merely individual expressive conduct, and there is no obvious reason why some individuals' expression of gay love should hurt other individuals' expressions of non-gay love.

There is, however, a different view--indeed, a view that is radically opposed to this: Marriage is the fundamental, cross-cultural institution for bridging the male-female divide so that children have loving, committed mothers and fathers. Marriage is inherently normative: It is about holding out a certain kind of relationship as a social ideal, especially when there are children involved. Marriage is not simply an artifact of law; neither is it a mere delivery mechanism for a set of legal benefits that might as well be shared more broadly. The laws of marriage do not create marriage, but in societies ruled by law they help trace the boundaries and sustain the public meanings of marriage.

In other words, while individuals freely choose to enter marriage, society upholds the marriage option, formalizes its definition, and surrounds it with norms and reinforcements, so we can raise boys and girls who aspire to become the kind of men and women who can make successful marriages. Without this shared, public aspect, perpetuated generation after generation, marriage becomes what its critics say it is: a mere contract, a vessel with no particular content, one of a menu of sexual lifestyles, of no fundamental importance to anyone outside a given relationship.

The marriage idea is that children need mothers and fathers, that societies need babies, and that adults have an obligation to shape their sexual behavior so as to give their children stable families in which to grow up.

Which view of marriage is true?

Ms Gallagher has started a blog devoted to this topic. And we've a review of Andrew Sullivan's Virtually Normal that addresses the topic at some length.

MEANWHILE:
Poll shows backlash on gay issues (Susan Page, 7/28/03, USA TODAY)
Americans have become significantly less accepting of homosexuality since a Supreme Court decision that was hailed as clearing the way for new gay civil rights, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll has found. After several years of growing tolerance, the survey shows a return to a level of more traditional attitudes last seen in the mid-1990s.

Asked whether same-sex relations between consenting adults should be legal, 48% said yes; 46% said no. Before this month, support hadn't been that low since 1996. [...]

Conservative social activists see a backlash to those developments and the growing visibility of gay characters in entertainment, including such TV shows as Will & Grace. "The more that the movement demands the endorsement of the law and the culture, the more resistance there will be," says Gary Bauer, president of American Values. [...]

Those making the biggest shifts included African-Americans. On whether homosexual relations should be legal, their support fell from 58% in May to 36% in July. [...]

By 49%-46%, those polled said homosexuality should not be considered "an acceptable alternative lifestyle." It was the first time since 1997 that more people expressed opposition than support.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:52 PM

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE OIL

Diwaniyas and democracy (Charles Rousseaux, 7/28/03, The Washington Times)
Thanks to the billions that flow in from its oil reserves, most of the citizens [of Kuwait] live comfortable, well-subsidized, fairly cool lives (even when the thermometer reaches 120 degrees). There are no taxes, the state pays for male and female citizens' educations through the university level and the government gives out other generous subsidies. Citizens' life expectancies are comparable to those in the West, and no one, aside from the 1.5 million guest workers, has to labor too hard.

However, that prosperity has seemingly had a downside. Because citizens don't have to work very hard, not many do, instead being content with quasi-sinecures. Ninety-five percent of Kuwaitis are employed by the government--postal service jobs with exponentially better pay scales. Yet pushing paper is not necessarily any more meaningful than stamping envelopes, and it seems to show. Many of the Kuwaitis I talked to spoke of national stagnation. They didn't attribute it to their sudden, easy oil wealth, but it's a likely reason.

That wealth has brought modernization and Westernization. The former trend seems to have cemented into the foundations of the Burger Kings and designer clothing stores that dot the cityscape. The society seems largely liberated, even though women don't have the vote. Kuwait City's streets are lively despite the ban on alcohol. However, the winds of Westernization could turn into a stiff breeze Eastward, if Islamists continue to grow in strength or the ruling Sabah family abandons its tack towards reform.

Yet, more than the pragmatic ideology of Islamists or the hopes of progressives, Kuwait's dependence on oil seems likely to be the most dominant force driving the nation's politics. Oil wealth is the central fact of the Kuwaiti economy and the fundamental support of its successful welfare state. Time will tell how all of the contradictions resolve themselves.

You can only pity these nations that begin their transition to liberalism with the worst problem that plagues democracy--welfare statism--already in place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM

PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Bias for Boys Leads to Sale of Baby Girls in China (ELISABETH ROSENTHAL, 7/20/03, NY Times)
With two daughters already, Liu Yihong was crystal clear several years back about what he would do if his pregnant wife was carrying yet another girl.

"You can take medicine to end the pregnancy," he explained matter-of-factly. "Otherwise you have the baby and if it's a female, you try to find another family who will take it, or you just put it up for sale."

This practical philosophy is deeply ingrained in this rural backwater in southern China, a lush but poor area where the preference for sons overwhelms all other impulses, and family planning laws strictly limit how many children a farmer may have.

In March, the police here in Guangxi Province found the shocking fallout of son worship packed away in the back of a long-haul bus: 28 unwanted baby girls from Yulin, 2 to 5 months old, being transported like farm animals, for sale. [...]

Because of the selective abortion of girls in China, some researchers estimate there are 111 males for every 100 females in the country, making it difficult for poor farmers to persuade women to marry into their villages.

How does that mantra go again? "Abortion empowers women." "It is inappropriate for the religious, who happen to believe in human dignity, to seek to impose their personal morality on others who may believe differently." "Just because I'm pro-choice doesn't mean I bear any responsibility for how those choices are used." "Slippery slopes are a figment of conservative imaginations." ...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:41 AM

I STAND CORRECTED

Bilateral deals no threat to global trade (Daniel Griswold, July 27 2003, Financial Times)
The belated efforts of the US to sign bilateral agreements with Chile, Singapore and a few other small partners threaten, we are told, to destroy the entire trading system. A "selfish hegemon", as Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya call it (Bilateral trade treaties are a sham, FT, July 14), is conspiring with special interests to distort the global system. Such arguments themselves distort reality.

To begin, the US is hardly treading on new ground. The multilateral system makes room for free-trade areas through Article 24 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The World Trade Organisation's charter allows customs unions or free-trade agreements between members, recognising "the desirability of increasing freedom of trade by the development, through voluntary agreements, of closer integration between the economies of [those] countries". More than 250 such agreements have been negotiated; if the Chile and Singapore agreements become law, the US will be party to exactly five.

Beyond their economic impact, free-trade agreements of the sort the US is pursuing can benefit the parties involved, the global trading system, and the world at large in many ways.

Here's someone from the Cato Institute acknowledging, though grudgingly, the worthiness of the Administration's free trade efforts and never once mentioning steel tariffs. Maybe there's hope for the libertarians after all. Now, if the Buchanacons can just get over Ted Kennedy supporting No Child Left Behind...

Posted by David Cohen at 10:22 AM

WILL BANNING TRANSFATS LEAD TO A STRONGER DOLLAR?

McCurrencies: Hamburgers should be an essential part of every economist's diet (The Economist, 4/24/03).
THE past year has been one to relish for fans of burgernomics. Last April The Economist's Big Mac index flashed a strong sell sign for the dollar: it was more overvalued than at any time in the index's history. The dollar has since flipped, falling by 12% in trade-weighted terms.

Invented in 1986 as a light-hearted guide to whether currencies are at their “correct” level, burgernomics is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP). This says that, in the long run, exchange rates should move toward rates that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services in any two countries. To put it simply: a dollar should buy the same everywhere. Our basket is a McDonald's Big Mac, produced locally to roughly the same recipe in 118 countries. The Big Mac PPP is the exchange rate that would leave burgers costing the same as in America. Comparing the PPP with the actual rate is one test of whether a currency is undervalued or overvalued. . . .

Many readers complain that burgernomics is hard to swallow. We admit it is flawed: Big Macs are not traded across borders as the PPP theory demands, and prices are distorted by taxes, tariffs, different profit margins and differences in the cost of non-tradables, such as rents. It was never intended as a precise predictor of currency movements, but as a tool to make exchange-rate theory more digestible. Yet in the early 1990s, just before the crisis in Europe's exchange-rate mechanism, it signalled that several currencies, including sterling, were markedly overvalued against the D-mark. It also predicted the fall in the euro after its launch in 1999.

Academic economists are taking burgernomics more seriously, chewing over the Big Mac index in almost a dozen studies. Now a whole book has been written about the index . . . .
In a comment below, I wrongly stated that the Economist had stopped following the Big Mac index. As this article shows, not only do they still keep track of it, but it continues to be predictive. Given the generally poor quality of most economic statistics, the corruption endemic to most third world govermental statistics and the lag in announcing more precise statistics, the Big Mac index might actually be the world's most useful predictive economic indicator.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM

CENTRIST CANUTIFYING

Centrist Democrats Warn Party Not to Present Itself as 'Far Left' (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 7/29/03, NY Times)
The moderate Democratic group that helped elect Bill Clinton to the White House in 1992 warned today that Democrats were headed for defeat if they presented themselves as an angry "far left" party fighting tax cuts and opposing the war in Iraq. [...]

"It is our belief that the Democratic Party has an important choice to make: Do we want to vent or do we want to govern?" said Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, chairman of the organization. "The administration is being run by the far right. The Democratic Party is in danger of being taken over by the far left."

When a reporter asked a panel of council leaders whether Democratic woes were a result of Republican attacks or Democratic mistakes, Senator Bayh responded with a curt two-word answer that silenced the room.

"Assisted suicide," he said. [...]

Mark J. Penn, a Democratic pollster who worked for Mr. Clinton and is now advising Senator Lieberman, offered polling data to show that Mr. Bush was vulnerable but that the Democratic Party was also in a politically perilous position.

"We're at a postwar historic low of Democratic Party membership," he said.

Mr. Penn said that the Democratic Party now trailed the Republicans among people who earn more than $20,000, and that just 22 percent of white men called themselves Democrats.

"Among middle-class voters, the Democratic Party is a shadow of its former self," Mr. Penn said.

The perception, he said, is that Democrats "stand for big government, want to raise taxes too high, are too liberal and are beholden to special interest groups."

Most important, Mr. Penn said, the party has to prove itself credible on the issue of national security--something that many Democrats attending the conference here said would be impossible to do if the party were perceived as opposed to the war on Iraq.

Their pleas remind us of the frog who was prevailed upon by a scorpion to provide a ride across a river.

The frog protested, "But you're a scorpion; you'll sting me."

"No, I won't. I can't swim; that's why I need a ride. If I were to sting you, we'd both die.

So the frog let the scorpion climb on his back and started out across the river. On reaching the midway point, he felt a burning pain and realized the scorpion had stung him after all.

As they slipped under the water, the frog wailed: "Why did you do that? Now we'll both die."

The reply? "I'm a scorpion--it's my nature."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM

FURTHER DEMOCRATIC DERANGEMENT

Who Profits from Erasing Iraq's Debt? (Heather Wokusch, July 28, 2003, CommonDreams)
Outspoken Pentagon advisor Richard Perle recently called for Iraq's debt to be cancelled as a way of teaching banks about the "moral hazard of ... lend[ing] to a vicious dictatorship."

Fair enough. Other countries with "odious debt" incurred under nasty regimes may be granted debt forgiveness. Why not Iraq?

Why not indeed. A war profiteer like Perle lecturing on morality is doubtful enough, but who in today's occupied Iraq will really profit from debt forgiveness, the Iraqi people or companies like Halliburton?

At stake is more than $184 billion of pending contracts and debts against Iraq, many of which transpired before the 1991 invasion of Kuwait. In other words, even deals inked when Saddam Hussein was considered a US ally could now be considered odious debt.

No small coincidence that the countries slated to lose most from an Iraqi write-off include Russia, France and Germany: Bush's axis-of-just-as-evil for opposing the recent invasion of Iraq. [...]

Bottom line, until a stable government is in place, truly representative of the Iraqi people, there should be no debt cancellations - reschedulings or delayed payment allowances perhaps, but no write-offs.

To oppose a policy that you'd otherwise support, just because you're worried that your fellow advocates are more odious than the debt, and even though your opposition will hurt the people you're supposedly trying to help, is very nearly clinically insane.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 AM

JOHN NASH SAYS, "IT'S NOT SO CRAZY" (via The Mother Judd)

Pentagon Prepares a Futures Market on Terror Attacks (CARL HULSE, July 29, 2003, NY Times)
The Pentagon office that proposed spying electronically on Americans to monitor potential terrorists has a new experiment. It is an online futures trading market, disclosed today by critics, in which anonymous speculators would bet on forecasting terrorist attacks, assassinations and coups.

Traders bullish on a biological attack on Israel or bearish on the chances of a North Korean missile strike would have the opportunity to bet on the likelihood of such events on a new Internet site established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

The Pentagon called its latest idea a new way of predicting events and part of its search for the "broadest possible set of new ways to prevent terrorist attacks." Two Democratic senators who reported the plan called it morally repugnant and grotesque. The senators said the program fell under the control of Adm. John M. Poindexter, President Ronald Reagan's national security adviser.

One of the two senators, Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, said the idea seemed so preposterous that he had trouble persuading people it was not a hoax. "Can you imagine," Mr. Dorgan asked, "if another country set up a betting parlor so that people could go in--and is sponsored by the government itself--people could go in and bet on the assassination of an American political figure?" [...]

The Pentagon, in defending the program, said such futures trading had proven effective in predicting other events like oil prices, elections and movie ticket sales.

"Research indicates that markets are extremely efficient, effective and timely aggregators of dispersed and even hidden information," the Defense Department said in a statement. "Futures markets have proven themselves to be good at predicting such things as elections results; they are often better than expert opinions."

It sounds like they need tighter controls on who could play the market, but it's really just a way to use games to distribute information more efficiently. And the military's used game theory since it was invented. Does anyone doubt, for instance, that such a device would have had the WTC at or near the top on 9-10 and thereby, at least potentially, focussed the government's attention better?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 AM

"EVERYBODY WON'T BE TREATED ALL THE SAME"

With MTV nomination, another generation discovers Cash's cool (Renee Graham, 7/29/2003, Boston Globe)
The first time I heard Johnny Cash, I had nightmares for weeks.

When his granite-hard voice poured out of my grandmother's radio, it arched my 10-year-old spine. He sang of a wild young man who, though he had murdered 20 men by the age of 10, was due to hang for a killing he didn't commit. As serious and sobering as a news dispatch, the song sounded like nothing I had ever heard before, and I was completely unnerved as it cut through the gummy summer air.

What most affected me -- other than the grim, sharp thunk of the gallows' trapdoor swinging open as the warden sang ''Happy Birthday'' to the condemned man who turned 20 the day he died -- was Cash's voice. Every syllable sounded like a cold truth, as real and stirring as a Sunday sermon. It both frightened me and made a fan for life. Years later, I would learn the name of the song was ''Joe Bean,'' and it remains a favorite, especially since the nightmares have subsided.

Now, the MTV generation has discovered what I learned on that summer night three decades ago: Johnny Cash rules.

If Hurt doesn't bring back the nightmares, The Man Comes Around surely will--it's the most apocalyptic pop tune ever:
And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see."
And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.

There's a man goin' 'round takin' names.
An' he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won't be treated all the same.
There'll be a golden ladder reaching down.
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up.
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
For you partake of that last offered cup,
Or disappear into the potter's ground.
When the man comes around. 

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crown.
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down,
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singin'.
Multitudes are marchin' to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin', voices cryin'.
Some are born an' some are dyin'.
It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound.
When the man comes around.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked and behold: a pale horse.
And his name, that sat on him, was Death.
And Hell follwed with him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM

EPCOT ON THE TIGRIS

INTERVIEW: Swimming against the mainstream (Christopher Horton, 7/26/03, Asia Times)
Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the man widely considered as the top investigative journalist in the United States is persona non grata in his own country's media. For Greg Palast, an accidental journalist, this is not upsetting. "Our news is like Pravda," he stated matter-of-factly from his New York office in a recent interview with Asia Times Online.

Palast is content to continue his investigative reports into what he perceives as an American oligarchy - a nexus between politicians and corporations in which the line between the two is increasingly blurred - an endeavor which he pursues across the Atlantic in the British media. However, he is gradually being "discovered" by Americans tired of channel surfing only to find the same version of events coming out of the mouths of different talking heads. [...]

Finished with the book tour, and working on an edited US version of his investigation into the Bush dynasty which aired on the BBC under the name "Bush Family Fortunes" ("America can't take it straight up," he said), what is Palast up to next?

"I have a document from before the war, an official State Department document about the plan for Iraq's economy. This includes the privatization of the oil industry. The plan is essentially to turn Iraq into a corporate Disneyland," Palast said.

There's a great scene in Tony Horwitz's Baghdad Without a Map, where he's stuck in the street during the chaotic funeral rally for the Ayatollah Khomeini:
One of the demonstrators peeled off to rest by the curb, and I edged over to ask him what the mourners were shouting.

'Death to America,' he said.

'Oh.' I reached for my notebook as self-protection and scribbled the Farsi transliteration : Margbar Omrika.

'You are American?' he asked.

'Yes. A journalist.'  I braced myself for a diatribe against the West and its arrogant trumpets.

'I must ask you something,' the man said.  'Have you ever been to Disneyland?'

'As a kid, yes.'

The man nodded, thoughtfully stroking his beard.  'My brother lives in California and has written me about Disneyland,' he continued.  'It has always been my dream to go there and take my children on the tea-cup ride.' With that, he rejoined the marchers, raised his fist and yelled 'Death to America!' again.

Our biggest problem in Iraq isn't the rather desperate resistance of the Ba'ath remnants and a few imported Islamicists, but that the great majority who are glad we're there seem to think we can turn it into Disneyland. If Mr. Palast has seen the plans, maybe there's hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 AM

THE KURDS GET IT

A voice of sanity amid Iraq's chaos (Syed Saleem Shahzad, 7/28/03, Asia Times)
One man, Dr Faud Masum, has emerged nationally in the post-Saddam period as a powerful political personality.

He is also the most prominent figure in Kurdistan right now and is tipped as the president of its next joint parliament. (He was the first prime minister of the joint parliament, but resigned immediately because the Kurdish factions could not develop consensus on issues). Currently he is a member of a committee in Baghdad which is pondering a constitution for Iraq.

Masum, 65, has had a dynamic career. A PhD in Islamic Philosphy from Cairo University, he wrote his thesis on Iqwan-u-Sifa (a group of sufis in 10th century Iraq who believed in secularism). He was a teacher at Basra University but later he chose to be a peshmerga , a member of a Kurdish volunteer force and which means "a person who faces death" in the Kurdish struggle. He says that he fought for Kurdistan and carries many old wounds, but he never wounded anybody.

This correspondent had a chance to speak to Masum at his modest house in a middle-class district of Sulaimaniya, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where he outlined his political perspective on post-Saddam Iraq. [...]

ATol: The US' aims in the Middle East seem to be obvious. It plans to change the dynamics of Middle Eastern society and wants broad democratic and economic reforms in the region. How do you see these developments?

Masum: Of cource, the situation in Iraq will have a direct impact on neighboring countries, and that is why these countries are afraid. Interestingly, they already have US troops on their land, but they are afraid of US designs for political and economic reforms in the region. The US has a clear line of interest behind these policies, but we too have our interests. Let's see what happens in the future.

ATol: There is an impression that the US would not allow a big local army and it would continue to dominate the region through its presence. Do you think this is part of its colonial thinking on Iraq?

Masum: I do not think so. Colonialism is history now. The US cannot directly rule in Iraq. I think they will keep their presence through some of their bases in Iraq.

Now, if Iraq just had a few hundred men like Mr. Masum...

Posted by Stephen Judd at 6:26 AM

ALL I SEE ARE TREES

Dietary Demons (Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, 7/25/03, Tech Central Station)
What are we to get in return for the higher costs (and, presumably, more limited food choices) that will come with the labeling and phasing out of trans fats? The government estimates that perhaps 250 to 500 coronary heart disease deaths (out of the total 500,000 that occur annually in the U.S.) will be prevented. But those numbers are purely hypothetical: The real number of lives saved might be zero.

While trans fatty acids are certainly not good for your health, focusing on them as a cause of heart disease is surely near-sighted. It's like a two-pack-a-day smoker worrying about second-hand smoke in a restaurant.

Surely someone should investigate the intelligence estimates that are leading the FDA down this path.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:04 AM

THE STUFF OF LEGENDS

Our Man in the Orient (Nate Barksdale. Spring 2003, Regeneration Quarterly)
Prester John was not, despite what you might think from the name, a circus performer nor the founder of a chain of fried-food restaurants. Nor was he a magician, though he did have the trick of vanishing only to reappear in unexpected places. And if his name, once you say it a few times, seems at once both obscure and familiar, there may be a reason. For nearly half of the last millennium, Prester John was a genuine celebrity in Western Europe: the mysterious ruler of an impossibly rich and powerful kingdom just over the horizon, somewhere in Asia, or maybe Africa. He was, as the saying goes, the stuff of legends, like Elvis or Brando or the Sultan of Brunei. He was wealthy, he was powerful, and--best of all--he was a Christian.

His first authenticated appearance is in the twelfth-century chronicle of Otto of Freising, who tells of the military victories of a priest-king living in the far east. This king, known as Prester John, had defeated a combined force of Persians, Medes, and Assyrians in a glorious three-day battle and then marched to the aid of Jerusalem, which had lately been recaptured by Saracen Muslims. The journey didn’t go well for Prester John. He marched his army to the Tigris and, unable to cross it, followed the river north in hopes it would freeze during the winter. After waiting several years for the promised ice to appear, he decided that the climate was too temperate, and, his army decimated “on account of the weather to which they were unaccustomed,” the priest-king headed home. Though not much for boats or bridges, Prester John was nonetheless, even in this early account, an intriguing character: “He is said to be a descendant of the Magi of old,” Otto’s chronicle reports. “He governs the same people as they did and is said to enjoy such glory and such plenty that he uses no scepter save one of emerald.”

A couple of decades later, the story got even more impressive. In 1165, copies of a letter from Prester John to the emperor of Byzantium started making the rounds in Europe. The letter, reconstructed from later copies, began something like this: “I, Johannes the Presbyter, Lord of Lords, am superior in virtue, riches and might to all who walk under Heaven,” and went on from there. Seventy-two kings paid him tribute. Thirty thousand subjects dined daily at his table. When he rode into war, he was proceeded by three crosses of gold. On other occasions, he went forth behind a single cross of plain wood—that he might recall the humble death of Jesus Christ, whom he served.

As for the kingdom he ruled, it was a storehouse of wonders: elephants, dromedaries, mute griffins, wild oxen, and wild men. There were pygmies, giants, Cyclopes and their wives, not to mention a more or less complete collection of natural resources: emeralds, sapphires, carbuncles, topazes, chrysolites, onyxes, beryls. There was a plant whose very presence in the realm frightened away demons. A spring which, if you drank from it three times, would keep you thirty years old for the rest of your life. And since it wouldn’t be the East without spices, of course there was lots of pepper.

Now it seems obvious enough, given certain details, that the letter was at least partly fictitious. And, as the novelist Evan S. Connell notes in his delightful essay on Prester John (collected most recently in The Aztec Treasure House), the leading men of Europe—being no more or less gullible than we—were doubtful even at the time. A translation of the letter by one of Richard Lionheart’s knights included a caveat familiar to anyone who has received a forwarded e-mail: This might not be true, but I thought you’d want to read it anyway. The letter was most likely seen as a veiled dressing-down of the rulers of the day, or perhaps as an attempt to revitalize the Crusades with the hope of an inter-empire coalition. Nevertheless, twelve years later Prester John and his epistle were still on everyone’s minds, so to quiet the murmurings and instruct the masses Pope Alexander iii penned a response praising John for his apparent piety and gently restating the Christian duty of submission to papal authority. Sealed and signed, the letter was entrusted to the pope’s personal physician who, as Connell dryly notes, “obediently marched off in the direction of Asia and right off the pages of history.”

Some legends are so compelling, it's no wonder folk believed them.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 12:59 AM

)

Battling for the High Ground (Washington Post, 7/28/2003)
Roll Call and the Hill ... serve as community newspapers for Capitol Hill ...

This year, both newspapers boosted the number of times they publish, deployed more reporters to the Capitol and stepped up their competition for the lucrative market in advocacy advertising....

[I]n January ... Roll Call, under editor Tim Curran, added a third day, Wednesday, to its weekly publication schedule ... Roll Call added about nine employees in the process, publisher Laurie Battaglia-Skinker said.

The Hill countered by bringing in new executive editor Hugo Gurdon, 46, a veteran of London's Fleet Street ... Gurdon has increased publication to two days a week, redesigned the newspaper's appearance, nearly doubled the reporting staff to 13 people and is ready for more....

Now Roll Call plans by September to publish four times a week when Congress is in session, Monday through Thursday, and the Hill said by the end of the year it will be up to three issues per week.

Fueled by the large market for advocacy advertising, both newspapers are profitable and their expansions typify the explosion of journalistic coverage on Capitol Hill.

Pages of help-wanted advertising have traditionally been used as a leading indicator of the economy. Let us hope that pages of "advocacy ads" are not a leading indicator of the regulatory state.

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 12:39 AM

NEVER RETREAT

Drudge is reporting that the Clintons intend to campaign for Gray Davis in California against the recall. It seems to me that Democrats have recently shown a senseless tendency to defend their officeholders -- any officeholder -- against attack, no matter how incompetent or unpopular he might be, and even if a Democrat would replace him. Democrats I knew were outraged at the Clinton impeachment and passionate in their defence of Clinton, even though Gore would have replaced him and Clinton wasn't doing anything for them in his last years in office. They seem similarly inclined to go to the mat for Gray Davis even though a Democrat would probably be his replacement. Outside of politics, we've see the New York Times cling to partisanship even as its reputation suffers.

In each case this stubbornness seems to me against their best interest. Gore would have had a leg up in 2000 as a sitting President; the Democrats would have seemed more moderate and less dangerous. Similarly any number of California Democrats would be more attractive to the voters than Gray Davis, who is widely regarded even among Democrats as corrupt. Likewise the Times would have more credibility and influence on the big issues if it were occasionally willing to retreat from tendentiousness on small issues.

The Democrats resemble a general who is incapable of ordering a retreat, or indeed of issuing any order except "Attack!" Why is this? It may be evidence in support of John Jay Ray's psychological theory of leftism.


July 28, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:05 PM

COGITO ERGO ?

Putting Our Faith in Science: When it comes to spirituality, biologists and physicists are in over their heads (Andrew Klavan, July 25, 2003, LA Times)
[N]othing science has come up with challenges our inner experiences of the divine. Most scientific arguments against these experiences boil down to the mistaken idea that if the mechanics of an internal phenomenon - the mind, say, or religious ecstasy - can be detailed, the phenomenon itself has been explained away. That is, if the "mind" is caused by the behavior of brain cells, then our experience of our selves is an illusion. If religious ecstasy can be photographed in a scan, then there's nothing real to be ecstatic about.

This line of reasoning is what physicist-philosopher Alfred North Whitehead termed "the fallacy of misplaced concreteness," in which the abstract understanding of an event is mistaken for the event itself. "This is the ultimate irony of some modern science," British theologian Keith Ward says, "that it begins by trying to explain and understand the rich, particular, concrete world as experienced by humans, and ends by seeing that phenomenal world as an illusion."

It is this fallacy that ultimately confounds MIT psychologist Steven Pinker in his book "The Blank Slate." Pinker derides the notion that human nature might be part of anything like a soul - the "ghost in the machine," as he calls it.

Yet even he can't finally disentangle his materialistic explanations from the mysterious phenomena they supposedly explain.

"These puzzles have an infuriatingly holistic quality to them," he writes with touching frustration. "Consciousness and free will seem to suffuse the neurobiological phenomena at every level. Thinkers seem condemned either to denying their existence or to wallowing in mysticism."

It's strange that the faithful are so often dismissed as small-minded when it's the rational who can't wrap their minds around this conundrum.


MORE:
New-yet-old ideas about the soul: Thinkers who question if there's a self separate from the body say they're faithful to biblical roots. (Tirdad Derakhshani, July 20, 2003, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Some scholars, primarily liberal Protestants but also some evangelicals, insist the Hebrew Bible presents an integrated picture of the self that does not draw sharp distinctions between soul and body. This has led some of them to reject the concept of the soul as a separate substance.

"What we are saying is that there is no such thing as a soul," said Murphy. She and Warren S. Brown, a neuropsychologist and director of Fuller's Travis Research Institute, are coeditors of Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature, a provocative collection of essays.

They say they are committed to evangelical Christian teachings, yet believe developments in cognitive science and evolutionary biology call into question a dualistic definition of humans.

"As neuroscientists associate more and more of the faculties once attributed to mind or soul with the functioning of specific regions or systems of the brain, it becomes more and more appealing to say that it is in fact the brain that performs these functions," Murphy writes in the book's introduction.

"Nearly all of the human capacities or faculties once attributed to the soul are now seen to be functions of the brain." [...]

Brown, whose research has focused on the structure connecting the left and right brain, said, "I basically believe that humans are physical beings and would not think that the soul is a psychical entity, a little ghost in the machine."

He defends a complex position called "non-reductive physicalism," which holds that human beings are physical through and through. But he also maintains that we have developed cognitive and emotional capacities that cannot be reduced to biological or chemical processes.

These capacities, which he calls our "soulishness," enable us to be relational beings. "Soul language in traditional religious talk is suggestive of relationship with one another and our internal self-relationship, and our relationships with God," he said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 PM

A DIVINE WIND BLOWS NO GOOD

Japanese sun in overcast world (Martin Hutchinson, 7/25/2003, UPI)
Shortly after The Economist magazine first produced its signature Big Mac index, in 1989, the Japanese yen, at 145 yen to the dollar was 38 percent overvalued against the dollar, by the index; a Big Mac cost 38 percent more in Tokyo than in New York. This overvaluation increased to 100 percent by 1995, at which point the yen touched its all time high of 80 yen to the dollar. Today, at 119 yen to the dollar, it is by the Big Mac index 19 percent undervalued compared to the dollar; a Big Mac is 19 percent cheaper in Tokyo than in New York.

At first sight, this is very strange. The yen has appreciated by about 18 percent against the dollar since 1989, at a time when inflation in both countries has been modest, yet a Big Mac has moved from being 38 percent more expensive in Tokyo to 19 percent less expensive.

The explanation for it is not the alleged evil monster of deflation, or at least it is only deflation in the purely technical sense of prices dropping. The Japanese distribution system was in 1989 the most inefficient in the developed world, particularly for foreign goods, with layer upon layer of importers and wholesalers each charging a markup on the goods that moved through their hands, and price competition at the retail level being hopelessly restricted by the highly protectionist Large Scale Retail Store Law. Consequently, an item such as the Big Mac, which was partly imported, partly sourced from inefficient Japanese agriculture, and wholly distributed to the consumer through retail outlets, was far more expensive in Tokyo than it needed to be. Any foreign visitor paying a Japanese restaurant bill in the 1980s will confirm this; the place was outrageously costly, through excessive costs at all levels including and notoriously the real estate on which the restaurant rested, which was so expensive that the Emperor's palace grounds in central Tokyo were in 1989 worth more than the entire state of California.

All that has now changed. [...]

The Japanese economy is now poised to move forward. By U.S. standards, its rate of GDP growth may appear unexciting, for demographic reasons -- unlike the U.S., whose population is growing by about 1.2 percent per annum, thorough births and immigration, Japan's is shrinking, by about one percent per annum, because of tight immigration policies and a low birth rate. But for the Japanese people, this is a good thing; it means that a 2 percent per annum growth rate in the Japanese economy can in the long run translate into a 3 percent per annum improvement in Japanese living standards. And of course, with low immigration, the social tensions of immigration are also very largely absent, with violent crime rates in Japan far lower than those in the U.S. or Western Europe

According to current projections, 1 in 2.8 Japanese will be over 65 years old by 2050. Just 8% of the population will be under 15 years old. Big Macs could cost a nickel and it wouldn't change the fact that Japan will literally be a dying society.


MORE:
Japan sinks under rising crime rates (Hiroshi Osedo, 26nov02, Courier & Mail)
A JAPANESE Government white paper on crime released last week has demolished the myth that Japan is the safest country in the world.

According to the document compiled by the Justice Ministry, the number of criminal cases in 2001 was a post-war record.

Excluding traffic offences, the number of crimes rose to 2.73 million, up 12 per cent from the previous year.

The white paper attributed the rise in violent crime to moral degeneration among Japanese people and to decline in the crime prevention functions traditionally provided by the family, schools and local communities.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM

THE GEORGIAN JACK KEMP

Q & A: GEORGIAN POLITICIAN PROMISES "FIGHT TO CHANGE THE TAX CODE" (Daan van der Schriek: 7/25/03, EuAsia Week)
Gogi Topadze, a beverage magnate who leads the Industry Will Save Georgia party, says he wants to stimulate growth by simplifying the tax code. He spoke to EurasiaNet about his platform, the upcoming elections, and his willingness to work with the Shevardnadze government.

EurasiaNet: Dissatisfaction with the tax code has characterized the Industrialists. In your opinion, what is wrong with it?

Topadze: It's not possible to point at one or two paragraphs in the tax code that we're not happy with. The whole code is detrimental to the Georgian economy. It is oriented towards the import of goods and kills possibilities in Georgia to start businesses that could successfully compete with Western products.

The tax code, which reflects recommendations from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and [others], doesn't allow for the opportunity to modernize the industry and agriculture of the country. We have proposed to parliament three different variants of the tax code that would stimulate Georgian business. Their main principles were liberalization, the use of more understandable language in the code and a simplification of taxes. Instead of the current 80 different taxes there would be only four, three of which would be national and one local.

With such a simplified code, you could fight corruption. The current code is so cumbersome and opaque that it is easy for bureaucrats in the tax department to take what they want if they are inclined to do so. Therefore, the [Ministry of Tax and Finance] doesn't want to [simplify] the law. Big companies have a whole group of lawyers to fight back. But small businesses don't.

The party name is a tad prosaic, but the platform is poetry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM

THE VERY VISION OF A MODERN TORY

My hero: David Cameron, the young Tory MP, has all the qualities needed to rescue the party (Bruce Anderson, 7/26/03, The Spectator)
In his political views, David Cameron is on the real-world Right of the Tory party. A Eurosceptic, he believes in smaller government and personal freedom; he abominates political correctness and the nanny state. But he also understands that most people depend on public services and do not necessarily trust the Tories to look after them. David Cameron is a modern Tory, who sees the need to adapt old principles to new circumstances. Without being a populist, he has a feel for public opinion. He likes pop music as well as opera; football as well as deer-stalking.

Above all, he has a robust and incisive mind. I have rarely met a politician who can expand a complex issue with such clarity while spotting every political nuance. He is also a good speaker, who charms audiences without condescending to them and who makes jokes while remaining serious.

If there is a fault, it is an unconcealed impatience. One or two of David Cameron's Tory contemporaries, not negligible figures themselves, have complained that he does not take enough trouble with the likes of them. In the febrile world of competitive politics there may be an element of jealousy in that criticism, but it is something which he will have to watch. The day will come when he needs his fellow Tory MPs' votes.

At this point, any Tory who's actually more conservative than Tony Blair is a hopeful sign.


MORE:
It's time to fight back: Now we're told the Tories are even responsible for making more people commit suicide (David Cameron, September 20, 2002, The Guardian)
A column in the Guardian might be the wrong place to ask this question. But does anybody out there ever feel sorry for us Tories? We may be in our fifth year of opposition, languishing in the polls and virtually invisible in the media, but we're still getting blamed for everything. And I mean, everything. The state of the railways. Privatisation. Hospital waiting lists. Two decades of under-investment. Shortage of housing. The Tory sale of council houses. When will anyone start blaming the government?

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, an academic study is showing that the suicide rate tends to rise during Tory governments. No, seriously. According to the study, if Labour or the Liberals had ruled uninterrupted this century, 35,000 fewer people would have died. [...]

But I think I have the key. On election night in 1997, when I crashed and burned as the Tory candidate in Stafford, an old lady came to me in tears and said: "I don't want to die under a Labour government." Perhaps there were thousands of others like her who didn't wait for the final results and took pre-emptive action.

Another look at the figures over the past century would seem to back up this thesis. There was a spike in the figures just before the first Labour government in 1924 and another in 1945. Churchill may not have expected the Labour landslide, but others clearly did.

The figures were relatively flat during Ted Heath's premiership, presumably on the basis that people thought (quite rightly as it turned out) that a Labour government couldn't be much worse. On this basis, the rise in the early 1980s wasn't down to Margaret Thatcher's tough policies, but simply because, before the Falklands war, people couldn't see how she could win another election.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM

FORCING AMERICA TO GO JACKSONIAN

THE SEARCH FOR OSAMA: Did the government let bin Laden?s trail go cold? (JANE MAYER, 2003-07-28, The New Yorker)
[Richard Clarke, the country's first counter-terrorism czar,] said that in October, 2000, when the U.S.S. Cole was bombed, off the coast of Yemen, Clinton demanded better military options. The Department of Defense prepared a plan for a United States military operation so big that it was dismissed as politically untenable; meanwhile, General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded that, without better intelligence, a smaller-scale attack would be too risky. (Indeed, according to the Congressional Report on September 11th, Shelton said, "You can develop military operations until hell freezes over, but they are worthless without intelligence.") The Navy tried stationing two submarines in the Indian Ocean, in the hope of being able to shoot missiles at bin Laden, but the time lag between the sighting of the target and the arrival of the missiles made it virtually impossible to pinpoint him accurately.

The first promise of an intelligence breakthrough came in the fall of 2000, when Clarke, and a few allies in the C.I.A. and the military, recognized the potential of the Predator, a nine-hundred-and-fifty-pound unmanned propeller plane being tested by General Johnny Jumper, the Air Force's head of air combat at the time. It could supply live video surveillance-day or night, and through cloud cover. Clarke said that the plane, which was tested in Afghanistan, supplied "spectacular" pictures of suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, including one of a tall, white-robed man who closely resembled bin Laden and was surrounded by security guards as he crossed a city street to a mosque. At the C.I.A.'s Global Response Center, analysts who were used to receiving fuzzy satellite photographs and thirdhand reports were now able to watch as live video feeds captured the daily routines inside Al Qaeda training camps. They watched as men did physical exercises, fired their weapons, and practiced hand-to-hand combat. Two or three times that fall, intelligence analysts thought they might have spotted bin Laden himself. The man in question was unusually tall, like bin Laden, and drove the same model of truck that bin Laden preferred, the Toyota Land Cruiser. (The images weren't clear enough, however, to allow analysts to discern facial features.) The C.I.A. rushed the surveillance tapes over to the White House, where the President, like everyone else, was stunned by their clarity. Later that fall, however, fierce winds in the Hindu Kush caused the Predator to crash. The accident led to recriminations inside the C.I.A. and the Air Force and quarrels about which part of the bureaucracy should pay for the damage.

By early 2001, Clarke and a handful of counter-terrorism specialists at the C.I.A. had learned of an Air Force plan to arm the Predator. The original plan called for three years of tests. Clarke and the others pushed so hard that the plane was ready in three months. In tests, the craft worked surprisingly well. In the summer of 2001, an armed Predator destroyed a model of bin Laden's house which had been built in the Nevada desert. But Clarke said, "Every time we were ready to use it, the C.I.A. would change its mind. The real motivation within the C.I.A., I think, is that some senior people below Tenet were saying, `It's fine to kill bin Laden, but we want to do it in a way that leaves no fingerprints. Otherwise, C.I.A. agents all over the world will be subject to assassination themselves.' They also worried that something would go wrong-they'd blow up a convent and get blamed."

On September 4, 2001, all sides agree, the issue reached a head, at a meeting of the Principal's Committee of Bush's national-security advisers, a Cabinet-level group that includes the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the director of the C.I.A., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Attorney General, and the national-security adviser. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz also attended that day. As Clarke, who was there, recalled, "Tenet said he opposed using the armed Predator, because it wasn't the C.I.A.'s job to fly airplanes that shot missiles. The Air Force said it wasn't their job to fly planes to collect intelligence. No one around the table seemed to have a can-do attitude. Everyone seemed to have an excuse."

"There was a discussion," the senior intelligence official confirmed. "The C.I.A. said, `Who's got more experience flying aircraft that shoot missiles?' But the Air Force liked planes with pilots." In looking back at the deadlock, Roger Cressey, Clarke's deputy for counter-terrorism at the N.S.C., told me, "It sounds terrible, but we used to say to each other that some people didn't get it-it was going to take body bags."

We'd all like to have someone to blame for 9-11, but the brutal reality is that it does take the body bags to focus all our attention. The question is: given the lethality of our response once you get it, who would want our attention?

Posted by David Cohen at 8:11 PM

TOO BAD THE US HAS UNDERMINED INTERNATIONAL COMITY.

Blair accused by Greeks of crimes against humanity (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph, 7/29/03)
Tony Blair was accused yesterday of 'crimes against humanity' in a lawsuit lodged at the International Criminal Court in The Hague by Greek lawyers.

The Athens Bar Association filed 22 charges against the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet members, alleging that they invaded a sovereign country on a dubious pretext.

'The repeated, blatant violations by the United States and Britain of the stipulations of the four 1949 Geneva conventions, the 1954 Convention of The Hague as well as of the International Criminal Court's charter constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,' said the group.

The case is based on press clippings and news reports, many from Greece's anti-American media.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, were among those named, but the Bush administration was spared because America has refused to sign up to the ICC.

Washington fears the court could degenerate into a political circus and subject US officials to constant harassment.
Where would Washington get a silly idea like that?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM

NOT MILTON

Bad debt: Why Bush's deficits will slow America's growth (Benjamin M. Friedman, 7/27/2003, Boston Globe)
The root of the problem is that America has always been a low-saving country. The fraction of our incomes that we put aside, together with the fraction of earnings that our companies retain rather than paying out in dividends, adds up to a smaller share of our national income than what the typical European country saves, and a smaller share than what some of the fast-growth countries in East Asia normally save.

When the government spends more than it takes in from taxes-that's what running a deficit means-the Treasury has to borrow in the financial markets to cover the overage. This borrowing absorbs some of the saving done by families and firms, saving that otherwise would have remained available to finance investment in productive new plant and equipment. People who put their savings into banks, or money-market mutual funds, don't think of themselves as financing the government's deficit. But when these institutions use the deposited funds to buy Treasury securities, that's exactly what they are doing.

If we had a saving rate like Italy's (11 percent) or Korea's (above 13 percent), having the Treasury absorb an amount of our saving equal to a few percentage points of our national income would be of little concern. But over the last 10 years the total amount of saving done by the private sector of our economy, beyond the amount needed merely to replace the factories and houses that are wearing out (in other words, the saving that is available to enable the economy to do more than just keep running in place), has averaged not even 6 percent of US national income. If the government's deficit averages 2 percent of national income later this decade, as the latest Bush administration predicts, it will therefore take up more than one-third of America's net saving. More likely, the deficit will be larger and so will the share of our national saving it absorbs.

When a similar situation occurred during the Reagan administration (when the deficit averaged 4.2 percent of national income), defenders of the president's policy offered a variety of stories about how the saving rate would rise, or how business could be productive and wages rise without new investment, or how some other break with prior experience would solve the problem. Those ideas were intellectually interesting. But they also proved wrong. During the big-deficit years of President Reagan and the first President Bush, the share of US national income devoted to net new investment in plant and equipment fell to the lowest average level in the postwar period, and real wages-and therefore the income of the typical US family-stagnated.

To make matters worse, in order to finance even the meager investment we were able to make during the Reagan-Bush years, with the government absorbing so much of our saving, America borrowed so much from abroad that we became the world's most highly indebted country. During the last few years, the United States has again been running a large trade deficit, and consequently has been borrowing heavily from foreign lenders, for reasons having little to do with the budget deficit. Business here may be weak, but it is stronger than in Europe or Japan or Latin America. We buy more than $100 billion in goods each year from China, but sell the Chinese little in return. If our government is still running a sizable budget deficit after our economy returns to full employment, that will only make the situation worse.

What's wrong with continual large budget deficits, maintained year after year even at full employment, is that they take away the economy's means of achieving economic growth.

Two salient facts make it nearly impossible to take this essay seriously:

(1) Repetition of the national savings rate canard--we've all heard these dire numbers before and there's some healthy residue of Puritanism that makes us want to flagellate ourselves for squandering our money instead of saving it. You'll have noticed that we are always compred to the notoriously drone-like Japanese and Germans, in order to make the numbers seem more plausible. But they are, of course, completely misleading. In order to arrive at such an absurdly low number for America's savings rate you have to exclude two rather significant things from the calculation: the home and the 401k. Factor these assets back into the equation and we actually have one of, if not the, highest savings rates in the world. Americans too save like worker bees, its just that, unlike many other countries, we both own our own hives and help fund our own golden years.

(2) Twenty years of uninterrupted growth at a higher rate than any other Western nation--the last two "recessions" (1991, 2001) were so shallow and so brief and economic numbers are so notoriously amorphous that folks have already beguin to question whether they even qualify as such or were merely periods of slowdown. But this much seems certain, that when you plot out the trend of the American economy over the last twenty years it certainly looks like a continuous, though somewhat unevenly paced, ascent. Moreover, if you plot out the annual debt against that growth line you'll find bno correlation between lower debt and faster growth. In fact, the latest slowdown corresponded precisely to the return of surpluses. This is not necessarily to argue--though I would--that the surplus led to or was a main contributor to the 2001 slowdown, but it does suggest that our budget deficits and surpluses have a more complicated relationship to our economic growth than Mr. Friedman allows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:02 PM

THE PRIVATIZATION of PUBLIC EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES

President Addresses Urban League (Remarks by the President to the 2003 Urban League Conference David Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 7/28/03)
Equal education is one of the most pressing civil rights of our day. Nearly half a century after Brown versus Board of Education, there's still an achievement gap in America. On the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, on the reading test, 41 percent of white 4th graders were proficient and better readers, but only 12 percent of African-Americans met that standard. That means we've got a problem. Both numbers are too low.

I think too many of our schools are leaving too many children unprepared. And so we acted. I worked with Congress to pass what we call The No Child Left Behind Act. It says every child can learn. We must challenge the soft bigotry of low expectations. And you know what I'm talking about.

And as Rod Paige will brief you, states are beginning to respond. We said, in return for record levels of education spending at the federal level, we expect results.

You see, if you believe every child can learn, then you ought to be asking the question to those who are spending our money: are you teaching the child? That's what we ought to be asking all across America. And now there's accountability plans being put in place in 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District. I know people are concerned about testing. I've heard this debate a lot. They say it's discriminatory to measure and compare results. I say it is discriminatory not to measure. I think it's important to know whether or not our schools are succeeding. We simply have got to stop shuffling our children from grade to grade without asking the question, have they been taught to learn to read and write and add and subtract?

I believe it is those who believe certain [children] can't learn that are willing to shuffle them through. And the No Child Left Behind Act ends that, in return for record levels of money, you've got to show us whether or not the children can read and write and add and subtract. And when schools don't measure up, parents must have more options. It's one thing to measure, but there has to be consequences for failing schools. So in that Act parents are able to send their children to a different public school or a charter school, or get special tutorial help.

I also believe it makes sense to explore private school choices, so I'm working with the leadership in Washington, D.C. This isn't a Democrat issue or Republican issue, this is an issue that focuses on children. [...]

Our opportunity in society must also be a compassionate society. As Americans, when we see hopelessness and suffering and injustice, we will not turn our backs. And one of the best ways to build hope is to recognize where some of the great works of compassion are done. You see, a government can hand out money -- and sometimes we do a pretty good job of it -- but what it can't do is put hope in people's hearts or a sense of purpose in people's lives. That happens when people who have been called to love a neighbor interface with a neighbor in need.

You see, every day across America, faith-based and community groups are touching people's lives in profound ways -- give shelter to the homeless and provide safety for battered women; they bring compassion to lonely seniors. America's neighborhood healers have long experience and deep understanding of the problems that many face. And many of them have something extra besides experience. They have inspiration, as they carry God's love to people in need.

I like to call the neighborhood healers America's social entrepreneurs. And they need the support of foundation America and corporate America. They need the support of individuals and, of course, congregations. And, when appropriate, they deserve the support of the government.

Government has no business endorsing a religious creed, or directly funding religious worship. But for too long, government treated people of faith like second-class citizens in the grant making process. Government can and should support effective social services provided by religious people, as long as those services go to anyone in need. And when government gives that support, faith-based institutions should not be forced to change the character of their service or compromise their principles.

Neighborhood healers have not been treated well by the federal government, so I signed an executive order banning discrimination against faith-based charities by federal agencies. I created a special offices in my key Cabinet departments to speak up for faith-based groups, and to help them access government funding. I've asked the departments to report to me on a regular basis to make sure the old days are gone, to make sure we challenge and harness the great strength of the country, the heart and soul of our citizens. We're changing the focus of government from process to results. Instead of asking the question, is this a faith-based program? We're now asking the question, does the program work? And if so, it deserves our support. [...]

Our journey toward justice has not been easy and it is not over. Yet I am confident that we will reach our destination. We have been called to great work in our time, and we will answer that call. We will defend our freedom, and we will lead the world toward peace. And we will unite American behind the great goals of opportunity for all, and compassion for those in need.

I want to thank each of you for serving this cause in your own lives. May God bless your work, may God bless the Urban League, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

Of course the brilliance of the approach is that by making results the measure of the programs, you get to change the process.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:45 PM

THE FREE TRADE WING OF BUCHANACONSERVATISM

Mercantilism, USA (Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., July 26, 2003, Mises.org)
Should Americans be able to buy American-made prescription drugs from other countries at cheaper prices than they would have to pay in the US? Of course, the answer is yes. All that free traders are asking is that US firms be willing to let Americans buy US drugs at market prices when they are imported from other countries. The only possible reason to pay more would be if you want to dump vast sums of money on the US drug industry for no good reason. Consumers might want to-they can send Eli Lilly a fat check--but they shouldn't be forced to.

And yet some free traders have gotten on board with the desire to use protectionist means to boost prices and thereby add fuel to the fire of socialized medicine. It's expected that politicians sell their souls. But what about think tanks? The American Enterprise Institute, Cato, Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the National Center for Policy Analysis, National Review, and many other organizations and "free market" publications have come out for banning re-importation. Why? They say that re-imported drugs are unsafe, would undercut US drug makers, dry up research funds, and make drugs more difficult to regulate.

Doug Bandow of Cato, for example, argues that because foreign countries do not have free markets for drugs, they shouldn't be permitted to export to the US which does. Of course that is precisely the same rationale used by the catfish and textile industry to ban competitive products. If anything, the claim is even more absurd since we are not talking about competitors but the very same firms that already sell in the US. So hysterical has been the campaign that re-imported drugs are said (by Michael Krauss) to be "an
invitation to terrorists."

As with other protectionist schemes, it is really about taxing Americans and imposing price floors to benefit a politically influential industry. Krauss actually admits this when he says: "Do we want pharmaceutical progress? Then we must pay for these goods, even if other nations don't do their part." But protectionist profits are not the reason for pharmaceutical progress. The reason is innovation, which depends in no way on patents and protectionism in drugs any more than with any other form of innovation. The proof is precisely that American firms are willing to sell at such low prices to foreign nations; they must be making a profit.

The Republican leadership is fighting a losing battle here and for not much reason. The argument that Americans should pay higher prices so that drug companies can make their profits here assumes a generosity on our part that is inconsistent with human nature. Sure, we're richer than anyone else, so it's been nice of us to help hold their prices down, but such a system couldn't last, especially as global markets loosen. If ending that regime leads to higher prices in other countries, so what? If it leads to less innovation, well, conservatives aren't exactly thrilled with the way medical experimentation is trying to change human beings anyway, are we? And if the quality of re-imported drugs can't be guaranteed, if they might even be fake, that seems like a risk folks should be allowed to assume for themselves. Besides, most of the effect of the far too many drugs folks take nowadays is probably just placebic anyway, isn't it? Stacked against these paltry objections is one big benefit that we'd do well not to turn up our noses at in a country where health care is already 14% of GDP: re-importation will reduce medical costs. What's not to like?

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 4:41 PM

)

Official: Killing ants is punishable by law (The Scotsman, 4/30/2003)
Gerhard Schroeder’s unpopular government has acted decisively ... to protect the humble German ant from the nation’s over-zealous gardeners ...

German homeowners and gardeners who attempt to destroy an ant hill or subterranean nest will be subject to hefty fines if caught.

They must now apply for a permit from their local forestry office to have the ants carefully moved to local woods.

"People with an ant hill in their garden must under no circumstances resort to the use of poison," said ant officer Dieter Kraemer.

This is the kind of progressive environmental legislation that could energize the liberal base and revive John Edwards's faltering presidential campaign.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:16 PM

SEPARATE BUT EQUAL

City's first public gay high school to open in fall (Associated Press, 7/28/2003)
A small alternative public school program has been expanded into a full-fledged school for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students.

The Harvey Milk High School, an expansion of a 1984 city program consisting of two small classrooms for gay students, will enroll about 100 students and will open in the fall.

''I think everybody feels that it's a good idea because some of the kids who are gays and lesbians have been constantly harassed and beaten in other schools,'' Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a briefing Monday. ''It lets them get an education without having to worry. It solves a discipline problem. And from a pedagogical point of view, this administration and previous administrations have thought it was a good idea and we'll continue with that.''

This kind of moral segregation seems entirely sensible and suggests that private individuals and businesses should be able to follow suit.

AND IN RELATED NEWS:
HIV Cases Climb Among Gay, Bisexual Men (Paul Simao, 7/28/03, Reuters)
The number of gay and bisexual men diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, climbed for the third consecutive year in the United States in 2002, fueling fears the disease might be poised for a major comeback in this vulnerable group.

Overall AIDS diagnoses rose 2.2 percent to 42,136 last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said on Monday at the 2003 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

Some AIDS experts worry that the increase could indicate a more complacent attitude toward the disease and a willingness to engage in riskier behavior by some vulnerable groups, such as young gay and bisexual males.

As a pathology loses its moral and social stigma the problems associated with it are exacerbated; go figure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:50 PM

CAN THE DEMOCRATS HAVE A DO-OVER?

Economy flashes more signs it has turned the corner (MARTIN CRUTSINGER, July 28, 2003, Associated Press)
"We think almost all of the child tax credit payments will get spent," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo in
Minneapolis. "Those checks will be arriving just when families will need the money for back-to-school items."

By giving Americans more disposable income, the tax cuts are also expected to help lift consumer confidence. Analysts believe that Tuesday's report on consumer confidence could show a gain to around 85 for June, up from 83.5 in May. That would be the highest reading since last fall and an indication that consumer optimism is rebounding from the jittery days before the Iraq war. [...]

David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York, said he expected the sub-par GDP growth of the past nine months will be replaced with much stronger growth of around 4 percent in the second half of this year. Many analysts believe that growth in the first half of next year will hit 4.5 percent or better, given the kick expected from the new tax cuts.

Even with growth improving, it will still take time to make much of a dent in unemployment rate. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com, said the country isn't likely to see a significant rebound in employment until next year. But the improvement should still come in time to give Bush a boost in his 2004 re-election campaign.

Republicans did something foolish in 1993: they argued that the Clinton tax increase would lead to recession, despite its being vastly outweighed by the inevitable post-war boom that had to follow the Cold War. This was not quite as foolish as George Bush Sr. passing a tax increase despite that coming boom, but it did end up allowing Mr. Clinton to take some credit for the growth of the latter '90s and particularly for the eventual balanced budget, even though it was exclusively a function of the cut in defense spending and the growth cycle. The lesson that should have been learned by both parties is that you can't fight the laws of economics with partisan political rhetoric.

The Democrats seem not to have been paying attention to the lesson, as they have spent months draping the economy around President Bush's neck, making him solely responsible for it, even as he's cut taxes repeatedly, the Fed has cut interest rates repeatedly, and Americans' sense of personal security has recovered in the wake of two successful post-9/11 wars. Whether he deserves it or not, they've created a political environment in which Mr. Bush will get exclusive credit for the coming period of robust growth. Any chance they had to keep the '04 election competitive, and there was never much of a chance, was squandered as the Democrats for some reason decided to paint themselves into the same corner that Republicans occupied at the end of Bill Clinton's first term. Not too bright.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:59 PM

DID MEN JUST BECOME ANGELS?

This Is Direct Democracy Run Amok (Leon E. Panetta, July 27, 2003, LA Times)
Out of frustration, various groups have turned to the reform tools established in California's progressive history. But these tools were not designed to substitute for governing, they were developed to protect against abuses.

Instead, in the last 25 years, the initiative process has fundamentally changed the governing structure of the state. Between 1978 and 2000, more than 600 statewide initiative petitions were circulated, 118 appeared on the ballot and 52 passed. Policies from prison terms to car insurance rates to property taxes to dedicated funds for education and conservation have been enacted not by the governor and Legislature but by the initiative process.

And if groups and partisan interests can afford to put their particular initiative on the ballot, then why not use the same process as a partisan weapon to go after unpopular political leaders regardless of when they were elected? The current recall effort is in many ways the culmination of direct democracy run amok.

But the initiative and recall processes are not the real problem. They are merely symptoms of a much larger problem: the breakdown in trust that is essential to governing in a democracy.

The more the elected leadership of California engages in partisanship and gridlock, the more the public will take governing into its own hands regardless of the consequences.

The only way to avoid runaway initiatives and recalls is for the elected leaders and the voters to recognize their common responsibility to effective self-government.

Leon Panetta is very much the best the Democrats have to offer. He'd be a better governor than anyone who will be contending for the office in the coming recall election, including any of the Republicans. He would, in fact, be a great Treasury Secretary for Mr. Bush. But this is a ridiculous op-ed, one that reflects the kind of Leftish utopianism that seldom otherwise clutters his thinking.This is not "direct democracy run amok"; it is direct democracy. It is an archetypal example of why the Founders abhorred direct democracy.

Here's a handy rule of thumb: at the point where you find yourself depending on the assumption that people will voluntarily recognize that they have a "common responsibility to effective self-government", you've wandered into Fantasyland.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:57 PM

DESPITE?

States Face Growing Prison Population (CURT ANDERSON, July 28, 2003, Associated Press)
America's prison population grew again in 2002 despite a declining crime rate...

Just in case anyone believes that the general liberal bias in the media has been even remotely affected by the rise of conservative alternatives, perhaps no single line in newspaper history has been more ridiculed--nor more justly--than the original NY Times version of the above. Yet here it is repeated by the AP and thereby appears today in thousands of newspapers across the nation and the world. Consider how much differently that sentence reads if you just swap out the word "despite" and replace it with "causing" or even just "paralleling".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:17 PM

WELL, THE BOYS DID OWN IT, RIGHT?

The great diversity of Australian life is lost in the boy's own view of history. (Ann McGrath, July 24, 2003, Online Opinion)
Captain Cook and cricket caps. The review of the National Museum of Australia, with its heartfelt yearning for the return of great-white-bloke stories, makes for rather vexing reading.

Predictably, the review team's maiden voyage of museum discovery washes them up onto the familiar shore of great male discovery narratives. This lost white Australian dreaming doesn't get messed up by facts about the usurpation of Indigenous land and human rights and doesn't foreground women. In their proposed upstairs/downstairs narrative of Australia, terra nullius stays downstairs where it belongs. Captain Cook and other ocean-going discoverers get reified upstairs. Non-British immigrants go altogether, unless they can make good cappuccinos.

The panel's plan starts with Circa, the multimedia introduction to contemporary Australia that's extremely popular with all age groups. Circa is criticised on various grounds but mainly for presenting a diverse range of opinion. The three majority panelists recommend replacing the two major galleries Nation and Horizons with two chronological "white history" exhibitions - "European discovery to Federation" and "Federation to contemporary Australia".

The first would begin with Burke and Wills; the second with a 1961 world record Test crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The previous track record of such themes at inspiring Australians is weak. Remember the Centenary of Federation? Maybe not. While making Federation a central framing device for two main gallery treatments, even the review panel suggests that Federation is a bit too boring.

The review's findings are influenced by an undisguised yearning for a grand, if somewhat schoolboyish, national narrative. Commending the "courageous warrior hero" stories of Homer's Iliad or the American Wild West, they mistakenly believe coloniser cowboy epics are deeply unifying narratives. Although few references are cited, the report's intellectual underpinnings conform with Keith Windschuttle's Quadrant article of September 2001, which lamented the absence of grand historical narratives in the National Museum. The review panel has obligingly filled in the dots with the outlines and textures of a highly exclusionary and tired formula.

In its vision of nation, the panel does not reject differing versions of history, but it certainly rejects multiple identities, contested identities, interrelated identities of nation.

The Left makes two contradictory arguments about Western history: on the one hand, they point out--seemingly correctly--that a variety of prejudices and chauvanisms led to a culture overwhelmingly dominated by white Christian males, with all others being discriminated against, even oppressed; but, on the other hand, they argue that the study of what is important in Western history should not predominantly focus on those men and the culture should not primarily be attributed to them.

The motivation driving this incoherence is fairly obvious: Western culture is mankind's greatest achievement and everyone wants to be able to claim not just a piece of it, but a major piece. Sadly for them, their first argument has convincingly proved that the second is false.

However, it is one of the crowning accomplishments of Western men that though our past has not been the product of a terribly diverse group of people, our future will be, precisely because of the ideology the non-diverse ancestors handed down to us and the inevitable and eventual triumph of the idea that all men are created equal. Women, blacks, etc., have shaped our recent past and will continue to shape our future and will do so because they have been empowered by the ideas of dead white Western males. Why not then celebrate those men and their ideas?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM

DO FENCE ME IN

An ugly idea whose time has come (Hillel Halkin, 7/28/03, Jewish World Review)
After three years of Palestinian violence, the prevalent attitude among Jews in this country is that the less Palestinians have to be seen, heard from and dealt with, the better. No wall that keeps them out can be too high, no obstacle too thick. Let's draw a curtain on the Arab world, turn our backs to it, and face across the sea to Europe and the West: Put that in a petition and you could get a million signatures in a month.

There is something to be said for this. The Middle East has not, in the 125 years since Zionist settlers first tried striking roots in it, been very
hospitable to us. It continues to be one of the most backward regions of the world, ruled by despotic regimes and fundamentalist clerics. We Jews, on the other hand, have been, for the past century and a half, at the cutting edge of Western civilization. Backs to the Arab world and faces to the West seems a natural posture for us--at least until that world undergoes basic changes that are not in the offing right now.

And yet think of the price, the diminishment.

The real question we now have to answer--that we have not answered since 1967--as prepared or unprepared for answering it as we may be, is quite simply this: Do we, assuming a degree of choice exists, want to live with the Palestinians in a Land of Israel or Palestine that is open to us all, or do we want to live without them and in only part of it?

Curiously, as I have said, the immediate logic of both a "yes" and a "no" answer to this question is the same: Get on with The Fence, as awful and ugly as it is, and go on building it as fast as possible. Only as it nears completion will we and the Palestinians have to decide. But the decision, when it comes, will be radical and drastic. Both sides had better start thinking, as hard and deeply as we can, about its implications right now.

A Palestinian state is inevitable, but that doesn't mean Israel has to stand naked before her enemy. If the fence may contribute to a more peaceful coexistence then it is worth building.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 AM

MERCENARY VOTING

Bush, GOPers losing support of retired vets (Jewish World Review, 7/28/03)
Veterans have two gripes.

One is a longstanding complaint that some disabled vets, in effect, have to pay their own disability benefits out of their retirement pay through a law they call the Disabled Veterans Tax.

Since 1891, anyone retiring after a full military career has had their retirement pay reduced dollar for dollar for any Veterans Administration checks they get for a permanent service-related disability. However, a veteran who served a two-or-four-year tour does not have a similar reduction in Social Security or private pension.

A majority of members of Congress, from both parties, wants to change the law. A House proposal by Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., has 345
co-sponsors.

But it would cost as much as $5 billion a year to expand payments to 670,000 disabled veterans, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld earlier this month told lawmakers that the president would veto any bill including the change.

The proposal is stuck in committee. A recent effort to bring it to the full House of Representatives failed, in part because only one Republican signed the petition.

"The cost is exorbitant. And we are dealing with a limited budget," said Harald Stavenas, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee.

The second complaint is over medical care. After decades of promising free medical care for life to anyone who served for 20 years, the government in the 1990s abandoned the promise in favor of a new system called Tricare. The Tricare system provides medical care, but requires veterans to pay a deductible and does not cover dental, hearing or vision care.

This is why conservatism can't win in the long run and democracy may not last: at the end of the day, the checks you want from the government are the single strongest determinant of your politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM

KILL THE COUSINS FIRST

Iraqis warn of revenge on 'traitor to country': 'The cousins of Uday and Qusay are arranging to kill the family. The family will be killed': U.S. informant (Michael Mathes, July 28, 2003, Agence France-Presse)
Angry residents of this northern city yesterday warned Nawaf al-Zaidan, the tribal chief who owned the mansion where Uday and Qusay Saddam Hussein died in a blistering gunbattle, that revenge is coming to him.

"He's a traitor to his country and religion," said a shopkeeper across from Mr. Zaidan's gutted home, destroyed in the long but one-sided battle between Saddam Hussein's sons and U.S. forces last Tuesday.

And whether they loved Saddam's regime or not, many here view Mr. Zaidan, the suspected informer who tipped off the Americans, as a traitor for the sake of a US$30-million pricetag on Uday and Qusay's heads.

"Nawaf and his son and the money he received will all end up in a grave," predicted Mr. Zaidan's old neighbourhood shopkeeper.

The Americans will not say whether Mr. Zaidan is the man who turned in Saddam's sons, but neither will they deny it.

Asked yesterday about the fate of the informant, a senior officer from the U.S. Army's 101 Airborne Division in Mosul said: "We'll take care of our sources."

The problem isn't revenge killings, but that we are stopping the Iraqi people from pre-emptively revenging themselves upon the Saddam family and other Ba'athists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM

IF YOU DRAW THE SWORD... (via Oswald Czolgosz)

Sword of honour: Paul Robinson on the ancient code of insult and revenge that is still prevalent in the American South (Paul Robinson, July 2003, The Spectator)
In a much discussed recent book, Walter Russell Mead identifies four strands of American foreign policy: Jeffersonian, Hamiltonian, Wilsonian and Jacksonian. Jacksonians follow the ideas of President Andrew Jackson, the archetype of ante-bellum, aggressive southern honour, who fought more than a dozen duels. They see the pursuit of national honour as the prime purpose of policy. Right now, Jacksonianism reigns triumphant in the halls of American power. The South’s political influence has possibly never been greater. It was Al Gore’s failure to win a single state in the old Confederacy that lost him the presidency, and George Bush Sr’s nemesis came in the form of Ross Perot, a Texan who in 1953 almost singlehandedly devised the current Honour Code of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Jacksonian rhetoric has spearheaded America’s recent wars. The word ‘honour’ is rarely used, but substitutes such as ‘credibility’ abound in official speeches. Nato had to bomb Yugoslavia because the ‘credibility of the alliance was at stake’. Coalition forces had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein was ‘undermining the credibility of the UN’. Saddam was not a threat to the USA, but he was a living insult to its honour. Despite all the efforts of the most powerful state on earth, he had for ten years continued to survive and defy America’s wishes. For an administration driven by sentiments of honour, such an insult could not be permitted. Just as the South could not allow Lincoln to become their President, so George W. Bush could not allow Saddam to continue humiliating his country. Only war could satisfy honour.

As the ancient Greeks knew, the pursuit of honour often leads people to attack others, to drive them down, in order to inflate themselves. The Greeks called such behaviour hubris, and believed that hubris inevitably resulted in disaster. It certainly did for the Confederacy.

Mr. Robinson has understood far less here than he might have, or else is using an entirely valid concept--American Jacksonianism--to score cheap political points. Compare the desultory nature of our actions in Yugoslavia, our inaction for a decade in Iraq, and our failure to move to actual confrontation with the Soviets in the Cold War to our immediate (or proximate) entry into wars following the shelling of Fort Sumter (Civil War), the sinking of the Maine (Spanish-American), the sinking of the Lusitania (WWI), Pearl Harbor (WWII), Tonkin Gulf incident (Vietnam) and 9-11 (Afghan War and Second Iraq War)--none of the latter incidents was a necessary cause of war, but were physical insults that were seized upon by those who desired war as a pretext to say that our honor had been challenged and must be defended. In the face of such actions by our foes, Jacksonians, who tend to be rather isolationist as a rule, can be whipped into an interventionist frenzy and we always are. On the other hand, although Jacksonian blood was up throughout the Cold War, there was unfortunately never such an incident--though JFK squandered a potential one during the Cuban Missile Crisis--and never a president willing to provoke one--though Truman easily could have as Nazi Germany fell and the USSR took over great swathes of Eastern Europe. The capacity of Americans to withstand innumerable slights to their pride in that doleful era without ever starting a shooting war, pretty clearly suggests that the additional element of a physical assault--no matter how minor--is required.

Mr. Robinson's final sentence implies that America today resembles the Confederacy--apparently he's been reading too many Harold Meyerson columns--but he's missed a key point about the Civil War. It was not the South that started the War to defend its honor, but the North that was brought into the war to defend its. Suppose for a moment that the South had seceded and merely said that it wished nothing further to do with the North--would President Lincoln have had the political support in that event to pursue a war of reunification? It seems an open question at best. Similarly, suppose that we concede the validity of the view that George W. Bush and the neocon cabal with which he has surrounded himself had all along harbored the desire to go to war with Islamicism generally and Saddam Hussein specifically. The question is, wouyld they have had the political support to do so in the absence of 9-11? The answer to that is obviously not. But the South and the Islamicists did both--just as the Germans, Japanese, etc. before them--foolishly attack America and learned (or are learning) the truth of Admiral Yamamoto's probably apochryphal statement: "I fear that all we have done is awaken a sleeping tiger, and filled him with a terrible resolve." The lesson to be learned from America's historic tendency to Jacksonianism is that it is better to bear any humiliation America offers than to throw down the gauntlet and have America crush you in the ensuing duel. The problem is not our sense of honor, which we always successfully defend, but the sense of our enemies, which always leads to their suicide.

MORE:
-REVIEW: of Special Providence by Walter Russell Mead (Brothers Judd)
The Jacksonian Tradition (Walter Russell Mead, Winter 1999/00The National Interest)
-ESSAY: Braced for Jacksonian Ruthlessness (Walter Russell Mead, September 17, 2001, Washington Post)

Posted by David Cohen at 2:15 AM

STAND ON THAT TRAPDOOR WHILE I FIGURE OUT WHAT THIS BUTTON DOES.

Democrats Not Shying Away From Tax Talk (Jonathan Weisman, Washington Post, 7/28/03).
Democratic presidential candidates are following the politically risky strategy of embracing tax increases as key parts of their economic agendas, hoping to make mounting federal deficits and President Bush's economic stewardship major issues in the 2004 campaign.

When Bush signed his third tax cut into law last month, the legislation was supposed to put Democratic candidates in a political bind. They could no longer say they favored delaying or canceling future tax cuts, because the legislation put those planned cuts into law immediately.

But the candidates have shown little reluctance to reverse tax cuts already in force. Although they couch it as 'rolling back' Bush's tax policies, virtually all the major Democratic candidates say they would raise taxes on some or all of those who pay income tax. The proposals range from repealing all the tax cuts enacted in the past three years to raising taxes only on the wealthiest Americans.
Fritz Mondale, yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:59 AM

AT LEAST THEY'RE SUBTLE.

DNC eyes leadership worries (Corey Dade, Boston Globe, 7/27/2003)
The Democratic National Committee tomorrow will appoint two minorities, including New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, to leading roles in its national convention in Boston next summer, in a response to concerns among local blacks that people of color would not share prominently in all facets of the event.

Richardson, the highest-ranking elected Hispanic official in either party and a possible vice presidential candidate, will be nominated as convention chairman. Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, will chair the convention committee.

The appointments come after African-American leaders in Boston late last week questioned the expected naming of Rod O'Connor as convention chief executive, or the person to run daily events. O'Connor, a one-time aide to former Vice President Al Gore, is white and has no Boston ties, even though Democratic Party officials have insisted that the convention will showcase the emergent racial diversity of Boston.
The Republicans could do worse than make sure that this article is reprinted in every newspaper in the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM

BY WHAT RIGHT DOES A CANADIAN CALL POLAND A "RENT-A-NATION"?

Terms of engagement: Herewith, definitions to keep on top of current events (ERIC MARGOLIS, July 27, 2003, Toronto Sun)
It's very difficult keeping up with Mideast news due to the Orwellian newspeak coming from Washington.

So here's a handy list of key terms, translated into simple English.

+ Liberation - Invasion.

+ Coalition - The U.S. and British invaders, plus some troops from rent-a-nations like Romania and Poland. In the past, "the coalition" would have been called imperial forces and mercenary auxiliaries.

+ Dictator - A ruler you don't like, or who does not cooperate.

It goes on like that for more than long enough to prove that Leftism is incompatible with humor. A more productive exercise than Mr. Margolis's is to try and define some of the terms from Iraq yourself:
(1) Saddam Hussein?

(2) Qusay and Uday Saddam?

(3) Ba'athism?

(4) Halabja?

(5) Scud missile?

(6) The invasion of Iraq by the United States, Britain, and a very few others?

(7) The pre-invasion form of government in Iraq and the form that will exist in a year's time?

There are various ways you can answer each, but the following answers seem inarguable:
(1) A homicidal dictator

(2) Sociopaths

(3) Totalitarianism

(4) An act of genocide (a mass killing based on ethnicity)

(5) a WMD

(6) An essentially unilateral war to depose a homicidal dictator, prevent his sociopathic sons from following him to power, and dispose of WMD--with a more than incidental liberation and democratization thrown in.

(7) pre-war: Totalitarianism

post-War: that's for the people of Iraq to decide.

None of those, to Mr. Margolis's mind, may be adequate justification for the war, but they're at least accurate definitions.

July 27, 2003

Posted by David Cohen at 8:37 PM

THE WAR IN IRAQ IS THE WAR ON TERROR (via <~text text="Random Jottings">

A note of thanks to those who serve (Christy Ferer, Air Force Print News, 9/30/03).
When I told friends about my pilgrimage to Iraq to thank the U.S. troops, reaction was underwhelming at best. . . .

But the reason seemed clear to me: 200,000 troops have been sent halfway around the world to stabilize the kind of culture that breeds terrorists like those who I believe began World War III on Sept. 11, 2001. Reaction was so politely negative that I began to doubt my role on the first USO/Tribeca Institute tour into newly occupied Iraq where, on average, a soldier a day is killed. . . .

One mother of two from Montana told me she enlisted because of Sept. 11. Dozens of others told us the same thing. One young soldier showed me his metal bracelet engraved with the name of a victim he never knew and that awful date none of us will ever forget. . . .

What I was not prepared for was to have soldiers show us the World Trade Center memorabilia they'd carried with them into the streets of Baghdad. Others had clearly been holding in stories of personal 9/11 tragedies which had made them enlist. . . .

One particular soldier, Capt. Vargas from the Bronx, told me he enlisted in the Army after some of his wife's best friends were lost at the World Trade Center.

When he glimpsed the piece of recovered metal from the Towers that I had been showing to a group of soldiers he grasped for it as if it were the Holy Grail. Then he handed it to Kid Rock who passed the precious metal through the 5000 troops in the audience. They lunged at the opportunity to touch the steel that symbolized what so many of them felt was the purpose of their mission -- which puts them at risk every day in the 116 degree heat, not knowing all the while if a sniper was going to strike at anytime.
Ms. Ferer's husband Neil was killed in the World Trade Center on September 11.

It is easy to be cynical about democracy or, even if not cynical, to conclude that its many virtues do not include subtle reasoning or powerful analysis. But the people of the United States collectively understand something that many pundits and politicians don't understand: the liberation of Iraq is an effective direct response to 9/11, regardless of whether Saddam supported Al Qaeda, or had any role in the attacks.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM

GRINGOS, NO! GRINGO DOLLARS, SI!

Puerto Ricans Lament Loss of Vieques Dollars (Fox News, July 27, 2003)
File this one under "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it."

The people of Puerto Rico are facing some unanticipated consequences from a victory they won in 2001.

For several years, Puerto Rican protesters demanded that the U.S. Navy leave the island of Vieques. Groups staged violent protests outside the main gate of "Camp Garcia," saying they were sick and tired of the live-fire bombing exercises.

The violence resulted in the gates of the base being torn down. Several U.S. troops and police dogs were injured in the demonstrations.

In response to the years of protest, former President Clinton agreed to stop Navy exercises there. Congress and President Bush ratified the deal and live-fire exercises were halted last May. But with its mission muzzled after 60 years, the Navy has decided to pull out of Puerto Rico completely.

That means the largest employer on the island, the Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, is now slated for closure that could come as early as October.

Island workers are accusing the Navy of economic revenge.

"You dedicate all your talents, all your efforts. You're loyal to your employer, this case being the U.S. Navy, and what do you get in return?  A kick in the you-know-what," said Ana Angelet of the Puerto Rican chapter of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Maybe they wouldn't get kicked if they didn't act like "you-know-whats".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 PM

AS YE SOW

PHOTO (AP, 7/25/03)

Two-year old Khalil Shehada plays with a real gun as Palestinians mark the first anniversary of his uncle, military leader Sheik Salah Shehada's assassination, in Gaza city, Friday, July 25, 2003. Arabic writing on headband reads Arabic ' No God but God and Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah, Izz el-Deen al-Qassam brigade, military wing of Hamas'. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:16 PM

WAR IS THE ONLY HUMANE SOLUTION

Were Sanctions Right? (DAVID RIEFF, 7/27/03, NY Times Magazine)
As the war in Iraq recedes, the challenges of occupying and rebuilding the country seem to grow more daunting with every passing day. It is becoming clear, though, that Iraq's devastation is not primarily the result of American bombing during the war or of the looting that followed it, but of the economic crisis that befell the country before the first shot was fired. There is still little consensus about what happened in Iraq during the years before the war or who is to blame. But the quest for answers has reawakened a fierce and bitter controversy over Iraq policy in the 1990's.

For officials in Washington and London and for American administrators now in Iraq, that country's postwar woes are essentially the legacy of Saddam Hussein's tyrannical, cruel and corrupt rule. As L. Paul Bremer III, the civilian administrator of postwar Iraq, recently said of Hussein, ''While his people were starving -- literally, in many cases, starving -- while he was killing tens of thousands of people, Saddam and his cronies were taking money, stealing it, really, from the Iraqi people.''

But others argue that the fundamental reason Iraq is in such terrible shape is not Hussein's brutality but rather the comprehensive regime of economic sanctions that the United Nations Security Council imposed on Iraq for almost 13 years, sharply restricting all foreign trade. It was these sanctions, they claim, that brought this once rich country to its knees.

For many people, the sanctions on Iraq were one of the decade's great crimes, as appalling as Bosnia or Rwanda. Anger at the United States and Britain, the two principal architects of the policy, often ran white hot. Denis J. Halliday, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Iraq for part of the sanctions era, expressed a widely held belief when he said in 1998: ''We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that.'' Even today, Clinton-era American officials ranging from Madeleine K. Albright, the former secretary of state, and James P. Rubin, State Department spokesman under Albright, to Nancy E. Soderberg, then with the National Security Council, speak with anger and bitterness over the fervor of the anti-sanctions camp. As Soderberg put it to me, ''I could not give a speech anywhere in the U.S. without someone getting up and accusing me of being responsible for the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children.''

The end of the war has at last made it possible to find out what the effects of sanctions on Iraq really were.

Is it not the lesson of the two easily successful Iraq Wars and the failure of the sanctions regime that rather than try "peaceful" means we should more readily resort to force? War saves lives; it's "peace" that kills.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:13 PM

"ATTEMPTS TO BRIDGE"?

10 Questions For Ted Kennedy: After more than 40 years in the Senate, Ted Kennedy, 71, is still the icon of American liberalism. Yet he has also been at the center of recent attempts to bridge the party divide over issues ranging from education to prescription-drug benefits. TIME's Matthew Cooper talked to him about the art of compromise, as well as his famous family. (MATTHEW COOPER, 7/27/03, TIME)
[Q:] What should we be doing differently in Iraq?

[A:] I'm concerned that we have the world's best-trained soldiers serving as policemen in what seems to be a shooting gallery. It's hard to see how the situation will improve, unless the President is willing to involve NATO. There are 2 million troops in NATO with some of the most impressive and well-trained police units in the world--units that understand rioting, explosives, crowd control, and maintaining law and order.

There's what Democrats think American leadership should look like: it's a shooting gallery so we should get out and send in our allies instead.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:48 PM

IS IT ALL CONDI'S FAULT?

Iraq Flap Shakes Rice's Image (Dana Milbank and Mike Allen, Washington Post, 7/27/03)
Just weeks ago, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, made a trip to the Middle East that was widely seen as advancing the peace process. There was speculation that she would be a likely choice for secretary of state, and hopes among Republicans that she could become governor of California and even, someday, president.

But she has since become enmeshed in the controversy over the administration's use of intelligence about Iraq's weapons in the run-up to war. She has been made to appear out of the loop by colleagues' claims that she did not read or recall vital pieces of intelligence. And she has made statements about U.S. intelligence on Iraq that have been contradicted by facts that later emerged.

The remarks by Rice and her associates raise two uncomfortable possibilities for the national security adviser. Either she missed or overlooked numerous warnings from intelligence agencies seeking to put caveats on claims about Iraq's nuclear weapons program, or she made public claims that she knew to be false. . . .

Democrats, however, see a larger problem with Rice and her operation. "If the national security adviser didn't understand the repeated State Department and CIA warnings about the uranium allegation, that's a frightening level of incompetence," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), who as the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee has led the charge on the intelligence issue. "It's even more serious if she knew and ignored the intelligence warnings and has deliberately misled our nation. . . . In any case it's hard to see why the president or the public will have confidence in her office.
Are we supposed to believe that it's just a coincidence that the Democrats are always attacking blacks, women and Catholics?

Posted by David Cohen at 10:01 AM

IS IT ALL APRIL GLASPIE'S FAULT?

US Ambassador April Glaspie's Interview with Pres. Saddam Hussein, July 25 1990 (New York Times International, 9/23/90)
APRIL GLASPIE: I thank you, Mr. President, and it is a great pleasure for a diplomat to meet and talk directly with the President. I clearly understand your message. We studied history at school That taught us to say freedom or death. I think you know well that we as a people have our experience with the colonialists.

Mr. President, you mentioned many things during this meeting which I cannot comment on on behalf of my Government. But with your permission, I will comment on two points. You spoke of friendship and I believe it was clear from the letters sent by our President to you on the occasion of your National Day that he emphasizes --

HUSSEIN: He was kind and his expressions met with our regard and respect.
Directive on Relations

GLASPIE: As you know, he directed the United States Administration to reject the suggestion of implementing trade sanctions.

HUSSEIN: There is nothing left for us to buy from America. Only wheat. Because every time we want to buy something, they say it is forbidden. I am afraid that one day you will say, 'You are going to make gunpowder out of wheat.'

GLASPIE: I have a direct instruction from the President to seek better relations with Iraq.

HUSSEIN: But how? We too have this desire. But matters are running contrary to this desire.

GLASPIE: This is less likely to happen the more we talk. For example, you mentioned the issue of the article published by the American Information Agency and that was sad. And a formal apology was presented.

HUSSEIN: Your stance is generous. We are Arabs. It is enough for us that someone says, 'I am sorry. I made a mistake.' Then we carry on. But the media campaign continued. And it is full of stories. If the stories were true, no one would get upset. But we understand from its continuation that there is a determination.

GLASPIE: I saw the Diane Sawyer program on ABC. And what happened in that program was cheap and unjust. And this is a real picture of what happens in the American media -- even to American politicians themselves. These are the methods the Western media employs. I am pleased that you add your voice to the diplomats who stand up to the media. Because your appearance in the media, even for five minutes, would help us to make the American people understand Iraq. This would increase mutual understanding. If they American President had control of the media, his job would be much easier.

Mr. President, not only do I want to say that President Bush wanted better and deeper relations with Iraq, but he also wants an Iraqi contribution to peace and prosperity in the Middle East. President Bush is an intelligent man. He is not going to declare an economic war against Iraq.

You are right. It is true what you say that we do not want higher prices for oil. But I would ask you to examine the possibility of not charging too high a price for oil.

HUSSEIN: We do not want too high prices for oil. And I remind you that in 1974 I gave Tariq Aziz the idea for an article he wrote which criticized the policy of keeping oil prices high. It was the first Arab article which expressed this view.

TARIQ AZIZ: Our policy in OPEC opposes sudden jumps in oil prices.

HUSSEIN: Twenty-five dollars a barrel is not a high price.

GLASPIE: We have many Americans who would like to see the price go above $25 because they come from oil-producing states.

HUSSEIN: The price at one stage had dropped to $12 a barrel and a reduction in the modest Iraqi budget of $6 billion to $7 billion is a disaster.

GLASPIE: I think I understand this. I have lived here for years. I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly. With regard to all of this, can I ask you to see how the issue appears to us?

My assessment after 25 years' service in this area is that your objective must have strong backing from your Arab brothers. I now speak of oil But you, Mr. President, have fought through a horrific and painful war. Frankly, we can see only that you have deployed massive troops in the south. Normally that would not be any of our business. But when this happens in the context of what you said on your national day, then when we read the details in the two letters of the Foreign Minister, then when we see the Iraqi point of view that the measures taken by the U.A.E. and Kuwait is, in the final analysis, parallel to military aggression against Iraq, then it would be reasonable for me to be concerned. And for this reason, I received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship -- not in the spirit of confrontation -- regarding your intentions.
This is an Iraqi transcript and cannot be taken at face value. Ambassador Glaspie claims that it is not complete and, in parts, not accurate. But it in no way supports the argument that April Glaspie on her own, or on behalf of the US government, gave Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait. Rather, she is saying that the US has no position on the proper outcome of the border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait, other than that it should be resolved peacefully. This came in the context of a written communication to the Iraqis stating that we were committed to the territorial integrity of our friends in the Gulf and a statement by Dick Cheney, a few days earlier, that the US would defend Kuwait.

Now, our message to Iraq was not unambiguous. We never said to Iraq: If you invade, we will go to war. But we certainly never told Saddam he could invade Kuwait with our blessing.

Finally, the transcript makes clear that Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was all about OIL.

More

Tales of the Foreign Service: In Defense of April Glaspie (Andrew I. Killgore, WRMEA.com, August 2002).

AMBASSADOR APRIL GLASPIE TESTIFIES TO THE HOUSE FOREIGN AFFAIRS CMTE. (C-SPAN, March 21, 1991). I highly recommend watching Ambassador Glaspie's testimony. If you can't watch it all, start at 9 minutes and watch the balance of her opening statement, and then jump to 25 minutes and watch the next 5 minutes or so of Lee Hamilton's questioning.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM

FROM THE ARCHIVES (on Joe Mitchell's Birthday)

All You Can Hold for Five Bucks (Joseph Mitchell, 1939-04-15, The New Yorker)
Classical beefsteak meat is carved off the shell, a section of the hindquarter of a steer: it is called "short loin without the fillet." To order a cut of it, a housewife would ask for a thick Delmonico. "You don't always get it at a beefsteak," Mr. Wertheimer said. "Sometimes they give you bull fillets. They're no good. Not enough juice in them, and they cook out black." While I watched, Mr. Wertheimer took a shell off a hook in his icebox and laid it on a big, maple block. It had been hung for eight weeks and was blanketed with blue mold. The mold was an inch thick. He cut off the mold. Then he boned the shell and cut it into six chunks. Then he sliced off all the fat. Little strips of lean ran through the discarded fat, and he deftly carved them out and made a mound of them on the block. "These trimmings, along with the tails of the steaks, will be ground up and served as appetizers," he said. "We'll use four hundred tonight. People call them hamburgers, and that's an insult. Sometimes they're laid on top of a slice of Bermuda onion and served on bread." When he finished with the shell, six huge steaks, boneless and fatless, averaging three inches thick and ten inches long, lay on the block. They made a beautiful still life. "After they've been broiled, the steaks are sliced up, and each steak makes about ten slices," he said. "The slices are what you get at a beefsteak." Mr. Wertheimer said the baskets of meat he had prepared would be used that night at a beefsteak in the Odd Fellows' Hall on East 106th Street; the Republican Club of the Twentieth Assembly District was running it. He invited me to go along.

"How's your appetite?" he asked.

I said there was nothing wrong with it.

"I hope not," he said. "When you go to a beefsteak, you got to figure on eating until it comes out of your ears. Otherwise it would be bad manners."

That night I rode up to Odd Fellows' Hall with Mr. Wertheimer, and on the way I asked him to describe a pre-prohibition stag beefsteak.

"Oh, they were amazing functions," he said. "The men wore butcher aprons and chef hats. They used the skirt of the apron to wipe the grease off their faces. Napkins were not allowed. The name of the organization that was running the beefsteak would be printed across the bib, and the men took the aprons home for souvenirs. We still wear aprons, but now they're rented from linen-supply houses. They're numbered, and you turn them in at the hat-check table when you get your hat and coat. Drunks, of course, always refuse to turn theirs in.

"In the old days they didn't even use tables and chairs. They sat on beer crates and ate off the tops of beer barrels. You'd be surprised how much fun that was. Somehow it made old men feel young again. And they'd drink beer out of cans, or growlers. Those beefsteaks were run in halls or the cellars or back rooms of big saloons. There was always sawdust on the floor. Sometimes they had one in a bowling alley. They would cover the alleys with tarpaulin and set the boxes and barrels in the aisles. The men ate with their fingers. They never served potatoes in those days. Too filling. They take up room that rightfully belongs to meat and beer. A lot of those beefsteaks were testimonials. A politician would get elected to something and his friends would throw him a beefsteak. Cops ran a lot of them, too. Like when a cop became captain or inspector, he got a beefsteak. Theatrical people were always fond of throwing beefsteaks. Sophie Tucker got a great big one at Mecca Temple in 1934, and Bill Robinson got a great big one at the Grand Street Boys' clubhouse in 1938. Both of those were knockouts. The political clubs always gave the finest, but when Tammany Hall gets a setback, beefsteaks get a setback. For example, the Anawanda Club, over in my neighborhood, used to give a famous beefsteak every Thanksgiving Eve. Since La Guardia got in the Anawanda's beefsteaks have been so skimpy it makes me sad.

"At the old beefsteaks they almost always had storytellers, men who would entertain with stories in Irish and German dialect. And when the people got tired of eating and drinking, they would harmonize. You could hear them harmonizing blocks away. They would harmonize 'My Wild Irish Rose' until they got their appetite back. It was the custom to hold beefsteaks on Saturday nights or the eve of holidays, so the men would have time to recover before going to work. They used to give some fine ones in Coney Island restaurants. Webster Hall has always been a good place. Local 638 of the Steamfitters holds its beefsteaks there. They're good ones. A lot of private beefsteaks are thrown in homes. A man will invite some friends to his cellar and cook the steaks himself. I have a number of good amateur beefsteak chefs among my customers. Once, during the racing season, a big bookmaker telephoned us he wanted to throw a beefsteak, so we sent a chef and all the makings to Saratoga. The chef had a wonderful time. They made a hero out of him."


A piece from the New Yorker archives by perhaps the greatest American essayists ever, Joseph Mitchell, who became even more famous for not writing. A few years back they come out with a collection of his work, Up in the Old Hotel and Other Stories, and there was recently a fairly good movie about him and his most notorious subject: Joe Gould's Secret.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM

BOOKNOTES

Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield by Kenneth Ackerman (C-SPAN, July 27, 2003 , 8 & 11pm)
In post - Civil War America, politics was a brutal sport played with blunt rules. Yet James Garfield's 1881 dark horse campaign after the longest-ever Republican nominating process (36 convention ballots), his victory in the closest-ever popular vote for president (by only 7,018 votes out of over 9 million cast), his struggle against feuding factions once elected, and the public's response to its culmination in violence, sets a revealing comparison with America approaching a new campaign year in 2004. Author and Capitol Hill veteran Kenneth D. Ackerman re-creates an American political landscape where fierce battles for power unfolded against a chivalrous code of honor in a nation struggling under the shadow of a recent war to confront its modernity. The murder prompted leaders to recoil at their own excesses and changed the tone of politics for generations to come. Garfield's own struggle against powerful forces is a compelling human drama; the portrait of Americans coming together after his assassination exemplifies the dignity and grace that have long held the nation together in crisis.



MORE:
-Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield by Kenneth Ackerman (Amazon.com)
-James A. Garfield (WhiteHouse.gov)
-James A. Garfield (American Presidents: Life Portraits)
-James A. Garfield (Internet Public Library: POTUS)
-The Avalon Project : Inaugural Address of James A. Garfield
-James A Garfield National Historic Site (National Park Service)
-REVIEW: of Dark Horse by Kenneth Ackerman (Michael Kenney, Boston Globe)
-REVIEW: of Dark Horse by Kenneth Ackerman (William Anthony, Washington Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM

VELOCIRAPTURE

Armstrong Nears Title as Ullrich Falls (SAMUEL ABT, July 27, 2003, NY Times)
Lance Armstrong did it.

Riding in heavy rain on a slick course with traffic circles and some tight curves, Armstrong played it safe and virtually sewed up his fifth successive victory in the Tour de France today.

"It was extremely dangerous," he said after finishing the 30-mile individual time trial in third place. "It wasn't necessary for me to take any risks."

That was because his closest rival, Jan Ullrich, skidded and crashed at a left turn on the treacherous road and lost a dozen seconds, more than twice his lead on Armstrong at that point in the time trial. Shaken, he turned prudent and lost even more time.

Officials of the United States Postal Service team, which Armstrong leads, relayed news of the fall by radio to the earpiece he wears. "When I heard that Ullrich fell," Armstrong said, "I said: `Take it easy. Ride safely.' "

He coasted the rest of the way...

Congratulations to both men, on a great race.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM

EVEN TED KENNEDY MAKES A MISTAKE ONCE IN AWHILE

The GOP's New Deal: Big tent, big government, big mistake (Timothy P. Carney, July 28, 2003, The American Conservative)
The starting point of this summer's Medicare prescription-drug debate should cause concern for Republicans with any political memory. The drug bill that hit the Senate floor was the offspring of a deal between President Bush and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the "liberal lion" of the U.S. Senate. This seems an odd partner for a Republican president to choose. Kennedy, after all, is the most straightforward advocate in Washington of a universal health-care system mandated and funded by the federal government. Bush and the Republican Party believe this would be a disaster.

But the White House appears to believe that it can get political mileage out of Rose-Garden signing ceremonies with Ted Kennedy in attendance. We've seen this play before, with Bush's premiere policy initiative: the "No Child Left Behind Act."

In the eyes of conservative education reformers, policy-wise, this bill started off as a bad one with some good elements and ended up a disaster. From a fiscal perspective, it was a disaster from the start. Politically, it was no better. But Bush had campaigned as "The Education President," and he needed a bill to live up to that reputation. Congressional Republicans gave his education bill a top spot on the agenda, with the bills in the two chambers garnering the numbers H.R. 1 and S.1 in the 107th Congress. (In the 108th Congress, those numbers adorn the prescription-drug bills.)

In the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, liberal Democrat George Miller (Calif.), the ranking member, effectively took control of the bill markup. This shouldn't have been surprising-drafting a bill on expanding the federal role in education is moving the ball onto the Democrats' turf. The committee, effectively under Democratic control, stripped out Bush's school-choice provisions, added to the costs, and passed it with a five-year cost of $132 billion. It grew to $135 billion before Capitol Hill was done.

On Jan. 8, 2002, Bush signed his prized education bill into law with a grinning Kennedy and Miller over his right shoulder. A week later, at a rally in Boston, Bush said, "I told the folks at a coffee shop in Crawford, Texas that Ted Kennedy was all right. They nearly fell out." Those shocked folks at the Crawford diner very likely had their suspicions confirmed just a few weeks later, when Kennedy and Miller launched an attack on Bush for not providing even more money in his education budget. "The President's budget deals a severe blow to our nation's schools," Kennedy said in a March press release.

In October, as the midterm elections approached, Kennedy smacked around Bush and the GOP a little more. "Today, the President and the Republican leaders in Congress are cutting funding for our schools," Kennedy said. Since Republicans took over Congress, Department of Education funding has risen by 132 percent. The White House seems to hope it can feed the liberal lion to keep him quiet. The story of the education bill should have shown that Republicans can never spend enough to satisfy Kennedy or even to keep him from attacking them.

The attempt to disarm the Left by co-opting their issues fails in the end.

Until they can get past their irrational hatred of George W. Bush, the Buchanacons aren't going to be able to figure out what's really going on in Bush's America and they'll keep aping the Democratic line, even after the Ted Kennedy's of the world have realized they were had,trading their principles for money.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM

IT'S ANTI TIME

Returning to the founders: the debate on the Constitution (Harvey C. Mansfield, Jr., September 1993, New Criterion)
Anyone who wishes to know about American politics has much to learn from contemporary events; but there is no substitute for careful reflection on the founding. Everything begins from the founding, and the subsequent changes have occurred to America as founded. Even the attributes of our politics said to have changed since 1787--democratization, heterogeneity, complexity, centralization, bureaucracy--were either set in motion then or took their particular character from the founding. Even when ineluctable necessities such as bureaucracy are imposed on us, we submit to them in our own way, creating an American bureaucracy. Here I have been speaking in Aristotelian terms because the American regime is not simply a theoretical, impartial republic modeled on mankind's necessities. It has its own character and has made its own culture.

Abraham Lincoln described the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in biblical language (Proverbs 25:11) as the apple of gold in the frame of silver. The apple is the natural principle of human equality; the frame surrounding it is the conventional or cultural structure that displays the principle, gives it life, and makes it ours. The two together are a whole, necessary to each other. But they are also separate parts: one that in 1776 declared the principle, another that in 1787 made it work politically. Their separateness makes a point of the act of constituting, done with calm and, despite the heated words, with a certain noble elevation in both the deliberation of the Constitutional Convention and the debate over ratification afterward.

We can be glad that the Federalists won the debate. As I said above, by the standards of contemporary political debate the argumentation was unattainably higher on both sides. But the Federalists were clearly superior. The essential question between Federalists and Anti-Federalists was over the source of great danger to republics: does it come from the many or the few? The Anti-Federalists consistently (if variously) maintained the traditional republican opinion that the few are the main enemy of republics. But the Federalists disagreed with this bromide. They offered the paradoxical judgment that the many are their own worst enemy, that the bane of popular government, in the statement of Federalist 10, is "majority faction"--a phrase that sounds like a contradiction in terms to traditional republicans. The ambitious few are also dangerous, but mainly because they can get the backing of an aroused majority. For their innovative view the Federalists were accused by their opponents during the constitutional debates, by Thomas Jefferson in the 1790s, and by later historians of lacking faith in the people, of being unrepublican. But they were intelligent republicans looking for ways to make republics more viable, and so raise them in the esteem of respectable opinion in the civilized world.

The Federalists accepted the risk of appearing to be doubtful republicans; they were a party concerned to reduce the partisanship of republics. In their Constitution they created an introspective republicanism not preoccupied with denouncing the enemies of republics but alive to the dangers from within the principle. In their view the worst faction in a republic was the one that looked like a republican majority, and they fashioned a republic that could defend itself against the republican danger, using "republican remedies."

This seems a strange argument from Mr. Mansfield, particularly given the way another, more authoritative where the Anti-Federalists are concerned, Straussian has described their thought:
[W]e shall also find, at the very heart of the Anti-Federal position, a dilemma or a tension. This is the critical weakness of Anti-Federalist thought and at the same time its strength and even its glory. For the Anti-Federalists could neither fully reject nor fully accept the leading principles of the Constitution. They were indeed open to Hamilton's charge of trying to reconcile contradictions. This is the element of truth in Cecelia Kenyon's characterization of them as men of little faith. They did not fail to see the opportunity for American nationhood that the Federalists seized so gloriously, but they could not join in the grasping of it. They doubted; they held back; they urged second thoughts. This was not however a mere failure of will or lack of courage. They had reasons, and the reasons have weight. They thought--and it can not be easily denied--that this great national opportunity was profoundly problematical, that it could be neither grasped nor let alone without risking everything. The Anti-Federalists were committed to both union and the states; to both the great American republic and the small, self-governing community; to both commerce and civic virtue; to both private gain and public good. At its best, Anti-Federal thought explores these tensions and points to the need for any significant American political thought to confront them; for they were not resolved by the Constitution but are inherent in the principles and traditions of American life.

If the Federalists were correct at the Founding--as it seems they were--that a strong central government was necessary to secure the survival of the new nation, the Anti-Federalists seem to have been proved right in the long run. That Republic, however well-intentioned and cannily devised, has indeed eaten away at self--governance, the states, community, civic virtue, and the notion of public good. In fact, it is the Anti-Federalists who have the most to say to us these days, because it is around their critique that we will have to structure reform. It will be appropriate to use "republican remedies" but they must be used to reverse the all-consuming process of centralization that even the Federalists knew they were setting in motion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM

)

Right side up: With their ranks swelling on college campuses, young conservatives say they are revolutionaries fighting a liberal establishment. They're meeting in D.C. this week to promote the cause. (Beth Gillin, Jul. 23, 2003, Philadelphia Inquirer)
While College Democrats of America has disappeared altogether from 20 states, its chapters dwindling from 500 in 1992 to fewer than 300 now, the College Republican National Committee has 1,148 campus chapters, and its membership has tripled since 1999. [...]

Studies have shown that campus conservatives are increasingly female and middle class. They admire Ronald Reagan and are more patriotic since 9/11.

They oppose speech codes, set-aside student government seats for racial minorities, and lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender groups, and what they see as political correctness.

Increasingly, they are for school prayer and the public funding of church groups and against abortion, a recent study by University of California Berkeley and University of Alabama professors found.

More of them are hawks than doves, the Harvard University Institute of Politics reported in May, noting that support for the war in Iraq outpaces opposition 66 percent to 30 percent. The Harvard study also found that 61 percent of college students like the way President Bush is doing his job.

They aren't into casual sex, according to the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, which has been surveying incoming freshmen since 1966. Only 42 percent of freshman approve of it, down from 51 percent in 1987.

It's an interesting question, just what a generation of young people raised under three or four pro-free market presidents in a row will end up looking like politically. When is the last time a person under 32 would have heard a responsible public figure offer a robust defense of statism?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM

WHAT WOULD LINCOLN DO?

Did Lincoln Violate the Constitution?: A Review of Daniel Farber's Lincoln's Constitution (RODGER D. CITRON, July 18, 2003, Find Law)
Farber...examines Lincoln's record with respect to civil liberties. Again, he is supportive of many of the president's contested actions. And he concludes that "[m]any of the acts denounced as dictatorial - the suspension of habeas at the beginning of the war, emancipation, military trials of civilians in contested or occupied territory - seem in retrospect to have reasonably good constitutional justifications under the war power."

Farber does acknowledges that, on occasion, the actions of Lincoln or the military were excessive. As examples, he cites measures to suppress free speech - and in particular, a case in which a gentleman opposed to the Civil War was convicted and sentenced to death for what may have been no more than associating with another individual who wanted to take armed action against the Union. After the war, in Ex Parte Milligan, the Supreme Court granted the gentleman's habeas corpus petition. [...]

Lincoln's Constitution concludes with a brief discussion of the current relevance of the constitutional questions surrounding Lincoln's Presidency.

Farber believes that Lincoln's conduct of the war demonstrates the need for a strong federal government in wartime. But he also contends that it is strong evidence that we need not circumvent the rule of law, or ignore constitutional protections, in dealing with such a crisis.

During our greatest constitutional crisis, Farber demonstrates, the nation was extremely fortunate to have Lincoln as its leader. He recognized the significance of the challenge posed by secession; acted decisively in responding to it; and nevertheless maintained a sense of perspective about the proper institutional role of the presidency.

In the midst of the war on terrorism, at least one disputed issue in the Civil War - how to balance individuals' constitutional rights against governmental claims of national security - remains quite germane. Regardless of one's political affiliation, it is undisputed that Lincoln set the bar rather high for his successors.

Without being too cynical, it seems safe to say that had the South won the Civil War history might render a different verdict on Lincoln's actions. Similarly, if the war on terror succeeds and George W. Bush doesn't suspend the next election and impose fascism, one would think that even actions that may seem constitutionally dicey to some--keeping prisoners at Guantanamo or trying them before military tribunals--will be seen to "have reasonably good constitutional justifications under the war power". Indeed, given that FDR is forgiven the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, an act which had absolutely no good constitutional justification, we can be certain Gitmo will be accepted. The question this raises is whether we're all constitutional relativists when it comes to actions we desire, or is it necessary for the continuance of the Republic, when threatened, to allow a little leeway in the Constitution that we would not grant in times of peace?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 AM

TOO GOOD TO BE UNTRUE

Why ethical criticism can never be simple. (Wayne C. Booth, Summer 1998, Style)
This essay is one of many recent efforts, by myself and others, to challenge two critical schools popular through much of this
century: those who think ethical judgments have nothing to do with genuine "literary" or "aesthetic" criticism, and those who think that ethical judgments about stories can never be anything more than subjective opinion. My thesis is thus double: ethical criticism is relevant to all literature, no matter how broadly or narrowly we define that controversial term; and such criticism, when done responsibly, can be a genuine form of rational inquiry. It is true that it will never produce results nearly as uncontroversial as deciding whether it rained in New York yesterday, or even whether President Clinton lied. What's more, many of its judgments, such as Plato's exaggerated attacks on Homer, will be rejected by most serious ethical critics. Yet when responsible readers of powerful stories engage in genuine inquiry about their ethical value, they can produce results that deserve the tricky label "knowledge." [...]

Why did the authors of the Bible choose mainly to be storytellers rather than blunt exhorters with a moral tag at the end of each story? They did not rest with the laying down of bare codes, like a list of flat commandments. Though they sometimes tried the brief commandment line, they more often told stories, like the one about a troubled abandoned-child-hero who, as leader of his liberated people, almost botches the job of obtaining some divine rules printed on a tablet, and about a people who largely botch the job of receiving and abiding by them. The pious preachers did not just print out the sermons of a savior; they placed the sermons into a story, and they surrounded them with other stories, especially the one about how the hero himself grappled with questions about his status as savior, and about how he told scores of radically ambiguous parables that forced his listeners into moral thought. They did not openly preach that for God to be incarnated as a man entails irresolvable paradoxes; they told a story about how the God/man at the moment of supreme moral testing is ridden with doubt and cries out, as any of us would have done, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

All those biblical authors must have known, perhaps without knowing what they knew, that serious stories educate morally - and they do so more powerfully than do story-free sermons. Just imagine how little effect on the world John Bunyan would have had if he had put into non-narrative prose the various messages embodied in Pilgrim's Progress.

In short, the great tellers and most of us listeners have known in our bones that stories, whether fictional or historical, in prose or in verse, whether told by mothers to infants or by rabbis and priests to the elderly and dying, whether labeled as sacred or profane or as teaching good morality or bad - stories are our major moral teachers. Some stories teach only a particular moral perspective, one that can be captured with a moral tag, as in some of Aesop's fables and the simpler biblical tales. Many of them teach a morality that you and I would reject. But all of them teach, and thus in a sense they are open to moral inquiry, even when they do not seem to invite or tolerate it.

In the face of this general acknowledgement of the power of stories, how could it happen that entire critical schools have rejected criticism that deals with such power? One obvious answer is that critics have wanted to escape the threatening flood of controversial judgments we land in as soon as ethical judgments are invited into aesthetic territory. Ethical judgments are by their nature controversial: the very point of uttering them is to awaken or challenge those who have missed the point. Consequently whenever a feminist critic, say, judges a novel or poem to be sexist, she can be sure to be attacked by someone who sees her values as skewed. To praise or condemn for political correctness is widely scoffed at as absurd: political judgments are merely subjective. To judge all or part of a poem according to religious values is seen as even more absurd, since religious views are widely seen as even less subject to rational argument.

A second powerful reason for suppression is the fear already mentioned: that ethical criticism of any kind, even when critics agree with the proclaimed values, is an invasion of "aesthetic" territory. As Charles Altieri reports in "Lyrical Ethics and Literary Experience" (above), to be seen as an ethical critic can trigger thoughtless responses from purists who fear that the "lyrical" or the "beautiful" will be sacrificed to preaching.

One of the points we've argued for in our book reviews, to vociferous objections, is that a story can't be beautiful if it is not true.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 AM

BRITAIN'S STATE RELIGION? THE CULT OF MULTI-CULTI

Thought for the day: you're fired because you're too religious: The BBC's agnostic head of religion is under fire for his dumping of long-standing presenters. (Elizabeth Day and Chris Hastings, 20/07/2003, Daily Telegraph)
Alan Bookbinder, the corporation's head of religion and ethics and a self-confessed agnostic, has sparked outrage by dispensing with some of the programme's most popular voices.

Among those who say that they have been unseated are Lavinia Byrne, the former Roman Catholic nun who has presented the popular two-minute slot on more than 100 occasions, and the Rev Eric James, a former chaplain to the Queen. [...]

Other regular presenters such as the Rev Annabel Shilson-Thomas, the chaplain of Robinson College, Cambridge, fear that they have also been discarded as the station has not been in contact for some time. "I won't say I am not disappointed by it," she said. "But, from speaking to Christine Morgan, the executive producer of the programme, and one or two other people in the BBC, I hear that they are trying to give it a more secular, more multi-cultural and more multi-faith approach."

George Carey would seem to have been right after all, at least where the elites are concerned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM

'TAINT NECESSARILY SO

Governor looks to taint recall as a costly ploy by the right (Laura Kurtzman, Jul. 26, 2003, San Jose Mercury News)
Gov. Gray Davis is so unpopular that his advisers don't plan to persuade voters to like him. And he may face so many rivals in the Oct. 7 recall election that he won't be able to win the way he's always won before, by attacking his opponent.

So, to save his job, the governor, his wife, campaign staff and supporters have begun to march in rhetorical lock step, trying to taint the recall as a vast right-wing conspiracy -- in Hillary Clinton's famous phrase -- to take over the state. Davis advisers say Bill Clinton may even come to California soon to make the argument himself. [...]

Instead of defending the governor, his longtime pollster Paul Maslin said, the Davis team will try to shift the blame by putting the heat on Republicans, including Bush in the weeks ahead, accusing them of trying to orchestrate a "right-wing coup.''

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq, the president was too popular to touch, Maslin said. But with doubts swirling about Bush's reasons for taking the nation to war, it will be easier to pin blame on the president and his friends in the energy business for California's energy crisis -- and whip up fears of a Republican takeover.

"He ain't riding high anymore,'' Maslin said, noting that Bush's approval rating slipped to 49 percent in California, the lowest point since Sept. 11. "His policies are getting more unpopular every day.''

Great strategy if the economy slides into recession and there's another terrorist attack or Iraq turns into Vietnam. But if September is a good month economically and we produce the bodies of Saddam and or Osama and Iraq quiets down a little, then what exactly is the Governor running against?

MORE:
-Long, strange ride toward recall election (Dion Nissenbaum, Jul. 26, 2003, Mercury News)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM

)

U.S. usually beats guerrillas, historians say (Tom Squitieri and Dave Moniz, 7/17/03, USA TODAY)
The thought of U.S. forces being drawn into a guerrilla war in Iraq may send shudders through many Americans and give the Pentagon public relations jitters. But military historians and counterinsurgency experts say that the United States has excelled at battling guerrillas throughout its history--the Vietnam War an obvious exception--and that the Marines wrote a manual on how to fight such wars that continues to be used by friends and foes alike.

The manual, written in 1941, says occupying forces must stay on the offensive, hunting down rebels wherever they hide. At the same time, the economic welfare of the local population has to be improved, repression should be avoided and native troops should be used as soon as possible.

U.S. troops followed that advice with a great deal of success in battling guerrillas in 20th century wars in the Philippines, Nicaragua, Haiti, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, as did the British in Malaysia after World War II. In Vietnam, by contrast, the lessons were mostly ignored in favor of a big-unit approach coupled with poor relations with the native population. [...]

Stan Florer, a retired Army colonel and Special Forces instructor, says that if there is a guerrilla war in Iraq right now, it is an unusual one. He describes the Iraqis as a smart, well-educated people who want to embrace democracy and therefore are unlikely to support guerrillas ideologically or materially in attacks against U.S. troops in large numbers.

"I don't think you're going to find the cooperation a nationalist (guerrilla) movement would have," Florer says.

Even Vietnam was a military victory--an overwhelming one against the domestic insurgency, no worse than a draw against the North--though a political bloodbath.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 AM

IT'S NOT JUST CATHOLICS

Accusation of Bias Angers Democrats (ROBIN TONER, July 27, 2003, NY Times)
In a recent newspaper advertising campaign, run by groups supporting the Bush administration's judicial nominees, a closed courtroom door bears the sign "Catholics Need Not Apply." The advertisement argues that William Pryor Jr., the Alabama attorney general and a conservative, anti-abortion nominee to the federal appeals court, was under attack in the Senate because of his "deeply held" Catholic beliefs. [...]

Republicans and their conservative allies argue that the Democrats have created a de facto religious test by their emphasis on a nominee's stand on issues like abortion. "It's not just Catholics," said Sean Rushton, executive director of the Committee for Justice, one of the groups that paid for these advertisements, which are running in Maine and Rhode Island. "I think there's an element of the far left of the Democratic Party that sees as its project scrubbing the public square of religion, and in some cases not only religion but of religious people." [...]

Behind the anger of many Democrats is the suspicion that this advertising campaign is part of the Republican Party's courtship of Catholics, an important swing vote. In general, Andy Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said Mr. Bush was "doing pretty well with white Catholics" lately.

It is all part of a politics that has changed radically since 1960. Among the nine Democrats on the Judiciary Committee accused of working against the interests of Catholic judicial nominees is, of course, John Kennedy's brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

How can the Democrats even argue with a straight face that, though they oppose any nominee who is strongly pro-life, they aren't predisposed against the religious? As for the supposed Catholicism of some Democratic committee members, which Ms Toner would seem to think is dispositive of the bias charge, J. Bottum had a terrific piece on their moral confusions in this month's Crisis.

MORE: (via Mike Daley)
No Religious Test Shall Ever Be ... (Robert Musil, 7/20/03)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM

ALL THAT FRETTING ABOUT THE INQUISITION CAN'T BE HEALTHY EITHER

Pray often and live longer (Uwe Siemon-Netto, 7/23/2003, UPI)
Four years ago a review showed that 20-year old Americans can expect to live 6.6 years longer if they attend religious services at least once a week. Now Harold G. Koenig, who teaches psychiatry at Duke University, reports that elderly people who are not disabled run a 47 percent greater risk of dying before long if they are not engaged in regular prayer, meditation or Bible study.

Koenig is the director of the Center for the Study of Religion, Spirituality and Health and editor-in-chief of Research News in Science and Theology. Discussing his long-term study with a sample group up 4,000 men and women above the age of 65, he related in an interview that praying and attending divine service regularly seem to result in a "40 percent reduction in the likelihood of high blood pressure."

Of course, science cannot prove divine intervention or miracles. But it can point to more tangible causes. Religiously active Americans of advanced age smoke and drink less than others, feel more at peace with themselves and - as Koenig phrased it -- "at least perceive to have more social support."

"When people pray, their fear of death goes down," Koenig went on. Equally important, active faith mitigates the grief over the death of a husband, wife, relative or friend. "The believer can cope better with a loss because he knows the loved one to be in God's good care."

Loneliness is perhaps the most horrible experience in old age. Here again, a life of worship helps, according to Koenig: "When you know that God is present you no longer feel that lonely."

Here's a prayer that fits the parameters we've discussed in the past:
O almighty God, infinite and eternal, thou fillest all things with thy presence; thou art everywhere by thy essence and by thy power; in heaven by glory, in holy places by thy grace and favour, in the hearts of thy servants by thy Spirit, in the consciences of all men by thy testimony and observation of us. Teach me to walk always as in thy presence, to fear thy majesty, to reverence thy wisdom and omniscience; that I may never dare to commit any indecency in the eye of my Lord and my Judge; but that I may with so much care and reverence demean myself that my Judge may not be my accuser but my advocate; that I, expressing the belief of thy presence here by careful walking, may feel the effects of it in the participation of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ. Amen.
-Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), Holy Living

July 26, 2003

Posted by David Cohen at 10:25 PM

BUT HE DIDN'T SAY WE WANTED TO LIBERATE THE IRAQI PEOPLE.

NOW: Transcript - Bill Moyers Talks with Joseph C. Wilson, IV (PBS, 2/28/03)
MOYERS: President Bush's recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute, he said, let me quote it to you. 'The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away.' You agree with that?

WILSON: I agree with that. Sure. I…

MOYERS: 'The danger must be confronted.' You agree with that? 'We would hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm fully and peacefully. If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed. The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat.' You agree with that?

WILSON: I agree with that. Sure. The President goes on to say in that speech as he did in the State of the Union Address is we will liberate Iraq from a brutal dictator. All of which is true. But the only thing Saddam Hussein hears in this speech or the State of the Union Address is, 'He's coming to kill me. He doesn't care if I have weapons of mass destruction or not. His objective is to come and overthrow my regime and to kill me.' And that then does not provide any incentive whatsoever to disarm.

MOYERS: All of us change in 12 years and obviously Saddam Hussein has changed since you last saw him. But what do you know about him that would help us understand what might be going through his mind right now?

WILSON: [G]iven that his worldview is limited, there is a tendency to develop a logical argument where the premise is skewed. . . . So he will, for example — four days after he invaded Kuwait when I saw him in August of 1990 — he said that the United States lacked the intestinal fortitude and the stamina to confront his invasion in Kuwait. And it was clear to me that he was drawing upon his interpretation of our experiences in Vietnam, Beirut and possibly Tehran. And he had drawn exactly the wrong lessons from that.

We, in fact, stayed in Vietnam far longer than we should have perhaps. We were there for 15 years. And we suffered 50,000 casualties. We did not cut and run. We did spill the blood of our soldiers for many, many years. Give you another example, the whole decision to go into Kuwait was, from his perspective, rational based upon his understanding of the region and of what the international community would do.
OK, but he didn't buy yellowcake from Niger, right?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:50 PM

CHALK UP ANOTHER FOR THE POPE

A Revolution In Ruins (Brian Latell, July 26, 2003, The Washington Post)
The Faustian bargains Castro made then in the aftermath of widespread popular unrest have resulted in the abandonment of the revolution's once vaunted egalitarian principles. The legalization of dollars in 1993, for example, has created a caste system in which Cubans with access to dollars live vastly better than the much larger numbers who have none. Parallel economies have developed, with an ever-deepening polarization between rich and poor, urban and rural, black and white. By some accounts, Cuba now ranks near the bottom in income distribution among the Latin American countries.

The often desperate competition to somehow acquire dollars from Western visitors has also led to other social and moral distortions that Castro previously deplored. University enrollment is less than half of what it was in 1990 because young Cubans see greater advantage in hustling tourists. Prostitution is rampant. Crime has increased. Resentments are growing too, because average Cubans, even those with dollars, are prohibited from visiting most tourist locations. But Castro's greatest concern, and a major source of his wrath, is that over the past few years a large and determined pacifist opposition has developed on the island. The Varela Project, operating entirely within Cuban law, gathered more than 11,000 signatures on petitions seeking democratic opening. Many of its leaders are now serving long prison sentences.

Several librarians and independent journalists also have been incarcerated. All "prisoners of conscience," according to Amnesty International, they were guilty of lending books from their private collections to neighbors or of writing cultural and other articles and then sending them abroad for dissemination. None of those imprisoned advocated violence, organized anti-regime demonstrations, conspired or uttered inflammatory language against the regime. They know better than to ridicule Castro on the record in any way at all.

This opposition is an entirely home-grown phenomenon with few connections to the Cuban Diaspora. The activists came to oppose Castro's regime in the early 1990s after its compromises, economic failures and refusal to reform as other closed societies evolved. Many were inspired by Pope John Paul II during his 1998 visit. "Don't be afraid," he told a large Cuban audience. It is their persistence and spiritual detachment in the face of repression that especially angers Castro. But most of all he fears that the leaders of a democratic Cuba will emerge from this new opposition after he departs.

And so yet another iteration of rationalism falls before the moral authority of Catholicism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:30 PM

ON NOT MARKING TIME

Remarks by Bush-Cheney '04 Campaign Manager Ken Mehlman to the Republican National Committee (GeorgeWBush.com, July 26, 2003 )
On January 22, 2001, President Bush swore in the commissioned officers who would serve in the White House. He reminded us, "We are not here just to mark time."

From his first days as a candidate to his first term as President, George W. Bush has done much more than mark time. He has seized the moment.

His leadership has transformed challenges into opportunities. Because President Bush has confronted great challenges, our nation has overcome some of the greatest tests in our history. Because he has insisted on solving those problems—not just passing them on, future generations will have more security, prosperity and opportunity. And because our President has developed solutions based on compassionate conservative principles, our party today has the greatest opportunity in generations.

Victory November 2, 2004 would be the first time in 80 years the party of Lincoln has re-elected a President and returned majorities to the House and Senate. The last time this happened Calvin Coolidge was running for re-election. [...]

Just as the Truman doctrine provided a roadmap to contain communism, President Bush has put forward principles to protect our nation and the world by defeating terrorism where it grows.

First, we will treat terrorists and those who support, harbor, finance, and assist terrorists the same. All will be brought to justice.

Second, that justice will be done where the terrorists gather. We will bring the battle to them, not wait until they attack our homeland. As long as George W. Bush is President, the front lines on the war on terror will be Baghdad and Kandahar, not Boston and Kansas City.

Third, America will lead global efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. We will strengthen our intelligence and law enforcement to look for and break the links between dangerous regimes, weapons of mass destruction and terrorist organizations.

And, finally, we will confront terror with hope, fear with freedom. Our President will work to bring freedom and democracy throughout the world.

The President has done more than just talk principles. He has made these our national policies. While much work remains to be done, al Qaeda's leaders are now hiding in caves, and Afghan girls can attend school.

The dictator of Iraq has been deposed, and his cruel sons no longer torment the Iraqi people. Twenty-four million once captive Iraqis now taste freedom.

Some criticize this war on terror as unilateral or pre-emptive. But didn't September 11 teach us that we cannot wait while threats gather? That we must connect the dots, even if other nations refuse to see the pattern? That pre-empting terrorists before they acquire weapons of mass destruction, before they come to our shores, before they can harm America is the goal?

The President has transformed the federal government to protect our homeland.

Our President has turned challenges into opportunities at home as well. To confront a recession and protect jobs, our President passed two of the three largest tax cuts in history. To ensure prosperity in the future, these tax cuts encourage investment and assist those trying to enter the middle class.

The President's plan allows America's working families to keep more so they can do more for themselves and their communities.

The most comprehensive corporate responsibility reforms since the New Deal are now the law of the land. For the first time in a decade, our President has fast track authority to negotiate free trade.

We've passed the most significant education reforms in a generation with high standards and testing to make sure every child is learning. We're relying on programs that work like phonics.

Presidential leadership is making prescription drug coverage a real possibility for seniors, not just a campaign tactic used to frighten our parents and grandparents.

President Bush is working for a more compassionate America. From helping AIDS victims in Africa to faith-based initiatives and welfare reform at home, President Bush has helped make sure the party of Lincoln has an agenda worthy of our party’s founder.

The American Dream has always rested on the twin pillars of ownership and opportunity. Our President has an agenda to accomplish both: closing the gap between minorities and non-minorities in home ownership, promoting small business development, allowing younger workers to own a portion of their retirement if they choose. [...]

Last year, President George W. Bush's leadership, your efforts and the incredible Republican candidates transformed this political landscape. The President's party approaches its first midterm election as a challenge to be overcome. We approached it as an opportunity to be seized.

Despite how closely our country is divided, last year, the President's party won back the U.S. Senate in a first midterm election for the first time in history. While the White House party usually loses House seats, we won them in our first midterm -- the only other time a President's party has done that was 1934.

Despite having to defend 23 out of 36 governor’s mansions, Republicans still maintain a majority of Governor's mansions. And while the President's party loses an average of 350 net seats in state legislatures in midterm elections, we won 175. There are more Republican legislators than Democrats for the first time since 1954.

Republicans broke the 49% nation barrier in 2002. Republican candidates received 51% of the vote in the House and nearly the same in races for the Senate, and for governor. [...]

Ladies and gentlemen: this next election will be tough. It will be an incredible challenge. It will include difficult days.

But think about how our President has handled the unbelievable challenges he's faced. By leading on principle, by doing what's right, and by insisting on solving tough problems, not just passing them on, our President has transformed challenge into opportunity.

In his seminal work, The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk wrote the need for conservatives to embrace change. "Conservatives inherit from Burke," Russell Kirk wrote, "a talent for re-expressing their convictions to fit the time."

By applying conservative principles to take on challenges like global terrorism, a recession, a school system that was leaving too many children behind and so many other challenges, President Bush has made history and ensured a better tomorrow.

He's also provided our party and all who share our convictions with an opportunity--one that we realized in 2002 and we must work for again in 2004.

Members of the RNC: we have an opportunity not seen in our lifetime or our parents' lifetimes. Let us work together to seize this incredible moment. And let us start today.

The contrast with the platform the Democratic contenders are running on and the despair in their party is quite striking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:21 PM

PSYCHE-COUNTRY?

Decent Folk: Summer Hymns' summer hymns define the purdy South (NATE CAVALIERI, 7/24/03, Dallas Observer)
"I'm finally able to do the things that I've always wanted to do," [Summer Hymns leader Zachary] Gresham says. "I started doing this because I liked being in front of people, and it's something that I guess I've gotten good enough at to pursue. I try not to think about it too much. I try not to analyze it."

Talking to Gresham, it seems impossible to believe that he loves being in front of a crowd. He mumbles and stutters with an endearing mountain of nervous energy. He doesn't suffer from the pretentious, typically self-important hubris of a burgeoning cult hero; he bears the weight of a wealth of humility. At one point he even fields a compliment with a bashful "geez Louise." But Gresham's candor defies the slack-jawed naivete of his country-boy demeanor.

"I grew up in a Baptist church. That's enough to make anyone not religious by the time they are 21," he says directly. "Music is my religion. Creativity is my communion."

His work fronting Summer Hymns makes this statement immediately evident. With the band's latest, Clemency, Gresham's high-pitched narratives are confessional and literate, and--like the name of his band--constantly hinting at the ethereal. Sonically, Gresham leads the band through poppy psyche-country that places him alongside like-minded contemporaries like Clem Snide, Sparklehorse and Centro-matic.

Opting out of the band's usual home-recorded tradition, they migrated to Nashville to record Clemency with Mark Nevers, a member of Lambchop whose production credits include Vic Chestnutt and the Silver Jews. Under Nevers' guidance they abandoned some of the spacey elements of their two earlier efforts and built the record on simple sounds: weepy pedal steel licks, swaying beats, acoustic guitars and lofty vocal melodies. In "Be Anywhere" he croons, "I don't want to believe," again and again over a wash of pedal steel. It's one of the most defining moments of the record, rich with emotional weight and simple, disarming sincerity. Think of it as Neil Young and Crazy Horse for the Starbucks generation. Or maybe not.

Anyone ever heard of them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:18 PM

MONOPOLY MONEY

Willing to do a deal on school vouchers (E.J. DIONNE, July 25, 2003, Houston Chronicle)
Like many Americans, I struggle with the voucher question. I admire public school teachers and support unions. My late mother taught in public schools and so, early in her career, did my sister. They cared passionately about the kids in their classrooms. The often-maligned teachers' unions have fought to bring up the pay of a profession whose importance to our future is not matched by the compensation its members receive.

But it should also bother us that liberals who send their kids to private schools would tell poor parents who want their children to escape failing public schools: "Sorry, our principles require your kids to stay right where they are."

For years, I have argued with my friends in the teachers' unions that they should support voucher experiments. Doing so would prove that they are on the side of the poor kids they teach. And if their unions are so certain that vouchers will fail, why not allow experiments that in all likelihood will prove that vouchers are no substitute for fixing the public schools?

Listen to Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, a group dedicated to the proposition that poor and minority kids deserve much better teaching.

Vouchers, she says, are "a sideline, a marginal issue." Vouchers could help some inner-city kids get "tickets into Catholic schools" and those kids would be "better off, though not hugely better off." The problem, she says, is that "there's not a lot of excess capacity" in Catholic schools or "in the non-Catholic school sector, and no excess capacity in the really high-end, independent schools."

In any event, Haycock adds, "tony private schools don't want to submit to the requirements that policy-makers are attaching to voucher programs." Not to mention that tony schools cost more than most voucher programs would provide.

And the notion that vouchers would create a large supply of new schools is nonsense.

At the end of the day the fight over vouchers really comes down to the Democrats' fear of the teachers' unions and of money going to religious schools and to Republicans' fear of black kids invading the white suburban schools of their constituents, but Mr. Dionne brings up one other key difference: Democrats, despite Bill Clinton's best efforts, don't really believe in free markets. Mr. Dionne really doesn't believe that turning millions of parents and kids into informed education consumers would bring pressures to bear that would result in better educational opportunities. He truly believes that a government monopoly--or near-monopoly--is necessary and good. That idea seems to be contradicted by the 20th Century.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:17 PM

TANCREDO & MOSELEY-BRAUN IN '04!

How Dean Could Win: The Vermont governor would do well to make immigration reform a Democratic issue. (Scott McConnell, July 28, 2003, The American Conservative)
Dean's weakness is the weakness of every Democrat in the last 30 years-a tepid appeal to working- and middle-class white voters, especially males, especially in the South and border-states. The Vermonter has acknowledged the need to "get white males to vote Democratic again," but federal health insurance and balanced budgets, which he brings up when the question is raised, won't do it. What could?

The obvious choice is immigration.

The idea that white men are going to abandon the Republican Party in considerable numbers over just one issue that really affects only a couple of states--one of which, California, the Democrats already dominate--is truly ridiculous. Meanwhile, the risk to the Democrats, of losing the already-Christian and naturally-conservative Latino vote to the GOP for at least a generation, would have to be terrifying. What Mr. McConnell is proposing here is combining the politics of Pat Buchanan and Lenora Fulani. We saw how badly that sold with the public last election...well, outside of Palm Beach.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:40 AM

BAD NEWS OR BUST

DOWNER DEMS IGNORE GOOD NEWS (DEBORAH ORIN, July 24, 2003, NY Post)
THE elimination of Saddam Hussein's evil sons Uday and Qusay was the biggest success in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, but the Democratic 2004 presidential wannabes just didn't want to talk about the good news.

They're all quick to fire off a statement to every reporter on the Internet at the drop of a hat, but for some reason only Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) thought this was worth a statement. And his was grudging, with a focus on the "unfinished" work in Iraq.

Oh yes, other Dem wannabes did comment when asked, but it wasn't an issue they sought to raise on their own. That's particularly odd, considering that four of the five would-be presidents now in Congress actually voted for the Iraq war. You'd think they'd be happy.

The danger for Democrats now is that their strategies all seem to count on bad news from Iraq.

In fact, the buzz in Dem circles was how unlucky it was for Rep. Dick Gephardt (Mo.) that he gave his big Iraq-gone-wrong speech on Tuesday, choosing the day that Saddam's sons were killed to claim President Bush has made America "less safe."

At this rate, on the day the Dow tops 10,000 again, the Democratic cloakrooms on the Hill are going to look like the compound at Jonestown.

MORE "BAD" NEWS:
'THE NOOSE IS TIGHTENING' (SkyNews July 26, 2003)
American forces in Iraq are insisting that the noose is tightening around Saddam Hussein following the deaths of his two sons.

The number of raids carried out by troops hunting the deposed dictator has increased dramatically across the country.

The US says more people are coming forward with information now that Uday and Qusay are dead, tempted by the huge rewards on offer.

It has been confirmed that the informant - believed to be Saddam's cousin - who led forces to the house in Mosul where they made their last stand will get the full 20m reward.

The increasing number of "walk-ins"--Iraqis who feel safe enough to come forward on their own and volunteer information without being propmted--is an especially good sign.

MORE:
Latest Carville Memo Blasts Bush on Foreign Policy, Economy (Bobby Eberle, July 25, 2003, Talon News)
Democrat strategist James Carville released a memo through his organization, Democracy Corps, which claims that President Bush has suffered "major political
damage" on "multiple fronts." According to the memo, "dramatic changes" are now taking place in the "electoral landscape."

The Democracy Corps memo from Carville, along with Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum, says that President Bush is "taking so much water" because he is "losing ground" on three fronts: the economy, the war and foreign policy, and on trust." The memo goes on to state that the scope of the losses "should produce a Democratic Party much more confident of its ability to challenge and win on its ideas." [...]

The memo does note that, according to their poll, 64 percent of the respondents still want to continue the "Bush direction" when it comes to the war on terror. "Similarly, on homeland security, by two-to-one, voters think the Bush administration is providing the resources necessary for homeland defense," the memo states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM

PACIFISM--AN IDEAL WORTH FIGHTING FOR?

Japan agrees to send troops to Iraq--but not before a fight (AP, July 26, 2003)
Lawmakers voted Friday to send Japanese forces to Iraq to help with reconstruction, despite delaying tactics by the opposition that deteriorated into a wild shoving match. [...]

Opposition parties criticized the legislation, saying such peacekeeping missions could violate Japan's pacifist constitution and put troops in the line of enemy fire.

During an upper-house committee meeting--during which the bill passed--outraged opposition legislators shouted and tried to push their way through a ring of ruling party lawmakers to get at the committee chairman, who had cut short the debate. The chairman called a vote amid the grappling and tackling.

Where's Bill Thomas when you need him?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM

PYRAMID SCHEME

Christians face rising bias in Middle East (H.D.S. Greenway, 7/25/2003, Boston Globe)
Even though the Koran teaches that Christians and Jews are ''people of the book,'' and therefore to be respected, there is no question but that Christians in Egypt today are facing increasing discrimination and rising fear since the Islamists have not explained where nonbelievers would fit into an Islamic state. As for Jews, whereas historically Islam was much more tolerant of Jews than Christendom ever was, this has been reversed since the advent of Israel. [...]

What happens in Egypt is important, because almost one in three Arabs is an Egyptian, and Cairo is the traditional capital of Arab learning. What happens to religious tolerance in Egypt will speak libraries about the future of tolerance in the Middle East. But Christians in other Middle East countries have had it as bad or worse. Christians have been pouring out of the occupied West Bank for years, and the irony is that Christians will probably come under more pressure from Islamists in the new Iraq than they did under Saddam Hussein. Christians fare best in Syria, where religious tolerance is, ironically, enforced by dictatorship.

Further afield, Pakistan's tiny Christian minority finds itself under increasing discrimination from Islamic groups, and Christians are under assault in Indonesia, too. The trouble doesn't all come from Islam either. In India, Hindu nationalists are making life difficult not only for Muslims, but for Indian Christians as well, many of whom trace their arrival on the subcontinent to the third century.

Unfortunately, there is no reason for Western society to feel smug. Muslims are being daily demonized in the United States by Christian right groups, and our traditional tolerance is being tested.

When folks like Mr. (?) Greenway do things like compare the systematic repression and violence towards Jews and Christians in portions of the Islamic world to pronouncements by American religious leaders that Islam is dysfunctional, do you suppose they know how silly they sound? Here's a little thought experiment that may answer the question: would you feel safer if you were a Muslim in Lynchburg, VA or a Jew in Islamabad?

On a broader point though, it's long past time we stop subsidizing the Egyptian state.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM

ONLY THE GERMANS WOULD USE DOGS FOR BAIT

Legendary Dog-Eating Catfish Dies (Reuters, Jul 25, 2003)
A giant catfish that ate a dog and terrorized a German lake for years has washed up dead, but the legend of "Kuno the Killer" lives on.

A gardener discovered the carcass of a five-foot-long catfish weighing 77 pounds this week, a spokesman for the western city of Moenchengladbach said on Friday.

Kuno became a local celebrity in 2001 when he sprang from the waters of the Volksgarten park lake to swallow a Dachshund puppy whole. He evaded repeated attempts to capture him. [...]

Several fishermen identified the carcass as Kuno, but doubts linger.

"That's not the Kuno we know," said Leon Cornelius, another member of "Kuno's Friends." He said he had seen several huge catfish in the lake.

Central Command is going to release autopsy photos of the victim to convince skeptical Germans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM

ROOM TO THE RIGHT

Growing Number of Americans Say Islam Encourages Violence Among Followers (The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, July 24, 2003)
The new nationwide survey of 2,002 adults, conducted June 24-July 8 by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, shows that there has been an important shift in public perceptions of Islam. Fully 44% now believe that Islam is more likely than other religions "to encourage violence among its believers." As recently as March 2002, just 25% expressed this view. A separate study by the Pew Research Center in June 2003 found a similar change in the number of Americans who see Muslims as anti-American: 49% believe that a significant portion of Muslims around the world hold anti-American views, up from 36% in March 2002.

In the new survey, most Americans continue to rate Muslim-Americans favorably, though the percentage is inching downward. A declining number of Americans say their own religion has a lot in common with Islam--22% now, compared with 27% in 2002 and 31% shortly after the terrorist attacks in the fall of 2001. Views of Muslims and Islam are influenced heavily by a person's ideology and religious affiliation. White evangelical Christians and political conservatives hold more negative views of Muslims and are more likely than other Americans to say that Islam encourages violence among its followers.

As the presidential campaign takes shape, religious divisions over some controversial social issues--homosexuality in particular--are as wide as ever. Overall, 53% oppose allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally compared with 38% who support the idea. Opposition to gay marriage has decreased significantly since the mid-1990s, from 65% in 1996. But notably, the shift in favor of gay marriage is seen in nearly every segment of society with two significant exceptions--white evangelical Protestants and African-Americans. While a higher percentage of white evangelicals (83%) than blacks (64%) oppose legalizing gay marriages, neither group has changed its views significantly since 1996.

The numbers suggest just how much room the GOP has to its right. Congress can pass, and the President sign, restrictions on gay marriage with impunity and the failure to reckon with the anti-Western extremism in the Islamic world would appear to be a greater liability than any perceived over-aggressiveness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:01 AM

ANOTHER RENTAL FOR THIS WEEKEND (via Oswald Czolgosz)

Remember the Dragon: How Bruce Lee changed America. (Kenneth Silber, July 25, 2003, National Review)
It has been three decades since the untimely death on July 20, 1973 of Bruce Lee, the martial-arts expert and movie star. The "dragon" (as he is known for his starring role in the film Enter the Dragon) has long been a cult hero to fans of martial-arts movies. But Lee deserves broader recognition for his contributions to American culture and society.

Lee served, in fact, as an important counterpoint to some of the negative cultural and social trends that were ascendant in the years when he attained fame. At a time when crime was soaring, Lee developed and popularized techniques that ultimately would help millions improve their self-defense abilities. In the face of a counterculture that derided self-discipline, Lee stood as a veritable embodiment of that virtue. In contrast to the pious (and often hypocritical) pacifism that arose against the Vietnam War, Lee's films were a reminder that force can be legitimate depending on how and why it is used.

The equally magnetic Jason Scott Lee several years ago starred in an excellent biopic, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, that relates Bruce Lee's struggles against both white and Asian prejudice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:54 AM

GRUDGE MATCH

Nothing better than bitter rivals (Dan Shaughnessy, 7/25/2003, Boston Globe)
It's the frequency that makes this different. Harvard and Yale joust on the gridiron only once a year. The Democrats and Republicans bite one anothers ankles hourly, but their defining moment comes on a Tuesday in November every fourth year.

What we have here is more of a Hatfields vs. McCoys feud. Blood-Crips, Sharks-Jets, and all that.

In the battle between Athens and Sparta, it is necessary always to recall that the Yankees are Sparta.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:28 AM

THOU SHALL NOT KILL, DEPENDING UPON THE SLOPE OF YOUR UTILITY FUNCTION

Prof's Murder Conviction Stuns Penn State (Dan Lewerenz, AP, 7/26/03)
Last month, Penn State University officials learned something about professor Paul Krueger that wasn't on his resume — he is on parole for a triple murder committed in Texas nearly 40 years ago. . . .

In 1965, when he was 18, Krueger and a 16-year-old friend, left San Clemente, Calif. The two passed through TeTexas and rented a motor boat hoping to travel to Venezuela, where they intended to become "soldiers of fortune," according to a 1979 story in the Austin American-Statesman.

Along the Intracoastal Waterway near Corpus Christi, they encountered a fishing boat with a crew of three, John Fox, 38; Noel Little, 50; and Van Carson, 40. As night fell on April 12, 1965, all five went to shore and put in for the night.

For reasons Krueger never made public, he shot the three fishermen that night, unloading 40 bullets into their bodies. Sam Jones, then the district attorney for Nueces County, later referred to the shooting as "the most heinous crime in the history of the Gulf Coast."

Krueger pleaded guilty in 1966 to three counts of murder and was sentenced to three life terms, to be served concurrently.

Corrections officials described Krueger as a model inmate. He earned his diploma and an associate's degree, volunteered with alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs and reported for the prison newspaper.

Two parole commissioners, in 1977, called Krueger, "probably the most exceptional inmate" in the entire state. "There is nothing further he can do to rehabilitate himself," they said. Two years later, he was paroled to West Covina, Calif., where he enrolled in graduate school.
Now here's a nice little hypothetical for looking at the death penalty. Does this show that we shouldn't put murderers to death, because of the chance that they might become business professors? Or does it show that we have to put murderers to death, because we're just not going keep even the most heinous murderers in jail if they show themselves to be no further threat? I say that there's nothing wrong with this story that a couple of amps of electricity couldn't have solved.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM

VIDEO SUGGESTION

Jean Shepherd: Radio's Noble Savage (Edward Grossman, January 1966, Harper's Magazine):
Shepherd in the flesh is not young, lean, and wisecracking, as his disembodied radio voice implies, but, middle-aged, stocky, with a Mephistophelean goatee that is starting to turn gray, and a surprisingly earnest and polite manner. He regularly telephones his mother, who is "real" and really lives in Hammond, Indiana, a place-name that has the same mythical importance for Shepherd as Hannibal had for Mark Twain. "I'd still be there," Shepherd reflects, "working in the steel mills and chewing Mail Pouch, if it hadn't of been for the second world war." The Signal Corps snatched him out of the mills at age seventeen and infected him with the radio bug. Several times he tried to shake it off, taking up Volkswagen dealership and sportscar racing, but without long-term success.

When he came to WOR ten years ago, fresh from running a hillbilly jamboree and interviewing wild animal acts for a Cincinatti station, Shepherd began by broadcasting records and random talk all night. His public then was mostly "night people"-- cabbies, students cramming on No-Doz, transatlantic pilots flying in on WOR's 50,000 watt signal. Now he has a larger (100,000 on a good night) and, to judge from his mail, more diversified audience. Hip adolescents are particularly sympatheic to him. A girl in a Quaker prep school based her valedictory speech on a Shepherd bit about false values created by advertising; a Scarsdale kid, quoting Kierkegaard, tried to explain to Shepherd why parents are mystified by his programs. Within the trade, too, Shepherd has achieved a measure of fame. "Official-type guys see me on an elevator," he says, "and they tell me I'm a great black humorist. Whatever that is."

But the devotion of his fans and recognition of fellow professionals has not been enough to make Shepherd as well known as a crowd of lesser performers. He remains essentially an "underground" phenomenon. The reason is no mystery: he is on radio, and he is himself. While national reputations are made on television, with help from the press agent's art, Shepherd works in a local medium, and his work is a rare kind that PR men wouldn't know what to do with.

Undoubtedly it is too bad that more people can't hear Shepherd. Outside the Northeast, which is covered by WOR, his only outlet until recently was a small listener-sponsored station in Seattle whose apt call-letters are KRAB. It remains to be seen whether he can win audiences in San Francisco and Boston as well. On the other hand, it is gratifying that he is heard at all, and that many of his programs have been taped. Very soon, when the genetic race has run its course and everyone is born with a portable T connected to his navel, archaeologists will find these tapes, and they will call Shepherd's flights of fact and fancy the final good moments of a lost form of communication.

Jean Shepherd (1925-1999) was born in Chicago, IL on July 26, 1925--the perfect excuse for Christmas in July

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:31 AM

ENGAGED INDEPENDENCE

No quite so bad afterall (Victor Davis Hanson, July 25, 2003, townhall.com)
After the Cold War we may seem an imperial power of sorts. But it is a funny sort of hegemony that seeks foreign input, pays dearly for bases, extends aid, encourages the spread of often noisy and cranky democracies, and intervenes in distant places like Serbia to stop mass murder when others more proximate and calculating would not. The shrillness of South Korea, Jordan, Egypt or the Palestinians is explicable not because of their anger at our intrusiveness but due to worries that we may in fact either pull out troops, cut off aid or simply wash our hands of the whole mess.

And for our part in this brave new world? The real danger is not that the allies, neutrals and international organizations are tiring of us, but rather that we are tiring of many of them. In consequence, our troops will be redeployed in South Korea, removed from Germany and Saudi Arabia, and downsized in Turkey, as we seek alternatives: more carriers, arms depots and caches, and smaller bases with new Eastern European hosts. America, in fact, is fashioning a policy that neither undermines international accords, but is not captive to them either.

Call the new American rethinking "engaged independence" if you will, but we are neither withdrawing from the world nor going back to working in quite the same way under the old protocols that so often proved themselves both impotent and amoral.

That seems a useful phrase--"Engaged independence"--reflecting that America and the free world are best served by a United States that is engaged in the world's affairs but not bound too tightly by international institutions and laws that too frequently are designed to serve the unfree world.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM

NEW MODEL ARMY

The real American model: A dynamic free market? No. America's economy is about massive public subsidy of the middle class. The lesson for the world? Don't copy it. (James Galbraith, OpenDemocracy)
The "soft budget constraint" is an idea familiar to students of central and eastern Europe in the late years of communist rule. It described the condition of state-owned heavy industry under the communist regimes: entities that could not make profits, could not compete on international markets, and yet were so central to the social fabric of the system in which they were embedded, including its provision of social services, that they could not be allowed to fail. These entities became widely-deplored dependencies of the state budget and the state banks. Yet to millions, they provided the rudiments of a comfortable and secure life, the threads of which have not been picked up in the post-socialist orders that since emerged.

A brief examination of key American institutions shows that the concept goes very far toward explaining the structure and conduct of the US economy in the past twenty years, and particularly in the prosperous period of the late 1990s. But the institutions to which it is best applied in America are very different from those in eastern Europe. Indeed, the keys to the American model lie not in industry, but in those sectors providing social amenities to the middle class: health care, education, housing and pensions.

Health care, in the United States, consumes some 13% of GDP. A typical figure in Europe is 8-10%; in the UK the number is 7.3%. What few Europeans understand is that health expenditures within the direct US government budget consume 5.8% of GDP.

But whereas in (say) France a not-much-larger proportion of total output supplies medical services to the whole population, in the United States the direct public commitment is only to the elderly and disabled, the poor, and to veterans. For the rest of the covered population, medical care is paid out of private insurance, which enjoys tax advantages.

Overall, the tax-financed share is just under 60% of total health expenditure, or nearly 8% of GDP. The scandals of American health care do not lie in insufficiency of care (quite the reverse!), but rather in two notorious facts.

The first is that some 44 million persons lack either public or private insurance. This part includes many Latinos, who tend to avoid contact with the welfare system, as well as younger working people. Hence, deficient pre- and peri-natal care is an important problem.

The second is the rapacity of the private actors in the system - drug producers, doctors, nursing home operators, and insurance companies notably. Nevertheless, it is precisely the presence of those actors, and their political power, that has made the American health care system into the economic powerhouse that it is.

Higher education in the United States consumes about 2.25% of GDP. The figure for European countries is typically closer to 1%. Again the US spends more on public higher education as a share of GDP than do most Europeans: 1.07% as compared to 0.97% in Germany or 1.01% in France. But then in addition there is the private share, another 1.22% of GDP, centred on institutions whose multi-billion dollar endowments are highly motivated by the tax system. Many of these are to be found in the east, near traditional centres of capital wealth. Fully public institutions however dominate the scene in most of the country, including Texas and California.

The United States maintains two alternative public systems for keeping otherwise difficult-to-employ young people away from unemployment. These are the armed forces, with 1.4 million members, which consumes 4% of GDP and provides competent mechanical training to its members (including to virtually the whole of the population of commercial pilots, for example). And there is the prison system, whose much-expanded role in recent years is deplorable, but whose economic function also reduces unemployment. A major difference, of course, is that these three institutions provide very different levels of access to credit and other participatory mechanisms in later life.

Consumption of housing services accounts for about 9% of US GDP, while residential construction accounts for another 4%. The housing sector exists on its present scale thanks to a vast network of supporting financial institutions, subject to federal deposit insurance and to the secondary mortgage markets provided by quasi-public corporations (Fannie Mae, Ginnie Mae, Freddie Mac).

Despite continuing problems of discrimination against black neighbourhoods particularly, known as redlining, the fact remains that most Americans grow up in their own homes, and for the present moment home equity remains the major collateral against which middle class Americans are able to borrow to support their consumption.

Finally, social security payments to the elderly and disabled together with public pensions account for 8% of US GDP, on the reasonable assumption that these transfers are substantially spent rather than saved by their recipients. Some of this has been counted already in expenditures for health care and housing - but arguably not all that much. The American elderly live in paid-off homes and pay only a fraction of their medical (as distinct from pharmaceutical) expenses out of pocket. And social security funds a great deal of their ordinary consumption.

To be precise, social security alone provides the major source of disposable income of 60% of American elderly; only the top 40% of that population group has substantial other sources of income, public or private. The typical social security payment for an elderly couple in moderate health can reach $18,000 per year, which when combined with Medicare is adequate for modest comfort in most of the country. Pockets of elderly poverty remain, but overall, poverty among the old in America has fallen dramatically since the early 1970s, and is now lower than among the general population. This is the accomplishment substantially of expanded public pensions.

The point to emphasise is not merely that the United States is full of hospitals, universities, housing and pensioners, but that in the US these sectors are funded by a bewildering variety of financial schemes, involving public support in myriad direct and indirect ways, including direct appropriations, loans, guarantees, and tax favours. Some of these are on budget, some are off-budget, some are "discretionary", some are "non-discretionary". But there exists a broad political constituency behind them, which gives them political staying power - despite continuing assaults on them and some erosion under a right-wing congress, president and court system. The control of the scale of these activities has, to some extent, slipped away from those who ostensibly control the public budget.

And this is the genius, if one may call it that, of the American Model. The soft budget constraint (which as recently as the 1960s was entirely the province of the military) has come to apply precisely where it can do the least harm. And that is in providing income and employment in sectors that provide universally demanded human services to the population. In other words, powerful political constituencies exist to keep these sectors at the forefront of American life, and it is very likely that they will remain there.

Though he's obviously approaching the issue from a different point on the political spectrum, this much of Mr. Galbraith's case is correct. Moreover, while Americans may not understand the Model in precisely such terms, they do seem to feel that they are getting a reasonably good deal from government. They know that Grandma and Grandpa get checks from the feds, that Junior got a government loan for college, that when Mom was laid off she got a check, and so on and so forth. This intuition is the likely reason that conservative anti-government rhetoric ends up scaring so many people.

Now there are plenty of folks on the Right who would have us believe that the basic unpopularity of simply slashing government spending makes it some kind of test of manhood--to be a "true conservative" they suggest you have to advocate for policies that are ideologically pure but politically ludicrous. This is a recipe for returning the GOP to its marginal status of the 1930s. Instead, the challenge before the Right and the Party--the Compassionate Conservative Challenge o the Bush Project or whatever one chooses to call it--is to undertake an ephocal--but perhaps subtle?--shift and use the power of the State to keep the checks flowing but alter the funding mechanisms so that folks are in effect writing those checks to themselves, via the kinds of reforms discussed earlier in the week..

The benefits of such a privatized system of welfare are many, but the particular genius is that it could save democracy from what conservatives have long identified as its main weakness: the predations of the majority. As Alexander Tytler famously put it:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury.

If conservatives could use their probably brief period of political dominance to restructure the institutions of the welfare state so that the largesse voters are getting comes instead from their own set of personal savings accounts--MSA, unemployment, & retirement--it would be only slightly less significant an achievement than the original Founding of the Republic.

July 25, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 PM

I WANT MY, I WANT MY, I WANT MY HVT

For U.S., Raid on Hussein Sons Was Different Type of Victory (MICHAEL R. GORDON, July 25, 2003, NY Times)
Battle damage assessment in Iraq is no longer measured in terms of tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery. It is now measured more in terms of HVT's or "high value targets," the American military lingo for the men who used to run the Saddam Hussein regime.

This is a bitter and deadly contest. It is not a fight over terrain but a battle over Iraq's future and the Iraqis who will shape it. [...]

The insurgents have been trying to destroy the human capital that the United States needs to run the country. Recent targets have included the pro-American mayor of Hadithah, who was shot along with his son, and seven Iraqi police recruits who were killed by a bomb in Ramadi. They have also been trying to sabotage efforts to rebuild Iraq's electrical system, oil sector and other infrastructure. Coupled with the audiotapes from Mr. Hussein that have exhorted Iraqis to continue resistance, the attacks are designed to create the impression that the regime has not been destroyed but has survived to fight another day--against the Americans and any Iraqis who align themselves with them.

The American strategy for rebuffing this challenge does not depend on military force alone. It requires the restoration of electricity and other basic services, the establishment of an effective Iraqi police force and other steps to gain the support of the Iraqi people. The Iraqis have to be persuaded that they have a stake in the new order and can benefit from it.

"The Iraqi population has exceedingly high expectations, and the window for cooperation may close rapidly if they do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, opportunities for broad political involvement, and economic opportunity," noted a recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies that was commissioned by the Defense Department.

But military power is still key. The aim of the American military campaign is not only to break up the cells of guerrilla fighters who have been
ambushing American forces but also to deprive the insurgents of the former leaders who serve as a symbolically important rallying cry.

Hard to see the suicidal resistance lasting long beyond the day we produce a confirmed Saddam Hussein corpse. Hard to see it lasting many hours beyond when American-armed-and-trained Shi'ites start patrolling the streets.


MORE:
American soldiers really aren't spoilt, trigger-happy yokels (Jonathan Foreman, 25/07/2003, Daily Telegraph) (via ef brown)
Whether the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein were self-inflicted or not, the military operation to capture them was immaculate. There were no American deaths, 10 minutes of warnings were given over loudspeakers, and it was the Iraqis who opened fire. So sensitive was the American approach, they even rang the bell of the house before entering.

The neat operation fits squarely with the tenor of the whole American campaign, contrary to the popular negative depiction of its armed forces: that they are spoilt, well-equipped, steroid-pumped, crudely patriotic yokels who are trigger-happy yet cowardly in their application of overwhelming force.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 PM

HEAVYWEIGHT FIGHT

Clinton cautions Democrats (James G. Lakely, 7/24/03, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)
Former President Bill Clinton's advice that Democrats should quit harping on President Bush's disputed statement that Iraq had pursued nuclear material from Africa was well-received by many Democrats on Capitol Hill - but not his wife.

"Everybody makes mistakes when they are president," Mr. Clinton said Tuesday night on CNN's "Larry King Live," adding that "the thing we ought to be focused on is what is the right thing to do right now."

The comments were widely interpreted as a message to Democratic presidential candidates that their constant criticism of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy is pushing the party too far to the left and away from mainstream voters who still largely support the U.S.-led campaign that deposed Saddam Hussein. [...]

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, ... didn't seem to be on the same page as her husband. She repeated her call yesterday for an investigation into the Iraq-Africa nuclear link.

"I think there should be an independent investigation," Mrs. Clinton said. "I've called for it. How credible are these claims? What else do we need to find out about other claims?"

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Ms Clinton's pending presidential candidacy is that because of the political dynamics in the Democratic Party--if not because of conviction--she's going to run against the New Democrat legacy of her husband.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 PM

HUDDLE UP

Kemp aides urging former vice presidential candidate to run in recall (RON FOURNIER,,
July 24, 2003, Associated Press)
Jack Kemp, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1996, emerged Thursday as a possible candidate on the Oct. 7 ballot to recall California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.

Several of his supporters called Kemp on Thursday urging him to put his name on the ballot, according to three GOP officials with ties to the former Housing and Urban Development secretary. After one of the
calls, Kemp chuckled and told an associate, "Oh, my God."

The associates said Kemp was flattered by the requests, but it was unclear how seriously he was considering the race. At least one senior Republican official close to Kemp began seeking advice from friends
in GOP circles in case Kemp decides to run.

Here's a slogan only supply-siders will love: The Golden State needs a Gold Bug.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM

PRICKLY SITUATION

Huge erection causes blushes on the eve of Royal visit (Ananova, 7/25/03)
A giant statue of a naked man with a two-foot erection has caused a row in Salzburg after it was unveiled on the eve of a visit by Prince Charles. [...]

Called Arc de Triomphe, the statue by artists Ali Janka, Wolfgang Gantner, Tobias Urban and Florian Reither shows a naked man bending over backwards with his hands on the ground and a two-foot erection thrusting into the sky.

The statue was described as a tribute to Viagra and was unveiled in front of the Rupertinum Modern Art Gallery, one day before Charles was due to fly in for a visit to the Salzburg Festival.

Big deal; the Prince is a bigger one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM

THAT VEIN IS LONG SINCE TAPPED OUT

Foreign Currency: What Democrats can learn from Tony Blair's speech to Congress (Richard Just, 7/22/03, American Propect)
If the Democratic presidential candidates weren't paying attention last Thursday, they missed a powerful lesson in both the shortcomings of their own foreign policies and in how best to attack the Bush administration's handling of international affairs. To date, the national-security platforms of the top Democratic contenders have run the gamut from muddled critiques of Bush's hawkish conduct (John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman) to straightforward rejection of American power (Howard Dean). What these strategies fail to take into account is that Americans remain genuinely concerned about their country's safety. Voters intuitively understand that September 11 was a signal of our vulnerability; they want a president with a long-term plan for guaranteeing our country's security in the world. No Democrat has even hinted at a foreign-policy platform that would address this concern. Few Americans believed during the 1980s that Star Wars alone would keep us safe from the Soviet Union; how many voters in 2004 will really believe that beefing up homeland-security funding -- the current catch-all of Democratic anti-terrorism policy -- is a substitute for a real strategy of defeating terrorism before it reaches our shores?

Bush and his advisers are well aware that Americans continue to fear terrorism. But they have cynically used this fear only to beget more fear. Think about Bush's two primary justifications -- the Iraq-al-Qaeda link and the weapons of mass destruction claim -- for invading Iraq. One looked dubious from the start; the other is looking more so by the day. Both justifications for the war were designed to take the very rational, reasonable fears of average Americans and turn them into less rational, more unreasonable fears -- the kind that could justify war. Bush seems to have bet that the Democrats would have no answer for his strategy of fear. And so far, he is being proven right. While Bush is telling Americans to indulge and incubate their fears, the Democratic candidates -- in offering little strategic vision for combating terrorism -- are implicitly telling Americans that their fears are illegitimate, even silly. And no one wants to be told that.

Enter Tony Blair. In his address to Congress last week, Blair told Americans to take their very concrete fears and turn them to hope. He told them that their desire to secure their own country complements -- indeed demands -- an effort to remake the world in a more humane, more democratic mold. Blair's message was one of determined optimism: To defeat the threat of terrorism once and for all, he said, Americans must use both the strength of their military and the power of their ideas to build a better world. "The spread of freedom is the best security for the free," he said in the speech's most powerful line. "It is our last line of defense and our first line of attack." (The line raised the question of whether Blair, or his speechwriter, has been reading Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism, which ends with the admonition that "freedom for others means safety for ourselves. Let us be for the freedom of others.")

Blair's brand of idealism stands in stark contrast to what can only be described as the growing surliness of Bush's approach to world affairs. Bush has flirted with foreign-policy idealism during the last two years, but since the start of the reconstruction of Iraq, he has seemed increasingly satisfied to settle, both in rhetoric and policy, for a cheap brand of realism rather than a broad commitment to midwifing democracy in the Middle East. Bush's most memorable pronouncement about postwar Iraq to date has been his goading of fedayeen to attack U.S. soldiers. Blair, by contrast, said on Thursday, "We promised Iraq democratic government; we will deliver it. We promised them the chance to use their oil wealth to build prosperity for all their citizens, not a corrupt elite, and we will do so. We will stay with these people so in need of our help until the job is done."

If a Democrat were smart enough to adopt the Blair formula as his own, he could create a number of advantages for himself in the presidential race.

What a deeply strange essay. Mr. Just isn't so much wrong as he is entirely beside the point. There is absolutely no basis in modern Democratic politics for his premise that there might be popular support in the party for the forcible imposition of freedom in foreign lands. In fact, his own magazine has demonstrated that there's not much support for the peaceful imposition of freedom, as witness this memorably misguided column from last summer, Mideast Misstep: Bush's dismal foray into peacemaking. (Adam B. Kushner, 6/27/02, American Prospect)
President Bush concluded his Rose Garden speech about the Middle East on Monday by calling the moment "a test to show who is serious about peace and who is not." Given how naive his plan is -- how astonishingly far it is from any foreseeable reality -- he may have failed his own test. It's not that Bush's goals aren't noble or correct, but real diplomacy takes more than wishful thinking.

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

It's not that Arafat is a stand-up guy, or even a credible negotiator. Revelations in recent months all but conclusively unmasked Arafat as a financial supporter of terrorism. It's quite possible the peace process would fare better in his absence. But there's no guarantee. And that's because there's not yet a viable replacement for him -- that we know of, at least. Presumably Bush wouldn't call for Arafat's removal without an idea of who he wants in Arafat's stead. The Bush team is not made up of amateurs, so it's unlikely it would create a power vacuum without some idea of how best to fill it.

But if Bush administration officials know who should lead the Palestinians, they should alert the public. Bush's candidate -- if indeed there is one -- should be scrutinized openly by the world community and the people he would presumably govern. And if there is no candidate, calling for Arafat's ouster is an even bigger mistake. With the radicalization of the Palestinian people since the onset of the second intifada, Arafat's replacement could be even worse than the decrepit guerilla himself. The next Palestinian head of state may not be so ambivalent in his desire to wipe out Israel.

Nor should Arafat be replaced without democratic elections, which are scheduled for January.

A Left that is so queasy about merely dictating the internal affairs of even an openly terrorist regime is just not going to rally behind a policy of changing like regimes via force, the policy Mr. Blair has just pursued in Iraq. It would be great if the Democratic Party still had a moralist/interventionist wing for a Blair-type candidate to lead, but the last such candidate was probably Scoop Jackson, and just about everyone who worked for him now resides in the neocon wing of the GOP. Mr. Just's proposed foreign policy is that of Mr. Bush.

Posted by David Cohen at 5:03 PM

WHY I KEEP LISTENING TO NPR

NPR : America's First Spaceman (NPR, 7/25/03)

NPR broadcast this biography of Iven Kincheloe, Korean war ace and rocket plane test pilot this morning. Although a little soppy, and not as technical as I would have wanted, it is probably the best thing I've ever heard on radio.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:47 PM

IS YOU IS, OR IS YOU AIN'T?

Total Recall--III: His advisers say Arnold Schwarzenegger will run for governor. (John Fund, July 25, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
Then there is the media. Mr. Schwarzenegger plots publicity blitzes with the zeal of a Clauzewitz. Sheri Annis, press secretary for his initiative last year, notes that "the entertainment media tends to coddle their subjects while political reporters are going to keep nudging him. How he handles that will really determine the outcome." Mr. Schwarzenegger may emulate Mr. Reagan by transcending the media and challenging Gov. Davis to one-on-one debates. A good showing might dispel doubts about his experience. If Mr. Davis ducked debates it would only reinforce his image as a weak leader.

Mr. Schwarzengger is being bombarded with advice. Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan told me his friend needs to make moderate women comfortable with him. Some urge him to talk Sen. McClintock, a budget expert, out of the race by making him a key adviser. Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform thinks he should campaign as the Tax Terminator and endorse sunsetting all new taxes after four years. Steve Moore of the Club for Growth wants him to favor a flat tax.

All this ideological tugging occurs because the actor hasn't spent a dozen years honing a crystal-clear message the way Mr. Reagan did before he first ran. Does the Terminator want to run primarily to scale another seemingly impossible career mountain or to transform California's dysfunctional government? The answer is probably both, but he must convince voters his primary motive involves them, not him.

Is GOP's Dream Action Hero Ducking a Political Battle? (Steve Lopez, July 25, 2003, LA Times)
Just when it looked like we might be in for the ride of our lives in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger appears to be getting cold feet.

I feel like a jilted bride. Please, Arnold. Say it ain't so.

Dan Schnur, the state's preeminent Republican strategist, admits that Arnold appears to be backpedaling, based on the sudden waffling of his political guru. If the Terminator chickens out and decides not to challenge Gov. Gray Davis in the Oct. 7 recall election, the GOP may find itself all dressed up with nowhere to go.

"When rumors started circulating on Tuesday that he wasn't running," says Schnur, "a lot of Republicans began to panic."

He's gotta run, just so we have all have something to talk about in August.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:22 PM

ACCIDENTAL?

The Accidental Radical (Jonathan Rauch, July 26, 2003, National Journal)
George W. Bush could end up realigning partisan loyalties and redefining what his party stands for. [...]

"If you can get fundamental reform," the administration official says, "he's willing to put up the dollars to get it." That about sums up the Bush
approach to domestic policy. [...]

"The Republican Party in 1994 tested a proposition," says a White House aide: "that people wanted government to be radically reduced. And they found out that people didn't want government to be radically reduced." Bush saw this, and he saw that the anti-government conservatism of Goldwater and Reagan had reached a dead end; and if there is a single characteristic that distinguishes Bush, it is his willingness to meet a dead end with a bulldozer. In 2002, "he really did set out to have the Republican Party stand for something different," says Michael Gerson, who signed on with Bush in 1999 and is now his chief speechwriter.

Bush's view, expressed in his book and in the 2000 campaign, is that government curtails freedom not by being large or active but by making choices that should be left to the people. Without freedom of choice, people feel no responsibility, and Bush insists again and again, as he put it in the book: "I want to usher in a responsibility era." [...]

The plan, therefore, has both tactical and strategic elements. In the short run, give people things they want; in the longer run, weaken the Democrats' base while creating, program by program, a new constituency of Republican loyalists who want the government to help them without bossing them around. Most important of all, however, is what might be thought of as the meta-strategy. [...]

Conservatives, for their part, believe that today they are the ones who stand for progressive change, in the face of "reactionary liberalism," but they have never been able to convince the public. That is what Bush seeks to do, both by rejecting the mantra of minimal government and by passing reform after reform. Never mind how you feel about any one of his initiatives; as a group, they seek to establish that it is Republicans who now "stand for the idea that the old ways will not work." If the Democrats dig in their heels and fall back on stale rants against greed, inequality, and privatization, so much the better. The voters will know whom to thank for the empowering choices that Republicans intend to give them. As for which is the "party of nostalgia," the voters will also remember who defended, until the last dog died, single-payer Medicare, one-size-fits-all Social Security, schools without accountability, bureaucratic government monopolies, static economics, and Mutually Assured Destruction. [...]

In the book, Bush returns again and again to his theory of political capital. Page 123: "I believe you have to spend political capital or it withers and dies. And I wanted to spend my capital on something profound." Page 218: "I had earned political capital... Now was the time to spend that capital on a bold agenda." His aversion to hoarding approval seems to flow as much from his personality as from his political experience. On page 2 he recounts hearing a sermon that "changed my life." It was, he writes, "a rousing call to make the most of every moment, discard reservations, throw caution to the wind, rise to the challenge." A few pages later: "I live in the moment, seize opportunities, and try to make the most of them."

Bush's mentality seems more like that of an entrepreneurial CEO than of a conventional politician: He tends to look for strategies that cut to the heart of the problem at hand, rather than strategies that minimize conflict. "He doesn't like 'small ball' -- that's his term," one of his aides says.

"My faith frees me," Bush writes, early in his book. "Frees me to make the decisions that others might not like. Frees me to try to do the right thing, even though it may not poll well. Frees me to enjoy life and not worry about what comes next." He clearly is not a man who fears failure.

The best essay on George W. Bush since Bill Keller's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:53 PM

ABLE IS HE

Napoleon's His Name and He Has Conquest in Mind (ELAINE SCIOLINO, July 25, 2003, NY Times)
It is hard not to succeed in politics here when your name is Napoleon.

The sun-baked city of Ajaccio is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is also the place from where his great-great-grandnephew, Charles Napoleon, has decided to begin his political career.

Two years ago, Mr. Napoleon, a 52-year-old political economist, set out from Paris, where he was born, raised and educated, to run in Ajaccio's municipal elections, giving up a career in planning and finance that had taken him to Asia and Africa .

But Mr. Napoleon did not join the Parti Bonapartiste, the right-wing party dedicated to preserving the emperor's name and legacy that had controlled the city for a century and whose ideas had dominated the political landscape for 50 years before that.

Instead, Mr. Napoleon teamed up with a left-wing coalition that included Socialists and even Communists and ran on a platform of lowering taxes, improving public services and developing local projects.

The coalition won a stunning upset victory, and Mr. Napoleon now serves as second deputy mayor, a post that puts him in charge of the city's tourism industry. The position is a jumping-off point for his next political contest: running for the European Parliament next year.

"I wanted to build something by myself," he said, adding: "I am very free about my political views. I don't feel constrained to reproduce Napoleon in the 21st century."

Why can't our Left run on lowering taxes?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM

BUSHOCIALISM FILES

Failing Schools Need Courses in Readin', Writin' and Accountability (Ronald Brownstein, July 21, 2003, LA Times)
Joel I. Klein, the accomplished attorney who was Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's unconventional choice as schools chancellor last year, understands he can effectively educate the 1.1 million students in his care only if he shatters the cozy arrangements that have kept the New York City school system focused more on providing jobs for adults than on opportunities for kids. After 11 months on the job, Klein has the scars to prove his commitment to that cause.

But he also recognizes that decisions in Washington can tip the odds for or against success.

Mostly, Klein's a fan of the education reform bill that President Bush signed into law last year. The law provides a powerful tool for local reformers, like Klein, by requiring states to more precisely measure student performance and then intervene in schools that fail to improve it. That should pressure the entire system to demand results.

Hard to believe a stupid socialist like George W. Bush disguised this lever of reform--which leads directly to vouchers--so well that neither his critics on the Right nor the Left have figured out how monumental a change the Left Behind Act may effect on public education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM

TRAMPS LIKE US...

Bodyguard Tells of Life on the Run (Times of London, July 25, 2003)
Uday Hussein's personal bodyguard broke a three-month silence yesterday to give the first authoritative account of how Saddam and his sons spent the war. [...]

During a three-hour interview in a house in a town an hour northwest of Baghdad, the bodyguard said that Saddam and his sons had remained in the capital throughout the war, convinced they could hold the city.

When the first bombs fell on a house in a southern suburb, where the Americans believed Saddam and his sons were meeting, he and Uday were on the other side of the city in one of dozens of safe houses belonging to trusted friends and relatives through which the three men were to pass in the weeks to come.

The bodyguard said the Americans’ next “decapitation” strike came a lot closer, and that Saddam survived only because several safe houses had come under attack and he suspected there was an informant within his camp.

Saddam asked the suspect, a captain, to prepare a safe house behind a restaurant in the Mansour district for a meeting. They arrived, and left again, almost immediately, by the back door. “Ten minutes after they went out of the door, it was bombed,” the bodyguard said.

Saddam had the captain summarily executed while the Pentagon was claiming that the strike had probably finished off Saddam and Uday. [...]

The bodyguard said that Saddam and his sons had remained in Baghdad in the genuine belief that they could hold the city. Only later, when they believed they had been betrayed by their commanders, did they consider an alternative. “The resistance was not factored in before the war,” he said. “There was a closed meeting five or six days after the war, and that is when they began to discuss the resistance.”

Luckily, the paranoia that let's them escape situations like that is coupled with the delusions that made them so easy to defeat in the first place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM

IS PRESIDENT BUSH A SOCIALIST?

Judge for Yourself: Are Senate Democrats determined to keep believers off the bench? (KAY DALY, July 25, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
It cannot be mere coincidence that Mr. Holmes--as well as fellow disputed nominees like Mr. Pryor, Carolyn Kuhl (in the Ninth Circuit), Bob Conrad (eastern district of North Carolina) and three of the four stalled nominees from Michigan (Sixth Circuit)--is a practicing Catholic. For Catholics, Purgatory may very well be the judicial nominations process. Then again, Charles Pickering, a nominee for the Sixth Circuit who once served as president of the Mississippi Southern Baptist Convention, and Priscilla Owen, a filibustered Fifth Circuit nominee and Episcopalian Sunday school teacher, are also under attack.

What seems to have escaped the skittish senators is that, regardless of what these nominees believe personally, as constitutionalists and strict constructionists they recognize that their role as federal judges is to apply the Constitution and the law as they find it--no matter how contrary it may be to their personal belief system. It is judicial activism, whether on the left or the right, that is cause for concern, and the nominees under suspicion are opposed to it.

This should matter but doesn't seem to. Maybe the Senate should just print a sign that reads: "Believers Need Not Apply."

Here's what's really at stake while doctinaire conservatives fret about the steel tariffs and the agriculture bill. Stacking the judiciary with conservatives would do more to effect the kind of change the Right desires than any of the minor political measures they want to go to war over.

FOR EXAMPLE:
Sodomites owe Texas Republicans their thanks (DALE CARPENTER, July 23, 2003, Houston Chronicle)
[T]he best evidence of Texas GOP leaders' devotion to theocracy is their 22-page party platform, which is less a political document than a fundamentalist encyclical. It declares the United States "a Christian nation" founded "on the Holy Bible." It repudiates "the myth of separation of Church and State." It supports a "school prayer" amendment to the Constitution. It backs "a character education curriculum" in public schools "based upon biblical principles." On and on it goes in that fashion.

When it comes to gays, the state party platform lapses into obsessed rage. References to "homosexuals" or "homosexuality" (14) even outnumber invocations of "God" (10).

Needless to say, the platform opposes gay marriage and gays in the military. It goes further, opposing domestic partners benefits and allowing gays to adopt kids or even have custody of their own children. It urges stripping AIDS sufferers of any legal protection from discrimination.

Here is the Texas GOP on gay sex:

"The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God," blah, blah, blah.

Of course, Mr, Carpenter doesn't, nor could he, argue that any of that is inaccurate. Our deciding as a society to allow folks to degrade themselves and each other in private hasn't magically made such behavior mentally healthy nor made it physically healthy to have genital-anal and oral-anal intercourse. The premises by which sodomy has been forbidden for millennia have not changed, only certain attitudes toward the practitioners and the legal standards of a few folks on the Court, which are no longer based in the Constitution. Return to strict Constitutionalism and a Judeo-Christian concern for defending human dignity even in private and there'll be at least one Texas Republican the sodomites won't be so happy about.



MORE:
-Democrats do not cooperate (John A. Nowacki, 7/24/2003, USA Today)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM

LET THEM STAY

Feuding exiles could cause political pain for president (PETER WALLSTEN, Jul. 25, 2003, Miami Herald)
The Bush administration's decision this week to send 12 Cuban migrants back to the island has unleashed a wave of anger among exile leaders who, for the first time, are openly questioning their commitment to the Republican president.

The fury has created a public feud between top leaders of the influential Cuban American National Foundation, who say their loyalty to Bush in the 2000 election is proving worthless, and Miami-Dade County's three Republican Cuban-American members of Congress, who have aligned themselves closely with the president. [...]

The mounting tensions underscore the widening differences within the Miami exile community over how a changing but still-powerful voting bloc can influence decisions in Washington.

Typically, Florida's 400,000 Cuban-American voters align almost uniformly behind Republicans.

More than eight in 10 backed the president and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, in 2000 and 2002 -- a bloc that many activists say is responsible for handing the president Florida's critical electoral votes three years ago and putting him into office.

It's a disgraceful policy, one Mr. Bush shouldn't be party to, and the Cuban-American community should turn up the pressure.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM

GOTCHA! JOURNALISM AT ITS VERY BEST

Rangel Slams Clinton for Hyping Iraq Nuke Threat (Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com Staff, July 25, 2003)
Rep. Charlie Rangel slammed ex-President Bill Clinton yesterday for hyping the Iraqi nuclear threat five years ago - though when he leveled the criticism he was under the impression that Clinton's comments had actually been uttered by President Bush.

"There's no evidence to support what the president has said," Rangel told nationally syndicated radio host Sean Hannity, who had asked the Harlem Democrat to react to a series of quotes coming from a person he identified only as "the president." [...]

HANNITY: When the president said to the nation that the mission was to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons program; when the president said that Saddam must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons; when the president said we've got to act now and we can't allow Iraq to be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months and not years - When the president said all that to the American people, was the president lying?

RANGEL: There's no evidence to support what the president has said. Now whether - lying means that you knew it wasn't true and you said it anyway. Clearly the president said that Saddam Hussein was involved in al Qaeda. The president said there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. The president said they had weapons of mass destruction. And the president said the United States of America was in imminent danger. There's no evidence supporting any of that.

HANNITY: All right, now. Charlie, I hate to do this to you because you're an old friend but I just set you up, Charlie. You know how I set you up? What I just read to you were Bill Clinton's words from 1998 when he addressed the nation the day that he bombed Iraq.

Totally unfair and very funny.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM

"IT CAN ONLY BE DESTROYED, AND THAT'S THE BUSINESS AT HAND"

Vice President's Remarks on War on Terror at AEI (WhiteHouse.gov, 7/24/03)
This worldwide campaign began after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, a watershed event in the history of our nation. We lost more people that morning than were lost at Pearl Harbor. And this was the merest glimpse of the violence terrorists are willing to inflict on this country. They desire to kill as many Americans as possible, with the most destructive weapons they can obtain. They target the innocent as a means of spreading chaos and fear, and to shake our national resolve. This enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed, and that's the business at hand.

For decades, terrorists have attacked Americans - and we remember every act of murder, including 17 Americans killed in 1983 by a truck bomb at our embassy in Beirut; and 241 servicemen murdered in their sleep in Beirut; an elderly man in a wheelchair, shot and thrown into the Mediterranean; a sailor executed in a hijacking; two of our soldiers slain in Berlin; a Marine lieutenant colonel kidnapped and murdered in Lebanon; 189 Americans killed on a PanAm flight over Scotland; six people killed at the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; 19 military personnel killed at the Khobar Towers; 12 Americans killed at our embassies in East Africa; 17 sailors murdered on the USS Cole; and an American diplomat shot dead in Jordan last year.

All of these were terrible acts that still cause terrible grief. Yet September 11th signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We suffered massive civilian casualties on our soil. We awakened to dangers even more lethal - the possibility that terrorists could gain weapons of mass destruction from outlaw regimes and inflict catastrophic harm. And something else is different about this new era: Our response to terrorism has changed, because George W. Bush is President of the United States. For decades, terrorists have waged war against this country. Now, under the leadership of President Bush, America is waging war against them. [...]

Events leading to the fall of Saddam Hussein are fresh in memory, and do not need recounting at length. Every measure was taken to avoid a war. But it was Saddam Hussein himself who made war unavoidable. He had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. He bore a deep and bitter hatred for the United States. He cultivated ties to terrorist groups. He built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction. He refused all international demands to account for those weapons.

Twelve years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council resolutions, hundreds of UN weapons inspectors, and even strikes against military targets in Iraq - all of these measures were tried to compel Saddam Hussein's compliance with the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. All of these measures failed. Last October, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize the use of force in Iraq. Last November, the UN Security Council passed a unanimous resolution finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences in the event Saddam Hussein did not fully and immediately comply. When Saddam Hussein failed even to comply then, President Bush, on March 17th, gave him and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq. Saddam's decision to defy the world was among the last he made as the dictator of that country.

I have watched for more than a year now as President Bush kept the American people constantly informed of the dangers we face, and of his determination to confront those dangers. There was no need for anyone to speculate what the President was thinking; his words were clear, and straightforward, and understood by friend and enemy alike. When the moment arrived to make the tough call - when matters came to the point of choosing, and the safety of the American people was at stake - President Bush acted decisively, with resolve, and with courage.

Now the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever. And at a safe remove from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon the decision to liberate Iraq. The ability to criticize is one of the great strengths of our democracy. But those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat? [...]

Critics of the liberation of Iraq must also answer another question: what would that country look like today if we had failed to act? If we had not acted, Saddam Hussein and his sons would still be in power. If we had not acted, the torture chambers would still be in operation; the prison cells for children would still be filled; the mass graves would still be undiscovered; the terror network would still enjoy the support and protection of the regime; Iraq would still be making payments to the families of suicide bombers attacking Israel; and Saddam Hussein would still control vast wealth to spend on his chemical, biological, and nuclear ambitions.

All of these crimes and dangers were ended by decisive military action. Everyone, for many years, wished for these good outcomes. Finally, one man made the decision to achieve them: President George W. Bush. And the Iraqi people, the people of the Middle East, and the American people have a safer future because Saddam Hussein's regime is history. [...]

The United States of America has been called to hard tasks before. Earlier generations of Americans defeated fascism and won the long twilight struggle against communism. Our generation has been given the task of defeating the purveyors of terrorism, who are a direct threat to our liberty and our lives. We will use every element of our national power to destroy those who seek to do us harm. But, as in the past, we will do far more than merely defeat our enemies. In Afghanistan and Iraq and in other places where tyranny has been a fertile breading ground for terror, we will help those who seek to build free, more tolerant, and more prosperous societies.

America's commitment and generosity in rebuilding ravaged lands in Europe and Asia was a hallmark of our foreign policy in the 20th century. It was a good investment for America then -- it is just as wise now. We do this not only because it is right, but because it is essential to our own security, the security of our friends and allies, and to our eventual victory in the war against terrorism. Our soldiers serving so bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan today know they are ensuring a safer future for their own children and for all of us.

In the 22 months since that clear September morning when America was attacked, we have not lost focus, or been distracted, or wavered in the performance of our duties. We will not rest until we have overcome the threat of terror. We will not relent until we have assured the freedom and security of the American people.

The isolationist Right has legitimate worries about global overreach and the aggrandizement of power by the federal government, but one wonders how any patriot can quarrel with the basic notion of destroying anti-Western terrorist organizations and anti-Western terror regimes that aspire to WMD. And, though some have questioned whether a Clinton or a Gore would be pursuing these policies, it is hard to believe any president of the United States could sustain a 9-11 and not dedicate himself to using every means in his power to eradicate such menaces.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:09 AM

THIS REALLY ISN'T SELF-REFERENTIAL

The Hugh Hewitt Interview - Right Wing News (Conservative News and Views)
John Hawkins: What are some of the blogs you read regularly or semi-regularly?

Hugh Hewitt: All the ones that I goto at least weekly are at http://hughhewitt.com/. I think I start every day with Lileks, the guy is the new Mark Twain w/ bad spelling. I wrote a Weekly Standard piece about him because I want to make sure everyone knows about him. Of course, I do the big 4, Volokh, Glenn Reynolds, Virginia, Mickey Kaus, & a bunch of others. I read Right Wing News every day and I read Little Green Footballs every day because you guys have good breaking news and there are some esoteric ones like Joyful Christian or Brothers Judd that are right down my alley, that I found recently or have been going to for a while. Patrick Ruffini and then Rich Galen over at Mullings have some real good Republican stuff, excellent stuff.
"Esoteric"? I can live with esoteric.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:16 AM

PROTECTIONISM VS. PERSECUTIONISM

The `Free Trade' Fix Is In (NY Times, July 25, 2003)
The United States government has just added a final flourish of hypocrisy to its efforts to crush the Vietnamese catfish industry under a mountain of protectionism. The Vietnamese, after doing well enough to capture a fair share of the American market, have been declared trade violators deserving permanent, prohibitive tariffs by the United States International Trade Commission.

The case against the Vietnamese was brutally rigged by American fishing and political interests. It stands as an appalling demonstration to striving commercial nations that all the talk of globalization has not reined in the old power politics of marketeers in the United States, Europe and Japan. Their thumbs remain all over the scales of free trade.

No convincing evidence was presented that Vietnam is dumping its fish on the American market at prices below cost.

There should be no U.S. trade with them at all until Vietnam stops persecuting Christians.

Meanwhile, on the topic of free trade with free nations, comes this, House OKs Trade With Chile, Singapore (JIM ABRAMS, July 25, 2003, Associated Press)
The Bush administration's drive to open world markets to American goods and services gained momentum with House approval of free trade agreements with Singapore and Chile.

While the Senate is expected to give its quick endorsement, some lawmakers worried about the loss of jobs in the United States.

The deal would bring the first East Asian and South American nations into such trade accords with the United States. Singapore and Chile would join Canada and Mexico, participants in the North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993, and Israel and Jordan as the only other free trade partners.

The new deal will "not only create American jobs and save American money, but also reaffirm our commitment to countries who value the free market," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. [...]

The House on Thursday passed both measures by unusually strong votes, reflecting the lack of resistance to deals with prosperous countries that have good labor and environmental records. The deal with Chile passed by 270-156 and Singapore's pact by 272-155.

Labor groups and their supporters in Congress said the labor standards in the two agreements, which leave it to Singapore and Chile to enforce their own laws, must not be used in future negotiations with less developed countries where protections are weaker. [...]

"The real gold ring here is to have a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas," said Bill Morley, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's vice president for legislative affairs. He said closer U.S.-Chile trade relations would soften the resistance of Brazil and others to a hemisphere-wide trade pact.

The Chile and Singapore deals are the first since Congress, after an eight-year lapse, last year granted the president authority to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can accept or reject but cannot change.

Seems more significant than communist catfishing, no?

MORE:
Bush Arm Twisting Squeezes Out Narrow House Fast Track Win (AFL-CIO, 7/28/2002)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 AM

THE RAIN IN SPAIN FALLS MAINLY ON HUSSEIN?

Debating Matters of Life and Death in a Baghdad Barbershop (NEIL MacFARQUHAR, July 25, 2003, NY Times)
As soon as the photographs of Uday and Qusay Hussein appeared on the television screen tonight, arguments erupted in the Zein Barbershop downtown. Half the men present exulted that their former oppressors were dead, while the others dismissed the images as forgeries because the dictator's sons were elsewhere when the attack occurred. In Spain, in fact. [...]

"In a few days they will show us another fat body with a beard and say it's Saddam," said Zohair Maty, a 30-year-old laborer. "Everyone says they are in Spain."

The conversation was interrupted by the rat-a-tat-tat of what seemed like celebratory gunfire. The sound was uncomfortably close, though, and several customers either retreated to the back of the store or dove to the floor.

"It's the first time I've ever seen people happy because somebody died," said the barber, Atheer Odeish, who continued his clipping.

The remarkable thing is that given the uselessness of our intelligence and his use of body doubles and what not, Saddam Hussein could have died ten years ago and we'd still not know.

July 24, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:37 PM

MOORE-ON (via Southerner and Brian Boys)

Michael Moore, Humbug (Kay S. Hymowitz, Summer 2003, City Journal)
Recently a wealthy Chicago couple named Drobney announced their plan to bankroll a left-wing talk radio station. They needn't bother: the Left already has a multimedia star-and even without a radio station, he's bigger than Rush, has more fans than O'Reilly, and sells books faster than Coulter. Followers plead with this "folk hero for the American people" to run for president. Reviewers compare him to Twain, Voltaire, and Swift. Unlike Rush and company, the appeal of this blue-collar megastar extends far beyond the hoi polloi. Hollywood and Manhattan agents wave gazillion-dollar contracts in front of his face. He wins prestigious awards that will never grace the Limbaugh or O'Reilly dens-Oscars, Emmys, Writer's Guild Awards, and jury prizes at Cannes (where his latest movie received a record 13-minute standing ovation). People stop him on the streets of Berlin, Paris, and London-where, according to Andrew Collins of the Guardian, they consider him "the people's filmmaker."

He is, of course, Michael Moore [...]

In May, I went to see Moore give a talk to graduating seniors at a liberal arts college outside New York City, and it was easy to see why the kids went nuts. Moore recalled the Left as I remembered it in the "you-can-change-the-world" sixties-funny, confident, passionate, idealistic, full of possibility. As you might expect, he poked fun at conservatives, but also at liberals, those long-suffering targets of political satirists. "You must have a conservative in your family-an uncle or someone," he said confidingly. "That person never loses his car keys. He has every key marked: this SUV, that SUV. Our [the liberal] side goes [in a timid, whiny voice], `Do you know where my car keys are? . . . Where do you want to go to dinner?' `Gee, I don't know. Where do you want to go to dinner?' Right-wingers go [slamming the podium] `GET IN THE CAR! WE'RE GOING TO SIZZLER!' "

Isn't that just the gender difference between the parties?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM

IF TED KENNEDY DROVE ONE HE'DA BEEN PRESIDENT (via Buttercup)

Cubans Sure Truck-Boat Plan Was a Winner (AP, 7/24/03)
The Cubans who converted a 1951 Chevy pickup into a boat and got within 40 miles of Florida said Thursday they were sure that the audacity of their act would guarantee entry into the United States.

But a U.S. Customs plane spotted their unusual, bright-green craft in the Florida Straits and they were sent back to the island.

"We thought that they would let us in because it was so outrageous," Ariel Diego Marcel told Associated Press Television News.

The truck-raft was kept afloat by empty 55-gallon drums attached to the bottom as pontoons. A propeller attached to the drive shaft of the green vintage pickup was pushing it along at about 8 mph.

It's outrageous that we send any of them back, but these guys in particular should have gotten to stay just for the sake of their audacity and ingenuity. Or, as Buttercup said: "Too bad we didn't let them in the country. They already have the can-doism and moxie."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:11 PM

50 to DC

Rice, Rice, Baby!: My Big Fat Crush on Condoleezza (Ta-Nehisi Coates, 7/23/2003, Village Voice)
The Lexington Avenue Crunch isn't just a gym, it's a vat of eye candy. This is the joint that invented "Cardio Striptease." All the personal trainers are out-of-work models or actresses-this is Manhattan, after all-and even the members look like they got a discount for doling out a head shot. There are lots of pretty people here. I'm not one of them. But being in their company fools me into thinking I could be, and that's all the difference I need for that last set of squats.

Today, though, after six months of Crunch, I'm finding the normal scenery suddenly monotonous and unmoving. I'm sucking wind on the treadmill, needing some inspiration for that final stretch. Jane Sixpack hitting the pull-up bar usually suffices, but today I'm literally calling on a higher power. I look up (no, not that far) to a set of flashing monitors and spot a press conference on CNN. OK, so it's only another White House stiff ruminating on yellowcake, aluminum tubes, and bombs over Baghdad. But it's also my latest crush, and when I see her there I find everything that halters and spandex could never give. Suddenly those tortured laps are a stroll through mountain meadows, and I owe it all to my muse, my one, my Condoleezza Rice.

As always, Rice is sporting meticulous hair and makeup. As always, she's bulldogging through the press corps in a way that belies her dainty veneer. Not that I can make out a damn word she's saying (the volume's off), or follow the swiftly scrolling captions while finishing up. Still, I've seen this act play out so many times, I know how the script goes. My treadmill session ends before the press conference. But I'm left standing there, quite silent, quite smitten.

And smitten by what? No one confuses Rice with Beyonce Knowles, and she's a little thin for me anyway. Furthermore, she's Lex Luthor evil, man. How else to explain doing the bidding of a mental paralytic like George Bush? Or being the adopted daughter of the clan that brought us Willie Horton, "read my lips," and the slur "evildoers"? Meanwhile, I'm one part lefty, one part race-man. If you cut me I'd bleed green-then red and black, too. What could a Black Panther-sired, Malcolm X-worshiping, People's History of America-toting idealist see in a battle-ax like Condi Rice? Simply put, Rice, with her commanding presence and steely confidence, is the ultimate black woman.

When something conveys as much political advantage as putting her on the ticket would, it finds a way to happen.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 PM

GRUMPY OLD MEN

A Questionable Kind Of Conservatism (George F. Will, July 24, 2003, washingtonpost.com)
This is the summer of conservatives' discontent. Conservatism has been disoriented by events in the past several weeks. Cumulatively, foreign and domestic developments constitute an identity crisis of conservatism, which is being recast -- and perhaps rendered incoherent.

George W. Bush may be the most conservative person to serve as president since Calvin Coolidge. Yet his presidency is coinciding with, and is in some instances initiating or ratifying, developments disconcerting to four factions within conservatism.

The four groups, according to Mr. Will are: isolationists, angry about the war; supply-siders, worried about the failure to cut spending; strict constructionists, worried about the affirmative action ruling; and social conservatives, worried about the sodomy ruling. [There's also a fifth group, or maybe they're just part of the first, with a somewhat different concern: immigration.]

The first group doesn't much matter, because there are far more independents and even Democrats (especially white women) who favor a robust response to terror than there are conservatives/libertarians who are so disaffected from the State that they fear a president of their own party more than they fear the meltdown in the Islamic world. Mr. Bush would be well advised to give a major speech, at some point--setting reasonable limits on our global ambitions and outlining how we'll know when we've won this round of the war against the "-isms", but he can't win by playing to this contingent.

The second group has already shown a propensity to roll over, during the Reagan years. Give them their cuts and they'll ignore everything else. The President should make it a goal of his second administration to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, but no one ever lost more votes than he won by spending money.

The latter two groups are going to require, as Mr. Will suggests, just one thing: a known and trusted conservative appointee to the first Supreme Court opening. In fact, if such an opening were to occur next year, he'd do well to appoint a lightning rod--John Ashcroft, or Robert Bork for that matter--someone who would turn the Left rabid and force the Right to rally to the flag. Nor need the administration give up its desire to make an affirmative action pick--either Miguel Estrada or Janice Brown would likely satisfy conservatives as well as filling a politically desirable demographic profile. An intentionally combative nomination might ultimately fail, but, regardless, Mr. Bush would have proven his red meat conservative bona fides and shut up all the back-biters.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM

SWEET 16

Gephardt's 16 Words (William Kristol, July 24, 2003, washingtonpost.com )
"George Bush has left us less safe and less secure than we were four years ago."
--Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), July 22 [...]

I suppose it's technically possible that things could turn out worse for the Iraqi people, or for us, post-Hussein (though I'd be happy to take that bet, and I'm
sure the Bush campaign would too). But Gephardt has laid down an extraordinarily clear marker for judging the Bush administration: He claims we're less safe and less secure than we were four years ago.

Is this the case? Were we safer and more secure when Osama bin Laden was unimpeded in assembling his terror network in Afghanistan? When Pakistan was colluding with the Taliban, and Saudi Arabia with al Qaeda? When Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq? When demonstrations by an incipient democratic opposition in Iran had been crushed with nary a peep from the U.S. government? When we were unaware that North Korea, still receiving U.S. food aid, had covertly started a second nuclear program? When our defense budget and our intelligence services were continuing to drift downward in capacity in a post-Cold War world?

Are we not even a little safer now that the Taliban and Hussein are gone, many al Qaeda operatives have been captured or killed, governments such as Pakistan's and Saudi Arabia's are at least partly hampering al Qaeda's efforts instead of blithely colluding with them, the opposition in Iran is stronger, our defense and intelligence budgets are up and, for that matter, Milosevic is gone and the Balkans are at peace (to mention something for which the Clinton administration deserves credit but that had not happened by July 1999)?

When Mr. Gephardt was on the NHPR morning call-in show, the host, Laura Kinoy, asked him if there was anything that President Bush deserved credit for. He hemmed and hawed, was prompted again, and finally said that he comforted people right after 9-11. It's hard to see what political advantage such extremism could possibly convey. Just tick off a few things--education bill, signing CFR, war in Afghanistan--and say, "But we can do much better." You'll appear more reasonable, even generous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM

TRADE WHAT?

Iraq's trade mission to Niger (Terence Jeffrey, July 23, 2003, townhall.com)
In their zeal to retroactively rebut the argument for the Iraq war, critics of President Bush have tried to discredit a British intelligence report -- cited by the president in his State of the Union address -- that concluded Iraq sought to buy uranium in Africa.

The most important evidence against the British report is the undisputed conclusion by Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that documents purporting to show an Iraq-Niger uranium deal were forgeries.

What Bush's critics have ignored is that ElBaradei and the IAEA also presented evidence that tends to support the British report -- and that the IAEA may not have adequately investigated.

On March 7, ElBaradei appeared at the U.N. Security Council to report on the IAEA's investigation of Iraq's nuclear-related activities. It was here he revealed that the Iraq-Niger documents were "not authentic." But at the same time he also revealed -- in vague terms -- that Iraq had sent an official to Niger in 1999.

"For its part," said ElBaradei, "Iraq has provided the IAEA with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with Niger, and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999, which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports (of a uranium deal)."

Is there anything in your house, that isn't radioactive, that says "Made in Niger" on it?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM

IN SUMMER, NOBODY CAN HEAR DEMOCRATS SCREAM

Public's Attitudes Towards Iraq Little Changed Over Last Several Weeks: Majority still say situation in Iraq worth going to war over (Frank Newport, July 23, 2003, GALLUP NEWS SERVICE)
Much attention has been focused on President George W. Bush's problems relating to Iraq, including the controversy over the origins of the now famous statement included in Bush's State of the Union Address about Iraq's possession of uranium from Africa.

But recent Gallup polling data indicate that many Americans are not as concerned about this and other aspects of the Iraqi situation as media coverage might suggest. Gallup's latest assessment of the public's views of the most important problem facing the country, completed July 7-9, shows that concerns about the economy are much more prevalent than concerns about war or Iraq. Perhaps as a result, the polling finds that public views of the Iraqi situation and how Bush has handled it have remained relatively stable over the last few weeks, even in the face of the heightened news coverage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:40 PM

)

Faith and Freedom (Karen Armstrong, May 8, 2003, The Guardian)
In 680, the Shias of Kufa in Iraq called for the rule of Ali's son, Husain. Even though the caliph, Yazid, quashed this uprising, Husain set out for Iraq with a small band of relatives, convinced that the spectacle of the Prophet's family, marching to confront the caliph, would remind the regime of its social responsibility. But Yazid dispatched his army, which slaughtered Husain and his followers on the plain of Kerbala. Husain was the last to die, holding his infant son in his arms.

For Shias the tragedy is a symbol of the chronic injustice that pervades human life. To this day, Shias can feel as spiritually violated by cruel or despotic rule as a Christian who hears the Bible insulted or sees the Eucharistic host profaned. This passion informed the Iranian revolution, which many experienced as a re-enactment of Kerbala--with the shah cast as a latter-day Yazid--as well as the Iraqi arba'in to Kerbala.

Shi'ism has always had revolutionary potential, but the Kerbala paradigm also inspired what one might call a religiously motivated secularism. Long before western philosophers called for the separation of church and state, Shias had privatised faith, convinced that it was impossible to integrate the religious imperative with the grim world of politics that seemed murderously antagonistic to it. This insight was borne out by the tragic fate of all the Shia imams, the descendants of Ali: every single one was imprisoned, exiled, or executed by the caliphs, who could not tolerate this principled challenge to their rule. By the eighth century, most Shias held aloof from politics, concentrated on the mystical interpretation of scripture, and regarded any government--even one that was avowedly Islamic--as illegitimate.

The separation of religion and politics remains deeply embedded in the Shia psyche.

This, and what follows in the essay, raises a series of questions though; here are two:

(1) The case of Iran seems to demonstrate the unworkability of an Islamic (even Shi'a) authoritarianism. But can this lesson be learned from the example, or must each predominantly Shi'ite nation experience the failure for itself, as almost the entire West had to try out some variant of socialism/communism/fascism and watch them fail?

(2) Will the Shi'a always feel that whatever government they have is oppressive, because it is not idyllic? The separation of Church and State that developed in Judeo-Christianity does not include such a belief, that government is uniquely corrupt--is the difference destined to be significant?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 PM

IT'S EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO FIT THROUGH A QUIDDITCH GOAL...

Harry Potter and the magic of Torah: Learning a Torah portion lesson from the boy wizard. (Rabbi David Zauderer, July 24, 2003, Jewsweek)
With all the hoopla and fascination surrounding the latest addition to the Harry Potter series, you would think that all this supernatural stuff about wizards, Hogwarts, and strange freaky things like The Letters From No One and Quidditch, were something new! Well, I have to tell you that I just picked up a book in which I found described some of the strangest, almost magical, supernatural things--just the type of stuff you'd expect to find in a Harry Potter adventure. In it, you'll read about a totally red cow whose ashes have the ability to purify those who have come in contact with the dead, a mysterious roving rock that provides water whenever you hit it or talk to it, a copper serpent on a flagpole that cures people who were bitten by a serpent merely by looking at it--only this book is well over 3000 years old!

That's right, it's the Torah. The best-selling book of all time (until Harry Potter came along!) [...]

So where am I going with all this? The great medieval commentaries explain that the entire purpose of the overt miracles that the Jewish people experienced in the desert, and that were subsequently recorded in the Torah for us to read about and study, was in order that we should realize that, ultimately, everything that happens in this world, including all of nature, is an expression of God's will, and that God is very much a part of our lives.

There's a very fine line in a sermon between making it topical and rendering it trivial--we'll let you judge this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:53 PM

BIAS?

A Mugging in Reuterville (James Taranto, 7/24/03, Best of the Web)
On Tuesday we noted that Reuters had published an anti-American screed about the Jessica Lynch story:

Jessica Lynch, the wounded Army private whose ordeal in Iraq was hyped into a media fiction of U.S. heroism, was set for an emotional homecoming on Tuesday in a rural West Virginia community bristling with flags, yellow ribbons and TV news trucks.

But when the 20-year-old supply clerk arrives by Blackhawk helicopter to the embrace of family and friends, media critics say the TV cameras will not show the return of an injured soldier so much as a reality-TV drama co-produced by U.S. government propaganda and credulous reporters.


It turns out even the byline was a lie. Reuters attributed the story to Deanna Wrenn, who we later learned is a reporter for the Daily Mail, an afternoon paper in Charleston, W.Va. Out of curiosity, we went to the Daily Mail's Web site and read Wrenn's account of Pfc. Lynch's homecoming. It reads nothing at all like the Reuters piece:

Jessica Lynch looked and sounded great, residents and visitors said after she rode through town on a Mustang convertible.

But many wanted to get a longer glimpse of the 20-year-old Army private they consider a hero.

"She looked absolutely beautiful," said Angie Kinder, who came from Huntington with her two girls, Grace, 4, and Caroline, 1. "I expected her to look worse."


The piece continues in this vein, without a hint of Reuterian anti-Americanism. In a column in today's Daily Mail, which the paper generously permitted us to reprint, Deanna Wrenn explains what happened.

It's our general policy not to link to stories in Best of the Web, Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, etc., on the understanding that no one starts their day here and nearly everyone will have visited all those bigger sites first. But this story really pisses me off. (Pardon my French, as two more rules get broken: self-reference and scatology.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM

MCMAYFLOWER

Reliving Ireland's voyages of hope (Donovan Slack, 7/23/2003, Boston Globe)
Some say it's the way she cuts through high seas in gale-force winds, spilling nary a drop of tea. Others say it's the stubbornness of her supporters, who sank about $25 million into a ship some say is worth only $3 million. Either way, the Jeanie Johnston has captured hearts and minds across Ireland and in Boston, where the replica of a 19th-century Irish emigrant barque is due to arrive Thursday.

''It's kind of like the Big Dig in Boston -- that's the Jeanie Johnston in Ireland,'' said Victoria Breglio, a planner with Conventures, the Boston company arranging the ship's reception here. ''Everyone knows the ship.''

Between 1848 and 1855, the original Jeanie Johnston carried 2,500 emigrants during 16 voyages from Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland, to Quebec, Baltimore, and New York City. Many were fleeing the Great Famine at home.

Passengers were crammed four and five to a bunk, rations often consisted of rice cakes ridden with weevils, and fresh air was a rare commodity.

Still, the Jeanie Johnston never lost a life.

''It wasn't a typical vessel,'' said Boston College historian Thomas H. O'Connor.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., cannons will sound, a Boston Fire Department boat will spray plumes in the harbor, and Irish dancers will high-step on Rowes Wharf as the barque reaches the harbor. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran, and Irish Consul General Isolde Moylan all will be there to greet her.

That's nearly enough to get us to visit the nether state...nearly.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:49 PM

AFTER THE WORD "EARNEST" IN THE DICTIONARY

Task Force on Interpersonal Relations, Family Life, and Intimacy (Amitai Etzioni, Chair)
Preamble

From a wide variety of backgrounds, viewpoints, and experiences, we have come together to examine a complex set of issues that deeply affects our entire society: the rise of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual exploitation, and the related moral, social, and psychological factors. Instructed by different religious and secular perspectives and by divergent political and social philosophical persuasions, drawn from academic and practical backgrounds, we join here to focus our examination on what is commonly referred to as 'sex education' in public schools, our task as part of a broader communitarian project on character education. Our purpose is not to review data for research purposes or to spell out specifics for classroom implementation. Rather, our goal is to chart a morally sound course and design a moral framework for programs that are too often constructed in the absence of such concern.
I try not to pick on the Communitarians, because if there have to be leftists, these are the kind of earnest, ineffectual leftists I prefer and because, other than a few dim jokes, I have nothing particularly new to say about them. This position paper on sex education, though, is such a perfect example of the policy wonk belief that serious and engaged means dry and humorless -- a belief shared by people on the left and right -- that I had to post it.

Posted by David Cohen at 1:13 PM

SUDDENLY, EVOLUTION LOOKS MORE ATTRACTIVE.

Zeus bug is ultimate male chauvinist (Reuters, 7/24/03)
As life goes, it doesn't get much better than for male Zeus bugs. The tiny water bugs that are common along Australia's east coast have an easy life. Their female partners provide free food, transport and unlimited sex whenever they want it.

'All the advantages in this relationship seem to fall to the male with no obvious advantage for the female, yet the female Zeus bug seems a willing partner in this one-sided affair,' Mark Elgar of the University of Melbourne in Australia said. . . .

The male Zeus bug is half the size of the female and hitches a piggy back ride on the female which also feeds him.
'The male can ride the female, feeding and mating for up to a week,' said Elgar, who reported his findings in the August 24 edition of the science journal Nature.
We've all known couples like this.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM

THE ANTI-ARAFAT

The Palestinian Prime Minister Is a Welcome Contrast to Yasir Arafat: Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has emerged as the No. 2 in the Palestinian political structure largely because he knows how to get things done behind the scenes. (ETHAN BRONNER, 7/24/03, NY Times)
Anyone who has sought an interview with Yasir Arafat learns the drill--agree with his lieutenants on a range of days, pick a nearby hotel and wait. At some point after midnight, you will be summoned. The old man, dressed in battle fatigues with his headdress folded in the diamond shape of mandatory Palestine, a pistol attached to his hip, will arrive in a hurricane of aides and hangers-on. He will grab your hand for emphasis but ignore many of your questions.

It is against such a background that one measures an appointment with the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen), who will hold his first White House meeting with President Bush on Friday. The hour for our interview last Saturday in his functional Ramallah office was set in advance--7 p.m. At two minutes past, dressed in a dull brown suit, he walked in accompanied by two aides. There is no bravado, no hand grabbing. When asked if the Palestinian Authority has the strength to take charge of West Bank cities that he wants the Israeli military to evacuate, the 67-year-old prime minister replies that it will be hard, but we will try to manage. Asked about Palestinian terror, he says there is no role for violence in the Palestinian national struggle.

Humility is not a trait associated with political leadership, and many of Mr. Abbas's supporters fear it is not serving him well among his people. Mr. Abbas is not a man of public charisma. He is a serious person of decency and integrity who has emerged as the No. 2 in the Palestinian political structure largely because he knows how to get things done behind the scenes.

The result is a kind of prime-minister-despite-himself, a reluctant leader who dislikes the spotlight.

One would hope that Mr. Abbas will not have to pay the ultimate price for America and Israel's past cultivation of Yassir Arafat as a legitimate leader of Palestine.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:38 AM

THE WAGES OF GITMOPHOBIA

Better Alive Than Dead: The killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein is
considered a victory in the eyes of Americans. But a better victory would have been if they were alive and brought to justice. (SANDRA MACKEY, 7/24/03, NY Times)
The killing of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, is a tactical victory for the American occupation of Iraq. But it is not a strategic one. By not capturing these odious symbols of the old regime alive and putting them on display, the American occupation authority has denied itself the chance to give absolute proof of their demise to a society that rejects authority and thrives on conspiracy theory. It has also lost an opportunity to give Iraqis a chance to purge their bitterness, and satisfy a deep-seated need for revenge, by confronting their tormentors in court.

In the abstract Ms Mackey may have a point, but in the real world, where "civil libertarians" are fiercely fighting every attempt to administer justice to the extremists we've captured--like Zaccarias Moussaoui, John Walker Lindh, and the gangs at Guatanamo Bay--it has become dangerous to risk bringing such evil-doers into the formal justice system, where the process soon descends into farce. It's only too easy to imagine various Leftists groiups--and Democratic presidential candidates--insisting that the Saddam boys be allowed to call George Bush Sr., Donald Rumsfeld, and others to testify about trivia like American support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. Better just to end it with a bullet.

MORE:
Ashcroft's Folly: How the attorney general lost the Moussaoui trial before it began. (Dahlia Lithwick, July 24, 2003, Slate)
Moussaoui--intent on defending himself--undid the government by using transparency and due process to embarrass the prosecution and allegedly compromise national security. The man refused to go quietly, insisting on challenging the evidence against him and exercising his full range of rights as a criminal defendant. The prosecution--applying a broad new theory of conspiracy law--didn't help matters by filing an indictment shot through with circumstantial evidence and unsupported speculation. And so Moussaoui, considered nuttier than a Snickers bar when this trial began almost a year ago, suddenly looks like a Jeremiah. His ongoing contention--that the proceedings are nothing more than a "death show trial" jiggered to result in his execution--suddenly looks to be true.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM

CHANNELING THE DEMOCRATS

Tony, you're killing us (Dennis Prager, July 22, 2003, townhall.com)
Democrats may have applauded British Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech to the joint session of Congress. But in their hearts, they and the entire left must have loathed his speech.

To understand why, let us enter the minds of leftists and observe their thoughts on comments made by Mr. Blair.

"Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership."

Leadership!? Tony, are you kidding? [...]

"In the end, it is not our power alone that will defeat this evil. Our ultimate weapon is not our guns, but our beliefs."

Enough with this talk about "evil" and "beliefs." You sound like Bush and all these other fanatics who talk about "Judeo-Christian values."

"Just as the terrorist seeks to divide humanity in hate, so we have to unify it around an idea, and that idea is liberty."

Liberty? That proves you are not one of us, Tony. We believe in equality, not liberty.

Pretty funny. On Fresh Air the other day, Peter Stothard, author of Thirty Days: Tony Blair and the Test of History--a new book on Tony Blair in the run-up to the war--talked about how the PM wanted to end his address to the British people by saying: "God bless you" or something of the sort. He was forbidden by his advisors because it might offend people. Pretty sad.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 AM

BANKING CAPITAL

Dems under the spell of midsummer's dream (Zev Chafets, 7/23/03, Jewish World Review)
Summer is the Democratic season of hope.

Last year around this time, they launched a campaign against the impending war in Iraq. President Bush was in Crawford, Tex., playing cowboy when a front-page New York Times headline announced, "Top Republicans Break With Bush on Iraq Strategy."

According to The Times, Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser under Bush's father, thought the U.S. should be more unilateral. So did Henry Kissinger. House Majority Leader Dick Armey had voiced similar concerns. A mutiny was brewing.

It soon emerged that Kissinger was actually in favor of the war. The posse of critics never grew. Still, many Democrats convinced themselves in the summer of 2002 that Bush was in trouble.

For weeks, nobody could talk about anything else. Nobody that is, on the TV talk shows. The rest of the nation pursued its normal summer activities, which did not include an impassioned analysis of the opinions of Brent Scowcroft.

In September, Bush came back from Crawford, put on a business suit and went to the UN. In short order he gave the critics of the war what they said they wanted, a UN Security Council Resolution, and, in November, what they did not want - a thrashing in the congressional elections. Then, popularity soaring, the President took the country to war.

Now it's summer again...

One of the things that Karl Rove and George Bush talked about long before the latter won the office is the idea that a President has only a limited stock of political capital, which should only be expended on a limited set of truly important issues and which can be squandered if he is constantly before the American people. They well understand, as they demonstrated last summer, that no one is paying attention right now, no one deciding that the war was a mistake, so there's no need to trot Mr. Bush out to answer every attack. What's remarkable is that they've had the discipline to follow predetermined strategy, something few White Houses in memory have had.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM

FORCIBLE CONTRADICTIONS

Kashmir: A Shi'ite voice in the wilderness (Sudha Ramachandran, 7/25/03, Asia Times)
There is little political or sectarian unity in the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). While the broad regional divide - Kashmir Valley, Jammu and Ladakh - and the religious divide between Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists in J&K has been commented on, little attention has been paid to the sectarian divide. Analysts, and especially the media, have tended to view perceptions of each religious community as largely homogenous. As a result, the sharp differences that exist within each religious community have been ignored.

Muslims constitute 95 percent of the population in the Kashmir Valley, 30 percent of Jammu and 46 percent of Ladakh. However, they do not speak with one voice. The Shi'ite-Sunni divide, while not as deep and bloody as it is in neighboring Pakistan, exists. Tensions simmer beneath the surface. The fissures have erupted in the open on several occasions and have the potential of exploding seriously in the future.

Around 13 percent of the Muslim population in the Valley is Shi'ite. In J&K's summer capital, Srinagar, Shi'ites - as do other minority communities - prefer to live in clusters, resulting in almost exclusive Shi'ite neighborhoods in the city.

There is little love lost between Shi'ites and Sunnis. Several Sunnis, even those who otherwise seem liberal, refuse to eat food cooked in a Shi'ite home. The antagonism between the two seems, strangely, far more serious than the Muslim-Pandit enmity. The Shi'ites, otherwise more conservative, especially with regard to the treatment of their women, are opposed to attempts by Sunni militant groups to impose the burqa (a full veil) on women. Shi'ites complain that after Friday prayers in the mosque, Sunni boys throw stones at their houses. Shi'ite-Sunni trouble in Iraq reverberates in Srinagar.

In the end, if not sooner, it may be in the West's best interests to pit Sunni and Shiite against each other as a means of turning Islamic fury inwards instead of out. It is already in our best interest in Iraq to turn the Shi'a loose so that they can rout out the Sunni Ba'ath loyalists. One would like to think that Islam generally can reform itself before that kind of internecine warfare becomes our best option throughout the region, but we can't lose sight of the fact that the option exists.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:12 AM

HOWARD WHO? (via <~text text="The Corner">

Lieberman Leads New Democratic Poll (AP, 7/24/03)
Joe Lieberman had the most support from Democratic voters in a national poll released Thursday, followed closely by Dick Gephardt, John Kerry and Howard Dean. But if Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York is added to the field, she dominates, taking 48 percent to 11 percent for Lieberman, with others in single digits.

Lieberman, a Connecticut senator, was at 21 percent and Gephardt, a Missouri representative, was at 16 percent - just within the error margin of plus or minus 5 percentage points in the Quinnipiac University poll. Kerry, a Massachusetts senator, was at 13 percent and Dean, a former governor of Vermont was at 10 percent. . . .

When President Bush is matched head-to-head against top Democrats in the poll, he leads by margins ranging from 7 points over Clinton to 16 points over Dean. Bush's lead against Kerry, Gephardt and Lieberman was about 10 points.
I'm pretty skeptical of these results, and all polling this early (say, before Labor Day) is useless, but it does underscore how driven political reporters are to find a new, hot story and ride it into the ground.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:52 AM

THE ETHIC OF THE AGE

Shakespeare Sonnet-a-Day
LXII

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.
But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
Beated and chopp'd with tann'd antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity.
'Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:14 AM

THE END OF THE <~text text="EQUALITY-OF-HUMAN-LIFE ETHIC">

21st Century Eugenics (Jesse Reynolds, 6/26/03, TomPaine.com)
Talk of breeding humans may remind readers of the eugenic practices of the 20th century, which involved forcibly sterilizing thousands of Americans classed as mentally impaired or criminally inclined, in the service of "improving the gene pool." In recent years, three states have issued formal apologies to the victims of these programs. Of course, many people recall Nazi Germany's obsession with eugenics, and later in the century American foreign policy encouraged sterilizations of men and women in the Third World as the best means to deal with population and poverty problems. [...]

One new twist that's particularly disturbing is that advocates of this free-market eugenics are twisting the language of women's rights to push their agenda.

James Hughes, the chair of the Transvision conference planning committee, has argued in a scholarly article that "the right to a custom-made child is merely the natural extension of our current discourse of reproductive rights. I see no virtue in the role of chance in conception, and great virtue is expanding choice.... If women are allowed the 'reproductive right' or 'choice' to choose the father of their child, with his attendant characteristics, then they should be allowed the right to choose the characteristics from a catalog."

But clearly there's a huge difference between being pro-choice and pro-designer babies.

No, actually there isn't. Allowing abortion depends on just one tiny, but massive, shift in our morality: it requires only that we say that some lives are more equal than others. In the case of generic abortion, all we've said is that the mother's life is in all instances more valuable than the child's. That's it. That's all we have to do, just say life A is not equal to life B.

What is the justification for this shift? That the quality of the mother's life may be negatively affected by carrying the child to term, but can be
enhanced by killing the child. Mind you; the argument here is not even that the actual existence of the mother is at stake, only her happiness. And so we've instituted a moral regime where the happiness of one class of humans is more important than the lives of another class. Numerous reasons can be given for the classifications, but in the end they're quite arbitrary, based almost entirely on the political power of the one and political weakness of the other.

Now, Mr. Reynolds and others on the Left, like Bill McKibben, are suddenly waking up to the fact that this re-institution of the idea of inequality (though that's not how they would define their support for abortion) has myriad other ramifications, some of which make them quite uncomfortable. Unfortunately, having accepted that there's a scale of values of human lives in the first instance, there's no coherent basis for denying it later. All you are left with is your desire to have your chosen classifications succeed in the political arena. The question is no longer, "do we need to respect lives simply by virtue of their being human?" We've already answered that in the negative. Instead we are asking, "how are we going to rank the various classes on our scale of value?" And the answer will be a product of the same dynamic that produced the decision to allow abortion--lives will be valued in near-direct proportion to political power.

Eugenecists, bio-engineers, clonophiles, and others borrow the language of "women's rights" advocates because there's so little difference between them all. Each is based on the inequality of human life, the notion that some lives are more valuable than others.

July 23, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM

BUSTIN' A MOVE II

Bustamante to set ballot date quickly, let court rule on succession process (Aurelio Rojas, July 23, 2003, Sacramento Bee)
Facing the biggest decision of his career, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante said Tuesday he will likely take no more than 24 hours from the day the choice is his to set the date for the recall election of Gov. Gray Davis.

But he said he will leave to an independent commission and the California Supreme Court a decision on whether he becomes governor himself -- without an election to determine a successor -- if Davis is recalled. [...]

Bustamante said he would not run to succeed the governor if a successor election is held. But sources say he has also been calling supporters and friends around the state seeking advice about whether he should enter the race.

Last month, Bustamante joined the state's other high-ranking Democrats in denouncing the recall effort and said he did not "intend" to put his name on the ballot.

Yet privately, some Democrats singled out Bustamante as the most likely member of the party to break ranks.

Bustamante is not a prolific fund-raiser, they said, pointing out that the recall's short campaign could be his best shot at becoming California's first Latino governor.

After ducking this decision in the way designed to benefit only himself, it seems safe to say he won't be getting a chapter in the next edition of Profiles in Courage.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:21 PM

PRESIDENT BUSH HAS YET TO USE THE VETO?

House Votes, 400-21, to Block Media Rule by the F.C.C. (AP, New York Times, 7/22/03)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House voted Wednesday to prevent federal regulators from letting individual broadcast companies own television stations serving nearly half the national TV market, ignoring the preferences of its own Republican leaders and a Bush administration veto threat.

By a 400-21 vote, lawmakers approved a spending bill with language blocking a Federal Communications Commission decision to let companies own TV stations serving up to 45 percent of the country's viewers. The current ceiling is 35 percent.

Despite GOP control of the White House, Congress and the FCC, the House vote set the stage for what may ultimately be an unraveling of a regulatory policy that the party strongly favors. The fight now moves to the Senate, where several lawmakers of both parties want to include a similar provision in their version of the bill.

Top Republicans are hoping that, with leverage from the threat of a first-ever veto by President Bush, the final House-Senate compromise bill later this year will drop the provision thwarting the FCC."
A perfect example of the Republicans standing up to the powerful multinationals -- acting entirely in their self-interest and against the public interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM

BEEBWATCH

The secret forces who ensured success of attack (Michael Smith, 24/07/2003, Daily Telegraph)
Task Force 20, the special forces team that has been hunting down Saddam Hussein and his supporters, played a key role in the raid that ended in the deaths of the former dictator's sons.

Allied special forces are organised into Joint Special Operations Task Forces wherever they operate. JSOTF 20 includes members of Delta Force, the American equivalent of the SAS, Devgru, the US navy special forces team previously known as Seals, the SAS and the SBS.

It is not yet clear whether British personnel were involved in the raid that killed Uday and Qusay Hussein.

NHPR switches to the BBC after 10pm, so driving home last night I heard their report on the killing of the Saddam sons: "This was the best day of the war for American forces in Iraq...well, besides the fall of Baghdad." Hard to decide which is stranger, that the British news network doesn't acknowledge their country is our partner in the war or that to them liberating the people of Iraq from such thugs is nearly an afterthought?

Posted by David Cohen at 8:09 PM

AND HERE I THOUGHT FDR WAS LYING ABOUT THE NAZI THREAT.

Fully armed Nazi bomber planes 'buried below East Berlin airport' (Allan Hall, The Scotsman, 7/22/03).
AN AIRPORT used by hundreds of thousands of tourists and business travellers each year could be sitting on top of thousands of live bombs.

Papers among thousands of files captured from the Stasi, the secret police of East Germany, claim tons of live Second World War munitions were buried in concrete bunkers beneath the runways of Schoenefeld airport in East Berlin. It is now the main destination for discount airlines, such as Ryanair, and numerous charter companies.

Not only did the commissars intern munitions beneath the runways, but also entire Nazi fighter planes, all fuelled and fully bombed-up, according to the Stasi.

The captured files of Interflug, the former East German government airline and the airport authority of the DDR, are now being examined to see if the Stasi claim is true."
This in no way excuses the administration's failure to find Iraq's WMD in four months.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:59 PM

GIT MO' BETTER RESULTS

As U.S. Lowered Sights, Information Poured In (Thomas E. Ricks, July 23, 2003, Washington Post)
After weeks of difficult searching for the top targets on the U.S. government's list of most-wanted Iraqi fugitives, U.S. military commanders two weeks ago switched the emphasis of their operations, focusing on capturing and gathering intelligence from low-level members of former president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party who had been attacking American forces, according to military officials.

That shift produced a flood of new information about the location of the Iraqi fugitives, which came just before today's attack in which Hussein's two sons were killed by U.S. forces in the northern city of Mosul, the officials said.

"We shifted our focus from very high-level personalities to the people that are causing us damage," Gen. John P. Abizaid, the new commander of the U.S. military in the Middle East, said in an interview last weekend. Later, he told reporters in Baghdad: "In the past two weeks, we have been getting the mid-level leadership in a way that is effective."

The captured Baathists provided much new detail about their organization and contacts, officials here said. Some gave information about their financing and their means of communication, they added. Others identified members of their networks. Some described the routes and contacts that fugitive leaders were using. Threats to ship the recalcitrant captives to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on the eastern end of Cuba were especially helpful in encouraging them to talk, officials said.

It's like the Leftwing nitwits are playing bad cop for us, scaring folks into thinking Guantanamo is an especially nasty corner of Hades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 PM

HEY! WE'RE ALL FASCISTS!

BRAVE NEW SCHOOLS: Berkeley study links Reagan, Hitler: Psychological research on conservatives finds them 'less complex' (WorldNetDaily.com, July 23, 2003)
In a study that ponders the similarities between former President Ronald Reagan, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Rush Limbaugh, four American university researchers say they now have a better understanding of what makes political conservatives tick.

Underlying psychological motivations that mark conservatives are "fear and aggression, dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity; uncertainty avoidance; need for cognitive closure; and terror management," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.

"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," they wrote, according to a press release issued by the University of California at Berkeley.

The researchers also contend left-wing ideologues such as Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro "might be considered politically conservative in the context of the systems that they defended." [...]

The researchers said the "terror management" tendency of conservatism is exemplified in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished world views.

Likewise, they said, concerns with fear and threat can be linked to another key dimension of conservatism, an endorsement of inequality.

That view is reflected in the Indian caste system, South African apartheid and the conservative, segregationist politics of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, the researchers wrote.

A current example of conservatives' tendency to accept inequality, he said, can be seen in their policy positions toward "disadvantaged minorities" such as gays and lesbians.

A broad range of conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the researchers said, linking Reagan, Hitler, Mussolini and talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Adolph Hitler was resistant to change?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM

DON'T DO THE CRIME IF YOU CAN'T DO ETERNITY

A Little Too Personal (PETER STEINFELS, July 19, 2003, NY Times)
Can you sue the person in the pulpit for preaching hellfire - at least if it gets personal?

That's only one of the questions raised by an unusual lawsuit filed last month against a priest in northern New Mexico and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the family of Ben Martinez, charged that at the funeral for Mr. Martinez, the parish priest declared that the deceased, an 80-year-old former town councilor in Chama, N.M., had been a lukewarm Catholic who had been living in sin and was going to hell.

Besides accusing the priest of other abusive statements and demeaning behavior, the suit detailed psychological pain, physical afflictions, anxiety, depression and humiliation allegedly suffered by Mr. Martinez's family in the months after the funeral, which occurred over a year ago and had been attended by more than 150 relatives and townspeople. [...]

This might be a simple dispute over defamation. Preaching at a religious service is not a license to say anything about anyone. But if hard words are a recognized part of a religious doctrine to which someone has voluntarily subscribed, the matter becomes more complicated.

It always seemed strange that Bob Dole cried at Richard Nixon's funeral, given that when Ronald Reagan sent Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Richard Nixon to Anwar Sadat's the Senator referred to them as: "See No Evil"; "Speak No Evil; and "Evil". Obviously mere men don't know where souls are going postmortem, but with some folks we've all got a hunch, don't we?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM

PAYING FOR YOUR CHOICES

Consider the Source: Planned Parenthood refuses to give up the dole without a fight (Mark Donald, 7/24/03, Dallas Observer)
The Texas Legislature has added a rider to its appropriations bill that denies public funding for family planning to any abortion provider, even if it performs abortions with private funds. And even though Corsicana Health Services does not perform abortions itself, the fact that it is an affiliate of Planned Parenthood of North Texas, which does provide abortions, will be enough to deny it family-planning funds.

Six of Planned Parenthood's regional affiliates, including North Texas, have taken this rider personally and filed a federal lawsuit claiming that this legislation amounts to the state levying an unlawful penalty on a woman's constitutionally protected right to choose. Because the state also is placing greater restrictions on the use of the federal government's money than the federal government is, Planned Parenthood alleges these restrictions (no family-planning funds if the organization performs abortions) are also unconstitutional. Its petition has received some favorable play from an Austin federal judge, who has granted a restraining order preventing the state from requiring Planned Parenthood affiliates to either sign a pledge to stop providing abortions or be disqualified from the state family-planning program. He will consider extending the injunction at a hearing scheduled for July 25.

The legislation is far too sweeping, argues Kathryn Allen, senior vice president for community relations for Planned Parenthood of North Texas, and "risks depriving 115,000 low-income women of their health-care needs at 33 clinics across the state." The $13 million in federal dollars helps fund family planning and reproductive health services, not abortions, which are offered at only seven clinics and account for only 2.3 percent of the medical visits to its 85 clinics in Texas.

The legislative sponsors of the rider--Senate Republicans Steve Ogden from Bryan and Tommy Williams from The Woodlands--say their legislation was not meant to target Planned Parenthood in particular or family planning in general. They just want government out of the business of subsidizing abortion providers, whether that means directly for the procedure itself or indirectly for the expenses--staff, rent, utilities--of its family-planning clinics or services.

At the risk of sounding paranoid, Planned Parenthood also believes that this rider is part of a "pernicious web of assault" that is bent on destroying its organization--as well as family planning. "Abortion is just the ideological tip of the iceberg," says Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "The hard right--which has found a spokesperson in President Bush--has long been opposed to reproductive health care and is making an orchestrated attack on family planning and sex education."

You know, the right to a free press doesn't obligate taxpayers to help you operate a newspaper either.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 PM

YOU COULD LOOK IT UP

Recall California!: Land of the Progressives' bad ideas (Glenn Ellmers, July 22, 2003, Claremont.org)
It is noteworthy that today's liberals, the ideological heirs of the Progressives, aren't always pleased with direct democracy in action. The most divisive and decisive ballot initiatives in California have been championed by conservatives: eliminating affirmative action, government largesse to illegal aliens, and bilingual education; preempting the recognition of same-sex marriage; and-granddaddy of them all, Proposition 13-capping property taxes, to change California politics ever since.

Given the overwhelming liberal majorities in Sacramento-no Republican holds statewide office, and Democrats control close to two-thirds of the legislature-it's easy to see why the recall has gained momentum. For many Californians, anything that unsettles the status quo must have some merit. Yet the constant recourse to direct democracy may undermine a healthy, representative constitutionalism. Conservative critics of the recall have pointed to the possibility of "blowback." Once the nuclear weapon of recall is used, it could become a regular tool of both parties.

The recall is one of the Progressives' sharpest instruments. By turning its edge against the liberal establishment at its most spendthrift, the present recall effort could have the paradoxical effect of prompting new debate about the purpose and limits of government. At the very least, it should remind voters that elections matter.

Surely this is the example that should appear in phrase books to go along with: "Hoist on your own petard".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:22 PM

NONE FINER

Wooden Reward: When legendary UCLA coach receives Medal of Freedom today, he can thank McCarter, who once challenged him (Bill Plaschke, July 23, 2003, LA Times)
He was the different one. He was the wild one.

Andre McCarter was that poor, misguided UCLA Bruin who loved behind-the-back passes and double-pump reverse layups and getting in your face.

During a time when his teammates thrived in the spotlight, he was the one Coach John Wooden would sit in the corner.

"You know how, if somebody has 10 children, there is always one of them who is a real pain in the butt?" McCarter said. "That kid was me."

He was publicly embarrassed. He was quietly benched. He was harangued and harnessed, his style abruptly changed, his attitude forcibly altered.

Since leaving UCLA after the 1976 season, Andre McCarter had been thinking of a way he could pay John Wooden back for all the trouble he caused.

Today, the country will see his answer.

Today, at the White House, Wooden will receive the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This was not an idea from President Bush. This did not come from a California senator or representative. This was not about lobbying efforts from the NCAA or UCLA.

Wooden is receiving the medal only as a result of a secret three-year campaign by a former player who collected letters, twisted arms, made calls and pushed forward when
everyone thought he would pull back.

A guy named Andre McCarter.

It happens to be an especially worthy group that's getting the Medal this year. Here's an essay about the kind of man John Wooden is, Coach John Wooden: "A Paragon Rising above the Madness" (Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated)
On Tuesday the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He'll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He'll say how much he misses her and loves her and can't wait to see her again. Then he'll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He'll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again.

The stack will be 180 letters high then, because Tuesday is 15 years to the day since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died. In her memory, he sleeps only on his half of the bed, only on his pillow, only on top of the sheets, never between, with just the old bedspread they shared to keep him warm.

There's never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach. [...]

One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. "It's my right," he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. "That's good, Bill," Coach said. "I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We're going to miss you." Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:59 PM

THE DEMOCRATS VS. THE ELECTION LAWS, PART MMVII

FEC to Consider Lifting Ban On Soft Money for Conventions (Thomas B. Edsall, July 23, 2003, washingtonpost.com)
Committees organizing the 2004 Republican and Democratic national conventions would be able to continue raising and spending "soft money" -- much of it from businesses -- under a recommendation by the Federal Election Commission's staff. The full commission is scheduled to vote on the matter Thursday.

Officials of the host committee in Boston, where the Democratic convention will be held next July, have complained that fundraising was proceeding poorly because many prospective corporate and trade association donors feared the FEC would ban soft-money gifts. Soft money is the term for unlimited and largely unregulated donations that the national political parties were allowed to collect until
the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law took effect eight months ago. Politicians and lawyers have debated whether the ban applies to the committees that are host to the presidential nominating conventions.

The Boston Globe reported this week that the Democratic host committee had raised $1.7 million, $6.3 million less than it had expected to collect by now. Overall, the committee hopes to raise $28.5 million from private sources, $10 million in "in-kind" or non-cash gifts, and $11 million from various government sources.

Officials of the host committee in New York, where the Republican convention will be held in late August 2004, have reported no difficulty raising large sums. They say they have raised $61 million, just $4 million short of the overall $65 million goal.

Why even write these laws if the Democrats are never bound by them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM

OUR ENEMY, ISLAMICISM

Is Bush Conservative Enough? (Sam Tanenhaus, July 22, 2003, LA Times)
What alarms these conservatives, young and old, is not so much the specific policies of the Bush administration as its appetite for an ever-enlarging, all-powerful government, a post- 9/11 version of statism, the bete noire of conservatism and the subject of one of the movement's founding texts, Albert Jay Nock's "Our Enemy, the State."

Published in 1935, this manifesto analyzes centralization in the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, with its
expanding bureaucracies and new entitlements. In Nock's view, the New Deal bore disturbing resemblances to new dictatorships arising overseas. The connection seemed remote, because FDR was so genial and because Americans were "the most un-philosophical of beings," immune to doctrines of the kind espoused by Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini.

But Americans suffer from a different weakness, Nock said. Our national temper is that of "an army on the march." Susceptible to grandiose
crusades, we respond with emotion rather than thought and are easily swayed "by a whole elaborate paraphernalia of showy etiquette, flags, music, uniforms, decorations and the careful cultivation of a very special sort of camaraderie."

Nock had in mind World War I - a war he opposed. But his description also applies to the mood created by the Bush administration since
9/11.

Mr. Tanenhaus wrote an outstanding biography of Whittaker Chambers several years ago. We've made no bones about our high regard for Albert Jay Nock. More recently, Niall Ferguson has demonstrated the wisdom of Mr. Nock as regarded WWI, and both H. W. Brands and Derek Leebaert have made convincing arguments that the cost conservatives paid for pursuing the futile Cold War was to pay off the Left with the massive welfare state. The concern that we not turn the war on terrorism into a long term justification for statism is entirely legitimate. Yet, with all that, the argument above is ridiculous.

First of all, this essay, like far too many these days, ignores the salient point of the matter even as it mentions it in passing: 9-11. Imagine for a moment that Albert Jay Nock had been in Manhattan on that day and ask yourself if he'd have blithely accepted the event. This was not after all a mere attack on our shipping somewhere in the North Atlantic, but a strike, a second strike at that, designed to kill tens of thousands of Americans. Even Mr. Nock would not hesitate to acknowledge that it is the minimum responsibility of the state to protect us from such things. He was fortunate enough to live at a time when the worst an enemy could do to us was the rather ineffectual Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But now we live in a time when independent groups of extremists can, want to, and do kill many of us right here on home soil. It's a situation which no government instituted among men could ignore. Particularly absurd in Mr. Tanenhaus's piece is the idea that the Bush Administration has "created" the mood of robust patriotism that followed 9-11. Did Dick Cheney raise the flag at Ground Zero? In fact, if left to their own devices, does it not seem likely the American people would have gladly nuked the while Middle East in late 2001, if not now?

One can argue that we need not take on all of the Islamic states that support such terrorism in order to make ourselves safe or that by taking them on we rile up the extremists; those are quite possibly legitimate claims. However, there's abnother position that conservatives can take that allows for the confrontation with our enemies while protecting against the growth of the state that does seem to come in wartime: fight the whole lot of them fast and get it over with. A new Cold War would be a terrible thing, but a series of wars in which we dispose of the worst governments in the region--Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya--and destroy the terrorist infrastructure, particularly in Southern Lebanon and Western Pakistan, need not take more than a few years. [If it does, the growth of the state is the least of our worries.] If, in the process, we can implant a few decent, relatively Western, governments--in Palestine, Jordan, Kurdistan, Iran--all the better.

Most importantly, conservatives need to recognize that liberal presidents like Wilson, FDR, Truman, LBJ, and Nixon centralized for the sake of centralization, because they believed in government and the efficacy of the State, not because there were wars going on. The wars abroad gave them cover to do what they wanted on the domestic front--which was in fact to reduce our liberty under the rubric of security. The new war affords conservatives an opportunity to do the opposite. Under cover of war, the GOP can take long term control of the government and start devolving it back towards the people. We're never going to go back to the minimalist state that Nock knew in his youth, but we can move towards a state where individuals are required to provide for their own welfare rather than having the State run everything. Government unions can be broken. Regulations can be removed. Programs can be gutted. A bill that's ostensibly providing money to education can be used to impose vouchers. And so on and so forth.

Conservatives, if they can just drop the navel lint and look up, might recognize that they are winning. But let them keep bitching instead, lest everyone else realize it too. Repeat after us: George Bush is a socialist...George Bush is a socialist...George Bush is a socialist...George Bush is a socialist...


MORE:
Dealing with the President's right flank (Tony Blankley, July 23, 2003, townhall.com)
Currently, conservatives of various stripes are beginning to complain about: large deficits, prescription drug entitlement legislation, excessive regulations (including education regulations driven by Mr. Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation), weak opposition to quotas, acceptance of the Supreme Court's anti state's right overthrowing of anti-sodomy laws, and -- for the substantial Pat Buchanan wing of the conservative house -- what they would call military adventurism and imperialism.

It is hard to measure the potential breadth and intensity of these complaints because President Bush's exemplary leadership in the war on terrorism continues to trump these and other concerns for most Americans -- whether conservative or otherwise. But, although that factor will probably continue to buoy up his support through the next election, Mr. Bush should not rely on it. Should the anti-terrorism factor slip in the public mind, it could reveal a dangerously weak base of enthusiasm for the president. [...]

But on the war front, he should not compromise an iota. He must do what he judges to be in the national interest, whatever the electoral effect. Not that he needs my advice on that point. He is a patriot and would gladly sacrifice his career, and even his life, on behalf of his nation's safety. That is why, as a conservative, I will vote for him, no matter what. We are damned lucky to have this man at the helm in these perilous times.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 AM

HER GENTE

A Song of Love for Celia: Singer Celia Cruz will always be loved by Cubans, but to Latinos of other nationalities, she will always be cherished for the absolute love she felt for all Hispanics. (OSCAR HIJUELOS, 7/23/03, NY Times)
I met Celia in 1991, during the filming of "The Mambo Kings," in which she played a Cuban chanteuse, Evalina Montoya. Her
character, a nightclub diva, is something of a kindly surrogate mother to the Puerto Rican and Cuban musicians who populate 1950's New York. As such, Celia grounds the film with her very Cuban presence, that mixture of compassion and warmth and spirituality that we, as Latinos, so value in our friends and family.

If Celia was superb in that role it is because she, in essence, played herself, a woman of worldly charms, good humor and much wisdom, the kind of gracious lady that we would love to have for an aunt, a fairy godmother whose tender-heartedness works a healing magic on even the most troubled of souls.

Celia Cruz was buried yesterday at a cemetery in the Bronx. In life, she was as glamorous as any movie star, regal in her bearing (in her natural dignity she reminded me of another great singer, the soprano Leontyne Price) yet accessible to people. By all accounts she treated everyone on the set, from the principal actors to the lowliest gaffer, with courtesy and respect. She knew me as that fellow, the "son of Cubans" who had written "The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love," that book about los m?sicos locos on which the film was based. Even though Celia was the world-famous singer, she went out of her way to congratulate me for my small accomplishments. And she did so with affection, as if I were a member of her extended family, the Cubans--and all Hispanics--to whom she often referred as "mi gente." My people.

Unfortunately, the film, though not quite terrible, fails to capture the magic of the book, which throbs with an abiding love of Cuban music and culture and several sex scenes so smokin' hot they're frightening. Be sure to check out the account of the services for Ms Cruz in Miami below, by Glenn Dryfoos.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM

I AM THE STATE

For Every Child, a Stake in America: Why not some version of stakeholding here in the United States, as Prime Minister Tony Blair has done in Britain? This country could certainly use it. (RAY BOSHARA and MICHAEL SHERRADEN, 7/23/03, NY Times)
Each British baby born after last Sept. 1 will receive a trust fund worth at least $400, and up to $800 for the poorest one-third of children. The government will make smaller supplementary payments when the child turns 5, 11 and 16 years old--and relatives or friends can contribute limited amounts tax-free over the years. Add to this the magic of compound interest, and the account could be worth $7,000 when it matures on the child's 18th birthday. In large part, the idea is to help the 16 million Britons--out of 60 million--who have no savings or equity at all to join the middle class.

Mr. Blair's initiative is the latest example of a concept that political scientists call "stakeholding." In postwar Japan, land was redistributed to millions of farmers, laying the foundation for the country's economic renaissance. Singapore has achieved one of the highest rates of savings and home ownership in the world largely because of laws requiring workers to put a portion of their earnings (and making employers contribute a matching amount) into a trust called the Central Provident Fund. And in the United States, a quarter of adults today can trace their family legacy of asset ownership to the Homestead Act that, beginning under Abraham Lincoln, awarded land in the American West to those pioneers with the courage to settle it.

Why not, then, some version of stakeholding here in the United States, a Homestead Act for the 21st century? [...]

Here's how such a system might work in the United States. Each of the four million babies born every year would receive a deposit in an American stakeholder account. Initial deposits could range from, say, $1,000 to $6,000. Yes, it would be difficult to free up this money in a time of deficits, but as a long-term investment it would be money well spent.

This is an excellent idea, but should be expanded upon in the ways we talked about earlier this week and should be more explicitly a stake in one's own share of the nation. Start the account out with a far larger contribution from the federal government--say $10k--and then require that it be increased by $2k a year--with contributions coming from parents, parents' employers, other family, or, where necessary, the government--with the account to be used as essentially a Medical Savings Account only, until age 18. [$8k for a family of four, plus whatever catastrophic insurance coverage would cost, is less than the average we spend now.] The great advantages of such a plan are that the individual would be empowered, would become a consumer in the medical field again--with a vested interest in both staying healthy and seeking the most cost effective treatments--and that health care costs would be far easier for employers to anticipate.

At 18 you could allow people to borrow from or against the account for college, and when they went to buy a house you'd do likewise, provided they maintain some significant base amount in the account. Once they join the workforce, require further contributions to a separate account to pay for unemployment when it occurs, and another account for retirement (to which the remaining money in the unemployment account would be added on retirement). At death, any money remaining in any accounts could be transferred to the accounts of anyone stipulated by the individual.

A range of very conservative investment options would be available for the MSA and unemployment accounts, at least until significant bases built up. Retirement accounts would allow more aggressive investments declining to minimial risk over the course of a lifetime. All contributions up to the required level would be pre-tax, but with no limits on after tax contributions.

Through this system people would effectively become responsible for their own social welfare net.

July 22, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:24 PM

YOU JUST KNOW THERE'S A PROTHONOTARY WARBLER IN HERE SOMEWHERE

The plot thickens: New evidence fails to resolve the mystery of Bush's State of the Union misstep on Iraq (Edward T. Pound and Bruce B. Auster, 7/28/03, US News)
U.S. News has learned that a document prepared by Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, at almost exactly the same time as the State of the Union address omitted any reference to Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from Niger. The chronology of events is puzzling--even to insiders: On Saturday, January 25, just three days before the address, officials gathered in the White House Situation Room to vet intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and its links to terrorism. Libby made the presentation. After several hours, Libby summarized the conclusions of the meeting and turned them into a written case for war against Saddam.

Libby's document was sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell; it was intended as the "script" for his presentation to the United Nations on February 5. The puzzler: The charge that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was not in Libby's paper. Why not? "The agency had so discredited it," says one participant, "they didn't want to bring it up."

Sen. Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate intelligence panel, says "the process was broken" and complains of "sloppy coordination" among national security agencies.

That's not broken; that's how the process works in a $2.2 Trillion dollar government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM

BUST A MOVE

Calif. Constitution Raises Questions About Davis Replacement (Fox News, July 22, 2003)
If California voters decide to recall Gov. Gray Davis, most expect that they would also get the opportunity to decide who will replace him, but that may not be the case.

According to the state Constitution, once the recall qualifies, the lieutenant governor calls for a replacement election, and "if appropriate," a vote to elect a successor. Some say that gives Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante wiggle room to decide that if Davis is ousted, a replacement vote is not appropriate and he could keep the job for himself.

"Why should it be any different if the governor is recalled than if the governor were to become president or were to become ill or for some other reason couldn't serve?" said political consultant Susan Estrich.

Recall organizers say such a move would be a serious abuse of power, and clearly violates the will of more than 1.6 million Californians who have signed the recall petition.

Considering that they paid no political price for their Toricelli-Lautenberg shenanigans, one would assume they'll do it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:55 PM

LEYKIS? YOU'RE GONNA DETEST US

Radio Talk-Show Host Names Kobe Bryant's Accuser (Dan Whitcomb, July 22, 2003, Reuters)
The 19-year-old woman who accused Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant of rape was named on Tuesday by a nationally syndicated talk-show host and on the Internet, pushing her into the spotlight despite pleas for privacy from her family.

Rape counselors and mental health experts were outraged by the exposure of the young Colorado woman, saying that a victim of sexual assault would be further traumatized by public scrutiny.

"That's like being raped again," if her accusations against Bryant are true, said Dr. Patricia Saunders, director of Graham Windham Manhattan Medical Center in New York City. "It's an intrusion. It's an utter violation of her right to privacy. It's a sadistic thing to do."

News organizations, which typically have policies against naming sexual assault victims, have not identified the woman. But her name, address, telephone number and possibly her picture have surfaced on the Internet.

Meanwhile Tom Leykis, host of a radio talk-show based in Los Angeles and aimed mostly at young men, began using her name on the air and told Reuters that he has no plans to stop.

"We're told that rape is violence, not sex, and if that's true there's no reason she should feel shame or embarrassment," Leykis said, adding that he felt it unfair to name Bryant but not his accuser.

This poor woman's father should find Mr. Leykis and horse-whip him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 PM

THE CHILDREN'S CRUSADE

Howard Dean's Youth Machine: Not since McGovern has a Democratic candidate drawn a youth following the size of Howard Dean's - and that's got some in the party worried. (Rick Perlstein, July 16, 2003, MotherJones.com)
When Dean's official campaign organization, Dean for America, opened its door with six staffers and $157,000 in the bank last winter, organizers knew that they would have to tap the grassroots to have any hope of being taken seriously. "We just didn't know how we were going to do it," remembers campaign manager Joe Trippi. He didn't realize it was already being done -- by students. Earlier this year, two D.C. area college kids, Michael Whitney and Ari Mittleman, heard Dean speak and, two weeks later, put up the first Dean student website. By that date, students from dozens of colleges and universities had launched ten pro-Dean groups; before March was out, they had started a national organization, Students for Dean, with 30 campus chapters. By early July, Students for Dean had 184 chapters, all working without any official connection to the Dean campaign. As many as a third of their coordinators had never done anything political before in their lives. Now Dean has his grassroots army, and the campaign's playing it for all it's worth. "They want to work 18, 20 hours a day," Trippi says of the young interns Dean has attracted to Burlington. And it's blowing Trippi's mind. "As somebody who's been through seven presidential campaigns" -- beginning, in 1980, with Ted Kennedy -- "I feel like I'm in my first one."

This could mean far more for American politics than an unexpected boost for a single candidate. For over 20 years, the Democratic Party has worked successfully to structure the nominating system to give the advantage to the "safest" candidate as early as possible in the process. The current system -- a direct response to George McGovern's youth-centered, but disastrous, general election campaign against Richard Nixon in 1972 -- has brought some remarkable political successes, but at the price of stripping the party of the qualities associated with youth at its best: intensity, energy, commitment, momentum. [...]

One consultant to a rival Democratic hopeful, who insists on anonymity, dismisses Dean as a new McGovern. "Maybe they need to run a guy so that people remember what it's like to really lose," he says. "To really lose bad."

The students, for their part, suspect another motive behind the backlash: fear of losing power. Dean foot soldiers are overwhelming the front-loaded nominating season that was put in place by DLC partisans, they note. Says Ruth Link-Gellis, an activist at D.C.'s George Washington University, "The party structure that they've worked so hard to design is falling down around them."

Why do we not consider the passionate support of the young to be a good sign? Who's the last presidential candidate to both have a particular appeal to the young and actually win the election?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 PM

FILLING THAT WHICH NATURE ABHORS (via John Resnick)

Mag plan in bloom for ex-Clinton aide (NY Daily News, July 22nd, 2003)
Fresh from a four-week run on The New York Times best-seller list, Sidney Blumenthal can now focus attention on his magazine idea.

But not just any magazine.

Blumenthal would be the editor of a weekly U.S. mag planned by The Guardian, the liberal and influential British newspaper. [...]

Blumenthal, who was the Washington correspondent for The New Yorker before he joined the Clinton administration in 1997, said: "I've been talking about that [magazine idea] for 25 years with my friends."

Without indicating that his idea has since become linked with The Guardian, he added: "I think there's a big vacuum."

We'll go out on a limb and guess that Christopher Hitchens won't write for this Guardian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:34 PM

THE BLUE, THE GRAY, AND THE YELLOW

The Fiend in Gray: Washingtonians hit with biological weapons; Mass fear and civilian casualties in New York; Plots for launching toxic chemicals in the air; The strange saga of Civil War terrorism (Jane Singer, June 1, 2003, The Washington Post)
Both sides in the Civil War contemplated acts beyond traditional warfare, according to legal documents, court testimony, historical records, books and newspaper accounts of the day. Artillery shells filled with chlorine for use on the battlefield were proposed by New York schoolteacher John Doughty early in the war. Lincoln refused to consider such chemical weapons, viewing them as being outside the laws of war. Sure that the Confederacy would rapidly overpower its enemies, President Jefferson Davis initially shied away from such measures as well.

But as the internecine conflict lengthened from months to years, and the casualties mounted from the thousands to the hundreds of thousands, the South's desperation spawned a largely untold story: a series of terrorist plots against Washington and New York that eerily foreshadowed September 11, 2001, and its aftermath.

Hatched by politicians, rogue scientists, saboteurs and foot soldiers fanatically loyal to the Confederacy, the plans included spreading yellow fever to Washington and the White House; burning New York City to the ground; poisoning New York's water supply; and attacking Northern ports with a newly developed chemical weapon. There was even a scheme in the war's waning days to blow up the White House, though Lincoln refused to take it seriously. "I cannot bring myself," he said when told of the threat, "to believe that any human being lives who would do me any harm."

While most of the plots failed, their intent was clear. Then as now, they were designed to kill, terrify and demoralize civilians.

"It is a matter of no importance whether the acts proposed to be done . . . accord with the usages and principles of modern civilized warfare," Williamson Simpson Oldham, a senator in the Confederate Congress, wrote in an unpublished memoir after the war. In 1865, he had urged Davis to unleash a chemical weapon developed by a former Columbia University chemistry professor, Richard Sears McCulloh.

"I have seen enough" of Professor McCulloh's weapon, Oldham wrote to Davis, "to satisfy me that we . . . can devastate the country of the enemy and fill its people with terror and consternation."

Many of the plots against Washington and New York were dreamed up in Canada, a haven for Confederate agents throughout the Civil War. In fancy hotels, over good cigars and better brandy, they considered -- and embraced -- all kinds of acts of terrorism.

Their schemes took on even greater urgency after a one-legged colonel named Ulric Dahlgren led a Union cavalry force on a mission to take Richmond, the Confederate capital, in the winter of 1864. When Dahlgren was ambushed and killed just outside the city, papers found on his body included detailed instructions for the assassination of Davis and his cabinet. The failed raid jolted Richmond, increasing its resolve to use whatever means necessary to destroy the North. Increasingly, Confederate funds flowed north to plotters in Toronto.

Luke Blackburn, a well-born Kentuckian and dyed-in-the-bones Rebel, had already made his way to Canada. At one time, according to a biography of Blackburn by Kentucky historian Nancy Disher Baird, he'd lobbied Confederate leaders to make him "General Inspector of Hospitals and camps . . . willing to take this position without pay or rank." When that suggestion was ignored, he volunteered to aid the supply ships defying the Northern blockades of Southern ports.

In his forties, Blackburn, too old to fight and too fired up not to, became Mississippi's agent in Toronto. It was there that he hit on his plan to inflict a yellow fever epidemic on the North.

One of the great unknowns of history is whether the future of the South, particularly of its blacks, might not have been helped by systematic reprisals after the War, which a number of successful terror attacks would have nearly guaranteed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:12 PM

PRO?

Officials See Threat in Bush Newspaper Cartoon (Dan Whitcomb Jul 21, 2003, Reuters)
The Secret Service is studying a pro-Bush cartoon in the Los Angeles Times, showing the president with a gun to his head, as a possible threat, U.S. officials said on Monday.

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez said the drawing, which ran in Sunday's paper, was only meant to call attention to the unjust "political assassination" of Bush over his Iraq policy.

The cartoon, based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from the Vietnam War, depicts Bush with his hands behind his back as a man labeled "Politics" prepares to shoot him in the head. The background of the drawing is a cityscape labeled "Iraq." [...]

"Those with political motivations are using the uranium story as a method to attack the president," Ramirez said.

A spokesman for the Times said the cartoon represented the cartoonist's opinion and not that of the paper.

First, we wonder how much Reuters paid to reproduce the cartoon?

Second, we'd doubt that Mr. Ramirez was threatening the President and assume he just had no idea what the photo meant, since, as pointed out in a surprisingly excellent Jonah Goldberg essay that friend Ed Driscoll linked to, the execution in the original photograph was hardly unjust:
Everybody has seen this picture or the film of the incident. A cruel and angry South Vietnamese General executes what appears to be a defenseless Vietcong prisoner. Eddie Adams, The AP photographer who snapped the photo, earned a Pulitzer Prize for the picture. That picture helped galvanize the anti-war effort in the United States. Hubert Humphrey, at the time the photo was taken, was on the verge of challenging President Johnson for the Democratic nomination for president. The photo (and subsequent NBC film) helped stir sentiment to the point that Johnson announced he would not seek a second term only two months later. It is one of the most powerful icons for everything that was supposedly wrong with that war. It is precisely the sort of professional coup that a reporter who's "Dying to Tell the Story" dreams of getting.

Except Eddie Adams wishes he never took the picture.

After the photo was seen around the world, the AP assigned Adams to hang out with General [Nguyen Ngoc] Loan. He discovered that Loan was a beloved hero in Vietnam, to his troops and the citizens. "He was fighting our war, not their war, our war, and every - all the blame is on this guy," Adams told NPR (in what may have been the most surprisingly courageous NPR interview I've ever heard). Adams learned that Loan fought for the construction of hospitals in South Vietnam and unlike the popular myths, demonstrated the fact that at least some South Vietnamese soldiers really did want to fight for their country and way of life.

Just moments before that photo had been taken, several of his men had been gunned down. One of his soldiers had been at home, along with the man's wife and children. The Vietcong had attacked during the holiday of Tet, which had been agreed upon as a time for a truce. As it turned out, many of the victims of the NC and North Vietnamese were defenseless. Some three thousand of them were discovered in a mass grave outside of Hue after the Americans reoccupied the area. The surprise invasion, turned out to be a military disaster for the Vietcong, but a huge strategic victory because of its effect on American resolve.

But at the time, all of this was irrelevant to people like Loan. It was an ugly, shocking assault. The execution of the prisoner was a reprisal. It was an ugly thing to be sure, but wars, civil wars especially, are profoundly ugly things.

This all raises the real question here: it's perhaps understandable that Mr. Ramirez didn't know anything beyond the image and just maybe excusable that he thought it an appropriate basis for a cartoon, but doesn't he have editors?

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:50 PM

LETTER FROM MIAMI (Glenn Dryfoos, 7/21/03)

We had an amazing day on Saturday. We were invited to the public viewing and mass for Celia Cruz. There was somewhere around 100,000 people who began lining up the night before for the viewing. We went first to Bongo's, which is a Cuban restaurant inside the American Airlines Area (owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan). The place was filled with a who's who of politics, charity work, entertainment and Cuban community in Miami. We were taken by bus over the the viewing, which was held in the Freedom Tower, an old landmark building which is the "Ellis Island" of Miami, where over 500,000 Cuban immigrants were processed by the INS back in the early 60's. We were brought in to the front of the line for the viewing (my wife and I felt bad about this, but, realistically, had we gotten on line with la gente, we would have never gotten in.) I've never been to a viewing before. The casket was open, and she looked like she was sleeping. The casket was surrounded by flowers and pictures of Celia and her husband. Celia's music played over loud speakers. From time to time, the somber procession of mourners would begin to shout "Azucar!" or "Celia, Celia" and start clapping to the music. Then, after a few minutes, the respectful silence would return. It was very moving...although I didn't know Celia well, you only had to be with her for a few moments to feel the force of her personality and her warmth. Also, as we passed by the casket, I became very sad because I realized that I didn't have the chance to say goodbye to Benny Carter (who I've known for so long) in the same way.

After the viewing we were bought into a room to pay respects to her husband and family. I was introduced to 2 of the legends of Afro-Cuban music/salsa/latin jazz, Johnny Pacheco and Israel Lopez (aka Cachao) and actually had a nice conversation with them in Spanish.

We then left the viewing for a walking procession (behind the hearse) to the church where the Mass was to be held. This led to the scariest moment of the day. The procession was supposed to be for the invited guests, but the police did not have barricades all along the way, and many of the spectators started pushing into the line, causing some people to trip and fall and creating a "soccer riot is about to start here" concern. The problem wasn't the people who merely wanted to join in the walk, but the people jostling with cameras and note books, trying to get pictures and autographs of the various celebrities in line. I was concerned about my wife , but she trooped through the whole thing fine... After about 3 blocks of the crush, the Miami police restored order and we continued easily to the church.

This was only the third mass I had ever attended. (The other 2 were both funerals....I've now heard 1 in English and 2 in Spanish). The priest was Padre Alberto (who used to have a talk show on Telemundo). He's a young guy, very dynamic speaker...and, facially, a dead ringer for the rabbi who did our wedding. He gave a beautiful eulogy, talking about Celia's humility and charitable works. Everything he said rang absolutely true with everyone who knew her. He also talked about her love for Cuba and her importance as a symbol of Cuban culture and identity (like politicians in Florida, priests have also got to be on the right side of the Castro issue). He told a story I didn't know: Whenever Celia visited Miami, she would go to a hospital where she had done a lot of charity work, and visit a large, glass-enclosed room there that faced south across the Straights of Florida. She would stay there for awhile looking towards her homeland and saying a prayer for her parents (whose graves Castro would never let her visit) and for her family left behind. When her body was flown in to Miami on Friday night, per her wishes, the first place the casket was taken was to that room, so she could have one last look.

Of course, a number of dignitaries and entertainers spoke, including Mel Martinez, the Secretary of Housing, who read a letter from the the President. The whole day (and night...we didn't get home until after 11) had the feeling of a state funeral...I'm told by people who have lived here for a long time that it was one of the most important days in the history of Miami. Either today or tomorrow, they are repeating the viewing, procession (down 5th Avenue) and mass (St. Patrick's) in NYC [ed. note: it was today], followed by a burial.

Thanks to Glenn for letting us reprint this. The passage about Ms Cruz looking out the window had my hair standing on end, so I asked if we could share it.

MORE:
-Glenn adds: If anyone wants to check out her music, Amazon is offering a special on 2 CD's: a collection of her early work with Sonora Mantacera (the Cuban band with which she first came to fame in the 50's); and a live recording of a 1999 concert with Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco and other guests....a great way to sample the early and late periods of her career.

-Emotions Rise as Fans Pay Tribute to Queen of Salsa (ANDREA ELLIOTT, July 22, 2003, NY Times)
They crammed the quiet block along East 81st Street with the fervor of a pilgrimage thousands strong, waving flags and white roses - her favorite - and chanting the verses of her songs like a Pan-American anthem.

Alternately dancing, weeping and bickering about who was first in a line that began forming at 10 the night before, Ecuadoreans, Puerto Ricans, Venezuelans, Jamaicans, Cubans and others claimed Celia Cruz as their own. They swarmed yesterday at the Frank E. Campbell funeral home to bid her goodbye.

But as they passed through the doors to her open coffin, a hush fell. The Cuban queen of salsa lay in a swirl of cream velvet, her head crowned by a golden-blond wig. Her eyelids shimmered with silver shadow, her hot-pink lips were tweaked in a faint smile. [...]

It was the final farewell for Ms. Cruz, who died at 77 last Wednesday, at her home in Fort Lee, N.J. In a postmortem tour, her body was flown first to Miami over the weekend for a wake that drew thousands of mourners, and then back to New York.

-Celia Cruz, Petite Powerhouse of Latin Music, Dies at 77 (JON PARELES, July 17, 2003, NY Times)
Onstage, Ms. Cruz was a petite woman who wore tight, glittering dresses and towering wigs, dancing in high heels and belting songs that she punctuated with shouts of "Azucar!" ("Sugar!"). She was a vocal powerhouse, with a tough, raspy voice that could ride the percussive attack of a rumba or bring hard-won emotion to a lovelorn Cuban son.

"When people hear me sing," she said in an interview with The New York Times, "I want them to be happy, happy, happy. I don't want them thinking about when there's not any money, or when there's fighting at home. My message is always felicidad - happiness." [...]

Ms. Cruz was born in Havana to a poor family, and she regularly sang her brothers and sisters to sleep. She won a radio talent contest after a cousin took her to the radio station Garcia Serra; first prize was a cake. She went on to study at the Havana Conservatory and to sing on radio programs. In 1950, she joined La Sonora Matancera, Cuba's most popular band. "I wanted to be a mother, a teacher and a housewife," she told The New York Times. "But when I began to sing with La Sonora Matancera, I thought, `This is my chance, and I'm going to do it.' "

She toured with the group constantly, sometimes singing five sets a day; they were also headliners at Havana's most celebrated nightclub, the Tropicana, and performed on radio and television. But in 1960, a year after Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, she was touring Mexico with La Sonora Matancera and decided not to return to Cuba. Years later, Cuba refused permission for her to attend her father's funeral.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:32 PM

THE DEMOCRATIC DERANGEMENT REACHES NEW HEIGHTS (OR DEPTHS)

A Kind of Fascism Is Replacing Our Democracy (Sheldon S. Wolin, July 18, 2003, Long Island NY Newsday)
No administration before George W. Bush's ever claimed such sweeping powers for an enterprise as vaguely defined as the "war against terrorism" and the "axis of evil." Nor has one begun to consume such an enormous amount of the nation's resources for a mission whose end would be difficult to recognize even if achieved.

Like previous forms of totalitarianism, the Bush administration boasts a reckless unilateralism that believes the United States can demand unquestioning support, on terms it dictates; ignores treaties and violates international law at will; invades other countries without provocation; and incarcerates persons indefinitely without charging them with a crime or allowing access to counsel.

The drive toward total power can take different forms, as Mussolini's Italy, Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union suggest.

The American system is evolving its own form: "inverted totalitarianism." [...]

Americans are now facing a grim situation with no easy solution. Perhaps the just-passed anniversary of the Declaration of Independence might remind us that "whenever any form of Government becomes destructive ..." it must be challenged.

An impressive two-fer, not only making President Bush out to be a fascist but also calling for a revolution.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM

TRAGIC

Brief fire atop Eiffel Tower extinguished (ASSOCIATED PRESS, July 22, 2003)
A fire broke out on the top of the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday, sending black smoke pouring from the 1,069-foot Paris landmark and forcing the evacuation of a stream of visitors. The fire - which broke out in an area housing television and radio equipment, just below the tower?s antenna - was put out after about an hour, police said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 PM

THE MILITARY IS JUST LIKE ANY OTHER BUREAUCRACY

WASHINGTON'S BATTLE PLAN: Preparing for War, Stumbling to Peace: U.S. is paying the price for missteps made on Iraq. (Mark Fineman, Robin Wright and Doyle McManus, July 18, 2003, LA Times)
The tale of what went wrong is one of agency infighting, ignored warnings and faulty assumptions.

An ambitious, yearlong State Department planning effort predicted many of the postwar troubles and advised how to resolve them. But the man who oversaw that effort was kept out of Iraq by the Pentagon, and most of his plans were shelved. Meanwhile, Douglas J. Feith, the No. 3 official at the Pentagon, also began postwar planning, in September. But he didn't seek out an overseer to run the country until January.

The man he picked, Garner, had run the U.S. operation to protect ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Based on that experience, Garner acknowledged, he badly underestimated the looting and lawlessness that would follow once Saddam Hussein's army was defeated. By the time he got to Baghdad, Garner said, 17 of 21 Iraqi ministries had "evaporated."

"Being a Monday morning quarterback," Garner says now, the underestimation was a mistake. "But if I had known that then, what would I have done about it?"

The postwar planning by the State and Defense departments, along with that of other agencies, was done in what bureaucrats call "vertical stovepipes." Each agency worked independently for months, with little coordination.

Even within the Pentagon there were barriers: The Joint Chiefs of Staff on the second floor worked closely with the State Department planners, while Feith's Special Plans Office on the third floor went
its own way, working with a team from the Central Command under Army Gen. Tommy Franks.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's civilian aides decided that they didn't need or want much help, officials in both departments say.

Central Command officials confirmed that their postwar planning group - dubbed Task Force Four, for the fourth phase of the war plan - took a back seat to the combat planners. What postwar planning did occur at the Central Command and the Pentagon was on disasters that never occurred: oil fires, masses of refugees, chemical and biological warfare, lethal epidemics, starvation.

The Pentagon planners also made two key assumptions that proved faulty. One was that American and British authorities would inherit a fully functioning modern state, with government ministries, police
forces and public utilities in working order - a "plug and play" occupation. The second was that the resistance would end quickly.

Some top Pentagon officials acknowledged that they have been surprised at how difficult it has been to establish order.

"The so-called forces of law and order [in Baghdad] just kind of collapsed," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said in an interview. "There's not a single plan that would have dealt with that.... This is a country that was ruled by a gang of terrorist criminals, and they're still around. They're threatening Iraqis and killing Americans."

The military's sprint to Baghdad initially vindicated Rumsfeld's prime directive to transform the U.S. armed forces into a lighter, more mobile force. It shortened the war, probably prevented many of the
disasters the Pentagon had been planning for and saved lives during the takeover of Iraq. One senior Central Command official said the still-classified battle plan called for as many as 125 days of
combat. Baghdad fell in just 20.

But the quick victory also created what Franks called "catastrophic success." It left large areas of the country and millions of Iraqis under no more than nominal allied control, with a force considerably
smaller than some experts inside and outside the military had warned would be needed to stabilize and occupy the country.

"I would not for a minute in hindsight go back and say, 'Gee, we should have gone slower so we could have had more forces built up behind us to control areas that we went past,' " Wolfowitz said.

One result, he acknowledged, is "it leaves you with some holes you fill in behind."

But could those unfilled holes have been foreseen? Many outside the Pentagon say yes.

Long, fascinating piece on how bureaucracy and too rapid success have contributed to a difficult, though very early, postwar situation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 PM

THE REASON GOD MADE BASIL

WEEKNIGHT KITCHEN: "Pasta with Pesto" (The Splendid Table, July 22, 2003, MPR)
Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan, 2001).

Serves 4

8 ounces pasta
1/2 cup pesto sauce (recipe follows)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (flat-leaf parsley, chives, or basil), if desired
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt well. Add pasta and cook until al dente (tender but still slightly firm to the bite). Using a measuring cup, scoop out about 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Drain the pasta, return to the pot, and set over high heat. Add about 1/2 cup pesto and then add enough of the reserved cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time as you toss the pasta, until it is coated with the pesto. Season generously with pepper, add salt if necessary, and toss with 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs. Pass 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese at the table.


MORTAR-MADE PSETO SAUCE:
2 large bunches of small-leafed basil
1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
3 tablespoons Italian pine nuts (pignoli)
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

Remove enough of the smallest and most tender basil leaves to make 4 cups loosely packed. If the leaves are gritty, wash them gently in several changes of water and dry them well in a salad spinner.

Cut the garlic clove lengthwise in half and remove the green sprout in the center, if any. In a large heavy mortar, combine the garlic and salt and crush to a paste. Gradually add the basil and, using a circular stirring motion, grind the leaves until they are almost a paste.

Add the pine nuts and continue grinding the mixture against the sides and bottom of the mortar until it is a coarse puree. Work in the cheese; the mixture should have the texture of a thick paste. Dribble in the olive oil a little at a time, using the same circular motion, until the pesto is creamy. Adjust the salt if necessary.

The pesto is best when freshly made, but it can be refrigerated, with a sheet of plastic wrap pressed directly against the surface, for up to 3 days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:22 PM

NICE TIMING, DICK

Gephardt Falls Into Line (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Clothilde Ewing, Nicola Corless, Smita Kalokhe and Joanna Schubert, July 22, 2003, CBS News)
: Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who surprised a number of Democrats last fall by appearing in the Rose Garden with President Bush in support of his Iraq policy, is now slamming the Bush administration’s approach to foreign policy. In a broad-ranging speech in San Francisco on Tuesday, Gephhardt touches on the war against Iraq, the war on terror and the United States’ contentious relationship with some of its longtime allies. Gephardt’s comments are some of the harshest to date from the top-tier Democratic presidential candidates on the White House’s foreign policy.

In prepared remarks, Gephardt said the president "has left us less safe and less secure than we were four years ago." The Bush administration’s "bravado has left us isolated in the world – fracturing 50 years of alliances, calling into question our credibility, squandering the global goodwill that was showered on us after 9/11."

"No matter the surge of momentary machismo – gratifying as it may be for some – it’s short-sighted and wrong to simply go it alone," Gephardt said. He said the Bush administration’s lackof planning for post-war Iraq could mean U.S. troop spending “the next 50 years dodging bullets there."

"I submit to you today: we won the war in Iraq, but we’re in serious danger of losing the peace," he said.

Gephardt took a swipe at Mr. Bush’s appearance this spring aboard a U.S. aircraft carrier off the California coast where he declared the end of major hostilities in Iraq. "He chose the wrong backdrop for his photo-op. If you ask me, if he really wanted to show us the state of affairs in Iraq, he should have landed on a patch of quicksand," Gephardt said.

Saddam's Sons Confirmed Dead (Fox News, July 22, 2003)
Saddam Hussein's sons Odai and Qusai were killed Tuesday when U.S. soldiers stormed a house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez of U.S. Central Command announced late Tuesday night in Baghdad that Odai and Qusai were two of the four people who died in a firefight between U.S. troops and Iraqis at the house earlier in the day.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:18 PM

PLANNING A CRISIS

Demos caught in budget gaffe: Open mike picks up faction's talk of profiting from a crisis (Lynda Gledhill, July 22, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)
The state's budget crisis took a surreal turn Monday after a frank discussion by a group of Democrats on the budget and its impact on their re- election was accidentally broadcast throughout legislative and reporters' offices.

Members of the Assembly Democrats' progressive caucus were heard making candid, if not intemperate, statements such as one by Los Angeles Assemblyman Fabian Nunez that they may want to "precipitate a crisis" over the budget this year. That might persuade voters to lower the two-thirds vote threshold needed to pass a spending plan, he reasoned.

"It seems to me if there's going to be a crisis, the crisis should be this year," Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, said during the meeting. "What you do is you show people that you can't get to this without a 55 percent vote."

The unintentional broadcast was interrupted when someone informed the group that a microphone was on. "Oh s--," Goldberg said as the sound was cut.

Is there a sitcom on TV as amusing as the Democratic Party is these days?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM

THE TAR BABY PUNCHES BACK

Saddam's Sons Killed? (CBS News, July 22, 2003)
U.S. officials were examining the bodies of two men killed in a shootout in the northern city of Mosul on Tuesday to see if they are Saddam Hussein's sons Odai and Qusai.

The men were among four Iraqis reported killed in a firefight involving troops from the 101st Airborne Division at a house owned by a cousin of Saddam who is a key tribal leader in the region.

U.S. officials stressed there was no confirmation of their identities, but indicate that early reports from the scene suggest the possibility that Saddam's sons were among the dead.

Regardless of whether it's them this time, this shows the stupidity of current Democratic strategy. We're going to get them--and their father and Osama or the respective corpses--eventually and having made such a big deal about it, the Democrats will have to acknowledge the signifigance, no? What else will be left but for them to start complaining that it took too long?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 AM

PRICING PRESSURE IS EVER DOWNWARDS

Bill to Ease Imports of Less Expensive Drugs Gains in House (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and GARDINER HARRIS, 7/22/03, NY Times)
A bill that would make it easier for Americans to import inexpensive prescription medicines from Canada and Europe is gathering support among some Republicans in the House of Representatives, prompting a furious effort by the pharmaceutical industry to defeat the legislation when it comes up for a vote later this week. [...]

For the industry, the financial stakes in the reimportation fight could hardly be greater. The Gutknecht bill estimates that widespread drug importation could reduce average drug prices in the United States by 35 percent and drug spending by $635 million over 10 years. If passed, the bill could wreck the industry's carefully constructed worldwide pricing systems.

Last year, average drug prices in the United States were 67 percent higher than those in Canada and about twice those of Italy and France, according to a report by the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, a Canadian health agency. The United States spends 1.6 percent of its gross domestic product on drugs, compared with 0.6 percent in Germany and 0.9 percent in Canada, according to the report. The drug industry now gets more than half of its worldwide revenues from American consumers.

Just raise the prices you charge other countries and let their taxpayers subsidize us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:46 AM

THE DANGER OF A DYING BEAST

Japan Faces Burden: Its Own Defense (HOWARD W. FRENCH, 7/22/03, NY Times)
Not long ago, Nisohachi Hyodo, the author of a four-year plan for nuclear armament of Japan, was part of the lunatic fringe, his ideas so far from the pacifist mainstream that he was published only in obscure journals.

These days, though, he has his own program on a major Tokyo radio station and is a popular speaker on college campuses. With everyone from the academic establishment to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi advocating that Japan become more assertive militarily, Mr. Hyodo scarcely stands out.

More than a half-century after two atomic blasts forced Japan's surrender in World War II, talk of acquiring nuclear weapons--long one of the country's most sacred taboos--is but one illustration of how Japan is grappling openly with the challenge of becoming what is known here as a "normal nation," one armed and able to fight wars.

By no means do all Japanese support nuclear armament. But the world has changed since Japan accepted a Constitution, written by the United States during its postwar occupation, that renounces war as a tool of diplomacy. The question now is, can Japan change too?

The country's 13-year economic slump is pushing forward a host of issues--immigration, the role of women, a steep decline in population--that are testing whether this tradition-bound society will adapt or face inevitable decline.

Many are willing to accept the Death of the West because they assume it will at least be peaceful, but given that the weakening states like Japan and those in Europe will be increasingly easy prey for hostile powers and will have "native" populations threatened by growing immigrant populations, it is far more likely to be a deadly passing. Given the historic hatreds of Japan in Asia it's easy enough to imagine an authoritarian China deciding to just attack them. Likewise, given Japanese population trends it is easy to imagine them becoming dependent on immigrant labor, while given their racialism, it's easy to imagine them one day deciding to "deal with" those immigrants when they face the prospect of becoming a minority in their own land. The latter prospect is even easier to foresee in places like France and Germany, which already have the immigrant populations, hate them, and have a history of adopting "final solutions" to such "problems".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM

A MISTAKE

U.S. Resists Entreaties to Send Peacekeepers to Liberia (CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS, 7/22/03, NY Times)
The United Nations secretary general and West African countries implored the Bush administration today to send peacekeepers to Liberia as fighting intensified there and the American Embassy came under mortar fire.

But administration officials resisted the appeals, countering that Liberia's neighbors should act first in helping stabilize the country. The administration called on rebels and the government of President Charles G. Taylor to respect a cease-fire.

The great insight that the Administration is applying in Palestine and N. Korea is that you don't allow the bad guys to negotiate, because it gives them power. Instead, you tell them what is going to be done. Letting Charles Taylor decide when we will intervene reverses this wisdom and is a big mistake from an Administration which, since we know they know, certainly seems to be using this charade as an excuse to stay out of an African nation's problems. Not a proud moment.

July 21, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 PM

MOLEHILL, MEET MOUNTAIN

Report on USA Patriot Act Alleges Civil Rights Violations (PHILIP SHENON, 7/21/03, NY Times)
A report by internal investigators at the Justice Department has identified dozens of recent cases in which department employees have been accused of serious civil rights and civil liberties violations involving enforcement of the sweeping federal antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act.

The inspector general's report, which was presented to Congress last week and is awaiting public release, is likely to raise new concern among lawmakers about whether the Justice Department can police itself when its employees are accused of violating the rights of Muslim and Arab immigrants and others swept up in terrorism investigations under the 2001 law.

The report said that in the six-month period that ended on June 15, the inspector general's office had received 34 complaints of civil rights and civil liberties violations by department employees that it considered credible, including accusations that Muslim and Arab immigrants in federal detention centers had been beaten.

The accused workers are employed in several of the agencies that make up the Justice Department, with most of them assigned to the Bureau of Prisons, which oversees federal penitentiaries and detention centers.

34?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:07 PM

WE'RE SINATRA

Miller's Crossing . . . to the right side of the political street. (Eric Pfeiffer, 07/28/2003, Weekly Standard)
"I don't think of myself as a classic conservative," says Miller. "I think of myself as a pragmatist. And these days, pragmatism falls into the conservative camp. We have to depend on ourselves in this country right now because we can't depend on anyone else. We are simultaneously the most loved, hated, feared, and respected nation on this planet. In short, we're Frank Sinatra. And Sinatra didn't become Sinatra playing down for punks outside the Fontainebleau [Hotel]."

September 11 marked the turning point of Miller's voyage to the right, but as far back as 1996 he was referring to himself as a conservative libertarian. Increasingly, Miller couldn't stomach the left's many attempts to demonize politicians like Rudy Giuliani and, later, Attorney General John Ashcroft. "With Giuliani, I was preconditioned to think he was heavy-handed. When actually examining him for myself, I said, 'Wow, New York seems to be running so well.' The guy has a good sense of humor when he talks. I dug him. And then obviously everything was borne out after 9/11 what a great man he is. And with John Ashcroft, the main civil liberty I'm looking to protect is the 'me not getting blown up' one. I don't know if it's written down anywhere in Tom Paine's crib sheets, but that's my big one." [...]

While he waits for freedom to spread through the Middle East, Miller's ready to see democracy in action in his home state of California. "We've got a $38 billion deficit. I look at the California budget, and I see that we're paying to remove tattoos. It's the petri dish for untethered liberalism. I'm telling you, this place is turning into Sweden. Except, at least there the blondes are authentic." Not only does Miller support the effort to recall the governor, Gray Davis, he's already picked out a candidate: Arnold Schwarzenegger. "I would vote for him, and I would work for Arnold in a second. You know, it's no longer the San Andreas Fault. It's become Gray Davis's fault."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 PM

NEVER TRUST ANYONE UNDER THIRTY

THE RELIABLE SOURCE: The Empire Strikes Back (Lloyd Grove, July 20, 2003, Washington Post)
The folks at the American Enterprise Institute -- that bastion of Washington power-networking and neoconservative theorizing -- apparently don't take kindly to the whimsical ways of youth.

A group calling itself the Shirts Off Coalition (because President Bush "is paying for his war by taking the shirts off our backs") was staging protests last week outside AEI's downtown headquarters. So on Thursday, when Shirts Off tried to infiltrate a debate about whether the United States is an empire, security personnel barred some of them, interrogated others and ejected a couple from the audience after calling the cops. And when toilets in the 12th-floor men's room suddenly clogged and overflowed, drenching the hallway carpets, guerrilla plumbing was suspected.

"AEI is always interested in featuring different points of view," spokeswoman Veronique Rodman explained. "However, we don't want our conferences disrupted by people looking to do publicity stunts."

In the 300-person audience were neocon gurus Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb and their pundit son, Bill, and journalist David McGlinchey. "Two attendees were preemptively thrown out by AEI proctors and an armed policeman," McGlinchey recounted. "Proctors then sifted through the audience, seemingly questioning everyone who looked under 30 or was not wearing a suit. When they got to me, I asked what criteria they were using. . . . The proctor said, 'If you cause any trouble, there are police waiting outside.' "

Well, journalist might be a charitable description given who Mr. McGlinchey appears to work for, Global Security Newswire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:15 PM

ALL WE NEED IS LOVE [AND RESPONSIBILITY]

Conservative Compassion Vs. Liberal Pity (Michael Knox Beran, Summer 2003, City Journal)
A remarkable feature of President Bush's pronouncements is his unashamed use of the "L" word. Mr. Bush calls his political philosophy "compassionate conservatism," but he is not afraid to say the older, stronger word that gives that philosophy its meaning. The word is love.

Mr. Bush used the word when, during the presidential campaign, he was confronted by a man who spoke loosely and negligently of illegitimate children and the welfare system. When the man uttered the word "bastards," Mr. Bush became angry. "First of all, sir," he said, "we must remember that it is our duty to love all the children." The president was similarly unflinching in his inaugural address, in which he spoke of "failures of love." In that address Mr. Bush spoke, too, of "uncounted, unhonored acts of decency," an allusion to Wordsworth's lines describing

that best portion of a good man's life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love.


Many conservatives are skeptical of the notion of mixing love and politics. Memories of the sloppy radicalism of the 1960s, with its "Summer of Love," can sour almost anyone on love's "significance as a principle of order in the human soul, in society and in the universe," as T. S. Eliot put it. But the taint goes deeper than the sixties. Long before the hippies exhorted a now-defunct counterculture to "make love, not war," the parties of the Left sought to make love a first principle of politics. The socialists invoked the idea of love in their struggle against market liberalism: they believed that the modern system of loveless labor could be replaced by a model of community grounded not in competition but in mutual care. In their idea of the "communal" or "social" man, the socialists disclosed the deeper image of their hearts, the idea of the loving man, the man who is not alienated either from himself or the things and people around him.

In the twentieth century, many liberals adopted this vision of love's place in society. They embraced the modest socialism of the welfare state partly because they hoped to stave off more draconian forms of socialist organization, but also because they genuinely sympathized with the plight of the less fortunate, whose condition they hoped to improve through social legislation. In nationalizing almsgiving, the liberals were motivated, too, by the belief, so characteristic of the last century, that compassion exercised under the supervision of government experts is more likely to be effective than the charitable impulses of private individuals. Charity would no longer be a gift but a right. The liberals hoped, through this change of terms, to make taking alms less humiliating to the taker. They failed to see that the taking of charity is always humiliating-except, perhaps, when the gifts are accompanied by an affection so palpable as to diminish the shaming quality of the transaction.

The error the socialists and the welfare-state liberals made was to suppose that love's efficacy can be gradually extended beyond the bounds of the family and the tribe, where it spontaneously creates desirable patterns of order, into larger communities, where it does not. Wherever we see love required to perform a large, public role, we find that it almost always degenerates into pity.

If you thought the atmosphere mysteriously smelled a little cleaner today and the sun shone a little clearer, it was probably because there's a new edition of the great City Journal on-line, always a breath of fresh air.

Conservatives well understand that the great structural weakness of democracy is that the majority soon figures out that it can transfer the wealth of others to itself--thus Social Security and whatnot--but this essay nails the problem that was not anticipated, though it was early identified by Alexis de Tocqueville: that governmental charity, even if well intended, tends to harm the recipient, the givers (taxpayers), and, worst of all, the connective tissue of society. Here is how he described the process in his tragically underread Memoir on Pauperism:
[I]ndividual alms-giving established valuable ties between the rich and the poor. The deed itself involves the giver in the fate of the one whose poverty he has undertaken to alleviate. The latter, supported by aid which he had no right to demand and which he had no hope to getting, feels inspired by gratitude. A moral tie is established between those two classes whose interests and passions so often conspire to separate them from each other, and although divided by circumstance they are willingly reconciled. This is not the case with legal charity. The latter allows the alms to persist but removes its morality. The law strips the man of wealth of a part of his surplus without consulting him, and he sees the poor man only as a greedy stranger invited by the legislator to share his wealth. The poor man, on the other hand, feels no gratitude for a benefit that no one can refuse him and that could not satisfy him in any case. Public alms guarantee life but do not make it happier or more comfortable than individual alms-giving; legal charity does not thereby eliminate wealth or poverty in society. One class still views the world with fear and loathing while the other regards its misfortune with despair and envy. Far from uniting these two rival nations, who have existed since the beginning of the world and who are called the rich and poor, into a single people, it breaks the only link which could be established between them. It ranges each one under a banner, tallies them, and, bringing them face to face, prepares them for combat.

It seems not too much to say that if the American republic is to be preserved and strengthened for future generations, conservatives must find a way to remedy these foreseen and the unforseen flaws. We are never going back, however much the most reactionary among us might long for it, to a wholly private system of social welfare. So how can we reform the public sector so as to ameliorate the worst effects of these two problems? Compassionate conservatism, though the name disturbs many on the Right, is really just an attempt to answer this question.

Here's how George W. Bush has, in part, described compassionate conservatism:
I've described myself as a compassionate conservative, because I am convinced a conservative philosophy is a compassionate philosophy that frees individuals to achieve their highest potential. It is conservative to cut taxes and compassionate to give people more money to spend. It is conservative to insist upon local control of schools and high standards and results; it is compassionate to make sure every child learns to read and no one is left behind. It is conservative to reform the welfare system by insisting on work; it's compassionate to free people from dependency on government. It is conservative to reform the juvenile justice code to insist on consequences for bad behavior; it is compassionate to recognize that discipline and love go hand in hand.

Note that this is a tough love, that requires people to meet standards, accept responsibilities, and discipline themselves. As it happens, we are arrived at a time in our history when the genius of the markets can be united with our desire for a social safety net in order to essentially transform the welfare state so that we transfer money not from others but from ourselves to ourselves and this can be done in ways that reinforce personal responsibility. We've already begun reforming welfare so that it requires people to work, but besides the condition of general poverty, there are three key moments in all our lives when we want there to be some support available to us: when we're ill, when we're unemployed, and when it's time to retire. All three of these can be provided for by personal savings accounts: individual retirement accounts; medical savings accounts; and personal unemployment accounts. Once can chafe at the coercive nature of such a scheme, the regulation that will be necessary to guarantee the savings aren't squandered, and the government contributions that may be needed to keep especially the working poor fully invested in these devices, but the choice is not between this regime and absolute freedom; it is between such a freer and more free-market oriented system and the current abomination.

Meanwhile, in the realm of social services, we can seek to transfer as much of the actual provision of these services as possible to private charities and faith-based institutions, not simply out of some reflexive anti-government animus, nor some clandestine desire to fund churches, but because we need to rebuild community and reconnect the providers and recipients of such services. There is no shame in needing help from time to time, but the obligation you accept when you ask a neighbor for that help has a far different quality than the sense of entitlement with which you make a claim on government. Similarly, it is all to easy for us all to pay our taxes and believe we've done our part, but quite another to know that at the church around the corner our friends and neighbors are actually providing assistance to those in need. Where schools are concerned, a system where child A automatically attends school B places few demands on the parents, while a system where child A can choose between schools B, C, D, & E affords the parents a threshold opportunity to get more involved. So too would getting the government out of the business of funding nursing homes make elderly parents once more a responsibility of their children. Such reforms, which are often portrayed as merely ways to defund government are instead ways of reknitting families, neighborhoods, communities, and so on so that civil society resumes its central place in our lives and government recedes to the background somewhat. This is not the death of government, but the return to the rule it fulfills well, as an organizer of national values, and a recession from the role at which it has proven ineffective, providing myriad social services to every individual. Most importantly it is a way to reconnect each of us to the decisions that affect our lives and to the people around us. So can a compassionate conservative philosophy produce a society that combines greater personal freedom with greater personal responsibility while creating greater reserves of social capital. This would be no mean achievement.


MORE:
-George W. Bush's Acceptance Speech (Republican National Convention, August 3, 2000)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM

CONDASCENDING

Patrick Ruffini started it, we agreed, this speech seemed designed to woo social conservatives who worry about her politics, and now Gerard Van der Leun is practically begging for it: Condi Rice for VP in 2004!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:39 PM

DOOMSDAY SCENARIO

An Old Heresy Haunts Israel: What if Palestinians Reject a State And Ask for Equal Rights Instead? (GUY CHAZAN, July 21, 2003, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL) [Subscription Required, sorry]
What motivates the one-state idea -- and explains why Israelis overwhelmingly reject it -- is demography. Israel already has more than one million Arabs, aside from the 3.1 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. High Arab birth rates mean there will soon be as many Palestinians as Jews living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Arnon Soffer, professor of geography at Haifa University, predicts the proportion of Jews in that area will fall to 39% by 2020. In these circumstances, if Israel annexed the occupied territories and granted all Arabs living there citizenship and voting rights, there would soon be enough of them to elect a Palestinian to run Israel. [...]

"Either we give the Palestinians equal rights, in which case Israel ceases to be Jewish, or we don't, in which case Israel ceases to be democratic," says Uri Dromi, of the Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem. "The only way for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic is for it to pull out of the territories."

The first signs of a shift in high-level Palestinian thinking emerged in October, when a delegation led by Salam Fayyad, Palestinian finance minister, presented the U.S. with a report saying expanding Jewish settlements could make a future Palestinian state unviable. If settlement growth didn't stop, the report read, Palestinian policy makers might be forced to "re-evaluate the plausibility of a two state solution."

Later, Diana Buttu, a legal adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, went a step further. "One cannot unscramble an egg," she said in an online interview published in October. The Palestinian leadership, she said, should give up its quest for an independent state and push instead for equal citizenship in Israel and "an antiapartheid campaign along the same lines as South Africa."

This is the way in which the hardliners who oppose the Road Map are effectively dooming Israel even as they cast themselves as its last defenders.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:55 PM

THE NEW REPUBLIC VS. ITSELF (via <~text text="Kevin Whited">

Don't Look Now (Michael Crowley & Spencer Ackerman, 07.17.03, New Republic)
Democrats say the inquiry's format is designed to sideline them. [Committee Chair Pat] Roberts has created four separate areas of inquiry into possible failures of Iraq intelligence: WMD, Al Qaeda links, human rights, and regional threat. The latter two, of course, are not matters of public dispute--and, not coincidentally, are the two topics Roberts has allowed Democratic staffers to oversee. The first two--politically explosive--areas are being managed by GOP staffers. The team investigating WMD issues includes three Republican aides and just one Democrat. Such is Roberts's idea of a "bipartisan" effort. What's more, at least two of the committee's GOP staffers are former officials at the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, a focal point of the current controversy, creating a potential conflict of interest if they're called upon to investigate their own past analyses or those of former colleagues.

Roberts, however, doesn't seem particularly interested in a dispassionate analysis of how the administration developed its claims about Iraq's weapons programs.

The first two aren't matters of controversy either, are they? It is universally acknowledged that Saddam had a WMD program and that he offered, at least twice, to let al Qaeda use Iraq as their base of operations, though Osama bin Laden, who hated him for his secularist Ba'athism, refused the offers. Saddam Hussein at one point had certain weapons, chemicals, etc. that he was required by UN Resolutions to account for as a condition for suspending hostilities from the 1991 War. He failed to do so. The war resumed. Do we really need congressional investigations to track down the truth of individual claims in a wide series made by three different administrations, the UN, various allies, and innumerable media outlets? The New Republic endorsed the war. Is it now their position that Saddam Hussein never had WMD or that he had duly accounted for them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:52 PM

CLASH OF THE TITANS

Move Over, John and Howard (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Clothilde Ewing, Nicola Corless, Smita Kalokhe and Joanna Schubert, July 21, 2003, CBS News)
There seems to be a new spat developing in the Democratic presidential field that could threaten John Kerry and Howard Dean's spot as top contenders for the Most Acrimonious Award.

The latest brouhaha is between Rep. Dick Gephardt and Sen. Joe Lieberman. It stems in part, from Lieberman’s speech on Friday outlining his pro-free trade plan to bolster the sagging U.S. manufacturing sector. In the speech, Lieberman criticized, without too much subtlety, Democrats like Gephardt for wanting to "build walls around our economy" by opposing free trade policies, specifically NAFTA.

Before Lieberman even made his speech, however, Gephardt had put out a pre-emptive press release criticizing Lieberman for backing NAFTA and favorable trade status with China, which, he said, "have caused at least one million American manufacturing jobs to disappear in recent years," the Concord (N.H.) Monitor reports. Gephardt press secretary Erik Smith also threw this bomb Friday: "The difference between Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman is that Dick Gephardt knows a good trade deal from a bad one."

Lieberman’s campaign, of course, responded in kind, charging that "Gephardt was wrong then and is wrong now not to have faith in America’s workers." In a statement late Friday, Lieberman spokesman Jano Cabrera said, "We welcome Rep. Gephardt’s difference of opinion, but wish he would take the more constructive step of actually sponsoring the American manufacturing bill before the House of Representatives."

Wow, it's like having a front row seat for the Lincoln-Douglas debates...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM

HAPPINESS IS JAN ULRICH IN YOUR REARVIEW MIRROR

Armstrong routs rivals in mountain climb (John Leicester, 7/21/2003, Associated Press)
Lance Armstrong routed two rivals in a riveting climb in the Tour de France on Monday, recovering from a fall to stamp his authority on the race after two difficult weeks.

His victory in the misty mountains of the Pyrenees bolstered his chances of equaling Miguel Indurain's record of five straight Tour victories.

Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner, is now 67 seconds back overall, giving Armstrong a more comfortable lead with five stages left. Ullrich, grimacing near the finish, started the day trailing by just 15 seconds. [...]

The fall came with about 6 miles left in the 99-mile stage. Armstrong slammed to the road after a spectator's outstretched bag caught his handlebars.

He grazed his left elbow and dirtied the left shoulder of his yellow jersey when he drove into a spectator. He then climbed back on his bike and got back in the race.

The Texan also grazed his left hip but was otherwise unhurt, said Jogi Muller, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service team.

''After the fall, I had a big, big rush of adrenaline,'' Armstrong said. He said he then told himself, ''Lance if you want to win the Tour de France, do it today.'' [...]

Ullrich had to swerve to avoid the crash. He waited with other riders while Armstrong and Mayo got back on their bikes and caught up.

''Jan is a good guy, he's an honorable guy,'' Armstrong said.

Normally we'd joke about the baseball card jamming in his spokes, but such honor and drama is enough, despite it being a mere bike race and located in France, to make us care. Ride well, men.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:18 PM

GENERAL STERNWOOD , I PRESUME

Researchers Uncover Secrets of Gigantic "Corpse Flower" (John Pickrell, July 18, 2003, National Geographic News)
A flower taller than a man, stinking strongly of putrefying roadkill and colored deep burgundy to mimic rotting flesh, sounds like
something from a low-budget science fiction movie. But Indonesia's titan
arum
-or "corpse flower," as known by locals-is a real, if rare, phenomenon, pollinated in the wild by carrion-seeking insects.

But corpse flowers are not only found in the wild and many have bloomed in recent years in botanical gardens worldwide from England to Arizona.


The latest to stir up a buzz is the first public blooming of a titan arum in Washington, D.C. The flower, in the United States Botanic Garden, on the National Mall next to the U.S. Capitol, is expected to open-and release its fetid odor-any time from today. Public interest is so high that the Botanic Garden has a hotline with recorded updates about the flower's progress. [...]

A mature, bucket-shaped corpse flower emerges from a huge underground storage tuber once every one to three years. Producing that enormous,frilly inflorescence takes a lot of effort. In young specimens, and in non-flowering years, the plant unfurls a single leaf which can reach the size and appearance of a small tree with many "leaflets." However, in preparation for just a few days of flowering, the plant must shed its leaf and sit dormant for up to four months to muster its energy reserves.

The "flower" is in fact a structure known as an inflorescence. In members of the Aroid family, the inflorescence is composed of a petal-like outer spathe, and the spadix, a central column dotted with hundreds of inconspicuous flowers.

Big deal; my mother-in-law turns all her flowers into corpses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:21 AM

BUILT TO LAST (via <~text text="Bush/Cheney 2004">

GOP Seeks Lasting Majority: The party dreams of a political dominion. To do that, they're claiming Democratic ideals, raising millions and targeting lobbyists. (Janet Hook, July 21, 2003, LA Times)
Emboldened by a popular president, key fund-raising advantages and an opposition party plagued by divisions, Republicans are heading into the 2004 campaign eyeing a goal that extends far beyond the election: They want to establish political dominion for years to come. [...]

Toward that end, Republicans have pressed their cause with bold--some say hardball--tactics. They launched an effort to redraw state political maps to favor GOP candidates. They are laying claim to issues--such as improving education and health benefits--traditionally associated with Democrats. They are trying to turn Washington's lobbying establishment into an army of GOP loyalists. And they are building up campaign treasuries that dwarf the Democrats'.

"It is breathtaking," said Thomas Mann, an expert on politics at the Brookings Institution think tank. "It's the most hard-nosed effort I've seen to use one's current majority [to try] to enlarge and maintain that majority."

The effort may not succeed, but the sheer exuberance of the GOP drive stands in stark contrast to the pessimism that pervades Democratic
circles.

We've spoken some in recent days over the balance one has to strike between principle and political reality. The Republican Party did something really interesting in this regard, if not wholly intentionally, when it nominated George W. Bush instead of John McCain in 2000. Senator McCain would have had a far easier time defeating Al Gore in the general election, but he is not a social conservative ant more and seems to have little vision of where the Party and the nation should be headed. The implicit promise of George W. Bush was that he was uniquely capable of being a transforming figure in American politics, the explicitly conservative candidate who had the capacity and the will to court not the socially liberal whites who McCain appealed to but the naturally conservative portions of the Jewish, black and Latino communities.

In addition, the President has laid out a broad agenda of what can be done once such a durable majority is achieved. It includes: reform and privatization of entitlement programs; voucherizing public education; devolution of social services to local charitable and religious organizations; reconfiguring the military into a lighter, more mobile, more technology-driven force; transitioning the tax system so that it focusses on consumption; free trade agreements; returning the Courts to a less activist posture; placing limits on abortion, biotechnology experimentation and other procedures that disregard the dignity of human life; etc. The effort to ensure his own re-election and that of Republican majorities has led to compromises that one would have preferred to avoid--steel tariffs; a bloated farm bill; etc.--and requires avoiding fights that will alienate the groups the GOP is trying to entice, particularly when waging the fight won't change the result, as with the Court's atrocious affirmative action decision. But when you're playing for such high stakes it seem sensible to expend more effort on the big pots than the little.


MORE:
Ex-NASCAR official eyes Boucher race: Triplett considers 9th District drive (TYLER WHITLEY, Jul 11, 2003, Richmond TIMES-DISPATCH)
Southwest Virginia Republicans may be turning to NASCAR to try to wrest the 9th District congressional seat from 21-year Democratic incumbent Rick Boucher.

Kevin Triplett of Abingdon said he is exploring a candidacy and said, if he runs, he will bring NASCAR principles to the congressional race.

Triplett recently resigned as managing director of business operations for the auto-racing association.

In a brief interview, Boucher said he knows nothing about Triplett and expects several Republicans will try to take him on when he seeks re-election
next year.

Triplett said he has learned from NASCAR a sense of urgency.

"Time is of the essence" in trying to reverse the fortunes of Southwest Virginia, he said.

He said he also has learned the value of teamwork and responding to a constituency, whether it be fans, drivers or pit crews.

This is the kind of seemingly safe seat that the Democrats run the risk of losing if this election does get nationalized at the lower levels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM

FORKWORTHY FILES

Gephardt, Lieberman hit bumps on the trail (Glen Johnson, 7/21/2003, Boston Globe)
Both candidates announced last week that they were altering their fund-raising practices -- and in Lieberman's case, his fund-raising staff -- over their money-raising performance during the past three months.

Both candidates had to change their schedules and deliver mea culpas to the NAACP after its president, Kweisi Mfume, chastised them last Monday for planning to skip appearances at the minority group's convention in Miami. And both candidates engaged in a fresh round of backbiting that is on a pace to surpass that which has been occurring between two of their rivals, Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Howard Dean, a former governor of Vermont.

Voters who hear Gephardt and Lieberman speak are sometimes not overwhelmed with the emotion that usually accompanies meeting and listening to a political celebrity.

If the rationale of his candidacy is that he's the pro-business, somewhat moderate one, what does it say about Mr. Lieberman that he's having trouble raising money and he kowtowed to the Mau-Mau?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:54 AM

INNOCENT BYSTANDERS

Dem blame game could prove costly (Robert Robb, Jul. 20, 2003, Arizona Republic)
Democrats have invested heavily in making this President Bush's economy.

According to Democratic legend, Bush inherited an economy in the best shape since the Flood, and he promptly wrecked it. [...]

The economy, however, has actually done OK since the end of the recession, growing at a 1.5 to 2.5 percent rate. Of course Bush hasn't wanted to argue that, given his father's experience.

Unemployment has risen, but household incomes have held steady. Over the past year, household net worth increased 4.5 percent.

From a political standpoint, projections for a fairly robust economic pickup between now and the next election are particularly interesting.

Democrats tend to regard Alan Greenspan as an infallible economic soothsayer. The Federal Reserve is projecting economic growth of 2.5 to 2.75 percent in 2003, meaning a decent increase in the second half of this year, and 3.75 to 4.75 percent in the 2004 election year.

Estimates by private economists tend to be as strong or stronger.

Perhaps Democrats just don't believe these projections. But assuming they don't think Greenspan has gone completely off his rocker, why wouldn't they be hedging their bets politically, rather than still trying so hard to pin the entire economy on Bush? And what will Democratic politicians say about the economy if it is rocking along at 4 to 5 percent growth come fall of 2004?

I have no idea.

But it would be fun to watch.

Here's all the Democrats need to have not happen in order to win the presidency in 2004: neither Saddam Hussein's nor Osama bin Laden's corpses to be found; the low level resistance in Iraq not to peter out or be snuffed out; and zero percent interest rates, massive government spending and huge tax cuts not to trigger some kind of economic recovery. Never mind the fact that this means they are essentially rooting against the national interest, more important from a political perspective, it means the election is out of their hands. They really have nothing to do but hope that the U.S. military and traditional economic theory both fail. One wouldn't think they'd feel too comfortable in that posture.

July 20, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM

45 DAYS AND COUNTING

Gen. to Establish Armed Militia in Iraq (PAUL HAVEN, July 21, 2003, Associated Press)
[T]he top commander of American and international troops in Iraq said Sunday he is establishing an Iraqi "civil defense force,'' or armed militia, of about 6,800 men to help American forces combat the violence and sabotage that he and others believe is being spearheaded by remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, said he will establish eight battalions of armed Iraqi militiamen, each with about 850 men. They will be trained by conventional U.S. forces - a job usually handled by American special operations forces - and are expected to be ready to begin operating within 45 days, he said.

Someone else made the entirely germane observation today, either General Abizaid or Paul Bremer or someone else over there, that the attacks on our forces are likely top intensify over the next few weeks, precisely because of moves like this one. Once the Iraqis, especially the Shi'ites, are in control of the country, these remnants of the regime are going to be identified and dealt with more quickly and, hopefully, more brutally. Their time is running out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM

TWO BIRDS

EDITORIAL CARTOON (LA Times, 7/20/03)
This heinous piece of crap (you'll have to click on the link, I don't have the stomach to post it) supports two of our recurring themes here: (1) All humor is conservative. Who in their right mind thinks depicting any American president as the Viet Cong who got shot in the street during Tet is at all amusing?; and (2) The Left has become deranged. They aren't in their right minds.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:55 PM

STRATEGERY

Democrats rethink strategy: Campaigns deal with condensed primary slate (Anne E. Kornblut, 7/20/2003, Boston Globe)
The shifted schedule -- with scores of races being held earlier than usual -- has Democratic campaign advisers plotting creative strategies about where to send their candidates to campaign, where to seek endorsements, and where to buy television ads, no longer certain that a strong showing in Iowa or New Hampshire will build enough momentum to sweep the rest of the race.

At the same time, strategists are looking beyond the first two contests to a much larger degree than in the past, assuming that Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri has a next-door advantage in Iowa and Howard Dean of Vermont and Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts have an edge in New Hampshire. [...]

A key piece of the strategy for Senator John Edwards of North Carolina -- with no automatic advantage in Iowa or New Hampshire -- is to perform well in the first two races but focus intently on the Feb. 3 races, in the hope of sweeping two Southern states (South Carolina and Oklahoma) and two Western states (Arizona and New Mexico) on a single day. His approach also targets Feb. 10, when both Virginia and Tennessee hold their primaries.

This seems to underestimate the degree to which all of the oxygen will be sucked out of the campaigns that don't break through in the first two contests. Having been waxed in IA and NH the Edwards campaign is unlikely to be able to even get any press coverage leading into those more amenable states. Meanwhile, he'll have had to spend campaign cash like a sailor on leave in NH and IA, just hoping to finish third somewhere.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM

TRANSLATING A BUSHISM INTO ARABIC

U.S. soldiers kill about 24 suspected Taliban militants (NOOR KHAN, July 20, 2003,
Associated Press)
U.S. soldiers killed about two dozen suspected Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan after their convoy came under attack, the military said Sunday.

The suspected militants ambushed the convoy Saturday near the town of Spinboldak, said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Douglas Lefforge.

The American troops returned fire, killing five attackers and pursuing the rest into the surrounding hills, Lefforge said.

U.S. Apache helicopter gunships chased the group and killed an estimated 19 of the suspected Taliban, he said. There were no coalition casualties.

Thus the President's taunt for the Islamicists to: "Bring it on".

MORE:
Taliban fighters return to ambush coalition forces (Ahmed Rashid, 21/07/2003, Daily Telegraph)
Hundreds of Taliban fighters have crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan and are claiming large swathes of the country, the American commander of coalition forces in Kabul said yesterday.

As the Taliban intensified their attacks on American and Afghan forces over the weekend, Gen F L "Buster" Hagenbeck said the Taliban and its allies have regrouped in Pakistan, recruiting fighters from religious schools in the city of Quetta in a campaign funded by drug trafficking.

Groups of fighters have crossed the porous border and divided eastern Afghanistan into three zones for launching attacks, he said.

They have been joined by al-Qa'eda commanders who are establishing new cells and who are sponsoring the attempted capture of American troops.

"There are large numbers of Taliban coming back into southern Afghanistan but there have been some recent successes in resisting them," said Gen Hagenbeck, acting commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

"We have a very robust intelligence feed out there and we have a continuing strategy in which we will go to all the places that we need to track down the Taliban," he added.

"There are three groups made up of between 25 to 100 Taliban operating in Helmand province and they are facilitating the drugs trade."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:53 PM

VERY BRITISH SEX SCANDAL

BBC under fire as it admits Dr Kelly was source (Lisa O'Carroll, July 20, 2003, The Observer)
The BBC's credibility was called into question today after the corporation named David Kelly as the BBC's main source for Andrew Gilligan's Iraq dossier story which sparked the ferocious row with the government.

In a statement, the director of news Richard Sambrook revealed that the Ministry of Defence microbiologist, who committed suicide on Friday, was the principle source for reports that intelligence on Iraq was "sexed up". [...]

The effect of the statement was to immediately shift focus from Tony Blair and onto the BBC with several politicians lining up to call for resignations at the top of the corporation.

Within an hour of the statement, a series of politicians casts further doubt on the report by defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan and questioned whether he had hyped up the conversation with the Iraqi weapons inspector.

Dr Kelly's local MP, Tory Robert Jackson, said BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies should go and director general Greg Dyke should "consider his position" while Gerald Kaufman warned that the latest development raised "serious questions" about the future of the BBC as a licence-funded organisation.

Both believe that the confirmation that Dr Kelly was their source clears Alastair Campbell.

"This raises extremely serious questions about the way the BBC is run; its credibility and its future as a public sector, publicly funded organisation," said Mr Kaufman.

He said it was vital to know whether the BBC chairman Gavyn Davies knew the identity of the source and if he did he would have known that he was too junior to have been responsible for the claim under dispute - that Alastair Campbell had "sexed up" the Iraq dossier.

Robert Jackson launched a scathing attacked on the BBC - he accused Gilligan of "sexing up" his own report and says the reporter is partly to blame for Dr Kelly's death.

And they thought our Clinton sex scandal was about a trivial matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:34 PM

AGAIN?

A Blurred Vision: The U.S. failure to articulate a coherent policy toward Iran works against the goal of democratic change (Abbas Milani, Larry Diamond and Michael McFaul, July 20, 2003, LA Times)
No country in the world today is as ripe for democratic regime change as Iran. Societal discontent with the conservative clerics who rule the country has been building for years and now pervades the society. This broad disaffection has produced splits within the ruling regime. Periodic outbursts of public discontent, like the student protests last month, are putting extreme pressure on the government. The regime's legitimacy is spent. [...]

The Iranian people deserve clarity. Bush should deliver a major speech on Iran, outlining his objectives there and his strategy for achieving them. He should make clear that while we don't plan to invade Iran and overthrow the current regime, neither do we want detente with it. Instead, the U.S. should support peaceful democratic change in Iran. Our strategy should be to provide moral and political assistance to the internal movement for democracy in Iran, not to anoint a future leader.

There are modest but tangible things we should do to aid Iranians' struggle for democracy. We should accelerate the flow of independent and accurate information, and of democratic ideas and theories, through international broadcasting. We should support Iranian reformers intellectually and practically as they ponder options for constitutional reform in Iran. We should confront the regime - both directly and in international forums - on its nuclear weapons program and its violations of human rights.

But most of all, we should make clear to the mullahs - and thus to the anxious and hopeful people of Iran - that there will be no lifting of the embargo and no geopolitical deals with a repressive, unrepresentative, irresponsible regime. The U.S. will negotiate, but only with an Iranian government that is chosen by the people in truly free, fair and open elections.

Maybe it could go something like this, Statement by the President (7/12/02):
We have seen throughout history the power of one simple idea: when given a choice, people will choose freedom. As we have witnessed over the past few days, the people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as people around the world. Their government should listen to their hopes.

In the last two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic reform. Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the real rulers of Iran. Uncompromising, destructive policies have persisted, and far too little has changed in the daily lives of the Iranian people. Iranian students, journalists and Parliamentarians are still arrested, intimidated, and abused for advocating reform or criticizing the ruling regime. Independent publications are suppressed. And talented students and professionals, faced with the dual specter of too few jobs and too many restrictions on their freedom, continue to seek opportunities abroad rather than help build Iran's future at home. Meanwhile, members of the ruling regime and their families continue to obstruct reform while reaping unfair benefits.

Iran is an ancient land, home to a proud culture with a rich heritage of learning and progress. The future of Iran will be decided by the people of Iran. Right now, the Iranian people are struggling with difficult questions about how to build a modern 21st century society that is at once Muslim, prosperous, and free. There is a long history of friendship between the American people and the people of Iran. As Iran's people move towards a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have no better friend than the United States of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM

GLORIOUS QUEST

The war of 1,000 Beltway tongues lacked clarity, common sense (James P. Pinkerton, 7/20/03, Miami Herald)
One day, this Iraq War will be thought of as the Intellectuals' War. That is, it was a war conceived of by people who possessed more books than common sense, let alone actual military experience.

Disregarding prudence, precedent and honesty, they went off -- or, more precisely, sent others off -- tilting at windmills in Iraq, chasing after illusions of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and false hope about Iraqi enthusiasm for Americanism, and hoping that reality would somehow catch up with their theory. The problem, of course, is that wars are more about bloodletting than book learning.

Tilting at windmills is what Don Quixote did. When I left for Iraq in June, I took along a copy of The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote, the comic/epic/tragic novel by Miguel de Cervantes. I had never read the book, but I knew of critic Lionel Trilling's recommendation: ''All prose fiction is a variation on the theme of Don Quixote.'' And since much of what was said about Iraq was so obviously fiction, I figured that the work would be an enlightening travel companion. [...]

Quixote's obsession was chivalry -- that is, the medieval knightly code of etiquette and martial arts that supposedly prepared a man for a quest or a crusade. The fact that not much of it had any basis in reality was no deterrent to an active fantasy life. So when Quixote rode off, accompanied by his sidekick, Sancho Panza, he did far more harm than good.

And so it is with the book-fed brainiacs who helped talk George Bush into the Iraq War. These people are commonly known as neoconservatives, or ''neocons'' for short, but they are anything but conservative. [...]

[I]n a world that's mostly gray, ''moral clarity'' becomes a synonym for tunnel vision. To see something complicated as simple requires that the seer leave out critical details. And thus amid all the intellectual intoxication, a lionized, neocon-ized Bush didn't worry about such variables as the world reaction to America's plan, not to mention the Iraqi reaction.

Cervantes would have seen it coming. The tales of chivalric righteousness that Quixote read ''took full possession'' of his brain, filling the knight-errant with the belief that ''the world needed his immediate presence.'' And so the Man from La Mancha went off to his adventures, plunging into gratuitous battles with the innocent and the harmless -- innkeepers, friars, puppeteers, shepherds and their sheep, and, most famously, windmills. [...]

And so there will be a reckoning, just as there was for Quixote. After 1,000 pages of adventures, Quixote takes sick with a fever. But as his temperature rises, his mind finally clears. ''I have acted as a madman,'' he laments. And he realizes that his nuttiness was brought on by ''reading such absurdities.'' Now, at last, on his death bed, he has come to ''abominate and abhor'' the books he wasted his life reading.

Mr. Pinkerton may well be right in every word he's written about how futile the war was and the world may indeed be beyond salvation, but he's entirely missed the point of Don Quixote and of the war. When the noble Don lies dying he does indeed regret the life he's lived and the dreams he's dreamed, but those around him lament his return to sanity and desire the old Don back. As Don Antonio Moreno says when Don Quixote's friends come to fetch him home to be cured:
Ah, sir, may God forgive you for the damage you've done to the whole rest of the world, in trying to cure the wittiest lunatic ever seen! Don't you see, my dear sir, that whatever utility there might be in curing him, it could never match the pleasure he gives with his madness? But I suspect that, despite all your cleverness, sir, you cannot possibly cure a man so far gone in madness, and, if charity did not restrain me, I would say that Don Quijote ought never to be rendered sane, because if he were he would lose, not only his witticisms, but those of Sancho Panza, his squire, any one of which has the power to turn melancholy into happiness.

We read Don Quixote today because we believe in his chivalric code, not in order to see him abandon it. That is why the best Broadway song ever is sung entirely without irony:
To dream the impossible dream,
to fight the unbeatable foe,
to bear with unbearable sorrow,
to run where the brave dare not go...

To right the unrightable wrong,
to love pure and chaste from afar,
to try when your arms are too weary
to reach the unreachable star!

This is my quest --
to follow that star
no matter how hopeless,
no matter how far --
To fight for the right
without question or pause,
to be willing to march into hell
for a heavenly cause!

And I know
if I'll only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart
will be peaceful and calm
when I'm laid to my rest.

And the world will be better for this
that one man, scorned and covered with scars,
still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable stars!

Is not the world a better place for Don Quixote having followed his delusions? Who would live in a world where such delusions did not exist?

So, sure, the notion that America can bring liberty to the world may be nutty, but as Archibald MacLeish said: "There are those, I know, who will say that the liberation of humanity, the freedom of man and mind, is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is the American dream." If we give up that dream then what is left of the idea of America that's worth saving? If they cure us, let it be on our death bed, like the Don, so that we die with the dream.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:46 PM

SHOWED BY TOKENS

The Deficit Is Big, but Is It Bad? (ALEX BERENSON, July 20, 2003, NY Times)
At first glance, it appears that deficits, a sign that the government is living beyond its means and borrowing money that would otherwise be available for more productive private investments, must be a bad thing.

"There's something deeply emotional about federal budget deficits," said Jim Grant, the editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer. "People seem forever inclined to latch onto government profligacy as the cause of higher rates."

Yet most economists do not think deficits are bad in principle, especially when the economy is weak, as it has been since 2001.

When growth is slow, increases in government spending can play an important role in taking the place of private demand, they say. Larger expenditures for unemployment and Social Security increase the deficit, but provide a cushion to people who have lost work. Tax cuts and rebates can also be useful, giving people more money to spend.

Besides, as a percentage of America's economy, the current deficit is still smaller than those run up in the 1980's.

So there is no reason to be alarmed, said Donald H. Straszheim, president of Straszheim Global Advisors and the former chief economist at Merrill Lynch.

"Count me on the side that says don't worry," Mr. Straszheim said. "This is largely the result of weakness in the economy."

Some analysts go further, arguing that deficits have very little impact even in the long run. If big deficits are really a sign that the government is borrowing money that private businesses need, than interest rates should rise when deficits rise, because the government would be competing with business for the same pool of money. But Japan has run enormous deficits for the last decade, swelling its national debt to more than $5 trillion, the world's largest, while Japanese interest rates have fallen close to zero.

Similarly, in the last two years, interest rates on United States Treasury bonds have fallen to their lowest levels since the 1950's, despite the free-fall from surplus to deficit.

"You can't convincingly correlate the rate of growth in the federal debt with the level of rates," Mr. Grant said.

Based on those experiences, Mr. Grant and others argue that interest rates are much more closely related to inflation and the broader health of the economy than to the year-to-year change in government deficits.

The theory may be wrong, but it is indisputable that rates went up as we went into surplus and came down as we went back into debt. We're with Macaulay:
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.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM

AGAINST THE AMERICAN GRAIN

Bush Support Holds as Economy Lags: In Grand Rapids, Few Blame President for the Struggles of Local Industries (Jonathan Weisman, July 20, 2003, Washington Post)
National Democrats might hope the political waters of this Republican region would be more unsettled in hard economic times. Since Bush came to office, unemployment in the Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland triangle of Western Michigan has risen to 6.9 percent in May from 5 percent. Manufacturing -- especially the hard-hit business furniture, auto parts and tool-and-die industries -- have hemorrhaged jobs, nearly 53,000 since 2000, according to Michigan statistics. More than 10,000 of those jobs, many of them in management, came from the office furniture industry, which has long kept the area afloat while other parts of the state have sunk.

White-collar managers have found themselves on assembly lines or in temporary jobs. Fortunes have been lost on the stock market. And specific policies of the administration -- such as steel tariffs, budget cuts for manufacturing programs and job training -- have come under criticism from workers and businessmen alike.

But in the political realm, such tumult seems remarkably absent. Instead, the battle lines remain drawn along issues that have long favored Republicans here, including religion, abortion and gun rights. At his June 30 fundraising appearance here, Vice President Cheney made no mention of the region's economic woes and only a glancing reference to the national economy. He did pocket $500,000 for the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign.

"Bush has immense appeal on non-economic issues in that area," said Robert Teeter, a prominent Republican pollster based in Michigan. "The question is whether the economy is enough to offset their strong social and cultural affinity for him."

So far, it would appear that economic issues are not affecting the president's standing here or in the nation at large. A CBS News poll taken this month -- before the administration announced the projected deficit is $455 billion -- found that slightly more than one-third of those questioned said the economy's problems had "a lot" to do with Bush's policies.

The Grand Rapids area could be a harbinger. Michael Johnston, a Grand Rapids high school history teacher and ardent Democrat, said the second largest city in Michigan has long been a test marketing area for business. "Read West Michigan, you read the nation," he said.

Republican strategists are counting on what they call a new sophistication in the electorate, an understanding that the economy's course is determined by forces far greater than the president. They have cause for confidence.

Obviously support like this won't hold indefinitely, but it does make the current Democratic presidential race very dangerous. The big payoff in the primaries looks to come from attacking the President, but that's counter to the general mood of the country. Given that the President won't even have to mention his eventual opponent's name until their first debate, it means whoever that nominee is will be driving up his own negatives while Mr. Bush keeps his own hands clean.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:23 PM

MISSIONARY POSITION

A 'Moral' Mission In Political Final Act: Gephardt Crusades On Health Care
(Jim VandeHei, July 20, 2003, Washington Post)
Richard Gephardt strolled under the "Beef and Booze" greeting at the Boathouse bar here, shook a few hands and positioned himself by an inflatable Budweiser beach ball. With 50 or so Democratic faithful assembled to sip happy hour beer and size up this fellow Midwesterner running for president, he spoke about family, values and, most passionately, his personal and "moral" mission to provide health care to every American.

His son, Matthew, might be dead today from a rare form of cancer if it weren't for his family's generous health insurance policy. "He's a gift of God," said Gephardt, a House member from Missouri. Now, he adds, it's his duty to provide similar insurance to every American -- and pay for it by taking away their "Bush tax cuts." "It is immoral for anybody in this country to be out there without health insurance," Gephardt told them.

Gephardt -- a Baptist who recently toyed with the idea of writing a book about religion and God's love -- is not a weekly churchgoer, yet he prays often and is well versed in the New Testament. From it, he said in a recent interview, he gleans a much different message than the one he believes is taken away by the man he wants to replace: George W. Bush.

In short, Gephardt said, Bush focuses on the rich, while he, like Jesus, focuses on the less fortunate. Bush, he said, "seems to read a different message out of the Bible than the rest of us."

One assumes Mr. Bush reads the one that says this : "Verily I say unto thee, Inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me." One doubts he reads one that allows this, Abortion stance shows wider shift on social issues (BILL LAMBRECHT AND DEIRDRE SHESGREEN, 07/05/2003, St. Louis Post-Dispatch):
As an adviser to leading Democratic politicians and an activist on women's issues, Joanne Symons helped Rep. Richard Gephardt negotiate the tricky political waters of switching positions on abortion in 1986 as he planned his first presidential campaign.

Symons told him back then that liberal constituencies that flex their muscle in Democratic Party primaries would find it hard to swallow his
anti-abortion stance.

But she warned Gephardt that he likely would face a backlash from jilted anti-abortion forces if he made the switch. She was right.

On top of that, Gephardt had to deal with suspicion from abortion-rights leaders who wondered about his motives, Symons recalled during an
interview shortly before her death in March.

"He kept churning things up inside and listening and asking questions until he came to a place where he could be. I think that when you approach things like that, you can change and evolve. Of course there was a political payoff," Symons said.

Gephardt entered Congress as a passionate opponent of abortion, taking to the House floor shortly after moving into his office in 1977 to declare support for a Right-to-Life amendment to the Constitution.

"Life is the division of human cells, a process which begins at conception," he asserted. By that spring, he had become a sponsor of legislation to ban spending federal funds on most abortions.

But in 1986, he met in St. Louis with Loretto Wagner and leaders of Missouri Citizens for Life to tell them he was defecting from their movement.

Spare us the "Moral Mission" bushwah.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM

BYE

Deep waters: When Patrick McGrath became a US citizen, he thought of Moby-Dick and
its reflections on the best and worst of his adopted country (Patrick McGrath, July 12, 2003, The Guardian)
There's a wonderfully grisly story by WW Jacobs, "The Monkey's Paw", in which an old couple are granted three wishes. What they want most is to see their long-lost son again. The son, however, has just been killed by a piece of heavy machinery in a ghastly factory accident. The climactic moment comes when they hear his mangled corpse sloshing horribly toward their front door, and the old man uses the last of the three wishes to send him back to the grave.

I detect a curious parallel here to my own recent experience. Having devoutly hoped for many years to acquire American citizenship, now that I have it there's a sense that something monstrous attaches to the fulfilment of the wish. That monstrous thing is of course the Bush administration, and becoming an American at this precise moment in history feels not exactly like a poisoned chalice, but it certainly leaves a bittersweet taste in the mouth.

We hear Canada's nice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:39 PM

THANK GOODNESS WE WON WWII

The logic of illogic: A review of Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall by Anna Funder (Charles Taylor, Salon.com)
Funder relates the statistics: "At the end, the Stasi had 97,000 employees -- more than enough to oversee a country of seventeen million people. But it also had over 173,000 informers among the population. In Hitler's Third Reich it is estimated that there was one Gestapo agent for every 2000 citizens, and in Stalin's USSR there was one KGB agent for every 5830 people. In the GDR [German Democratic Republic] there was one Stasi officer or informant for every sixty-three people. If part-time informers are included, some estimates have the ratio as high as one informer for every 6.5 citizens."

One of the worst aspects of culture shock for the East Germans who, overnight, found that their country no longer existed, was dealing with the revelation that the state's spies were their neighbors, family, friends, lovers, co-workers. That's what East Germans have learned from Stasi documents -- and what they are still learning in a steady, painful trickle. When the Berlin Wall fell, one of the Stasi's immediate concerns was to shred their voluminous files. Since then, a group called the "puzzle women" have been working to piece together the shredded files. Their story provides Funder with one more daunting statistic: With 40 workers reconstructing 400 pages a day between them, it will take 375 years to reconstruct all the files.

Like all the stories and statistics Stasiland relates, those numbers bespeak a paranoia that's both comic and horrible. One former Stasi official tells Funder that by the end of East Germany, 65 percent of the clergy were working as informers. And 65 percent of the members of one particular East German resistance group were informers. The delicious irony was that these informers swelled the public support for these groups, making it look like there were more East Germans openly against the government than there were.

So we have here the ultimate absurdist spectacle, a state spying apparatus so far-reaching that it nearly ran out of things to spy on. Which isn't a problem in terms of a totalitarian mind-set that can see enemies anywhere. The function of the Stasi was, as Funder relates, to arrest, imprison and interrogate anyone it chose, to open all mail, intercept phone calls, bug hotels, spy on diplomats, run its own hospitals and universities, and to train Libyan terrorists and West German members of the Red Army Faction.

One totalitarianism for another...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:30 PM

"DARK ACTORS"?

Blair on brink as Kelly family point finger: Kelly sent an e-mail accusing "many dark actors playing games" then killed himself (Neil Mackay, James Cusick and Torcuil Crichton, 20 July 2003, Sunday Herald)
TONY Blair faces the biggest political crisis of his six-year premiership with calls for him to resign while in Oxfordshire the body of Dr David Kelly was formally identified and it was said that he took the powerful painkiller coproxamol and then slit his left wrist with a knife.

The government's chief bio- warfare expert and former weapons inspector in Iraq took his own life after finding he had been outed by Whitehall as the possible source behind BBC claims that the government "sexed up" reports that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction in just 45 minutes.

Yesterday afternoon, Kelly's family--wife Janice and grown-up daughters Sian, Rachel and Ellen--issued a statement through Thames Valley Police which was both a thinly-veiled attack on the government and the media, and a tribute to a man described routinely by friends and colleagues as a scientists of "impeccable integrity". [...]

Clearly feeling the pressure, a tired-looking Tony Blair fielded rough questioning from journalists at a press conference in Tokyo. Asked if he felt Kelly’s death was on his conscience, Blair expressed his sorrow for the family but said, referring to the planned independent inquiry into Kelly's death: "I think we should make our judgement after we get the facts."

Looking gaunt and with a tremble in his voice, the PM was then accused by reporters of hiding behind the inquiry and dodged questions about whether he had discussed the possible resignations of his communications director, Alastair Campbell, and Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary and ultimately Kelly's boss.

He then blanked a reporter who asked: "Have you got blood on your hands Prime Minister? Are you going to resign?" The Prime Minister earlier described Kelly's suicide as a
"terrible tragedy", adding: "I am profoundly saddened for David Kelly and for his family." Members of Kelly's family have said that Blair's commiserations came "a bit late in the day".

Why do these British scandals always include a suiciude?

One interesting angle of all this, which hasn't been mentioned much yet, is that if Mr. Blair falles because of the War it will put pressure on his successor to withdraw from Iraq and put the Anglo-American alliance under tremendous pressure. It could also seat a Labour leader more inclined to play footsie with Old Europe and that would ice the relationship until the Tories return to power.

MORE:
-Death of Dr David Kelly: From the hunt for WMD, to the hunt for the mole, to the death of a civil servant. What's next...the end of Blair? (James Cusick, 7/20/03, Sunday Herald)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:54 PM

SHUT UP

Brief encounters in an anxious land: A few months ago in northern Iraq, Ayub Nuri was barely surviving. Now he is engaged as a fixer/translator for the BBC in Baghdad, and has bought a state-of-the-art laptop plus satellite phone. Through the internet he can communicate with the whole world. In this vivid kaleidoscope of current public opinion in Iraq, he foresees difficult times. But intelligent guys seem to be thriving already. (Ayub Nuri, 7/16/2003, Open Democracy)
Barzan Ahmed Aziz is an elementary school teacher. He came over to my place, very fed up, to tell me about his feelings on the current situation and his expectations in life. He is teaching in Aruzar, a village about 150 kilometres outside Sulaimaniya.

"It is not encouraging. A few months have gone past now since the conflict ended in Iraq, and everything is worse than ever. Whether from an economic or social or security point of view - whichever way you look at it, the prospect is bleak. By now I expected some clear signs of a better life, especially for government employees - since most Iraqi people work for the government one way or another. And for many years we have been deprived of everything that makes for a good and comfortable life. What we urgently need is a government to be set up which can redress the situation, and make amends for all these years of hardship.

For myself, why should I want a lifestyle which is less than an American citizen or the citizen of any other country? I also want to be free, to travel and see foreign places and raise myself up in life. I am an elementary school teacher and I love my job, but I am not at all satisfied with the salary and the living I can make from it. To be honest, I can't see any future with this job in this situation. If post-war Iraq makes some change to my life and job prospects, I will carry on teaching and serving the country in this way. But with no hopes, I just feel it isn't worth the effort."

Huh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:37 PM

THE VARIETIES OF BASEBALL EXPERIENCE

THE PROFESSOR OF BASEBALL: Can the master of statistics help the Red Sox beat the Yankees? (BEN MCGRATH, 2003-07-07, The New Yorker)
The Boston Red Sox really want to beat the Yankees. The team's president and C.E.O., Larry Lucchino, has declared the Yanks an "evil empire," and the principal owner, John Henry, speaks of being "destined to knock off Goliath." Last winter, after a season in which the Sox won ninety-three games-but nonetheless fell short of New York for the seventh straight year-Boston installed a new general manager and replaced more than forty per cent of its roster. Perhaps the club's most significant personnel move was the signing, to a one-year contract, of a big, lumbering fifty-three-year-old right-hander from Kansas (six feet four, and well over two hundred pounds) who spends far more time on the Little League diamond, where he keeps the stats, than at any big-league ballpark. He is Bill James, a former boiler-room attendant who, almost thirty years ago, set out to debunk the conventional wisdom proffered by television and radio commentators-"baseball's Kilimanjaro of repeated legend and legerdemain," as he called it-by using statistical evidence. [...]

James wrote that he wanted to approach the subject of baseball "with the same kind of intellectual rigor and discipline that is routinely applied, by scientists great and poor, to trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe, of society, of the human mind, or of the price of burlap in Des Moines." His books proceeded simply, directly, empirically. He responded to every new statement or unearthed fact with a dozen questions: If this is true, then what must also be true? What are the conditions under which it might not be true? And, if it is true, so what-why should we care? What does it all mean? Reading Bill James was like taking an advanced course in extemporaneous-debating technique. The prose was colloquial-"manneristically unmannered," the writer Veronica Geng called it-and full of non-baseball analogies ("The Astros are to baseball what jazz is to music"; "The way that managers have tested the limits of starting pitchers for the last century is quite a bit like the way they used to test for witches, by pond dunking"). Each essay or chapter was clearly outlined, and rife with italics-James's effort to create what he called "a lighted pathway between the question and the answer." He could write descriptively, such as when he addressed Pete Rose's late-career style: "the mad dash to first which has slowed to a furious waddle, the slight, tense quickening of his practice strokes at a key moment of the game, which passes sotto voce a sense of urgency to the dugout behind him, a sense of danger to the one across the way." And he was almost always funny, if a little cruel. In 1979, James wrote that Art Howe (the current manager of the Mets) "pivoted on the double play almost as well as Bobby Doerr. Doerr was one of the greatest pivot men ever, but he is now sixty-one years old, and he gave up the game some years ago, when he began to pivot like Art Howe."

But what set the writing apart-and put the Abstract on the Times' best-seller list-was the accessibility of the logic, the insistence on eliminating biases and ignoring illusions, the practical tone. James's approach seemed distinctly American, descended from the nineteenth-century pragmatist tradition exemplified by his namesake, the philosopher William James. Our James brought barstool argument to the page, and enforced a rigid sobriety. He set forth rational, elaborate methods for evaluating greatness, for example, and when he released his "Historical Baseball Abstract," in 1985, he established a new pecking order for the celebrated baseball players of our time. (Sorry, Catfish Hunter. Step on up, Bobby Grich!) More important, however, James treated his readers to an egghead's theory of winning baseball, in which outs-the only finite resource-are to be avoided at all costs, and walks (which are outproof) are considered more than just acceptable. Walks are admirable, and on-base percentage, not batting average, is the bedrock of a productive offense.

Baseball insiders-people who played and coached baseball every day-had a tendency to view outs as a necessary by-product of scoring runs. Experience showed them that a sacrifice bunt, properly executed, could lead to a game-tying base hit. They could see it right in front of them. They also remembered instances when the count was three-and-oh and a wanna-be hero, rather than take the walk, delivered a bloop single on a junk pitch, driving the go-ahead run home from second. What they couldn't see from the dugout-but what James tended to "see" without watching at all, from the boiler room, even-were the things that didn't happen, or that might have happened, but for the bunt, or for the lunge at a pitch outside the strike zone: the rallies that could put the game out of reach if you'd let the batters hit away instead of handing your opponents an out in the service of a lone score; the batters who accepted a walk, and then came around themselves to score, without risking the lazy fly out that was perhaps five times as likely as the lucky Texas leaguer. [...]

Theo Epstein, the new Red Sox G.M., was a fourth grader at Brookline Elementary School in Brookline, Massachusetts, when he discovered James, in 1984. "I remember reading the Abstract and thinking, God, after reading one book I've changed the way I look at the game on the field," he said the other day, while watching batting practice at Fenway Park. "I never thought that could happen from reading a book."

Holy cow! Not only a great profile but even an accidentally appropriate use of the David and Goliath analogy, with this David utilizing the technological superiority that should make him the favorite to win. Unfortunately, even though the Red Sox are assembled with more coherence and efficiency, the Yankees have an even greater weapon called cash money with which they'll just buy whatever they need to stay ahead in the arms race. They truly are the Evil Empire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:24 PM

INTIFADA NORTH

For Jews in France, a 'Kind of Intifada': Escalation in Hate Crimes Leads to Soul-Searching, New Vigilance (Glenn Frankel, July 16, 2003, Washington Post)
The phone message is one of 10 waiting for Sylvain Zenouda at the local office of the Jewish Community Council of greater Paris: A gang of 15 North African teenagers, some of them wielding broom handles, had invaded the grounds of a Jewish day school on Avenue de Flandre in northeast Paris the previous evening. They punched and kicked teachers and students, yelled epithets and set off firecrackers in the courtyard before fleeing.

Zenouda is a commandant and 30-year veteran of the Paris police, but on this day, he is performing a different role: coordinator for the Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, a volunteer group. He phones the school, makes certain the principal has called the authorities and has insisted that the attack be recorded as a hate crime in the police report, then scribbles the details of the attack in his own battered blue notebook and on a red-and-white declaration form for the Jewish Community Council's burgeoning file of anti-Semitic assaults.

Elsewhere on this steamy July afternoon, he will meet with a businessman whose kosher restaurant was torched recently, a young man assaulted for wearing a Star of David necklace and a congregation of frightened synagogue-goers, some of whom are talking seriously of emigrating to Israel.

The file grows almost daily: 309 incidents in the past 15 months in the Paris region, according to Jewish council officials, and more than 550 since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, broke out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000. The National Consultative Committee on Human Rights, a government-funded body, reported a sixfold increase in acts of violence against Jewish people and property in France from 2001 to 2002.

Many incidents involve verbal assaults -- a taxi driver making an anti-Jewish remark to a passenger, a student harassed at school -- but nearly half involve violent acts of some kind. Most of the perpetrators are not the ultra-rightists and neo-Nazis who once were responsible for anti-Semitic acts, but young North African Arabs of the banlieues, the distant blue-collar suburbs where Muslims and Jews live and work in close proximity. Many of the victims are Sephardic Jews who themselves originally came from North Africa.

"We have our own kind of intifada here," says Zenouda, a Jew who immigrated here from Algeria. "But instead of attacking Israelis, they're attacking the Jews of France."

It's easy enough to believe that the government won't do much about this because they'd rather have the violence directed against Jews than at the French themselves, but it's equally easy to imagine this sentence coming over the newswires: "The French Minister of Culture today reprimanded Police Commandant Sylvain Zenouda for using the term "intifada" to describe violence against Jews, insisting that a French expression be used instead."

MORE:
Muslims, Jews feel the heat in France (James Rosen, July 20, 2003, Sacramento Bee)
As the European Union moves toward a fledgling confederation modeled partly after the United States, Europeans are striving to adapt to another reality of the American experience -- multiculturalism, along with all its attendant promise and problems.

Muslims have a new name for their predicament; they call it "Islamophobia." Jews say they are victims of the ancient scourge of anti-Semitism, spread by radical Arab Muslims with French acquiescence.

"The anti-Semitic incidents in Europe are ominous," Beate Winkler, director of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna, said at a recent conference on anti-Semitism.

"Old images reappear. The anti-Islamic sentiment after September 11th is ominous, too. In both cases, it is the symbols of other religions -- synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, mosques and headscarves -- that become the cause of violence."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:14 PM

THE LIBERTY LOBBY

ACLU asks federal judge to dismiss case against man-boy sex group (The Associated Press, 07.18.01)
A group that promotes sex between men and boys asked a federal judge yesterday to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the parents of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, who was murdered by one of the group's members.

Curley was killed on Oct. 1, 1997. Salvatore Sicari, of Cambridge, was convicted of first-degree murder in the case, while Charles Jaynes, of Brockton and Manchester, N.H., was convicted of second-degree murder and kidnapping.

Last year, the boy's parents, Barbara and Robert Curley, filed a $200 million wrongful death lawsuit against the North American Man/Boy Love Association, claiming Jaynes was incited by the group.

In court yesterday, lawyers with the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is defending NAMBLA in the lawsuit, said that even though many people may find the group's beliefs repugnant, its publications and Web site are protected under First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech.

"We contend that the First Amendment was intended to apply exactly to organizations like this. If we can't protect their rights, then the rights of other organizations are all at risk," said John Reinstein, legal director of the Massachusetts ACLU chapter.

Lawrence Frisoli, a lawyer for the Curleys, said the boy's death was a direct result of the encouragement Jaynes received from NAMBLA to sexually attack young boys.

"The lawsuit is about NAMBLA training Charles Jaynes to rape kids," Frisoli said.

Given what Justice Scalia aptly refers to as the Court's new "sweet-mystery-of-life" standard--that "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."--it is not apparent why having sex with children is actionable at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:02 PM

SOMEONE, ANYONE

Springer's campaign song is striking chords with many Ohioans (Joe Hallett, July 20, 2003, Columbus Dispatch)
U.S. Sen. Jerry Springer of Ohio. Once impossible. Now improbable. Ever so slowly, Springer seems to be clawing his way to legitimacy as a Democratic candidate. How could this be? How could a man everybody dismissed just a few months ago as the "King of Sleaze" even be mentioned with the title senator? How could a candidate who doesn't live in Ohio, vote in Ohio or pay taxes in Ohio become the darling of a growing cadre of Ohio Democrats? Surely Springer would have no chance against Republican Sen. George V. Voinovich, the most popular Ohio politician of the past decade. Heck, early polls show Springer getting trounced in a Democratic primary by little-known state Sen. Eric Fingerhut of Cleveland.

But across the Ohioscape, Democratic activists are beginning to buzz about Springer. On the county rubber-chicken circuit, they are drawn by his celebrity and then wooed by his rhetoric. Starved for someone, anyone, who can articulate a message and can go toe-to-toe with the Republicans, downtrodden Ohio Democrats are not summarily rejecting Springer.

"I don't think anyone has a chance to beat him for the nomination if he wants to go for it," said Charles R. Gray, first vice-chairman of the Defiance County Democratic Party.

The question becomes can the presidential nominee afford to campaign with him in Ohio without damaging himself elsewhere?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:43 PM

IF I WASN'T TREASONOUS THEY CAN'T HAVE BEEN

Blond Lightning on the Far Right (DAVID CARR, July 20, 2003, NY Times)
[Ann Coulter] arrived for an interview on "Scarborough Country" on MSNBC last week swinging a pink Betsey Johnson shopping bag. Inside was a gift for a reporter, a Barbielike Ann Coulter action figure, which is in development. "When they're finished with it, it will talk," she said. Of course it will.

The possibility of adventure hangs near when Ms. Coulter appears on mainstream television, and Diane Sawyer looked nervous at the end of last month to see Ms. Coulter seated beside her. On "Today" last year to promote "Slander," Ms. Coulter tangled with Katie Couric, a television personality she had christened in her book as "the affable Eva Braun of morning television." Ms. Couric introduced her guest as a "right-wing telebimbo," and things went downhill from there. The segment ended just about when Ms. Couric, America's sweetheart, seemed ready to leap from her chair and choke Ms. Coulter, America's other woman.

Ms. Sawyer all but used a tongs to pick up "Treason" and struggled for something polite to say about the author, finally concluding, "She is, of course, so successful."

Ms. Coulter batted aside the compliment and corrected Ms. Sawyer's introduction, pointing out that she had mixed up the subtitles of the two books. "This book is about treachery," she said. "The last book was about lies," she added, leaving out "Duh," but implying it with a laugh.

The interview ended with Ms. Sawyer observing that Ms. Coulter would be slugging it out on the best-seller lists with Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton. "She has a three-to-one pound advantage over me," Ms. Coulter pointed out. Ms. Sawyer looked as if her head might fly off. (Ms. Coulter later said that she was mostly referring to Ms. Clinton's hefty book.)

Whatever you think of Ms Coulter and Senator McCarthy--and I'm inclined to the view that he was horribly irresponsible but did more good than harm by creating an atmosphere in which American communism was anathema--it's awfully hard to take seriously the denunciations of red-diaper baby and former radical David Horowitz, who has never really been able to bring himself to disavow his youthful politics. When he can denounce himself with the same kind of vigor he reserves for others--as someone like Whittaker Chambers did when he realized the error of his ways--then we'll listen to his anti-anti-communist skiffle.


MORE:
-I Dare Call it Treason (Ann Coulter, June 26, 2003, FrontPageMagazine.com)
-The Trouble with `Treason' (David Horowitz, 7/09/03, Jewish World Review)
-A Conspiracy So Vast: Meet Ann Coulter, the Maureen Dowd of the conservatives. (Dorothy Rabinowitz, July 7, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
-None Dare Call It Stupidity: Pure nastiness left and right (Cathy Young, 7/15/03, Reason)
-Treason: Horowitz v. Coulter (Bruce Walker, 07/11/03, American Daily)
-BOGUS FROM THE BEGINNING: The backlash against the War Party's lies is only just starting (Justin Raimondo, July 14, 2003, Anti-War)
-: Ann Coulter's Betrayal of the Anti-Communist Historians (Stephen Schwartz, 7-14-03, History News Network)
-Joe McCarthy: Dangerous Buffoon (Ronald Kessler, 7-14-03, History News Network)
-REVIEW: of Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism By Ann Coulter (Walter C. Uhler, SF Chronicle)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM

CARPE DIEM

Netanyahu tries twisting Israeli economy into shape: His revolutionary crash program called a boon for some, disaster for others (Greg Myre, July 20, 2003 , New York Times)
Benjamin Netanyahu is racing to revolutionize Israel's economy, and he considers it a sprint, not a marathon.

In just over four months as Israel's finance minister, he has cut the top income tax rate to 49 percent from 60 percent, winning cheers from the wealthy.

He is making sweeping reductions in social programs, provoking protests from the poor. He is trying to raise the retirement age to 67 for all, from the current age of 60 for women and 65 for men, prompting demonstrations by older workers, and he has revamped the pension system, drawing praise from economists.

The national airline, El Al, is being privatized, and Netanyahu plans to reduce greatly the state's role in the telephone, electricity and banking industries.

"We are doing two things -- making drastic reductions in the public sector and stimulating the private sector," Netanyahu said in an interview. "The country will undergo a short period of hardship as we
decelerate from the old system, and then there will be a great spurt of growth." [...]

Israel's economy is an odd combination of the socialist ethos, which dates to the country's founding in 1948, and an entrepreneurial, high-tech sector that flourished in the late 1990s.

The government sends a monthly check directly into the bank accounts of all families with children, regardless of financial circumstances. But Netanyahu has reduced financing for the child-allowance program -- perhaps his most controversial cost-cutting move.

A family with five children -- not uncommon in Israel -- has been receiving $440 a month. That will fall soon to $340 and eventually to $167.

Such programs are part of a public sector that accounts for 55 percent of the Israeli economy, and has been growing, compared with the 45 percent for the shrinking private sector. Netanyahu has compared it to a lean, fit man obliged to carry a heavy man on his back.

"The guy on top needs to go on a diet, and the guy on bottom needs to be cut loose," he said. "If we don't change the scenario, pretty soon we would collapse."

This is in many ways a more important project than the "road-map", because the end of that process is foreordained--it ends in a Palestinian State, while the moments in history at which a liberal democracy has an opportunity to dismantle significant portions of the welfare state are exceedingly rare. We failed to take advantage of one such moment at the end of WWII, propping up socialist Europe with Marshall Plan money and getting ourselves bogged down in the Cold War. Let us hope that the Israelis stay the course.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:53 AM

U.S. ... PREPARED FOR WAR

U.S. Air Raids in '02 Prepared for War in Iraq: Air war commanders carried out a thorough plan to disrupt Iraq's military command and control system before the war. (MICHAEL R. GORDON, 7/20/03, NY Times)
American air war commanders carried out a comprehensive plan to disrupt Iraq's military command and control system before the Iraq war, according to an internal briefing on the conflict by the senior allied air war commander.

Known as Southern Focus, the plan called for attacks on the network of fiber-optic cable that Saddam Hussein's government used to transmit military communications, as well as airstrikes on key command centers, radars and other important military assets.

The strikes, which were conducted from mid-2002 into the first few months of 2003, were justified publicly at the time as a reaction to Iraqi violations of a no-flight zone that the United States and Britain established in southern Iraq. But Lt. Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the chief allied war commander, said the attacks also laid the foundations for the military campaign against the Baghdad government. [...]

The disclosure of the plan is part of an assessment prepared by General Moseley on the lessons of the war with Iraq. General Moseley and a senior aide presented their assessments at an internal briefing for American and allied military officers at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on Thursday.

Among the disclosures provided in the internal briefings and in a later interview the General Moseley:

* New information has shown that there was not a bunker in the Dora Farms area near Baghdad, where American intelligence initially believed Mr. Hussein was meeting with his aides. The site was attacked by F-117 stealth fighters and cruise missiles as the Bush administration sought to kill Mr. Hussein at the very onset of the war. Still, Iraqi leaders were believed to be in the Dora Farms area, General Moseley said.

* Air war commanders were required to obtain the approval of Defense Secretary Donald L. Rumsfeld if any planned airstrike was thought likely to result in deaths of more than 30 civilians. More than 50 such strikes were proposed, and all of them were approved.

* During the war, about 1,800 allied aircraft conducted about 20,000 strikes. Of those, 15,800 were directed against Iraqi ground forces while some 1,400 struck the Iraqi Air Force, air bases or air defenses. About 1,800 airstrikes were directed against the Iraqi government and 800 at suspected hiding places and installations for illicit weapons, including surface-to-surface missiles.

* Allied commanders say precision-guided weapons made up a greater percentage of the strikes than in any previous conflict. But the military experienced great difficulty in obtaining reliable battle damage assessment about attacks against Iraqi ground forces. There were also differences between Army and Air Force commanders about the best procedures for carrying out the strikes. As a result, airstrikes against Iraqi forces that fought the Army were not as effective as commanders would have liked.

Duh? Are there really still people who haven't figured out that George W. Bush had decided to finish off Saddam Hussein in September 2001? Of course the air campaign in 2002 and early '03 was preparatory to the war.

And who do we think will be first out of the box shrieking in horror at the routine approval of raids that might kill civilians? Maureen Dowd went to press today, so smart money's on a British tabloid.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 AM

HARRY ASKS, THE STANDARD DELIVERS

Bush Suckers the Democrats: Anatomy of a scandal that wasn't. (William Kristol, 07/28/2003, Weekly Standard)
KARL ROVE is a genius. No--Rove probably gets more credit than he deserves for political smarts, and the president gets too little, so let's rephrase that: George W. Bush is a genius.

Almost two weeks ago, the president ordered his White House staff to bollix up its explanation of that now-infamous 16-word "uranium from Africa" sentence in his State of the Union address. As instructed, and with the rhetorical ear and political touch for which they have become justly renowned, assorted senior administration officials, named and unnamed, proceeded to unleash all manner of contradictory statements. The West Wing stood by the president's claim. Or it didn't. Or the relevant intelligence reports had come from Britain and were faulty. Or hadn't and weren't. Smelling blood, just as they'd been meant to, first the media--and then the Democratic party--dove into the resulting "scandal" head first and fully clothed.

Belatedly, but sometime soon, the divers are going to figure out that they've been lured into a great big ocean--with no way back to shore. Because the more one learns about this Niger brouhaha that White House spokesmen have worked so hard to generate, the less substance there seems to be in it. As we say, George W. Bush is a genius.

One would tend to doubt that the whole thing was set up as a tar baby, but once the Democrats started punching at it the White House did and does seem wholly unconcerned by the prospect of Democrats basing their opposition to the war on the idea that Saddam never had a WMD program.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM

COUNTERINSURGENCY

A Front-Running Insurgent: Don't discount the excitement around Howard Dean. (ALBERT R. HUNT, July 20, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
For both the former Vermont governor and the Democratic Party, this unusual situation--a surging insurgent before there's an establishment favorite--affords opportunities and pitfalls.

The Dean base largely is what pollster Stan Greenberg calls the "secular warriors"--largely white, middle- to upper-middle-class, non-churchgoing, non-gun-owning voters. With his singular--among major candidates--opposition to the Iraq war, he became the favorite of more Democrats who intensely dislike and mistrust George W. Bush, dating back to the 2000 election controversy. Dean campaign chief Joe Trippi argues his camp's growing band of supporters are not only anti-Bush and antiwar, and anti-Washington insider, but are willing, even eager, to make sacrifices for a greater good.

The candidate behind all this is considerably less ideological than often depicted; he's a reformer, not a liberal or a progressive. His priorities are fiscal discipline, health care, children and, he says, foreign policy; social issues are secondary. Even on national security, this isn't a left-winger. The war, he argues, was wrong, but it would be a huge mistake to pull out of Iraq and he acknowledges the defense budget can't be cut.

Mr. Trippi doesn't worry about the "Birkenstock liberal" rap; when reporters go to Vermont, they'll discover the real Dean.

The "real Dean" was a very popular governor in a Left-of-center New England state but by the end of his stay in office had somehow managed to revive a Republican Party that to this day has no superior personalities or particularly adept politicians at the top, yet still has the governor's seat and half the legislature. By endorsing Vermont Supreme Court decisions that required equalization of education funding (and therefore hiked taxes on local property owners) and adoption of some type of gay marriage-like institution and by supporting the state's cumbersome environmental permitting process, Mr. Dean unwittingly helped foster the "Take Back Vermont" movement, a genuinely grassroots campaign fueled by anger at the governing elites, who are perceived in the state as being mainly yuppie imports (Flatlanders) or, even worse, folks who haven't become Vermonters but maintain second houses there. Regardless of anything else he did, that is the legacy the GOP will drape around his neck--taxes, government regulations, gay marriage--and you can just see the ads now, with picturesque farmers making the case against him.


MORE:
-PROFILE: See Howard Run: Vermont governor Howard Dean is off and running for the White House. But why is he doing it, and where will he end up? (Charles P. Pierce, 11/24/2002, Boston Globe)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:52 AM

IT'S THE BEAUTY WAY TO GO

Discontent Americans Consider Canada (DAVID CRARY, 7/19/03, AP)
For all they share economically and culturally, Canada and the United States are increasingly at odds on basic social policies - to the point that at least a few discontented Americans are planning to move north and try their neighbors' way of life.

A husband and wife in Minnesota, a college student in Georgia, a young executive in New York. Though each has distinct motives for packing up, they agree the United States is growing too conservative and believe Canada offers a more inclusive, less selfish society.

"For me, it's a no-brainer," said Mollie Ingebrand, a puppeteer from Minneapolis who plans to go to Vancouver with her lawyer husband and 2-year-old son.

"It's the most amazing opportunity I can imagine. To live in a society where there are different priorities in caring for your fellow citizens."

For decades, even while nurturing close ties with the United States, Canadians have often chosen a different path - establishing universal health care, maintaining ties with Cuba, imposing tough gun control laws. Two current Canadian initiatives, to decriminalize marijuana and legalize same-sex marriage, have pleased many liberals in the United States and irked conservatives.

New York executive Daniel Hanley, 31, was arranging a move for himself and his partner, Tony, long before the Canadian announcement about same-sex marriage. But the timing delights him; he and Tony now hope to marry in front of their families after they emigrate to British Columbia.

"Canada has an opportunity to define itself as a leader," Hanley said. "In some ways, it's now closer to American ideals than America is."

Given the low quality of the last batch we sloughed off on them, this hardly seems fair to Canada and, of course, moving somewhere because you'll get free health care and your various social pathologies are allowed is hardly a mark of unselfishness, but, other than those qualifications, this seems like a terrific idea, one that will hopefully become fashionable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM

DEAD RECKONING

In Sketchy Data, Trying to Gauge Iraq Threat THE NEW YORK TIMES: James Risen, David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, July 19, 2003, NY Times)
[A]merican intelligence officials and senior members of the administration have acknowledged that there was little new evidence flowing into
American intelligence agencies in the five years since United Nations inspectors left Iraq, creating an intelligence vacuum.

"Once the inspectors were gone, it was like losing your G.P.S. guidance," added a Pentagon official, invoking as a metaphor the initials of the military's navigational satellites. "We were reduced to dead reckoning. We had to go back to our last fixed position, what we knew in '98, and plot a course from there. With dead reckoning, you're heading generally in the right direction, but you can swing way off to one side or the other."

Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's national security adviser, said today that the question of new evidence versus old was beside the point. "The question of what is new after 1998 is not an interesting question," she said. "There is a body of evidence since 1991. You have to look at that body of evidence and say what does this require the United States to do? Then you are compelled to act.

"To my mind, the most telling and eye-catching point in the judgment of five of the six intelligence agencies was that if left unchecked, Iraq would most likely have a nuclear weapon in this decade. The president of the United States could not afford to trust Saddam's motives or give him the benefit of the doubt," she said. [...]

"Intelligence doesn't necessarily mean something is true," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news briefing after major combat ended in Iraq. "You know, it's your best estimate of the situation. It doesn't mean it's a fact. I mean, that's not what intelligence is."

Ms Rice may not necessarily be correct in her assessment that we were "required" to act, but consider the question if it's framed this way: given all we knew about Saddam Hussein's anti-Western aspirations, the barbarity of his regime, and the undisputed fact that he was violating the existing cease-fire agreement, was there any compelling reason to leave him in power?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:21 AM

ALL COMEDY IS [STILL] CONSERVATIVE

Why Liberals Are No Fun (Frank Rich, July 20, 2003, NY Times)
How can Democrats be so ineffectual in the media in which they would seem to have a home-court cultural advantage? The talk-show playing field is littered with liberal casualties: Mario Cuomo, Alan Dershowitz, Phil Donahue. Why waste money on more broadcasting flops? The conventional wisdom has it that liberals will never make it in this arena because they are humorless, their positions are too complicated to explain, and some powerful media companies (whether Mr. Murdoch's News Corporation or the radio giant Clear Channel) want to put up roadblocks.

Others argue that liberals are so down and out that they don't even know what they believe any more. "The reason conservative media outlets work is that they have a mass audience united by a discrete ideology," says Tucker Carlson, who affably represents the right on CNN's "Crossfire" and is one of those I've queried about this topic in recent months. "They believe in nine things. They all know the catechism." In Mr. Carlson's view, Democrats are all over the ideological map in the post-Clinton era, and there can be no effective media without a coherent message.

But the case against liberal talk success isn't a slam-dunk. After all, conservatives have their talk-show fiascos too, as evidenced by MSNBC, the lame would-be Fox clone that, as the comedian Jon Stewart has said, doesn't "deserve all those letters" in its name. MSNBC's just-canceled right-wing star, Michael Savage, drew smaller audiences on the channel than Mr. Donahue did. What's more, there actually are liberals who retain a sense of humor (witness Mr. Franken, Mr. Stewart and Michael Moore), while conservative stars are not infrequently humor-free (witness Mr. O'Reilly).

Norman Lear goes so far as to argue that liberals are intrinsically funnier than conservatives. "Most comedy comes from those who see humor in the human condition," he says. "Most who traffic in the stuff could be called humanists. The far-right talk hosts spew a kind of venom and ridicule that passes for funnybone material with the program executives that hire them."

If humor doesn't bring liberals talk-show success, is the problem that they lack rage?

Mr. Lear., not surprisingly, has that completely bassackwards. In fact, as we've frequently argued here:
Despite the public perception of conservatives as prissy schoolmarms and bible-thumping Puritans, nothing more clearly distinguishes the Right from the Left than the latter's complete humorlessness. It's oft been noted--perhaps too often by me--that to a liberal life is a tragedy, to a conservative it's a comedy. There are several causes of this. The most important is that conservatives hold to the Judeo-Christian worldview of Man as Fallen. We believe that Man is sinful by his nature and that this capacity for evil precludes the possibility of ever perfecting the species or society. Liberals (like Libertarians) are utopians. They believe that Man is naturally good but that he has been corrupted by money and the artificial stratification of society that accompanies it. They believe in the possibility of perfecting the species once again and of perfecting society. Thus, the two politics, of Left and Right, diverge even at their conception of human nature and of the purpose of life.

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

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

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

Although, in a month when the Left has begun routinely referring to the Bush administration as crypto-fascist, we do give Mr. Rich kudos for this hilarious question about liberals: "is the problem that they lack rage?"

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:02 AM

AN AUTHORITY JAMES WATT WOULD LOVE

Running Iraq (Amir Taheri, July 19, 2003, Townhall.com)
Two months after he arrived in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer III, the American interim ruler of Iraq, has confounded doomsayers by creating an interim Iraqi authority as the first step towards democratisation in that war-torn land.

The new authority, presented as a governing council, is the most representative that Iraq has seen since its creation as a state in 1921.

With 13 out of the 25 seats on the council, the Shiites, who form 60 per cent of the population, have their demographic strength reflected for the first time. The Kurds have five seats, again reflecting their linguistic, religious and cultural diversity. Sunni Arabs get five seats, slightly higher than their demographic strength, reflecting their long tradition of ruling Iraq. The Christians, accounting for three per cent of the population, get one seat just as ethnic Turcomans with one per cent of the population.

Bremer Pasha's council, however, must not be seen as a parade of Iraqi ethnic and religious diversity.

Beyond ethnic and religious identities, the council members represent a rich spectrum of political traditions.There are liberals, socialists, Communists, moderate and hard line Islamists, pan-Arab nationalists, and even dissident Ba'athists.

Nowhere else in the Arab world is there a possibility of reflecting such a rich diversity in any governing organ.

But this is only the first step.

Such diverse governance, and such a diverse state, seems unlikely to work out and it would probably be a better use of our time to get Kurdistan up and running right away, but this may be an obligatory political step for now.

July 19, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM

THE PARTY OF DWINDLING MINORITIES

Democrats Have 'Man Trouble' And Gender Gap Is Just A Crack (BRIAN MITCHELL, July 21, 2003, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY)
Democrats thanked soccer moms for their success in the 1990s. But "office park dads" could spell their doom in 2004, warns Democratic pollster Mark Penn.

Penn told a June meeting of the New Democrat Network that white males prefer the GOP 2-to-1. Just 24% of white males consider themselves Democrats; 53% call themselves Republicans.

That's even worse for Democrats than Al Gore did in 2000. Gore got 36% of white male votes--less than Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.

President Bush won 61% of white men with college degrees, 63% of white men without degrees and 62% of white men making more than $75,000 a year.

The growing GOP pull among white men is a double blow to Democrats. White men are still 39% of the electorate. Men also give more money to political causes than women do--three times more in the 1990s, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. [...]

Democrats still do well with single women, blacks and Hispanics. In 2002, 88% of blacks, 60% of Hispanics and 69% of single women voted Democratic, says Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg.

But Republicans raised their take of the female vote in congressional races from 45% in '00 to 48% in '02.

"The big news since last time isn't really what's happened to men so much as what's happened to women," said William Galston, professor of public affairs at the University of Maryland and an adviser to presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

"For a lot of women--soccer mom types, women with families--Sept. 11 has turned national security into a domestic security issue," Galston said. [...]

Even on some women's issues, the trend favors the GOP.

In a recent poll by the pro-choice Center for the Advancement of Women, 51% of women favored limits on abortion, up from 45% in 2001. Just 30% said abortion should face no restrictions.

Sure, losing their grip on white women is unhelpful, but look at that 60% Hispanic number. If the GOP can just get that to 50-50 it's all over but the cryin'..

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:39 PM

NO DEGREES

He Conned the Society Crowd but Died Alone (DAN BARRY, July 19, 2003, NY Times)
David Hampton's pursuit of a fabulous Manhattan life ended last month in the early-morning hush of a downtown hospital. No
celebrities keened by his bedside, no theatrics unfolded in the hall; there was no last touch of the fabulous. Just the clinical cluck that follows the death of a man who dies alone at 39.

His name may not resonate, but his story will. David Hampton was the black teenager who conned members of the city's white elite 20 years ago with an outsized charm. He duped them into believing that he was a classmate of their children, the son of Sidney Poitier, and a victim of muggers who had just stolen his money and Harvard term paper--a term paper titled "Injustices in the Criminal Justice System."

The scam yielded a modest payoff: temporary shelter, a little cash, and the satisfaction of having mocked what he saw as the hypocritical world of limousine liberalism. He also briefly experienced the glamorous Manhattan life that had first seduced him from his upper-middle-class home in Buffalo, a city that he once said lacked anyone "who was glamorous or fabulous or outrageously talented."

"New York was the place for him," Susan V. Tipograph, a lawyer and close friend, said. "In his mind, the fabulous people lived in New York City."

But Mr. Hampton paid long-term costs for his New York conceit and deceit. For beguiling the affluent under false pretenses--the formal charge was attempted burglary--he received 21 months in prison. And for being such a distinctive character, he received eternal notoriety as the inspiration for "Six Degrees of Separation," a 1990 play by John Guare that became a hit and then a movie.

The play is only enjoyable for its lacerating portrayal of New York liberal guilt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:58 PM

BLESSED CLARITY

Leaves of Trees (Andrew Ferguson, 07/21/2003, Weekly Standard)
I WAS OUT OF TOWN on a reporting trip a couple months ago, hanging around with a group of people I thought might make a good story.

They had gathered near dawn on a bluff by a river. It was a striking site and I wanted to record its details in my notebook, as a way of splashing a little color into my narrative. Far below us, a wooden footbridge arched across the ice-blue water. White caps rose and fell. Poised at the crest of the bluff was some kind of big tree, its mighty limbs overspreading our little group, and when the wind picked up, a gentle spray of its leaves would flutter to the ground, layering a lush carpet of leaves from some other kind of tree nearby. Yet another, different kind of big tree commingled its branches with the first big tree that I just mentioned, and as the light passed through, it fashioned a cathedral effect framing the hillside beyond, where lots and lots of other big trees formed ghostly shapes in the rising mist, the way this kind of tree sometimes does, the kind of tree that has those scraggly, gnarled limbs and the tiny, pointed leaves. Maybe you know the kind of tree I mean.

Or maybe you don't. My stab at colorful description came to nothing. Wherever I scanned the intricate arrangement of this sun-dappled tableau, trees formed the essential element, and God only knew what kind of trees they were. When I got back home and paged through my skimpy notes, I thought: A writer needs to know his trees. You can't use phrases like "sun-dappled tableau" unless you're ready to say what kind of foliage is causing the sun to dapple the tableau. It constitutes a professional transgression of some sort--a cheat. It's not Jayson Blair, but a whiff of bunco clings to it just the same.

This is how I came to the work of Dr. George A. Petrides. He is the author, now deceased, of "Eastern Trees," an illustrated field guide I bought soon after my frustration on the bluff. I've never met him but feel an intimacy with him, the way a reader does with writers who deliver. Dr. Petrides knows everything about Eastern trees, and as a literary man his chief distinctions are his lack of pretense and his distaste for obfuscation--almost unheard-of in an expert of any kind, but indispensable in anyone trying to get his thoughts down straight and clear. Clarity is a high principle with him. "This book avoids technical botanical terms," he writes. "There seems to be little point in describing a leaf shape as 'cordate,' for instance, when a botanical glossary defines the word as meaning merely 'heart-shaped.' One might as well say 'heart-shaped' from the beginning."

And where there is clarity--if the subject is trees--there is beauty.

Recommended by Andrew Ferguson and illustrated by Roger Tory Peterson? You can't go wrong.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:41 PM

MAYBE THEY SHOULD KEEP GRAY

The Battle of the Accents (Don Hazen, July 14, 2003, AlterNet)
Hard to believe, but this fall those two accented icons, Greek-born Arianna Huffington and Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger, may well be battling to the wire to take the California governorship away from sad sack Gray Davis, who has embarrassed himself to near unanimous public contempt in the state. [...]

Huffington's former husband, conservative Congressman and Texas oil heir Michael Huffington, narrowly lost in a bid to unseat Diane Feinstein in the 1996 Senate race. Michael Huffington came out as gay after that election loss, the two separated, and Arianna has undergone a very visible transformation from the right to the populist left. She was a regular guest on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, where she moved out of the right-wing seat, due in part to what she has said was Robert Scheer's political persuasion.

The reason a Huffington candidacy would need to be taken seriously is that sooner or later, California labor and progressive leaders and Democrats are going to have to come up with a candidate to support should Davis lose. Naturally, they will advise voting against the recall, but the second question on the ballot remains: If the governor is recalled who should be the new governor?

If the Dems don't provide an option and Davis is recalled they are guaranteeing a Republican takeover in Sacramento -- either Schwarzenegger or someone much worse, such as the inept Bill Simon, who despite his inexperience and failure on the campaign trail lost to Davis by only a relatively small margin.

It had previously been thought impossible to start a paragraph by saying someone should be taken seriously and end it saying they're a disciple of the vile Robert Scheer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:32 PM

THE FUTURE HAPPENED HERE

Russian Orthodox basilica dedicated on site of Tsar's death (CWNews.com, 7/18/03)
A new Orthodox basilica has been consecrated in Yekaterinburg, on the site where, 85 years ago, on July 17, 1918, the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, together with his wife, son, four daughters and four servants who had been allowed to remain with them, were shot by the Bolsheviks.

The consecration ceremonies began on the morning of July 16 and continued through the day, culminating in a midnight procession to the site where the Bolsheviks tried to destroy the bodies so that- in their own words-- "no one would ever know what happened." (Their efforts were unsuccessful; the remains of the imperial family and their servants were located in 1991, verified by DNA matching, and eventually re-interred in St. Petersburg).

The new Yekaterinburg church, to be called the Basilica of the Blood in the name of All the Saints of Russia, stands on the site of the "Ipatyev house" where the imperial family was confined and eventually
shot. The house itself was destroyed on the orders of Boris Yeltsin, during his term as Communist Party boss there: a decision which, as Russia s first post-Communist president, he came to regret. However, stones from the foundations of the Ipatyev house have been built into the basilica, and a special side-chapel replicates the cellar where the shooting took place.

Some crimes you just can't bury deep enough:
Liberal minds flocked to the USSR in an unending procession, from the great ones like Shaw and Gide and Barbusse and Julian Huxley and Harold Laski and Sidney and Beatrice Webb, down to poor little teachers, crazed clergymen and millionaires, drivelling dons, all utterly convinced that, under the aegis of the great Stalin, a new dawn is breaking in the world, so that the human race may at last be united in liberty, equality and fraternity forevermore . . . These Liberal minds are prepared to believe anything, however preposterous, to overlook anything, however villainous, to approve anything, however obscurantist and brutally authoritarian, in order to be able to preserve intact the confident expectation that one of the most thoroughgoing, ruthless and bloody tyrannies ever to exist on earth can be relied on to champion human freedom, the brotherhood of man, and all the other good Liberal causes to which they had dedicated their lives . . . They are unquestionably one of the marvels of the age . . . all chanting the praises of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, and of Stalin as its most gracious and beloved figurehead. It was as though a Salvation Army contingent had turned out with bands and banners in honour of some ferocious tribal deity, or as though a vegetarian society had issued a passionate plea for cannibalism.
-Malcolm Muggeridge (Confessions of a Twentieth-Century Pilgrim)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM

WHAT DIFFERENCE DO REPUBLICANS MAKE?

Bills to Change Fetus's Status Gain Support: Measures Expanding Crime Victim Designation Called Backdoor Curbs on Abortion Rights (Juliet Eilperin, July 19, 2003, Washington Post)
Momentum is building behind legislation that would make it a federal crime to harm the fetus of a pregnant woman, spurred in part by outrage over the slaying of Californian Laci Peterson and her
unborn son, Conner.

The measure, dubbed the "Laci and Conner's Law," seeks to treat fetuses in such cases as victims separate from their mothers, with all the rights of individuals. It would apply to federal crimes, which take place in areas such as national parks, military installations and Indian reservations, and would carry a sentence of up to life imprisonment. [...]

While the legislation may affect the outcome of only a handful of trials each year -- Peterson is charged under state law -- it has symbolic significance for antiabortion advocates, who have tried for
several years to pass the measure but have encountered resistance in the Senate and the White House.

Republican control of the White House and Congress has given antiabortion bills the best chance of passage in years.



MORE:
A New Hard-Liner at the DEA (JASON VEST, July 14, 2003, The Nation)
Though the Republican Party prides itself on being a champion of state sovereignty, one need only mention phrases like "medical marijuana" or "drug law reform" to see how quickly the Administration of George W. Bush becomes hostile to the notion of the autonomy of states. The latest--and perhaps most egregious--example of this enmity is about to become manifest via a new appointment: that of veteran Justice Department official Karen Tandy, soon to be new chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Already approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee after an all but unnoticed, if not farcical, confirmation hearing late last month, the Administration evidently hopes Tandy's nomination will next clear the full Senate with as little attention or debate as possible. Lost in the shuffle has been any meaningful examination of dubious policy initiatives and prosecutions Tandy has been involved in over the past twenty years.

According to drug-reform activists, the nomination of Tandy--a career Justice Department prosecutor and administrator whose most recent assignments have included busting mail-order bong sellers and those involved in Oregon and California's state-sanctioned medical marijuana programs--is a clear signal from the Administration that it will give no quarter on any aspect of marijuana policy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM

SCIENTER

The spiritual shortcomings of the God of the scientist turned theologian. (Peter Sellick, 7/03/2003, Online Opinion)
I recently attended a lecture entitled "Cosmic Richness" at the University of Western Australia given by John Polkinghorne, one of the Cambridge scientists who, together with Arthur Peacock, left science to study theology and become ordained Anglicans. Polkinghorne and Peacock have both won the Templeton prize for their contribution towards the science/religion debate. Apart from which, I lump them together because, it seems to me, they are broadly on about the same thing.

I must admit that I attended the lecture with some foreboding because I have in the past found the arguments put forward by these two to be unconvincing and, indeed, to threaten the very thing they are attempting to prop up: Christianity besieged by natural science. [...]

My point is that the God we find in the bible, the God that Moses met before the burning bush and whose name was "I am", the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the God of Jesus Christ, Father, Son and Holy Spirit is so peculiar and so foreign to our natural theism that He cannot simply be joined with the scientist/theologians speculation about divine agency, a sort of force hiding in the shrubbery of the universe. What has this agency to do with the child in the manger, the man in despair in the garden and dying abandoned on the cross?

What happens to Christian theology when it finds its foundation in the sort of theism that comes from scientific arguments for the existence of divine agency? Karl Barth recognised that the God of natural theology is a far preferable creature than the one revealed nailed to the cross. The romantic mood will always discount the abundant examples of natural evil and concentrate on the spectacular sunset, the lovers' embrace or the child's smile. In the face of these the crucified God is bound to come off second best and be seen as a spoil-sport of the celebration of life. Likewise the God that is speculated to exist behind the fabric of the universe, especially when backed up by prestigious advocates of the dominant culture (natural science), looks a far better bet than the God revealed in the peculiar and haunting narratives of the bible. The latter is a dangerous God whose presence is fearful and life changing whereas the god of science/theology is an intellectual curiosity whose existence we can assent to but who will never call us and challenge us and dispose us.

A Christian theology that finds its foundation or warrant in the speculation of scientists is as fragile as scientific hypothesis...

Perhaps this overstates the problem with Theism. Judeo-Christianity is obviously not founded on science, but on revelation. What science can do is confirm, in an extremely rationalist epoch, that faith in that revelation is, if not justified, at least not contradicted by scientific reason. That the science--everything from the Big Bang to the Heisenberg principle to evolution to Fermi's paradox--is so consistent with our theology is entirely predictable to those of faith, but must disturb those who expected reason to eliminate the bases of faith. The God who is not disproved by science can not suffice for the faith, but does suffice for reason, as He must, since the latter is but a subset of the former.

MORE:
Darwin in a Box: Are you ready for computers that speed up the process of evolution and teach themselves to think? (Steven Johnson, August 2003, Discover)
On the screen, an animated figure takes a step forward and tries to walk. Instead it collapses immediately, falls on its back, and flails its legs helplessly. Then it reappears at the left of the screen, takes a few delicate baby steps, and falls again. Returning to the screen, it raises its knees, takes six or so confident strides, and drops on its side. After trying over and over again to walk, the figure finally marches successfully across the screen as though its motions had been captured directly from videos of a human walking.

This little film won't win an Oscar for Best Animated Short, but the software that generated it stands as a small miracle of computer programming. The figure was not taught how to walk by an offscreen animator; it evolved the capacity for walking on its own. The intelligence to do so came from some clever programming that tries to mimic nature's ability to pass along successful genes.

The idea is called a genetic algorithm. It creates a random population of potential solutions, then tests each one for success, selecting the best of the batch to pass on their "genes" to the next generation, including slight mutations to introduce variation. The process is repeated until the program evolves a workable solution.

Does Science Point to God?: Part II: The Christian Critics (Benjamin D. Wiker, July/August 2003, The Crisis)
In the Descent [of Man (1871)], Darwin offered an evolutionary account of the rise of morality and religious belief, solely in terms of natural selection. He also drew out the obvious moral implications. Since human nature is the product of evolution, as with any product of natural selection, it can be improved on by artificial selection. Just as a pigeon fancier takes what nature gives him and selectively breeds for traits he desires, so also human beings should take their own evolution into their own hands. It's no accident, then, that Descent's finale is a call to eugenics, a science to which Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton, gave the name but to which Darwin gave the foundation.

Nor is it an accident, at present and for the foreseeable future, that evolution provides the support for genetic manipulation and the removal-via the combination of screening and abortion-of the genetically unfit. Once human nature is understood to be an accident of chance, it can no longer be the inviolable locus of moral claims. We, the clay, now lay claim to be the potters as well. To repeat, Darwinism inevitably leads to moral Darwinism. The lesson? NOMA is nonsense.

A sure sign that Darwinism knows no moral bounds is that nearly all the moral controversies we face today (and we will face tomorrow) hinge on a single disagreement: whether human beings are fundamentally distinct from all other animals or whether human beings are simply one more kind of animal; that is, whether we have an immortal, immaterial soul as created in the image of God, or whether we're one more indistinct and unintended form of animal life provisionally occupying the ever-changing evolutionary landscape.

To take a most illustrative moral quandary, if we're merely another kind of animal, then euthanasia should not be a moral issue at all. Rather, euthanasia would merely be the long-overdue application to human beings of a service long-available at all veterinary clinics for our pets. We don't let our pets suffer when they've contracted some painful, irremediable malady or are ravaged by old age. We consider it humane to put them down, and that's why advocates of euthanasia consider its prohibition not only irrational but inhumane.

Nor again do we become morally queasy when we only let the best horses, cattle, sheep, and goats breed. Further, farmers and breeders do not coddle retarded or malformed animals, supplying them with comfortable pasturage. They eliminate the unfit without delay and without remorse. Why should the biologically challenged be a drain on already strained resources?

Well, why not? The only support for the "why not" in regard to human beings is the conviction that we are indeed fundamentally distinct, created in the image of God, and not fashioned as an unintended effect of natural selection. This truth claim grounds our moral arguments against euthanasia and eugenics, and it is a claim about reality that directly overlaps [Stephen Jay] Gould's cherished evolutionary magisterium.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:29 AM

PRINCIPLE UBER ALLES

Ignore Pollsters -- Just Tell the Truth: McGovern tells his detractors that losing is no sin but dishonesty is. (George McGovern, July 13, 2003, LA Times)
In 1972, my campaign for president was buried in a landslide. I lost everywhere except Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Richard Nixon was reelected with more than 60% of the vote.

But have I ever wanted to trade places with him? Not for one minute. Were the voters of the 49 states who went for Nixon wiser than the people of our national capital and Massachusetts who voted for me? Not in my book.

These days, my name is back in the news. I'm being held up as some kind of sober warning to Democratic candidates. Don't be another George McGovern, the warning goes. Don't be too liberal. Don't be too outspoken. Watch what you say and play to the middle, so that you don't end up losing 49 states, too.

It may not surprise you that I regard this as political baloney. I said exactly what I believed in 1972. I told the truth while my opponent betrayed the American public and violated the law repeatedly, engaging in campaign finance dishonesty and illegal wiretapping, invading the confidential files of a doctor, urging the CIA to halt an FBI investigation--to say nothing of running unethical and unlimited campaign advertising that distorted my positions on major issues. These kinds of tactics got him elected--but they also made him the only president in our history forced to resign in disgrace. [...]

Of course, we all like to win--especially against great odds. And I think it's extremely important for the Democrats to win in 2004. But not at the price of their souls.

One of the more peculiar features of the current political clime is the oft-noted tendency of the far Right and the Left to mimic each other's arguments. Here's an example that must be especially embarassing for conservative critics of the President as George McGovern--whose nobility-drenched self-assessment is rather silly anyway--makes the case that it was important for him to remain ideologically pure in 1972, even if that meant the nation got Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Watergate, and more Vietnam. Talk about elevating your own selfish concerns above the needs of your country and your fellow citizens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 AM

WHAT'S LEFT FOR THE CONTRARIAN?

A robust Australian culture has nothing to fear from America (Stephen Barton, 7/03/2003, Online Opinion)
This fear of being "gobbled up", of becoming a 51st state and the cries of "cultural genocide" and "free to be Australian" seem to suggest an inner anxiety. They create an impression of an immature Australian society and a culture not yet developed and seemingly unable to fend for itself.

This is hardly surprising giving the desperate teenage conformity of Australian writers and artists. David Marr in his rather unsurprising Colin
Simpson lecture said "the role of the writer is always to surprise". But the problem with Australian writers is they rarely do.

In the course of writing his latest book, Christopher Hitchens stumbled across some notes George Orwell had made on Brideshead Revisited before he died. He wrote:

Within the last few decades, in countries like Britain or the United States, the literary intelligentsia has grown large enough to constitute a world in itself. One important result of this is that the opinions which writers feel frightened of expressing are not those which are disapproved of by society as a whole… The daring thing, or at any rate the unfashionable thing is to believe in God or to approve of the capitalist system.

That passage suggests where Orwell was, and Hitchens is, headed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM

MISREADING THE FIGHTS

100 years of George Orwell - a thinker and writer of great influence. (Robert Manne, 7/03/2003, Online Opinion)
For Orwell the essence of totalitarianism was the attack it waged against freedom. After Spain he lived with a permanent dread that the liberal civilisation into which he had been born was gradually being destroyed. This was the source of 1984, the most important warning he wrote about the abuse of absolute state power in the technological age.

But Orwell did not love only liberty. He also loved equality. In Republican Spain he fleetingly experienced a world where "the working class was in the saddle". This was the kind of world in which Orwell wanted to live. His great Russian Revolution fable, Animal Farm, is essentially the story of the hope for equality cruelly betrayed.

This passage starts with an insight then passes into error. The key to understanding Orwell is precisely his love of the society he was born into, even with its inequality. This is the theme of novels like Coming Up for Air and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. His great utopian novels--1984 and Animal Farm and his memoir, Homage to Catalonia--are warnings of the dire results that most follow from the effort to impose equality. It was the recognition that freedom and equality can not coexist, that totalitarianism is the necessary precursor of equality and that the end is not worth that means, that makes him a such an important author.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:28 AM

CAN I SEE SOME I.D.? (via Tom Morin)

Baylor a beacon for intellectual Christians (ROD DREHER, 07/17/2003, The Dallas Morning News)
The mere mention of the f-word - fundamentalism - cues a certain kind of Texas Baptist to stop thinking and start firing. Extremism in the defense against Baptist fundamentalism is no vice, they might say. Which explains the smear job some Baylor partisans have done on university president Robert Sloan and his Baylor 2012 plan.

At the heart of the controversy is Dr. Sloan's intent to strengthen Baylor's identity as a Christian institution, even as he pushes to make it a nationally ranked research university. Some faculty and alumni have sounded the alarm that this is an attempt by religious fundamentalists - having been decisively defeated in the early 1990s, when Baylor changed its charter to prevent the possibility of a fundamentalist takeover - to conquer from within.

It's a groundless charge. Though described by this newspaper as a "Baptist preacher," as if he had dragged himself in from some piney-woods backwater, Dr. Sloan, an ordained minister, holds a doctorate in New Testament theology from Switzerland's University of Basel, which isn't quite the same thing as a Bible college. He scandalized some on the Baptist hard right by ending Baylor's prohibition on dancing, and, worse, Dr. Sloan has been hiring admitted Roman Catholics to teach at the Texas Baptist university. Some fundamentalist.

What Dr. Sloan actually is undertaking is an audacious and much-needed experiment in American higher education and religious life. The tide of 20th-century secularism washed away entirely the religious identities of historically Protestant universities like Harvard, Yale, Duke and Vanderbilt and dramatically eroded the distinct vision of Catholic colleges. That was likely to be Baylor's future, too. As Dr. Sloan told me, "If you're not intentional about your identity, you can't maintain it. I've never seen a
school slide into Christian orthodoxy."

Echoing a scholarly Christian conviction as old as St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Sloan refuses to accept the dominant post-Enlightenment view that faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Baylor 2012 is his bold attempt to show how they are complementary and how a religious university can speak to the broader culture from an intellectually sound but morally distinct vantage point.

It's awfully hard to believe there's not a significant market--never mind need--for educational institutions that proceed from an "intellectually sound but morally distinct vantage point."


MORE:
-Showdown at Baylor: Baylor's president faces off against critics this week amid multiple controversies (Ted Olsen, 07/18/2003, Christianity Today: Weblog)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM

IT'S NO 10-CENT BEER NIGHT (via The Mother Judd)

Home-food advantage: Some at Fenway can dial, get service in their seats (David Abel and Jared Stearns, 7/19/2003, Boston Globe)
Got the munchies at Fenway Park, but too lazy to get your own hot dog? Now, technology has made life easier for fans, at least those in some of the park's priciest seats.

No longer must the 400 privileged people with ''dugout seats'' along first and third base wait on lines or search out the Crackerjack guy. When the urge comes for a beer, nachos, or whatever's at the concession stand, all they have to do is flip out their cell phones, and in minutes, a server will appear with the chow.

''You don't have to worry about bumping into someone and wearing the salsa from your nachos,'' said Neil Exter of Lexington, at a recent game with his wife and son.

The ''in-seat service,'' increasingly a part of life at ballparks around the country, began this week at Fenway -- slowly. Only a few fans have used the service, which began at Thursday's game. The team sent fans with the dugout seats letters about the service, and advertised it on menus.

There has to be some way to ban cell phones from the planet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM

STRUMMIN' HIS PAIN

Killing Him Softly With His Words (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Clothilde Ewing, Nicola Corless, Smita Kalokhe and Joanna Schubert, July 18, 2003, CBS News)
No, it's not a line from the Roberta Flack/Fugees' song, it's from an internal memo sent by Republican strategist Frank Luntz. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the July 10 memo, outlining several ways to oust Gov. Gray Davis, encourages Republicans to "kill Davis softly."

The 17-page letter warns recall proponents that ousting Davis will be difficult saying, "Anyone who thinks this is a slam dunk is nuts." Voter uncertainty will be a significant impediment for the recall activists as they attempt to lure voters away from the unpopular governor. However, the memo includes 17 ways to discredit Davis and increase Republican support.

Luntz advocates concentrating on Davis' lack of leadership rather than policy failures. "Voters are more likely to throw out Gray Davis for his inability to lead than for allowing too much spending." The memo urges recall supporters to repeat such messages to "destroy whatever's left of Gray's credibility."

Also hoping to capitalize on Davis' low approval ratings, Luntz asserts that the governor's unpopularity is one of the recall's greatest advantages. "The fact is, the more Davis speaks, the lower his popularity goes--the more he talks, the easier the recall becomes," states the memo.

When your very existence is a political negative, it may be time to switch careers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:31 AM

QUTB WAS RIGHT

Vegas 'Game' Has Men Hunting Nude Women (Fox News, July 16, 2003)
A new Las Vegas game gets thrill-seekers out of the casinos and into the great wide open - to shoot naked women with paintball guns.

In "Hunting for Bambi," men pay $10,000 each for the challenge of tracking the women, who are nude except for sneakers, and trying to blast them with colored paint.

It's like a freakin' summer camp for serial killers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:20 AM

DETAIL WORK

White House Tells How Bush Came to Talk of Iraq Uranium (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, July 19, 2003, NY Times)
The White House today set out its most detailed explanation yet of how disputed intelligence about Iraq's weapons program made it into President Bush's State of the Union address, contradicting a crucial element of the version of events provided by the Central Intelligence Agency.

In a briefing for reporters, a senior administration official said the White House had changed an initial draft of the speech to make it more credible by attributing the assertion that Iraq had been trying to acquire uranium in Africa to a public British intelligence dossier.

The official said the change had been made after internal White House deliberations about the best way to present the information and not, as intelligence officials have said, in response to concerns raised by the C.I.A. about the credibility of intelligence reports that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium in Niger.

As part of today's briefing, the White House declassified part of its main prewar intelligence summary on Iraq's weapons programs. The document, a National Intelligence Estimate, encompasses the findings of the main intelligence agencies. The document noted reports that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium in Africa but included a warning from the State Department that the reports were "highly dubious."

White House officials said the document was one of those drawn on by speechwriters as they put together the State of the Union address. The official who gave the briefing today said Mr. Bush was unaware of the State Department's skepticism.

The president "is not a fact checker," the official said.

The document also noted that the intelligence agencies had "low confidence" in some of its conclusions, including when Saddam Hussein might use weapons of mass destruction, whether he would try to attack the United States and whether he would provide chemical or biological weapons to Al Qaeda. Administration officials had cited all those possibilities in building a case for the war.

The point being that there were ten or twenty distinct reasons offered for the war, with the fact that Saddam was defying the conditions of the cease-fire that ended the first phase of the fighting, in 1991, being sufficient unto itself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:14 AM

REPATRIATE GAMES

Bowing to Ally, Bush to Rethink Tribunals for British Subjects (NEIL A. LEWIS, 7/19/03, NY Times)
After being pressed by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, President Bush said today that his administration was reconsidering whether and under what circumstances to bring any British subjects captured in the Afghanistan war before American military tribunals.

Mr. Bush, in a statement released in Texas where he was traveling today, also said that anyone from Australia subject to a military tribunal would similarly have his case reconsidered. He said that delegations of legal experts from Britain and Australia would go to Washington next week to negotiate with American officials about the disposition of those prisoners.

[A] British official said today that his country's legal delegation would discuss options with their American counterparts, including sending back to the United Kingdom the nine Britons in custody. But a problem with such repatriation, the official acknowledged, is that the British government may not then be able to guarantee that the nine would be prosecuted there. Those decisions are made independently by law enforcement agencies and the crown prosecution service.

An Australian official noted today that the government had been generally supportive of the military tribunals and said the Australian delegation would most likely seek assurances of procedural steps to guarantee a fair trial. The official said Australia was unlikely to seek repatriation of its two citizens.

The Brits of course want to moan about it but not have to take responsibility for trying the guys.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:06 AM

GRAY SKIES ARE GONNA CLEAR UP...

California Fray Offering G.O.P. Hope and Peril: The possibility of compelling a vote on Gov. Gray Davis's fate as early as this fall has many California Republicans emerging from a political funk. (DEAN E. MURPHY, 7/19/03, NY Times)
The recall has changed things so significantly over such a short period of time that we have to look at our 2003 and 2004 goals, not just our 2006 goals," said George M. Sundheim III, who became chairman of the state Republican Party in February, promising to make it competitive by expanding its base, enlisting volunteers and quelling the infighting. "It has accelerated the process."

Republican voter registration drives have moved into high gear. Conservative talk radio is filled with excited conjecture about possible Republican successors to Mr. Davis. Hollywood is abuzz over the possible political ambitions of the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

And for the first time in years, the conservative and moderate wings of the state party are so focused on winning that they are rarely at each other's throats publicly.

"The recall has been a huge shot in the arm for California Republicans," said Tony Quinn, a veteran political analyst and an editor at California Target Book, a nonpartisan survey of elections in the state. "It has motivated their voters." [...]

Other Republicans in the state are concerned that it is too soon for the party to sustain a meaningful rebound. Attention should be focused instead on recruiting strong candidates to challenge Democrats in next year's elections for the state's Legislature and the race against Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat who is seeking a third term.

That recruitment though, especially for the Boxer race, has to be made easier if a Republican has just won a statewide election, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:51 AM

STARK RAVING MAD

Police called during House meeting: Accusations of name-calling and threats (Steve Turnham, 7/18/03, CNN)
Capitol Police were called Friday to a contentious House committee meeting marked by a Democratic walkout and accusations of name-calling, vulgarity and physical threats.

Witnesses described flaring tempers. One GOP lawmaker said he almost came to blows with a Democratic colleague he said was threatening him.

The police told lawmakers to work things out themselves and took no action.

The partisan bickering later spilled over onto the House floor, where Democrats and Republicans offered conflicting accounts about what happened in the Ways and Means Committee meeting on a pension plan bill.

The whole thing blew up, witnesses said, when Democrats complained of the way committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Bill Thomas of California, was running the session.

The Democrats said they needed more time to review some changes in the legislation after getting them only the night before.

When they could not to get a line-by-line reading of the bill, a common parliamentary tactic, they walked out and gathered to talk in a library at the back of the meeting room. Thomas, who has a reputation for being blunt, had his staff call the cops.

Democrats said Thomas called police to get them out of the room. Republicans said the police were called because one Democrat, Rep. Pete Stark of California, got out of hand.

Stark, they said, stayed behind after his colleagues left the committee room to berate Thomas and other committee Republicans. [...]

Stark "threatened me with physical harm," said Rep. Scott McInnis of Colorado, a Republican who sits on the committee.

"I think it was entirely appropriate for the chairman of the committee to call the sergeant at arms and the Capitol Police," McInnis said. "I considered that a bodily threat and I fully intended to defend myself. To calm this down -- that is why the chairman did that."

Rep. Kenny Hulshof, a Missouri Republican who sits on the committee, read what he described as a transcript of the meeting.

In it, he quoted Stark as saying to McInnis, "You little fruitcake, you little fruitcake, I said you are a fruitcake."

And, according [to] a Republican leadership aide, the 72-year-old Stark called Thomas a vulgarity.

Somebody shoulda beat the tar out of Pete Stark long ago, and Congressman McInnis should have yesterday, but calling the cops over a political dispute is fairly dubious. Whatever happened to duelling?

MORE:
-Sound, Fury, Pension Rules: Nasty Party Clash in House (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 7/19/03, NY Times)

July 18, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:04 PM

RAVING IDIOCY

The Chill Is On: Fighting raves, squelching speech (Jacob Sullum, 7/18/03, Reason)
Karen Tandy, expected to be confirmed soon as the new head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), did not face many tough questions when her nomination was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of the few exceptions came from Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), who asked her about a problem he was instrumental in creating.

Biden referred to an incident in Billings, Montana, on May 30, when a DEA agent brought a copy of the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act to the local Eagles Lodge. The agent warned the lodge's manager that a fund-raising concert sponsored by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy might violate the law if anyone attending the event lit up a joint.

The law, which Biden sponsored, makes it a federal crime to "knowingly and intentionally" make a place available "for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing, or using any controlled substance." Violators are subject to $250,000 or more in civil penalties, a criminal fine of up to $500,000, and a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

The threat of these penalties "freaked me out," the Eagles Lodge manager told the Drug Reform Coordination Network. She said the DEA agent "didn't tell us we couldn't have the event, but he showed me the law and told us what could happen if we did. I talked to our trustees, they talked to our lawyers, and our lawyers said not to risk it, so we canceled."

Biden pronounced himself "troubled" by this application of his law. He pressed Tandy to explain how she planned to "reassure people who may be skeptical of my legislation that it will not be enforced in a manner that has a chilling effect on free speech." [...]

There is a broader issue here than freedom of speech. The rule of law requires that people be given adequate notice of which actions will get them into trouble. In seeking to hold property owners and managers liable for other people's drug use, Biden's law fails that basic test.

The agent visited and explained precisely what actions might run afoul of the law; in what sense is that not adequate notice? And how hard is it to figure out that you can't have a gathering for the purpose of making, using or dealing drugs?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM

SHOW ME...THE EXIT

Missouri's Democratic governor facing opposition in own party: Holden got off to rocky start in office (AP, 7/18/03)
Some people began using the acronym shortly after Democratic Gov. Bob Holden went into debt with a $1 million inaugural party. Soon, opponents were chanting it at Capitol rallies.

The not-so-flattering acronym is "OTB" -- "One Term Bob."

Now, as Holden gears up for a 2004 re-election campaign, even some fellow Democrats are working to make the acronym reality.

Sensing Holden is politically weakened, Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill has banked more than $1 million and begun touting herself as a viable alternative for Democrats disgruntled with Holden. Supporters say she is inching closer to making her candidacy official. [...]

The Democratic primary winner is likely to face Republican Secretary of State Matt Blunt, son of high-ranking Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, known for his fund-raising prowess.

Republican Party consultant John Hancock, who works on behalf of Blunt, is delighted at the prospect of a Democratic primary.

"The Democrats have raised about $3 million to fight amongst themselves," Hancock said. "Every penny that Matt Blunt has raised is going to be used to communicate with the whole state."

Election night 2004 just keeps getting longer and longer for Terry McAuliffe.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:18 PM

JUST LIKE MOM USED TO MAKE

Britain May Have Had Lasagna Before Italy (SUE LEEMAN, Jul. 15, 2003, Associated Press)
After a hard day's jousting, what a medieval English knight needed was .... a plate of lasagna.

And he apparently could have it, according to British researchers who claim to have found a British recipe for lasagna dating from the 14th century - long before Italian chefs came up with the delicious concoction of layers of pasta topped with cheese.

"This is the first recorded recipe for a lasagna-based dish," David Crompton, one of the researchers, said Tuesday. "The Italian dish has tomatoes, which were only discovered two centuries later in the New World." [...]

To create loseyns (pronounced lasan), "The Forme of Cury" advises the cook to make a paste from flour of "paynedemayn," a substance that hasn't been identified; roll it thin and cook it with grated cheese and sweet powder. [...]

The recipe in full:

"Take good broth and do in an erthen pot. Take flour of paynedemayn and make erof past with water and make erof thynne foyles as paper with a roller; drye it harde and see it in broth."

Next, "take chese ruayn grated and lay it in dishes with powder douce and lay eron loseyns isode as hoole as you myght and above powdour and chese; and so twyse or thryse & serue it forth."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 PM

LIVIN' IN THE MATERIALISTS' WORLD

-SHORT STORY: The Destructors (Graham Greene, 1954, Picture Post)
On Sunday morning all were punctual except Blackie, even Mike. Mike had a stroke of luck. His mother felt ill, his father was tired after Saturday night, and he was told to go to church alone with many warnings of what would happen if he strayed. Blackie had difficulty in smuggling out the saw, and then in finding the sledge-hammer at the back of No. 15. He approached the house from a lane at the rear of the garden, for fear of the policeman's beat along the main road. The tired evergreens kept off a stormy sun: another wet Bank Holiday was being prepared over the Atlantic, beginning in swirls of dust under the trees. Blackie climbed the wall into Misery's garden.

There was no sign of anybody anywhere. The lav stood like a tomb in a neglected graveyard. The curtains were drawn. The house slept. Blackie lumbered nearer with the saw and the sledge-hammer. Perhaps after all nobody had turned up: the plan had been a wild invention: they had woken wiser. But when he came close to the back door he could hear a confusion of sound hardly louder than a hive in swarm: a clickety-clack, a bang bang, a scraping, a creaking, a sudden painful crack. He thought: it's true; and whistled.

They opened the back door to him and he came in. He had at once the impression of organization, very different from the old happy-go-lucky ways under his leadership. For a while he wandered up and down stairs looking for T. Nobody addressed him: he had a sense of great urgency, and already he could begin to see the plan. The interior of the house was being carefully demolished without touching the walls. Summers with hammer and chisel was ripping out the skirting-boards in the ground floor dining-room: he had already smashed the panels of the door. In the same room Joe was heaving up the parquet blocks, exposing the soft wood floorboards over the cellar. Coils of wire came out of the damaged skirting and Mike sat; happily on the floor clipping the wires.

On the curved stairs two of the gang were working hard with an inadequate child's saw on the banisters - when they saw Blackie's big saw they signalled for it wordlessly. When he next saw them a quarter of the banisters had been dropped into the hall. He found T. at last in the bathroom - he sat moodily in the least cared-for room in the house, listening to the sounds coming up from below.

'You've really done it,' Blackie said with awe. 'What's going to happen?'

'We've only just begun,' T. said. He looked at the sledgehammer and gave his instructions. 'You stay here and break the , bath and the wash-basin. Don't bother about the pipes. They come later.'

Mike appeared at the door. 'I've finished the wires, T.,' he said.

'Good. You've just got to go wandering round now. The kitchen's in the basement. Smash all the china and glass and bottles you can lay hold of. Don't turn on the taps - we don't want a flood - yet. Then go into all the rooms and turn out the drawers. If they are locked get one of the others to break them open. Tear up any papers you find and smash all the ornaments. Better take a carving knife with you from the kitchen. The' bedroom's opposite here. Open the pillows and tear up the sheets. That's enough for the moment. And you, Blackie, when you've finished in here crack the plaster in the passage up with your sledge-hammer.'

'What are you going to do?' Blackie asked. 'I'm looking for something special,' T. said.

It was nearly lunch-time before Blackie had finished and went in search of T. Chaos had advanced. The kitchen was a shambles of broken glass and china. The dining-room was stripped of parquet, the skirting was up, the door had been taken off its hinges, and the destroyers had moved up a floor. Streaks of light came in through the closed shutters where they worked with the seriousness of creators - and destruction after all is a form of creation. A kind of imagination had seen this house as it had now become.

Mike said, 'I've got to go home for dinner.'

'Who else?' T. asked, but all the others on one excuse or another had brought provisions with them.

They squatted in the ruins of the room and swapped unwanted sandwiches. Half an hour for lunch and they were at work again. By the time Mike returned they were on the top floor, and by six the superficial damage was completed. The doors were all off, all the skirtings raised, the furniture pillaged and ripped and smashed - no one could have slept in the house except on a bed of broken plaster. T. gave his orders - eight o'clock next morning, and to escape notice they climbed singly over the garden wall; into the car-park. Only Blackie and T. were left: the light had nearly gone, and when they touched a switch, nothing worked - Mike had done his job thoroughly.

'Did you find anything special?' Blackie asked.

T. nodded. 'Come over here,' he said, 'and look.' Out of both pockets he drew bundles of pound notes. 'Old Misery's savings,' he said. 'Mike ripped out the mattress, but he missed them.'

'What are you going to do? Share them?'

'We aren't thieves,' T. said. 'Nobody's going to steal anything from this house. I kept these for you and me - a celebration.' He knelt down on the floor and counted them out - there were seventy in all. 'We'll burn them,' he said, 'one by one,' and taking it in turns they held a note upwards and lit the top corner, so that the flame burnt slowly towards their fingers. The grey ash floated above them and fell on their heads like age. 'I'd like to see Old Misery's face when we are through,' T. a said.

'You hate him a lot?' Blackie asked.

'Of course I don't hate him,' T. said. 'There'd be no fun if I hated him.' The last burning note illuminated his brooding face. 'All this hate and love,' he said, 'it's soft, it's hooey. There's only things, Blackie,'
and he looked round the room crowded with the unfamiliar shadows of half things, broken things, former things.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:37 PM

ANOTHER SELLOUT TO THE LEFT

Union of Lost Souls: Leading Democrats Go AWOL on Overtime Vote (Nikos Valance, July 16 - 22, 2003, Village Voice)
On Thursday, the House of Representatives--with seven Democrats absent, including presidential candidate Richard Gephardt-voted 213 to 210 to approve new regulations that would cut off a universe of Americans--anywhere from 1 million to 8 million-from guaranteed overtime pay. Under the new rules, backed by the Bush administration and campaigned for heavily by business lobbyists, those employees would still have to put in extra hours. They just wouldn't get any extra pay. Instead, some would qualify for comp time--try paying the rent with that--and others would simply be reclassified as executives, even if they wield little managerial authority.

Where were the Democrats? Nowhere to be found. Gephardt was in Iowa getting an endorsement from the International Order of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, promising veterans of the picket line they'd be part of a new American prosperity. Among the leading Democratic contenders, neither Gephardt nor senators John Edwards, John Kerry, or Joe Lieberman returned repeated Voice calls for comment. The office of Representative Dennis Kucinich, a staunch labor supporter who voted against the measure, at least returned a call, as did former Vermont governor Howard Dean's office. Dean spokesperson Tricia Enright says of Gephardt's absence, "It's disgraceful. . . . Don't votes like this keep people off the picket lines?"

It's fine for Dean's people to take a shot at Gephardt on this issue, but the fact of the matter is that none of the presidential candidates made this into a major national issue. Neither did any of the Democrats in Congress. Yet all are counting on support from labor, and they're likely to get it.

Even more mind-boggling is the reaction from organized labor. Bill Samuels, the legislative director of the AFL-CIO said he "was disappointed by the vote in the House." Just disappointed? Is that all? He went on to say the next step was to try to win a vote in the Senate, a vote that hasn't yet been scheduled, and about which labor leaders can only hope. Because if Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman, or Bob Graham decide not to be present, the unions are bound to lose. With such a narrow margin in the Senate-Republicans hold a one-vote majority--the chances of labor winning a vote there are viewed as very slim. And with the House vote sealed, the general consensus is that the new regs are a done deal.

Stinkin' liberal Republicans...what difference do they make?

MORE:
Democrats seek to halt education law if Congress fails to fund it (LIBBY QUAID, Jul. 18, 2003, Associated Press)
The sweeping No Child Left Behind education law is a centerpiece of President Bush's domestic agenda. But Kansas Rep. Dennis Moore says without money to pay for it, the law itself should be left behind.

The point of the No Child Left Behind Act is to improve student and school achievement. The law expands testing, toughens teacher qualifications and checks up annually on student progress. [...]

Josh Holly, a spokesman for the Republican-controlled House Education and the Workforce Committee, called efforts like Moore's "fresh excuses for those who don't want to be accountable for ensuring that America's children learn." [...]

"Anything that's going to weaken high standards and accountability provisions is going to face tough resistance," Holly said. "For the first time, public education is not about money, it's about results. It's not about funding levels, it's about holding schools accountable."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM

PINOCHETISM

Heir Apparent: Meet Joaquin Lavin, Chile's likely next president, and (perhaps) the George W. Bush of Latin America. (Jonathan Goldberg, 7/16/03, The American Prospect)
The charm of Joaquin Lavin, whose ever-present smile is both genial and avuncular, is that he doesn't do politics, or so he claims. The agonizing debate in Chile over the Iraq War, which Lavin skirted, was politics. Instead of politics, Lavin solves problems: He does cosas, or "things," and he claims to be neither a leftist nor a rightist but a cosista, a "thing-ist."

The "things" Lavin has done vary from implementing common-sense solutions to everyday problems (a series of underpasses replacing traffic lights on a congested roadway) to the application of standard conservative prescriptions (the privatization of middle schools) to idiosyncratic measures defying the right's sacred principles (a system of neighborhood physicians copied from Cuba).

And by doing these "things," Lavin -- the public face of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party -- has become so popular that he is treated almost as a president-elect. Fifty-six percent of Chileans polled in December 2002 by the Chilean Center for Public Studies said Lavin will be the next president; Alvear, who by then had already signed trade deals with the European Union and South Korea, was predicted to be president by only by 4 percent of those surveyed. Since last year, the Concertacion's poll numbers have recovered, but Chileans of all political stripes continue to treat the prospect of a Lavin presidency as a fait accompli.

Many on the left have criticized Lavin's entrepreneurial solutions as short-term, superficial fixes or as populist patronage schemes. And some allege Lavin's emphasis on "things" masks his intention to remake Chile in ways that would increase authoritarianism and income inequality -- a fear that some on the right quietly share. But regardless of whether Lavin, as president, would enact his party's right-wing agenda or hew to more centrist positions, his ascent seems to represent the triumph, 13 years after its fall, of the ideals of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship: a depoliticized politics, free of ideology and even argument, and a dedication on the part of government officials to treating citizens as clients.

The Lavin phenomenon also illustrates the strange durability of Chilean exceptionalism -- the country's historic propensity to be out of sync with the rest of Latin America.

Sort of strange the way the essay notes Pinochet's remarkable achievements--restoring a healthy political system and pushing free market reforms--in passing even as it frets about Mr. Lavin following in his footsteps.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM

THE DEATH LOBBY

Influential journal plans push to publish more stem-cell studies: Editor: Deterring political opposition to research is goal (Raja Mishra, 7/17/2003, Boston Globe)
The world's most influential medical journal has pledged to aggressively seek out and publish research on embryonic stem cells to boost the controversial field's standing among politicians and the public.

The declaration by the Boston-based New England Journal of Medicine, in an editorial printed today, marks the publication's most significant foray into a broad societal debate perhaps since the 1980s, when its editors sought out papers on the then-controversial AIDS virus.

That's fine by us as long as this now openly political organization does not maintain tax exempt status.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:38 PM

THE WANTING OF LIEBERMAN

Tug of Constituencies Strains Democrats (ADAM NAGOURNEY, July 18, 2003, NY Times)
Three Democratic presidential candidates who were chastised by the N.A.A.C.P. for skipping the group's political forum in Miami on Monday upended their schedules today to fly south and make elaborate apologies. Earlier this week, all the candidates were summoned to a forum before gay leaders, where they were pressed to endorse gay marriage.

These two events illustrated what has emerged as one of the most critical and, for some Democrats, perplexing differences between the modern-day Democratic and Republican Parties: How they accommodate constituencies that are at the base of their political foundation but endorse views that are not always popular with the broader electorate.

President Bush has proved to be highly effective in his dealing with groups on the right. His appearances as candidate and as president before, say, the Christian Coalition, were far and few between. But the Democrats are finding themselves increasingly commandeered before groups that tend to highlight the very positions the White House would like highlighted, like the support of gay groups. That is taking place despite the efforts of Democratic Party leaders to protect the candidates from this situation. [...]

Some Democrats said they had winced at the image today of Representative Richard A. Gephardt, Representative Dennis J. Kucinich and Senator Joseph I.
Lieberman racing to Miami to apologize profusely after they had been scolded by the N.A.A.C.P. president for missing the organization's forum, one of close to 100 such meetings that various constituencies have tried to press on the presidential calendar. They suggested it reinforced precisely the image Democrats had been trying to erase: of caving in to pressure from a constituency group.

"Leadership also means being able to admit you're wrong," Mr. Lieberman, who delayed a trip to Iowa to go to Miami, told the group. "I was wrong. I regret it and I apologize for it."

There was a book in the '70's--The Wanting of Levine (Michael Halberstam--David's brother)--about the first Jewish presidential candidate. In the book, Levine proves himself worthy of the respect of a black civil rights group by refusing to eat the plate of feces, disguised as a steak, they serve him at dinner. He's told that most of those who come begging for an edorsement go right ahead and eat, complimenting every bite. These guys running now seem like they would not be above asking for a second serving.


MORE:
-A Jewish President? (Timothy Noah, February 2, 1999, Slate)
-High Holiday Sermons: Erev Rosh Hashanah 5761 (Rabbi James Prosnit)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:29 PM

PREPARE HIS TERMINATION PAPERS

A Bad Hand: Gray Davis deals for casino support (Bill Bradley, JULY 18-24, 2003, LA Weekly)
Backed by the tribes in the past, Davis angered them this year by trying to get them to help with the state budget crisis by sharing more revenue from their burgeoning casino operations. With them balking and, alarmingly, talking with recall advocates, Davis backed off. He signaled his acquiescence by attending the opening of a new Morongo casino in the Southern California desert, site of an earlier meeting between Indian casino reps and recall champion Congressman Darrell Issa, in early May, then released the May revision of his budget, which dropped the heavy revenue demands on the tribes.

Recall-campaign coordinator David Gilliard says the Indian casino interests stopped talking with the recall forces right after Davis made his May pilgrimage to the Morongo casino. But Davis may have been alarmed by Bustamante getting center stage at the CNIGA summit. Bustamante was the last of the potential Democratic candidates to say he doesn?t intend to run to replace Davis in a recall election. Many expect that statement not to hold.

In any event, Democratic sources say that Davis is turning to the casino tribes to help defeat the recall. "We're taking a hard look" at helping fund the drive against the Davis recall, confirms Howard Dickstein, attorney for a half-dozen of the casino tribes. [...]

Democratic insiders buzz angrily about Davis being taken to the cleaners by signature-gathering firms that sold them on a meaningless counterpetition drive, which not only failed to block or even delay the recall-petition drive, but also wasted more than $1 million on a purported 1.1 million unverified signatures expressing vague support for Davis' positions, for which gatherers were paid a dollar a head. Davis campaign officials won't say exactly how much they spent on the effort, which was designed to siphon off enough workers to delay the recall's qualification. "A complete failure," a ranking Democratic adviser calls it, "and Gray no longer has that kind of money to burn."

Even if he survives somehow, it can't help the Democratic presidential nominee in '04 to have the most important state in the Blue column in such disarray.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:04 PM

SOURCES AND METHODS

UK pledges inquiry over weapons row official (James Blitz and Matthew Jones, July 18 2003, Financial Times)
Britain will hold an independent judicial inquiry if Dr David Kelly, the official named as the suspected source of allegations that
Downing Street "sexed up" intelligence on Iraq, is confirmed dead, a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Friday.

Police searching for Dr Kelly have found a body matching his description.

An official from Thames Valley police, which is conducting the investigation into Dr Kelly's disappearance, said the body had not been formally identified but it was found just a few miles from his home.

Earlier this week MPs on the foreign affairs committee accused ministers of "poorly treating" Dr Kelly, a Ministry of Defence expert on chemical and biological weapons, after he said he was not the main source of a hotly disputed BBC report.

Dr Kelly had come under intense pressure after admitting that he had met BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan several times, including in a London hotel on the same day as Mr Gilligan says he interviewed the main source for the report.

Thames Valley police said Dr Kelly had gone missing from his home near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, on Thursday afternoon after telling his wife he was going for a walk at 3.00pm. The body of a man had been found face down on Harrowdown Hill, five miles from Dr Kelly's home at 9.20am on Friday. There was no note left either near the body or at Dr Kelly's home.

So the case against the case for the war was built on the testimony of someone who was mentally unstable? What did the BBC know and when did they know it?

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 11:41 AM

)

Kerry Questions Bush on Iraqi Occupation (Guardian, 7/13/2003)
"The obligation of the United States government is to rapidly internationalize the effort in Iraq, get the target off of American troops, bring other people, particularly Muslim-speaking and Arab-speaking Muslim troops, into the region," Kerry said.

Let's overlook the "Muslim-speaking" slip and just consider the proposition that the U.S. goal should be to "get the target off of Americans" and onto Muslims. Is this a realistic strategy for winning the war on terror? Is it an attractive sentiment?

It's only a matter of getting two candidates to drop out and the pundits will haul out the "seven dwarves" line.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:03 AM

DEFROSTING

Fences Make Bad Neighbors: Palestinians working on Israeli security barrier wonder, 'What road map?' (Nancy Updike, JULY 18 - 24, 2003, LA Weekly)
It's strange that the peace plan known as the road map, which is a very detailed document, doesn't mention the 90-mile fence/wall that Israel is building right now. This barrier--which is a fence at some points and a wall at others--is not being built on the Green Line (the only internationally recognized border of Israel) but is instead cutting deeply into the West Bank in many places, affecting thousands of acres of Palestinian land in the process.

"Barrier" doesn't quite capture the scope of what's being built. It's a whole barrier system, with successive layers, each of which takes a bit more land. It includes: a motion-sensitive electronic fence (and sometimes a wall); a service road running alongside the fence (on the Palestinian side, but Palestinians will not be able to use this road); a barbed-wire fence; "a trench or other means intended to prevent motor vehicles from crashing into and through the fence" (as the Israel Defense Forces described it in response to a recent, unsuccessful lawsuit to halt construction); three roads on the Israeli side of the fence and another barbed wire fence.

So far, about 24,000 acres of Palestinian land have been cut off from the rest of the West Bank and are now on the western (Israeli) side of the barrier.

What's strange? It's not about peace. It's about establishing a Palestinian state on Israeli terms.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM

"LET US REASON TOGETHER", HE LOST

No Time to Lose on North Korea (NY Times, July 18, 2003)
Washington cannot resign itself to a North Korea free to threaten its neighbors with nuclear destruction and sell plutonium to rogue states and terrorists. Nor can it consider military action, which could ignite a new war on the Korean peninsula and possibly lead to a North Korean nuclear attack on Japan. Diplomacy is the only acceptable alternative, and time may be running short.

Here's a textbook example of how the beginnings of international negotiations always come only after one side has lost already. Under the Times' scenario the only question to be determined in negotiations is how much payola Kim Jong-Il gets this time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:45 AM

PEOPLE OF IOWA...

Saddam Tape Calls for Jihad Against U.S. Forces (Samia Nakhoul, 7/17/03, Reuters)
Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, not seen since he was toppled in April, appeared to call on Iraqis to mount a jihad, or holy struggle, to oust occupying U.S. troops in an audiotape aired Thursday. [...]

The speaker described as "baseless" U.S. and British allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the main justification for the war which overthrew Saddam. No such weapons have been found.

He accused President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair of fabricating lies.

"What will the two liars Bush and Blair say to their people and to humanity? What will they tell the world? What they said was wrong and baseless. The lies were known to the president of the United States and to the prime minister of Britain when they decided to wage war on Iraq," the tape added.

The speaker also attacked Iraq's new U.S.-backed Governing Council, saying it was a puppet of Washington and could not serve the Iraqi people. [...]

The speaker on the tape vowed that resistance against U.S. occupation would intensify.

"The foreign occupier occupied Iraq to weaken it and destroy its resources, that is why the only solution...is to resist the occupation to make the enemy fail."

"I am confident that our people who rejected the occupation will resist them," the voice said.

The analysis has just come back and the CIA says it's actually Howard Dean at a fundraiser in Des Moines.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:44 AM

POACHING IN THE DEMOCRATS' PRESERVE

Buh Meets With Black Urban Leaders (DEB RIECHMANN, 7/17/03, Associated Press)
Earlier in the day, Bush gave a 25-minute speech at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building to about 120, mostly black, community leaders from across America. Most of his speech underscored his belief that taxpayers' money should be used to fund effective faith-based programs, but he also talked about his recent trip to five African nations. Afterward, the group was briefed on the trip by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, who was with Bush at Goree Island.

"Those who were chained, sent in those ships ... never lost their desire for freedom and hope, stood strong in the face of the oppressor, finally made the oppressor feel guilty and, in fact, made us realize what it meant: liberty and justice for all," Bush said.

With that, one of the urban leaders shouted out "amen" and the group applauded. [...]

When his "faith-based initiative" stalled in Congress amid this controversy, Bush began sidestepping lawmakers with executive orders and regulations to give religious organizations equal footing in competing for federal contracts.

Courting black leaders is amusing, but it's the last--about effecting FBI via the rule-making power--that should be paid attention.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:14 AM

IT'S CAKE, PART OF THE OIL-FOR-FOOD PROGRAM...

A War on Wilson?: Inside the Bush Administration's feud with the diplomat who poured cold water on the Iraq-uranium connection (MATTHEW COOPER, MASSIMO CALABRESI AND JOHN F. DICKERSON, July 17, 2003, TIME)
Government officials are not only privately disputing the genesis of Wilson's trip, but publicly contesting what he found. Last week Bush Administration officials said that Wilson's report reinforced the president's claim that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. They say that when Wilson returned from Africa in Feb. 2002, he included in his report to the CIA an encounter with a former Nigerien government official who told him that Iraq had approached him in June 1999, expressing interest in expanding commercial relations between Iraq and Niger. The Administration claims Wilson reported that the former Nigerien official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.

"This is in Wilson's report back to the CIA," White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters last week, a few days before he left his post to join the private sector. "Wilson's own report, the very man who was on television saying Niger denies it...reports himself that officials in Niger said that Iraq was seeking to contact officials in Niger about sales."

Wilson tells the story differently and in a crucial respect. He says the official in question was contacted by an Algerian-Nigerien intermediary who inquired if the official would meet with an Iraqi about "commercial" sales--an offer he declined.

Commercial sales of what, if not uranium? And wasn't Iraq under a UN embargo at the time?

July 17, 2003

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 11:50 PM

I HAVE A DREAM!

DNC chairman vows no Dems on Calif. recall ballot (SF Chronicle, 7/17/2003)
The chairman of the Democratic National Committee vowed Thursday that no Democrat will run to replace Gov. Gray Davis if a Republican-led recall drive reaches the ballot.

"I want the folks here in California to know that we are not going to have another Democrat on the ballot. I think that is the single biggest message I can give today," DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe said at a downtown news conference.

Here it is: for the Democrats to identify themselves with -- chain themselves to -- the most unpopular governor in California history, a man who looks set to sink faster than Jimmy Hoffa in cement overshoes off the coast of Jersey.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:38 PM

CAN YOU GO WRONG WITH GARLIC-SLATHERED?

DINNER IN 20 MINUTES: Basil and Garlic-Slathered Chicken Breasts (Renee Schettler, July 16, 2003, washingtonpost.com)
(4 servings)

Some nights -- most nights -- there's no time to marinate.

That's when we turn the marinade into a paste that clings to the entree during cooking.

Here we use it on quick-cooking, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. This approach also works for bone-in, skin-on chicken parts if you rub the paste beneath the skin, though the flavor doesn't have a chance of permeating these larger pieces of chicken.

Adapted from "Grilling & Barbecuing" by Denis Kelly (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2003).

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (may substitute other fresh herb)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil to taste, plus additional for the grill

Few drops lemon juice (optional)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 11/2 pounds)

In a food processor or a mortar, process or mash the garlic together with the salt. Add the basil and pepper and continue to mix until well combined. Add just enough oil to make a paste. If desired, add a few drops of lemon juice. Set aside.

Pat the chicken dry. Place the chicken between 2 sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and, using your hand, a skillet or a rolling pin, gently flatten it to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag or a plate, add the basil paste and shake or smear to coat the chicken evenly.

Preheat the grill or place a grill pan over medium-high heat. Lightly oil the rack or pan.

Grill the chicken, turning once, just until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Posted by David Cohen at 9:28 PM

CAN SADDAM SUE FOR SLANDER?

Forged Iraq documents mostly ignored (John J. Lumpkin, AP, 7/17/03)
The State Department obtained the fraudulent documents alleging Iraq sought uranium in Africa months before President Bush made the claim, but U.S. intelligence analysts did not examine them closely enough to determine they were forgeries until after the president's disputed speech, U.S. officials say.

The account provided by the officials Thursday suggests a disconnect between the CIA and the State Department over the handling of what turned out to be a crucial but faulty piece of intelligence used to make the Bush administration's case for war.

Had the documents been analyzed sooner, they might have been determined to be forgeries before the information was used as fodder for Bush administration statements vilifying Iraq, the officials acknowledged.
VILIFY, \Vil"i*fy\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Vilified; p. pr. & vb. n. Vilifying.] [L. vilis vile + -fly; cf. L. vilificare to esteem of little value.]
1. To make vile; to debase; to degrade; to disgrace. [R.]

When themselves they vilified To serve ungoverned appetite. --Milton.

2. To degrade or debase by report; to defame; to traduce; to calumniate. --I. Taylor.

Many passions dispose us to depress and vilify the merit of one rising in the esteem of mankind. --Addison.

3. To treat as vile; to despise. [Obs.]

I do vilify your censure. --Beau. & Fl.

Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
Is it possible to vilify the Ba'athists?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM

THE PLOUGH THAT HARROWS

Anarchist's Progress (Albert Jay Nock, On Doing the Right Thing and Other Essays [1928])
Once, I remember, I ran across the case of a boy who had been sentenced to prison, a poor, scared little brat, who had intended something no worse than mischief, and it turned out to be a crime. The judge said he disliked to sentence the lad; it seemed the wrong thing to do; but the law left him no option. I was struck by this. The judge, then, was doing something as an official that he would not dream of doing as a man; and he could do it without any sense of responsibility, or discomfort, simply because he was acting as an official and not as a man. On this principle of action, it seemed to me that one could commit almost any kind of crime without getting into trouble with one's conscience. Clearly, a great crime had been committed against this boy; yet nobody who had had a hand in it -- the judge, the jury, the prosecutor, the complaining witness, the policemen and jailers -- felt any responsibility about it, because they were not acting as men, but as officials. Clearly, too, the public did not regard them as criminals, but rather as upright and conscientious men.

The idea came to me then, vaguely but unmistakably, that if the primary intention of government was not to abolish crime but merely to monopolize crime, no better device could be found for doing it than the inculcation of precisely this frame of mind in the officials and in the public; for the effect of this was to exempt both from any allegiance to those sanctions of humanity or decency which anyone of either class, acting as an individual, would have felt himself bound to respect -- nay, would have wished to respect. This idea was vague at the moment, as I say, and I did not work it out for some years, but I think I never quite lost track of it from that time. [...]

As for the people around me, their attitudes seemed strangest of all. They all disparaged politics. Their common saying, "Oh, that's politics," always pointed to something that in any other sphere of action they would call shabby and disreputable. But they never asked themselves why it was that in this one sphere of action alone they took shabby and disreputable conduct as a matter of course. It was all the more strange because these same people still somehow assumed that politics existed for the promotion of the highest social purposes. They assumed that the State's primary purpose was to promote through appropriate institutions the general welfare of its members.

This assumption, whatever it amounted to, furnished the rationale of their patriotism, and they held to it with a tenacity that on slight provocation became vindictive and fanatical. Yet all of them were aware, and if pressed, could not help acknowledging, that more than 90 per cent of the State's energy was employed directly against the general welfare. Thus one might say that they seemed to have one set of credenda for week-days and another for Sundays, and never to ask themselves what actual reasons they had for holding either.

I did not know how to take this, nor do I now. Let me draw a rough parallel. Suppose vast numbers of people to be contemplating a machine that they had been told was a plough, and very valuable -- indeed, that they could not get on without it -- some even saying that its design came down in some way from on high. They have great feelings of pride and jealousy about this machine, and will give up their lives for it if they are told it is in danger. Yet they all see that it will not plough well, no matter what hands are put to manage it, and in fact does hardly any ploughing at all; sometimes only with enormous difficulty and continual tinkering and adjustment can it be got to scratch a sort of furrow, very poor and short, hardly practicable, and ludicrously disproportionate to the cost and pains of cutting it. On the other hand, the machine harrows perfectly, almost automatically. It looks like a harrow, has the history of a harrow, and even when the most enlightened effort is expended on it to make it act like a plough, it persists, except for an occasional six or eight per cent of efficiency, in acting like a harrow.

Surely such a spectacle would make an intelligent being raise some enquiry about the nature and original intention of that machine. Was it really a plough? Was it ever meant to plough with! Was it not designed and constructed for harrowing? Yet none of the anomalies that I had been observing ever raised any enquiry about the nature and original intention of the State. They were merely acquiesced in. At most, they were put down feebly to the imperfections of human nature which render mismanagement and perversion of every good institution to some extent inevitable; and this is absurd, for these anomalies do not appear in the conduct of any other human institution. It is no matter of opinion, but of open and notorious fact, that they do not. There are anomalies in the church and in the family that are significantly analogous; they will bear investigation, and are getting it; but the analogies are by no means complete, and are mostly due to the historical connection of these two institutions with the State.

Everyone knows that the State claims and exercises the monopoly of crime that I spoke of a moment ago, and that it makes this monopoly as strict as it can. It forbids private murder, but itself organizes murder on a colossal scale. It punishes private theft, but itself lays unscrupulous hands on anything it wants, whether the property of citizen or of alien. There is, for example, no human right, natural or Constitutional, that we have not seen nullified by the United States Government. Of all the crimes that are committed for gain or revenge, there is not one that we have not seen it commit -- murder, mayhem, arson, robbery, fraud, criminal collusion and connivance. On the other hand, we have all remarked the enormous relative difficulty of getting the State to effect any measure for the general welfare. Compare the difficulty of securing conviction in cases of notorious malfeasance, and in cases of petty private crime. Compare the smooth and easy going of the Teapot Dome transactions with the obstructionist behaviour of the State toward a national child-labour law. Suppose one should try to get the State to put the same safeguards (no stronger) around service-income that with no pressure at all it puts around capital-income: what chance would one have? It must not be understood that I bring these matters forward to complain of them. I am not concerned with complaints or reforms, but only with the exhibition of anomalies that seem to me to need accounting for. [...]

Speaking for a moment in the technical terms of economics, there are two general means whereby human beings can satisfy their needs and desires. One is by work -- i.e., by applying labour and capital to natural resources for the production of wealth, or to facilitating the exchange of labour-products. This is called the economic means. The other is by robbery -- i.e., the appropriation of the labour-products of others without compensation. This is called the political means. The State, considered functionally, may be described as the organization of the political means, enabling a comparatively small class of beneficiaries to satisfy their needs and desires through various delegations of the taxing power, which have no vestige of support in natural right, such as private land-ownership, tariffs, franchises, and the like.

It is a primary instinct of human nature to satisfy one's needs and desires with the least possible exertion; everyone tends by instinctive preference to use the political means rather than the economic means, if he can do so. The great desideratum in a tariff, for instance, is its license to rob the domestic consumer of the difference between the price of an article in a competitive and a non-competitive market. Every manufacturer would like this privilege of robbery if he could get it, and he takes steps to get it if he can, thus illustrating the powerful instinctive tendency to climb out of the exploited class, which lives by the economic means (exploited, because the cost of this privilege must finally come out of production, there being nowhere else for it to come from), and into the class which lives, wholly or partially, by the political means.

This instinct -- and this alone -- is what gives the State its almost impregnable strength. The moment one discerns this, one understands the almost universal disposition to glorify and magnify the State, and to insist upon the pretence that it is something which it is not -- something, in fact, the direct opposite of what it is. One understands the complacent acceptance of one set of standards for the State's conduct, and another for private organizations; of one set for officials, and another for private persons. One understands at once the attitude of the press, the Church and educational institutions, their careful inculcations of a specious patriotism, their nervous and vindictive proscriptions of opinion, doubt or even of question. One sees why purely fictitious theories of the State and its activities are strongly, often fiercely and violently, insisted on; why the simple fundamentals of the very simply science of economics are shirked or veiled; and why, finally, those who really know what kind of thing they are promulgating, are loth to say so. [...]

It has sometimes been remarked as strange that I never joined in any agitation, or took the part of a propagandist for any movement against the State, especially at a time when I had an unexampled opportunity to do so. To do anything of the sort successfully, one must have more faith in such processes than I have, and one must also have a certain dogmatic turn of temperament, which I do not possess. To be quite candid, I was never much for evangelization; I am not sure enough that my opinions are right, and even if they were, a second-hand opinion is a poor possession. Reason and experience, I repeat, are all that determine our true beliefs. So I never greatly cared that people should think my way, or tried much to get them to do so. I should be glad if they thought -- if their general turn, that is, were a little more for disinterested thinking, and a little less for impetuous action motivated by mere unconsidered prepossession; and what little I could ever do to promote disinterested thinking has, I believe, been done.

According to my observations (for which I claim nothing but that they are all I have to go by) inaction is better than wrong action or premature right action, and effective right action can only follow right thinking. "If a great change is to take place," said Edmund Burke, in his last words on the French Revolution, "the minds of men will be fitted to it." Otherwise the thing does not turn out well; and the processes by which men's minds are fitted seem to me untraceable and imponderable, the only certainty about them being that the share of any one person, or any one movement, in determining them is extremely small. Various social superstitions, such as magic, the divine right of kings, the Calvinist teleology, and so on, have stood out against many a vigorous frontal attack, and thrived on it; and when they finally disappeared, it was not under attack. People simply stopped thinking in those terms; no one knew just when or why, and no one even was much aware that they had stopped. So I think it very possible that while we are saying, "Lo, here!" and "Lo, there!" with our eye on this or that revolution, usurpation, seizure of power, or what not, the superstitions that surround the State are quietly disappearing in the same way.

My opinion of my own government and those who administer it can probably be inferred from what I have written. Mr. Jefferson said that if a centralization of power were ever effected at Washington, the United States would have the most corrupt government on earth. Comparisons are difficult, but I believe it has one that is thoroughly corrupt, flagitious, tyrannical, oppressive. Yet if it were in my power to pull down its whole structure overnight and set up another of my own devising -- to abolish the State out of hand, and replace it by an organization of the economic means -- I would not do it, for the minds of Americans are far from fitted to any such great change as this, and the effect would be only to lay open the way for the worse enormities of usurpation -- possibly, who knows! with myself as the usurper! After the French Revolution, Napoleon!

Great and salutary social transformations, such as in the end do not cost more than they come to, are not effected by political shifts, by movements, by programs and platforms, least of all by violent revolutions, but by sound and disinterested thinking. The believers in action are numerous, their gospel is widely preached, they have many followers. Perhaps among those who will see what I have here written, there are two or three who will agree with me that the believers in action do not need us -- indeed, that if we joined them, we should be rather a dead weight for them to carry. We need not deny that their work is educative, or pinch pennies when we count up its cost in the inevitable reactions against it. We need only remark that our place and function in it are not apparent, and then proceed on our own way, first with the more obscure and extremely difficult work of clearing and illuminating our own minds, and second, with what occasional help we may offer to others whose faith, like our own, is set more on the regenerative power of thought than on the uncertain achievements of premature action.

The always sensible Mr. Nock reveals where the currect conservative critics of the President have gone wrong. We need not abandon principle just because we accept that some things are politically untenable. The proper role of the conservative is to cultivate the Remnant, not demand that allied politicians fall on their swords.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM

WHEN ZERO IS TOO HIGH

INTERVIEW: The Fed's Deflation Defense: Federal Reserve governor Ben Bernanke doesn't predict deflation, but says that the Fed is well prepared to combat it (Ron Insana, August 2003, Business 2.0)
Q. Is the public commentary from folks like yourself [Fed governor Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton economics professor who is highly regarded not only for his keen intellect but for his expertise in combating tough economic problems with unconventional measures] part of an educational process to get people to think a little bit differently about how the Fed will operate going forward?

A. I began to talk about deflation because I heard, in the media and among the public, the concern that the Fed would run out of ammunition once the federal funds rate [the short-term interest rate that the Fed targets when it wants to stimulate or dampen economic growth] came down to zero. I was interested in educating the public that there were other tools the Fed could use to counteract deflationary pressures even if the federal funds rate were zero. We don't think that deflation is likely, but we want the public to be reassured that we're alert to the possibility, because it's important that it be prevented in the first place.

Q. What are those tools?

A. The Fed's normal operations involve purchases of government securities, which affects the federal funds rate. If we got to a point where short-term interest rates were at or near zero, then the next line of defense would probably be to try to lower longer-term government bond interest rates--for example, interest rates on five-year Treasury bonds.

There are several ways to approach doing that. One way would be to try to explain to the public that we intended to keep the short rate at a low level for a long period of time, which in turn would persuade holders of bonds that medium-term interest rates would remain low. That policy can be supplemented, if necessary, by a program of buying medium-term bonds at the targeted interest rate, as well as by other measures. [...]

Q. We haven't seen deflation in the U.S. since the Great Depression in the 1930s, but Japan has been mired in a deflationary spiral for a long time now. Why is deflation so intractable there?

A. Even though very short-term nominal [not adjusted for inflation or deflation] interest rates in Japan are zero, because of deflation real [adjusted] interest rates are still 1% to 2%. Given the very weak level of aggregate demand in Japan, arguably real interest rates ought to be negative. Monetary authorities in Japan are being prevented by the so-called zero bound [the inability of interest rates to fall below zero] from easing policy as much as would be desirable under other circumstances to support investment and consumption in Japan.

Q. What's the central bank to do when interest rates hit zero and its traditional method of influencing the economy isn't effective anymore?

A. Again, the first option is to try to lower medium-and long-term interest rates. Then there's a series of other options one can undertake, including buying other kinds of assets besides Treasury bonds. The Japanese have explored some of those possibilities as well, purchasing asset-backed commercial paper, for example. The ultimate option, as I recently suggested to the Japanese, is for the central bank to cooperate with fiscal authorities and combine tax cuts with increased money supply. Essentially that amounts to handing out money to consumers, which will generate increased spending and ought to raise prices within the economy.

Our economist friends swear that if you just put more money into an economy prices will necessarily rise. We remain to be convinced that this is the case when population is falling, when a combination of globalized job markets and technology are lowering production costs, and when lowered trade barriers foster global competition for customers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 PM

WHY LIE?

Clinton Got a Pass but Bush Is Taken to Task: Critics outraged over the president's '16 words' have short memories. (Max Boot, July 16, 2003, LA Times)
Politically opportunistic Democrats are invoking preposterous comparisons with Watergate because of the president's statement that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Democrats smell blood because the administration has admitted that its own findings about Iraqi attempts to acquire uranium in Niger were based on forged documents. But it's quite a leap to go from faulty information to charges that the president deliberately lied. The real problem is that intelligence seldom provides certainty; it can only offer hints or clues that policymakers have to interpret as best they can.

That's precisely what Bill Clinton and his national security advisors did in 1998. In August, after Al Qaeda bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, they launched preemptive attacks
on Sudan and Afghanistan because they didn't want to risk having poison gas released in the New York City subway. Even though the evidence was hardly conclusive that the
Sudanese plant was working for Bin Laden, they decided to err on the side of safety. Based on the same precautionary principle, the administration bombed Iraq a few months
later, even though there was no hard proof that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. [...]

A leading senator was absolutely right when he fumed: "I find it outrageous. What have we come to? What in the hell is going on here? These guys seem like they are possessed by their desire to undo this guy."

No, that's not a Republican defending Bush today. That was Joseph Biden defending Clinton in 1998.

Unfortunately, the Clinton attack on al Qaeda came three days after he acknowledged lying about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky and the Desert Fox strikes on Iraq came during House impeachment deliberations, making it seem like he was just trying to change the subject. George W. Bush built up to the Iraq War for over half a year and had long before secured congressional approval. It's not at all clear what advantage would have possibly been gained from lying about the yellowcake story which was simply not determinative of the eventual war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:53 PM

HAIL TO THE CHIEF

Bush May Tap Calif. Justice for Federal Seat: Appointment From State Supreme Court Would Bolster Conservative Tilt in D.C. Circuit (Charles Lane, 7/17/03, Washington Post)
President Bush plans to nominate Janice Rogers Brown, a justice of the California Supreme Court, to a seat on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, according to Republican sources familiar with the Bush administration's judicial nominations process.

An eloquent conservative whose sometimes sharply worded writings include a ruling against affirmative action and a dissenting opinion in favor of a state parental-consent law for teenage abortions, Brown, 54, would add to the recent rightward tilt of a court whose current roster of nine judges is made up of five Republican appointees and four Democratic appointees.

Brown, who has served on the California high court for seven years, would also become the second African American woman judge on the D.C. Circuit, which is often considered second only to the Supreme Court in the federal judicial hierarchy. Judith W. Rogers, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, was the first.

Brown has been frequently mentioned as a possible Bush nominee for the Supreme Court, and legal analysts said that her elevation to the D.C. Circuit could mean that the president is grooming her for the high court. Three current members of the Supreme Court -- Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- served on the D.C. Circuit.

She's the ideal pick for Chief Justice when Rehnquist retires, forcing the Left to portray a black woman as an unacceptable conservative extremist. At age 54 she could be on the Court for three or even four decades.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:51 PM

SUDDENLY, I MISS BILL CLINTON.

Lieberman Goes Too Far (Jason Zengerle, www.tnr.com, 7/17/03).
Lieberman's actual speech took things way too far. After offering the NAACP another apology for skipping the candidates' forum and then ticking off his own civil rights credentials, Lieberman praised the NAACP for its work during the Florida recount. That's when things became absurd. "We didn't realize at the time, Al Gore and I, that we not only needed Kweisi Mfume fighting for justice here in Florida counting votes," Lieberman said, "we need him on the Supreme Court where the votes really counted. Maybe that'll happen some day."
Sometimes you really hope politicians are lying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM

LIKE THE U.N., ONLY IT MATTERS

Lone Sharks (Robert Lane Greene, 07.16.03, New Republic)
If your interest in the subject of trade is a casual one, you might think George W. Bush is a true free-trader. To hear him talk, he sounds not only like he believes free trade is a good thing, but that it can save the world. Last week in Africa, he touted the virtues of free trade to that continent, saying in Senegal, "We will ensure that the nations of Africa are full partners in the trade and prosperity of the world." In May, he proposed a free-trade deal with Middle Eastern countries that are willing to adopt basic standards of good government, in the hope that it would lead them toward democracy. True, the president did slap big tariffs on foreign steel last year--but, his trade-loving supporters explain, that was only to build up capital in Congress for bigger, more comprehensive trade deals down the road. And, yes, the monstrous farm subsidies that the president approved in 2002 badly distort trade and hurt the world's poorest countries, but the president diverts attention from this by saying (correctly) that European farm policy is even worse.

Still, as frustrating as it is that George W. Bush caves to protectionist pressure whenever the going gets tough, there's an even larger problem with his approach to trade: Rather than accept the rules of an organized global system, he systematically undermines that system--by pursuing individual deals with individual countries and regions--when it doesn't suit short-term American interests. Bush, in other words, has apparently decided do go down the same unilateralist path in trade negotiations that his administration favors on international security. Over the long term, the result could be to deprive American workers of the benefits of new markets abroad, and American consumers of the benefits of cheaper goods at home.

The big loser of the Bush divide-and-trade strategy is the World Trade Organization (WTO), the only organization that can guarantee free trade. [...]

As a reflection of its members, the WTO is not unlike another international organization created largely by the United States to monitor compliance with global rules written largely by the United States: the United Nations.

Is the argument that the WTO is just like the UN supposed to be a compliment?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 PM

RETURN TO NORMALCY

The Peter Principles: The whole story (Peter Roff, 7/10/03, United Press International)
The political character of the nation could change profoundly as a result of next November's election. In 2004 it will be 10 years since the Republican Party, riding atop the crest of a wave created by the "Contract with America," rode into the majority in the U.S. House, the Senate, the governorships and, for the first time in decades, reached parity with the Democrats in the number of state legislative chambers the party held.

There have been ups and downs for the GOP in the decade since. In 1996 it failed to win the presidency. In 1998 the Republicans, though they held on to the majority, suffered an unexpected net loss of seats in the U.S. House that led Speaker Newt Gingrich to resign.

In 2000, George W. Bush won the White House by the narrowest of margins, taking the Electoral College while losing the popular vote to former Vice President Al Gore. The GOP also lost its working majority in the Senate, thanks in part to the victory of a dead man in Missouri. Later in the year, a defecting Republican became an independent, giving the plurality Democrats control in a left-of-center coalition.

Nevertheless the past 10 years have been the brightest for the Republicans since Calvin Coolidge was president. They have, after 40 years out of power in the U.S. House Representatives and contrary to most predictions, maintained their majority.

They have defied expectations and maintained their lead in the number of Republican governors in office across America. To be sure, swapping Pennsylvania's governor's mansion for Maryland's or Michigan's for Hawaii's is not an even trade but the party has shown surprising strength in unexpected areas. For example all the governors in New England, currently with New York the anchor of East Coast liberalism, are Republicans.

The competition between the two parties has also remained vigorous at the state level. The GOP emerged from elections in 2000 and 2002 as the majority party in a majority of state legislative bodies; the current split is GOP 54, Democrats 44 among the chambers organized along partisan lines.

The story of the GOP advance has, in most quarters, been under-written and under-reported. The smart political reporting, especially since 2000, has tended to focus on the idea that the two parties are at parity and stuck there. The slim GOP majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and the narrowness of Bush's 2000 win are cited as proof of that assertion.

This may be true, if recent elections are used as the baseline. If the longer view is taken into account, the GOP has undeniably made significant gains and may well be on its way to becoming the natural majority party even as some analysts predict the political pendulum is about to swing to the left.

The thing about this restoration of Republican rule is that all it really represents is a return to the status quo after the unfortunate displacement caused by the Depression.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM

DO AS THE IDIOT DID

When Fighting Bush, Heavyweight Contenders Need to Use a Light Touch (Ronald Brownstein, July 14, 2003, LA Times)
The demand from Democratic die-hards for a hard line against Bush seems to have at least three distinct roots. One is tactical. The principal lesson most Democrats took from the 2002 midterm election was that the party lost ground because it failed to challenge Bush aggressively enough, especially on his tax cuts and foreign policy. Dean
encapsulates that conviction when he declares, always to loud applause, that "the way to beat this president is not to try to be like him."

Some of the anger toward Bush also reflects the lingering belief among many Democrats that he won the White House illegitimately in 2000. But far more of the passion has
been generated by what Bush has done since he arrived in Washington. [...]

Like all candidates challenging an incumbent, the Democrats face legitimately conflicting pressures. To convince the country to change course, they must make a forceful case against Bush's direction. But they might also remember that even most Americans who disagree with a president, any president, usually don't consider him malevolent or stupid, just wrong or ineffective.

Dozens of leading Republicans forgot that truth during the Clinton era and indulged in public contempt that hurt them more than their target. One who remembered the lesson was Bush. In 2000, he firmly made his case against the record of Clinton and Al Gore on education, entitlement programs and foreign policy.

And yet, faced with a base that loathed Clinton and Gore at least as much as the Democrats today loathe him, Bush demonstrated a light touch on the Clinton administration's ethical problems, saying only that he would restore honor and integrity to the White House. No one misunderstood his meaning. Yet he never seemed consumed by anger or zealotry.

The Democrats might learn from the man they are trying to unseat that, when dealing with a sitting president, usually less is more.

So Howard Dean is wrong: the way to beat this president is to be just like him.


NB: Apropos the post below on the disgruntled Right: "In a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken late last month, Bush's approval rating was 94% among Republicans, but just 29% among Democrats. That's among the largest gaps ever measured."

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 5:30 PM

THE END OF EUROPEAN HISTORY

Europe's population implosion (Economist, 7/17/2003)
Fertility rates across Europe are now so low that the continent's population is likely to drop markedly over the next 50 years. The UN ... predicts that ... by 2050 ... the population of the 27 countries that should be members of the EU by 2007 ... [will] fall by 6%, from 482m to 454m. For countries with particularly low fertility rates, the decline is dramatic.... Germany, which currently has a population of around 80m, could find itself with just 25m inhabitants by the end of this century, according to recent projections by Deutsche Bank ...

Combine a shrinking population with rising life expectancy, and the economic and political consequences are alarming. In Europe there are currently 35 people of pensionable age for every 100 people of working age. By 2050, on present demographic trends, there will be 75 pensioners for every 100 workers; in Spain and Italy the ratio of pensioners to workers is projected to be one-to-one. Since pensions in Germany, France and Italy are paid out of current tax revenue, the obvious implication is that taxes will have to soar to fund the pretty generous pensions that Europeans have got used to. The cost is already stretching government finances. Deutsche Bank calculates that average earners in Germany are already paying around 29% of their wages into the state pension pot, while the figure in Italy is close to 33%....

A recent report from the French Institute of International Relations ... gloomily concludes [that the EU] faces a "slow but inexorable 'exit from history'."

The nightmare scenario for Europe's social welfare experiment is becoming clear:
  • Demographic problems won't be addressed by immigration, because the people who want to immigrate to Europe (in preference to, say, the U.S.) are attracted by the notion of living off welfare and have proven to be crime-prone, which has generated an anti-immigrant response.
  • Europeans won't voluntarily have more children.
  • Older voters won't allow pensions to be cut.
    The upshot is that taxes will rise from already high levels. Then there is the wild card: in what year will younger Europeans look to emigrate to the U.S. for better economic opportunities? Emigration would generate a vicious feedback loop -- loss of economic base forcing higher taxes and spiraling government debt leading to greater emigration of taxpayers -- that could cause a stunningly quick collapse of European societies, toward something similar to Russia circa 1994.

    It is a good sign that the Economist is calling attention to the problem; perhaps that will encourage Europeans to the liberalization that Europe so desperately needs. Much depends on the character of today's Europeans. If they are motivated by personal selfishness, they will maintain the welfare state and leave future generations to fend for themselves through social collapse. If they love the future countrymen, on the other hand, they will sacrifice now to avoid the nightmare scenario in 2050.

    At BrothersJudd, we have often argued that Judeo-Christian morals are essential to the lasting survival of free nations. While economists have shown that selfish individuals, in the absence of transaction costs, will negotiate a socially optimal solution, economists also recognize that in the presence of transaction costs, Judeo-Christian moral norms, such as a willingness to sacrifice for others and a willingness to forgive others for wrongs and affronts, grease the way toward a satisfactory agreement. A selfish society, on the other hand, is prone to failure in the presence of transaction costs. Society-wide bargaining through the political process is subject to the greatest possible transaction costs, and therefore is most likely to fail to reach a successful bargain.

    Without a widespread willingness to sacrifice for others, Europe is unlikely to find a political solution to its demographic crisis. It is not at all clear that Europeans are willing to sacrifice for future others. The abandonment of Christianity and its ideal of self-sacrifice on the Cross may prove to be Europe's final, and fatal, error.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:59 PM

RIGHT TO WORK?

The Importance of Believing in Charity: Religious groups should be allowed to hire staff members who share their most deeply held beliefs and values. (JOSEPH LOCONTE, 7/07/03, NY Times)
President Bush recently called on Congress to make it easier for religious charities that get federal money to hire people based on their religious affiliation. His action is certain to further inflame civil liberties groups, which for two years have assailed his faith-based initiative as a violation of antidiscrimination laws. They may want to rethink their opposition.

Just as religious groups want staff members to share their most deeply held beliefs and values, secular nonprofit organizations want employees who believe fervently in their mission ? everything from environmental protection to abortion rights. In this sense, the hiring policies of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay organization, are no different from those of the evangelical Salvation Army. Some say the receipt of federal money changes the rules of the game. But if that's true, then Planned Parenthood--which got $240 million last year in government funds--could be forced to staff its clinics with pro-life Catholics. [...]

True, there's a danger that some organizations will use their religious exemption as an excuse to fire people they simply don't like. Some will turn away otherwise qualified applicants because of differences over sexual orientation. But these concerns don't trump the freedom of all religious groups to live out their moral vision in a pluralistic society. Indeed, Americans of faith are likely to punish lawmakers who attack their religious institutions. That fact alone might, in the end, inspire a little more charity toward the nation's Good Samaritans.

When I worked for the environmental communists, I was denied a promotion because I wouldn't renounce the Contras. What's the big deal? Ideological organizations have a right to expect employees share the ideology, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 AM

PASTORAL POP?

Wise Blood: First Prize Killers pulse with the beat of pastoral pop (Mark Desrosiers, 7/16/03, www.citypages.com)
Paul DesCombaz has a Southern Gothic mind and a comic book soul. Or vice versa. Though his countenance tends toward a smile and his temperament toward an affable nonchalance, DesCombaz takes to the works of Flannery O'Connor, Kelly Link, Tony Millionaire, Alex Robinson--writers and artists who thrive on gut-churning themes of violence, morality, and redemption. What he distills from these humid worlds, it seems, is a sense of paused beauty, a shaky toehold on love. As the auteur behind local band the First Prize Killers (whose name evokes Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery"), he writes power-pop tunes filled with pure Midwestern romance and idealism. On the band's new album, The Powdery Parade, he aims to capture either your heart or your indie eardrums, whichever surrenders first.

You may have heard the First Prize Killers' anthem "City Won't Let You Down" blasting out of Radio K recently. It's a crash-and-slur sing-along that sounds like 1982 resurrected, the cry of a sincere Everydude selling records at Cheapo, living without the blindfolds on. DesCombaz breathlessly shouts lyrics like "In the first year that I moved on/Every penny I earned weighed a ton," as simple chords pounce on him and a trumpet skirts the backdrop.

The anthem hits hard, but the rest of The Powdery Parade is different. It's a jangling, resonating pop stream--the candid pastorale that indie rock has been promising ever since Steven Malkmus started copping Jim Croce melodies. The twin guitars of Mike Andrew (a.k.a. Mandrew) and Tony Mogelson alternately tumble and soar, while DesCombaz's earnest voice often recalls a young Eric Bachmann (minus the screams) or J. Mascis (minus the beer bong). The mood of these hooks is that of a tight sunbeam shifting past your head on an air-conditioned MetroTransit bus. The Powdery Parade is summer in the Twin Cities.

The Flannery O'Connor comparison does suggest a couple of good album titles: "A Good Band is Hard to Find" and "Everything that Rocks Must Converge".

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 11:10 AM

STAR GAZING

I woke up at 3:45 this morning to watch the Moon occult (pass in front of) Mars. Very cool. Mars is quite bright right now...but only half as bright (and big) as it will appear in about a month, when it makes its closest pass to Earth in 60,000 years.

The occultation was only visible in the US from South Florida (just my luck). In other parts of the country, Mars appeared to slide very closely by the Moon. Since the moon is most of the way towards full (and, therefore, very bright), you probably would have needed at least binoculars to see Mars graze by. Anyway, Mars disappeared behind the bright side of the Moon (at about the 12:00 position) at about 4:15 am, and emerged from behind the dark limb (that is, east side of Moon, about 2:30 or 3:00 position) at about 4:40....I got lucky because just after Mars emerged, a huge dark cloud passed over, blocking out the Moon completely. From the time Mars "touched" the surface of the Moon on the way in, it took about a minute and a half or two minutes to disappear completely; once it appeared on the side, it slid completely into view in less than a minute. (I know, a more scientifically inclined astronomer would be timing these things precisely, but I'd rather just enjoy the view.)

Particularly cool observation: as Mars slid behind the Moon, I couldn't see the silhouette of any lunar features against the orb of Mars. However, when Mars re-emerged from the dark limb (that is, it looked like Mars was rising out of black space, not from over the surface of the Moon), the trailing edge of Mars (the side closest to the Moon) had a zig zag, rather than straight, edge....the outline of a lunar mountain against Mars!

For those of you getting this who have telescopes: Mars is now big enough to be interesting to look at. It rises at about 11 or 1130 pm and is high up in the south by 3:30 and well above the horizon before dawn (for you early risers). Don't worry, by next month it will be up so you can look at it after dinner.

At about 100x, you'll see a small disc (maybe 1/2 or 1/3 the size of Jupiter at the same magnification), tan or maybe slightly terra cotta in color (since the moon will be bright as it approaches and then waxes from fullness, the color will be more washed out....what I saw this morning was essentially tan). I saw some dark areas on the surface (don't know if they were clouds or surface features....again, it's tough when the Moon is so bright and close by), and the ice cap of the South Pole is pointed towards Earth and is very large and noticeable....a big white patch of ice....just what you expect the South Pole to look like...it's now Spring on Mars, so the ice cap should shrink noticeably over the next couple of months...

You'll also see that Mars is not yet completely round....because of it's position vis a vis the Sun, it looks like an almost, but not quite, full moon. If you push the magnification, you'll see the surface and cloud features more clearly, but Earth's atmospheric disturbances will also be greater...so keep looking for moments of stillness...a red or orange filter may help bring out some features.....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM

WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND

The Jewsweek Sizzlin' 60: It took six days to create the world, and it takes sixty people, places, trends, web sites, and kitschy concepts to define what makes Judaism hot today. (Jewsweek.com, July 17, 2003) 
We didn't actually have sixty items on our list. We could only manage fifty-two and a half, even after considering Madonna for special mention. We could honestly admit we're just lazy, but we're not that honest. The truth is (insert winks and elbow nudges here) the dog-days of summer induced a heat stroke epidemic in our Hotlanta-based headquarters and we resorted to our natural states -- feeble-minded, horny men. Just kidding.

So here it is, for you our dear readers, the official smokin' not-quite-60 hottest people and things in the Jewish universe this year in absolutely no particular order. Any decidedly attractive celebrities or pseudo-celebrities who made this list, feel free to shower us with your appreciation in whatever illicit manner you desire.

1. Alicia Silverstone: "Judaism turned me into who I am today, and I definitely feel I live a very spiritual life. I got that from my parents," says the 26-year-old actress. How nice is this blonde bombshell who's got the upcoming TV show, Miss Match, and has been wooing many a young man since she cropped up in those Aerosmith videos way back when. A brief dip off the celebrity radar following some ill-advised career moves (Batgirl anyone?) is a thing of the past as Ms. Alicia touts her "chosen" credentials onto the small screen this fall. We couldn't be more pleased.

2. Las Vegas: Sin City is turning into a virtual Sinai for American Jews. Believe it or not, the city of many casinos is the fastest growing Jewish community in the United States, which may or may not say something about how hot we Jews really are. Biased as we may be, we'll err on the side of assuming Jews are taking on a Rat Pack cool and moving to the desert accordingly. Temperature or trendy, it's hot any way you roll those dice. [...]

52. Krispy Kreme: The once forbidden fruit which we all salivated after is now becoming kosher. Across the nation, like SARS spreading across a crowded Toronto rock concert audience, Kosher Krispy Kreme (KKK) locations are sprouting up. And the Jewish community couldn't be happier. Pass the coffee.

52.5 God: Classically cool Hashem, otherwise known as the Lord, the Almighty, and the original Miracle Maker is still around and styling. World leaders, including one grammatically challenged cowboy from Texas, are enamored with citing Him for authority, which reminds us of those good ol' days of divinely anointed kings. Obviously God transcends all cultural cliques. Even Osama is a big fan, and while we would like very much to quibble with Mr. Bin Laden, we'll toast God with a He'Brew anytime.

That Alpha is even here Omega, a mere afterthought, may suggest why Judaism is dying out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:15 AM

FROM WHENCE THE FANATIC RIGHT?

QUOTE: from The True Believer : Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951) (Eric Hoffer 1902-83)
Free men are aware of the imperfection inherent in human affairs, and they are willing to fight and die for that which is not perfect. They know that basic human problems can have no final solutions, that our freedom, justice, equality, etc. are far from absolute, and that the good life is compounded of half measures, compromises, lesser evils, and gropings toward the perfect.  The rejection of approximations and the insistence on absolutes are the manifestation of a nihilism that loathes freedom, tolerance, and equity.

Quite the best book ever written on fanaticism and so rich in aphorisms you want to quote every sentence. This passage is apropos those on the Right who'd rather destroy the GOP than allow George W. Bush to differ with them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM

DON'T STOP, DREAMIN' ABOUT TOMORROW

Maybe Not Today, Maybe Not Tomorrow... (Chuck Todd, July 16, 2003 NationalJournal.com)
What do John Ensign, Bill Nelson, Dianne Feinstein, Jim Talent, Norm Coleman, Gordon Smith, Ben Nelson, Richard Lugar, Susan Collins, Jim Bunning, Byron Dorgan and George Voinovich all have in common besides being sitting senators? All lost major statewide races (i.e. Senate, gubernatorial or at-large House) before eventually winning their current Senate seats. For this cycle, Democrats are putting a lot of stock in finding recruits who may want to have their "warm-up" race before gunning for another post in 2006.

That's right, more than 10 percent of the Senate is made up of senators who, at first, did not succeed, but they tried (and in some cases tried and tried) again.

Ask any consultant. There's nothing they like more than a client who has "done this before." That was something then-National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Bill Frist preached in the 2002 cycle when talking up five of his key recruits (John Thune, Elizabeth Dole, Lamar Alexander, Talent and Coleman). All had either run statewide before or, in the case of Dole and Alexander, run nationally. Not surprisingly, four out of those five recruits won.

For this cycle, Democrats are putting a lot of stock in finding recruits who may want to have their "warm-up" race before gunning for another post in 2006.

The problem with the scenario for the Democratic candidates being coaxed into running losing races is that you need to be close to maintain your viability for next time. Many of these races won't be.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 AM

"WE GO TO HIM WHEN WE ARE SORE BESTEAD"

What's Left After Everest?: 'Under the Banner of Heaven', Jon Krakauer's new book, an account of the 1984 killings of a Utah woman and her infant daughter, has set off a culture war with the Mormon Church. (TIMOTHY EGAN, July 13, 2003, NY Times)
There is a moment in all his books when Mr. Krakauer turns the story on himself and presents an imperfect human--an author as guilty of the hubris, doubt and foolishness that push his nonfiction characters to extremes. So it is in his latest book, "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith," which Doubleday is bringing out this week, complete with a publicity agent's dream controversy--loud condemnation of the book by his primary target, the Mormon Church.

"I don't know if God even exists, although I confess I find myself praying in times of great fear, or despair, or astonishment at a display of unexpected beauty," he writes. "In the absence of conviction, I've come to terms with the fact that uncertainty is an inescapable corollary of life." [...]

In the book, Mr. Krakauer examines Mormon fundamentalists, the tens of thousands of true believers living mostly in Utah who broke away from the original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The splinter groups are the American Taliban, Mr. Krakauer says, living in desert theocracies where pubescent girls are forced into marriages with old graybeards who rule with an iron fist. These polygamous communities are against the law, but usually tolerated by officials who see a little bit of great-grandpa's pioneering ways in the modern sects.

The biggest of these communities, Hildale/Colorado City, on the Utah-Arizona border, is full of houses the size of a Days Inn motel, stuffed with dozens of wives married to self-styled Mormon fundamentalist patriarchs. The community is in open violation of the law, Mr. Krakauer and others have noted, but faces little legal sanction and also manages to have one of the highest ratios of welfare recipients in the country.

His main focus is on Dan and Ron Lafferty, a pair of Utah brothers who believed they were ordered by God to kill their sister-in-law and her
15-month-old daughter. Brenda Lafferty had her throat slit with a 10-inch boning knife, and her daughter, Erica, was also stabbed. Dan Lafferty is serving a life sentence and his older brother, Ron, is on death row. The brothers said they did it because Brenda opposed their plan to take multiple wives.

Mr. Krakauer draws a connection between the revelations the Lafferty brothers claimed guided them and early Mormon acts of "blood atonement," in which followers targeted victims because of purported divine inspiration. Ron Lafferty, Mr. Krakauer notes, was a Republican city councilman and devout Mormon, who came to believe that his religion had lost touch with its roots, which allowed men to practice polygamy and to receive divine revelation.

Mr. Krakauer faults the modern Mormon Church, perhaps the fastest growing religion in America, with worldwide membership approaching 12 million, for failing to honestly address a past where taking young wives, killing on behalf of God and open disdain for the Constitution are papered over in place of a more Osmond-friendly image. Often overlooked by mainstream historians, the story of how a church founded by radicals who practiced an early form of communism and sanctioned sexual promiscuity through multiple wives has come to be known for white-bread conservatism is a compelling American tale.

The church officially renounced polygamy in 1890, and excommunicates members who openly practice it. But officials in Utah say up to 60,000 people continue to live in polygamous families there.

The book comes just a few weeks too late--polygamy's pretty much got Court sanction now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 AM

KILL IT

Timely Help for AmeriCorps (NY Times, 7/17/03)
Betraying his oft-repeated promise to expand opportunities for meaningful national service, President Bush has not lifted a finger to secure the extra money needed to avoid devastating cuts to AmeriCorps, the federal government's flagship domestic volunteer program.

July 16, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:23 PM

ROSY, YOU'RE ALRIGHT

Prostate cancer - is the solution in a man?s hands? (Mark Henderson, July 17, 2003, Times of London)
Australian scientists at the Cancer Council Victoria have found that young men who masturbate frequently are less likely to develop prostate tumours. Their study shows that the more men ejaculate between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to suffer from the most common male cancer. The protective effect is greatest for men in their twenties, with those ejaculating at least five times a week being one third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer in the future.

Masturbation, rather than sexual intercourse, was responsible for the beneficial effect, the scientists said. Graham Giles, who led the research, said regular ejaculations probably flushed out the prostate gland, preventing the build-up of dangerous carcinogens. ?The more you flush the ducts out, the less there is to hang around and damage the cells that line them,? he said.

Unless it was all female scientists it would be hard to argue that the study was impartial.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:06 PM

CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER.

According to this post at Just One Minute, George Tenet, Condoleeza Rice and Jack Straw have all characterized Ambassador Wilson's report on Iraq seeking to buy uranium from Niger as follows. Through a third-party, Iraq approached Niger about expanding the two countries' commercial relations. This was understood by Niger to be an attempt to purchase uranium. However, no "contract" for the sale of uranium was entered into and given the security arrangements used in Niger, it is unlikely that any illicit transaction took place.

If this is what Ambassador Wilson found, how is it not true to say that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"? Why, exactly, has the administration opened up this issue?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:43 PM

OH, WON'T YOU STAY...

Most Iraqis want troops to stay, says poll (Michael Howard, July 17, 2003, The Guardian)
A majority of Baghdad residents feel US and British troops should stay in Iraq for at least a year, according to the first attempt at an opinion poll.

The You.Gov poll results were released as news emerged that a ground-to-air missile was fired at a US military plane near Baghdad airport.

The poll said 31% wanted troops to stay "a few years", while 25% said "about a year."

Only 13% said they should leave now, while 20% said they should go "within 12 months".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM

THE SOCIALIST & THE OBJECTIVIST

Rep Bernie Sanders vs. Chairman Alan Greenspan: Exchange between Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and FED Chairman Alan Greenspan in yesterday's hearing in the Financial Services Committee.(CommonDreams.org , July 16, 2003)
SANDERS: [...] [T]oday you have reached a new low, I think, by suggesting that manufacturing in America doesn't matter. It doesn't matter where the product is produced. We've lost 2 million manufacturing jobs in the last two years alone; 10 percent of our work force. Wal-Mart has replaced General Motors as the major employer in America, paying people starvation wages rather than living wages, and all of that does not matter to you -- doesn't matter.

If it's produced in China where workers are making 30 cents an hour, or produced in Vermont where workers can make 20 bucks an hour, it doesn't matter. You have told the American people that you support a trade policy which is selling them out, only working for the CEOs who can take our plants to China, Mexico and India. [...]

Does any of this matter to you? Do you give one whiff of concern for the middle class and working families of this country? That's my question.

GREENSPAN: Congressman, we have the highest standard of living in the world.

SANDERS: No, we do not. You go to Scandinavia, and you will find that people have a much higher standard of living, in terms of education, health care and decent paying jobs. Wrong, Mister. [...]

GREENSPAN: The major focus of monetary policy is to create an environment in this country which enables capital investment and innovation to advance. We are at the cutting edge of technologies in the world. We are doing an extraordinary job over the years.

And people flock to the United States. Our immigration rates are very high. And why? Because they think this is a wonderful country to come to.

SANDERS: That is an incredible answer.

Is it not a wonderful country?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:50 PM

POLLING THE SHUT-INS

The seasonal trend of Bush's ratings (Tod Lindberg, 7/15/03, Washington Times)
It's remarkable, looking back, how much of a vacuum existed from late July through the end of August last summer, and how quickly it filled when the White House re-engaged after Labor Day. Now, if one wants to tune out in this fashion, one must accept what looks to be a difficult-to-avoid consequence: a drop in presidential job-approval ratings. In 2002, Mr. Bush's rating dropped significantly, especially in the period from late June to the end of August - in CBS News polls, from 70 percent to 61 percent. In 2003, we are also seeing an emerging decline, with Mr. Bush dropping from 68 percent to 59 percent in the ABC News/Washington Post poll. And in 2001, Mr. Bush came down as well, from 57 percent in the Gallup/USA Today/CNN poll down to 51 percent.

Now, in 2002, Mr. Bush had little trouble boosting his numbers in the fall (which in turn was important for Republicans in the November election). Conventional wisdom is that Mr. Bush was adrift in summer 2001 and that September 11 saved him. I would like to point out that that proposition hasn't really been tested. We don't know what Mr. Bush might have done in the absence of the September 11 attacks, and he had enjoyed approval ratings as high as 65 percent or so in April 2001.

Which, in turn, points us to another generalization. In each case, Mr. Bush's critics, as well as some neutral observers, have pointed to the summer declines as an indication that Mr. Bush's approval was dropping to a new, permanently lower level. In summer 2001, the drop was often attributed to a lack of administration focus after passing its big tax cut. In summer 2002, it was the supposedly mounting uncertainty about the administration's Iraq case finally taking the post-September 11 bounce out of Mr. Bush's numbers. In summer 2003, it's disenchantment with Iraq and the economy all over again.

Could be. But it could also be that the White House is leaving the field for the summer. We should know about that within a couple weeks. And by mid-September, we should know if the current decline indicates a genuine decrease in confidence in Mr. Bush or if it is simply a recurring seasonal effect.

At the end of last Summer, Andy Card stated that the White House understood this phenomenon with a bluntness that enraged the critics, saying that they were rolling out their Iraq War public relations campaign in September because: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:02 PM

TAKE ALL 300K

White House Mulls Plan To Admit North Koreans: Proposal Could Strain Ties With China (Glenn Kessler, July 16, 2003, Washington Post)
The Bush administration is considering admitting thousands of North Korean refugees into the United States in an effort to increase pressure on the government in Pyongyang during the standoff over its nuclear weapons programs, officials said yesterday.

Officials have not yet settled on how many refugees the United States would be willing to accept a year. One faction is pushing for as many as 300,000 refugees, while officials who believe such a step would hurt relations with China have countered with a proposal to limit the number to 3,000 in the first year, an official said. [...]

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) has pressed the administration to make it easier to accept North Korean refugees. Last week, at Brownback's urging, the Senate voted to change a legal technicality that has made it difficult for North Koreans to claim refugee status. A provision in South Korean law automatically extends South Korean citizenship to refugees fleeing North Korea, but that status makes them ineligible to assert they are refugees in the United States.

Mr. Brownback, who is also the leader of Iran destabilization, continues to be the most underrated Senator in America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 PM

)

Feds Won't Let Airport Screeners Unionize (Leslie Miller, July 8, 2003, Associated Press)
Airport security screeners don't have the right to unionize, according to the agency handling labor issues for the federal government.

The Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled that the screeners' boss, Transportation Security Administration chief James Loy, has discretion to decide the terms and conditions of their employment. [...]

Collective bargaining rights were a sticking point in the debate over creating the Department of Homeland Security. Congress decided to let the president take away collective bargaining rights from department workers, though that decision would be revisited every four years.

Folks who are old enough will recall that it was right around this time in his presidency that the full-moon Right decided Ronald Reagan was a crypto-liberal, as evidenced by his signing a tax hike, failing to cut Social Security, and, of course, the presence of James Baker. By the time he left office, despite all the compromises he'd made and the issues he'd failed to tackle, Reagan had been beatified and no one on the Right could criticize him and expect anyone to listen. Now the same folks have determined that in George W. Bush they bought a pig in a poke, Trouble on the right?: Bush and his conservative base (W. James Antle III, July 14, 2003, Enter Stage Right):
Eugene Volokh's co-blogger Phillipe de Croy has called for a Republican primary challenge to President Bush. Paul Cella, blogging on the topic of the impending prescription drug benefit disaster, wrote "This must be why I voted for a `conservative' presidential candidate: so I can reap the glorious benefits of socialized medicine, and an expansion in the size of the federal government unlike anything since Lyndon Baines Johnson." He notes that Bush faces a lack of pressure from the organized right, which has seemed content to function as "a set of court intellectuals for a ruling party," "the handmaidens of servitude," and "the functionaries of the Servile State." Steve Sailer has been all over Bush's response to the Supreme Court's awful affirmative action ruling in the University of Michigan case. Bush can forget about libertarian bloggers; even many who normally vote Republican are so fed up with his lack of interest in limited government that they are musing about voting for the unspeakable Howard Dean.

Why this outpouring of criticism of the man many conservatives breathlessly predict will usher in an enduring national Republican majority? As a sequel to dropping serious conservative education reform in favor of giving Ted Kennedy the big-government education bill he wanted, Bush is dropping serious conservative Medicare reform in favor of giving Kennedy the big-government Medicare bill he wants. (The latter promising to be a massive boondoggle that will impose staggering costs on future generations to come.) To follow up on his decision to cave on the free speech-strangling McCain-Feingold campaign finance travesty, he is caving on Second Amendment rights by backing a renewal of the assault weapons ban. He has apparently decided that as long as the Sandra Day O'Connor pays lip service to color-blindness 25 years from now, ruling in favor of a more surreptitious regime of racial preferences is A-OK. He's willing to spend federal money on constitutionally dubious "marriage promotion" initiatives but has yet to take any proactive steps to curb the growing judicial threat to traditional marriage.

Then of course there is the steel and lumber tariffs, the PATRIOT Act, the decision to sign ridiculously bloated farm and transportation bills and the refusal to veto wasteful federal spending. Rather than address porous borders and an immigration policy that lends itself more to balkanization than Americanization, the administration treats us to Karl Rove's schemes for illegal alien amnesties. The list goes on.

We hard all this before the 2002 midterm too, until the stunning victories of dread moderates like Norm Coleman shut people up. But we get it again now because all of this is just the politics of ego: if George W. Bush didn't adopt your extreme postion on a given issue then you'll teach him a lesson by voting for someone else. Witness the absurdity of libertarians threatening to vote for Howard Dean. It's also a function of folks who've never been involved in politics, except to comment on it, who don't really get how either governance or campaigning work. The best example here is the Right's anger over the recent Supreme Court rulings. George W. Bush could give Castro-length speeches every day from now until he leaves office and it wouldn't change either godawful opinion. What it would do is make it easy for Democrats to portray him as anti-black and a homophobe. Meanwhile, if he just gets re-elected, particularly if he carries in a larger Senate majority, he's going to have appointed a massive proportion of the Federal judiciary and as many as four Supreme Court justices. Without any muss or fuss he can actually effect significant change in those two rulings, so why hurt himself politically? The Court will get a case in the next couple of years that will say that its unconstitutional to deny homosexuals the right to marry. A Court with three new George Bush justices is likely to rule differently than one with three Howard Dean nominees, no?

The Medicare Bill, like Campaign Finance Reform, is bad policy and a mistake, but both are excellent politics, desired by large majorities of the electorate and main issues that the Democrats will be deprived of. CFR is worse than a mistake; it's unconstitutional and impeachment worthy--we'd support the impeachment of every congressman who voted for it, of the president for signing it, and of any judge who holds it constitutional--but it's going to be law and it's disastrous for Democrats. Spending growth in general, but especially the dreadful agriculture bill, is way beyond what it should be. But Republicans have run against Washington spending for seventy years and it's never done a lick of good. Voters like government spending. Get over it. Until there's a systematic reform of the entire Federal government we're going to have a $2 Trillion and growing budget. There aren't even any serious conservative theorists who think that's reversible. Majorities transferring other peoples' money to themselves is in fact the rock on which conservatism predicts democracy must founder. What's the point of running against the inherent flaw in the system--you won't win. It's entirely appropriate for ideologues to oppose these things, but unclear why a politician who's interested in maintaining himself and his party in power would not just accept them. Conservatives like to claim that they are realists and common-sensical, but seem incapable of understanding that politicians must sometimes behave with political expediency.

On most of the other issues the conservative critics have just failed to understand what's going on. They're listening to Ted Kennedy and Peter Jennings instead of comprehending what the bills and regulations actually do. So, libertarians still get apoplectic over steel tarriffs while ignoring the pivotal victory they may have made possible on Fast Track Trade Authority and rapid progress on free trade agreements from Chile to Singapore to the Middle East to Africa to Australia. They aren't just ignoring the forest for the trees but for the moss under the trees. In the meantime, George Bush is the most important Free Trade activist since Ronald Reagan. The critics blindness is perhaps more explicable in regard to the No Child Left Behind law, where hatred of Ted Kennedy has made them think the GOP was had. In Fact, Mr. Kennedy realized almost immediately that it was he who had been suckered. Sure the bill spends a lot of money, but it also sets up the first national voucher program, with no fanfare. The Faith-Based Initiative too, though widely held a failed proposal, is quietly being implemented, as are civil service reforms (see the story above) that stand to completely remake the federal government. Unfortunately for these critics, federal regulations aren't sexy and don't get much news coverage, so these revolutions are generally unknown to the natterers.

Libertarians oppose things like the PATRIOT Act, TIPS, etc. But they'd prefer a second 9/11 to any intrusion whatsoever on "privacy", a position few would share and which no responsible national leader is likely ever to agree with. Governments exist to protect us from threats foreign and domestic, even if libertarians aren't reconciled to the notion.

All of which leaves just one issue that really galls the far Right and on which they are correct that George W. Bush isn't on their side: Mexican immigration. As it happens, we believe they are wrong and the President right on the issue. Concern about the "mongrelization" of our culture is legitimate, but it is we who have failed to vindicate who are at fault, not the immigrants who come here seeking opportunity and find a culture so weak that they can easily maintain their own. Let them all come, but reinvigorate the American civic religion and make them assimilate to it. This won't satisfy anti-Mexican folk, but are the Democrats going to have a nominee who's anti-immigration? If they do, President Bush would gladly trade the militarize-the-border vote for the Hispanic vote.

The journalist/activist Right may be bitching and moaning now but the next poll you see check the internals and you'll find that 96% of those who self-identify as conservative say they support the President. The "problems with the base" story is a biennial favorite and it's almost always nonsense, as now. Groucho Marx famously said he wouldn't want to be in any club that would accept him as a member. The voices being raised now are those of folks who don't want to be in a club that has any other members. They want everything their own way or they're taking their ball and going home. That's not how adults behave or how politics works. Time for them to grow up and get with the team.

MORE:
-STUPID LIKE A CEO (Brothers Judd, May 10, 2002)
-AMERICA'S CEO (Brothers Judd, 12/08/02)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:26 PM

FREEDOM EVOLVES?

No One is Really a Moral Skeptic (Richard A. Epstein, Religion & Liberty)
Moral relativism is at first glance the easiest of all philosophical positions to defend. The defense consists of a single tactic, remorselessly and impartially applied to any and all ethical precepts: deny their truth and insist that the proponent show the logical contradiction that arises from that denial. The consistent skeptic does not have the unpleasant obligation of showing how one moral precept ties into another; nor does he face the difficult task of squaring moral principles that seem to be individually attractive but mutually repellent (i.e. a defense of individual autonomy with duties of benevolence for those in need). Instead the skeptic need respond only with a dismissive wave of the hand, and move on to other business capable of greater logical precision or empirical verification. Ethical discourse remains an empty vessel into which no content can be poured.

At the most abstract level, countless people consider themselves to be moral skeptics, and rejoice in seeing through a form of discourse that all should regard as empty and uninformative. But here the professions of faith, or rather the lack of it, are in most cases, only skin deep. No one lives by that skeptical precept in practice; nor could they and hope to make decisions that involve punishment, blame, credit, commendation or disapproval. The moment that something, anything, in our daily lives turns on an appeal to principle, the most determined skeptic is transformed, as if on cue, into a traditional moral practitioner, lacking only the candor of his new found enterprise.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:50 PM

GRAYS FOR GRAY

To Recall Or Not To Recall (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Clothilde Ewing and Smita Kalokhe, July 16, 2003, CBS News)
Hard to imagine, but with more than half of California voters most likely to participate in a recall vote saying they’d vote to remove Gray Davis, things are looking up for the governor. In a new Field poll released Wednesday, the split between the two sides dropped from 15 points (54 percent in favor to 39 percent opposed) to eight points (51 percent in favor to 43 percent opposed) when the sample was changed from all registered voters to voters likely to vote in the recall.

With recall organizers saying they’ve collected more than 1.6 million signatures from Californians who want to see Davis out of the Governor’s Mansion, and making the assumption that Republicans are more likely to vote in the recall election than Democrats, the numbers seem plain wrong.

One explanation is that older voters, who tend to be more cautious and more wary of rocking the boat, are more likely to vote than their younger counterparts, explains poll director Mark DiCamillo in the California Insider.

Another possible explanation is that voters don’t know who will replace Davis should he be ousted. So far, the only candidates officially running are the head of the recall effort, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, and Green Party candidate Peter Miguel Camejo. The most popular name being thrown around by kids and politicians alike, however, is Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who still hasn’t said whether he’ll join the race.

Stay hungry...

Posted by David Cohen at 1:04 PM

DID DERRIDA LIVE IN VAIN?

Amiel's animus (Richard Ingrams, The Observer, 7/13/03).
I have developed a habit when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it. . . .

The other day, for example, the Canadian journalist Barbara Amiel wrote a long denunciation of the BBC in the Daily Telegraph, accusing the Corporation of being anti-Israel in its Middle East coverage.

Many readers of the Daily Telegraph may have been impressed by her arguments, assuming her to be just another journalist or even, as she was recently described in another newspaper, an 'international-affairs commentator'.

They might have been less impressed if the paper had told them that Barbara Amiel is not only Jewish but that her husband's company, in which she has an interest, owns not only the Daily Telegraph but the Jerusalem Post .

In other words, when it comes to accusing people of bias on the Middle East, she is not ideally qualified for the role.
This is astonishingly stupid. Mr. Ingrams is not only assuming that all Jews have a bias towards Israel -- which is demonstrably false -- but he apparently also believes in magic. That is one of only two explanations for his fear of reading powerful words from those he considers impure.

Ms. Amiels arguments are set forth in black and white in her columns. Like all writers, her facts should be approached skeptically and tested before acceptance. Her logic should likewise be tested for rigor. But if her facts and logic are accepted, what possible difference can her "bias" make?

The other possible explanation for Mr. Ingrams' position is, of course, that he is a close-minded bigot. I will have to abjure his writings.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:22 AM

HOME BY THE ELECTION

U.S. sets requirements for leaving Iraq (PAUL HAVEN, July 16, 2003, Chicago Sun-Times)
Iraq's U.S. administrator said today that U.S. and British troops would leave the country once a constitution and a democratic
government are in place--setting a rough timeline for ending the military occupation.

L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, said that with the establishment of the Governing Council on Sunday--the first national postwar Iraqi political body--it is now up to Iraqis to write a new constitution and send it to voters for approval in a referendum.

''Then our job, the coalition's job, will be done,'' Bremer told reporters. ''We have no desire to stay any longer than necessary.''

The Governing Council is meant to be the forerunner of a 200-250 member constitutional assembly that is planned to start in September drawing up a draft constitution. That process is expected to take nine months to a year and free elections to pick a government are expected to follow.

That's too long for us to stay, but not by too too much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:16 AM

SMOKE SIGNALS

Daschle airs early ad in bid to bolster re-election odds (Sam Dealey, 7/16/03, The Hill)
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) has already begun to air election ads in a move some analysts say suggests he sees a need to repair his home-state image.

The $31,000 ad buy, which began with TV slots last week in South Dakota, avoids open criticism of President Bush and the Republicans. Rather, the ad seeks to burnish Daschle’s standing as a key member of Congress who works tirelessly for his constituents.

Daschle plans to seek a fourth term next year. He has yet to draw a formal GOP opponent.

“You run early ads to earn name recognition,” said Democratic political consultant Peter Fenn, citing something Daschle does not need, or “to inoculate yourself against something you think they’re going to use against you, and to reduce your negatives.”

He added, “Are the Daschle folks panicked? No. Are they running a smart campaign to get out front? Yeah.”

When a three term incumbent, the leader of his party no less, feels the need to get on the air 17 months out from the election, it's a sign of real weakness. His internal poll numbers in SD must be terrible.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Here's a post from February where John Gray (see below) points out how Daniel Dennett, despite his supposed "brightness", is forced to retreat to theology to justify his supposedly evolutionary views. The argument will be familiar to anyone who's been amused by the way modern Darwinists maintain that our ability to make rational choices has essentially freed us from the functioning of natural selection pressures:

EVOLVED OR FREE?:
-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.

MORE:
-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 12:14 AM

)

The Limits of Anachronism: Hobbes, Thucydides, and Us. (Bay Woods, h2so4)
Eric Voegelin claims that the Peloponnesian War wasn't known as such until after Thucydides' book was published, after his death. It had not been conceived of by its principle players as a single and unified war. Rather, because of its length and its dispersal over many fronts, it had generally been considered a series of conflicts. The specificity of this particular "situation"—both its own internal coherence and its external differentiation from prior conflicts—was lost on Thucydides' contemporaries. This is why Thucydides begins his work by distinguishing it from that of Homer and Herodotus, in the same way that one would need to distinguish an account of the present conflict from both World War II and Viet Nam in order to be able to think it clearly and responsibly. [...]

It is possible that people in the future will consider the present conflict as a part of a larger conflict that began, perhaps, with the Gulf War: "The Arab-American War" or something of the sort. Americans have been able to forget the Gulf War or to say that it "never took place," but to the people in Iraq it has not yet ended. Reading Thucydides may give us a chance to uncover the lost horizons of our own history, extending in every direction.

The Gulf War? If it does end up appearing to be a truly extended war in retrospect--and it seems likely that it should--it will almost certainly be considered to have begun with the Yom Kippur War and the Arab Oil Embargo.

July 15, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:39 PM

TRY TO REMEMBER THE KIND OF SEPTEMBER...

Israeli ploy on Arafat backfires: Blair rejects Sharon's plea to cut contact with president (Nicholas Watt, July 15, 2003, The Guardian)
Tony Blair's hopes of improving relations with Ariel Sharon suffered a blow last night when the prime minister was forced to rebuff an attempt by his Israeli counterpart to persuade Britain to sever all contact with Yasser Arafat.

In a sign of Britain's fragile relations with Israel after a series of rows, Mr Blair told Mr Sharon over dinner in Downing Street that Britain would continue to deal with the democratically elected president of the Palestinian Authority.

On the first day of a three-day visit to Britain, Mr Sharon tried to win British support for his policy of isolating the Palestinian president when he asked Jack Straw and Mr Blair to prevent officials meeting Mr Arafat. A senior Israeli official accompanying Mr Sharon told the news agency Reuters: "Any contact with Arafat weakens [the Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud] Abbas."

But Mr Straw rejected Mr Sharon's request during a mid-morning call on him at his hotel. "We made clear that the UK position, which is also that of the European Union, is that we will continue to have dealings with Mr Arafat, who is the democratically elected president of the Palestinian
Authority," said a Foreign Office spokeswoman.

Mr Blair believes privately that Mr Arafat has become a liability, unlike Mr Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, who is fully committed to the US sponsored "road map" which charts the way to a Palestinian state. But Britain takes exception to being told who its officials should
meet.

Obviously you can't conduct your foreign policy like a petulant child, but how much fun would it be if Sharon continued on to Ireland to meet with representatives of the IRA...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:32 PM

A PARTY OF INTERESTS

:Labor takes center stage (THOMAS BEAUMONT, 07/13/2003, Des Moines Register)
Iowa union leaders say Gephardt, who ran for president in 1988 with substantial labor support, is familiar to many of their members. But many say their support for him is not assured, and that Kerry, Dean and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich are friendly to workers' issues.

The candidate who wins support from the state's auto workers, public employees and other key unions will have a significant advantage going into the leadoff Iowa caucuses, they say.

"Dick Gephardt, John Kerry, our members are very favorable about, but they know who these guys are," said Jan Corderman, president of the Iowa Association of State, County and Municipal Employees, a proven force in Iowa politics. "I think that probably the up-and-comer . . . is Dennis Kucinich."

Kucinich has "had a real presence here in Iowa recently" and has received an enthusiastic reception, said Corderman, whose 13,000-member union is the state's second largest.

"Our folks are impressed with his position on issues," she said. "He's definitely a man of the people. But he's also one that people need to hear more about."

About 70,000 workers belong to Iowa's six largest unions, according to the Iowa Federation of Labor. Union activists make up about a third of Democratic caucus activists, according to party officials. [...]

While winning support from Iowa's union Democrats is key, labor officials in the state say many activists take their cues from the national union's endorsement.

Kucinich also voted against NAFTA and includes in his standard stump speech the promise that, if elected, he will cancel the treaty, which usually earns him cheers from union crowds.

Listing Leftwards....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:14 PM

THE PROVERBIAL "LEAST-KNOWN GREAT"

Like Cormac McCarthy, but Funny: Charles Portis wrote five novels, four of them classics, one of them True Grit. How come you've never heard of him? (Ed Park, March 2003, The Believer)
In 1964, in the midst of so-called Swinging Lon-don, Charles McColl Portis had Karl Marx's old job. Portis (who turns seventy this year) was thirty at the time, not yet a novelist, just a newspaperman seemingly blessed by that guild's gods. His situational Marxism would have been hard to predict. Delivered into this world by the "ominous Dr. Slaughter" in El Dorado, Arkansas, in 1933, Charles Portis--sometimes "Charlie" or "Buddy"--had grown up in towns along the Arkla border, enlisted in the Marines after high school and fought in the Korean War. Upon his discharge in 1955, he majored in journalism at the University of Arkansas (imagining it might be "fun and not very hard, something like barber college"), and after graduation worked at the appealingly named Memphis Commercial Appeal. He soon returned to his native state, writing for the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock.

He left for New York in 1960, and became a general assignment reporter at the now defunct New York Herald-Tribune, working out of what has to be one of the more formidable newsroom incubators in history--his comrades included Tom Wolfe (who would later dub him the "original laconic cutup") and future Harper's editor Lewis Lapham. Norwood's titular ex-Marine, after a fruitless few days in Gotham, saw it as "the hateful town," and Portis himself had once suggested (in response to an aspersion against Arkansas in the pages of Time), that Manhattan be buried in turnip greens; still, he stayed for three years. He apparently thrived, for he was tapped as the Trib's London bureau chief and reporter--the latter post held in the 1850s by the author of The Communist Manifesto (1848). (More specifically, his predecessor had been a London correspondent for the pre-merger New York Herald.) Recently, in a rare interview for the Gazette Project at the University of Arkansas, Portis recalls telling his boss that the paper "might have saved us all a lot of grief if it had only paid Marx a little better."

Indeed, as Portis notes in his second novel, the bestselling True Grit (1968), "You will sometimes let money interfere with your notions of what is right." If Marx had decided to loosen up, Portis wouldn't have gone to Korea, to serve in that first war waged over communism, and (in the relentless logic of these things) wouldn't have put together his first protagonist, taciturn Korea vet Norwood Pratt, in quite the same way. Perhaps the well would have run dry--fast. Instead of writing five remarkable, deeply entertaining novels (three of them surely masterpieces, though which three is up for debate), Portis could be in England still, grinding out copy by the column inch, saying "cheers" when replacing the phone.

In any event, Portis left not only England but ink-stained wretchdom itself--"quit cold," as Wolfe writes in "The Birth of the New Journalism: An
Eyewitness Report" (1972), later the introduction to the 1973 anthology The New Journalism. After sailing back to the States on "one of the
Mauretania's last runs," he reportedly holed up in his version of Proust's cork-lined study--a fishing shack back in Arkansas--to try his hand at fiction.

One does so envy anyone who's about to discover the books of Charles Portis for the first time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM

"IMPOSSIBLE TO DETERMINE"

On An Unknown Country (Hilaire Belloc)
Ten years ago, I think, or perhaps a little less or perhaps a little more, I came in the Euston Road - that thoroughfare of Empire - upon a young man a little younger than myself whom I knew, though I did not know him very well. It was drizzling and the second-hand booksellers (who are rare in this thoroughfare) were beginning to put out the waterproof covers over their wares. This disturbed my acquaintance, because he was engaged upon buying a cheap book that should really satisfy him.

Now this was difficult, for he had no hobby, and the book which should satisfy him must be one that should describe or summon up, or, it is better to say, hint at - or, the theologians would say, reveal, or the Platonists would say recall - the Unknown Country, which he thought was his very home.

I had know his habit of seeking such books for two years, and had half wondered at it and half sympathised. It was an appetite partly satisfied by almost any work that brought to him the vision of a place in the mind which he had always intensely desired, but to which, as he had then long guessed, and as he is now quite certain, no human paths directly lead. He would buy with avidity travels to the moon and to the planets, from the most worthless to the best. He loved Utopias and did not disregard even so prosaic a category as books of real travel, so long as by exaggeration or by a glamour in the style they gave him a full draught of that drug which he desired. Whether this satisfaction the young man sought was a satisfaction in illusion (I have used the word "drug" with hesitation), or whether it was, as he persistently maintained, the satisfaction of a memory, or whether it was, as I am often tempted to think, the satisfaction of a thirst which will ultimately be quenched in every human soul I cannot tell. Whatever it was, he sought it with more than the appetite with which a hungry man seeks food. He sought it with something that was not hunger but passion.

That evening he found a book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 PM

THE OTHER EUROPE

European Islam: the return of Hagar: The arrival and settlement of significant Muslim populations in Europe’s heartlands is often met with political oppression, security obsession, and religious suspicion from its governments and media. It need not be so, says a British Muslim convert: Muslim migration could reinvigorate Europe, if the continent can learn to think globally, resist irrational reflexes, and rediscover itself in the encounter with its most significant ‘other’. (Abdal-Hakim Murad, 3 - 7 - 2003, Open Democracy)
Today, in Europe, Sarah is again old, and Hagar is again fertile. Islam is, as we would theologically expect, at the forefront of the reinvigoration of the tired demography of a continent which, in living memory, has seen terrible nightmares. Ishmael, the refugee, uncontaminated by Europe’s crimes, is now settling in Europe. He has, in fact, already become Europe’s most significant Other. He thus brings hope that Europe’s appalling history may find an alternative path, a vision of God and society that can heal the continent’s wounds.

There is a universalism implicit in Islam which can help accelerate Europe’s current relaxation of ancient tribalisms, which have been scored so deeply into the political map. As the Koran says, ‘O mankind, we have created you of male and female, and have made you peoples and tribes, that you might come to know one another.’ Europe’s tragic history of racism and genocide can only benefit from exposure to our own, universal, vision of human unity. Mark Mazower, the historian, entitled his recent book on 20th century European history The Dark Continent. As people of faith, we are called upon to help with the process of illumination.

We come, however, at an awkward time. Minoritarian zealot movements in the Islamic world, and their diasporas in Europe, have provided
ammunition to xenophobes who seek to draw a veil over Europe’s record by claiming that Islam is represented by its margins and its extremes. That claim may be dismissed with the same contempt which we deploy when we hear that Judaism is defined by the behaviour of radical rabbis on the West Bank. Our experience of our religion and our communities is that we are here as peaceful citizens; and we reject as alien and frightening the media’s apparent desire to focus only on our outlandish and freakish margins.

At present, asylum seeking, and the often related issue of immigration, are near the top of the political agenda across the European Union. Ishmael is here, and here in significant numbers; and we find ourselves at the centre of Europe’s current debate about itself. We are to integrate ourselves; and all the polls indicate that most of us have no problem with this idea, if it signifies an enhancement and addition to what we already are, rather than an erasure and destruction.

Yet this demand is being made at a time when no-one, except the maniacs on the extreme right, can clearly describe to us the culture into which we are to integrate. Europe, and its member states, form a patchwork of historically different cultures and religious landscapes. Europeanness, as a concept, seems extraordinarily vague.

Mr. Murad, for good reason, understates what is going to happen to Europe in the future. When your immigrants, even though they're from a variety of different countries, have a stronger sense of unified identity that the natives, the nation will in all likelihood eventually take on the identity of the new folk. This is the aspect of the American Right's anti-immigration movement that we quarrel with--we don't need to keep "the other" out; we need to restore American identity to what it has been, so that there is an existing culture that the newcomers get assimilated into.


MORE:
Eigen Volk Eerst!: The far-right Vlaams Blok gained ground in Belgium’s May 2003 elections on an anti-immigrant, nationalist platform. The journalist Nick Ryan spent time there with suits and skinheads. This extract from his book Homeland tells the gripping story of their attempts to “save their identity” from “globalisation and mongrelisation” – a battle fought on the streets, in pubs and in the parliament. ( Nick Ryan, 3 - 7 - 2003, Open Democracy)
Geert steers me towards a stocky figure who looks like a kindly old schoolmaster: dark-haired, bearded, with a friendly grin, glasses, and a tweed jacket. His trousers are tucked into his socks. “What’s your name, again?” I shout over the din, as we shake hands. “Oh, my name will be double-dutch to you!” he jokes, in decent English. “Francis Van den Eynde. Here, have one of my cards. I’m Vice President of the parliamentary party, and what you call an MP for the town of Ghent.” He smiles, but I can’t read his eyes.

“How did you get involved with the party?” I shout over the sound of generators and the helicopter. Something whizzes past my head: a piece of paving stone. “I’m involved since 30 years,” he says. “Since I was 14 years old. At first I was in the old nationalist party – the Volksunie,” a more liberal independence movement, from which the Vlaams Blok split in 1977. I explain I’m an outsider. “Why does the party have such a controversial reputation?” “In my opinion, because we are the only party that asks the independence of Flanders.”

“But they try to catch us about the problem of the foreigners in this city. Well, not only this city, this country. Because we have a big problem with, ah, immigration. In our opinion, enough is enough. We don’t want to take all the multicultural society.” I ask him what this means. “The problem for us is that they never mention what is a multicultural society. Our opinion is that everybody who lives here has to respect our language and our culture. And if they do that, they are welcome. No less, no more.” “Are other parties elsewhere similar?” “A lot of them are similar in different ways. If you ask me which parties I admire, hmmm…then in the East, the Legas (Lega Nord/Northern League) in Italy. And Sinn Fein in Ireland.” These two groups encompass the political spectrum: extreme right and left, I point out. “For us, both very interesting,” says Van den Eynde, adjusting his spectacles with a thick finger.

Although he maintains that independence is their original aim, others claim immigration/foreigners is really their first issue. “In fact, our first aim is to save our own identity. And that’s the reason why we have problems with the immigration. We have no home rule, at all. We have a kind of federalism in this country. We want independence. In this time of globalisation and mongrelisation, we try to save our own identity. Everybody in the world, even when he is black or yellow, who is struggling to save his own identity, is our ally.” He seems fired up. “This is the world of McDonald’s and Coca Cola. It’s very important to be against globalisation. It’s one of the major problems. In the future, that will be more and more the big problem. What is it?” he asks, rhetorically. “It’s the One World philosophy.”

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 PM

WELCOME TO SHI'ASTAN

The importance of the Iraqi Shi'a to US plans to form an Iraqi government (Rodger Shanahan, July 14, 2003, Online Opinion)
There are generally considered to be three Shi'a scholars whose views are the most influential within the broader Shi'a community: Grand Ayatollahs Khamenei, Fadlallah and Sistani.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah 'Ali Khamenei was the designated successor to Ayatollah Khumayni. Whilst Khamenei's scholarly credentials are not that of either Fadlallah or Sistani, his official position, control of the Iranian security forces and the allegiance shown to him by Lebanon's Hizbullah mark him as a figure of enormous importance to the future of Iraq. Given the history of Iraqi-Iranian relations, Khamenei was obviously opposed to the regime of Saddam Hussein, but has been equally opposed to American intervention to overthrow him, fearing the long-term consequences of a pro-US government as his neighbour. Many of his public sermons, as well as those of other influential ayatollahs within the Iranian government, have sought to portray United States actions with respect to Iraq as part of a wider US-Israeli conspiracy.

Another cleric who may influence communal attitudes to any occupying forces is Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. He is an extremely influential scholar within Lebanon, and has a wide following amongst Shi'a outside the country. Some claim that he is particularly influential amongst Iraqi members of the Islamic Call Party (Hizb al-Da'wa al-Islamiyyah), a product of late 1950s Najafi activism and which advocates Islamic, as distinct from clerical, rule. Although based in Lebanon for nearly 40 years, Fadlallah's links with Iraq are significant. He was born in Najaf to Lebanese parents, and lived there until he was 31 years of age before moving to Lebanon. His attitude to both the Ba'thist regime and the coalition forces was declared publicly during Friday prayers on March 28 this year in Beirut. During his sermon, he denounced the coalition attack, saying that "…Shi'ites have always been against the oppression of internal dictators and the slavery of external occupiers..(the Iraqi Shi'a) should all take the same stand and be unified against occupation, for this..determines our destiny."

The last of the influential clerics, and the only one living within Iraq, is the highly regarded Grand Ayatollah 'Ali Sistani, who possesses impeccable scholarly credentials. He is not an advocate of clerical activism, preferring the traditional quietist approach to politics.

During the invasion, he issued a direction to his followers directing them not to interfere with the US-led invasion troops. This followed an earlier claim that Ayatollah Sistani had directed his supporters to stand together against any invasion. Whilst hailed as a significant victory for the United States in the hearts and minds campaign, the words used by Ayatollah Sistani should be carefully examined. If true, his call indicates that Sistani has chosen a form of neutrality for the Shi'a in the best interests for the survival of his community. Sistani did not provide any endorsement for the invasion despite the treatment accorded him by Saddam Hussein's regime during the past two decades. Ayatollah Sistani has so far refused to meet the American administration, and his subsequent pronouncements will be crucial in determining the attitude of a large part of the Shi'a community towards the occupying power. [...]

With President Bush having declared the end to major combat operations in Iraq, the attitude of the majority Shi'a to any extended period of military governance by the United States will determine to a large degree the success of the post-conflict operation. The Shi'a 'ulama are split between three methods of governance for the Shi'a: clerical rule in accordance with Khumayni's concept of wilayat al-faqih, a less public but more advisory role as advocated by the Islamic Da'wa Party, or a politically quiescent approach as advocated by Grand Ayatollah Sistani. One thing they are largely united on, however, is a rejection of the United States as a long-term occupation force. Although happy at the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime, leading Shi'a clerics both inside and outside Iraq are less well disposed to a post-conflict political role for the United States or its Iraqi exile allies. The United States should be prepared for resistance to their presence from many of the Iraqi Shi'a clerics, particularly the longer their forces remain in the country.

Capture the bigger Ba'athists, get basic services running, find or plant some WMD and home in time for Thanksgiving.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:44 PM

INTO THE VALLEY OF DEATH... (via Brian Boys)

Document links Saddam, bin Laden: Federal appellate Judge Gilbert S. Merritt of Nashville is in Iraq as one of 13 experts selected by the U.S. Justice Department to help rebuild Iraq's judicial system. Merritt, 67, has made trips to Russia and India to work with their judicial systems. He has been sending periodic reports to The Tennessean about his experiences in Iraq and filed this dispatch recently (GILBERT S. MERRITT, 06/25/03, The Tennessean)
Through an unusual set of circumstances, I have been given documentary evidence of the names and positions of the 600 closest people in Iraq to Saddam Hussein, as well as his ongoing relationship with Osama bin Laden.

I am looking at the document as I write this story from my hotel room overlooking the Tigris River in Baghdad. [...]

The document shows that an Iraqi intelligence officer, Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, assigned to the Iraq embassy in Pakistan, is ''responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group.''

The document shows that it was written over the signature of Uday Saddam Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein. The story of how the document came about is as follows.

Saddam gave Uday authority to control all press and media outlets in Iraq. Uday was the publisher of the Babylon Daily Political Newspaper.

On the front page of the paper's four-page edition for Nov. 14, 2002, there was a picture of Osama bin Laden speaking, next to which was a picture of Saddam and his ''Revolutionary Council,'' together with stories about Israeli tanks attacking a group of Palestinians.

On the back page was a story headlined ''List of Honor.'' In a box below the headline was ''A list of men we publish for the public.'' The lead sentence refers to a list of ''regime persons'' with their names and positions.

The list has 600 names and titles in three columns. It contains, for example, the names of the important officials who are members of Saddam's family, such as Uday, and then other high officials, including the 55 American ''deck of cards'' Iraqi officials, some of whom have been apprehended.

Halfway down the middle column is written: ''Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, intelligence officer responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan.'' (For more about the list, see accompanying article on this page.)

The lawyer who brought the newspaper to me, Samir, and another lawyer with whom I have been working, Zuhair, translated the Arabic words and described what had happened in Baghdad the day it was published.

Samir bought his paper at a newsstand at around 8 a.m. Within two hours, the Iraqi intelligence officers were going by every newsstand in Baghdad and confiscating the papers. They also went to the home of every person who they were told received a paper that day and confiscated it.

The other lawyer, Zuhair, who was the counsel for the Arab League in Baghdad, did not receive delivery of his paper that day. He called his vendor, who told him that there would be no paper that day, a singular occurrence he could not explain.

For the next 10 days, the paper was not published at all. Samir's newspaper was not confiscated and he retained it because it contained this interesting ''Honor Roll of 600'' of the people closest to the regime.

The only explanation for this strange set of events, according to the Iraqi lawyers, is that Uday, an impulsive and somewhat unbalanced individual, decided to publish this honor roll at a time when the regime was under worldwide verbal attack in the press, especially by us. It would, he thought, make them more loyal and supportive of the regime.

His father was furious, knowing that it revealed information about his supporters that should remain secret.

He needn't have worried--it's not like the Times is front-paging the story.

Posted by David Cohen at 7:48 PM

DOES KARL ROVE MAKE UNFORCED ERRORS?

The left and the media (hmm . . .) are having a field day trying to make political hay out of the charge that President Bush lied in his State of the Union message. The sentence in question has been parsed to death on the left and the right, and I'm not going to join in. But there is one mystery here. Why did the administration "admit" that the President shouldn't have said what he said, and why now.

Administrations usually hang on to possible, though implausible, explanations of how their various statements were true, or at least unfalsifiable, long after everyone else has moved on. This administration, on the other hand, has disavowed a statement that the British still defend and which, even if mistaken at its core, is by no means obviously a lie. Why?

And, even if we believed in the uninteresting explanation of reckless honesty, why now. Nothing and no one outside the administration forced its hand. Did they think that the story would be lost in the summer doldrums? Usually that's August and, in any event, the slow news environment makes this story stand out even more. Did they think that, with the President in Africa, the media would avoid criticism? I find it hard to believe that anyone in this administration ever expects to receive respectful treatment from the mainstream media. Did they think it's best to get this overwith now, and have it be old news by the time of the Presidential debates next year? This is most likely.

There is, however, a more Machiavellian possibility. I don't believe that the administration has bin Laden, or Saddam, or their wmds stashed away somewhere ready to be produced when the Democrats uncork a particularly potent bottle of bile. But in this case, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the administration has some subtle plan. The Democrats certainly have been lured out onto a limb; it might be just as solid as they think, but it might also provide an excuse for the British, or even the French, to release their proof, leaving the Democrats, once again, to do their Wile E. Coyote impersonation.

MORE:U.S., N. Korea Drifting Toward War, Perry Warns. Former Defense Secretary Says Standoff Increases Risk of Terrorists Obtaining Nuclear Device (Thomas E. Ricks and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, 7/15/03)
Former defense secretary William Perry warned that the United States and North Korea are drifting toward war, perhaps as early as this year, in an increasingly dangerous standoff that also could result in terrorists being able to purchase a North Korean nuclear device and plant it in a U.S. city.

"I think we are losing control" of the situation, said Perry, who believes North Korea soon will have enough nuclear warheads to begin exploding them in tests and exporting them to terrorists and other U.S. adversaries. "The nuclear program now underway in North Korea poses an imminent danger of nuclear weapons being detonated in American cities," he said in an interview.
By pumping up the importance of the Nigerian uranium sentence, have the Democrats implicitly conceded that a rogue nuclear program is a legitimate grounds for war, if reliably established? Was this reaction sufficiently predictable for us to infer that this was the administration's plan?

Posted by David Cohen at 7:31 PM

SUBSIDY FARMING

Who Cares If DeLay Bullies Lobbyists? It's better than the other way around (Timothy Noah, Slate, 7/11/03).
Viewed from this angle, the threat posed by the DeLay-Santorum-Norquist "K Street Project" doesn't seem particularly great. Is it sleazy? Absolutely. Chatterbox would prefer that DeLay be indifferent not only toward business lobbyists' political affiliations, but also toward their campaign contributions and—most especially—toward their opinions about how legislation should be written. But that isn't going to happen. (Setting aside the job-placement component, it didn't happen when the Democrats controlled the House, either.) If one side in this transaction is going to give orders to the other, Chatterbox would much prefer that democratically elected members of Congress be the ones giving the orders. Better that K Street bend over for DeLay than that DeLay bend over for K Street.
People who think that businessmen control politicians because of where the money flows must think that cows control farmers because of where the milk flows.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:34 PM

THE LEFT GOES OFF ITS MEDS

Fascism Anyone?: Fascism’s principles are wafting in the air today, surreptitiously masquerading as something else, challenging everything we stand for. (Laurence W. Britt, Free Inquiry)
Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.

Is anyone counting the number of times they refer to America as trending fascist?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:53 PM

FROM THE FORKWORTHY FILES

Bad Day In Lieberland (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Clothilde Ewing and Smita Kalokhe, July 15, 2003, CBS News)
With phrases like "weekend of turmoil inside the campaign," "Joe Lieberman is in big trouble in the African American community" and "continuing problems raising money and keeping his finance staff organized" popping out of newspaper stories this morning, the Connecticut lawmaker and presidential hopeful probably wishes he’d stayed in bed.

Shari Yost, Lieberman’s top fundraiser, resigned on Monday after a weekend of discussions on how best to cut costs and "put Lieberman into position to compete with better-funded rivals," the Washington Post reports. Yost’s deputy, Jennifer Yocham, plans to resign as well. Several mid-level staffers also might quit. [...]

The staffing moves might indicate deeper problems for Lieberman, the Post reports. One Democratic source said: "Nobody’s been running (the) campaign." [...]

Spending is also a major problem for the campaign. Lieberman is fifth among the nine Democratic candidates when it comes to cash on hand, with about $4 million in the bank, and Cabrera said Yost’s departure was in part based on a disagreement on how to cut overhead. Craig Smith, the campaign director, wanted to save some money by cutting Yost’s approximately $200,000 annual salary. Yost felt her department was bearing the brunt of the cuts, the Post reports, and wanted the pain spread throughout the campaign. Smith also objected to Yost’s reliance on traditional fundraising methods and wanted to try and focus on raising money over the Internet, a move Yost reportedly resisted.

Another bone of contention among some Lieberman staffers is apparently the six-figure salaries of two of Lieberman's children, who are working full-time for their Dad. The campaign announced Monday that each will take a 20 percent pay cut and said it was not unusual for candidates to hire their children as staffers.

It's been obvious for some time that this is merely a vanity campaign, apparently a lucrative one for the Liebermans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:44 PM

C'MON, HOW LONG AGO COULD LEVITICUS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN?

What Gay Studies Taught the Court (Rick Perlstein, July 13, 2003, Washington Post)
Some court watchers have called Lawrence the most momentous civil rights decision since Brown v. Board of Education outlawed school segregation in 1954. What hasn't been explained is the basis for Kennedy's landmark ruling. What has changed since Bowers was decided in 1986? The answer: nothing less than the historical understanding of laws regarding sexual conduct.

In the Bowers case, Justice Byron R. White wrote simply and assuredly that since "Proscriptions against [homosexual] conduct have ancient roots," an attempt to claim that such conduct was protected by the Constitution was "at best, facetious." [...]

What happened to make assumptions that were obvious to one judicial generation so obviously wrong to the next? Credit the scholarly efforts of a group of history professors, toiling away in the nascent and controversial field of gay studies.

A careful reading of the majority opinion shows that it relied heavily on three amicus curiae ("friend of the court") briefs. These briefs are arguments submitted by parties interested in the case detailing why the justices should decide it their way. Many cases attract such briefs, which often play little role in the outcome. But these three -- filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Cato Institute and a coalition of history professors -- are singled out by name in the majority opinion. Skip these briefs and you've skipped the essence of what is remarkable about Kennedy's ruling.

To follow the briefs' argument, the best thing to do is to quote directly from Kennedy's opinion. "At the outset," Kennedy writes, "it should be noted that there is no longstanding history in this country of laws directed at homosexual conduct as a distinct matter."

That's a stunning repudiation of what White, Burger and the rest of the majority stated so matter-of-factly in Bowers. On what did Kennedy
base that statement? On the historical research outlined by George Chauncey of the University of Chicago, and nine other professors in the historians' brief.

Though we disagree profoundly with his politics, we are huge Rick Perlstein fans here at Brothers Judd. His book, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, is one of the very best on the modern conservative movement. It's fair, even generous, to those with whose politics he disagrees--a fairly rare thing to see in these hyper-partisan days. But this column--like the majority opinion and like the briefs--is simply wrong-headed.

The game is given up in the cited language of Justice Kennedy that: "there is no longstanding history in this country of laws directed at homosexual conduct as a distinct matter." The implicit concession here is that there is a longstanding history of laws directed at a wide variety of sexual conducts. Granted this concession it is obviously facetious to argue that all (or any) sexual conduct is protected by the Constitution. Justice Kennedy and Mr. Perlstein would appear to have misunderstood the question presented to the Court, which is not whether homosexual sodomy has historically been singled out for particular prohibition, but whether sodomy has traditionally been a fit subject of State laws. It obviously has.

What's remarkable about the amicus briefs and the Court's finding is something altogether different: that contrary to decades of gay rights rhetoric, persecution of homosexuals has been rather mild. The fact that anti-sodomy laws weren't targeted specifically at homosexuals and that prosecutions under them have been relatively rare suggests a society that is, and has been, more or less willing to allow homosexual conduct to go on behind closed doors:
[T]hroughout American history, the authorities have rarely enforced statutes prohibiting sodomy, however defined. Even in periods when enforcement increased, it was rare for people to be prosecuted for consensual sexual relations conducted in private, even when the parties were of the same sex. Indeed, records of only about twenty prosecutions and four or five executions have surfaced for the entire colonial period. Even in the New England colonies, whose leaders denounced “sodomy” with far greater regularity and severity than did other colonial leaders and where the offense carried severe sanctions, it was rarely prosecuted. The trial of Nicholas Sension, a married man living in Westhersfield, Connecticut, in 1677, revealed that he had been widely known for soliciting sexual contacts with the town’s men and youth for almost forty years but remained widely liked. Likewise, a Baptist minister in New London, Connecticut, was temporarily suspended from the pulpit in 1757 because of his repeatedly soliciting sex with men, but the congregation voted to restore him to the ministry after he publicly repented. They understood his sexual transgressions to be a form of sinful behavior in which anyone could engage and from which anyone could repent, not as a sin worthy of death or the condition of a particular class of people.

The relative indifference of the public and the authorities to the crime of sodomy continued in the first century of independence. For instance, only twenty-two men were indicted for sodomy in New York City in the nearly eight decades from 1796 to 1873. The number of sodomy prosecutions increased sharply in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century. This was made possible by the decision of many States to criminalize oral intercourse for the first time. But it resulted in large measure from the pressure applied on district attorneys by privately organized and usually religiously inspired anti-vice societies, whose leaders feared that the growing size and complexity of cities had loosened the constraints on sexual conduct and increased the vulnerability of youth and the disadvantaged. The increase in sodomy prosecutions was only one aspect of a general escalation in the policing of sexual activity, which also included stepped-up campaigns against prostitution, venereal disease, and contraception use. Although in this context a growing number of sodomy prosecutions involved adult males who had engaged in consensual relations, most such relations had taken place in semi-public spaces rather than in the privacy of the home, and the great majority of cases continued to involve coercion and/or minor boys or girls.

That so few states retain their anti-sodomy laws indicates that attitudes towards homosexuality are becoming even more permissive and that left to the electorate most of the rest of these prohibitions would likely whither away. That arrest and prosecution occurs so seldom even where the laws remain would lead one to believe that such laws express the community's morality but are not meant to be wielded against homosexuals in any systematic way. Whatever the merits of legalizing homosexual conduct, and there are certainly some, the Court based its decision on falsehood and rendered an anti-Constitutional ruling, one that current societal trends made quite unnecessary. Such usurpations of our democratic prerogatives are always a bad thing, no matter what good purpose they may serve. The resort to sophistry in order to reach a basis for this judicial coup merely makes the decision all the more shameful.


MORE:
-LAWRENCE et al. v. TEXAS (Find Law)
-The Historians' Case Against Gay Discrimination: On June 26, 2003 the Supreme Court struck downall laws that prohibit sex between consenting gay adults. Below is the brief filed by historians in the case, Lawrence v. Texas. (History News Network)
In colonial America, regulation of non-procreative sexual practices - regulation that carried harsh penalties but was rarely enforced - stemmed from Christian religious teachings and reflected the need for procreative sex to increase the population. Colonial sexual regulation includedsuch non-procreative acts as masturbation, and sodomy laws applied equally to male-male, male-female, and human-animal sexual activity. [...]

Proscriptive laws designed to suppress all forms of nonprocreative and non-marital sexual conduct existed through much of the last
millennium.

-A Few Good Men: Are there any conservatives who still believe that the gay-marriage battle can--or even should--be won? (Lee Bockhorn, 07/14/2003, Weekly Standard)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:11 AM

WHERE THEORY STOPS & PC BEGINS

Dusty Baker Was Right! (Steve Sailer, July 13, 2003, VDARE.COM)
Dusty Baker, the (black) Chicago Cubs manager recently voted by players in a Sports Illustrated poll as the best manager in the game, said last week:

"[The heat] is a factor in Atlanta, it's a factor in Cincinnati, it's a factor in Philadelphia. We have to mix and match and try to keep guys fresh and try to have different lineups . . . I've got a pretty good idea [how it's done]. My teams usually play better in the second half than they do in the first half. I think that's because the way we spot guys and use everybody."

He then went on to violate all sorts of the rules of political correctness by opining:

"Personally, I like to play in the heat. It's easier for me. It's easier for most Latin guys and easier for most minority people. You don't find too many brothers in New Hampshire and Maine and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, right? We were brought over here for the heat, right? Isn't that history? Weren't we brought over because we could take the heat? Your skin color is more conducive to the heat than it is to the light-skinned people, right? You don't see brothers running around burnt and stuff, running around with white stuff on their ears and nose and stuff."

A huge controversy erupted. Numerous sportswriters and broadcasters demanded Baker's scalp: "Making dumb racial comments is inexcusable and has no place in society," said a columnist in Buffalo. On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, when my friend Jon Entine, author of Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We're Afraid to Talk About It, explained that Baker's comments were not scientifically implausible, Righteous Rightwinger Sean Hannity exploded: "Your science is a silly science, Jon. It's absolutely idiocy!"

It's never been clear how you can believe in Darwinism--adaptation to environment and natural selection--and then turn around and say that there are no significant biological differences among peoples from widely varying geographical regions. Either there's potential truth in what Mr. Baker said, or no truth in what Darwin said. It seems most likely that both are right to some degree or another.

MORE:
Dusty Baker Has Nature on His Side: Of course black athletes are more tolerant of heat. (JON ENTINE, July 15, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
Let's review Anthropology 101. Population groups have distinct body types. Elite football players, dependent on speed and jumping ability, are disproportionately of West African descent. Why? Because, as dozens of studies have shown, they have (on average) smaller and more efficient lungs, higher oxidative capacity, more fast-twitch muscle fibers, and a muscled but lean body type.

Note that sprinters of West African ancestry, including African-Americans, hold 494 of the top 500 100-meter times. Their genetically prescribed morphology and physiology is a disaster for endurance events--there are almost no elite endurance runners of West African ancestry--but a goldmine for sprinting and jumping. Allowing for individual variation, Snyder was intuitively right.

Mr. Baker's observations are common sense. Does anyone really think an Eskimo would perform as well in Wrigley Field in July as someone of African ancestry who has spent all but a speck of his evolutionary history along the equator? "The single most important factor in heat toleration is body proportions," says David Brown, a University of Hawaii anthropologist and morphology expert. "If the relative fitness levels are similar, those with more skin surface area to overall body mass--those with relatively longer limbs--are more heat efficient. It's easier to sweat, dissipate heat and keep core body temperature steady." Check that anthropology textbook: Africans have longer limbs and more skin surface area than whites, who have more than Asians. Stout-and-short Eskimos, who are of Asian ancestry, don't perform as efficiently in scorching weather as whites or blacks. Is it racist to acknowledge this?

Now, skin color alone is not the explanation for heat tolerance, as Mr. Baker implied. And Hispanics descended from Europeans are no more heat-tolerant than other whites. But those of African ancestry do have an advantage.

The only unknown is whether small differences translate into athletic advantages.

-Baker's not wrong to raise the subject: When Dusty Baker made his controversial remarks about race and heat, I understood his mistake right away, because of my fifth-grade science project. (Dave Krieger, July 15, 2003, Rocky Mountain News)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM

RETAIN?

The Underpopulation Problem (Paul Weyrich, 7/14/03, Accuracy in Media)
The [Washington] Post notes that ".... countries with shrinking populations may stagnate economically, intellectually and militarily. If future generations are to carry on the American vibrancy and dynamism, the country must be prepared to embrace more babies, and more adults from around the world."

I seldom compliment the Post, but well said! And welcome to the real world!

In light of these facts, which have always been there for those who would see, what is the United Nations doing? Why, it is busy preparing for its once-in-a-decade conference on population. In past decades, this conference was at the forefront of promoting population control. Much of the utter nonsense being taught in the public schools about this issue originates from the UN. I've got news for the UN. There is a population problem but it isn't the overpopulation the UN has preached, at least not in the non-Muslim states. The states of Western Europe, Japan and the good old USA, which have traditionally paid the bill so the UN could preach its false doctrine, aren't going to have the money for that luxury anymore. Even in China the population has stabilized, for all the wrong reasons, but the fears expressed about China are no longer valid. What is of great concern in China is too many boys. Where the one child policy is brutally enforced, couples choose boys over girls. Perhaps the UN can pontificate on that subject.

If the UN is to retain any credibility at all, it must admit its past mistakes and use its conference next year to, once and for all, smash the ideas of the Club of Rome. Then it can prepare new materials for the public schools reflecting the reality of the situation. If the Washington Post can come around to a sensible point of view, so can the UN.

If the UN starts apologizing for all its past mistakes, it's gonna take awhile.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM

COPERNICUS WAS WRONG

12 Novels To Read This Summer (CRISIS Magazine - e-Letter, May 17, 2002)
Zoe Romanowsky recommends:

Einstein's Dreams by Alan P. Lightman
Penned by a professor of physics and writing at MIT, Einstein's Dreams presents, in fictional form, 30 different concepts of time. Each chapter
illustrates the concept by describing the world in which it would exist. One chapter shows life in a world where time is circular... another where time slows down in the mountains and speeds up in the valleys. A wonderful book for thought and discussion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM

THE DISMAL RELIGIONS

Religion, Economics, and the Market Paradox: an Interview with Robert H. Nelson (Religion & Liberty, Jan/Feb 2002)
R&L: In your latest book, you compare economics to religion. Why?

Nelson: Because economics is a belief system with powerful moral implications. I use the term religion in a broad sense, as something that provides a framework for one's values or some purpose to one's life. I am convinced that people must have some sort of religion, that no one can live entirely free from a framework of meaning. Of course, not all religions require a God, as Judaism or Christianity do.

Further, I refer to economic theology because many economists explain the nature of the world in economic terms. In this way, the members of the economics profession function as the “priests” of economic progress. In fact, economic progress has been the leading secular religion of the modern age, especially since the late nineteenth century and the Progressive Era.

R&L: What is the origin of American economic religion?

Nelson: Through the latter part of the nineteenth century, there was a powerful secular Calvinist strain in American life, especially in Social Darwinism. In this perspective, successful businessmen--the Andrew Carnegies and so forth--were the "elect," as revealed through the results of the competitive market system. Successful entrepreneurs were God's agents and the advocates of progress leading to heaven on earth.

In the twentieth century, the progressive movement had closer affinities with the Roman Catholic tradition. Each placed a great emphasis on helping the poor, for example. And in terms of the structure of authority, the welfare state is similar to the Catholic Church, with a central authority in Washington, D.C., rather than in Rome. There are obviously crucial differences, but Thomas Huxley did once describe socialism as “Catholicism minus God.”

However, American progressivism was a watered-down, Milquetoast version of European socialism, because progressivism had to accommodate itself to the very powerful democratic traditions in the United States. For example, the government could not nationalize most industries, such as transportation, communications, and electricity. The government, through regulation, did tell businessmen in these industries what to do, but it did not actually seize their property, as often happened in Europe.

The best thing about Social Darwinism--or sociobiology or evolutionary psychiatry or whatever they're calling it these days to remove the racist taint--is listening to folks who believe in Darwinism try to explain why survival of the fiittest doesn't apply in economics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:40 AM

SMOOT OPERATOR

Democratic Trade War (Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Clothilde Ewing and Smita Kalokhe, July 14, 2003, CBS News)
Now that the Democratic presidential candidates are almost all on the same page on the war with Iraq - or at least on attacking President Bush on it - some domestic issues have become matters of contention.

According to the Des Moines Register, on Saturday in Iowa, Rep. Dick Gephardt accused both Sen. John Kerry and Howard Dean of supporting trade policies that cost jobs and reduced workers' rights. Gephardt made the remarks at a meeting of the machinists union, which had endorsed his candidacy.

In a press release to the group, Gephardt says he is responding to Kerry on trade. "Yesterday John Kerry put out a flyer that had my trade policy on it and I'm glad he did because we need to have a debate on this issue," Gephardt said. "But there was one omission I was for another trade treaty, the U.S.-Jordan Trade Treaty … Senator Kerry and Governor Dean, who I respect, supported NAFTA. They thought it was the right thing to do. Just understand that when I'm President I will work against and I will never sign a trade treaty of any kind that will send our jobs our money and our welfare off to the highest bidder."

"My opponents in the race may say they'd do the same but you have to check the record. Because the record counts. When the chips were down where was everybody?" Gephardt told the anti-NAFTA union.

The most dangerous place in America over the next eight months is going to be between any Democratic presidential candidate and the farthest Left position on the political spectrum.

July 14, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:49 PM

THE DEMOCRATIC DERANGEMENT CONTINUES

Julian Bond sees GOP with 'dark underside' (Steve Miller, 7/13/03, THE WASHINGTON TIMES) (via Ed Driscoll)
Republicans appeal "to the dark underside of American culture, to that minority of Americans who reject democracy and equality," NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said yesterday at the civil rights group's 94th annual convention.

"They preach racial neutrality and practice racial division ... their idea of reparations is to give war criminal Jefferson Davis a pardon," Mr. Bond said during his welcoming remarks. "Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side."

AUTHORITARIANS GONE WILD: Whether, Not Who, is the Question About the 2004 Election: Will George W. Bush put the kibosh on elections in the United States next year? (Ted Rall, 7/09/03)
Frightened by Bush's rapidly accruing personal power and the Democrats' inability and/or unwillingness to stand up to him, panicked lefties worry that he might use the "war on terrorism" as an excuse to declare a state of emergency, suspend civil liberties and jail political opponents.

People who have spoken out against Bush are talking exit strategy--not Alec Baldwin style, just to make a statement, but fleeing the U.S. in order to save their skins. "Do you or your spouse have a European-born parent?" is a query making the rounds. (If you do, you can obtain dual nationality and a European Union passport that would allow you to work in any EU member nation.) Those whose lineage is 100 percent American are hoping that nations like Canada and France will admit American political refugees in the event of a Bushite clampdown.

To these people, whether or not the 2004 elections actually take place as scheduled is the ultimate test for American democracy. At Guantanamo Bay the United States is converting a concentration camp into a death camp where inmates will be executed without due process or legal representation. Never before in history has a U.S. president contemplated the denaturalization of native-born citizens-thus far even people executed for treason have died as Americans--but Bush has drafted legislation that would allow him to strip anyone he calls an "enemy combatant" of their citizenship and have them deported. By any objective standard he has already gone way too far, but for many it would take the cancellation or delay of the elections to confirm that we are trading in our wounded democracy for a fascist state. [...]

It's easy to come up with a scenario in which canceling the 2004 election could be made to appear reasonable. Imagine that, a few weeks before Election Day, "dirty bombs" detonate simultaneously in New York and Washington. Government, media and political institutions and personnel lie ruined in smoking rubble and ash; hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered. The economy, already teetering on the precipice, is shoved into depression. How could we conduct elections under such conditions?

Imagine how much hatred you'd have to build up inside yourself to believe these things about your country and fellow citizens? What makes them think people will respond well to this kind of psychotic raving?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN REMNANT

Cold Fusion: Stanley Crouch wages jazz by other means (Kerry Howley, June 27, 2003, Reason)
That Crouch had become impossible to work with squares with his reputation, but his accusations of racism are anything but predictable. Crouch has called Louis Farrakhan "insane" and Al Sharpton a "buffoon." He has denounced black nationalism, Afro-centrism, and "the balkanization of America." He writes columns with titles like "It's Not Profiling, It's Good Policing." These are not the positions of a reverse racist, and this is not a man who plays the race card lightly.

So why now?

Crouch's position has less to do with color than it does with sound. He defines jazz within famously narrow limits--a music that doesn't stray far from the blues or the techniques that have traditionally produced it, musicians who never, ever forget where and how the sound was born. One doesn't have to be black to find a groove (though some critics have taken him to mean this), but one must be willing to bow to the "Negro aesthetic." He is convinced that the white establishment resents a musical history from which it can't help but feel alienated, and so champions jazz that sounds "white" instead of jazz that looks backward. In this view, the desire to innovate past swing is tantamount to fearing its origins and the people who created it. The lines between the advancement of a music and the rejection of its history become entangled in the vast mire of racial politics. [...]

What some see as the degeneration of the music is, to others, its inherent forward motion. To try to stem the flow of creativity, to establish a canon and declare all else "not jazz," is to alienate the very population Crouch seeks to engage. But Crouch insists that definitions shape reality. "If you can't define jazz," he declares, "it doesn't exist." [...]

It is a lonely place that Crouch inhabits at the moment, outside of an "establishment" that largely embraces the music of free jazz, ethno fusion, and, to a lesser extent, crossover. As long as it stays that way, the critic's caustic rants and purist diatribes are just another welcome sound.

Like all conservative critics, Mr. Crouch's essays will be pertinent twenty years after he's dead, while the "free jazz" and other stuff he's ripping will be long forgotten.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:36 PM

THE LEFT'S TIME FOR CHOOSING (via Tom Morin)

The Democrats' brewing civil war: Deans, Greens and liberals say the party needs to scream the anti-Bush truth at the American people. New-Democratic centrists say Americans just aren't that left-leaning. The schism is wide, and it's going to get wider. (Michelle Goldberg, July 12, 2003, Salon)
Democrats on the left see Republicans winning by catering to their right-wing base and taking positions that are to the right of American public opinion, and they wonder why their party can't do the same instead of playing to focus groups. Why, they wonder, shouldn't their party coddle them in the same way that Republicans indulge the religious right?

The problem is that Democrats and Republicans aren't simply mirror images of each other. "When you give people the option of identifying as liberal, moderate or conservative, a majority of Republicans identify themselves as conservatives," says Kilgore. Liberals, though, make up only a slice of the Democratic Party. Kilgore quotes a Gallup poll showing that only 33 percent of Democrats say they're liberals, while 43 percent are moderate and 23 percent conservative.

No one really represents liberals, which many of them find intolerable. That's why there was an exodus to the Green Party, and that's why there's now so much talk among leftish Democrats of "taking back" the party. Even if Dean doesn't share all their views, he courts liberals rather than trying to marginalize them.

While the DLC sees the ghost of McGovern in this strategy, liberals have a different analogy -- Ronald Reagan.

"Elections create what is acceptable or what is the center," says Borosage. "When Ronald Reagan started running in 1980, he was widely dismissed even among Republicans as a nutcase. But he changed politics in America and created the conservative era we've been living in ever since. I don't think these things are a given. They are forged. The DLC tends to think polls are written in stone and people have specific ideas that can't be overcome."

Michael Franc, vice president for government relations at the conservative Heritage Institute, actually agrees with parts of Borosage's analysis.

In the short run, he says, liberal rage is good news for Bush. "In the long run it may not be bad news for Bush," Franc says, "but it might be bad news for a successor. The [Democratic] Party, in order to realign itself in the right direction, may need to undergo some self-examination and a reorientation of what it's all about. Republicans reacted very, very well to their 1964 loss to Lyndon Johnson. Even though Johnson beat Goldwater by an enormous margin, Goldwater had more people out on the streets working for him. It was an early indication of a nascent conservative resurgence that was possible with right kind of nurturing and direction.

"This conservative movement really grew out of that," he continues. "It took a while -- first we had Nixon to deal with -- but it finally led to Reagan's election in 1980. There was kind of a 16-year walk in the wilderness, where people who worked on the Goldwater campaign hung together and formed organizations, formed magazines and journals and helped develop foundations for what was to come."

Liberals, he says, are now walking in their own wilderness. "Getting the most passionate members of the party to do something about that is either going to be a death wish or the beginning of a resurgence, depending on how effectively they deal with themselves."

The biggest problem for Democrats in trying to engineer a Goldwater moment is that the Right is unified around a set of core ideas, while the Democrats--because, to their credit, they've not been a socialist party in the style of Europe's Left--are more of a coalition of groups who while they each demand expansive government of some particular kind, are not united in calling for simply big government. In fact, the goals of the distinct groups are often at odds with each other--why would black Civil Rights groups and unions favor the increased immigration that Hispanic groups want? why would frequently upper middle class trade unionists favor higher taxes anbd frequently white union members favor affirmative action? and so on and so forth--making unity particularly difficult on a set of broad ideas.

The enormity of the problem for the Democratic Left becomes quite clear if we look at the two archetypal speeches of the modern political era in America. Delivered within seven months of each other, the first marked the full-throated resurgence of conservatism, that second indicated the highwater mark of liberalism. Significantly, President Bush could pretty nearly giove the first at his nominating convention in New York next year without changing more than a few lines, while it would be political suicide for the Democratic nominee to give the second, even in Boston:

A Time for Choosing Speech (Ronald Reagan, 1964)
I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.

It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government."

This idea? that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits."

The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.

Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never "for" anything.

We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments....

We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.

We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward I restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him.... But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure....

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of -very dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what's at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.

Great Society Speech (Lyndon B. Johnson, May 1964, University of Michigan)
The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life, and to advance the quality of our American civilization.

Your imagination, your initiative and your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth. For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society.

The Great Society rests on abundance and liberty for all. It demands an end to poverty and racial injustice, to which we are totally committed in our time. But that is just the beginning.

The Great Society is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where leisure is a welcome chance to build and reflect, not a feared cause of boredom and restlessness. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.

It is a place where man can renew contact with nature. It is a place which honors creation for its own sake and for what it adds to the understanding of the race. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.

But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbor, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvelous products of our labor.

So I want to talk to you today about three places where we begin to build the Great Society -- in our cities, in our countryside, and in our classrooms.

Many of you will live to see the day, perhaps 50 years from now, when there will be 400 million Americans -- four-fifths of them in urban areas. In the remainder of this century urban population will double, city land will double, and we will have to build homes, highways and facilities equal to all those built since this country was first settled. So in the next 40 years we must rebuild the entire urban United States. [...]

These are three of the central issues of the Great Society. While our government has many programs directed at those issues, I do not pretend that we have the full answer to those problems.

But I do promise this: We are going to assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America. I intend to establish working groups to prepare a series of White House conferences and meetings -- on the cities, on natural beauty, on the quality of education, and on other emerging challenges. And from these meetings and from this inspiration and from these studies we will begin to set our course toward the Great Society.

Contrast the two and you see several of the themes that we've touched on endlessly and/or recently here. The most important is Ronald Reagan's division of the two parties along the faultline of freedom vs. security. The most amusing is LBJ's assertion that the cities are our future--nice call, Mr. Johnson. The most frightening--and it ties into the discussion yesterday about intellectuals, as well as into the absurd notion about urbanization--is that you can collect the "best thought" in a room, focus it on problems, and thereby solve them. One would have thought that the 20th Century failures of communism, fascism, socialism, New Dealism, and of the Great Society itself, would have demonstrated the hubris of this kind of thinking, but those Leftists who are calling for the Democratic Party to undertake the kind of return to core principles that Goldwater, Reagan, and others effected for the GOP (and it would seem important to recognize that it took about twenty years) apparently took no notice of those failures. This seems more likely a death wish than the start of a resurgence. We say: Go for it!

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:40 PM

LET THEM EAT YELLOWCAKE (via John Resnick)

Withheld Iraq report blamed on French (Michael Smith, 7/13/03, LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH)
The French secret service is believed to have refused to allow Britain's MI6 to give the United States "credible" intelligence showing that Iraq was trying to buy uranium ore from Niger, U.S. intelligence sources said yesterday.

Britain's Secret Intelligence Service had more than one "different and credible" piece of intelligence to show that Iraq was attempting to buy the ore, known as yellowcake, British officials insisted. But it was given to them by at least one and possibly two intelligence services and, under the rules governing cooperation, it could not be shared with anyone else without the originator's permission.

U.S. intelligence sources believe the most likely source of the MI6 intelligence was the French secret service, the DGSE. Niger is a former French colony, and its uranium mines are run by a French company that comes under the control of the French Atomic Energy Commission.

This would explain Jack Straw's somewhat cryptic comment about not being able to share all their info with the U.S.. It would also, if it allows the Administration to blame the French, go a long way towards defusing the whole matter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:58 PM

AIN'T NOBODY HERE BUT US CHICKENS (via ef brown)

We were right about uranium, Straw tells CIA (Colin Brown, 13/07/2003, Daily Telegraph)
The CIA secretly dispatched a US envoy, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, to Niger in 2002 to investigate the British claim. He reported to the CIA there was no evidence to support the British intelligence, but Mr Straw said that the report - which had not been shared with London by Washington - in fact had confirmed that a delegation from Iraq did go to Niger in 1999.

One Foreign Office official said: "Niger has two main exports - uranium and chickens. The Iraqi delegation did not go to Niger for chickens."

The British claim was also challenged by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) which found that documents on which it was based were forged. However, a senior Downing Street official said: "We are sticking by our claim. We received intelligence from another country and we cannot share that with the US."

The main, though unstated, fact of all this remains: we had no idea what Saddam was doing despite a massive intelligence effort.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:50 PM

MUSIC OF THE SPHERES:

Exploring the role of music in human life (Robert S. Boyd, July 14, 2003, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory, wrote in 1871: "As neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least use to man in reference to his daily habits of life, they must be ranked among the most mysterious with which he is endowed."

Experts have proposed various explanations for the universality of music. Darwin suggested it evolved in our animal ancestors as a sexual system, designed to attract mates. "In this view, animal song became part of courtship, and then part of human nature," Hauser said.

Others observe that music creates social cohesion, strengthening group bonds against outsiders. School pep songs or military marches are obvious applications.

Many assert that the most important function of music is to regulate or influence emotions. "Some sequences of notes are happy, some are sad," Hauser said. "Music affects our emotional response."

It isn't clear which of these theories about the origin of music is correct. "We really can't distinguish between these hypotheses," Hauser
acknowledged. "Everything is open to debate."

It's interesting that later the story seems to suggest something quite otherwise:
Researchers are particularly interested in studies comparing the musical abilities of adults with those of human babies and animals. For example, experiments with very young infants showed that they react differently to harmonious and discordant chords, demonstrating that a sense for music is inherited.

According to [Sandra Trehub, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto], 4-month-old infants are content to listen to unfamiliar folk
melodies, but show signs of distress - fussing, squirming, turning away - when dissonant notes are introduced into the melody.

"Toddlers commonly invent songs before they can reproduce conventional songs," she noted. "Similarly, school-age children create songs and chants, such as 'eenie-meenie-miney-mo,' that share a number of features across cultures, including repetition, rhythmic patterning, rhyme and alliteration."

Even monkeys apparently sense the concept of a musical octave.

According to Anthony Wright, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, rhesus monkeys, like humans, tended to judge a tape-recorded song, such as "Old McDonald Had a Farm," to be the same when it was shifted up or down by one or two octaves.

But when the melody was transposed by a half-octave, thereby changing its key, the monkeys no longer recognized the tune, a fact they showed by failing to turn their heads toward the speaker.

Comparisons between music and language offer fresh insights into brain function.

[Marc Hauser, a neuroscientist at Harvard University] pointed out that music resembles language in that most people in all cultures instinctively know whether a sentence in their language is grammatical or not. Similarly, almost everyone can tell whether certain patterns of sound are music or mere noise, even if these sounds have never been heard before.

"There are other stimuli that nearly everyone recognizes as unmusical, such as a 'sour' note in a melody," he said.

"For too long, the neuroscience of language has been studied in isolation," wrote Aniruddh Patel, a scholar at the Neuroscience Institute in San Diego. "Music is now stepping into this breach, and via comparative analysis with language, providing a more complete and coherent picture of the mind than can be achieved by studying either domain alone."

This seems to suggest that music accords to some pre-existing order, an order recognizable even to babies and animals. But how could this be if it is a mere social construct?

Here's an appreciation of a little-remembered composer that suggests an answer to the puzzle of music, Death and Rapture (Robert R. Reilly, November 2001, The Crisis)
This is the month of Christmas, but December is also the end of the centennial year of the birth of British composer href=http://www.musicweb.uk.net/finzi/>Gerald Finzi (d. 1956), a self-professed agnostic. Can I reconcile my duty to reflect on the Nativity, while at the same time celebrating Finzi? Several Christmases ago, I was able to accomplish a similar feat in CRISIS with Ralph Vaughan Williams (another agnostic) and his magnificent Christmas cantata, Hodie Christus Natus Est. Like Vaughan Williams, Finzi seems to have been that special breed of believing agnostic who can write sublime, religiously inspired music.

How could this be? In my own experience with agnostics, I have found that they are often particularly close to God-intimate enough to hold a personal grudge. Usually, it has to do with a misunderstanding as to who He really is or what He has done. Frequently, their objections to God concern things to which God Himself objects, like the suffering of children or death. [...]

Finzi's frequent encounters with death easily explain his attraction to the poetry and pessimism of Thomas Hardy, another English agnostic, many of whose poems Finzi set to music. During the latter part of his relatively short life, Finzi lived under the death sentence of Hodgkin's disease, which carried him off at age 55. It's only natural that he should have been fixated on the transitory nature of things. It's harder to explain Finzi's love for the works of 17th-century English metaphysical poets and his penchant for setting explicitly religious texts. What was the source of hope for this pessimist?

The answer comes from Finzi's profound appreciation for and immersion in the beauty of nature. Haunted by death and enflamed by nature's beauty-where could Finzi go to deal with the dichotomy between death and beauty? Ineluctably, he turned to traditional Christian texts. He wrote a Magnificat, In Terra Pax, For St. Cecelia, Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice, and other such religious works. What creates the tension in Finzi's works is the intense experience of beauty juxtaposed with the looming presence of death. Beauty and death do not comfortably coexist. Beauty signals a certain message that death denies.

That is the conundrum of human existence that Finzi's music so movingly captures with a kind of melancholy grandeur.

Finzi is the composer of beginnings and endings, of birth and death. The two musical bookends of his work in a thematic, if not a chronological, sense are his two masterpieces, Dies Natalis, Op. 8, and Intimations of Immortality, Op. 29. In Dies Natalis, Finzi set the text of Thomas Traherne's poem of that name for tenor and orchestra. [...]

As the texts he set demonstrate, Finzi held the Platonic view that we come from the divine, are soiled by this world, and "forget" our origins. He humorously remarked on this in one of his Crees Lectures in 1953: "We all know that a dead poet lives in many a live stockbroker. Many of these people, before they fade into the light of common day, have had an intuitive glimpse which neither age, nor experience, nor knowledge, can ever give them."

In our experience of beauty, Finzi thought, we "recollect" and gain a dim intimation of our immortality. In fact, this is exactly how Finzi describes the process of his creative work and the nature of its rewards: "The essence of art is order, completion and fulfillment. Something is created out of nothing, order out of chaos; and as we succeed in shaping our intractable material into coherence and form, a relief comes to the mind (akin to the relief experienced at the remembrance of some forgotten thing)."

Rather than intimations of immortality, mightn't we understand music to offer intimations that the Universe is Ordered? Mightn't the relief we feel on hearing great music come from this sense that just as Creation was the ordering of chaos, so too is is music our imitation. however paltry, of Creation?


MORE:
On My Philosophy (Karl Jaspers)

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 9:18 AM

THE NEW WAY OF WAR

Nuclear Terrorism Poses The Gravest Threat Today (Graham Allison, Wall Street Journal Europe, 7/14/2003)
What is the gravest threat to the lives and liberties of Europeans and Americans today? Europeans and Americans differ profoundly in their answers to this fundamental question. Recent conversations with 100 security experts at NATO in Brussels and in Berlin, London and Athens underscored for me just how profoundly.

The American security community is unanimous. Democrats as well as Republicans agree with the Bush administration that the gravest threat to civilization as we know it is the marriage of terrorism with weapons of mass destruction. The specter is not just 9/11, but a nuclear 9/11.

Europeans disagree. Many express a mixture of skepticism and bemusement with what they imagine is a peculiar Bush fixation. Even as good a friend of America as Czech President Vaclav Klaus summarized his own view of the matter in what he called "a fundamental question: Was 9/11 an isolated act, or typical of phenomena the world will face in the first half of the 21st century?"

Beneath the headlines, deeper trendlines point to the latter.

Mr. Allison gives several reasons to believe nuclear terrorism is likely, but he misses the greatest of all: the experience of Israel since 1973.

Prior to developing nuclear weapons, Israel fought 5 conventional wars against its Arab neighbors in 26 years. Since developing nuclear weapons, Israel has fought not one conventional war, but a continuous battle against terrorism, in which its hostile neighbors fight by deception and stealth, using secretive private armies whom they pretend are not their own.

In a nuclear-armed world, only the most powerful nations can conduct war openly. Weaker nations will wage war by deception and stealth, working through proxy states and proxy organizations. The goal of such clandestine warfare is to hurt the enemy while deflecting his blame. This method of war is particularly effective against democracies, which typically need firm evidence of guilt before fighting back. It is this reluctance to go to war which has made Israel so helpless. Ultimately, terrorism will end only with a commitment from civilized nations to wage war -- nuclear war if necessary -- against any nation that aids, sponsors, or supports terrorism.

Because half the world, including the European Union and the United Nations, aids anti-Israeli terrorist groups, Israel has been poorly placed to initiate such a policy themselves. The Europeans have no excuses: blind to the threat civilization faces, they continue to feed that threat. The United States, on the other hand, must once again choose whether "We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM

A GREAT DAY IN HEAVEN

Benny Carter, 95, Jazz Musician and Arranger, Dies (JOHN S. WILSON, July 14, 2003, NY Times)
Benny Carter, whose combination of highly developed talents as composer, arranger, bandleader and soloist on a variety of instruments was unmatched in the jazz world, died Saturday at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 95.

Benny Carter's career was remarkable for both its length and its consistently high musical achievement, from his first recordings in the 1920's to his youthful-sounding improvisations in the 1990's. His pure-toned, impeccably phrased performances made him one of the two pre-eminent alto saxophonists in jazz, with Johnny Hodges, from the late 1920's until the arrival of Charlie Parker in the mid-1940's. He was also an accomplished soloist on trumpet and clarinet, and on occasion he played piano, trombone and both tenor and baritone saxophones. [...]

In 1962, when Mr. Carter was only 54, the critic Whitney Balliett wrote in The New Yorker that "few of his contemporaries continue to play or arrange or compose as well as he does, and none of them plays as many instruments and arranges and composes with such aplomb."

"Carter, indeed, belongs to that select circle of pure-jazz musicians who tend to represent the best of their times," the piece continued.

His public fame did not always match his accomplishments, and his only major hit of the big band era was "Cow-Cow Boogie," a novelty tune sung by Ella Mae Morse. However, early in his career his fellow musicians nicknamed him simply the King, and among them he was held in universally high regard.

The trumpeter Doc Cheatham recalled that "we broke our backs to get into Benny's band" because musicians learned so much from performing with him. Sy Oliver, whose brilliant arrangements gave the Jimmie Lunceford orchestra of the 1930's and the Tommy Dorsey band of the 1940's their distinctive cachet, said Mr. Carter was "the most complete professional musician I've ever known."

And John Hammond, the record producer who nurtured the careers of Count Basie, Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman, said Mr. Carter was "one of the great influences in American music, one of its unsung heroes."

Mr. Carter would have been 96 on August 7th. Here's what Glenn Dryfoos, Brothers Judd jazz correspondent, wrote on his last birthday:
Benny Carter (1907-), one of the great figures in jazz history and one of my heroes, turns 95 on Thursday (DOB: 8/8/07). To put his career and longevity in some perspective, he was a world-famous musician while Babe Ruth was still playing for the Yankees, and to my knowledge he's the only person to have recorded on every technology from Edison's wax cylinder to DVD's. He's now retired from playing, although he still composes.

Here's a decent piece on him by the LA Times' jazz critic (who's not much of a writer). But a sense of what Benny is like comes through. (As the writer points out, it's hard to see why Ken Burns didn't make more use of him in "Jazz.") Also, the article mentions the last gigs he played (when he was 90 1/2, he did a week at Catalina's). Mom and Dad were visiting on the first night, and we went to the show. Benny played as well as I'd heard him in years, and in fact, his playing got stronger as the weekend went on. I took Mom around to meet him afterward, and he was even more than his usually gracious self. I remember having the weird sensation of watching Mom meet someone who's music she listened to when she was a kid.

There's also a great bio of Benny written by the late Princeton professor Morroe Berger. The second edition was just released, with an update (the first edition is almost 20 years old) by Ed Berger, Prof. Berger's oldest son and a curator/librarian at The Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers.


MORE :
From Terry Teachout's new blog, Obit:
If Carter made a bad record, I haven't heard it, but Further Definitions, the 1961 album that teamed him with Coleman Hawkins and Jo Jones, two of his peerless contemporaries, captures him at close to his absolute best. I listened to "The Midnight Sun Will Never Set" when I got the news of his death in Los Angeles last Saturday. It seemed a proper way to say goodbye.

*Benny Carter : Eight Decades in Jazz (Dana Library, Rutgers-Newark)
*Benny Carter (Smithsonian Jazz)
*Benny Carter (Riverwalk)
*Benny Carter (Jazz Radio)
*Jazz Profiles : Benny Carter (BBC Radio 3)

July 13, 2003

Posted by Paul Jaminet at 8:28 PM

)

The Flight from Knowing (Professor Lisa Ruddick, University of Chicago English Department)
The tensions within our field have reached the media and even our own journals in the distorted form of a culture war, with a clear cleavage between a traditionally humanist right and an antihumanist left. In the middle, but without a base, are people like this woman who are not traditionalists but nonetheless have convictions about "what sustains people" that in the current environment would be discounted as conservative, humanist illusions. (She might for example be asked, "Which 'people' are you presuming to speak for?") Such scholars survive by putting a part of themselves into hiding, and their voices aren't heard....

When I was writing my first book I was so concerned about getting tenure that I adhered to the theoretical norms of the moment. It was alienating at times, but I did it. After that, though, I became paralyzed, because I couldn't make myself observe certain omnipresent intellectual taboos that came under the heading of poststructuralism--taboos that I thought were oppressive but that I couldn't challenge without courting disgrace. I felt I had to hide or smuggle in my humanist convictions about "what sustains people"--my faith for example in some quality of shared humanity that makes literary experience meaningful. And my anger and sadness about this feeling of constraint were preventing me from writing with conviction at all....

[Y]ou may or may not find the fear and defensiveness I'm describing odd. Maybe you too have experienced an exhausting internal debate between the ordinary self that has something it cares about and the piped-in voice of the profession that can only coldly approve or blame....

[A]s I started to rethink what I was about intellectually, I initially feared developing my own perspective because I thought I might become someone who would alienate old friends and acquire some new "friends" from the right, as well as new enemies....

Every profession binds its initiates to itself by inducing a subtle spiritual depletion-what the legal theorist Duncan Kennedy, in his 1983 manifesto Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy, called "'the sneaking depression of the pre-professional," and what Jeff Schmidt, again in Disciplined Minds, describes as an "emotional numbness" and a "loss of vitality and authenticity" common among professionals. I think that the theoretical models that have dominated English and the related disciplines in the last two decades are especially effective tools for creating this kind of demoralization, because in their depletion of the meaning of such words as authenticity and humanity they eat away at a person's sense of having a vital interior life apart from his or her professional identity.... The message we send ... is: there's no real authenticity anywhere, there's no humanity you can count on ...

I was talking with a medievalist friend about these ideas, which I'm in the midst of developing into a book, and he said something that made me stop and think, namely that "there is no growth without ascesis." He was using the religious term ascesis to describe the discipline of meaningful self-questioning or self-abnegation. He was making a powerful point: you can't educate without asking students to renounce much of what they formerly took for granted, including some dimensions of their younger selves. But there are environments in which ascesis, or renunciation, shades over into a kind of hazing, and people lose sight of what exactly is being relinquished and what is being grown there. In these environments ascesis can become mere self-flagellation and self-alienation: rather than the surrender of fixed assumptions that's necessary for building suppleness and awareness, there is the crushing and unproductive experience of coming to despise what one still carries within oneself from the period before one merged with a group identity....

What I would wish to see is a profession that did a better job of teaching everyone who comes here how to distinguish for himself or herself ... between the ascesis or self-transformation that produces integrity, flexibility, and intellectual strength, and the sham ascesis, too common in the professions, that is really a loss of self.

Robertson Davies in one of his speeches argues that among the Seven Deadly Sins, moderns are most prone to Acedia -- commonly translated into English as "Sloth." Acedia refers not to physical laziness, as the English word suggests, but to spiritual sloth: the unwillingness to distinguish good from evil, the unwillingness to love good passionately and despise evil with gusto. A person in the grip of Acedia is lukewarm as the Laodiceans.

Acedia and its companion sins are "Deadly" not because they kill immediately: they are also known as the "Capital Sins," because they lead to other sins. They are deadly because they corrupt. Acedia in particular leads to relativism and to a lack of energy, to an unwillingness to strive for any worthy goal. It leads to demoralization, in which nothing seems good enough to struggle for.

I doubt the left developed its program consciously, but it has become very effective at spreading demoralization and Acedia. Professor Ruddick wisely connects "loss of morale" to "loss of moral conviction"; the two go together, as Forrest Gump would have said, like peas and carrots.

It is interesting that, apparently by consensus among the English professoriate, humanist values are now associated with the right, anti-humanist values with the left. To me this indicates the decline of liberalism as I once understood it: it shows that liberalism's crisis has proceeded to the point of its virtual destruction. In pursuit of power, liberals have allied themselves with the anti-humanist left and joined the effort to demoralize conservatives and those who share conservative values. But this essentially anti-human enterprise corrupts liberalism and poisons its humanist elements, with the result that liberalism as it once was vanishes. Liberals have been absorbed almost insensately into the radical left.

There is a profound need in modern society for a moralizing force: for people who can give encouragement to those who love, who embrace a worthy moral vision with gusto and passion. Professor Ruddick states our need quite well in the final lines I have quoted: and it is a fundamentally religious need. Sadly, religious institutions whose purpose is precisely to lead such a moralization -- for instance, the Catholic bishops -- have become demoralized themselves. I don't know where the moral energy to re-moralize society will come from. But I am sure we need it.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM

)

Vox Populi: Public opinion and the democratic dilemma (Kay Lehman Schlozman, Summer 2003, Brookings Review)
"Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. . . . The governor again said to them, 'Which of the two do you want me to release for you?' And they said, 'Barabbas.' Pilate said to them, 'Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?' They all said, 'Let him be crucified.' And he said, 'Why what evil has he done?' But they shouted all the more, 'Let him be crucified.' So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd . . . Then he released for them Barabbas and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified."

Thus, Matthew's dramatic rendering of Pilate's accession to the demand of the crowd for the crucifixion of Jesus raises the fundamental dilemmaof democratic governance: the relative claims of the wishes of the public and the wisdom of public officials in making policy. That is, what is the appropriate balance between the preferences of citizens and the considered judgment of policymakers?

Some four centuries earlier the same issue had arisen in a society with a more democratic tradition, ancient Athens, and the people had ruled, if less passionately, similarly unwisely. With Athens recovering from a protracted war and experiencing some political turmoil, Socrates stood accused of introducing novel religious practices and corrupting the young. He chose trial rather than voluntary self-exile. As reported by Plato, Socrates was, despite an eloquent self-defense, found guilty by a jury of 500 citizens and sentenced to die. Although his friends contrived for him to escape from prison, he opted to remain in chains, arguing that while he believed himself innocent, he did not wish to violate a lawful process. Eventually Socrates drank the hemlock.

That we can attribute the condemnation of two men who influenced so profoundly the course of Western civilization to the myopia and suggestibility of ordinary citizens acting collectively might lead us to be skeptical of the capacity of the people for self-government and to infer that we should trust instead in the wisdom of their leaders.

A one-time governor of New York said something sage in this regard:
The merit of our Constitution was, not that it promotes democracy, but checks it.
    -Horatio Seymour (1810-86)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 PM

INTELLECT VS. INTELLIGENCE

Science Friction: The growing--and dangerous--divide between scientists and the GOP. (Nicholas Thompson, July/August 2003, Washington Monthly)
Any administration will be tempted to trumpet the conclusions of science when they justify actions that are advantageous politically, and to ignore them when they don't. Democrats, for instance, are more than happy to tout the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change, but play down evidence that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (which they oppose) probably will have little impact on the caribou there. But Democrats will only go so far down the path of ignoring scientific evidence because they don't want to alienate their scientific supporters. Increasingly, the Republicans feel little such restraint. Hence the Bush administration's propensity to tout scientific evidence only when it suits them politically. For instance, though numerous studies have shown the educational benefits of after-school programs, the Bush administration cited just one recent report casting doubt on those benefits to justify cutting federal after-school funding. Meanwhile, the White House has greatly increased the federal budget for abstinence-only sex education programs despite a notable lack of evidence that they work to reduce teen pregnancy. The administration vigorously applies cost-benefit analysis--some of it rigorous and reasonable--to reduce federal regulations on industry. But when the National Academy of Sciences concluded that humans are contributing to a planetary warming and that we face substantial future risks, the White House initially misled the public about the report and then dramatically downplayed it. Even now, curious reporters asking the White House about climate change are sent to a small, and quickly diminishing, group of scientists who still doubt the causes of global warming. Many scientists were shocked that the administration had even ordered the report, a follow-up to a major report from the 2,500-scientist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's leading climate research committee. Doing that was like asking a district court to review a Supreme Court decision.

This White House's disinclination to engage the scientific community in important policy decisions may have serious consequences for the country. One crucial issue that Congress and the Bush administration will likely have to confront before Bush leaves office is human cloning. Researchers distinguish between "reproductive cloning," which most scientists abhor, and "therapeutic cloning," which may someday allow researchers to use stem cells from a patient's cloned embryo to grow replacement bone marrow, liver cells, or other organs, and which most scientists favor. When the President's Council on Bioethics voted on recommendations for the president, every single practicing scientist voted for moving therapeutic cloning forward. Bush, however, decided differently, supporting instead a bill sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) to ban all forms of embryonic cloning.

John Marburger, the president's current scientific adviser--a longtime Democrat who says that he has good relations with Bush and is proud of the administration's science record--wrote in an email statement which barely conceals his own opinion: "As for my views on cloning, let me put it this way. The president's position--which is to ban all cloning--was made for a number of ethical reasons, and I do know that he had the best, most up-to-date science before him when he made that decision." Jack Gibbons, a former head of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, calls Bush's proposed ban "an attempt to throttle science, not to govern technology." Harold Varmus, the former NIH director, believes that "this is the first time that the [federal] government has ever tried to criminalize science."

Mr. Thompson touches on, but then backs off of, an important distinction here. Conservatives do not oppose science generally, but those specific manifestations of it that might be termed intellectual. Richard Hofstadter talks about the difference in his book, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life:
[I]ntelligence is an excellence of mind that is employed within a fairly narrow, immediate, an predictable range.... Intelligence works within the framework of limited but clearly stated goals, and may be quick to shear away questions of thought that do not seem to help in reaching them. [...]
 
Intellect, on the other hand, is the critical, creative, and contemplative side of mind. Whereas intelligence seeks to grasp, manipulate, re-order, adjust, intellect examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines.

Elsewhere in the essay, when Mr. Thompson cites Abraham Lincoln and Dwight D. Eisenhower as past Republican supporters of science and contrasts them with President Bush, it's notable that what they supported were hard sciences and technical innovation, not the schemes and fever-dreams of the most "creative" and "contemplative" minds of their day. In fact, as I recall, Lincoln would routinely have to turn away folks who'd dreamt up new super-weapons to win the war and anyone who's seen The Right Stuff will recall Ike's hostility to the space program.

One can imagine the incredulity with which such men would have met a gaggle of environmentalists waving global warming studies that spin out dire scenarios based on a supposed one degree rise in Earth temperatures over a couple centuries. Of course, when Richard Nixon, one of the other "pro-science Republicans" was president, these same folk would have been waving studies claiming a new Ice Age was coming. We've always wondered, if Nixon had moved aggressively to raise the temperature of the planet and if global warming turns out to be real, rather than just a means of attacking business, precisely how hot would the planet be now? Why was the anti-scientific decision not to warm the globe good, but the anti-scientific decision not to cool it now equivalent to playing Russian roulette with the species? And during the Lincoln, Eisenhower and Nixon administrations the intellectuals were warning of population explosion destroying our societies and the planet. Yet now the West, which reached unimaginable heights of prosperity while its populations grew, faces a birth dearth that may cause massive social disruption and economic decline. What might be the state of the world if we'd listened to the respected intellectual Paul Ehrlich and driven the population down to one billion people (ever notice how the advocates of this idea always assume they'll be in the one billion?) No, thoroughly politicized and ideology-driven ideas like human-induced climate-change, overpopulation, Darwinism, etc.--those purely speculative and contemplative "sciences"--are nothing to base federal policy on.

As for the scientific pursuits that more directly implicate ethical questions, it's impossible to imagine someone having the temerity to tell a Lincoln or an Eisenhower that he should support cloning, never mind have the federal government pay for it. And the last quote above, that "this is the first time that the [federal] government has ever tried to criminalize science" is particularly idiotic. There are a wide range of experiments on human beings that would have great scientific value but that you aren't allowed to conduct. Why do we use animals to test foods and drugs rather than human beings? We know that 52 pounds a day of Red Dye #2 is poisonous to a rodent, but how much can a healthy person eat? When medical students are required to study cadavers rather than perform vivisections, is not science being throttled? Why are nuclear and other hazardous materials so strictly regulated? Why can't every university physics program have its own reactor to play with? Is free thought dead in America? Hardly; we just regulate science when it would otherwise pursue ends that are dangerous or morally abhorrent.

MORE:
Oddly enough, there's a quote from Carl Sagan that's exactly on point: "The reliance on carefully designed and controlled experiments is key... We will not learn much from mere contemplation." Any theory claiming to be a science which does not yield to such carefully controlled experimentation, although it may turn out to be true, need not command overmuch respect until it does.

What makes this so odd is that there's another oft-cited quote from Dr. Sagan:
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge - even to ourselves - that we've been so credulous.

Coming from the fabulist who dreamed up Nuclear Winter--a way of opposing the Cold War with phoney science--that has the haunting quality of a confession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:14 PM

PLAYING MADAME BLAVATSKY

This one just came in over the transom:
Reason #6,177 why John Forbes Kerry will never be President of the United States.

If you know people who are wondering why the 2004 election matters, or about the difference between the two political parties, the following two statements about American exceptionalism might provide some food for thought:

*Senator John Kerry's Remarks to Georgia Democrats, March 1, 2001

We Democrats believe this nation is more than gleaming buildings and the gated communities with their swimming pools and finely-manicured lawns. We do not see America as a finished product; a city established upon the hill. We see an America still in the process of becoming; a dream not yet fulfilled; a promise not yet kept.

*President Ronald Reagan's Farewell Address, January 11, 1989

The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the `shining city upon a hill.' The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man. He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM

A QUESTION OF TRUST[ING THE FOURTH ESTATE]

A Question Of Trust: The CIA's Tenet takes the fall for a flawed claim in the State of the Union, but has Bush's credibility taken an even greater hit? (MICHAEL DUFFY AND JAMES CARNEY, Jul. 13, 2003, TIME)
The State of the Union message is one of America's greatest inventions, conceived by the Founders to force a powerful Chief Executive to report to a public suspicious of kings. Delivered to a joint session of Congress in democracy's biggest cathedral, it is the most important speech a President gives each year, written and rewritten and then polished again.

This is appalling disinformation. For a hundred years, until Woodrow Wilson began going up to Congress to give a speech, the State of the Union had been a fairly pro forma affair, an actual written message that was dropped off on the Hill with little fanfare:
President Thomas Jefferson changed the procedure followed by his predecessors with his first annual message (December 8, 1801). His private secretary delivered copies of the message to both houses of Congress, to be read by clerks in the House and Senate. Jefferson's change was intended to simplify a ceremony that he believed to be an aristocratic imitation of the British monarch's "Speech from the Throne," and thus unsuitable to a republic. Furthermore, preparing a response in Congress consumed valuable time during short legislative sessions.

It's of course become a staged media event, nearly always devoid of substance and as crammed full of stuff and nonsense as one would expect from any political stump speech. That a major news outlet should so baldly mischaracterize it--when they must have, or should have, known their statement to be false--undermines their case and calls into question whether they can be trusted. There should be an immediate Congressional investigation to determine who knew these two sentences of this essay to be false and when they knew it.

Or, alternatively, like the uranium deal, it's a minor mistake with little bearing on anything, though one that should not have happened. Which view seems more fair and reasonable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:29 PM

ONE FOR THE THUMB