December 31, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:35 PM


Killer was hired as Air France guard (Paul Webster, December 31, 2003, The Guardian)

The company put in charge of security for Air France flights employed a convicted murderer and a number of others with serious criminal records, it emerged yesterday.

The background of the guards was disclosed in a Paris court during a hearing to wind up the company, Pretory, which had been operating security on the French airline for more than two years but went into bankruptcy after tax fraud allegations.

The revelation of its lax recruiting methods coincided with the disclosure that armed French police have been flying with Air France to the US since December 23. [...]

Four days after the terror attacks in the US on September 11 2001 Air France was one of the first networks to announce that passengers would be accompanied by "specially trained agents".

But the tribunal which ordered the company's liquidation heard that, in a rush to recruit guards, it had taken on disco bouncers, dog handlers, nightwatchmen, and other staff with little or no experience of arms or safety procedures.

At one time 200 guards were employed on flights.

An investigation was eventually started last April, when the police looked into the background of 140 agents, the most qualified of whom were former soldiers.

As a result of a search of criminal records more than 30 agents were grounded as a potential security risk.

The police also looked into the record of Pretory's sub-contractors.

This led to unconfirmed reports that some guards had been sent for arms training courses in Middle Eastern countries suspected of harbouring terrorists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM


American Diplomacy And the New Shape of the World: Critics who accuse the United States of a strident new unilateralism often have an agenda of their own: to keep America's power in check. (Clive Crook, 12/31/03, Atlantic Monthly)

The past year has seen a momentous change in the way the world is ordered—a change very much for the worse, according to a good deal of supposedly informed opinion in the United States and the great majority of commentators everywhere else. To assert and advance its own interests, America has repudiated the institutions and the very principle of lawful cooperation among nations, it is argued. This would be immoral, the charge continues, even if it were not directly counterproductive—but it is that as well. America's new posture, the critics agree, has made the world a more dangerous place, not least for America itself.

The destruction of Saddam Hussein's regime was the most forthright demonstration of this new thinking. The Bush administration explicitly rationalized the war in terms of a new security doctrine that calls for pre-emptive action against emerging threats. This is a policy that, to put it mildly, is difficult to square with current understanding of international law. [...]

Some of the administration's critics are willing to admit that the U.N. has its faults, and even to acknowledge that America's government owes its first duty to America's citizens. Nonetheless, they argue that the United States, in its own interests, should lead efforts to reform the U.N.—and to breathe life into multilateralism more generally. With American goodwill, and not without, a global order based on law and international cooperation could be built. That is the claim. By the same logic, the Kyoto accord may be flawed, but America should strive to fix it rather than merely walk away. And again, despite safeguards already built in, some supporters of the International Criminal Court concede that it may leave Americans unfairly exposed to unwarranted or malicious prosecution; so strengthen the safeguards, they insist, rather than trying to wreck the whole process.

This kind of argument is based on two very serious mistakes. The first is a delusion about goals. The premise here is that the United States and its putative U.N. partners have the same priorities, or at any rate that the goals they have in common matter more to them than the aims that divide them. After September 11, in fact, one might have hoped that this were true: The whole civilized world, it is clear, really does face a terrible common foe. Yet many countries still see the main purpose of the U.N. and its satellites as not to meet such threats but to contain the power of the United States. French diplomacy before the Iraq war made it plain that France sees untrammeled American power as a greater threat to its interests than Saddam Hussein ever was. France is not alone in this. [...]

Suppose, for the sake of argument, that intelligence and good faith prevailed around the world, and that different countries' goals and priorities were sufficiently well aligned to make formal and institutionalized multilateral approaches at least feasible. Would that clinch the argument? Not at all, because the multilateralists' second fatal error is to suppose that structured multilateralism is intrinsically superior to the unilateralist alternative of ad hoc "coalitions of the willing."

Why is this a mistake? Because the kind of institutionalized multilateralism that the U.N.'s champions dream of is inescapably undemocratic. America's government can be ultimately accountable to the American people or ultimately accountable to the U.N.; it cannot be accountable to both.

Mr. Crook here captures quite nicely the two great challenges to traditional sovereignty, that by the Left--transnationalism--which seeks to bypass democracy and impose a global elites' agenda; and that by the Center/Right, which holds any regime that does not meet liberal democratic standards to be illegitimate. Each new vision is revolutionary to a degree we don't yet seem to realize.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:11 PM


Adjusting the Focus: Iraq may not be the best issue for the Democrats, but they may not be able to avoid it. (William Schneider, 12/31/03, Atlantic Monthly)

With the capture of Saddam Hussein, Democrats are beginning to realize that Iraq may not be their best campaign issue. But they may not be able to avoid it. It's the issue that their primary voters are most passionate about.

Republicans welcome the focus on Iraq. "I look forward to making my case to the American people about why America is more secure today based upon the decisions that I've made," President Bush said at his December 15 news conference.

And why not? Until Saddam's capture on December 14, the American public had supported the war in Iraq but was critical of the U.S. handling of the situation in Iraq since the major fighting ended. Now there's been a huge jump in public approval of the occupation—from 42 percent in the November Gallup Poll to 65 percent in mid-December. [...]

Democrats say that Bush has isolated the United States. "He needs to go to the U.N. He needs to build a consensus. He needs to collaborate. He needs to communicate," Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., complained at the Democratic presidential candidates' debate in Phoenix on October 9. "He doesn't do any of those things."

Bush's response? "I don't agree that [the war in Iraq] is a dividing line," he said at the press conference. "I think this is a disagreement on this particular issue. And I know we can work together on a variety of other issues. I'll cite one example: Iran."

Dean and other Democrats say that Iraq has damaged U.S. security. Bush's response? "A free and peaceful Iraq is part of protecting America."

If the Iraq issue doesn't work for the Democrats, what else have they got?

60 years in the wilderness?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


A path opens to elections in Iraq: With key Shiite cleric's change of heart, the roadblock to elections could disappear. (Dan Murphy, 1/02/04, CS Monitor)

In November, spurred on by a stubborn insurgency and Iraqi frustration with the US occupation, the US created a road map that hinges on the selection of a broad group of leaders by July. They would then shepherd Iraq to real elections in 2005 and the creation of a new constitution.

But the plan, which is backed by Iraq's major political groups, has been threatened by Ayotallah Ali al-Sistani, probably the most revered of Iraq's Shiite clerics. He has demanded full democratic elections by June, and leaders of the Shiite community - about 60 percent of Iraq's population - have said they won't defy his wishes.

But this week, in a key shift, Mr. Sistani said he could live with the US approach if the UN were involved in verifying the US position that holding fair elections by June isn't possible. [...]

The Governing Council is set to approve a "fundamental law," essentially an interim constitution, by Feb. 28, and Kurdish political parties are pushing for special rights, including a veto over the presence of federal troops in their area. The transitional constitution will set the ground rules for the government that the US hopes to hand sovereignty to on July 1.

Looks like we may not miss the gone by Memorial Day goal by much.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 PM


Crime rates, slated to rise, fell in 2003: Overall US crime lowers slightly over 2002, but pattern is uneven. (Alexandra Marks, 01/02/04, CS Monitor)

Despite predictions that crime was sure to shoot up, 2003 was not a bad year for shop owner Frank Avdou or for the country as a whole. [...]

In some cities, like New York, constant police vigilance in high-crime areas has caused the rates of urban violence to continue to plummet to levels not seen since 1968, making the Big Apple the safest big city in the country for the second year in a row. But in other urban areas, murder and mayhem are definitely on the rise. Dallas, for instance, saw a 51 percent hike in overall crime, as scandal rocked the local police department and increased drug trafficking got a tighter grip on struggling neighborhoods.

Enforce laws and crime goes down...shocking, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 PM


The Four Musketeers: Ideology and demeanor distinguish a new generation of Republican leaders (George Howland Jr., 12/31/03, Seattle Weekly)

What to call them? Republican soccer dads? Metrosexual conservatives? Reagan babies? The labels don't quite fit, but their presence is undeniable. As the Jan. 12 convening of the Legislature in Olympia draws near, a new generation of standard bearers has arisen in the state Republican Party: former state Sen. Dino Rossi, 44, is running for governor; King County Council member Rob McKenna, 41, is campaigning for attorney general; state Sen. Bill Finkbeiner, 34, was just elected Senate Majority Leader; and Luke Esser, 42, is the state Senate's new floor leader.

Besides their relative youth, they have at least four other things in common: their residence (the Eastside suburbs of King County), their demeanor (nice guys), their physical appearance (good looks), and their political philosophy (Republicans should focus on pocketbook issues—the business climate and controlling government growth —not social issues).

"We are starting to build a team again," says state Republican Party chair Chris Vance. He likens the emergence of these four to the generation of Republican leaders that emerged in the 1960s—Dan Evans, Slade Gorton, and Joel Pritchard. Vance adds, "This sort of thing needs to happen to invigorate the party."

Vance says the four also share an ideology that is ascendant within the GOP. "It's not enough to pretend that the free market can solve every problem, but we reject the liberals' point of view: 'Government can fix everything.' It's a third way, between government should not be involved and government should solve it all."

Is there any state in America where the Democrats are as excited about the future of their party as the Republicans are everywhere?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 PM


The Man Who Knew Too Much: a review of Interviews with Dwight Macdonald, Michael Wreszin, ed., (R.J. Stove, December 15, 2003, The American Conservative)

For a dead man, Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982) now looks pretty healthy. All too often during his old age, he found himself dismissed as a self-destructive dilettante. Nowadays, by contrast, he occupies a secure place as America’s best-known “unknown” man of letters (notwithstanding recent ad hominem diatribes, optimistically packaged as literary critiques, in the Washington Times and the Dartmouth Review). We owe this Macdonald revival wholly to Michael Wreszin, Professor Emeritus at Queens College in New York, who has turned himself with Stakhanovite dedication—how the Soviet-hating Macdonald would have shuddered at that adjective—into a one-man Macdonald industry. Wreszin’s aptly titled 1994 book A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald displayed astonishing diligence, and great shrewdness, in chronicling the life of Macdonald’s mind. (Macdonald seems to have had precious little life outside his mind.) Seven years afterwards appeared a Wreszin-edited collection of Macdonald’s letters, A Moral Temper. Neither volume received adequate press coverage, a fact that inspired the fear that public indifference had made Wreszin give up. Happily, here comes the third panel in Wreszin’s Macdonald triptych.

Historian John Lukacs called Macdonald “the American Orwell,” and certainly Macdonald resembled Orwell in several respects. Both men wrote invariably readable prose. Both men grasped, with cold fury, the causal linkage of linguistic corruption and ethical corruption. (Lukacs’s description of Macdonald’s writing process suits Orwell equally: “Every word was not only an aesthetic but a moral choice.”) Both men remain gratifyingly unclassifiable. Orwell the grimy materialist coexisted uneasily with Orwell the crypto-High-Tory romantic who on his deathbed craved Anglican hymns. Macdonald the self-proclaimed leftist loathed proletarian and industrial culture with a passion recalling Action Français leader Charles Maurras’s invective. For proof of his idiom’s Maurrasian elements, see his principal essay collection, Against the American Grain. Like T.S. Eliot—a lifelong hero of his—and like all other civilized people, Macdonald considered “elitist” to be not a swearword but a badge of honor. [...]

He arrived at his cultural conservatism (a phrase he may have coined; he undoubtedly took the credit for being the first to write of “mass culture”) via a circuitous route. A rich, apolitical, WASP Yale alumnus whom the Depression radicalized, he initially sought salvation in Moscow, only to lose his Stalinist faith once the show trials occurred. He reacted, as did other “Partisanskies”—his colleagues at the newborn Partisan Review—by embracing Trotskyism. Yet from 1941 he found the Trot temperament to be almost indistinguishable from the Stalinist one and fled that totalitarianism also.

The mid-1940s to the mid-1960s saw Macdonald at the height of his powers. He edited (1944-1949) his own heterodox little magazine, Politics, an object lesson in how to save the world when almost no one reads you. Politics made no money, its payments to contributors were laughable—he charmed Mary McCarthy into writing for free—and it never had more than 5,000 subscribers; but it published Orwell, Camus, C. Wright Mills, and Simone Weil, as well as The Group’s future author. After Politics, he gave us his most devastating literary articles, originally printed in Partisan Review, Commentary, and the New Yorker but afterwards assembled in Against the American Grain and Discriminations. In 1958, Commentary ran Macdonald’s hatchet job on the once fashionable novelist James Gould Cozzens: “By Cozzens Possessed,” probably the most murderous book review 20th-century America ever produced. From this period, in addition, dates much of Macdonald’s best political analysis, such as Memoirs of a Revolutionist contains; and patchier, though always scintillating, film criticism for Esquire, later republished as Dwight Macdonald on Movies. Once anti-Vietnam campus ferment began, Macdonald returned to leftist activism, his main practical contribution characteristically consisting of public fights with nearly every other leftist activist. This campaigning ended almost as suddenly as it started; during his last decade he drank too much, wrote too little, and became a peripatetic humanities lecturer, in which role he reached a special rapport with trainee policemen at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

As Christopher Hitchens has learned, and the career of Dwight MacDonald demonstrated, there's a danger to combining credulousness and contrarianism because it means that when folks look back over your career they'll discover that you for too long attacked those who were in the right.

-BOOK SITE: Interviews with Dwight Macdonald, Edited by Michael Wreszin (University Press of Mississippi)
-ESSAY: "The Book-of-the-Millennium Club" (Dwight Macdonald, November 29, 1952, The New Yorker)
-ESSAY: A Critique of The Warren Report (Dwight Macdonald, March 1965, Esquire)

-ARCHIVES: Dwight Macdonald writes about writing
-ARCHIVES: Dwight MacDonald (NY Review of Books)
-ARCHIVES: "Dwight MacDonald" (Find Articles)

-REVIEW: of Against the American Grain by Dwight MacDonald (David Montgomery)
-REVIEW: of Against the American Grain: Essays on the Effects of Mass Culture; Discriminations: Essays & Afterthoughts; On Movies; and Parodies: An Anthology from Chaucer to Beerbohm...and After by Dwight Macdonald (John Gabree, New York Newsday)

-REVIEW: of INTERVIEWS WITH DWIGHT MACDONALD, Edited by Michael Wrezin (JEFFREY HART, Washington Times)

Macdonald liked the stance of an aristocratic bohemian and man of taste. What one remembers of him perhaps is his once famous distinction between Masscult, Midcult, and High Culture. There's no mystery about Hugh Culture: Yeats, Matisse. Masscult comes out of a juke box. But Midcult is the enemy: a spurious imitation of High Culture, like, say, Thornton Wilder's "Our Town."

Possibly these distinctions are worth starting with.

In his one-man magazine Politics Macdonald did a surgical destruction of the 1948 Henry Wallace presidential campaign, the destruction lots of fun at the time. In Commentary he performed a hit job on a wildly overrated novel by James Gould Cozzens, "By Love Possessed." The novel was not good, but in "Guard of Honor" Cozzens had written what might be a great novel, and Macdonald would have done well to register his awareness of this, if, indeed, he was aware of it.

Macdonald survived as a writer on his fluency, but he had no consistent aesthetic, political, or moral standards. He imagined Norman Mailer to be a great writer. Coleridge admired the kind of mind that could entertain contradictory ideas and be energized by them. Macdonald could certainly entertain contradictory ideas but he seems to have been entirely unaware that they were contradictory, so they could hardly be energizing. To say the least, he did not have anything approaching a first-rate mind. Irresponsible would be to put it mildly.

-REVIEW: Dwight Macdonald: sunburned by ideas: a review of A Moral Temper: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald, edited by Michael Wreszin (Joseph Epstein, New Criterion)
Macdonald had been drifting leftward. “Marx goes to the heart of the problem,” he wrote to a college classmate in 1936. To the same man he wrote: “I’m growing more and more intolerant of those who stand—or rather squat—in the way of radical progress, the more I learn about the conservative businesses that run this country and the more I see of the injustices done people under this horrible capitalist system.” Earlier he had noted that “my greatest vice is my easily aroused indignation—also, I suppose, one of my greatest strengths. I can work up a moral indignation quicker than a fat tennis player can work up a sweat.” Over the years his similes would improve, if not his temperament.

By the time he was thirty, Macdonald was fully formed, intellectually and emotionally. Politically, he was anti-Stalinist and anti-statist yet also anti-capitalist. In the 1936 presidential election, he voted for Earl Browder, the Communist candidate. For a few years he was a member of the Trotskyite Worker Party. But he had only to join a group to find it objectionable and thus left the Workers Party in 1941. Trotsky himself had referred to him as a “Macdonaldist.” (In an article left in his dictaphone machine before his death, he described a Macdonald piece as “very muddled and stupid.”) Macdonald always took the high road—that “moral indignation” again—preferring clarity over complexity in politics and keeping a palette restricted to two colors, black and white, with very little interest in gray shadings or texture of any sort. His unwillingness to grant America the least virtue led him to make some impressively idiotic statements, notable among them: “Europe has its Hitlers, but we have our Rotarians.”

-REVIEW: of A Moral Temper: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald, edited by Michael Wreszin(Robert Fulford, National Post)
One reason he argued so much was that he kept changing political sides -- and no matter what side he was on, he always knew it was the right one. A friend of the Communist Party in the early 1930s, he soon joined a Trotskyist (therefore anti-Moscow) party, then defected to another Trotskyist party, then withdrew from all parties to become a pacifist, a position he held with dogged passion during the Second World War. In the Cold War he at first considered both sides abhorrent but reluctantly backed the U.S. -- though he never came to like his fellow Americans ("an unhappy people ... without style, without a sense of what is humanly satisfying"). In the 1960s, enraged by the Vietnam War, he joined the student rebels, calling them "the best generation I have known in this country, the cleverest and the most serious and decent," though he wished they would occasionally read a book.

Through it all he desperately protected his intellectual purity. In 1942 Mary McCarthy satirized him in a story, Portrait of the Intellectual as Yale Man: "His mind and character appeared to him as a kind of sacred trust ... It was as if he were the standard gold dollar against which the currency is measured."

-REVIEW: of A MORAL TEMPER: The Letters of Dwight Macdonald, Edited by Michael Wreszin (Dwight Garner , NY Times Book Review)

-REVIEW: of A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald by Michael Wreszin (John Elson, TIME)
-REVIEW: of A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald by Michael Wreszin (Gampo Mellichampe, Social Anarchism)
-REVIEW: of A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald by Michael Wreszin (Henry Gonshak, Montana Tech-UM)
-REVIEW: of A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight Macdonald by Michael Wreszin (Harold Orlans, Change)
-ESSAY: A Nine-Hour Resurrection: Alexander Herzen, Marx's rival and Tolstoy's nonfiction counterpart, enjoys a well-deserved return to center stage in Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia (Christopher Hitchens, December 2002, Atlantic Monthly)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM


State budgets gain some wiggle room (Dennis Cauchon, 12/31/03, USA TODAY)

State spending rose 4.6% in 2002 while revenue increased only 3%; that forced states to borrow billions of dollars to balance their budgets. But legislators clamped down in 2003. Spending rose only 1.3% in the first nine months of the year while revenue increased 1.5%.

The fiscal restraint is paying dividends. For the first time in three years, most legislatures won't have to plug holes in existing budgets this year. Instead, they will focus on next year's budgets, which take effect July 1 in 46 states.

You'll recall that at the beginning of the year it was claimed that the only way to prevent catastrophe was for the Federal government to shovel money to the states. Turns out that if you just don't spend so much money those deficits pretty much take care of themselves. We could use a constitutional amendment to force the Congress to accept the same discipline.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:13 PM


God behind Kenya’s progress, says Kibaki (The Standard, December 29, 2003)

President Mwai Kibaki yesterday urged Christians to thank God for the achievements they had realised in life.

He said any progress made by the people was the work of God and it was important to thank Him.

President Kibaki was speaking at Mombasa's Wesley Methodist Church during a Sunday service conducted by the Pwani Methodist Synod Bishop, Ferdinand Mkare.

The Head of State cautioned the congregation against forgetting what God had done for them. He thanked God for enabling Kenyans win last year's General Election after they prayed for it.

Kenya is one of those African nations that there's some hope for, not least because of the predominance of Christianity, the English language, and literacy in the nation. It's the kind of place we ought to focus our efforts in Africa, chiefly to raise living standards, which are currently so low as to make enduring liberal democratic reform unlikely to take hold.

A continent at peace: five African hot spots cool down: Motivated by antiterror fears and a need for oil, Africans are demanding warriors to beat their swords into plowshares. (Abraham McLaughlin, 1/02/04, CS Monitor)

For the first time in five years, no major wars are roiling the continent, even if low-level conflicts still smolder. A deal to end Sudan's civil war - Africa's longest - could be struck this month. And peace processes are pushing ahead in Liberia, Burundi, Ivory Coast, and Congo.

Perhaps it's just a lull between storms. Yet observers see fundamental shifts that may create an era of relative calm for Africa's 800 million people.

The biggest new force is Africans themselves. Led by South Africa, there's growing desire to arm-twist warriors into laying down their weapons. Also, outside powers, including the United States, are more engaged. They may be motivated by antiterror fears, need for oil, or guilt for inaction during Rwanda's 1994 genocide, but they're increasingly supporting Africa's peaceful impulses.

"The continent as a whole has asserted a good bit more activism about putting conflicts to rest - and has turned down the flames of its active wars," says Ross Herbert, Africa Research Fellow at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg. [...]

Outside powers are key as well. "There is a longer-term trend of the West reengaging in Africa," says Mr. Herbert. The US sent a small contingent to Liberia earlier this year to help separate rebels and the government, who had been fighting for years. When Sierra Leone exploded in 2000, British troops intervened successfully. And French soldiers are still in the volatile Ivory Coast.

There's also clearly a self-interested agenda. In the post-9/11 world, the US sees chaotic African countries as potential terrorism incubators. It's also eyeing Africa's growing oil exports. Sudan symbolizes the many reasons for America's new engagement in Africa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:59 PM


How three threats interlock: A mission for moderates (Amin Saikal, December 29, 2003, IHT)

Three minority extremist groups - the militant fundamentalist Islamists exemplified at the far edge by Al Qaeda, certain activist elements among America's reborn Christians and neoconservatives, and the most inflexible hard-line Zionists from Israel - have emerged as dangerously destabilizing actors in world politics. Working perversely to reinforce each other's ideological excesses, they have managed to drown out mainstream voices from all sides. Each has the aim of changing the world according to its own individual vision. [...]

On another side are groups of internationalist activists among American fundamentalist Christians and neoconservatives who have found it opportune since Sept. 11, 2001, to pursue their agendas more aggressively. They wish to reshape the Middle East and defiant political Islam according to their ideological and geopolitical preferences.

The extremists of these groups seek to "civilize" or "democratize" the Arab world in particular, and the Muslim world in general, in their own images, and they have particular influence through key appointees in the Bush administration. The fact that democracy can neither be imposed nor be expected to mushroom overnight does not appear to resonate with them. [...]

It takes a few to make war but many to make peace. In pursuit of peace, not only should Al Qaeda and its associates be marginalized, but the radical international agendas of some reborn Christians, neoconservatives and hard-line Zionists should be completely discredited. Doing away with one and not the others is not an option for our future.

This was roughly the thesis of Karen Armstrong's heinous book--Battle for God--that (I'm not kidding) the televangelist scandals and Oklahoma City can be equated to the terrorism of radical Islam. Mr. Saikal carries this idiocy even further in equating the American (for the fundamentalist Christians and neocons of his rhetoric are in fact the majority of the American people, not a radical minority) desire to bring peace, freedom, and economic development to the Islamic world with al Qaeda's nihilism and totalitarianism. It is obviously culturally insensitive of us to think this way, but it seems certain that the overwhelming majority of us would consider anyone and idiot who uses scare quotes around the words "civilize" and "democratize". The future is one of civilization, in the very much Western sense of that word, and of liberal democracy and to seek to discredit them is to place oneself in opposition to America and Americanism.

Posted by David Cohen at 3:45 PM


Jobless Claims Fall to Nearly 3-Year Low (Reuters, 12/31/03)

New applications for state jobless benefits hit the lowest level in nearly three years last week, the government said on Wednesday, boosting hopes that employment is finally beginning to show sustained growth.

The Labor Department said 339,000 idled workers filed for unemployment insurance at state offices throughout the country in the week ended Dec. 27, down from a revised 354,000 a week earlier.

The level of new claims was the lowest since President Bush's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2001.

The next time someone claims that the sky is falling because some major employer has announced massive layoffs of 5000, or 10,000, or 20,000 workers over the next year, remember that a week in which only 340,000 people lost their jobs is a very good week.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 AM


No Democrats have filed yet for state elections in 2004 (John Moritz, 12/31/03, DFW Star-Telegram)

The head of the Texas Democrats on Tuesday vowed that his party would field "scores" of candidates to challenge incumbent Republicans in the 2004 elections, but with filing for the March primaries ending Friday, no Democrat has stepped forward in any of the statewide races.

This is the party that thinks they should have the bulk of the Texas congressional delegation?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:03 AM


Decision 2004: ABD vs. ABBA (Don Hazen, December 30, 2003 , AlterNet)

The Democratic candidates, the media and perhaps the Bush people seem to be ignoring what seems inarguable: Dean has been the candidate of change from the onset, and their attacks add emphasis to that status. He staked out clear positions where the voters were most angry: the rush to war, a tin-eared imperial presidency, a faltering economy, corrupt cronyism and an overall feeling of powerlessness. He stood up for something. In a climate of powerful models of voter frustration -- most notably Arnold Schwarzenegger's election as governor of California -- Dean captured the mantle of change, and he's just tightened his grip since then.

Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi suggests that the broadsides against Dean do not appear to be sticking so far. Trippi reminded the Times that the attacks on Dean supposedly planned by the Bush team may backfire. He notes that they haven't worked so well for Dean's Democratic rivals: "Where have we gone? From zero to 31 percent in the latest ABC poll." Dean himself said in late December that the attacks won't help in the long run, since Bush will eventually use the criticisms in his ads. "But in the short run I think it makes them (the other candidates) look smaller."

What the Dean supporters seem to ignore is just how minimal and marginal his support is. By comparison, George W. Bush, even with an outstanding opponent, polled around 50% and ran ahead of Al Gore (John McCain ran ahead of Gore by even more in fact) at this time in the last cycle. Dr. Dean's numbers range from the teens to an only very occasional blip past 30%.

Being the candidate of change may win him the 30% of people who are dissatisfied with a booming economy and winning the war on terror, and he can certainly add another 10-14% just from Democrats too loyal to vote Republican, but how does he get past that 40% mark? His is an inherently limited appeal.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 8:49 AM


Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix wins Olof Palme Prize (Canadian Press, 29/12/03)

Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix was named the winner of the $50,000 US Olof Palme Prize on Monday for his work in trying to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

"He has under circumstances of strong external pressure demonstrated an independence and a commitment to principle which have inspired respect and admiration throughout the world," the Olof Palme Memorial Fund for International Understanding and Common Security said.

The award is endowed by the family of the slain Swedish prime minister and the governing Social Democratic party. The memorial fund board, which chooses recipients, said Blix "worked throughout his life for the benefit of international law, peace and the United Nations."

Blix is a former Swedish foreign minister who led the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1981 to 1997 and retired from the United Nations in June.

In other news, The Canadian Liberal Party’s Award for International Courage and Virtue went to Jean Chretien.

December 30, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


Forging One Nation From Three Agendas: What's the best way to bring Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds together under a cohesive democracy? (Stanley Reed, 12/29/03, Business Week)

Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator who left a legacy of mass graves and damaged survivors. He did, however, manage to hold together a fractious country through the force of his personality -- and some of the most violent repression the world has ever witnessed. Even before his capture on Dec. 13, his removal from power had unleashed a wave of chaos and criminality. Now the greatest challenge facing the U.S. and the Iraqis is to craft a new, democratic government that can bind Iraq's long-divided religious and ethnic groups together. The U.S. has agreed to turn over power to an Iraqi authority by July. But forging a consensus among Iraq's disparate communities could prove far more difficult than rounding up the cagey Saddam.

Post-Saddam Iraq is a country without a defining national identity, and over the long term that's a situation potentially more dangerous than the threat currently posed by the insurgents. Cobbled together by the British in the 1920s, Iraq resembles three countries more than one; it was kept together by strongmen rulers even before Saddam. The Kurds in the north, the Sunni Arabs north and west of Baghdad, and the Shiite Arabs of the south and center inhabit vast swaths of territory. There has long been tension where the communities overlap, such as in Kirkuk and Mosul. As if all that weren't enough, the various groups are far from united themselves. Many secular Shiites want no part of bans on alcohol and other strictures favored by their more observant coreligionists. Likewise, the Sunni community ranges from the educated elite of academics and former bureaucrats to the thugs who served as Saddam's spies and enforcers.

Why try to make it one country? Why not Kurdistan, Shi'astan and the Sunni minority in the latter can stay or go?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 PM


Assault on the established order (The Japan Times, Dec. 31, 2003)

The concluding year will be remembered for the many ways it undermined the building blocks of the world as we know it. Globally, regionally and even here at home, the events of 2003 posed a direct challenge to the most basic ways in which states and societies act. While change is inevitable, it is by no means clear that this assault on the established order will open the door to a better future. That will depend on whether our governments have the courage and the wisdom to seize the opportunities presented by a world in flux.

Globally, the big story of 2003 was the invasion of Iraq. While Washington mustered an international coalition to overthrow Saddam Hussein, the attack was most notable for its blatant disregard of the United Nations. The decision to proceed without U.N. approval was not unprecedented -- NATO action in Yugoslavia in the 1990s did not enjoy U.N. legitimacy. But rarely had a government -- and an architect of the international order at that -- so flagrantly dismissed international opinion.

This is somewhat the premise of the book I'm working on too: that the paradigm of state sovereignty--which has prevailed since the Peace of Westphalia--is under attack from Left, where transnational progressivism would discard the authority of the nation-state altogether, and from the Center/Right, where America's Jacksonian unilateralism and humanitarian concerns seem to have converged to add a requirement that the sovereign be legitimate, meet the standards of the end of history, or else be considered fair game. Regardless of which side prevails--and it would be catastrophic if the Left does--the sovereignty paradigm will have shifted in a revolutionary way, but like the proverbial frog in the pot of water set to boil, we seem hardly aware of what's underway.

N.B.--If anyone is aware of any essays pertinent to these topics, please send them on.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM


The Accidental Populist: Howard Dean vs. the democratic establishment (Steve Perry, 12/31/03, City Pages)

[T]here are many in and around the national Democratic fold who really do believe that Gore and Dean have it in mind to take the party away from the DLC once and for all. It's far too early to tell whether this is true in any meaningful sense (it's one thing to really mean it in December, another to stake your future on it in July), but a couple of observations may be safely made from here.

First, a serious run at taking over the party machine would oblige Dean to keep running against his own party not just through primary season but the general election as well. In that sense it would be very much like McGovern and '72 all over again--remember "Democrats for Nixon" and the more sub rosa means the Democrats used to undermine McGovern? To have any hope at all of winning such a race, Dean would have to take his Columbia speech on economic justice for all and make it the holy writ of his campaign. He would have to break the first covenant of our dysfunctional political family, which is never to involve outsiders in family business. The dirty little secret of the me-too Democrats is that they are really no more keen on appealing to "nontraditional voters" (traditional nonvoters, that is) than Republicans. And according to the Washington Post, Republican functionaries are beginning to grow scared of Dean's capacity to do just that.

Second, you can probably forget nearly everything in the foregoing paragraph, because the chances that Dean will pick such an audacious course and stick to it are surpassingly slim. The presumptive philosopher king of Dean's epic confrontation with the DLC, after all, is Albert Gore Jr. It's not hard to believe that Gore would like to seize the party apparatus from Clinton & Friends, but why should anyone get excited about the prospect of what he might do with it?

A few eternally masochistic Democrats are trying to make out that they finally have the new Al Gore they were promised for so long. One of the smartest consultants I know recently told me that Gore finally seems to have come into his own. "He seems to be at his best when he's had a chance to go away and just think," the politico said hopefully. "Like when he wrote his book." But the mirage of a bearded, far-seeing Gore foraging for nuts and berries with Tipper at his side faded after a mere few seconds.

We'd not wish such a fate on anyone, including those held in Guantanamo, but you really have to have read the wretched book to appreciate just how deranged that comment is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 PM


In Britain, a nation of 55 million, which consumed 900,000+ cows with heavy BSE contamination, 145 people became ill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 PM


Nuclear materials found in Libya (Daniel Williams, Dec. 30, 2003, WASHINGTON POST)

Now, government officials say, Gadhafi wants to lead his country of 5.5 million people into the global economy and increase production and marketing of Libya's large oil reserves and attract investment and trade.

"We can't afford guns and butter," Prime Minister Shokri Ghanem said.

Nonetheless, by setting up the clandestine program and importing equipment, the Libyans were in breach of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Gadhafi's government had long ago signed. "There were some imports and some activities they should have reported," ElBaradei said.

In the veteran inspector's eyes, the findings highlighted the inadequacy of international inspections. IAEA teams have been visiting Libya for years and knew nothing about the equipment they saw Sunday. One location stood in urban neighborhoods along dirt alleys.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


Bush-Hatred: Fearful Loathing . . . (Robert J. Samuelson, December 30, 2003, Washington Post)

Genuine political hatred is usually reserved for true tyrants, whose unspeakable acts of brutality justify nothing less.

More than the language is butchered. Once disagreement turns into self-proclaimed hate, it becomes blinding. You can see only one all-encompassing truth, which is your villain's deceit, stupidity, selfishness or evil. This was true of Clinton haters, and it's increasingly true of Bush haters. A small army of pundits and talking heads has now devoted itself to one story: the sins of Bush, Cheney and their supporters. They ruined the economy with massive tax cuts and budget deficits; the Iraq war was an excuse for corporate profiteering; their arrogance alienated foreign allies.

All ambiguity vanishes. For example: The economy is recovering, stimulated in part by huge budget deficits; and many traditional allies of the United States like having Bush as a political foil to excuse them from costly and unpopular commitments.

In the end, Bush hating says more about the haters than the hated -- and here, too, the parallels with Clinton are strong. This hatred embodies much fear and insecurity. The anti-Clinton fanatics hated him not simply because he occasionally lied, committed adultery or exhibited an air of intellectual superiority. What really infuriated them was that he kept succeeding -- he won reelection, his approval ratings stayed high -- and that diminished their standing. If Clinton was approved, they must be disapproved.

Ditto for Bush. If he succeeded less, he'd be hated less.

All well and good, except for this part: "anti-Clinton fanatics hated him not simply because he occasionally lied, committed adultery or exhibited an air of intellectual superiority". Let's concede that folk can justify their hatred of Bush on the basis of his displayed intellectual inferiority; where though are the public immoral acts to match Clinton's?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 PM


Iran thanks America for earthquake relief; Powell sees `new attitude' in Tehran (MATTHEW PENNINGTON, December 30, 2003, Associated Press)

As survivors of Iran's earthquake scavenged for clothes and jostled for handouts Tuesday, President Mohammad Khatami thanked the United States for aid but played down talk that Washington's contribution would thaw frosty relations.

Khatami's remarks came after Secretary of State Colin Powell said he sees a "new attitude" in Iran that could lead to a restoration of ties between the United States and the Islamic republic that President Bush has called part of an "axis of evil."

"There are things happening, and therefore we should keep open the possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the future," Powell was quoted as saying in Tuesday's Washington Post.

Iranian leaders have agreed to permit unannounced inspections of the country's nuclear energy program and made overtures to moderate Arab governments. They also accepted an offer of U.S. humanitarian aid after last week's devastating magnitude-6.6 earthquake. [...]

In the latest U.S. shipment, an American military plane carrying 80 personnel and medical supplies landed early Tuesday in the provincial capital of Kerman. The team reached Bam, 120 miles to the southeast, by midday.

Seven U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes have already delivered 150,000 pounds of relief supplies -- including blankets, medical supplies and water -- making the United States one of the largest international donors.

Nothing like a disaster to drive home the point that your system doesn't work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:48 PM


The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams by Lester J. Cappon (Editor)

Adams to Jefferson (Montezillo, May 12th. 1820.)

The question between spirit and matter appears to me nugatory because we have neither evidence nor idea of either. All that we certainly know is that some substance exists, which must be the cause of all the qualitys and Attributes which we perceive: Extension, Solidity, Perception, memory, and Reason, for all these are Attributes, or adjectives, and not Essences or substantives.

Sixty years ago, at College, I read Berkley, and from that time to this I have been fully persuaded that we know nothing of Essences, that some Essence does exist, which causes our minds with all their ideas, and this visible World with all its wonders. I am certain that this Cause is wise, Benevolent and powerful, beyond all conception; I cannot doubt, but what it is, I cannot conjecture.

Suppose we dwell a little on this matter. The Infinite divisibility of it had long ago been demonstrated by Mathematicians--When the Marquis De L'Hospital arose and demonstrated that there were quantities and not infinitely little, but others infinitely less than those infinitely littles, and he might have gone on, for what I know, to all Eternity demonstrating that there are quantities infinitely littles, and he might have gone on, for what I know, to all Eternity demonstrating that there are quantities infinitely less than the last infinitely littles; and the Phenomena of nature seems to coincide with De L'Hospitals demonstrations. For example, Astronomers inform us that the Star draconis is distant from the Earth 38. 000, 000. 000. 000. miles. The Light that proceeds from that Star, therefore, must fill a Sphere of 78. 000, 000, 000, 000, miles in diameter, and every part of that Sphere equal to the size of the pupil of the human Eye. Light is Matter, and every ray, every pencil of that light is made up of particles very little indeed, if not infinitely little, or infinitely less than infinitely little. If this Matter is not fine enough and subtle enough to perceive, to feel and to think, it is too subtle for any human intellect or imagination to conceive, for I defy any human mind to form any idea of anything so small. However, after all, Matter is but Matter; if it is infinitely less than infinitely little, it is incapable of memory, judgement, or feeling, or pleasure or pain, as far as I can conceive. Yet for anything I know, it may be as capable of Sensation and reflection as Spirit, for I confess I know not how Spirit can think, feel or act, any more than Matter. In truth, I cannot conceive how either can move or think, so that I must repose upon your pillow of ignorance, which I find very soft and consoleing, for it absolves my conscience from all culpability in this respect. But I insist upon it that the Saint has as good a right to groan at the Philosopher for asserting that there is nothing but matter in the Universe, As the Philosopher has to laugh at the Saint for saying that there are both Matter and Spirit, Or as the Infidel has to despise Berckley for saying that we cannot prove that there is anything in the Universe but Spirit and Idea--for this indeed is all he asserted, for he never denied the Existence of Matter. After all, I agree that both the groan and the Smile is impertinent, for neither knows what he says, or what he affirms, and I will say of both, as Turgot says of Berkley in his Article of Existence in the Encyclopedia: it is easier to despise than to answer them.


Oh delightful Ignorance! When I arrive at a certainty that I am Ignorant, and that I always must be ignorant, while I live I am happy, for I know I can no longer be responsible.

We shall meet hereafter and laugh at our present botherations. So believes your old Friend,


Jefferson to Adams (Monticello. Aug. 15. 20.)

[L]et me turn to your puzzling letter of May 12. on matter, spirit, motion, etc. It's croud of scepticisms kept me from sleep. I read it, and laid it down: read it, and laid it down, again and again: and to give rest to my mind, I was obliged to recur ultimately to my habitual anodyne, 'I feel: therefore I exist.' I feel bodies which are not myself: there are other existencies then. I call them matter. I feel them changing place. This gives me motion. Where there is an absence of matter, I call it void, or nothing, or immaterial space. On the basis of sensation, of matter and motion, we may erect the fabric of all the certainties we can have or need. I can conceive thought to be an action of a particular organisation of matter, formed for that purpose by it's creator, as well as that attraction is an action of matter, or magnetism of loadstone. When he who denies to the Creator the power of endowing matter with the mode of action called thinking shall shew how he could endow the Sun with the mode of action called attraction, which reins the planets in the tracts of their orbits, or how an absence of matter can have a will, and, by that will, put matter into motion, then the materialist may be lawfully required to explain the process by which matter exercises the faculty of thinking. When once we quit the basis of sensation, all is in the wind. To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus taught nothing of it. He told us indeed that 'God is spirit,' but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the antient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter. [...] All heresies being now done away with us, these schismatics are merely atheists, differing from the material Atheists only in their belief that 'nothing made something,' and from the material deist who believes that matter alone can operate on matter.

Rejecting all organs of information therefore but my senses, I rid myself of Pyrrhonisms with which an indulgence in speculations hyperphysical and antiphysical so uselessly occupy and disquiet the mind. A single sense may indeed be sometimes deceived, but rarely: and never all our senses together, with the faculty of reasoning. They evidence realities; and there are enough of these for the purposes of life, without plunging into the fathomless abyss of dreams and phantasms. I am satisfied, and sufficiently occupied with the things which are, without tormenting or troubling myself about those which may indeed be, but of which I have no evidence. I am sure that I really know many, many, things, and none more surely than that I love you with all my heart, and pray for the continuance of your life until you shall be tired of it yourself.


Though Adams' skepticism is quite obviously right, it is Jefferson's closing lines that are the kicker, for no man will deny that he loves and is loved and that this love is something quite real and independent of the world of mere material. That's not a reasoned argument, just an assertion (an expression of faith) but it is sufficient and just as sufficient now as it was then. And so, ultimately, we all groan with the Saint and deny materialism and rationalism in practice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:33 PM


The Top Science Stories of 2003 (Scientific American, 12/24/03)

For some, this year in science may be remembered more for its disasters than its successes. On January 16 the space shuttle Columbia launched to great fanfare, only to fail tragically on re-entry 16 days later. Then came news of the mysterious and lethal disease known as SARS, which sparked worldwide panic. And a midsummer blackout stretching from Ontario to New York served as a vivid reminder of how dependent we are on a fragile power grid.

Amid these calamities, however, a number of noteworthy achievements unfolded. China became the third nation to send people into space; paleontologists working in Ethiopia unearthed the oldest known members of our species; researchers applied virtual reality to colonoscopies and autopsies with stunning results. In addition, the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the structure of DNA and the centennial of powered flight served as springboards for reflection on the bigger picture of scientific progress.

Below, and in no particular order, are 25 of the stories that most impressed us here at Scientific Some are included on the basis of their significance, others for sheer fun. --The Editors

For straight aging men, this was the best story of all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


Abu Sayyaf gunmen captured in southern Philippines (Agence France Presse, 29 December 2003)

Two men believed to be field commanders of the Muslim Abu Sayyaf kidnap gang have been captured following military raids in the southern Philippines at the weekend.

Troops arrested Alih Malabon, also known as Abu Nidal, and Mohammad Said, alias Commander Kaiser, in operations Saturday near the southern port city of Zamboanga, the military southern command said. [...]

Malabon and Said are implicated in the murders of Americans Guillermo Sobero and Martin Burnham, two of three US hostages kidnapped by the group from a beach resort in May 2001. [...]

The gunmen earlier this warned they would launch retaliatory attacks after the military captured Galib Andang, known also as Commander Robot, one of the group's top lieutenants who engineered a daring kidnapping raid on Malaysian resorts in 2000.

Is there anywhere the terrorists aren't back on their heels?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 PM


Moral Ambiguities and the Crime Novels of P.D. James (Patricia A Ward, May 16, 1984, Christian Century)

The classic detective story cannot exist apart from the principles of the existence of good and evil and of poetic justice. The crime is usually a murder; with the discovery of the identity of the murderer, the criminal experiences a kind of Aristotelian reversal. The reader closes the book knowing that justice will be carried out. Some literary critics have trouble with the conventionality of the principle of good and evil in the detective story; its focal point has been the cleverness of the investigator of the crime, not the psychology of the characters caught up in the drama of the crime.

In an article in Crime Writers, edited by H. R. F. Keating (1978), P. D. James defended Dorothy Sayers against that charge, pointing out that Sayers had begun to include the details of ordinary life in the detective story, placing events in a real world. Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh, too, “are novelists, not merely fabricators of ingenious puzzles. Both seek, not always successfully, to reconcile the conventions of the classical detective story with the novel of social realism.’’

On more fundamental grounds. James defends the crime novel in the hands of these writers because they never trivialize crime:

"A genre which rests on the fundamental belief that willful killing is wrong and that every human being, no matter how unpleasant, inconvenient or worthless his life may be, has a right to live it to the last natural moment, needs no particular apology in an age in which gratuitous violence and arbitrary death have become common." [...]

Adam Dalgleish, the investigator in this first group of novels, is relentless, clever and intuitive, but he is no stereotype. A cool professional, he is also painfully aware of the dilemmas of his work and the fallibility of human nature. The writer of two books of poetry, he suffers because his self-knowledge permits him truly to understand the motives of the characters of each murder drama. When he questions a striking and intelligent woman about her past and her relationship with a very ordinary, but safe, friend and confidante, he is told that he could never understand. “But he did understand,” writes James. “There had been a boy in his prep school like that, so ordinary, so safe, that he was a kind of talisman against death and disaster.”

Adam is strangely detached and uncommitted. He has suffered the tragedy of the deaths of his wife and infant son. Although the threads of a romance are introduced in the early novels, Dalgleish does not remarry. In A Mind to Murder, he visits a Catholic church to light a candle on the 14th anniversary of his wife’s death, but he is not a believer. “He thought of this most private action in his detached and secretive life, not as superstition or piety, but as a habit which he could not break even if he wished.”

Dalgleish is perhaps a modern Everyman; aware of the great existential issues of life, he takes no stand on them. Although he is the son of an Anglican clergyman, he is alone and self-sufficient in a world of ambiguity and violence where love often is a possessive passion which is easily transformed into hate. In Shroud, Adam passes through the outpatient department of the hospital and is reminded of his own mortality. It is not that he fears death. “But he did grievously fear old age, mortal illness and disablement. He dreaded the loss of independence, the indignities of senility. . . . He was not arrogant enough to suppose himself secure from the lot of other men. But in the meantime, he preferred not to be reminded.”

Adam refuses to discuss the motivation to murder in terms of sin or wickedness. He agrees with Dr. Etherege in A Mind to Murder when asked about the unknown murderer: “Wicked? I’m not competent to discuss this in theological terms.” There are no clear-cut theological answers which explain the moral ambiguities of human action. James has commented:

"Dalgleish’s failing as a human being . . . is that he is very careful to avoid commitment; detecting is in a sense an ideal job for him, because although he is constantly interfering with other people, finding things out about them and coming into their lives in a very dramatic way, he must remain detached -- he’d be an unsatisfactory policeman otherwise."

The modern secular rationalist wears this inability to commit like a badge of honor, the inability to determine what is good and what evil and to acknowledge the superiority of their own civilization. Tolerance is their mantra, no matter how vile the things they're required to tolerate. A quintessential moment came last week when Dr. Dean found himself unable to judge Osama bin Laden. In effect, such people ally themselves with evil even as the congratuulate themselves on doing good.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:57 AM


THE RING AND THE RINGS: Wagner vs. Tolkien (ALEX ROSS, 2003-12-15, The New Yorker)

It is probably heretical to suggest that the “Lord of the Rings” films surpass the books on which they are based. (Correspondence on this subject may be addressed to Alex Ross, The North Pole.) The books tell a fantastic story in a familiar style, but the movies transcend the apparent limitations of their medium in the same way that Wagner transcended the limitations of opera. They revive the art of Romantic wonder; they manufacture the sublime. I hope that at least a small fraction of the huge worldwide audiences for these films will one day be tempted into Wagner’s world, which offers something else again. For Tolkien, myth is a window on an ideal world, both brighter and blacker than our own. For Wagner, it is a magnifying mirror for the average, desperate modern soul.

There is a widespread conception of Wagner’s cycle as a bombastic nationalistic saga in which blond-haired heroes triumph over dwarfish, vaguely Jewish enemies. Wagner unquestionably left himself open to this interpretation, but the “Ring” is not at all what it seems. It is in fact a prolonged assault on the very idea of worldly power, the cult of the monumental—everything that we think of as “Wagnerian.” At the beginning, the god Wotan is looking to expand his realm. But every step he takes to assert himself over the affairs of others, to make his will reality, leads inexorably to his downfall. He is marked from the outset, and the ring becomes a symbol of the corruption of his authority. Tolkien believes in the forces of good, in might for right. Wagner dismisses all that—he had an anarchist streak early on—and sees redemption only in love.

When Tolkien stole Wagner’s ring, he discarded its most significant property—that it can be forged only by one who has forsworn love. (Presumably, Sauron gave up carnal pleasures when he became an all-seeing eye at the top of a tower, but it’s hard to say for certain. Maybe he gets a kick out of the all-seeing bit.) The sexual opacity of Tolkien’s saga has often been noted, and the films faithfully replicate it. Desirable people appear onscreen, and one is given to understand that at some point they have had or will have had relations, but their entanglements are incidental to the plot. It is the little ring that brings out the lust in men and in hobbits. And what, honestly, do people want in it? Are they envious of Sauron’s bling-bling life style up on top of Barad-dûr? Tolkien mutes the romance of medieval stories and puts us out in self-abnegating, Anglican-modernist, T. S. Eliot territory. The ring is a never-ending nightmare to which people are drawn for no obvious reason. It generates lust and yet gives no satisfaction.

Wagner, by contrast, uses the ring to shine a light on various intense, confused, all-too-human relationships. Alberich forges the ring only after the Rhine maidens turn away his advances. Wotan becomes obsessed with it as a consequence of his loveless marriage; he buries himself in his work. Even after he sees through his delusions, and achieves a quasi-Buddhist acceptance of his powerlessness, he has nothing else to lean on, not even his Gandalfian staff, and wanders off into the night. Siegfried and Brünnhilde, lost in their love for each other, succeed in remaking the ring as an ordinary trinket, a symbol of their devotion. They assert their earthbound passion against Wotan’s godly world, and thus bring it down. The apparatus of myth itself—the belief in higher and lower powers, hierarchies, orders—crumbles with the walls of Valhalla. Perhaps what angered Tolkien most was that Wagner wrote a sixteen-hour mythic opera and then, at the end, blew up the foundations of myth.

Admittedly, the notion of the “Ring” cycle as some sort of sexual hothouse can seem far-fetched when the operas are seen in performance. People like to think of Wagner as a lot of large people standing around and singing loudly, and they are not mistaken. The Met lacks a Heldentenor who looks even a little bit like Viggo Mortensen. But if in the opera house you sometimes notice a discrepancy between what you hear in the libretto and music and what you see onstage it is no less distracting than what moviegoers are asked to believe on a routine basis. You don’t ask whether an elf could kill an oliphaunt, or even what an oliphaunt is; you go along with the premise. It is the same in opera. The premise is that performers trained as opera singers are going to assume action-hero roles. Squint a little and it’s all fine.

Having been introduced to the story, improbably enough, by an adaptation in the Thor comic book, I saw the Seattle Opera do the Ring Cycle in Summer 1981. At the intermissions, little old ladies would elbow their ways past you to get to the bar and then bitterly complain about how much better it was in Bayreuth in '38, when the Fuhrer attended. Meanwhile, the Seventh Day Adventists were in town for some kind of convocation, but the church had declared the imminent end of days and folks were selling their homes and giving the proceeds to the church, so protestors, afraid of recriminations, were marching with black hoods over their heads, that they might not be recognized by other church members. All in all it was like being trapped in a scene from Cabaret.

Posted by David Cohen at 11:21 AM


. . Or a Rational Response? (E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, 12/30/03)

In the 2000 election, Bush had an advantage over Al Gore because Republican rank-and-filers so hated Bill Clinton -- and so wanted to win -- that they gave Bush ample room to sound as moderate as John Breaux or Olympia Snowe. Bush's 2000 Republican National Convention hid the base behind the appealing face of inclusiveness and outreach. Gore, in the meantime, had to claw back the votes of liberals and lefties who had strayed to Ralph Nader.

This time the Democrats will have most of the election year to appeal to swing voters. Democrats are so hungry to beat Bush that they will let their nominee do just about anything, even be pragmatic and shrewd.

That's why 2004 will be very different from 2003. Democrats who loved Dean's attacks on Bush this year now want Dean to prove he can beat him. Dean's opponents know this, which is why their core case is that Dean can't win. And watch for the appearance of the new, pragmatic Howard Dean, the doctor with an unerring sense of his party's pulse.

If Howard Dean leads the Democratic Party into an electoral debacle next year, losing not only the Presidency, but widening the GOP's majorities in the House and Senate, how will Democrats respond? They will blame Dean for the mistakes he made. They will blame Terry McAuliffe for front-loading the Democratic primaries. They will say that a President enjoying an artificially goosed economy during a time of war can not be beaten. They will say that Karl Rove is an evil genius whose ruthlessness they are too pure to match. They will say that Hilary would have wiped the floor with W.

To be sure, there is a kernal of truth in all these excuses but the last. No Democrat, though, is likely to get to the heart of the problem. Except for the DLC, no Democrat is likely to say in public any of the following three things: George Bush is an accomplished politician, no idiot and dedicated to building his party like no President in modern times; the American people don't trust the Democrats on national security, and haven't for more than thirty years; and the Democrats' core policies are increasingly unpopular.

The danger, though, is that the Republicans will make the opposite error. We will congratulate President Bush on his brilliant strategy, we will note that Americans never voluntarily change Presidents mid-war, and we will -- as we always do -- claim that our ideas are much more popular than they are. We will ignore the fact that, by nominating Howard Dean, the Democrats conceded the election.

All this is preface to my confession that I do not understand what is going on in the Democratic Party. It is true that the early primary system, designed to select a nominee early who can then concentrate on the President, is backfiring, saddling the party with a nominee who might not be able to stay on top for a long slog. But that is somewhat backwards. Dr. Dean is playing by the rules the party set. As President Bush said about losing the popular vote: if the rules had been different, we would have run a different campaign. We must at least consider the possibility that the same is true of the rest of Dr. Dean's campaign; that it was consciously designed to succeed under the rules set down by the party. Dr. Dean is a loose cannon, but is he loose like a fox, convincing the base that his ad libs are a peek into his unspoken thoughts, which are as mad as they are? In the primaries, the fittest candidate survives, but the Democrats seem to have ended up with a system in which the fittest candidate for the nomination is unfit for the general election.

And yet here is EJ Dionne defending that system. Dr. Dean has consolidated the base, he has convinced them he is one of them, the base is hungry for victory and so will tolerate his coming break to the right. I think that a tiger is being ridden here, but I don't yet know whether the tiger is the base, or Dr. Dean.

MORE: Dean Labels Bush 'Reckless': Candidate Launches Broad Criticisms Tied to U.S. Security (Ceci Connolly, Washington Post, 12/30/03)

From Iraq to homeland security to public health, President Bush's "reckless" habit of placing "ideology over facts" has resulted in "the most dangerous administration in my lifetime," Democrat Howard Dean charged over the past two days.

In Midwest campaign stops and an interview, the former Vermont governor said developments both abroad and at home give credence to his assertion two weeks ago that the United States is "no safer" with the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"If we are safer, how come we lost 10 more troops and raised the safety alert" to the orange level, Dean said Sunday night in Ankeny, Iowa.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Banned Arms Flowed Into Iraq Through Syrian Firm: Files found in Baghdad describe deals violating U.N. sanctions and offer a glimpse into the murky world of weapons smuggling and the ties between 'rogue states.' (Bob Drogin and Jeffrey Fleishman, December 30, 2003, LA Times)

A Syrian trading company with close ties to the ruling regime smuggled weapons and military hardware to Saddam Hussein between 2000 and 2003, helping Syria become the main channel for illicit arms transfers to Iraq despite a stringent U.N. embargo, documents recovered in Iraq show.

The private company, called SES International Corp., is headed by a cousin of Syria's autocratic leader, Bashar Assad, and is controlled by other members of Assad's Baath Party and Alawite clan. Syria's government assisted SES in importing at least one shipment destined for Iraq's military, the Iraqi documents indicate, and Western intelligence reports allege that senior Syrian officials were involved in other illicit transfers.

Iraqi records show that SES signed more than 50 contracts to supply tens of millions of dollars' worth of arms and equipment to Iraq's military shortly before the U.S.-led invasion in March. They reveal Iraq's increasingly desperate search in at least a dozen countries for ballistic missiles, antiaircraft missiles, artillery, spare parts for MIG fighter jets and battle tanks, gunpowder, radar systems, nerve agent antidotes and more.

Pretty much all the dwarves are on record as saying sanctions should have been given more time to "work".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:02 AM

WHAT DREAMS MAY COME (via Kevin Whited):

Back Peddling (Jacob T. Levy, 12/26/03, New Republic)

It is a foul political season for those of us with sympathies for the New Democratic agenda. Joe Lieberman's campaign is showing a few signs of life, but they are far too little, far too late. Clintonistas have mostly gravitated toward Wesley Clark, still a blank slate on domestic
policy, or John Edwards, in many ways an Old Democrat who happens to have youthful good looks and enough of a drawl to remind them of the good ole days. And presumptive nominee Howard Dean is calling for a rollback of deregulation and explicitly distancing himself from Bill Clinton's Democratic Party. On the other side we face a GOP that is determined to buy its way to electoral dominance, abandoning its free-market and small-government principles in all but rhetoric. Among other things, the administration seems convinced it can impose protectionist measures while still triumphantly concluding a hemispheric free trade agreement, several smaller trade deals, and the Doha round of WTO negotiations. Unsurprisingly, it hasn't worked; the protectionist measures have torpedoed most of the trade talks.

In retrospect, it appears that the New Democratic moment was a fragile one, and its highlights more than a bit accidental. Welfare reform, NAFTA, and the WTO were all essentially products of the interaction between Clinton, a small minority of moderate Democrats, and a majority (but not an overwhelming majority) of congressional Republicans.

Pity the poor New Democrats, who have seen the failure of Clintonism lead to the co-opting of their movement by George W. Bush. Mr. Levy's post-mortem is nonsensical, as his complaint about trade amply demonstrates. Bill Clinton signed a couple treaties that Republicans initiated and passed, but couldn't get authority to negotiate further; while Mr. Bush won that authority and is cranking out new agreements quite rapidly. Meanwhile, the spirit of Welfare Reform lives on in the voucherization that lies at the heart of the No Child Left Behind Act, the MSAs in Medicare Reform and the pending privatization of Social Security.

You can hardly blame the poor guy for covering his eyes and ears and denying reality, but that's what he's doing. George W. Bush's compassionate conservatism/ownership society is the realization of Third Way dreams, but in those dreams it was Democrats not Republicans who led the way.

MSAs Unleashed! (Greg Scandlen, 01/01/2004, The Heartland Institute)

The Medicare reform measure passed by Congress in November included a Health Savings Account (HSA) provision that renames--and dramatically expands and improves--the Medical Savings Account (Archer MSA) pilot program launched in 1996.

Unlike some other provisions of the new bill, MSA expansion will go into effect quickly. On January 1, 2004, all 250 million non-elderly Americans will be permitted to choose a Health Savings Account. By contrast, MSA participation was limited to small businesses and self-employed persons, and the number of MSAs was capped at 750,000.

For America’s senior citizens, Medicare MSAs were reauthorized by the measure and appear to be permanent.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:46 AM


After Complaint, Dean Explains Himself to Party Chairman (DIANE CARDWELL and JODI WILGOREN, 12/30/03, NY Times)

Howard Dean reached out to the Democratic national chairman on Monday, a day after rebuking him as failing to stop attacks by Mr. Dean's rivals for the Democratic nomination, even as those candidates seized on the episode as grist for new criticism.

The call to Mr. McAuliffe came less than two weeks after Dr. Dean, a former Vermont governor, called former President Bill Clinton to clear the air a day after seeming to repudiate Mr. Clinton's statement that the "era of big government is over." [...]

In a conference call with reporters, Mr. Lieberman said that he was stunned that Dr. Dean wanted Mr. McAuliffe to "protect him from criticisms from other Democratic candidates" and that he had threatened "to take his supporters and go home if he doesn't get the nomination."

"What does Howard do now that he is being substantively challenged about his policies and his judgments and various misstatements and retractions?" Mr. Lieberman asked. "He goes to the Democratic Party leadership and complains we're being mean to him."

Let us pause for a moment and consider what Mr. Dean has achieved here: he actually put himself in a position where Joe Lieberman can plausibly imply he's a wimp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:38 AM


Al Qaeda Links Seen in Attacks on Top Saudi Security Officials (DOUGLAS JEHL, 12/30/03, NY Times)

Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia with links to Al Qaeda appear to be making a concerted new effort to destabilize the Saudi government by assassinating top security officials, according to senior American officials.

A series of assassination attempts in the last month, including a failed car bombing in the Saudi capital on Monday, have also included a previously undisclosed shooting in early December of Maj. Gen. Abdelaziz al-Huweirini. As the No. 3 official in Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry, he is the kingdom's top counterterrorism official. [...]

The Saudi royal government has long been the principal target of Osama bin Laden and his followers, but the extent of the Qaeda network inside the kingdom that has become evident in recent months has surprised many Saudi and American officials. American officials say analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency have warned that the crackdown might well provoke Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia to step up their attacks, an assessment that was first reported by Knight Ridder newspapers.

On Sunday, the British government warned that a terrorist attack could be in the final stages of preparation in Saudi Arabia. That warning amplified others issued this month by the United States, which on Dec. 17 authorized the voluntary withdrawal of family members and nonemergency personnel from the American Embassy and consulates in the kingdom.

That al Qaeda has decided to leap ahead to their final battle while they're losing all the intermediary ones suggests a certain desperation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:14 AM


Europe and the US: Lost in translation (Bret Stephens, Dec. 26, 2003, Jerusalem Post)

Across the Straits of Gibraltar, along every side of the Italian boot, the Middle East literally laps on Europe's shores. In America, Muslims constitute fewer than one percent of the population, according to a 2001 survey. In much of Europe, the figure exceeds 12%, and growing fast. For America, the Middle East is a place that generates oil and terrorists, both of which pose potential strategic threats. For Europe, the Middle East is a place that generates hordes of destitute people, who pose an existential one.

No wonder, then, that Europe looks with skepticism on US efforts to bring democracy to Iraq: It remembers what democracy almost brought Algeria in 1992. No wonder Europe was willing to countenance Saddam Hussein: Who else could have held that fractious country together? No wonder Europe wants to give the Palestinians a state, and quickly: What else so inflames Muslim sentiments on their own streets? No wonder no French government was ever going to go along with an unpopular American war on an Arab country: Even Bush might have thought twice if Arab-Americans were as numerous in Florida as they are in Michigan.

None of this is to say that Europeans are necessarily right on the issues. It is to say that European motives aren't so pleasingly divorced from the realities of the Hobbesian world as many observers, particularly in Israel and the US, seem to believe. The truth is that Europe generally operates according to a fairly hardboiled view of the world and its place within it; the course it has pursued for decades has been steady and consistent.

Here too we see that demographics determines policy and national futures.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:51 AM


Useful Idiot: A Review of Bruce Cumings' North Korea: Another Country (Anders Lewis, Front Page)

Cumings believes that North Korea is a misunderstood land. Its leaders are not dangerous megalomaniacs. Rather, DPRK leaders have always been pragmatic and nationalistic. During the Cold War, they avoided dependence on the Soviet Union, created a productive economy, and improved living standards. The society they created is impressive. North Korea’s streets are clean, its people humble, and crime is almost non-existent. Kim Il Sung, the father of North Korean communism, was a "a classic Robin Hood figure" who cared deeply for his people. North Korea’s current leader, Kim Jong Il, is "not the playboy, womanizer, drunk, and mentally deranged fanatic ‘Dr. Evil’ of our press." Instead he is a "homebody who doesn’t socialize much, doesn’t drink much, and works at home in his pajamas." The Dear Leader also loves to tinker with music boxes, watch James Bond movies, and play Super Mario video games. The cover of Cumings’s book neatly summarizes his views. On it is a photograph of a group of uniformed women performing some type of dramatic production for North Korean soldiers. With smoke in the background, one woman stands tall and points a gun to the horizon. Coming out of the gun is a red flag. Everyone looks on in awe. The image implies that under communism, North Korea’s future - though not without struggle - is bright.

Of course it's bright--thermonuclear explosions are brilliant.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Putin adds impetus to banking reform (Arkady Ostrovsky, December 30 2003, Financial Times)

Russia's slow-moving banking reform received a boost yesterday when President Vladimir Putin signed into law a long-awaited deposit insurance bill crucial to restoring consumer confidence in private banks.

The bill is one of the most important pieces of banking reform, which has been lagging behind Russia's economic progress since the 1998 financial crisis.

While political correctness requires us to moan about Putin's anti-democratic methods, he continues to restore the foundations of real democracy in Russia for the first time in 85 years.

December 29, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM


The Problem of Evil (Benjamin D. Wiker, December 2003, Crisis)

If God does not exist, then there is no evil in the world. We can illustrate this seeming paradox by watching how quickly the cri de coeur is undermined in the most thorough and powerful denial of design: Darwinism.

Charles Darwin himself famously complained in a letter to Asa Gray, “I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [parasitic insects] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.” Rather than such apparent natural cruelties being the result of divine intention, Darwin chose to hang them on the vagaries of natural selection. As a result, the presence of evil was rendered unproblematic because we could only expect a mixture of good and bad results from evolution’s ongoing natural lottery.

Witness, however, the jaws of defeat already devouring the victory: If the universe and all things in it are the unintended result of the purposeless ebb and flow, expansion and collapse, explosion and fusion of matter and energy, then we have lost the grounds for complaint about all the evil in the world. The dust cannot complain to the cosmic wind that blows it recklessly hither and thither.

The irony, then, is that, while the “misery in the world” helped to confirm Darwin’s belief in a world without design, consigning the cause of the misery to evolution meant, ultimately, giving up the existence of evil. As the Voltaire of contemporary Darwinism, zoologist Richard Dawkins, has rightly noted, from the perspective of evolution, while such parasitism as Darwin complained about may seem “savagely cruel,” the truth of the matter is that “nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent.” For Dawkins, this is “one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn.” In a cosmos in which a creator is absent, things are “neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

Paradoxically, then, eliminating God because of the existence of evil means embracing an impersonal, que será será cosmos utterly indifferent not only to our complaints but even to the distinction between good and evil itself.

What's strange is that so many who know in their hearts that good and evil exist insist in their heads that they do not.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 PM


Demographics Drive Likud's Shifting Agenda (ORI NIR, DECEMBER 26, 2003, The Forward)

Driving the Likud's metamorphosis from "Greater Israel" dogmatism to separation pragmatism are not constraints of geography but of demography.

"Above all hovers the cloud of demographics," Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea of Yediot Aharonot last week, explaining his dramatic decision to come out in favor of unilateral Israeli withdrawal from most of the territories. "It will come down on us not in the end of days, but in just another few years," Olmert said, explaining that if Israel does not disengage from the West Bank and Gaza, the growth rate of Arabs in the territories and inside Israel — which is much higher than that of Jews — will sooner rather than later force Israel to choose between being a Jewish state and being a democratic one.

Olmert, the most outspoken of Likud's leaders on the need for separation, said: "We are approaching a point where more and more Palestinians will say: 'There is no place for two states between the Jordan and the sea. All we want is the right to vote.' The day they get it, we will lose everything." He added: "I shudder to think that liberal Jewish organizations that shouldered the burden of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa will lead the struggle against us."

The demographic forecasts that Olmert alluded to are not new. Israeli demographers have been warning for years that by 2020, Jews will no longer be a majority of the population living in the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, which includes the state of Israel proper as well as the disputed West Bank and Gaza. Israel's political left has been using these forecasts to advocate speeding up the peace process to bring an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.

But only recently have demographics come to fully reverberate in Israel's political echo-chamber and begun pushing the political agenda of the ruling party.

Folk are found of saying that demographics just show trends, which are entirely plastic in their view and need not be forecasts of the future. But no matter how deep in the sand you bury your head, those numbers change the future, don't they?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:09 PM


Canadian conservatism needs relationship rescue: "How's that working for ya?" Canadian conservative agenda? (J.L. Jackson, December 22, 2003, Enter Stage Right)

To avoid positions on difficult subjects like traditional marriage vs. same sex marriage, limits on late term abortion vs. abortion on demand, free speech vs. hate law legislation, fighting organised crime vs. marijuana decriminalization and many other issues; has become counter-productive. The agenda only appears hidden because no one knows what it is. Well researched facts, talking points and even practised sound bites are the pragmatic solution to help all Members of Parliament deal with cultural areas that have been let slip off the Canadian conservative radar screen in the last decade or more.

Many of those who excitedly endorse the urge to merge oversimplify Canada's "Grit-lock," (characterized by the book with the same title written by Adam Daifallah and Peter White) by claiming the key to beating Paul Martin is in the number game (read Daifallah's recent National Review editorial on Canadian conservatism). Hopeful optimism holds many back from realising uniting conservatives is much more than a mathematical equation.

Conservatives in Canada don't lose because the numbers don't add up, they lose because a cohesive conservative agenda currently does not exist. It is time for a cultural conservative shift.

What Canadian conservatives need is a multi-lateral, "never give in" Canadian conservative infrastructure to thwack down the dark and dangerously deep weeds proliferating out of the swamp of Liberalism that is strangling free thought and new ideas in Canada.

Where is the Canadian conservative alternative press to boldly advance new ideas? Now that the lone Canadian conservative magazine – the Alberta Report has bit the dust where do we turn to find an empathetic and yet analytical voice? True, there are a handful of mostly economic-conservative think tanks populated by old men. And a sprinkling of other conservative non-government organisations, do in fact exist. But, considering the airplay any or all of them receive, an average Canadian (including an average conservative) would be hard pressed to name a single one. These days you can count a handful of Canadian conservative websites such as Freedom Institute and Enter Stage Right, the world of the blog and a few what might qualify as conservatish radio talk show hosts. And truth be told radio and the internet are the least expensive method of reaching the most people. It is a beginning, but deeper penetration, on a national scale, is needed to distribute the conservative message directly to the Canadian people. .

Canadian conservatives desperately need these tools to cut through the nefariously nihilistic Liberal agenda that permeates our mainstream media, our academic institutions, our Parliament, and our Liberal appointed courts. More dangerously, Liberalism has even sunk its tentacles into how Canadian conservatives think about conservatism.

At a similar time in America, we were fortunate enough to have a Russell Kirk come along and establish that there was indeed a vital and coherent conservative tradition running through our history and a Bill Buckley come along to enunciate and defend a conservative agenda. The resulting conservative revival was a decidely counter-cultural project, and proudly so. Has Canada no such men--willing, eager even, to fight the zeitgeist?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:03 PM


A Democrat breaks with tradition: Bush's strong leadership on terror war trumps my other objections. (P. Amy MacKinnon, 12/30/03, CS Monitor)

When I was growing up, the family dinner was a tradition. Above the clatter of plates, my parents discussed the world around us from their perspectives at either end of the great oak table. Together, we'd review the news of the day put into context by the events of yesterday, and always we'd think about tomorrow. Politics was a main course, and being a working-class family from Massachusetts, we were fed a healthy serving of Democratic Party principles.

I carried those beliefs along with me when I worked for Democrats in both the US House of Representatives and the Massachusetts state legislature. More important, I've always carried them with me into the voting booth.

But I expect to break with that tradition. Come November, I'll be casting my vote for George Bush.

When Mr. Bush first ran for president in 2000, I found both his politics and his campaign methods anathema to the American concept of justice. I was with the many who questioned whether his intellect, interest, and experience were commensurate with the demands of being the leader of the free world. I didn't approve of his so-called middle-class tax cuts, nor his incorporating nuclear power into his energy plan, nor his judgment in appointing an attorney general inclined to sheathe immodest works of art.

But then Sept. 11 happened. Our nation needed the strength of a leader, and I wondered where we'd find one.

It wasn't until the president stood with firefighters and rescue workers at ground zero that I began to wonder if perhaps I'd misjudged him. Previously wooden while delivering prepared speeches, the man who shouted into the bullhorn from where the World Trade Center had stood demanded to be heard. And I listened - the whole world listened.

I began to hope that our country finally had a leader who'd have the moral fortitude to say to our enemies around the world: Enough. [...]

So in November, I'll break with tradition and vote for a Republican. I'll place my trust, fears, and future in the hands of a man who has shown the world what it means to lead a nation. It's a tradition of leadership that began with Washington and Lincoln, continued with FDR, and has been resurrected by Bush.

Meanwhile, the Democrats appear poised to place their future in the hands of a man who can't even bring himself to blame Osama bin Laden for 9-11.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 PM


Serbian Radical Party surge may complicate reform (Peter Ford, 12/30/03, CS Monitor)

Serbia has stumbled again in its bumpy climb out of a bloody past, as the country's most aggressively nationalist party took the most votes in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

The Serbian Radical Party, an ultra- nationalist grouping allied with former Yugoslav president and indicted war criminal Slobodan Milosevic, won almost one-third of the votes, according to unofficial results.

Though not strong enough to form a government, the Radicals are well placed to complicate efforts by the coalition of reformist parties that is expected to try to rule, Serb analysts predict. [...]

Western governments, keen to establish a stable, democratic, and reformist government in Belgrade, are not popular in Serbia, where memories of NATO bombing during the Kosovo war are still fresh. Nor does the prospect of economic prosperity as a member of the European Union hold much appeal. [...]

"I am counting on international pressure to force (the reformists) to try something," says Mr. Stepanovic. "And I am counting on the leaders to be aware that if they fail, new elections could bring a new radicalization of the electorate."

That, say several Serb political analysts, appears to be the Radicals' plan, since they would be hard pressed to take power now and carry out campaign promises such as sharply reducing the price of bread or recovering "Serb lands" from neighboring states.

Instead they seem ready to bide their time, hoping a fragile reformist coalition would soon collapse and then call elections that would give the Radicals a chance to emerge victorious. "If that happened," says Stepanovic, "I dare not think of the consequences. Serbia would be stuck as a second-class country for the next 30 years."

Thirty years from now Old Europe will be begging the Serbs to cleanse ethnics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:25 PM


Japan set to waive most of Iraq's debt, Koizumi tells U.S. (KANAKO TAKAHARA, Dec. 30, 2003, The Japan Times)

In a significant policy shift, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signaled Monday that Japan is prepared to waive a "vast majority" of Iraq's foreign debt. [...]

Japan has been reluctant to waive the debt, most of which is in the form of trade insurance, because during a donors' meeting in October in Madrid, it pledged $5 billion in financial assistance to Iraq over a four-year period until the end of 2007.

Government sources also suggested that Iraq's ability to pay with oil revenues should be considered part of the discussion about whether its debt should be forgiven.

But Monday's decision by Koizumi reflects his readiness to keep in step with other countries. Earlier this month, major creditors nations, including Germany and France, agreed on debt reduction in what is viewed as a reconciliatory overture toward the United States following a deep rift over the invasion of Iraq.

With only a few days left in 2003, it seems safe to say that no essay will be written this year that's more wrong than this one was, although every other one they've written together since 9-11 has been equally mistaken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM


A scholarly soldier steps inside the world of Iraq's potent tribes: American officer addresses sheikhs with verses from the Koran. (Annia Ciezadlo, 12/30/03, CS Monitor)

In the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds, Lt. Col. Alan King has two secret weapons: his Palm Pilot and his Koran. [...]

Today, Iraq has more than 150 tribes and 2,000 clans, with countless sheikhs and subsheikhs, some real, some fakes. King indexes them in his Palm Pilot, neatly subdivided into tribe, subtribe, clan, sub-clan, branch, and family. Every week, he meets with a sheikh who is also a tribal scholar. In a battered binder, they're slowly amassing a guide to all of the tribes in Iraq.

His studies paid off when he met Mr. Shaalan. A Shiite sheikh from the southern town of Diwaniya, Shaalan was the perfect US ally. He fled Iraq after the 1991 uprising against Hussein and got political asylum in Britain. He had a good relationship with the US State Department. But when he offered his counsel, and the loyalty of his 200,000-member tribe, American military commanders didn't take him seriously.

"I noticed something among the officers: They have this arrogance, and this arrogance really hurts them a lot," says Shaalan, who studied law and political science in Baghdad and London. "Everyone, even a small officer, thinks he's a big man. They don't come and ask for opinion or advice - they just do what they please, and this antagonizes the people."

Except King. When they met, King told Shaalan a complicated tribal tale about a tribe crossing a river many centuries ago. "I noticed that he was talking about the history of some clans," says Shaalan approvingly. "This shows that he is doing his duty."

Shaalan has wide-ranging influence, and not just in Iraq. His clan, the Khazzal, has branches in Syria, Jordan, southern Iran, Yemen, Palestine, and even Egypt. Like most tribes, its members are Sunni in some areas and Shiite in others.

Because their influence cuts across national and sectarian boundaries, the sheikhs can help find foreign fighters who are filtering into Iraq to fight Americans. King has asked them for help in finding insurgents and former Baathist bigwigs. So far, tips from sheikhs have helped King capture numbers 23, 62, 85, 91, 97, and 99 on the US military's Most Wanted list, as well as other miscellaneous evildoers.

We could use several hundred more like him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:44 PM


U.S. Soldiers Kill 3 Suspected Militants (CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, 12/29/03, AP)

American soldiers killed three suspected members of an al-Qaida linked Islamic militant group during a firefight in the northern city of Mosul, the U.S. military said Monday. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded.

The interrogation of Saddam Hussein yielded more information with the deposed leader acknowledging sending $40 billion abroad, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council said in published remarks. The Iraqi official said Saddam had provided the names of people who know where the money is.

The operation against the suspected Ansar al-Islam militants was carried out by soldiers of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division who came under small arms fire while searching homes on Sunday. The house harboring the assailants caught fire during the shootout, and Iraqi firefighters extinguished the blaze.

After the fight, U.S. troops seized two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, eight grenades and two assault rifles, the military said in a statement. The injured soldiers were in stable condition. [...]

In other developments:

- Japan pledged to forgive "the vast majority" of Iraq's nearly $8 billion debt if others do the same, a critical boost to the U.S. campaign for debt relief. China said it would consider the idea, boosting the U.S. campaign to ease Baghdad's financial burden.

Even sillier than the argument about Saddam and WMD--is there a statute of limitations or something?--is that over his link to terrorism--never mind whether he was directly linked to al Qaeda, just consider his funding of Palestinian suicide bombers and that Ansar al-Islam operated with impunity in the North of the country.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 PM


Kerry disputes Dean's resolve: Senator still No. 2 with key primary only a month away (David M. Halbfinger, December 28, 2003, New York Times)

"We need more than simple answers and the slip of the tongue," Kerry said. "Our world is complicated, and the challenges we face demand a president who knows what he's saying and knows where America needs to go."

He reminded an avid crowd in Manchester that Dean had commended the capture of Saddam Hussein one day, then on the next asserted that it did not make America any safer. "It raises serious doubts about both his realism and resolve," Kerry said.

"When he spreads unfounded rumors about the administration having prior warnings of Sept. 11 and then passes it off because someone had posted it on the Internet, it leaves Americans questioning judgment and sense of responsibility," Kerry added. [...]

"What kind of muddled thinking is it if you can't instantly say that in your heart you know Osama bin Laden is guilty, should be tried in the U.S. and given the maximum punishment?" Kerry said.

"I tell you, you don't have to listen too carefully to hear the sound of Champagne corks popping in Karl Rove's office."

You can't hear the popping over the laughter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:53 PM


Halliburton Contracts in Iraq: The Struggle to Manage Costs (JEFF GERTH and DON VAN NATTA Jr., December 29, 2003, NY Times)

The Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in southern Iraq is crucial to keeping the oil flowing from the region's petroleum-rich fields. So when American engineers found the antiquated plant barely operating earlier this year, there was no question that repairing it was important to the rebuilding of Iraq. Setting the price for the repairs was another matter.

In July, the Halliburton Company estimated that the overhaul would cost $75.7 million, according to confidential documents that the company submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers. But in early September, the Bush administration asked Congress for $125 million to do the job — a 40 percent price increase in just six weeks.

The initial price was based on "drive-by estimating," said Richard V. Dowling, a spokesman for the corps, which oversees the contract. The second was a result of a more complete assessment. "The best I can lamely fall back on is to say that estimates change," said Mr. Dowling, who is based in Baghdad. "This is not business as usual."

The rebuilding of Iraq's oil industry has been characterized in the months since by increasing costs and scant public explanation. An examination of what has grown into a multibillion-dollar contract to restore Iraq's oil infrastructure shows no evidence of profiteering by Halliburton, the Houston-based oil services company, but it does demonstrate a struggle between price controls and the uncertainties of war, with price controls frequently losing.

Imagine the disappointment of the Timesmen when even Jeff Gerth couldn't find a scandal at Halliburton.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Poland, Israel Sign Missile Deal (MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, December 29, 2003, Associated Press Writer)

Poland and Israel on Monday signed a deal worth some $350 million over the next 10 years to provide the Polish army with some 2,700 state-of-the-art Israeli anti-tank missiles.

The "Spike'' missiles, to be delivered between 2004 and 2013, will be produced under license from the state-owned Israeli Rafael arms corporation by Mesko, a Polish firm. Mesko will use components from Rafael, which will supply an initial batch of Israeli-made missiles next year.

The Spike is optically guided, can be shoulder-fired or mounted on vehicles or helicopters, and has a range of 4,000 yards, according to Rafael's Web site.

It will replace the Soviet-era missiles still in use by the Polish military.

The new missile program is part of a wider effort to bring the country's armed forces up to the standards of NATO, which Poland joined in 1999.

Monday's signing ceremony in Skarzysko Kamienna, 90 miles south of Warsaw, was attended by Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and Israeli Defense Ministry director Amos Yaron.

Israel gets it.

Posted by John Resnick at 5:34 PM


Clark's New TV Ad Features Bill Clinton(Liz Sidoti, December 29, 2003, AP)

Clark's rivals were quick to complain that he was using an image of Clinton when he did not become a registered Democrat until after he entered the race in September and when he has praised Republican presidents.

[...]Jay Carson, a Dean spokesman, said the ad "doesn't make up for a lifetime of voting Republican. We're looking forward to seeing the Nixon-Reagan-Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney ad."

Carson said Dean isn't concerned that voters will take the image of Clinton as an endorsement of Clark.

"Voters in America are very smart," he said. "They're not going to read a couple seconds of footage in an ad as anything more than a couple seconds of footage in the ad."

So, by Mr. Carson's clairvoyance, either we won't be seeing any Dean TV ads because Americans are too smart to be swayed by them? Or they'll just be aimed at the "dumb" Americans who'll read them for more than what they are? Still baffled . . . . I guess I'll be seeing the ads.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:34 PM

FOLLOW THE MONEY (via Tom Corcoran):

The Politics of Autism: Lawsuits and emotion vs. science and childhood vaccines. (Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2003)

None of this is to deny that the incidence of autism may be rising, though there is a dispute about why. The definition of the disease has broadened in recent years, encompassing even mild learning disabilities, and doctors have become better at diagnosing it. Some statistics show that as autism diagnoses rise, those for mental retardation fall--suggesting children were previously misdiagnosed. Parents are also more keen to have a proper diagnosis, because many schools now offer more extensive educational services for autism than they do for other disorders.

The good news is that research is beginning to reveal autism's causes and signs, in particular evidence of a genetic link. Studies have found that if one identical twin has autism the other has a very high chance of having severe social impairment. Scientists are already focusing on a handful of genes that may play a role.

In a important study this year, researchers found that a small head circumference at birth, followed by a sudden growth spurt of the head before the end of the first year, is a reliable early warning sign. (Brain growth that early can't be triggered by vaccines.)

Finding a genetic link would be helpful because one suspects the growing number of diagnoses (especially of the related ADHD and Asperger's syndrome) are more a social/political matter than a medical one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 AM


For a cool 8.8 trillion dollars, all Britain can be yours... (AFP, 12/29/03)

Want to buy a largish island off France? Slightly used, with annex. Rains a bit. Trains often late. Nice gardens. Food dubious, but lots of places to drink.

Yours for under five trillion pounds. Or 7.1 trillion euros. Or 8.8 trillion dollars.

If the 58,789,194 occupants ever care to sell, that is.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) whipped up a price tag for the United Kingdom -- that's Britain, comprising England, Wales, Scotland, plus Northern Ireland -- in a year-end tally of the nation's capital assets.

In other words, we could buy the second greatest nation on Earth for about 80% of one year's GDP.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Back to the drawing board? (Lexington, Dec 18th 2003, The Economist)

PERHAPS Al Gore really is cursed. Last week this column argued that his endorsement made Howard Dean look unstoppable. Then a diabolus ex machina appeared to throw a weighty obstacle in the good doctor's path. The unearthing of Saddam Hussein has not only left Dr Dean looking visibly discombobulated; it has also relaunched the search for an alternative Democrat to take on George Bush. It may be hard to overhaul the former Vermont governor so late in the day, but that has not stopped the Anyone But Dean lot marching into action again.

Saddam's discovery solidified the party establishment's swirling fears about Dr Dean's anti-war insurgency. What happens if the Baathist “dead-enders” really do come to a dead end? Or if Mr Hussein's trial fixes the spotlight on his crimes against humanity rather than those missing weapons Dr Dean bangs on about? The White House will paint Dr Dean as the man who would have left a monster in power. Many Democrats worry that this could spell doom not just in the presidential fight but also in the battles for the Senate and the House.

For one man, the resumption of the search for an ABD candidate could not have come at a better time: Dick Gephardt.

Anyone who's read What it Takes or just observed Mr. Gephardt's futile attempts to retake the House for ten years, will find the notion of him as Democratic Party savior mind-boggling.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:39 AM


The internet in a cup: Coffee fuelled the information exchanges of the 17th and 18th centuries (The Economist, Dec 18th 2003)

WHERE do you go when you want to know the latest business news, follow commodity prices, keep up with political gossip, find out what others think of a new book, or stay abreast of the latest scientific and technological developments? Today, the answer is obvious: you log on to the internet. Three centuries ago, the answer was just as easy: you went to a coffee-house. There, for the price of a cup of coffee, you could read the latest pamphlets, catch up on news and gossip, attend scientific lectures, strike business deals, or chat with like-minded people about literature or politics.

The coffee-houses that sprang up across Europe, starting around 1650, functioned as information exchanges for writers, politicians, businessmen and scientists. Like today's websites, weblogs and discussion boards, coffee-houses were lively and often unreliable sources of information that typically specialised in a particular topic or political viewpoint. They were outlets for a stream of newsletters, pamphlets, advertising free-sheets and broadsides. Depending on the interests of their customers, some coffee-houses displayed commodity prices, share prices and shipping lists, whereas others provided foreign newsletters filled with coffee-house gossip from abroad.

Rumours, news and gossip were also carried between coffee-houses by their patrons, and sometimes runners would flit from one coffee-house to another within a particular city to report major events such as the outbreak of a war or the death of a head of state. Coffee-houses were centres of scientific education, literary and philosophical speculation, commercial innovation and, sometimes, political fermentation. Collectively, Europe's interconnected web of coffee-houses formed the internet of the Enlightenment era.

For all the greater ease of access, volume of info available and self-correcting possibilities of the net, the coffee-house was superior by virtue of human contact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:32 AM


TERRORISM: The Unexpected Peace Dividend (Austin Bay, December 29, 2003, Strategy Page)

The War on Terror has had an unintended, and welcome, side effect; world peace. Since September 11, 2001, and the aggressive American operations against terrorist organizations, several long time wars have ended, or moved sharply in that direction. Many of these wars get little attention in American media, but have killed hundreds of thousands of people over the last decade. These include conflicts in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Chad, Congo, Kashmir, Israel, Kurdistan, Philippines, Burundi, Somalia and Sudan. Some of these conflicts diminished because they had been going on for a while and, as is usually the case with wars, eventually the participants are worn down and make peace. But in all these sudden outbreaks of peace there was another factor; an American crackdown on terrorist activities around the world. The rebels in most of these wars depended on money raised outside their country to keep the fighting going, and on gun runners able to get weapons in. American anti-terrorism operations, energized by the shock of the September 11, 2001 attacks, now included cooperation from many nations, especially in Europe, that had tolerated, on their territory, fund raising, recruiting and public relations efforts by various rebel groups. No more. Most of these rebel organizations had already been declared "terrorist groups" (which they were, as most rebellions use terror, the American Revolution included). Once the U.S. and other nations began to crack down on the fund raising and other activities, it became difficult to keep many wars going. [...]

All of a sudden, rebels in many conflicts around the world discovered that negotiation offered better prospects than did continued fighting. And so it came to pass that in the wake of September 11, 2001, peace broke out in many odd parts of the world. And hardly anyone noticed.

One of the most striking aspects of all this is that, while it is we who are considered ignorant of the rest of the world, anyone who understood America and its history even a little would have known that if they just didn't attack us we'd not have paid any attention to what they were doing in the Middle East. Al Qaeda's doomed its own project on 9-11, and those of many other terror regimes and groups.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:08 AM


Tough pill for the Democrats (George Will, December 28, 2003, Townhall)

Arthur Goldberg was a fine public servant -- secretary of labor, Supreme Court justice, ambassador to the United Nations -- but a dreadful candidate for governor of New York in 1970, when it was said that if he gave one more speech he would lose Canada, too. Howard Dean is becoming Goldbergean.

Regarding foreign policy, Dean recently said not only that America is no safer because Saddam is captured, but that America is ``no safer today than the day the planes struck the World Trade Center.'' Well. He says he supported the war to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan, although he thinks it made us no safer. And even though he says the war in Iraq made us no safer, he says he would ``not have hesitated'' to attack Iraq if the U.N. had given us "permission.''

Because Dean's foreign policy pronouncements have been curiouser and curiouser, his recent domestic policy speech did not get the attention it deserved for its assertion that America is boiling with "anger and despair.'' Republicans are, Dean says, trying to ``dismantle'' the welfare state -- presumably when they are not enriching Medicare's entitlement menu -- and they aim ``to end public education.''

If Mr. Will understood the achievements embodied in the major legislation that Mr. Bush has passed, he'd recognize that Mr. Dean is right on domestic policy. Eight years of Bushism will radically transform the welfare state--into an opportunity society--and voucherize public education.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 AM


THE FORMER GOVERNOR: Dean Wants Party Leader to Slow Rivals' Attacks (JODI WILGOREN, 12/29/03, NY Times)

Complaining about the torrent of attacks raining down on him from his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Howard Dean on Sunday criticized his party's national chairman, Terry McAuliffe, for not intervening to tone down the debate.

It's practically a zen koan.

Battling the Bush advantage in campaign finance (GEORGE SOROS, 12/29/03, Straits Times)

I and a number of other wealthy Americans are contributing millions of dollars to grassroots organisations engaged in the 2004 presidential election.

Here we get not only an oxymoron--a grassroots movement funded by a few billionaires--but a palindrome.

December 28, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:52 PM


US sees tide turn on Iraq insurgents: The resistance, though fractured, still tests coalition. By Dan Murphy, 12/29/03, CS Monitor)

Surveying Tikrit from their compound on a bluff high above the Tigris River, a short distance from where Saddam Hussein was captured two weeks ago, America's military commanders are convinced they've finally turned the corner against the insurgency in the former dictator's home base.

Attacks on soldiers have dropped steeply in the Tikrit area over the past month. After more than six months of intensive raids, foot patrols, and intelligence gathering, commanders believe they have tapped into the rhythm of the insurgency. "We're making steady, [unstoppable] progress,'' says Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who commands the 1st Battalion of the 22nd Infantry. [...]

[T]though attacks on coalition forces have fallen across the country, to about 15 a day from more than 30 a day in early November, Iraqis are still wary of violence. "We feel like we're in a ring of fire,'' says Abu Junaidi, a security guard at an apartment building that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade last week. "We're no closer to peace."

To be sure, the methods used in Tikrit may yield fruit in other parts of the country. In Tikrit, US forces have been able to hopscotch from one captured insurgent to the next as Hussein loyalists have cracked under interrogation, a painstaking process that led to key Hussein aides and less well-known financiers who were using local businesses around Tikrit as fronts for attacks on US forces.

Troops say Hussein's capture deprived local insurgents of their motivation. "Their sails may have been full, but with Saddam captured, the wind dropped,'' says Russell.

Of the 55 officials and Hussein aides on the original "deck of cards" most-wanted list, only 13 are still at large. On Saturday, the US announced $1 million rewards for information leading to the arrest of 12 of the remaining fugitives.

The most senior official still at large, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, has a $10 million price on his head. Mr. Duri has been described by some US officials as a key figure in the insurgency, though most Iraqis find this hard to believe. Even under Hussein, when jokes about the president were dangerous, his No. 2 was a frequent figure of fun to Iraqis. Most people here saw him as a bumbling sycophant.

But one man whose importance to the insurgency is beyond doubt was No. 4 on the list, Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, a Hussein cousin who ran the Special Security Organization, the top-tier in Hussein's sprawling security apparatus dedicated both to protecting to Baath leaders and to spying on them.

Mr. Tikriti's arrest last June was, in hindsight, the beginning of the end for the network of insurgents in and around Tikrit, says Russell. "When we captured No. 4 it gave us some key documents and information,'' he says.

As with the economy, by the moment at which Democratic criticism of the Administration became most heated, the situation had already turned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 PM


Asian forces in Iraq signal global shift (Christopher Lingle, 12/29/03, CS Monitor)

[W]hile editorial writers and politicians anguished over the Bush administration's insensitivities toward the French and the Germans, US allies in Asia were stepping up to the plate.

In particular, the democratically elected governments of both Japan and South Korea have been generally supportive of US policy in Iraq and have pledged materiel and manpower to join coalition forces. Indeed, Japan pledged active involvement in the Paris Club, the informal group of official creditors studying ways to reduce Iraq's debt, before Mr. Baker even left on his trip last week. In another sign of solidarity, Japan is likely to forgive up to two-thirds of the $4 billion Iraq owes Japan. And Tokyo has offered $5 billion for reconstruction in Iraq.

In the cases of Japan and Korea, their decisions to support US efforts in Iraq came despite the fact that several Japanese diplomats and South Korean reconstruction engineers were gunned down this fall by Iraqi guerrilla forces in separate attacks. The two countries remained firm in their commitment of support in the face of considerable pressure from protestors urging their governments to avoid further entanglement in Iraq.

From an economic standpoint, Japan contributes significantly more than either Germany or France respectively. But even when the GDP of the two European powerhouses is combined ($3.7 trillion), it is only a smidgen more than is Japan ($3.55 trillion). Adding South Korea's GDP ($931 billion) to Japan's means that together they are significantly more important as economic forces than the European counterparts.

It is also true that Japan's population (127 million) is larger than either France's (60 million) or Germany's (82 million). The combined population of Korea and Japan represents a larger mass of humanity than the total of France and Germany.

Which is a problem for the Democrats, who are an Atlanticist (Europeanized) party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:33 PM


Red Dawn’s New Day: An interview with John Milius. (Johnny Dwyer, 12/28/03, NY Press)

When I watched the film recently, it seemed like the Wolverines were sort of a mujahideen, at least in a strategic sense, the attacks on convoys–this is stuff we’re seeing now. Were you addressing the Soviets in Afghanistan?

Yeah. The movie was made because the Soviets were in Afghanistan. Actually, the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan the year before. Remember, we wouldn’t let them go to the Olympics or they withdrew from the Olympics, and that’s when the movie was made; that’s when the people at MGM decided we’re going to make this patriotic movie that’s mirroring the situation in Afghanistan, and we’ll release it during the Olympics.

And the movie was very successful. It was just roundly hated by the liberal community and critics. I was vilified and excoriated to a degree–and I was one who was used to being vilified and excoriated for my movies–but that movie really got their dander up.

I think the movie is a very complicated look at what war does to people. I don’t think any of the characters are resolved as to their role in the whole thing; it seems like a bunch of them want to be children rather than fighting.

Yeah, and you see the tremendous cost of everything. Nobody comes out of it whole or unscarred. The ones that in the end, when they get away, they’re looking down on this vast plain and say, "We’re free now." And he says, "Free to do what?"

In Iraq the tables have turned; the United States is in a situation where we’re occupying a country and we have to make ourselves open to the attacks that the Wolverines were perpetrating in Red Dawn.

I think that’s a whole other thing. We’re doing what we said we’re going to do. Bush was very clear after 9/11 about what he was going to do, and he hasn’t really deviated from that, even though people haven’t liked it or anything else. He’s been fairly resolute in saying, "You’re either for us or against us." And where we find people against us, we’re going to go get ’em and we’re not going to tolerate blowing apart our cities and killing tens of thousands of Americans. We’re not going to roll over.

It’s very interesting. Again, it’s one of these cases where, when people are not involved directly, they don’t seem to care. We have a more [divided] nation now than we did in Vietnam.

The simple fact is that while we've had little trouble pacifying the nations we've conquered, no one could pacify a resistant America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:11 PM


The T-Shirt That Launched 1,000 Quips (Dana Milbank, December 28, 2003, Washington Post)

As if things weren't going badly enough for John F. Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts has been bitten by a Psycho Chihuahua.

The attack occurred 10 days ago in Hopkinton, N.H., when Kerry went to speak to a class at Hopkinton High. This appearance resulted in a most unhelpful photo for the onetime front-runner for the Democratic nomination, snapped by Concord Monitor photo editor Dan Habib. The image is of Kerry making an earnest point to student Mark LaGuardia, who, unbeknownst to the candidate, is wearing a T-shirt that proclaims on the back: "Your mouth keeps moving but all I hear is 'BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.' "

The student told the Monitor that he did not mean to make a political statement with the shirt, which features the likeness of "Psycho Chihuahua," a talking Mexican dog whose appearance in Taco Bell commercials is the subject of recent litigation. "I completely forgot that he" -- Kerry, not the Chihuahua -- "was coming," LaGuardia, 17, told the Monitor. "I asked, 'Do I have time to ride home to change?' But I didn't."

One finds this explanation suspect; LaGuardia admitted that he is a Republican.

If you're a dwarf, even a chihuahua is an attack dog.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


Dean criticizes Cheney task force, but had own secret energy group (JOHN SOLOMON, December 28, 2003, Associated Press)

Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean has demanded release of secret deliberations of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force. But as Vermont governor, Dean had an energy task force that met in secret and angered state lawmakers.

Dean's group held one public hearing and after-the-fact volunteered the names of industry executives and liberal advocates it consulted in private, but the Vermont governor refused to open the task force's closed-door deliberations.

In 1999, Dean offered the same argument the Bush administration uses today for keeping deliberations of a policy task force secret.

"The governor needs to receive advice from time to time in closed session. As every person in government knows, sometimes you get more open discussion when it's not public," Dean was quoted as saying.

Dean's own dispute over the secrecy of a Vermont task force that devised a policy for restructuring the state's near-bankrupt electric utilities has escaped national attention, even though he has attacked a similar arrangement used by President Bush.

Even Karl "Boy Genius" Rove isn't smart enough to have designed this creature.

Dean predicts backers may stay home if he doesn't win the nomination (MIKE GLOVER, December 28, 2003, Associated Press)

Howard Dean said Sunday that the hundreds of thousands of people drawn to politics by his campaign may stay home if he doesn't win the Democratic presidential nomination, dooming the Democratic Party in the fall campaign against President Bush.

"If I don't win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they're going to go?" he said during a meeting with reporters. "I don't know where they're going to go. They're certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician."

From his lips to Gaia's ears.

Posted by David Cohen at 3:52 PM


From Patrician Roots, Dean Set Path of Prickly Independence (Rick Lyman, New York Times, 12/28/03)

The Park Avenue building where Howard Dean grew up has a neurologist's office on the ground floor and a church just behind. His mother, Andree Maitland Dean, is eager to emphasize that the family's three-bedroom apartment there is not luxurious.

"Look around," Mrs. Dean said in a recent interview, gesturing at the quarters where her boys grew up. "Howard didn't have the least bit of a glamorous upbringing."

Explaining that every time she had a baby, the dining room would serve as a bedroom for the newborn and his nurse, she concluded, "I don't think we could even keep up with the Bushes."

Like her son, Mrs. Dean chafes at the notion that the family lived the kind of privileged existence that many associate with America's current first family — despite the striking similarities between the two families that even a cursory look reveals.

George Walker Bush and Howard Brush Dean III are from opposite sides of the nation's political fault line. Yet besides energizing the left wing of his party, Dr. Dean has some Republicans worried that the characteristics he shares with President Bush could appeal to swing voters, especially when Dr. Dean's current image as a Vermont liberal is leavened with details of the fiscally conservative way he governed Vermont for 11 years. . . .

Other, deeper similarities are apparent only to those who have spent significant time with each man: temperaments prone to irritation; political skills that play better in small groups than on television; rock-solid confidence in their own decisions.

In addition, each man is seen as being his own worst enemy on the campaign trail, President Bush for mangling his English and fumbling answers, Dr. Dean for creating unnecessary crises by speaking his mind too swiftly.

Too much can be made of these similarities, of course. Certainly Dr. Dean, 55, and his family feel it is misleading to tag them as Bushlike bluebloods, despite the fact that they own a Park Avenue apartment and an East Hampton country house.

"I don't hide who I am," Dr. Dean said. "I am not in the least bit embarrassed about how I grew up. But, now, it wasn't quite as opulent as everybody might think." . . .

All told, for instance, Dr. Dean's parents have given him and his family nearly $1 million in cash gifts over the last two decades, including a single gift of $200,000 in the early 1980's. And his wife's parents gave the couple $60,000 in 1985 to help them pay $161,700 in cash for the family's house on Burlington's south side, freeing the couple from monthly mortgage payments. . . .

Mrs. Dean sees her son's unpretentiousness as something he learned at home, pointing out that her own parents taught her to treat people in an egalitarian way.

"When I was growing up," she said, "we didn't even treat the servants like servants."

This is, over all, a positive profile of Dr. Dean. You can see signs that the Times wants to do a hit piece (it's always a sign of journalistic mischief when they go interview the candidate's mother), that it planned to make Dr. Dean look pampered and spoiled and delusional, but that it just can't do it.

Once a politician's story gells for a campaign, journalists are powerless before it. Dr. Dean's story going into the primaries is set, and it is one that the Times can't help loving. He is the son of privilege, a product, like so many of the Times' beloveds, of Park Avenue, the Hamptons and prep school. He is a trust-fund baby whose inherited financial security has allowed him the freedom to despise the source of his good luck.

Thus, while elite, he is not snobby. Thus, he turns up the chance to follow his father to Wall Street. Thus, he is exposed to anti-Americanism for the first time in England and turns away from the Republican Party. Thus, his parents are mildly prejudiced, but he asks for a generic black roomate. Thus, he chooses to be a doctor to help people. Thus, he moves to bucolic Vermont and gives himself up to politics. No wonder the Times must love him. God help them, they love him so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:32 PM


Whisky odyssey: Novelist Iain Banks waxes lyrical about the appeal of following your nose and how it led to his first non-fiction book and whisky travelogue Raw Spirit: In Search Of The Perfect Dram (Graeme Virtue, 28 December 2003, Sunday Herald)

BOOZE is close to the heart of novelist Iain Banks, even when it’s not actually glugging down his throat. From his journalist anti-hero raging against the process of chill-filtering whisky in Complicity, to a sci-fi mercenary forcing up the last couple of pints as a diversionary tactic in Consider Phlebas, alcohol percolates through almost all his output, whether it’s set in space or Speyside. His latest – a non-fiction tome that filled out many a Christmas stocking this year – is brimming over with the stuff. Raw Spirit is a rambling, pleasingly unrefined whisky travelogue subtitled In Search Of The Perfect Dram, which sees Banks criss-crossing his native Scotland in various modes of transport sniffing out the best nips.

So, who better to discuss swally than a man who’s spent six months of this year sampling whisky and calling it work? That’s the plan: get him in the pub, ply him with drink and then set the world to rights. It’s perfect, apart from one detail: today, Iain Banks – famed curry-eater, petrolhead, creator of worlds and all-round grande patron – is hungover.

You can’t begrudge him. Last night was the launch party for Raw Spirit, so he took plenty of the stuff on board. And, while he’s not one of those wimps who wince at the sound of their own voice when they’ve over-indulged the night before, he politely declines a dram of his beloved Lagavulin.

Even hungover, though, he’s good company; witty and engaging, if a little preoccupied. His amiable, brushy appearance – slightly chaotic hair, tamed beard, understatedly stylish specs – doesn’t appear to have changed all that much in the 20 years since the publication of his cult debut The Wasp Factory.

The whisky book, he explains, was a complete no-brainer. “When I was asked to do it, I felt like smacking my forehead in a Homer-ish kind of way, wondering why I hadn’t thought of it myself. Scotland. Driving. Whisky. All my buttons had been punched at the same time.”

Phlebas appears to be out of print, but Player of Games is available and is likewise part of Mr. Banks's terrific series about "The Culture"--fine, thoughtful science fiction.

-ESSAY: A Few Notes On The Culture (Iain M Banks)
-IAIN BANKS (1954-) (Guardian)
-Iain (M.) Banks Resource Page
-Iain M. Banks (Ex Libris)
-INTERVIEW: Getting Used To Being God: Chris Mitchell meets the relentlessly imaginative Iain (M.) Banks (Spike, September 1996)
-INTERVIEW: Iain M. Banks (Nick Gevers, Science Fiction Weekly)
-ESSAY: THE CULTURE AS AN IDEAL SOCIETY (Thomas Gramstad, June 5, 2000, Laissez Faire City Times)
-ESSAY: Analysis of The Bridge (Richard Puchalsky)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:57 PM


The Final Freedom: Suicide and the New Prohibitionists (Tom Flynn, Free Inquiry)

This issue's special section on physician-assisted suicide puts me in mind of a larger issue: suicide, period. While suicide has never been exactly popular, a new assault on our right to suicide is brewing. It's something secular humanists ought to resist.

If they wanted to show us all that they are a serious resistance movement they'd take a page from the Jews atop Masada. As is, they're all talk, no action.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


The two-nation trap: A divide-and-conquer strategy may be tempting. But a Democratic presidential candidate must speak to all of the people. (Alan Wolfe, 12/28/2003, Boston Globe)

FACING A BITTERLY DIVIDED country, the Republican candidate decided that the only way to win was to secure his base. The math, he knew, worked in his favor. The opposition was divided, and the presence of more than two candidates in the race meant he could still be elected even if he won a minority of the popular vote. By capturing all of the states in the region where he had the most support, moreover, he would win in the electoral college - no matter how much he ignored the region where he was most disliked. Victory achieved in this fashion would no doubt make governing difficult, since the losers would view him as illegitimate and would resist his policies. But victory was the first priority; without it, none of his ambitious plans for the country could take effect.

The scenario, as any historian of 19th-century America will immediately recognize, is the one that resulted in the election of Abraham Lincoln. America was so bitterly divided in 1860 that none of the four candidates who ran for president that year could speak for the country as a whole. The only alternative was to unify one particular region and hope for the best. Lincoln did precisely that, winning every Northern state except New Jersey (which was divided between him and Stephen A. Douglas) and losing every Southern and border state. He obtained less than 40 percent of the popular vote. And even though Lincoln won a significant electoral college majority, his victory failed to stop the onset of the Civil War.

Given the political realities of the 19th century, Lincoln had no choice but to follow a ''two nation'' political strategy. This is no longer the case. Throughout much of the 20th century, protecting Americans against economic depression and securing our way of life against totalitarianism encouraged politicians to follow a ''one nation'' ideal and insist on what we all had in common. FDR might have railed against businessmen for their undue influence, but the New Deal was broadly supported by Northeastern liberals, Midwestern union members, and others, and it dispensed its largesse to the South and the West. Military mobilization in both World War II and the Cold War drafted young people from all over the country, spurred industrial production across the heartland, and brought new generations of Southern military officers to prominence.

Because policies became national in scope during the 20th century, so did politics. Whatever differences existed over race or economic regulation, both parties tried to build inclusive coalitions. Democrats combined in one party urban African Americans and Southern segregationists. Republicans appealed to the upwardly mobile in the Northeastern suburbs as well as the newly rich in the Southwest. There were exceptions to this search for inclusion, but even they proved the rule. When Senator Joseph McCarthy accused others of being ''un-American,'' his divide-and-rule tactics were - eventually - brought to an end by a bipartisan establishment that valued moderation over extremism.

The New Deal and the Cold War are, as they say, history, and because they are, there is much talk of how we are once again becoming two nations divided by race, region, ideology, culture, and religion. Such claims are often exaggerated. While Americans may have real differences on subjects like gay marriage, stem cells, and the war in Iraq, none of our divisions come close to those that faced Lincoln - or, for that matter, Lyndon Johnson or Richard Nixon. There is no compelling reason for politicians to repudiate the one-nation politics of the 20th century in favor of the two-nation strategies of the 19th. Yet that is exactly what is happening. We are having Civil War politics without having a civil war.

It's always strange when someone sets up an analogy themself and then argues against it. You'd think the obvious point is that when no great moral issues divide the country it is possible to unify across regions, cohorts, etc., but that when moral issues are at stake there are definite geographic, socio-economic, etc., divides that can't be papered over. On a variety of issues like abortion, homosexuality, evolution and prayer in schools, and the like, a majority of Americans, especially those in the Red states are diametrically opposed to the progressive ideology of the coastal elites (Blue Staters in NY, LA, Boston, Washington, etc.). This doesn't necessarily mean civil war is coming, but you do have to wonder if the majority won't eventually tire of having the nation's morality debased by the minority and force a retrenchment by any means necessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:30 AM


Where U.S. Translates as Freedom (THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, 12/28/03, NY Times)

I found the cure.

I found the cure to anti-Americanism: Come to Poland.

After two years of traveling almost exclusively to Western Europe and the Middle East, Poland feels like a geopolitical spa. I visited here for just three days and got two years of anti-American bruises massaged out of me. Get this: people here actually tell you they like America — without whispering. What has gotten into these people? Have all their subscriptions to Le Monde Diplomatique expired? Haven't they gotten the word from Berlin and Paris? No, they haven't. In fact, Poland is the antidote to European anti-Americanism. Poland is to France what Advil is to a pain in the neck. Or as Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins foreign affairs specialist, remarked after visiting Poland: "Poland is the most pro-American country in the world — including the United States."

What's this all about? It starts with history and geography. There's nothing like living between Germany and Russia — which at different times have trampled Poland off the map — to make Poles the biggest advocates of a permanent U.S. military presence in Europe. Said Ewa Swiderska, 25, a Warsaw University student: "We are the small kid in school who is really happy to have the big guy be his friend — it's a nice feeling."

Even the nicest big kids though have a tendency to blow off the little kids when they're inconvenient. So we should formalize the Polish alliance with a bilateral trade agreement and defense pact.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 AM


Saddam’s captured, Gaddafi’s given up … so why are we still on orange alert?: The war on terror changed last week, and things finally looked set to improve. But then alerts were issued, flights cancelled and it was back to business as usual. What now? (Trevor Royle, 12/28/03, Sunday Herald)

The rehabilitation of Libya has been a marked success and a sign that the war against terrorism will be fought not just with precision weapons but also with diplomacy and economic muscle. Iraq was bombed into submission and its leader Saddam Hussein deposed. Libya escaped that fate, as did Gaddafi, who will stay in power as long as he keeps on the right side of the US. Ahead lies a campaign to deal with the other countries who top the State Department’s list of potential enemies – Iran, Syria and North Korea. Other lesser rogue states also require attention, notably Sudan and Cuba, and there is pressure to deal with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but these are the big three as far as those leading the war against terrorism are concerned.

North Korea poses the clearest threat. Not only is the country unstable and economically bankrupt but its leader Kim Jong-il has gone out of his way to defy the world over the production of nuclear weapons. If the US had not been distracted by the need to deal with Iraq first there is little doubt Kim would have been put at the top of the list. Not only was he was in the process of developing nuclear weapons but his belligerent stance meant the Korean peninsula was always on the brink of war. On the diplomatic front he was usually one step ahead of Washington’s attempts to bring him to heel during the run-up to the war in Iraq when US attention was diverted. First he insisted on bilateral talks with the US, then he insisted these should take place in China, a demand to which the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, was forced to concede.

However, in the wake of the Libyan deal the US is keen to re-engage with North Korea and force it back to the negotiating table to begin the process of decommissioning its potential for making nuclear weapons. A military attack remains a possibility. The Pentagon has drawn up plans for a precision strike on the suspected nuclear facility at Pyongyang, similar to Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s Osirak plant in 1981, but that could prompt Kim into attacking his southern neighbour and starting a regional war. The knowledge that North Korea already has a nuclear weapon has also concentrated minds in Washington.

According to the Sunday Herald’s diplomatic source, this is what makes Kim different from Saddam – he actually has weapons of mass destruction and would be prepared to use them. “By the end of the decade, North Korea will have developed a ballistic missile capable of hitting California. If they are armed with nuclear weapons the threat is obvious and no President could tolerate such a situation. Kim has every reason to spin out the negotiations and to fight hard for concessions.”

Bombing the facilities would set an example and establish the principle that we will not tolerate nuclear and missile programs in unfriendly states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:07 AM


'I couldn't have looked my friends in the face if I had opposed the war': She's the firebrand left-wing MP who stunned the Commons into silence when she backed Tony Blair over Iraq. Many said she saved the Prime Minister's skin. After a momentous year, Ann Clwyd talks to Kamal Ahmed (Kamal Ahmed, December 28, 2003, The Observer)

Earlier this year Clwyd was sitting in her office in one of the more obscure corridors of the House of Commons when she received an email with a Pentagon address on it. Opening it up, she saw at the bottom that it was from Paul Wolfowitz, the American Deputy Defence Secretary, leading Republican, neo-conservative and backer of the American 'new world order', including the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.

Now, any self-respecting left-wing Labour MP - as Clwyd is - might be expected to tut a little, maybe point out to one of her staff that she had received something 'from that warmonger Wolfowitz' and consign it to the trash icon on her desktop.

Not Clwyd. Indeed, she agreed with most of what Wolfowitz was saying on the issue. 'I wrote this piece about these plastic shredders, and the disgusting barbarity of Saddam's regime,' Clwyd said. 'They were used as an instrument of torture. If you were put in head first you died quickly, if you were put in feet first you died more slowly. 'One of the emails I got after that piece, and I got a lot, was from Wolfowitz. It said that he totally agreed with my reasons for supporting the war.'

In May, following an invitation from Wolfowitz, the two met in the Pentagon.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, and as far as many in the anti-war coalition are concerned the man most to blame for events in Iraq, put his head around the door. 'You're the man with the brains,' he said cheerily, gesturing to his deputy. 'I'm just the office boy.'

For Clwyd, it completed a journey. The woman who had once demonstrated with the women of Greenham Common to remove American bases from British soil was breaking bread with someone many of her colleagues consider to be the enemy. 'It was too good an opportunity to miss,' she said. 'He was a very charming man, an intellectual. We joked, and I told him I dreaded to think what my colleagues would think, me sitting here speaking to a neo-conservative in the Pentagon. For me, it was bizarre, talking to someone who had the reputation of Wolfowitz.'

Wow! The necons got to her too?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


-For 2004, Bush Has Strength in the White Male Numbers: His wide advantage in that right-leaning group may trump Democrats' edge elsewhere. (Ronald Brownstein, December 27, 2003, LA Times)

White men compose just under 40% of the electorate, with white women just over 40%, and minorities composing the rest.

White men have given Democrats problems in presidential elections for decades. Since the 1970s, Democrats have won when they keep the Republican advantage within sight and lose when they can't.

"It's a damage minimization strategy," Teixeira said. "If it's too much of a landslide with white men, it just creates a hole you have to dig out of."

But just reaching that minimal standard of support hasn't been easy for Democratic nominees. Republican incumbents Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 carried white men by 35 percentage points en route to landslide reelections, according to network exit polls.

In 1988, George H.W. Bush beat Democrat Michael S. Dukakis by 27 percentage points among white men, the same advantage Reagan enjoyed over Jimmy Carter in 1980.

During the 1990s, Bill Clinton significantly reduced those margins, losing white men by just 3 percentage points in 1992 and 11 points in 1996, according to exit polls. But Clinton didn't win a much higher percentage of the white male vote than Carter, Mondale and Dukakis did; the GOP margins fell in the 1990s because independent candidate Ross Perot siphoned away so many white men from Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996.

With Perot off the ballot in 2000, the Republican advantage among white men ballooned again, as Bush carried them by 24 percentage points over Al Gore. That margin was just small enough to allow Gore to narrowly edge Bush in the popular vote by running strongly with other groups.

But now leading strategists in both parties say Bush has the potential to run even better with white men in 2004 — which could create a deficit too great for Democrats to overcome.

"I don't know if it can get back to the [Reagan] level, but he does have the potential of widening the margin from 2000," said Matthew Dowd, the polling director for Bush's campaign.

Stanley B. Greenberg, the pollster for Gore in 2000 and Clinton in 1992, agreed. "Younger, married white men are disastrously, overwhelmingly Republican," he said. "They are trending more Republican over time. Everything about George Bush speaks to them."

Recent polls underscore the challenge for Democrats with white men. In an ABC/Washington Post survey released last week, white men preferred Bush over an unnamed Democrat in 2004 by 62% to 29%, a head-turning 33-point margin; by contrast, white women gave Bush just a 10-point lead.

"just a 10-point lead"?

Posted by Peter Burnet at 6:42 AM


A Young German’s Broadside. He questions pensions and becomes a celebrity (Mark Landler, International Herald Tribune, 27/12/03)

Five months after he heaved a big rock into the murky water of German politics, Philipp Missfelder still professes not to understand why it set off such waves of protest. "I didn't say anything racist. I didn't say anything unfriendly to people from other countries," said Missfelder, a husky 24-year-old in a V-neck sweater who looks like anything but a rock-thrower. "I was only talking about things that are important to people in my generation."

What Missfelder said, in an interview published in the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel, was that old people were soaking up Germany's financial resources with lavish pensions and gold-plated health care plans. Such largess, he said, came at the expense of young Germans, who he warned would be strangled by the burden of supporting an ever-larger population of retirees. The other day, as he sat in a café near the Technical University of Berlin, where he studies history, Missfelder described what he regards as the systemic abuse of Germany's welfare system.

"In every town in Germany, old people go to the doctor to socialize or talk about the weather," he said. "If every appointment cost E10, they would say, 'It's not so bad, I'll stay home.'"

In Tagesspiegel he was even less polite, complaining about 85-year-olds getting costly hip replacements. Why, he mused, couldn't they just make do with crutches, like in old times? For a well-spoken, disciplined college student who runs the youth organization of Germany's largest conservative party, the Christian Democrats, it was a conspicuously intemperate debut. Elderly voters are a powerful force here, not to mention the bedrock constituency of his party.

Herr Missfelder has joined the issue with the compassion and sensitivity young Germans have always been famous for. An aging population expecting early retirement and generous state pensions and healthcare will eventually be insupportable. The cause of euthanasia appears to have a bright future in Germany.

But this story also shows how stark and selfish individualism and free-enterprise can be when they are not buttressed by commitments to faith and family. One might well forgive those elderly Germans who spit scorn on their grandchildren for not raising large enough families to support them. More delightful is the thought that one day the German government will tell Herr Missfelder it intends to implement all his suggestions gratefully and that his grandparents will be moving in with him shortly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:33 AM


Tragedy overwhelms quake city (Jason Burke, Kamal Ahmed and Neda Ghasemi in Tehran, December 28, 2003, The Observer)

'The disaster is far too huge for us to meet all of our needs,' said Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, declaring three days of mourning. He has opened Iranian airspace to all planes carrying aid or relief workers and waived visas for foreign relief personnel.

But the death toll keeps rising. The leader of one local relief team, Ahmad Najafi, said that 200 bodies had been pulled from the rubble in one street in just an hour.

The Iranian regime is already being criticised for the chaotic rescue effort. Until the arrival of Western teams, the authorities had only a few drug-sniffing dogs to look for survivors. One local man interrupted Interior Minister Mousavi Lari Abdolvahed as he spoke to reporters in Bam yesterday. 'My father is under the rubble,' the man said. 'I've been asking for help since yesterday, but nobody has come to help me. Please help me. I want my father alive.'

Lari stressed to reporters that the death toll issued by his ministry was 'only an estimate'. 'There is not a standing building in the city. Bam has turned into a wasteland,' he said.

With hospitals destroyed, military transport planes have had to evacuate many wounded for treatment to the provincial capital, Kerman, and even to the Iranian capital, Tehran, 630 miles to the northwest, where stunned families, still covered in mud, wander the airport.

Tempers flare in battered backstreets of Bam (AFP, December 27, 2003)
In Bam, the grim priority now appears to be finding dead bodies, loading them into pick-up trucks and driving them out of town for quick burial.

But the Iranian government's refusal to publicly acknowledge any need for foreign search teams has also fueled anger in a region that is one of Iran's poorest.

The leagues of volunteers also appear to be lacking in organisation. After all, organising the work of various government ministries, the army, air force, Revolutionary Guards and Basij volunteer militia is no simple task, even if the Islamic republic has been working on it for near-on 25 years.

That was highlighted earlier Saturday, when Iranian Health Minister Massoud Pezeshkian called on international donors not to send volunteer workers, but send drugs and equipment.

"We don't really need them (foreign volunteers). We have a lot of volunteers coming in from all over Iran, in fact so many that we are having difficulties coordinating," Pezeshkian said.

Hassan Salehi, a 32-year-old computer engineer who sped down from Tehran in his beat-up old car, wondered what was holding the aid effort up.

"The Red Crescent are slow. Even I beat them in getting here," he complained, saying relief teams only began to appear on the streets around where his parents and sister lived hours after he completed his 15-hour drive from the capital to the other end of the country.

We should obviously be helping as much as we can just because it's the right thing to do, but also because we recall that the failure of the Somoza regime to respond effectively and responsibly to Nicaragua's big quake in 1972 helped spell the doom of the regime. There is an opportunity for future freedom in Iran even amidst this horrific rubble.

US sending medicine, food to Iran: Boston team to join relief bid as toll hits 20,000 (Charlie Savage, 12/28/2003, Boston Globe)

The United States will send search-and-rescue teams, food, and medical supplies to its longtime adversary Iran, the White House announced yesterday, as the death toll climbed to at least 20,000 from Friday's massive earthquake that devastated the ancient city of Bam.

More than 200 civilian disaster response specialists are being flown into Iran, while the US military is delivering more than 150,000 pounds of medical supplies from bases in Kuwait. The assistance could be on the ground as early as midafternoon today. [...]

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage personally offered the aid along with US condolences on Friday night to Iran's UN ambassador, Mohammad Zarif. The call was a rare moment of direct official contact with the Iranian government, with which the United States had not had diplomatic relations since revolutionaries overthrew the US-backed Shah in 1979 and took American Embassy workers hostage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


As Pre-Primary Season Closes, Questions Cling to Dean's Gains (Dan Balz, December 28, 2003, Washington Post)

[T]here is general agreement that the party establishment is not capable of mounting a stop-Dean movement. "What establishment?" one Democrat said sarcastically. "The only thing that could have an impact is if Bill Clinton came out and said, I don't appreciate a repudiation of my administration. The only people capable of doing it [a stop-Dean movement] are the unions, and they're pretty well split." [...]

"Democratic Party activists, whatever their ideological perspective, have a view that their leaders have been completely ineffective in combating President Bush," one Democratic strategist said. "The leaders have a view that either they're doing the best they can or that more clever centrism is better or they need someone with a military background at the head of the party."

Al From, who heads the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, credited Dean with running a successful campaign but questioned whether he can effectively lead the party as nominee. "We need to lay out a reason to replace Bush," From said. "We can't just depend on the fact that the activists in our party are angry at him and like Dean. There aren't enough of them."

But another centrist leader, Simon B. Rosenberg of the New Democratic Network, said party leaders here should recognize what Dean has done. "The Washington party is a failed party, and Dean's criticism of the Washington party is incredibly accurate," he said. "We're completely out of power and heading for permanent minority status if we don't start modernizing the party. Dean has been a modernizer and innovator, and should be embraced for it. Instead he's being attacked for doing it differently."

Those fault lines will animate the coming 60-day battle for the nomination. With the race as it now stands, the issue facing Democrats is whether anybody can stop Dean but Dean himself.

All those vulnerable congressional Democrats should have a fun time with their own nominee attacking them.

-Dean denounces Democratic Leadership Council, stuns centrists (RONALD BROWNSTEIN, 12/25/03, Los Angeles Times)

During a campaign stop Tuesday in Seabrook, N.H., where he received an endorsement from the 1,000-member New Hampshire chapter of United Auto Workers, Dean said he stood by his remarks about the DLC. On Monday, he called the DLC, "sort of the Republican part of the Democratic Party ... the Republican wing of the Democratic Party." [...]

Tension between Dean and the DLC first seriously emerged early this year when Dean began identifying himself as the representative of "the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party."

That was a designation liberals sometimes used during the Clinton years to distinguish themselves from centrist "New Democrats" who pushed ideas such as welfare reform, balancing the federal budget, and completing the North American Free Trade Agreement -- all ideas staunchly opposed on the left.

Dean's declaration Monday was more than rhetorical positioning; it also reflected his political strategy.

All year he has argued that Democrats' first priority should be to mobilize their core supporters, such as women's groups, blacks, union members and gay rights activists.

That directly inverts the argument from Clinton, first advanced by the DLC in a 1989 study titled The Politics of Evasion, that Democrats could only win the White House by reconnecting with moderate swing voters because their base no longer constituted a national majority on its own.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:01 AM


For Your Information . . . (TOM ZELLER, December 28, 2003, NY Times Magazine)

Of the many cultural by-products borne of the Internet, perhaps the most ubiquitous (after spam) is the forwarded e-mail. Quirky Web sites, tiresome chain mail, odd photos - all of these seem to fulfill the near reflexive need among late-night Web surfers and idle office desk jockeys to say, with a click or two, "get a load of this." keeps track of these urges when they are inspired by the newspaper's online offerings. As with many news sites, each story offers users the option to "E-mail This Article," and the top 25 most e-mailed articles are tracked and listed on the site every day. [...]

In the slide shows at right is a look at some of the top 100 most e-mailed stories of 2003 from The New York Times on the Web.

Kind of interesting--unfortunately, the frequency with which he's forwarded explains why they let Krugman keep it up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:13 AM


Presidential Campaign Was Cited During Talks to Seal Dean's Papers as Governor (RICK LYMAN, 12/27/03, NY Times)

Last January, as his presidential campaign was stirring to life, Howard Dean was asked why he had decided to keep nearly half of his records as governor of Vermont under seal until 2013.

"Well, there are future political considerations," Dr. Dean told statehouse reporters. "We didn't want anything embarrassing appearing in the papers at a critical time in any future endeavor."

Dr. Dean now says he was joking about why he invoked executive privilege to keep 145 boxes of his official records — about 47 percent of them — under a 10-year seal. But there is ample evidence in the letters and e-mail correspondence between the former Vermont governor's counsel, David M. Rocchio, and the state archivist, D. Gregory Sanford, that a possible presidential race was indeed part of the discussions concerning how long to keep the records private.

Given the Doctor's willingness to repeat many of his own foolish statements, like that we're no safer with Ba'athism gone from Iraq, one can only wonder at what kinds of prior statements and writings even he thinks would be too embarrassing to risk revealing to the American people.

December 27, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:11 PM


What causes cancer? (Or, Merry Christmas!) Part I (Charles Murtaugh, 12/23/03)

[W]here do mutations come from, and what do they have to do with chemicals? This question was recently raised by (not-at-all-unbalanced) MIT professor William Thilly, in a Nature Genetics article entitled, "Have environmental mutagens caused oncomutations in people?". In this magisterial review, which I would rank as my favorite scientific paper of the year, Thilly surveys decades of work by his lab and others on the mechanisms of gene mutation, and points out a critical missing link in the literature:

"Cigarette use and sun exposure serve as clear examples [of environmental/chemical agents causing] lung and skin cancers. It was reasonable, therefore, to seriously consider the hypothesis that known and unknown environmental factors were acting as mutagens in the tissues at risk. A wide variety of nonhuman experimental systems, including human cells, were used to show that thousands of chemicals and forms of radiation had mutagenic activity. These mutagens were thus designated 'potential carcinogens'. But whether any of these potential carcinogens, save sunlight, had actually caused genetic change in humans was not experimentally tested.

. . [much literature review omitted]

The various observations cited above are consistent with the hypothesis that ordinary environmental mutagens contribute to point mutagenesis in humans to a negligible extent. Therefore, such mutagens (save for sunlight), acting as mutagens, may have little, if any, effect on human cancer risk."

For be it from us to drag a Harvard doctoral candidate like Brother Murtaugh down to our level, but does not the near immutability of the genome, at least as a function of environmental factors, have obvious implications for Darwinists?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:00 PM


JOHNNY PAYCHECK B. 1941: Too Bad to Be Forgotten (ANN PATCHETT, 12/28/03, NY Times Magazine)

It has been said that Mother Teresa's greatest act of humility was to die in the wake of grief that belonged to Princess Diana, and so slipped away with relatively little fanfare. Anyone who hoped for recognition in death in Nashville should know that 2003 was the sole property of Johnny Cash. Even though Johnny Paycheck beat the Man in Black off the stage by half a year, his passing, like so much of his music, will most likely be remembered as a footnote to another, greater singer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:58 PM


JOSEPH COORS SR., B. 1917: Potent Brew (JAMES TRAUB, 12/28/03, NY Times Magazine)

Coors was born into a Colorado brewing family that shared the don't-tread-on-me philosophy common in the West, especially among family-owned businesses. Coors himself was just a garden-variety conservative until 1953, when he happened across the book that converted so many merely disgruntled right-wingers into active members of a movement: Russell Kirk's ''Conservative Mind.'' In the 1960's, he became an important supporter of Ronald Reagan and served a cantankerous term as regent of the University of Colorado, then boiling with student agitation. He came to the attention of Paul Weyrich, another movement figure who dreamed of establishing a policy institute that could germinate conservative thought as groups like Brookings had long done for liberals. In 1973, Coors gave the organization $250,000, plus another $300,000 for a building. And so the Heritage Foundation was born.

In 1977, he financed another institution, the Mountain States Legal Foundation. When Reagan was elected president, Coors was identified as a member of his kitchen cabinet; Mountain States' president, James Watt, became secretary of the interior and set off on what environmentalists deemed a reign of terror. As if all that weren't enough, Coors and his brother Bill waged a bitter struggle with workers that ended with the ousting of the company's unions. Joseph Coors was an easy guy to boycott. Bill once described his brother's politics to The Rocky Mountain News, not admiringly, as ''far right to Attila the Hun.''

It is time, however, to give the Hun his due.

Who even knew it was possible to say that in a not admiring way?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


What Made Sammy Run? (GARY GIDDINS, December 28, 2003, NY Times Book Review)

Is it possible for an entertainer who achieved the pinnacles of success -- wealth, fame, power, a critical and collegial regard verging on awe, at least during the long climb to the top -- to be remembered primarily as a cultural martyr? In the case of Sammy Davis Jr., a qualified ''yes'' seems reasonable. Unlike Frank Sinatra, whose music will ultimately obliterate the man's boorish qualities, Davis has virtually disappeared from the cultural landscape while his immense, long-lived celebrity clouds the minds of those who endured it. To many of us born in the 1940's and 1950's, he has become a joke: a bejeweled, Nehru jacket-wearing, women-and-stimulants-pursuing, faux-hipster caricature who cackled at racially stupid jokes that were designed to show how progressively good-natured the tellers and their victim-buddy were.

Yet Davis had once been renowned as a performer of spectacular gifts who could do everything. Sadly, ''everything'' usually proves to be the most evanescent of talents. His early appearances were virtuoso displays of dancing, singing and mimicry that defied indifference; he would stop at nothing until he brought the entire audience into his fold. There weren't many holdouts in the 1950's, beyond the kind of bigots who barraged Eddie Cantor with hate mail because he had mopped Davis's brow after presenting him on the ''Colgate Comedy Hour'' in 1952. Sammy was the dazzling kid (actually 26 years old) in a troupe called the Will Mastin Trio featuring Sammy Davis Jr. The unbilled partner was Sammy Davis Sr., his father. Mastin, 72 when he made his national debut, was said to be an uncle, though he was unrelated.

It was a strange, unforgettable act. The two older men, natty and understated, offered precision soft-shoe with some winging and spins thrown in, before stepping back to give the spotlight to the prodigal man-boy whose energy and autonomy made you wonder why the others were there at all. Davis had performed with them since the age of 4 -- he never attended school, never knew any other life, never bonded with his mother, who had once appeared in a Mastin revue. Now he was carrying his mentors.

Yet when he died in 1990, the man who had been so generous, so profligate with his talent was largely derided or ignored. Where had he gone wrong?

Here's our interview with Davis's friend, biographer, and ghost writer, Burt Boyar.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:02 AM


Mr. Hitchens's Revisionism of His Own History (Sean Wilentz, History News Network)

In his interview with the right-wing web magazine, re-posted on HNN, Christopher Hitchens claims that his moment of truth about Islamic fascism arrived in 1989, and that by September 11, 2001, he had fully come to "[t]he realization that American power could and should be used for the defense of pluralism." He then says that after seeing the World Trade Center atrocities on television, he was exhilarated: "Here we are then, I was thinking, in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose."

Mr. Hitchens was thinking nothing of the sort, and he knows it. He was thinking, in standard, knee-jerk anti-American terms, that America was largely to blame for bringing on the attacks. And he said so, in a particularly sickening column for the Guardian published on September 13, 2001:

With cellphones still bleeping piteously from under the rubble, it probably seems indecent to most people to ask if the United States has ever done anything to attract such awful hatred. Indeed, the very thought, for the present, is taboo. Some senators and congressmen have spoken of the loathing felt by certain unnamed and sinister elements for the freedom and prosperity of America, as if it were only natural that such a happy and successful country should inspire envy and jealousy. But that is the limit of permissible thought.

In general, the motive and character of the perpetrators is shrouded by rhetoric about their "cowardice" and their "shadowy" character, almost as if they had not volunteered to immolate themselves in the broadest of broad blue daylight. On the campus where I am writing this, there are a few students and professors willing to venture points about United States foreign policy. But they do so very guardedly, and it would sound like profane apologetics if transmitted live. So the analytical moment, if there is to be one, has been indefinitely postponed.

We're firmly of the opinion that when Leftists fight among themselves we all win, and Mr. Hitchens's inability to disavow his pro-Soviet past makes him an at best problematic ally--he deserves most of what he gets. But the essay cited here, while terribly silly, is somewhat less cut and dried than the quoted passage suggest, So is this war? (Christopher Hitchens, September 13, 2001, The Guardian). And Mr. Hitchens did come around to a full-throated, even if self-contradictory, defense of Western civilization pretty quickly,   Let's not get too liberal (Christopher Hitchens, September 21, 2001, The Guardian). More importantly, the grudge Mr. Wilentz carries has little to do, in all likelihood, with his sensibilities being offended on September 13th, and much to do with with his sycophantic defense of Bill Clinton, who Mr. Hitchens always took great relish in fileting. That being the probable source of the current brawl, we've a rooting interest in Mr. Hitchens.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 AM


The Best Books of 2003 (Steven Martinovich, December 22, 2003, Enter Stage Right)

If you aren't a regular ESR reader, you should be, and Brother Martinovich's book picks and reviews are an excellent intro.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


Arguing With Oakeshott (DAVID BROOKS, December 27, 2003, NY Times)

We can't know how Oakeshott would have judged the decision to go to war in Iraq, but it is impossible not to see the warnings entailed in his writings. Be aware of what you do not know. Do not go charging off to remake a society when you don't understand its moral traditions, when you do not even understand yourself. Do not imagine that if you conquer a nation and impose something you call democracy that the results will be in any way predictable. Do not try to administer a country from behind a security bunker.

I try to reply to these warnings. I concede that government should be limited, prudent and conservative, but only when there is something decent to conserve. Saddam sent Iraqi society spinning off so violently, prudence became imprudent. The Middle East could not continue down its former course.

I remind Oakeshott that he was ambivalent about the American Revolution, and dubious about a people who had made a sharp break with the past in the name of inalienable rights and other abstractions. But ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn't pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves.

It comes as no surprise that Oakeshott gets the better of Mr. Brooks--the Revolution was a mistake, even if a noble one. Had America remained a part of the empire the Civil War and WWI would both have been avoided in all likelihood; reason enough to regret we parted ways.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 AM


US has to seek its elusive 'most wanted' everywhere (Mohsen Asgari and Mark Huband, December 27 2003, Financial Times)

Earlier this month, General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, vowed that he "will be captured some day, just like we captured Saddam Hussein".

But Gen. Myers went on to say that the al-Qaeda leader was likely to be hiding out "where he has some support, where he can buy support, and probably in very difficult terrain".

The common belief is that this terrain lies somewhere on the 1,500-mile frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan, a wild and lonely place. The terrorist chief and a handful of his followers could be anywhere in the high mountain passes or the tribal lands where neither the writ of Islamabad or Kabul counts for much.

But sporadic and un-confirmed sightings of have also begun to crop up further afield, including in Kashmir, Pakistan's tribal areas and Baluchistan on the border with Iran.

Even if these do not amount to a reliable guide to his whereabouts, they are a tribute to his elusiveness. In one recent account, a man with links to Iran's intelligence services and hard-line Revolutionary Guard Corps (RGC) has told the Financial Times that he saw the al-Qaeda leader in Iran two months ago. He saw him arrive at an RGC guest house close to the small town of Najmabad, west of Tehran, on 23 October.

It's just hard to believe the Iranians could be that foolish.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:50 AM


The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick: The inside-out story of how a hyper-paranoid, pulp-fiction hack conquered the movie world 20 years after his death. (Frank Rose, December 2003, Wired)

Dick's anxious surrealism all but defines contemporary Hollywood science fiction and spills over into other kinds of movies as well. His influence is pervasive in The Matrix and its sequels, which present the world we know as nothing more than an information grid; Dick articulated the concept in a 1977 speech in which he posited the existence of multiple realities overlapping the "matrix world" that most of us experience. Vanilla Sky, with its dizzying shifts between fantasy and fact, likewise ventures into a Dickian warp zone, as does Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, and David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. Memento reprises Dick's memory obsession by focusing on a man whose attempts to avenge his wife's murder are complicated by his inability to remember anything. In The Truman Show, Jim Carrey discovers the life he's living is an illusion, an idea Dick developed in his 1959 novel Time Out of Joint. Next year, Carrey and Kate Winslet will play a couple who have their memories of each other erased in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Memory, paranoia, alternate realities: Dick's themes are everywhere.

At a time when most 20th-century science fiction writers seem hopelessly dated, Dick gives us a vision of the future that captures the feel of our time. He didn't really care about robots or space travel, though they sometimes turn up in his stories. He wrote about ordinary Joes caught in a web of corporate domination and ubiquitous electronic media, of memory implants and mood dispensers and counterfeit worlds. This strikes a nerve. "People cannot put their finger anymore on what is real and what is not real," observes Paul Verhoeven, the one-time Dutch mathematician who directed Total Recall. "What we find in Dick is an absence of truth and an ambiguous interpretation of reality. Dreams that turn out to be reality, reality that turns out to be a dream. This can only sell when people recognize it, and they can only recognize it when they see it in their own lives."

Like the babbling psychics who predict future crimes in Minority Report, Dick was a precog. Lurking within his amphetamine-fueled fictions are truths that have only to be found and decoded. In a 1978 essay he wrote: "We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

Viewed in this context, Dick's emergence in Hollywood seems oddly inevitable. His career itself is a tale of alternate realities.

We've several reviews posted of various of his books and stories. One of the best Philip K. Dick stories though is true, and concerns him "informing" on fellow science fiction writer Thomas Disch to the FBI.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


The Truth About the Catholic Church and Slavery: The problem wasn't that the leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened. (Rodney Stark, 07/18/2003, Christianity Today)

As early as the seventh century, Saint Bathilde (wife of King Clovis II) became famous for her campaign to stop slave-trading and free all slaves; in 851 Saint Anskar began his efforts to halt the Viking slave trade. That the Church willingly baptized slaves was claimed as proof that they had souls, and soon both kings and bishops—including William the Conqueror (1027-1087) and Saints Wulfstan (1009-1095) and Anselm (1033-1109)—forbade the enslavement of Christians.

Since, except for small settlements of Jews, and the Vikings in the north, everyone was at least nominally a Christian, that effectively abolished slavery in medieval Europe, except at the southern and eastern interfaces with Islam where both sides enslaved one another's prisoners. But even this was sometimes condemned: in the tenth century, bishops in Venice did public penance for past involvement in the Moorish slave trade and sought to prevent all Venetians from involvement in slavery. Then, in the thirteenth century, Saint Thomas Aquinas deduced that slavery was a sin, and a series of popes upheld his position, beginning in 1435 and culminating in three major pronouncements against slavery by Pope Paul III in 1537.

It is significant that in Aquinas's day, slavery was a thing of the past or of distant lands. Consequently, he gave very little attention to the subject per se, paying more attention to serfdom, which he held to be repugnant.

However, in his overall analysis of morality in human relationships, Aquinas placed slavery in opposition to natural law, deducing that all "rational creatures" are entitled to justice. Hence he found no natural basis for the enslavement of one person rather than another, "thus removing any possible justification for slavery based on race or religion." Right reason, not coercion, is the moral basis of authority, for "one man is not by nature ordained to another as an end."

Here Aquinas distinguished two forms of "subjection" or authority, just and unjust. The former exists when leaders work for the advantage and benefit of their subjects. The unjust form of subjection "is that of slavery, in which the ruler manages the subject for his own [the ruler's] advantage." Based on the immense authority vested in Aquinas by the Church, the official view came to be that slavery is sinful.

This may well overstate the moral case against slavery, but is nonetheless enlightening.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:00 AM


Path led from science to faith The design is apparent to many (Bob Dewaay, December 27, 2003, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

I read with interest Gregory Korgeski's Dec. 13 counterpoint decrying creationism and fundamentalism. After learning that no "reputable" scientists endorse creationism, I learned that fundamentalists who take their sacred texts literally are dangerous to the well-being of society.

These arguments are self-serving in that they admit no evidence to the contrary. In Korgeski's thought, being a creationist makes you disreputable and being a fundamentalist makes you a likely menace to society.

I was raised in a church that taught that the Bible was mostly mythology, that there were no miracles, and that evolution was true. Seeing no need for religion, I left the church and took up the study of science.

As a chemical engineering student at Iowa State University I was required to study organic chemistry. I studied the complexity of molecules in the body that made life possible. That study convinced me that evolution was impossible and that life had to come from an intelligent designer.

The church led me away from belief in God and science led me to it. I became a Christian and began to study the Bible for myself. Now I am a "fundamentalist" preacher. [...]

Back to Korgeski's article -- I wonder, given the lack of any authoritative text, the lack of a supreme "law giver," and the lack of any rational explanation of how moral guidance "evolved" from random processes, how Korgeski can take it upon himself to give his readers moral guidance. At least we fundamentalists have a source of moral guidance outside of the fickle "self."

That's the curious thing about the scientific religion, is that it was supposed to lead us all away from God, but has brought us full circle.

Does Science Point to God?: The Intelligent Design Revolution (Benjamin D. Wiker, Crisis)

The ID movement directly contradicts the modern secularist intellectual trend that has so thoroughly dominated Western culture for the last two centuries (even though this trend began 500 years ago, in the early Renaissance). Although this secularization has reached nearly every aspect of our culture, its source of authority has always been in a kind of philosophic and scientific alliance.

In philosophy, the secularized intellect denies the existence of any truth beyond what is humanly contrived, and this denial (a kind of intellectual non serviam) manifests itself in the wild, manic-depressive intellectual swings so characteristic of modernity, between self-congratulatory claims of omniscience and self-pitying lamentations of complete skepticism. The secularization of science manifests itself in the belief that nature has no need for an intelligent designer but is self-caused and self-contained. Secularized science has as its aim the reduction of apparent design, whether cosmological or biological, to the unintelligent interplay of chance and brute necessity (either the necessity of law or of the physical constituents). Since nature itself has no intrinsic order, then (by default) the human intellect is the only source of intellectual order. Secularized science thus supports secularized philosophy, and secularized philosophy functions as the articulate mouthpiece of the alliance.

The ID movement seeks to restore sanity to science, philosophy, and hence culture by investigating the possibility that nature, rather than being the result of unintelligent, purposeless forces, can only be understood as the effect of an Intelligent Designer. But again, to say that the ID revolution contradicts the claims of secularized science does not mean that the contradiction arises from some contrariety or conspiracy on the part of ID proponents. It arises from the evidence of nature itself, and the ID movement is merely pointing to the evidence nature has provided (even while, as an active mode of scientific inquiry, it seeks to uncover more). In science, it points to the growing evidence of intelligent fine tuning, both cosmological and biological, and to the various failures of secularized science to make good its claims that the order of nature can be completely reduced to unintelligent causes. As more and more evidence is gathered, secularized philosophy will be forced to confront the scientific evidence that truth is not, after all, a mere human artifact, because a designing intellect has provided the amazingly intricate beings and laws to which the scientific intellect must conform if it is truly to have scientia—a knowledge of nature. Soon enough, secularized culture will be compelled to realign.

That is not, however, the story you will hear from the critics of ID, who seek to declaw it by denying that it is, at heart, a scientific revolution. According to its most acerbic adversaries, ID is merely a religious ruse wearing a scientific facade. For philosopher Barbara Forrest, “The intelligent design movement as a whole…really has nothing to do with science,” but is rather “religious to its core…merely the newest ‘evolution’ of good old-fashioned American creationism Zoologists Matthew Brauer and Daniel Brumbaugh charge that the ID movement “is not motivated by new scientific discoveries” but “entirely by the religion and politics of a small group of academics who seek to defeat secular ‘modernist naturalism’ by updating previously discredited creationist approaches.” The most outspoken critic of ID theory, philosopher Robert Pennock (who has published two anti-ID books), likewise asserts in Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics that ID is merely a “theological movement” with a “game plan…little different than that of the ‘creation scientists’” and suspects that at the heart of the ID urge is a regrettable and benighted “tendency to anthropomorphize the world,” to see design in nature only because we are designers ourselves. [...]

Allow me to point out to Pennock that the “tendency to anthropomorphize the world” is coming from the world itself, or more accurately, from the entire cosmos. In fact, in physics it is called the anthropic principle. In short form, it is the discovery that the universe appears rigged, astoundingly fine-tuned, suspiciously calibrated as part of some kind of a conspiracy of order to produce life—indeed intelligent life. This fine-tuned conspiracy occurs on all levels, from the fundamental constants governing the formation of all the elements in the cosmos, to the extraordinarily precise relationship of planets in our solar system, to the delicate balances on our own planet.

If, for example, the strong nuclear force that holds together the protons and neutrons in the nucleus of atoms were a tad weaker, elements other than hydrogen would either be unlikely or impossible; if a tad stronger, you wouldn’t have hydrogen. Change the ratio of the mass of the electron to the proton just a mite and molecules cannot form. If gravity were made just a bit weaker, stars large enough to produce the heavier elements necessary for biological life would not exist; a bit stronger, and stars would be too massive, producing the necessary elements but burning too rapidly and unevenly to support life. Fiddle a smidgeon with the expansion rate of the universe, and you either cause it to collapse or exceed the ideal rate at which galaxies, and hence solar systems, can form.

Or to focus on our own home in the Milky Way, it has become increasingly clear that the conditions of our solar system are wonderfully intricate. For example, our sun is not a typical star but is one of the 9 percent most massive stars in our galaxy, and it is also very stable. Further, the sun hits the Goldilocks mean for life—neither too hot (like a blue or white star) nor too cold (like a red star)—and its peak emission is right at the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum—the very, very thin band where not only vision is possible but also photosynthesis. Earth just “happens” to have the right combination of atmospheric gases to block out almost all the harmful radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum but, strangely enough, opens like a window for visible light. Jupiter is deftly placed and sized so that it not only helps to balance Earth’s orbit but also acts as a kind of debris magnet keeping Earth from being pummeled. Our moon is just the right size and distance to stabilize Earth’s axial tilt so that we have seasonal variations but not wildly swinging temperature changes.

This article is too short to summarize the already vast but continually growing literature on such cosmic fine- tuning. I have given just a taste so that I could return to an earlier point and make it more explicit: The ID movement, understood in its proper and widest context, is cosmological in scope, looking for evidence of design in all of nature, and biology is just one aspect of nature where it seeks evidence of fine-tuning. Against those who would so jealously guard biology from ID, one must ask: How could the fundamental physical constants be fine-tuned, our solar system be fined-tuned, the atmospheric and geological features of our planet be fine-tuned, but all biological beings and processes be the result of unintelligent, purposeless forces?

In addition, the ID approach is both quite natural and scientifically fruitful. The discovery of such exceedingly precise fine-tuning not only draws one to the conclusion that a designer is behind it all but also leads to further scientific discovery. As a famous instance of the first, astronomer and mathematician Fred Hoyle was so astonished at the remarkable chain of “coincidences” necessary for the production of oxygen and carbon in the universe, he concluded that “a commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.” That statement was uttered mid–20th century as a result of Hoyle discovering the wildly improbable presence of just the right nuclear resonance levels in carbon and oxygen to allow for the formation of these most necessary elements for life. For Hoyle, such wonderful calibration could not be an accident: “I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars.”

-Does Science Point to God? Part II: The Christian Critics Benjamin D. Wiker answers criticism of the Intelligent Design movement...this time from Christians themselves. (Benjamin Wiker, July/August 2003, Crisis)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:59 AM


Ox and Ass (Giovanni Papini)

It was not by chance that Christ was born in a stable. What is the world but an immense stable where men produce filth and wallow in it? Do they not daily change the most beautiful, the purest, the most divine things into excrement? Then, stretching themselves at full length on the piles of manure, they say they are “enjoying life.” Upon this earthly pig-sty, where no decorations or perfumes can hide the odor of filth, Jesus appeared one night, born of a stainless Virgin armed only with innocence…

First to worship Jesus were animals, not men. Among men he sought out the simple-hearted: among the simple-hearted he sought out children. Simpler than children, and milder, the beasts of burden welcomed him.

Though humble, though servants of beings weaker and fiercer than they, the ass and the ox had seen multitudes kneeling before them. Christ’s own people, the people of Jehovah, the chosen people whom Jehovah had freed from Egyptian slavery, when their leader left them alone in the desert to go up and talk with the Eternal, did they not force Aaron to make them a golden calf to worship? In Greece the ass was sacred to Ares, to Dionysius, to Hyperborean Apollo. Balaam’s ass, wiser than the prophet, saved him by speaking. Oxus, King of Persia, put an ass in the temple of Ptha, and had it worshiped. And Augustus, Christ’s temporal sovereign, had set up in the temple the brazen statue of an ass, to commemorate the good omen of his meeting on the eve of Actium an ass named “the Victorious.”

Up to that time the kings of the earth and the populace craving material things had bowed before oxen and asses. But Jesus did not come into the world to reign over the earth, nor to love material things. He was to bring to an end the bowing down before beasts, the weakness of Aaron, the superstition of Augustus. The beasts of Jerusalem will murder him, but in the meantime the beasts of Bethlehem warm him with their breath. In later years, when Jesus went up to the city of death for the Feast of the Passover, he was mounted on an ass. But he was a greater prophet than Balaam, coming not to save the Jews alone but all men: and he did not turn back from his path, no, not though all the mules of Jerusalem brayed against him.

Hard to find a preacher who'll mix it up like that these days.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:05 AM


Commerce or Commissar? (Paul Cantor, December 24, 2003,

The best way to approach the historic city of Yalta is from the sea, the Black Sea to be precise. Seen up close the city looks a bit rundown, but viewed from a ship, Yalta is an impressive sight, nestled up against the Crimean Mountains, just the way the Russian Czars wanted it when they chose this spot for their summer getaways. But the tourist seeking out the old Czarist playground has a surprise in store as he draws near Yalta. Looming up just behind the docks is a monumental statue of a familiar figure, but it is not one of the Romanovs˜instead it is the man who brought their dynasty to an end--Vladimir Lenin. I hardly expected to see a monument to Lenin when I traveled to post-Soviet Yalta.

But my shock was cushioned by the appearance of an even more familiar shape right next to Lenin as viewed from the sea. The monument to the Communist leader of the Russian Revolution is now partially eclipsed by one of the grand international symbols of capitalism--two large McDonald's banners. Lenin famously said that, come the revolution, capitalists would be found willing to sell the rope by which they would be hanged. He did not foresee that, when the communists were at the end of their rope, the capitalists would be back to sell burgers, fries, and a shake, right under his stony eyes. I took pleasure in the fact that Lenin now casts a rather lonely figure in the harbor of Yalta, whereas the McDonald's seems to be filled with satisfied customers at all times, day and night.

The juxtaposition of Lenin and McDonald's is curiously symbolic of the whole history of the Black Sea region. For over two thousand years, two forces have contended with each other in this strategically located area. On the one hand have been would-be conquerors like Lenin or Suleiman the Magnificent, men who wanted to impose a single way of life on the whole region, whether a political ideology like Communism or a religion like Islam. On the other hand have been the commercial forces like McDonald's, merchants and businessmen who have taken advantage of the fact that people live differently in the region and therefore want to trade with each other.

This contrast became evident to me in the course of a two-week cruise I took on the Black Sea last summer, a trip that included three ports in Turkey, three in Ukraine, one in Romania, and one in Bulgaria. With visits to one historic or archaeological site after another, and plenty of deck time to read up on the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, I began to see a pattern unfold.

Even FDR couldn't put Yalta under permanent bondage.

December 26, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


Dean not ready to sentence bin Laden (The Associated Press, 12/26/2003)

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean says it's premature to recommend what penalty Osama bin Laden should face before he's been legally determined to be guilty of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Asked whether bin Laden should be tried in the United States and put to death, Dean told the Concord Monitor: "I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

In an interview with the New Hampshire newspaper for Friday editions, Dean added: "I'm sure that is the correct sentiment of most Americans, but I do think if you're running for president, or if you are president, it's best to say that the full range of penalties should be available. But it's not so great to prejudge the judicial system."

Let's take his point seriously for a second, before we marvel at his capacity to fire rounds into his own melon, shouldn't we have had this evidentiary proceeding before we toppled a sovereign government in pursuit of the suspect (a war, Afghanistan, which he claims to have supported)?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:38 PM

AXIS OF GOOD FILES (via Mike Daley):

Science Pact Signed With Israel (Shebonti Ray Dadwal, 12/25/03, Financial Express)

Taking their fast-growing ties a step further, India and Israel on Tuesday signed a statement on co-operation in science and technology. Following talks between minister of state for science and technology Bachi Singh Rawat and his Israeli counterpart Eleizer Sandberg, several areas of co-operation were identified, including joint development and upgradation of science and technology projects as well as joint projects in space. The minister reviewed the nine ongoing projects signed between the two countries besides exploring new areas of co-operation, mostly in the field of genomes. [...]

Due to the acutely-felt need for security, Israel has ensured that its space programme is almost completely indigenous. Despite co-operating with several countries including the US, Canada and some Latin American states on projects, it has consciously retained its independence regarding space-based research and development, specialising particularly in satellite miniaturisation. Yet, Israel chose to use an Indian vehicle to launch the Tauvex telescope.

One of the inescapable facts that makes the imagined victory of Islamicism impossible is that the Middle East is book-ended by nuclear-armed Jewish and Hindu states.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM


Best of 2003 (Brothers Judd)

-Jonathan Edwards: A Life (George M. Marsden)

-A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II (Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud)

-The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship (David Halberstam)

-The Long Truce: How Toleration Made the World Safe for Power and Profit (A. J. Conyers)

-The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East (Sharon Hudgins)

-The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf (Mark Frost)

-Brain Storm (Richard Dooling)

-What We Can't Not Know: A Guide (J. Budziszewski)

-A New Kind of Science (Stephen Wolfram)

-In, But Not Of : A Guide to Christian Ambition (Hugh Hewitt)

-Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder (Wesley J. Smith)

-An Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943 (Rick Atkinson)

-The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (Fareed Zakaria)

-The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America (Erik Larson)

-Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism (Paul C. Vitz)

-Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Last Words of Jesus from the Cross (Richard John Neuhaus)

-Feminist Fantasies (Phyllis Schlafly)

BOOK LIST (Foreign Affairs, December 2003)

Each month a different member of our distinguished panel of book reviewers recommends the best books discussed in Foreign Affairs in the past year. This month, Walter Russell Mead gives his picks for the best books on the United States.

Benjamin Franklin by Edmund S. Morgan

Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World by Jedidiah Purdy

To Begin the World Anew: the Genuis and Ambiguities of the American Founders by Bernard Bailyn

The Passions of Andrew Jackson by Andrew Brustein

Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, 1903-2003 by Douglas Brinkley

William McKinley by Kevin Phillips

A Grand Strategy for America by Robert J. Art

The page includes links to Foreign Affairs' reviews of each book.

-Books & Culture Corner: The Top Ten Books of 2003: The Worst Book of the Year, more good reading, digital books, and a little Christmas music. (John Wilson, 12/22/2003, Christianity Today)
-Mystery Paperbacks Make for a Perfect Stocking Stuffer -- Here Are Some Favorites. (Alafair Burke)

Samantha Kincaid, the formidable heroine of Alafair Burke's legal thriller, Judgment Calls, offers her expert suggestions for the mystery lover this holiday season.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:35 AM


Pinning down Howard Dean (JONATHAN S. TOBIN, Dec. 25, 2003, Jerusalem Post)

[E]ven if we stick with Dean's official policy statements on Israel, some serious questions remain.

Dean claims that on the Israel issue, he will model his presidency on that of Bill Clinton, and thinks Bush has erred at times by allowing the parties to negotiate without US involvement. That would mean a Dean presidency might repeat many of the same mistakes that helped bring about the latest Palestinian terror war and left Israel stranded.

Would Dean, as Clinton did, invite Yasser Arafat to the White House more times than any other foreign leader? Others might ask why he thinks it's so important to use the power of the presidency to create a Palestinian state when he was so reluctant to use US power against Saddam Hussein.

Why did he name as one of his foreign-policy advisers Clyde Prestowitz, an author who advocates ending all US aid to Israel to pressure it to make concessions?

And, most importantly, how will a candidate whose base of support is on the left wing of the political spectrum - where hostility to Israel is now commonplace - deal with the anti-Israel sentiments expressed by many of his supporters?

The truth is that there are a lot of reasons, other than a few stray remarks, to question the direction a Dean presidency might take on the Middle East. And voters who care about Israel - Jews and non-Jews alike - have the responsibility to try and make him answer these questions.

Howard Dean seems to be playing a bizarre form of solo Russian Roulette in which all six chambers are loaded.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:12 AM

BE NOT AFRAID (via Real Clear Politics):

Bush Should Cool Democracy Sell (James P. Pinkerton, December 26, 2003, Newsday)

[T]o the extent that Jordan's king counts as a dictator, I wonder if such a democratizing move would help Bush foreign policy objectives. The Jordan Times, an English-language daily, offered a sobering account of a recent parliamentary debate. One deputy, Nidal Abbadi, described as an "Islamist," derided the king's government as so Westernized that it was ignorant of the country it speaks for. "These ministers not only cannot recount the names of three villages in Jordan, they are also unfamiliar with Amman, especially the eastern part" - the poor section.

Abbadi added that government ministers don't know the prices of basic commodities, don't carry Jordanian currency and might even lack proficiency in Arabic.

The press here is free to report on Abbadi's diatribe. But, of course, Jordan is not so free that anti-government words can be followed up by anti-government deeds.

In normal democratic politics, leaders found to be that out of touch with popular concerns - the Times offered no rebuttal to Abbadi's allegations - would be voted out of power. Yet the Islamic Action Front holds just 17 seats in the 110-member parliament. However, few observers here, speaking in private, doubt that the Islamists - plus maybe other pro-Palestinian radicals - would win a solid nationwide majority in a truly free election.
And what would the Islamists do if they were in power? In his speech in parliament, Abbadi demanded the mandatory veiling of women - observation tells me that at least 80 percent of women here already wear at least a hejab, or scarf over their hair - as well as the closure of all night clubs, unisex swimming pools and male-run hair salons for women.

In other words, Islamist rule in Jordan would put the country well on the path toward an Iran-style government.

'Our Guy' for Iraq Leader May End Up Biting Us: When the British anointed a ruler in the 1920s, they got more than they bargained for. Read your history, Washington. (David Fromkin, 12/26/03, LA Times)
Believing that Faisal would be open-minded in considering Britain's objectives, and the values of the Western world, the British proceeded to stage-manage the nomination of Faisal as Iraq's monarch, in a process that concluded with a referendum and then the scheduling of the coronation.

U.S. policymakers today, to the extent that they push leadership claims of those whom they see as open-minded and reasonable about issues important to Washington, might well consider the case of Faisal.

No sooner had his coronation been scheduled — and the British more or less irrevocably committed to the cause of his monarchy — than he announced that he had changed his mind. He would not accept a League of Nations mandate. He would not be a puppet king. He wanted to negotiate a treaty, not a trusteeship agreement. Indeed, in the course of his 10-year reign he succeeded in winning not only full independence but membership in the League of Nations as a free and equal country.

The British were aghast. "Crooked and insincere," was one high official's view of Faisal. "Faisal is playing a very low and treacherous game with us," Churchill told Lloyd George.

What the episode suggests is that if and when the United States throws its weight behind a candidate for leadership in Iraq, believing that person to be favorable to Washington's agenda, there is a good chance that the candidate, in order to survive Iraqi domestic politics, will turn against us. Even so, the candidate might be preferable to any other. Churchill may have regarded Faisal as treacherous, but during his reign, and even those of his son and grandson, Britain was able to hold a privileged position in Iraq. For Britain, the Faisal candidacy was an essential step on the road out of the Iraqi quagmire.

Arab democracy must come from Arab states (Trudy Rubin, 12/26/03, Philadelphia Inquirer)
For "Most Important Book of the Year," I nominate the Arab Human Development Report 2003 issued by the United Nations Development Program.

Written by a group of 26 Arab scholars, this volume takes a candid look at why Arab countries have fallen so far behind in key areas of human development. This question is crucial, at a time when the United States is trying to remake Iraq into a democratic model for the region.

The authors of this book argue that the impetus for real Mideast change must come from inside their own society. "Such reform from within, based on rigorous self-criticism, is a far more proper and sustainable alternative," they write, "in contrast to efforts to restructure the region from outside." But "rigorous self-criticism" is rare in a region where leaders and publics tend to blame their troubles on outsiders, especially "the West."

The authors of the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) are trying to provoke just such an internal Arab debate.

"The report looks at the issues we were reluctant to discuss in the past," says Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, the director of UNDP's regional bureau for Arab States, and the moving force behind the volume. Its aim, she says, is "to change the attitudes of people and governments."

The basic thesis: The Mideast's problems are due to regional "deficits" in three critical areas: freedom, knowledge, and the status of women.

All three of these raise, each in their own way, an interesting question: would it necessarily be a bad thing for Iraq to undergo its own Islamic Revolution, a la Iran?

The prospect obviously terrifies Mr. Pinkerton and most libertarian and Leftist opponents of the war on terror. For them a Shi'ite Republic would be an unconditional defeat.

Mr. Fromkin, a foreign policy "realist", recognizes the futility of our trying to dictate the final form of the Iraq we leave behind and the potentially helpful effect of a government that may even be outwardly hostile to us. Unfortunately, there's not likely to be a royal restoration, of the kind he's writing about, so what about an Islamic state?

Meanwhile, Ms Rubin, whatever her views on Iraq, suggests that the most important insight of 2003 was that the movement towards democracy will have to be internal and will require "rigorous self-criticism". Where, as we look around the Islamic world, is the most fearsome self-criticism going on and where is the most vibrant internal democracy movement? By no coincidence: Iran.

There's still some tough slogging ahead, but Iran looks very much like a nation where the people recognize that the Revolution has failed to produce the promised utopia and are now prepared to accept, even willing to demand, that their leaders accept some variation on the end of history. This kind of capacity to evolve politically in the Western direction may be peculiar to the Shi'ites--they at least seem to have certain doctrinal advantages in this regard--but since Iraq is predominantly Shi'ite there seems an opportunity here even in what might at first seem an unfavorable development: let the Shi'ites of Iraq undertake their own Islamic experiment, secure in the knowledge that it won't survive even a generation (as Iran's has not), and that they'll develop in the direction we want, even if not as quickly as we'd hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:03 AM


Bush's 'Ownership' Scam (Robert Kuttner, December 24, 2003, Boston Globe)

How does Bush propose to create this "ownership society?" Mainly through more tax credits. If people lack reliable health care, there are tax-favored savings accounts to buy health insurance. If corporations are abandoning good pensions, there are new tax incentives to set aside retirement savings. If jobs are precarious, there are tax credits to purchase retraining when your job moves to China. [...]

Interestingly, there is a very different version of an ownership society that actually works. It is called asset development. Tony Blair in Britain has already made a start on this approach, by giving every child a subsidized savings account at birth that grows and compounds and can be used in adulthood to subsidize everything from education to first-time homeownership and ultimately to supplement retirement.

In the United States, Al Gore proposed a variant of this. I've been working with Larry Brown, one of the pioneers of this approach at the Asset Development Institute at Brandeis University, on an even bolder version.

The difference is that genuine asset development gives people genuine opportunities using real public outlays, the way the GI Bill did. Bush's approach relies mainly on the funny money of tax credits, which are often useless to the very people who need them most.

Here's an instance of where Democrats' are inhibited from true social/political breakthroughs by their fealty to New Dealism. Mr. Kuttner has a valid point, but he can't get past his wasteful welfare state entitlement thinking to make it.

Such accounts should indeed start at birth--perhaps with an initial contribution from the government--and the government should certainly subsidize such accounts for the poor, but there's no reason the rest of us can't fund them ourselves, just as we do 401k's--with some mixture of personal and employee contributions, and this offers an opportunity to expand the pool, so that, for instance, grandparents or charities or whomever could contribute too.

The dichotomy he sets up--of "real public outlays" vs. "the funny money of tax credits"--is merely hysterical. The former approach would have government tax us and then hand us back the money--the latter shelters it from taxation in the first place and so is both more direct and more personal. The former is based on the idea that we are all dependent on government--the latter encourages us to look at such accounts as taking responsibility for ourselves. The differences go not just to the efficiency of the program, but to the mindset. Why not encourage people's sense of "ownership", the very ownership he scoffs at, instead of setting up a system where they are "owned" by the government.

If Democrats were truly interested in the constituents they are supposedly elected to serve--the underprivileged among us--instead of just in assuaging the special interests who keep them afloat, they'd take up President Bush on the ownership accounts idea, but insist that the program include these additional reforms too. Such a Democratic Party would be serving not just the people who need this kind of "asset development" the most, but the nation as a whole.

For all Mr. Kuttner's talk of a "bolder intiative", this kind of compromise would require real boldness in three ways: (1) the accounts would replace virtually the entire panoply of New Deal/Great Society programs--from home loans to medical care to retirement--and be an implicit admission that there's a better way to go than the direction the Democrats took us for 70 years; (2) it would be a genuinely bipartisan accomplishment--Third Way even--occurring on the hated George W. Bush's watch; and (3) because the initiative is such a good idea and because of #2, it could end up being a huge boon to the Republicans for a very long time. The kind of boldness that could accept all three of those things is a very rare thing in the species, requiring a selflessness that we're barely capable of, but if Mr. Kuttner and like-minded folk could be so bold they would be real American heroes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:05 AM


Washington's Resignation Address to the Continental Congress (Annapolis, Maryland, 23 December 1783)

Mr President

The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress & of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country.

Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the oppertunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence--A diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the Supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.

The Successful termination of the War has verified the more sanguine expectations--and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Countrymen encreases with every review of the momentous Contest.

While I repeat my obligations to the Army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar Services and distinguished merits of the Gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the War. It was impossible the choice of confidential Officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me Sir, to recommend in particular those, who have continued in Service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice & patronage of Congress.

I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commanding the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those Who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action--and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:55 AM


Iran quake may leave 10,000 dead (AP, 12/26/03)

A severe earthquake devastated the historic city of Bam in southeast Iran on Friday, and a preliminary estimate said the death toll could reach 10,000. [...]

The United Nations disaster management team in Tehran has asked the Iranian government if it needs help and was to meet later Friday to assess the situation, said Elizabeth Byrs, Geneva spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

She said there had been no request from Tehran so far.

Roy Probert, spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the umbrella group also has had no requests. Probert said the Iranian Red Crescent is well-prepared for earthquakes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences over the earthquake.

In a telegram to Iranian President Mohamed Khatami, Putin said he was "deeply shocked by an earthquake in Iran that brought numerous victims and destruction" and offered his "sincere condolences to the leadership and people of Iran."

Russian Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Marina Ryklina said that two Il-76 transport aircraft with rescue workers and equipment were to leave for Iran later Friday.

We should provide any assistance we can--and that they're willing to accept--too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:48 AM


How is it possible to ignore the Iraqi war's most blindingly obvious collateral benefits? (Charles Krauthammer, Dec. 26, 2003, Jewish World Review)

Yeah, sure. After 18 years of American sanctions, Moammar Gaddafi randomly picks Dec. 19, 2003, as the day for his surrender. By amazing coincidence, Gaddafi's first message to Britain — principal U.S. war ally and conduit to White House war councils — occurs just days before the invasion of Iraq. And his final capitulation to U.S.-British terms occurs just five days after Saddam Hussein is fished out of a rathole. [...]

The Democrats seem congenitally incapable of understanding that force has not just the effect of disarming the immediate enemy but a deterrent effect on others similarly situated. Iraq was not attacked randomly. It was attacked as part of a clearly enunciated policy — now known as the Bush Doctrine — of targeting, by preemptive war if necessary, hostile regimes engaged in terror and/or refusing to come clean on WMDs.

Mullah Omar did not get the message and is now hiding in a cave somewhere. Saddam Hussein did not get the message and ended up in a hole. Gaddafi got the message.

Diplomacy is fine. But we are dealing not with Canada but with gangster regimes. In rogue states, the only diplomacy that ever works is diplomacy at the point of a bayonet. Why, even the hapless Hans Blix went out on a limb to speculate that "I would imagine that Gaddafi could have been scared by what he saw in Iraq."

Ashton Carter, co-director of the Harvard-Stanford Preventive Defense Project, agreed that "what we did in Iraq put countries like Libya on notice that we're really serious about countering proliferation." To be sure, Carter prefaced this obvious truth with the Blixian phrase "one certainly hopes that." But that is to be expected from an adviser to Howard Dean.

Gotta remember, Democrats still think Gorbachev won the Cold War.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:27 AM


2003: The year in jazz (Ken Franckling, 12/25/2003, United Press International)

In a year of continuing record industry instability and jazz division shakeups, and the continuing search for more artists who might catch the public's crossover fancy, as multi-Grammy winning singer Norah Jones has done with Blue Note, most of the interesting moments and trends didn't involve recordings.

The jazz community staged a top-draw concert at Toronto's Massey Hall on May 15. It was 50 years to the night since a legendary quintet -- saxophonist Charlie Parker, pianist Bud Powell, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach -- performed at Massey Hall in what became the most storied all-star concert in the young history of bebop. It also resulted in a self-financed essential recording called "The Quintet."

Roach, the sole survivor of that 1953 all-star grouping, returned despite poor health for a "Mr. Hi-Hat" cameo solo prior to a flawless performance by five modern day all-stars: pianist Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Dave Holland. [...]

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Benny Carter, percussionist Mongo Santamaria, cornetist Ruby Braff, singer-pianists Hadda Brooks and Nina Simone, saxophonist Teddy Edwards, trombonist Jimmy Knepper, pianist Mal Waldron, clarinetist Peanuts Hucko, flutist Herbie Mann and singer Celia Cruz were among the many jazz artists who died during 2003.

The great surprise was the re-emergence of Henry Grimes, a bass player who vanished from the scene in the late 1960s -- after working with leaders including Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Miles Davis, Albert Ayler, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins. He was reported to have died in 1984. But last fall, Marshall Marrotte, a jazz fan and social worker from Georgia, found Grimes living in a single-room occupancy hotel in downtown Los Angeles. He'd been living there for some 20 years, doing odd jobs and surviving on Social Security. He'd sold his bass years ago to make ends meet.

When word got out that he was indeed alive and wanted to get back into music, New York avant-garde bassist William Parker had one of his own basses repaired and shipped to Grimes, who resumed practicing and soon began performing in the Los Angeles area. As a support network developed, Grimes returned to the New York jazz scene May 26 with a special appearance at the Vision Festival. He's been performing with increased frequency.

Glenn Dryfoos wrote a tribute to Celia Cruz and about Benny Carter on his last birthday.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:26 AM


Putin: “Small-scaled business could help eliminate poverty in Russia”
(The Russia Journal, December 23, 2003)

Stressing the urgent need to develop and support the SMEs, [small- and medium-sized enterprises] Putin noted that small- and medium-sized businesses have the potential to help eliminate poverty in the country. “The business community has not only an economic potential today, but a creative and expert potential as well. It is time to forward this potential into such spheres as education, health and ecology”.

Russia to have one-window policy for business registration (The Russia Journal, December 24, 2003)
President Vladimir Putin signed a bill on one-window concept for registering businesses into law on Dec. 23 in a move expected to ease the often time-, energy- and money-consuming bureaucratic gridlock faced by entrepreneurs while registering businesses in the country. [...]

With the new policy, potential entrepreneurs will now only have to register their businesses with the Tax and Revenues Ministry, which will complete the process within five working days, unlike before, when the process used to take months, Mishustin said.

If this is how Mr. Putin plans to use his new power, the dubiosity surrounding its acquisition is a small price to pay.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:25 AM


Changing one gene launches new fly species: Study also ties sex appeal to cold tolerance (John Easton, December 2003, University of Chicago Medical Center)

In what has been described as the "perfect experiment," evolutionary biologists at the University of Chicago replaced a single gene in fruit flies and discovered a mechanism by which two different "races" begin to become different species, with one group adapted to life in the tropics and the other suited to cooler climates. The tropical group was more tolerant of starvation but less tolerant of cold. The temperate group was less able to resist starvation but better adapted to cool weather.

The altered gene also changed the flies' pheromones, chemical signals that influence mating behavior. As a result, the researchers show in the Dec. 5 issue of Science, the two groups of flies are not only fit for different environments but may also be on their way to sexual isolation, a crucial divide in the emergence of a new species.

"This study directly connects genetics with evolution," said Chung-I Wu, Ph.D., professor and chairman of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago and director of the study. "For the first time, we were able to demonstrate the vast importance in an evolutionary context of a small genetic change that has already occurred in nature."

"We had the luxury," added co-author Tony Greenberg, Ph.D., a postdoctoral student in Wu's laboratory, "of watching the essential event in Darwinian evolution, the first step in the origin of a new species. We were quite impressed, that this simple alteration played such a dramatic role, both adapting flies to a new environment and changing their sex appeal. Once two groups become sexually isolated, there's no turning back."

This is hilarious on a couple levels: first, the description of an obvious example of intelligent design as a "perfect" evolution experiment; second, that rather than any kind of real speciation they end up with mere sexual isolation, the default definition Darwinists have had to fall back on because, for example, fruit flies stubbornly remain fruit flies, just as the different dogs we'bve bred remain dogs, though some can't breed together.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 AM


Vancouver facing worst outbreak of syphilis in the developed world (AFP, Dec 24, 2003)

Vancouver is facing the worst outbreak of syphilis per capita in the developed world, with city health officials fearful of a looming epidemic of the sexually transmitted disease once thought almost wiped out in North America.  

Some 254 new cases have been diagnosed locally this year authorities said early this week -- more than the total for North America in two decades, with more expected, said Dr. Michael Rekart of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control.

"There's a lot of unsafe sex going on in Vancouver and the disease has simply taken hold," Rekart said. "Our outbreak is primarily among sex trade workers now, but we're worried about it jumping to the gay community and beyond and creating a bigger epidemic," he said.

Until 1997, syphilis was almost non-existent on the North American continent, with only one or two cases reported per year in British Columbia. Then suddenly it took off, with the strain affecting most Canadians traced to developing countries in Asia and Central America, said Rekart.

'Liberal' cardinal fears Britons are obsessed with sex (Auslan Cramb, 22/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)
Cardinal Keith O'Brien said he was concerned that the country was in danger of descending into a "bacchanalian state" in which everyone was obsessed with their own sexual pleasure.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, who has made a concerted effort to shake off the "liberal" tag since his elevation two months ago, is planning a campaign to "re-Christianise" Scotland.

His comments follow a recent claim by the Pope that Britain was becoming a "secular nation" in which the message of Christ was no longer listened to.

Cardinal O'Brien said: "It is not Christ's teaching that if you happen to be homosexual then you can have a partner. It is not Christ's teaching that if your marriage breaks up, you can go and live with somebody else.

"Gay unions and these sorts of things are becoming commonplace. Where is society going at all? Is there nobody going to take a stand?

"We've had Christianity here for more than one and a half thousand years and our standards have plummeted in recent years.

"I think people in general do realise there has been a dramatic fall in standards.

"What are we going to do? Are we just going to progressively decline into a bacchanalian state where everyone is just concerned with their own pleasures and to sleep with whoever they want? The future at times does look quite bleak on this."

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:17 AM


Parents risk £100 fine for holiday 'truants' (Liz Lightfoot, The Telegraph, 26/12/03)

An unprecedented clampdown on parents who take their children on holiday during term-time has been ordered by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary.

He is being backed by head teachers' leaders, who are telling schools to review the policy of authorising breaks of up to two weeks, which are viewed by some parents as an entitlement.

David Hart, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Most head teachers are strongly opposed to authorising term-time absences and in the current climate I think they will be allowed only in exceptional circumstances."

Thousands of families take children off school every year to take advantage of cheaper off-peak holiday deals but in future they may face fines of up to £100 on their return.

Ivan Lewis, the junior education minister, will confirm next week that penalty notices being introduced under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act will apply to holidays not authorised by head teachers.

Imagine how fast society would crumble if everybody took their families on Christmas vacations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:00 AM


US in row with France over terror operation (David Rennie, 26/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)

American and French officials yesterday traded mutual recriminations over the failure to snare any terrorists in the security operation that grounded six Air France flights in and out of Los Angeles.

Bush administration officials expressed frustration that al-Qa'eda operatives might have escaped capture after word leaked, early this week, of American concerns about flights from France to the United States over the Christmas period.

One official said Washington had been hoping to keep the US-French negotiations confidential, adding that the hope was that "we would be able to lure some of these people in".

However, a French interior ministry spokesman said little evidence of a terrorist plot had been found.

French authorities released seven men - one French, one American and several Algerians - whose names were found to be on US watch-lists.

The seven men were all due to board a flight on Wednesday and had been briefly questioned. French authorities found nothing to suggest the men had terrorist links. [...]

US sources hit back at French scepticism, saying American intelligence agencies had intercepted e-mails from the al-Qa'eda terrorist group suggesting another September 11-style attack was being plotted for the Christmas holiday.

The al-Qa'eda messages referred specifically to Air France and even gave a flight number, officials said. Other warnings have been issued about flights by the Mexican carrier, Aeromexico, it was reported.

US officials said they fear Air France has been infiltrated by Islamic extremists and have criticised French co-operation in providing details of passengers on US-bound flights.

December 25, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:55 PM


Bush Advisers, With Eye on Dean, Formulate '04 Plans (ADAM NAGOURNEY and RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 12/26/03, NY Times)

As a Bush strategist put it, Dr. Dean's rivals are "doing a great job for us" with their increasingly tough attacks on him.

"Voters don't normally vote for an angry, pessimistic person to be president of the country," Matthew Dowd, a senior Bush adviser, said as he pressed the anti-Dean theme this week in an interview at Mr. Bush's re-election campaign headquarters. "They want somebody, even if times are not great, to be forward looking and optimistic." [...]

In discussing what they described as preliminary strategic decisions, Mr. Bush's advisers said they were prepared to adjust to any changes in what has already proved to be a most unusual presidential election campaign. Although they said that most of their planning was now based on the supposition that Dr. Dean would win the nomination, Mr. Bush's campaign officials said they did not consider that certain.

The president's political team, led by Karl Rove, his senior adviser, is working on policy initiatives that would help build support among specific blocs of voters. For the so-called investor class, the team is planning a push for private investment accounts in Social Security and expanded tax-free savings accounts. Mr. Bush is also developing an immigration proposal, expected to be announced early next year, that would make it easier for workers from Latin America to move to the United States legally. That step could help Mr. Bush appeal to Hispanics, a fast-growing segment of the electorate and one that Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove have worked hard to win over. [...]

But Mr. Bush, some of his own strategists and advisers said, has a long way to go if he wants to avoid being portrayed as a divisive figure who motivates Democrats to vote against him. As a result, the White House is considering using the State of the Union address to propose a big new national goal that would not be partisan or ideological and would help rally the country behind Mr. Bush's leadership, an outside adviser to the administration said. The possibilities floated by the White House include a major initiative for the space program or an ambitious health care goal like increasing life expectancies.

"They want to have the president talk about an important national goal that is big and a unifying theme," the adviser said.

The main problem with the talk of being non-partisan is that it has the potential to become a justification for not pushing as hard as they should in the Senate races. 60 seats in the Senate are worth more than a couple extra points on the President's victory margin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:45 PM


Hunting Hussein Led U.S. to Insurgent Hub: Five Families Believed to Direct Attacks (Alan Sipress, December 26, 2003, The Washington Post)

As U.S. forces tracked Saddam Hussein to his subterranean hiding place, they unearthed a trove of intelligence about five families running the Iraqi insurgency, according to U.S. military commanders, who said the information is being used to uproot remaining resistance forces.

Senior U.S. officers said they were surprised to discover -- clue by clue over six months -- that the upper and middle ranks of the resistance were filled by members of five extended families from a few villages within a 12-mile radius of the volatile city of Tikrit along the Tigris River. Top operatives drawn from these families organized the resistance network, dispatching information to individual cells and supervising financial channels, the officers said. They also protected Hussein and passed information to and from the former president while he was on the run.

At the heart of this tightly woven network is Auja, Hussein's birthplace, which U.S. commanders say is the intelligence and communications hub of the insurgency. The village is where many of the former president's key confidants have their most lavish homes and their favorite wives.

When U.S. forces sealed off Auja in late October, they separated the leaders of the insurgency from their guerrilla forces, dealing the anti-occupation campaign a major blow, said Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, which is responsible for the Tikrit area.

"It's amazing that all roads lead to this region," Russell said. "It's amazing who lives in that town. It's a who's who of families and a who's who of Saddam's former staff."

Of course, we figured out the five who ran the Cosa Nostra fifty years ago but they're still around.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:14 PM


Pope, in Christmas Message, Pleads for End to Terrorism and War (FRANK BRUNI, 12/26/03, NY Times)

It's a deal--they stop the terror and then we'll stop the war on terror.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:44 PM


Jihoward: Howard Dean, suicide bomber (William Saletan, Dec. 22, 2003, Slate)

Either all this stuff from the Dean campaign about the establishment is an attack on the Clintonian center, or it's the usual meaningless blather that politicians toss to crowds to make themselves look nonpolitical. Either way, it's fake. I think it's blather, but the more Dean talks about it and applies it to various issues, the more it looks like an attack on the center. And if that's the mission Dean has in mind, Democrats would be well-advised to jump off his truck before he blows it up.

Dean often says Democrats can't win by running as "Bush lite." Thursday, he accused "Washington Democrats" of failing to oppose President Bush more diametrically on Iraq, tax cuts, and education. "The Democratic Party has to offer a clear alternative," he argued. Toward that end, Dean rejects nearly every proposition or policy put forward by Bush. "We are no safer today than we were the day the planes struck at the World Trade Center," Dean said Thursday, adding that the capture of Saddam Hussein "does not mean that this president—or the Washington Democrats—can declare victory in the war on terror."

Picture that debate next year: On one side, Bush, the Washington Democrats, support for some tax cuts, relief at Saddam's capture, and the belief that by toppling the Taliban, if not Saddam, we're safer today than we were on 9/11. On the other side, Howard Dean.

There's a revealing dynamic at work here--what we might call the moderate Left, maybe even the Clintonian Center (if we give them the benefit of the doubt) has come together, perhaps too late, to try and squelch the insurgent candidacy of Howard Dean, a candidate too far out of the American mainstream to win. Compare this to four years ago, when the neocons and others on the moderate Right backed the insurgency of John McCain, a candidate perceived to be more squarely in the American mainstream than George W. Bush, the religious/social conservative. The problem in both cases? Nominations go to those in the mainstream of their party, not of the nation.

The revealing part? Though it seems absolutely certain that John McCain would have done so more easily, the more conservative George W. Bush did still beat a sitting vice-president in a time of peace and prosperity, even after having to campaign to the Right to win the nomination. Meanwhile, Governor Dean is already having to try and reposition himself to the "Center", before a single primary vote has been cast, and there's no chance he can win the general.

What does it all mean? It would seem to indicate that the mainstream of the GOP is far closer to, if not convergent with, the broad American mainstream than is the Democrat. If true, this has obvious implications not just in the presidential race this coming November but for the future of the Democratic party and its ideology.

For fifty (or sixty or seventy, depending how you measure) years, Republican ideology diverged from that of most Americans, and during that time the GOP was consistently the minority party. Twice, when the Democrats got us bogged down in wars in Asia, moderate Republicans were able to win the presidency, but then governed in ways little-distinguished from Democrats. It was only with the coming of Ronald Reagan in 1980 that a winning Republican truly stepped out of the mainstream--that after the New Deal and Great Society had so polluted the mainstream as to make folks start looking for a way out. Since then, in fits and starts to be sure, Republicans have slowly but surely become the majority--in Congress, in the states, etc.. And here we come to the point that will explain why I've been belaboring that "mainstream" metaphor to the limits of your patience--Edmund Morris writes the following in his book Dutch;

For whatever reason, there was born here, far from the mattering world, an ambition as huge as it was inexorable.  Out of Tampico's ice there grew, crystal by crystal, the glacier that is Ronald Reagan: an ever-thrusting, ever-deepening mass of chill purpose.  Possessed of no inner warmth, with no apparent interest save in its own growth, it directed itself toward whatever declivities lay in its path.  Inevitably, as the glacier grew, it collected rocks before it, and used them to flatten obstructions; when the rocks were worn smooth they rode up onto the glacier's back, briefly enjoying high sunny views, then tumbled off to become part of the surrounding countryside.  The lie where they fell, some cracked, some crumbled: Dutch's lateral moraine.  And the glacier sped slowly on.

In that sense, I suppose, one could say that the story of Reagan's life is a
study in American topography.  Thirteen hundred miles southeast of Tampico this winter day, the glacier has at last stopped growing. The nation's climate is changing; so is that of the world.  New suns, new seasons, are due. Yet when all the ice is gone, when fresh green covers the last raw earth and some future skylark sings heedlessly over the Ronald Reagan National Monument, men will still ponder Dutch's improbable progress, and write on their cards, How big he was!  How far he came!  And how deep the valley he carved!

The possibility exists, though we won't know definitely for decades, that Ronald Reagan carved so deeply as to divert the American mainstream into a channel it will follow for quite some time. As Lincoln made this a Republican country and FDR a Democratic one--each for roughly seventy year periods--so might we one day understand these years to have been the early days of a Republican epoch. In this regard, we'd note that George W. Bush, though the son of a Republican president, is rightly considered Reagan's Son. Indeed, he seems nearly the ideal figure to complete what Reagan started, the mainstreaming of conservatism.

-Diary of a Dean-o-phobe

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:10 PM


Lying Along the Potomac: 10 fibs by our president (David Corn, 12/24/03, LA Weekly)

[A]s he enters the home stretch of his first (or final) term, let’s review — in loose chronological order — 10 significant falsehoods that Bush wielded this year. [...]

2 Months after his January State of the Union address, Bush received flak
for having maintained in that speech that Saddam Hussein had been shopping
for uranium in Africa. And the White House conceded it should not have
permitted that line to stay in the speech. But Bush had told a more
important whopper in that address. He noted that the International Atomic
Energy Agency “confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced
nuclear weapons development program.” This was lying by omission, for he
left out the fact that the IAEA had also reported that it had dismantled
this nuclear program. [...]

5 On May 1, aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, Bush stood beneath a “Mission
Accomplished” banner and declared that “major combat operations in Iraq have
ended.” That was more wishful thinking than a lie. But he also said, “No
terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi
regime, because the regime is no more.” That was a disingenuous remark. [...]

8 In early August, before departing for a monthlong “working” vacation, Bush
said, “We’re doing everything we can to protect the homeland.” That was a
reassuring statement, but not an accurate one. [...]

10 In a November speech, Bush credited President Ronald Reagan for having
energized a worldwide movement for democracy that led to “new democracies in
Latin America” and to the South Africa government’s 1990 release of Nelson
Mandela. While Reagan had pushed for democracy in the Soviet bloc, he did
the opposite elsewhere. His administration cozied up to the fascistic junta
of Argentina and an El Salvador military that massacred peasants. It also
normalized relations with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Okay, so they're mostly of the nature of differences of opinion, omissions, and inaccuracies, rather than lies, but it's the last that is truly outrageous. Ronald Reagan and his administration, after all, directly liberated Grenada; helped the Contras liberate Nicaragua; aided El Salvador in its war against Marxist rebels; sided with Britain against the Argentine generals over the Falklands; and our support helped General Pinochet to democratize Chile. In fact, the only black mark against President Reagan in Latin America is that he left office without removing Fidel Castro. But even after you shear away all these direct truths, the broader point that President Bush made is obviously true: it was Ronald Reagan facing down the Soviets that triggered the fantastic growth in democracies across the globe, including Latin America. Meanwhile, the only reason we could afford a democratic South Africa was because with our victory in the Cold War it was no longer strategically important.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


GOP Makes 'Top Priority' Of Converting Black Voters: Party Hopes Bush Focus on Minorities Can Win 25% (Darryl Fears, December 25, 2003, Washington Post)

[A]s the 2004 presidential election unfolds, Republicans want to convert that focus on black appointees into black votes. Their goal, they say, is to win 25 percent of the black vote, which the party has not come close to doing in nearly 30 years.

"If we get African American votes, [the Democrats] are in deep trouble," Gingrich said in a recent interview. In presidential elections, roughly nine of every 10 black votes are cast for Democrats.

To win hearts and minds, the GOP is planning a campaign featuring television and radio ads touting President Bush's reaching out to the African American community and elements of the Republican message that appeal to a wide swath of black voters, such as support for school vouchers.

"We have to make our case in media that African Americans listen to," Gingrich said. "It will be a much more intense effort . . . to reach out in advertising and education and systematic outreach. We have to realize the reality of [Black Entertainment Television] and radio stations that we are not used to being on."

Ed Gillespie, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said increasing his party's share of the black vote is "a top, top priority."

The party is looking into establishing chapters at historically black colleges and universities, he said. Gillespie recalled Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele (R) telling him that the GOP should target black voters between 18 and 35 "because they are most likely to not identify as Democrats."

During a trip to Pittsburgh in July, Gillespie said, he met with Marc H. Morial, the new president of the National Urban League. While in Detroit last month, Gillespie said, he talked for two hours with editors at the Michigan Chronicle, one of the nation's few black daily newspapers. The party has arranged with American Urban Radio to broadcast a weekly message to the huge African American audience the network reaches.

Gillespie declined to specify how much the party will spend, saying he did not want the Democratic leadership to know. "But we're budgeting for it," he said.

Vice-President Rice and Chief Justice Brown have a nice ring to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Dean's 50-state strategy (Jules Witcover, Dec 24, 2003, Baltimore Sun)

The significance of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's decision to finance his campaign without federal money is emerging in a 50-state strategy designed to outgun the rest of the 2004 Democratic presidential field.

While the eight other Democratic candidates focus on next month's kickoff Iowa precinct caucuses and New Hampshire primary, Dr. Dean's self-financed campaign is already staffing and planning heavy spending in many states beyond the opening round of delegate-selecting contests.

The ambitious initiative is patterned after the successful 50-state strategy of another small-state governor and early Democratic long shot, Jimmy Carter of Georgia in 1976. Mr. Carter scored a breakthrough in Iowa and New Hampshire and was never caught afterward.

Can one be forgiven for assuming, based just on the headline, that Mr. Witcover was going to be writing about how Howard Dean is trying to lose all 50?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:25 PM


Arab states warm to Iraqi council: An Arab League delegation visited Iraq for the first time, signaling improving relations. (Dan Murphy, 12/26/03, CS Monitor)

For many months, it appeared the Arab League wouldn't work with the Governing Council, dismissed by many in the Arab world as US stooges. But a confluence of factors, ranging from US military successes against insurgents to a growing reputation for independence among the council has changed that tune. The shift appears to go beyond the Arab world.

On Tuesday, the European Union contributed $9.9 million to an internationally managed trust fund for Iraqi reconstruction. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly told visiting members of the Governing Council that Moscow would write off 65 percent of the $8 billion that Baghdad owes its largest creditor.

Closer relations with key neighbors won't guarantee Iraqi stability or a faster American withdrawal, something that was brought home by a roadside bomb that killed three American soldiers north of Baghdad on Wednesday afternoon. But analysts say it will make the job easier.

"The Governing Council have managed to prove themselves to most of the Arab states - each step towards transferring authority to Iraqis has increased the confidence of our neighbors,'' says Saad Hawki Tawfik, an expert in international relations at Baghdad University. "For the US, there's been slow progress on security, on the one hand, and pressure for cooperation, on the other."

Some of the fruits of better relations are already being seen. Acting Governing Council head Abdel Aziz al-Hakim told reporters on Sunday after meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad that he'd won Syria's agreement to do more to prevent militants from crossing into Iraq from that country.

The US has repeatedly asserted that Islamist fighters have been entering Iraq over the Syrian border. But now, Syria "is cooperating with us to stop the terrorism [and] the terrorist groups," Mr. Hakim said.

To be sure, the rhetoric of the Arab states remains critical of the US occupation and they're avoiding as much as they can the appearance of working with the American occupiers. Initially, they refused to give the Governing Council a seat at the league's table.

But their deeds indicate a growing awareness that their best interests are served by engaging in a process that's going to go on, with or without them.

It's almost as if when the world's only superpower does the right thing unilaterally the rest of the world has to follow along, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:13 PM


A Most Partial Historian: a review of Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England Volume III: Accommodations. By Maurice Cowling (David B. Hart, December 2003, First Things)

With Volume II, subtitled Assaults, Cowling’s project comes into focus, even as the number of subjects expands: Newman, Keble, Pusey, Gladstone, Manning, Ruskin, and Mill; George Eliot, Herbert Spencer, T. H. Huxley, and Leslie Stephen; Gilbert Murray, James Frazer, H. G. Wells, Belloc, Chesterton, and Shaw; W. H. Mallock, Winwood Read, Havelock Ellis, D. H. Lawrence, and Bertrand Russell. (I could go on.) It is in this volume that the case is most strikingly made that the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ struggle between Christian and anti-Christian thinkers for the moral and social future of England was not—as might be supposed—a struggle between religious and post-religious thought, but a war of creeds. The story begins with the Christian attack—by high-church Tractarians and reflective Protestants—upon the post-Christian mythologies of the eighteenth century, and its occasionally confused attempt to turn back the tide of unbelief. But the plot becomes most engrossing where Cowling turns to the tradition he calls “ethical earnestness”: that is, the “progressive” assault on Christianity from the time of Mill, Eliot, and Spencer to that of Russell and Lawrence. It is here that Cowling begins, in scrupulous detail, to identify the sources of the religious consciousness of post-Christian England. “Ethical earnestness,” as he recounts its development, consisted in a profound, often inchoate, but semi-mystical devotion to social improvement and rational morality as alternatives to the superstition, obscurantism, and tyranny of the old faith.

It was not, however, in any meaningful sense “post-religious,” as it demanded of its votaries absolute and fervent devotion to a principle—social cohesion, human development, “Life”—that was itself not susceptible of doubt. In a sense, it was a new cosmology allied to a new moral metaphysics, constantly in ferment, producing movements and sects and new beginnings, but never straying beyond the boundaries of the world in which it believed: a universe of Darwinian struggle that, precisely in its savage economy of “nature red in tooth and claw,” demanded of conscience that it assist evolution in its ascent towards higher ethical realizations of the human essence. In Cowling’s account, one comes to see not only the broad unity of the school of “ethical earnestness,” but the final incoherence of its ethos: the closed order of nature is at once merciless chaos and the source of our ethics; morality is both obedience to nature and rebellion against nature’s implacable decrees; progress demands at once universal brotherhood and (especially among socialists) a ruthless eugenic purification of the race. What unifies this farrago into something like a moral vision is its most obviously religious element: complete devotion to the future as an absolute imperative, requiring in consequence a renunciation of all faith in and charity towards the past—or, for that matter, the present.

This is both the most substantial and most diverting section of Religion and Public Doctrine, thronged as it is with sharply drawn portraits and bedizened with flashes of mordant wit. Cowling is extremely good at showing how, say, George Eliot’s anti-Christian misunderstanding of Ruskin could so easily ally itself to her Feuerbachian ethical humanism, emanating its pale Dorotheas and paler creeds. But more enjoyable, and at the same time chilling, are the accounts of figures like Read (with his Malthusian, Darwinian, Comtean ideology and quaint utopianism of electricity, synthetic nutrition, and obedience to nature) or Ellis (with his worship of Art and Life, and his Nietzschean, Freudian, Frazerian dogmatism). Cowling’s account of the turn of “ethical earnestness,” in thinkers like Wells, Shaw, or Lawrence, towards a grimmer social and sexual vision—less hospitable to liberal optimism, more marked by the influences of Schopenhauer, Wagner, Nietzsche, Ibsen, and Freud—reminds one that a certain cold, pervasive fanaticism in this tradition might have carried “ethical earnestness” towards a politics considerably less fond and feckless than the wan, sincere, liberal secularism of post-Christian Britain. (Indeed, one finds oneself wondering whether the failure of English progressivism to produce some suitably demonic thinker who could have caused the tradition to precipitate into conscious nihilism can be attributed to anything other than the habitual British aversion to bombast and the cautionary example of Nazi Germany.)

In any event, Volume II concludes with an examination of those Christian apologists who applied themselves to the task of thwarting the march of secularization to ultimate victory: Mallock, Coventry Patmore, Chesterton, Belloc, Christopher Dawson, etc. Sadly, however, Cowling finds little here to encourage or detain him; however sympathetic he may be to one or all of these figures, none of them to his mind provides a very substantial riposte to the forces of modernity. Chesterton, for instance, quickly exhausts Cowling’s patience with his jollity, paradox, and alternating appeals to common sense and to fairyland irrationality. Of the much-revered The Everlasting Man, Cowling concludes that its attempts at a philosophy failed through its author’s incapacity, and that all its virtues taken together “did not stop the structure of the book cracking under the strain of its own weightlessness.”

Thus, if Volume II chronicles the war waged for the future between Christian and post-Christian intellectuals, Volume III, subtitled Accommodations, is a somber survey of the aftermath, and tells of one side’s resigned retreat from the field of battle and of the other’s consequent relaxation from a posture of arrogant triumphalism to one of mere contemptuous complacency. It is an immense volume, which takes a huge variety of figures into its capacious embrace—Carlyle, Kingsley, Burke, Disraeli, Darwin, Matthew Arnold, Dickens, Tennyson, Browning, Pater, Wilde, Macaulay, Acton, Inge, Shaftesbury, Tawney, Gore, Figgis, C. S. Lewis, Alasdair MacIntyre, Aldous Huxley, Elgar, Parry, Keynes, Hayek, Eagleton, Koestler, and George Steiner (to name a few)—but its form is fairly elementary: it addresses, in order, the accommodationism of English Christian latitudinarians, attempting to adjust themselves to the supremacy of secularist public doctrine; the reaction of more traditional Christian thinkers against the innumerable little apostasies and capitulations latitudinarianism entails; and the final victory of the public orthodoxy that now nourishes the imperturbable sanctimony, hectoring moralism, tender authoritarianism, and infinite dreariness of post-Christian Britain.

The final paragraph of another review makes Mr. Cowling sound even more appealing, -REVIEW: of Maurice Cowling. Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England Volume 3: Accomodations (D. L. Le Mahieu, American Historical Review):
 Underlying the malice and professed cynicism lurks a curious naïveté. Cowling believes that Anglicanism remains the default position of intellectual life in England. Christianity, it seems, buttresses even the most secularized discourses. Socialists enunciate a vision of the future that remains profoundly religious. Revisionist Liberals such as John Maynard Keynes may be brilliant economic technicians, but in their allegiance to the power of ideas they express a "compelling and pervasive" religiosity (p. 492). Cowling claims to accept the intellectual hegemony of the "post-Christian consensus," but the tone and prodigious scope of his three-volume project suggest otherwise. By showing how things went wrong, he implicitly seeks to make them right and to arouse what he calls "the Christianity which is latent in English life" (p. xi). In this nostalgia Cowling is not really a Conservative in the mould of Edmund Burke but a reactionary. Like a beached eighteenth-century Tory washed ashore at the millennium, he judges the past two hundred years of English intellectual history from a fixed standard that refuses to be relativized. An immense spiritual labor, this book is an act of faith from an angry man born out of his time.

One wonders what sensible Briton would choose to be of this time.

-ESSAY: The Case Against Going to War (Maurice Cowling, Finest Hour)

In the light of Powellism and Thatcherism it is easy to see that the equality of sacrifice and state-mobilisation of resources necessary for conducting the war lent patriotic respectability to punitive taxation and state economic con-trol. It is even easier to see that the war was debilitating politically and intellectually, and that it took the British a very long time to recover from it.

A thinking Conservative may draw two sets of conclu-sions. First, that moral indignation in virtuous causes was a dangerous luxury for a precarious Empire and that patience and prudence could hardly have been less successful than moral indignation. Though the balance is a fine one, Russian (and American) domination of Europe after a long war, the destruction of Germany and the emasculation of the British Empire, were probably worse for Britain than German domination of Europe might have been if that had been ef-fected without war or the emasculation of the Empire. Is it inconceivable, moreover, that patience with Nazi Germany might have been rewarded in the long run by military takeover, economic breakdown or a Gorbachev coming to power there?

The second conclusion a thinking Conservative may come to is that British politics since 1939 divide themselves into two phases — up to the mid-1960s, when collectivism and socialism came to be in the ascendant, and since the mid-1960s, when they have come to be in recession — and that Mrs. Thatcher’s achievement was a necessary and pain-ful reversal of almost every domestic assumption that the Churchill-Attlee coalition stood for.

In matters like this, dogmatism is demeaning. It is equally demeaning, in the decade of Thatcherite realism, to present defeat as victory long after it has become clear that it was defeat.

-ESSAY: Joseph Needham & the history of Chinese science (Maurice Cowling, February 1993, New Criterion)
-ESSAY: Raymond Williams in retrospect (Maurice Cowling, February 1990, New Criterion)
-THINK TANKS: Politeia (The Guardian)
-EXCERPT: Chapter Nine: Mill and Liberty -- Introduction (Chin Liew Ten, Professor of Philosophy, National University of Singapore)
The great interest shown in Mill's moral and political philosophy in recent years has produced some illuminating results. In moral philosophy he has been rescued from some of the crude mistakes attributed to him. In political philosophy the results have been less clear, but there is an increasing belief that the essay On Liberty is a more complex piece of work than is generally supposed. Until very recently, however, both critics and admirers of the essay have never doubted that it is a defence of individual liberty. They disagreed, about its value, but not about its liberal intentions. But even this unanimity has now been broken with the publication of Maurice Cowling's Mill and Liberalism, a fierce repudiation of Mill, who is accused of "more than a touch of something resembling moral totalitarianism", and of intellectual "jealousy, and a carefully disguised intolerance". In his comprehensive attack, Cowling does not spare the essay On Liberty, which is, according to him, only superficially a sustained plea for individual liberty. The individuality Mill defends is a selective one: it is the individuality of the elevated, and Mill's doctrine is really designed to detract from human freedom, and not to maximize it. The evidence Cowling accumulates to support his interpretation of Mill stretches over a very long period of Mill's life, from the early essays of 1831 on The Spirit of the Age to his Inaugural Address to the University of St. Andrews, delivered in 1867, and the posthumously published Three Essays on Religion.

-DISCUSSION: Has Christianity been vanquished in Britain? (Radio National, 17/10/01)
-ARCHIVES: "maurice cowling" (Find Articles)
-ARCHIVES: Maurice Cowling (NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of Maurice Cowling. Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England Volume 3: Accomodations (D. L. Le Mahieu, American Historical Review)
-REVIEW: of Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England, volume III: Accommodations (Church Times)
-REVIEW: of Mill and Liberalism by Maurice Cowling (Gertrude Himmelfarb, NY Review of Books)
-REVIEW: of The Impact of Hitler: British Politics and British Policy, 1933-1940. Maurice Cowling (Fritz Stern, Foreign Affairs)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:16 AM


Peru's latest tool in the war on drugs: land ownership: Some coca growers pull up illicit crops in favor of palm-oil trees and pineapples. (Lucien O. Chauvin, 12/26/03, CS Monitor)

The Peruvian government and US Embassy officials hope that ownership in the land and the equity that comes with it will help solidify recent gains in the decades-long war on drugs.

"We are trying to formalize the economy in these areas to increase investment and production, which is the only answer to combat drug trafficking," says a US Embassy official in Lima.

Hernando de Soto, author of The Other Path, the 1986 bible on the importance of formalizing the economy, says the process is a major step toward changing the entire illicit economy on which drug trafficking is based.

"Property changes the rules of the game. It gives farmers something tangible they can use as collateral. It is a bargaining chip they never had before," he says.

With land titles, farmers can enroll individually or as communities in a number of government programs, like housing services or agricultural assistance.

USAID has earmarked $1.3 million to title 4,300 plots of land, most averaging about 30 acres. The Peruvian government's Special Land Titling Program (PETT) is carrying out the program, which involves 15 eight-person brigades. The value of the plots being titled in Shambillo is approximately $5 million.

Omar Valderrama, a PETT director, says the program shows people that the state is interested in improving the livelihoods of farmers and not simply eliminating the illegal drug industry.

" We have found a successful formula to combat the drug economy that will allow us to transform this region and begin to create new levels of prosperity," he says.

Though he's expressed his regrets about running, one can't help thinking that Peruvians and the rest of us might have been saved much agony had Maria Vargas Llosa succeeded in his 1990 presidential campaign, which was very much in keeping with the ideas of Mr. de Soto.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM


Arnold off to 'good start,' but toughest test ahead (Martin Kasindorf, 12/23/03, USA TODAY)

Conservative radio talk-show hosts are grumbling about betrayal on spending issues. But Schwarzenegger is beginning to hammer out two-party solutions to the problems of the nation's most populous state. Though he bypassed the Legislature last week in bailing out local governments, he was careful to get the approval of State Controller Steve Westly, an elected Democrat.

As California TV stations reopened bureaus in the state capital to cover the first newsworthy governor since Jerry Brown's 1975-83 tenure, Schwarzenegger drew bravura notices for what he and political analysts termed a major budget victory Dec. 12.

That day, the state Senate approved a compromise version of the governor's "California recovery plan." If voters OK the plan's twin proposals March 2, California would borrow $15 billion by selling bonds to cover the shortfalls of the past three years. A budget-balancing amendment to the state Constitution would forbid spending in excess of revenue starting in 2006. That proposal contains loopholes that could allow more spending than Schwarzenegger was willing to accept at first.

"I give him credit," Davis says. In getting this far toward braking future overspending, "he got done something I couldn't do. It's not perfect, but it's something." [...]

[Maria] Shriver, 47, who has returned to work part time as an NBC journalist, stepped in. She and her husband were attending a conference in Palm Springs with the California congressional delegation when she encountered Leon Panetta, who was former president Clinton's chief of staff. Panetta encouraged Shriver, a Democrat and part of the Kennedy family, to coax Schwarzenegger to reopen talks with Democrats.

Former secretary of State George Shultz, a Republican, gave the governor the same advice. Legislators from both parties persuaded election officials to extend the deadline to get measures on the March ballot.

Shriver told friends that it was vital to demonstrate early in her husband's administration that the regular government processes could work. In a speech to a Sacramento women's group Dec. 9, California's first lady urged legislators to meet her husband halfway. "If some of these legislators were children, we'd give them a timeout," she said. "We would teach them that with every person, you can find common ground; that you should play nicely with them, work to a common goal and work it out."

The result was the Dec. 12 compromise. The bonds, if approved by the voters, would be paid off over nine to 13 years. The modified spending limit, without a rigid cap, pleased Democrats. It roared through the Assembly, 80-0. The Senate passed it 27-12, but only two of the 15 Republicans voted for it. [...]

Next year's deficit may be even tougher to fix unless Schwarzenegger goes along with raising taxes, which he's been unwilling to do. Any tax increase needs approval by two-thirds of the Legislature. That would require Republican votes that may be hard to get even if Schwarzenegger asks for them.

The alternative to raising taxes is to cut spending from $86 billion to $72 billion, mostly by slashing health and welfare programs. Protesters have already picketed in Sacramento about the $1.9 billion in current-year cuts that Schwarzenegger proposed in higher education and aid for the developmentally disabled. [...]

Many politicians in both parties cringe at the potential outcry over $14 billion in cuts for 2004-05. "The hard part comes next year," Davis says.

"Maybe he'll agree to a temporary tax increase and can talk the Republicans into it. With heavy cuts alone, the news media will have a field day. Let's wait and see how he looks in March, April, after the budget comes out," Davis says.

And Democrats, of course, aren't pleased that Schwarzenegger acted on his own last week by declaring a public-safety emergency and ordering cash sent to local authorities to handle the problem until June.

Democratic lawmakers were miffed that Schwarzenegger hadn't consulted them. But at a news conference Thursday, he basked in the gratitude of local officials.

Brown, the former governor who is now Oakland's mayor, said Schwarzenegger's use of obscure executive powers "to the max" is "the only way you get anything done around here."

Any conservative would obviously prefer a Governor McClintock with unlimited power to pass his agenda, but given the reality of a Democratic legislature, Arnold was more likely to succeed in governing and is off to as good a start as could be hoped for. Now it's up to conservatives to help change the legislature.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Seeking a new emphasis, Dean touts his Christianity: Southern campaign plans to increase religious references (Sarah Schweitzer, 12/25/2003, Boston Globe)

Presidential contender Howard B. Dean, who has said little about religion while campaigning except to emphasize the separation of church and state, described himself in an interview with the Globe as a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said he expects to increasingly include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South.

Dean, 55, who practices Congregationalism but does not often attend church and whose wife and children are Jewish, explained the move as a desire to share his beliefs with audiences willing to listen. His comments came as a rival, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, chastised other Democrats for forgetting ''that faith was central to our founding and remains central to our national purpose.''

The move is striking for a man who has steadfastly kept his personal life out of the campaign, rarely offering biographical information, much less his religious beliefs. But in the Globe interview, Dean said that Jesus was an important influence in his life and that he would probably share with some voters the model Jesus has served for him.

''Christ was someone who sought out people who were disenfranchised, people who were left behind,'' Dean said. ''He fought against self-righteousness of people who had everything . . . He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it.''

Far be it from us to judge someone else's personal faith, but, suffice it to say, describing Christ as a kind of social worker seems merely odd, while referring to the Son of God as your role model is more than a bit hubristic. If this is how he plans to go about connecting with the religious, he doesn't seem likely to fare too well.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


Assassination Attempt on Musharraf Kills 7 in Paskistan (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/25/03)

A suicide bomb exploded moments after President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's motorcade passed Thursday, the second assassination attempt against him in less than two weeks, officials said. Musharraf was unhurt but at least seven people were killed.

The bombing in Rawalpindi, outside the capital, occurred near where a huge bomb exploded on Dec. 14 shortly after a convoy with Musharraf drove by. He was unhurt in that attempt as well, and officials said high-tech jamming devices in the president's motorcade had delayed the device and saved his life.

Thursday's blast happened when a suicide bomber rammed a pickup truck into a police vehicle. Eyewitnesses reported seeing body parts, shattered cars and broken glass along the route.

The brutal truth is that these attempts, even if successful, serve American purposes. Either the General will be motivated to crack down on Islamicists himself or, if he were to be killed and his government topple, we'd have the perfect pretext to go after the Islamicists ourselves, especially in the region bordering Afghanistan, and to secure Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Appeasement is Musharraf's worst enemy (Ahmed Rashid, 26/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)

In recent weeks the extremists have been infuriated by Islamabad's rapprochement with India. After intense American pressure, a major summit next week between Gen Musharraf and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Indian prime minister, was expected to lead to serious negotiations on resolving the Kashmir dispute.

The extremists, and the fundamentalist nuclear scientists who dominate Pakistan's nuclear programme, are also furious at Gen Musharraf for accepting demands by the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate the sale of Pakistani nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea.

Fundamentalism is also growing in the army. After a tip-off by the CIA, at least five army officers were arrested in October for helping al-Qa'eda members in Pakistan's border regions with Afghanistan.

Despite all these threats, Gen Musharraf has always tried to appease the Islamic parties and his half-hearted crackdowns on extremist groups have only been carried out because of inordinate pressure from the Americans.

Until recently the army has allowed extremist groups to continue crossing into Indian Kashmir to battle Indian troops, while the intelligence agencies are turning a blind eye to the resurgent Taliban.

Gen Musharraf has refused to talk to the mainstream non-religious parties, who would be his natural allies in any genuine battle against the Islamic extremists. These parties are demanding that the army give up power and return to the barracks, which Gen Musharraf has refused to do.

The result is that he is seriously isolated, trusted by none of the political forces in the country - secular or religious - and increasingly disliked by a public frustrated by his fluctuating policies and the lack of economic development and investment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:10 AM


Dean, Under Attack, Revives Feisty Style (JODI WILGOREN, 12/25/03, NY Times)

Swatting away attacks from all corners in the 10 days since the capture of Saddam Hussein, Howard Dean has returned to the combative posture that propelled his insurgent candidacy to the front of the field this fall. Denunciations of "Washington Democrats" once again dominate his speeches, even as he complains that negativity has taken over the primary campaign.

It is a clear contrast from just two weeks ago when Dr. Dean, buoyed by the backing of several major unions, former Vice President Al Gore and a swelling crowd of elected officials, was beginning to change his style. Smiling more than finger-thrusting, he fancied himself a frontrunner above the fray, experimenting — briefly — with a more moderate tone, as he kept one eye on the general electorate.

But the relentless battering has stymied his effort to look long range, forcing him to hunker down in the final month before the first votes.

"Ultimately, if I'm going to be the nominee, I have to broaden the message," Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, said recently in an interview as his van shuttled between town-hall-style meetings on the snowy streets of New Hampshire. "I know that, and I was starting to do it. But you can't do it if every day you know Joe Lieberman is calling you incompetent and John Kerry is whining about something else. There's not much sense in broadening the message if I'm not the nominee."

No one in the modern history of the presidency has ever changed the image of himself that people took away from the primaries. In fact, the brilliance of the Gore strategy in 2000 was that having been pushed Left by the Bradley challenge he just stayed there, instead of trying to get back to the Right, where his boss had run. If Dean is to mount a serious challenge it will be by turning out the base as well as Gore did, not by placating moderates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:59 AM

In The Bleak Midwinter (Christina Georgina Rossetti)

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can give Him: give my heart.

December 24, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:54 PM


De-Zionification: U.S. Jews rethink the state of Israel. (Mark D. Fefer, 12/24/03, Seattle Weekly)

I GUESS I GOT MY TERMS confused. I imagined "progressive" referred to the sort of activists behind, say, the new alternative Geneva peace plan, people looking to move beyond the shrill polarities of the Israel-Palestine debate to some fair-minded middle ground. But most of the "progressives" in Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, edited by playwright Tony Kushner and Village Voice theater critic Alisa Solomon, are instead far-lefties, intent on rebutting the perceived one- sidedness of Jewish establishment opinion with an equally one-sided, and familiar, anti-Zionist slant: Israel is roughly equivalent to the Third Reich, and the only thing standing in the way of Palestinians fully realizing their deepest aspirations is Israeli cruelty and intransigence (never Arab crimes, failures, and corruption). In that respect, Zion wrestles its way to a predictable rout.

Yet this anthology of some 50 essays (plus poetry and a roundtable) is still a gripping, ambitious, valuable rout, arousing contempt, admiration, anger, wonder, and all the responses strong writing provokes. I'm not equipped to engage every point of interpretation or fact (though if, as Naomi Klein contends, "children all over the occupied territories are being named Rachel"—after bulldozed activist Rachel Corrie from Evergreen State College—I will eat my skullcap); but I was pleased to find them widening my perspectives, however dubiously.

When Adrienne Rich writes that American Jews "have paid an intellectual and spiritual price for the narrowing of sight demanded by conformity and reliance on Israel as surrogate identity" and that "part of this price has been estrangement of many Jews from any Jewish affiliation," I'm not sure the situation isn't exactly the reverse; but it's an important idea to consider. Similarly, you can't help but pause to reflect when longtime Village Voice essayist Richard Goldstein compares Israel to the phallus—"I hate it, I want it; I have it, I don't. I attack it, yet I'm afraid to live without it."

Mr. Goldstein has some "issues", eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:17 PM


Alarming Terror Talk on Web Surfaces (Fox News, December 24, 2003)

Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, said her organization has recently found and translated statements on Al Qaeda Web site Al-Lewa - Arabic for "The Banner" - that are promising new attacks on U.S. soil in the coming weeks.

Katz said a posting two weeks ago quoted an Al Qaeda spokesman identified as Abu Issam al-Yamani as saying, "The next Al Qaeda attacks will be most violent and will target the U.S." and urged Muslims "to leave the country if they don't wish to die as a result of a Jihadist operation."

A second message was posted on the same Web site last Thursday, from a group calling itself the Islamic Bayan Movement.

"Our Muslim brothers in America, this is our final warning. We ask you, as fast as you can, to leave the following cities immediately: Washington D.C., New York City, Los Angeles," the message said.

Katz said she noticed Al Qaeda's stepped-up cyber propaganda began Nov. 15 after the terror bombings in Istanbul, Turkey when a known Al Qaeda group warned in a communiqué that the "death cars will not stop."

Katz said the electronic vitriol has continued almost daily, and just last night a message was published in which Al Qaeda's mouthpiece, the Global Islamic Media Society, took delight that Americans are now "living in a state of anxiety and constant fear."

It's strange that they haven't used car bombings on U.S. soil yet.

France halts six U.S.-bound flights (UPI, 12/24/03)

French officials, responding to an urgent appeal by the United States, cancelled six U.S.-bound flights Wednesday because of fears of terrorism.

One of the flights, a Paris-to-Los Angeles route, had been scheduled to leave Wednesday, the BBC reported.

The U.S. request, conveyed by the U.S. embassy in Paris, followed "specific information" that al-Qaida was planning to use one of the French flights to attack U.S. targets.

Posted by David Cohen at 2:16 PM


Diary Of A Dean-o-phobe (Jonathan Chait,, 12/23/03).

Now, today the Democrats have a somewhat different set of political vulnerabilities. The old one about raising taxes on the middle class remains. But the September 11 attacks, and Bush's political fortune in having held office when they occurred, have reopened the national security divide. And the Clinton sex scandals, combined with Bush's skill in passing himself off as a regular, God-fearing country boy, have opened a large cultural gap between the parties. In order to win the White House, Democrats have to show they're tough on terror and not allow themselves be typecast as arrogant or morally permissive, which is how Republicans painted Gore. This requires them to put some emotional distance between their nominee and the hard-core socially liberal, antiwar base. The concessions it requires are less substantive than symbolic.
Diary of a Dean-o-phobe is must reading for conservatives. Not only is it well-written and devastating analysis of Howard Dean by the king of the haters, Jonathan Chait, which will come in handy in the future, but how often do we get to see our adversaries form a circular firing squad? Because Chait is a talented analyst and because he is caught firmly between his fear of Dean and his hatred of Bush, he is giving birth today to the future of the Democratic party.

What Chait brings home is that a complete house cleaning of the Democratic party is way overdue. It should have had one after 1972, but Watergate intervened and Democrats mistook disgust with Nixon as love of themselves. After the 1988 debacle, the party did get serious about nominating a more nearly centrist presidential candidate who was able to win with a plurality of the vote. Again this qualified success allowed the party to forestall the necessary reorganization the presidential level, despite its terrible record in Congress and the states during the '90s. When Al Gore felt that left-centrism wasn't quite working for him, his natural instinct to curry immediate applause led him left at the nominating convention. Now, with all the appropriate caveats, the party is facing the possibility of a blowout in presidential and congressional races. (Barring disaster, the Democrats have no chance of retaking the House this decade.) As luck would have it, Jonathan Chait is blazing today the road the party as a whole will have to travel in a year.

If this is right, then things are looking good for the Republicans. Chait's answer seems to be that Dean is a predictable and avoidable dissaster, not because his policies are wrong but because the way he presents them and his own failings make him unelectable. That's fine as far as it goes, but it is no rallying call for remaking the Democratic party. Even worse (or better, from my point of view), his explanation of W's success is that any idiot, being President on 9/11, would be all but unbeatable. No need there for Democratic soulsearching.

The Democratic party is a car speeding towards a cliff while the wheels are falling off. The driver counts himself lucky, because the wheels falling off will probably stop the car before it reaches the cliff. One guy in the back, ignored by everyone else, is suggesting they might want to consider stepping on the brake, just in case, but, still, he's pretty sure that's not really a cliff.

(Not that Chait's dismissal of W isn't annoying in the same way it's annoying when a favorite artist, who's artistry is so practiced as to look natural, is undervalued because of that very fluency. Here is a president who has at least three times staked his presidency on succeeding where success was not assured, and who has won each time.)

MORE (from OJ):
Washington Goes to War (with Howard Dean) (Eric Alterman, January 12, 2004, The Nation)

[T]he question of the Democratic nomination has come down to this: Will this election be about turning out your base, or winning over swing voters? Gore did the latter but not the former. He won the election, but, thanks to Ralph Nader's megalomania (with an assist from the SCLM--So-Called Liberal Media--and Gore's own crappy campaign), not by enough to prevent the Supreme Court from handing it to Bush. Today, the nation remains no less divided than four years ago, with about 20 percent of the vote up for grabs. The punditocracy has chosen its side. Perhaps it's time the rest of us choose ours.

Hard to imagine that you could fit more delusions into one paragraph, but far the most dangerous one for Democrats is that this remains an evenly divided nation and an election up for grabs. In fact, "the question of the Democratic nomination has come down to this", as David suggests above: do they go with Dean and just destroy the Party, then start over again? or if they pick someone safer like Gephardt do they get crushed and destroy the party anyway--because the Deaniacs take a walk. There is no choice where they keep the race competitive, but is there a way to preserve the Democratic Party as a viable option? Probably the only one who could do so is Herself.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:57 PM


John Howland -- Public-Spirited Vermonter (John P. Gregg, 12/24/03, Valley News)

They lit the Christmas candles at St. Francis of Assisi Church yesterday morning, and a festive wreath hung on the wall behind the altar.

For a funeral Mass.

More than 100 people were in the church, celebrating the life of John Hudson Howland, a native Vermonter who encouraged families to play in the snow on Mount Ascutney, put the down-and-out to work in the machine shops of Windsor and spoke his mind in Montpelier.

Howland, who died Friday evening at age 88 in his West Windsor home, is survived by his wife of 62 years, five children, two siblings, a dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and a multitude of memories of how he helped Windsor County.

“We celebrate this full life, full not only in the number of years, but in his achievements,” the Rev. Paul Belhumeur said in his homily.

The son of a municipal court judge in a family with roots that run 200 years deep in Windsor County, Howland worked his way through boarding school and Harvard College, fought in the Pacific as a Navy officer in World War II, and was active in a number of fields, ranging from real estate development to insurance to manufacturing.

He also represented Windsor County in the state Senate from 1975 to 1985 and served on a number of state and civic boards, including service as chairman of the District 9 Environmental Commission.

And as a civic-minded businessman -- one who famously spoke out against the nuclear power industry -- he demonstrated how an establishment Republican could also be a man with heart and soul.

The local paper, which manages to be both an excellent regional daily and a notorious left-wing rag, has been running long obituaries of more interesting citizens on the front page for awhile now. It's a lovely tribute to the deceased and a nice opportunity for readers to see how outstanding individuals help keep the community knit together. The one cited here actually appears above the fold today, Christmas Eve day. That gratuitous shot at Republicans is a perfect example of how liberal bias inevitably creeps off of the editorial page and contaminates the rest of a paper.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


Why I'm voting for Bush (Edward I. Koch, 12/24/03, Jewish World Review)

Last week I served as moderator of a forum on the contributions to America's intellectual life made by Eric Breindel who died in 1998 at the age of 42. At the time of his death, Eric was editorial page editor of the New York Post.

In its report on the forum, The New York Sun stated: "Mr. Koch told the crowd Wednesday night that he would vote for President Bush, entirely on the basis of his concern for embattled Israel."

I don't believe that is what I said. To the best of my recollection, my impromptu remarks mirrored what I have been saying for over a year.

I intend to vote for President George W. Bush in the next election, because in my view he is best able to wage the war against international terrorism. There is no greater threat to the United States than that posed by Al-Qaeda and similar groups. President Bush has confronted that threat head on. [...]

I do not believe the major contenders for the presidential nomination in the Democratic primaries have the stomach to confront the terrorist scourge comparable to President Bush. This is especially true of the current Democratic frontrunner, Howard Dean, whose stated reason for entering the race is his opposition to the war. Most of the other candidates who were in Congress and voted for the war resolution are now tacking to the wind to satisfy the left-wing constituency, hoping if they win to move to the center before the general election. The exception is Joe Lieberman, whom most observers believe has no chance of winning the nomination.

On the issue of my "concern for embattled Israel," I believe all of the major Democratic candidates, with the exception of Howard Dean, have records of support for that country as our steadfast ally in the Middle East.

Mr. Dean's comments about Israel do indeed suggest that he is not just not a supporter but is in some measure hostile to it. If that becomes a topic of political conversation, even Mr. Bush's evangelicalism may not be enough to stop Jews from voting for him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:53 AM


Aliens Cause Global Warming (Michael Crichton, January 17, 2003, Caltech Michelin Lecture)

My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming. Charting this progression of belief will be my task today.

Let me say at once that I have no desire to discourage anyone from believing in either extraterrestrials or global warming. That would be quite impossible to do. Rather, I want to discuss the history of several widely-publicized beliefs and to point to what I consider an emerging crisis in the whole enterprise of science-namely the increasingly uneasy relationship between hard science and public policy.

[L]et's look at how it came to pass.

Cast your minds back to 1960. John F. Kennedy is president, commercial jet airplanes are just appearing, the biggest university mainframes have 12K of memory. And in Green Bank, West Virginia at the new National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a young astrophysicist named Frank Drake runs a two-week project called Ozma, to search for extraterrestrial signals. A signal is received, to great excitement. It turns out to be false, but the excitement remains. In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:

N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL

[where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates;
and fL is the fraction of the planet's life during which the communicating civilizations live.]

This serious-looking equation gave SETI a serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. And guesses-just so we're clear-are
merely expressions of prejudice. Nor can there be "informed guesses." If you need to state how many planets with life choose to communicate, there is simply no way to make an informed guess. It's simply prejudice.

As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from "billions and billions" to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and
therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion. Faith is defined as the firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The belief that the Koran is the word of God is a matter of faith. The belief that God created the universe in seven days is a matter of faith. The belief
that there are other life forms in the universe is a matter of faith. There is not a single shred of evidence for any other life forms, and in forty years of searching, none has been discovered. There is absolutely no evidentiary reason to maintain this belief. SETI is a religion.

Mr. Crichton, not surprisingly, does not trace back far enough the divergence of science into separate camps of hard science and faith. Were he to do so he might look to the words of Ernst Mayr:
[D]arwin introduced historicity into science. Evolutionary biology, in contrast with physics and chemistry, is a historical science - the evolutionist attempts to explain events and processes that have already taken place. Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events and processes.

Obviously Darwinism too is a religion, but one that is so universally adhered to in scientific circles that its deleterious effect spread far beyond the realm of evolution--whose study it has stunted--to all of the sciences, where faith in practically any "scientific" alternative to religion has come to be accepted for that reason alone, that it is not "religious".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 AM


The beatitude excuse.: Judge Not, All Ye Faithful (Dave Shiflett, December 23, 2003, National Review)

Religious folk looking for a way to get out of jury duty may have been handed one by an unlikely ally in civic sloth: trial lawyers. According to a new guidebook for the plaintiff's bar, trial lawyers are advised to be wary of potential jurors with "extreme attitudes about personal responsibility." These jurors, the guidebook counsels, often reveal themselves by chatting up "traditional family values" - values that reflect "strong religious beliefs." If you want to get off the hook, chant a beatitude or two. That may well do the trick.

The scoop comes from journalist Jeff Johnson, who reports that legendary attorney David Wenner penned the warning for Litigating Tort Cases - known by some as the Shakedown Artist's Bible.

"It is helpful to divide the jurors into two groups: the personal responsibility group and compassion-altruistic group," Wenner writes in the guidebook. "Jurors who are extreme on the personal responsibility bias, or who have a high need for personal responsibility, will strongly
favor the defendant. In contrast, jurors who are extreme on the compassionate-altruistic bias, or who have a high need for compassion, will strongly favor the plaintiff."

One doesn't often find deep philosophical insight among trial lawyers, but here their insight is profound, even if accidental.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:23 AM


Once Skeptical, Briton Sees Iraqi Success (JOHN F. BURNS, 12/24/03, NY Times)

When Maj. Gen. Graeme Lamb, a 50-year-old Briton, arrived in June to lead the mainly European force controlling southeastern Iraq, he was skeptical, he said. He felt that "this is going to be a lot more difficult than we realized."

But as General Lamb prepared to hand his command to another British general, he said at a news conference here on Tuesday that Saddam Hussein's capture and other changes, including progress in restoring oil installations, power stations and running water, as well as the Iraqis' fast-rising prosperity, had fostered a new confidence that the American-led occupation force can eventually hand a politically stable Iraq back to its people.

"Is this do-able?" he said. "You'd better believe it."

The British officer described himself as neither optimist nor pessimist but "a hard-boiled realist," then offered an upbeat assessment that matched that of American generals: "I think we're in great shape."

He took a jab at the press. Western reporters, he implied, had come to an early conclusion that the allied undertaking in Iraq would not succeed, and had failed to adjust. He compared this with criticism that greeted allied forces in the first stages of the spring invasion, when resistance stalled the drive to Baghdad.

The plan provided for 125 days to take Baghdad, and it was accomplished in 23 days, he noted. But, he told reporters, "you had us dead and buried in seven days."

Mr. Burns continues to take every opportunity to chastise his own profession.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Has France shot itself in the foot? (Amir Taheri, December 24, 2003, Townhall)

France's passionate campaign to keep Saddam in power won no plaudits from the Arabs.

Many Arab leaders regard France as a maverick power that could get them involved in an unnecessary, and ultimately self-defeating, conflict with the United States.

"I cannot imagine what Chirac was thinking," says a senior Saudi official on condition of anonymity. "How could he expect us to join him in preventing the Americans from solving our biggest problem which was the presence of Saddam Hussein in power in Baghdad?"

Another senior Arab diplomat, from Egypt, echoes the sentiment.

"The French did not understand that the Arabs desired the end of Saddam, although they had to pretend that this was not the case," he says.

In Africa, the recent Libyan accord with Britain and the US deals a severe blow to French prestige. Libya is the most active member of the African Union and its exclusion of France, also from talks on compensation for victims of Libyan terrorism, sets an example for other African nations.

Dear Santa:

Please do not leave me the Velvet Margaret Thatcher painting tomorrow. Having already received the self-destruction of the Democratic Partyy and France, I already feel greedy.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Jesus Rules in the Sequel: Santa, the Eastern Temple Worms and the Dragons of Destruction may make for a good story, but in the end they pale by comparison (Paul Park, 12/22/03, LA Times)

My son, Lucius, is bored with bedtime stories. He's sick of the sequels, Rumplestiltskin II, etc. So he sketches an alternative: Jesus and his best friend, Santa Claus, travel to Asia to fight their enemy — the Eastern Temple Worms.

He's already figured out the plot, and there's a lot that's good, especially a scene about halfway through in which Jesus lays down his own life for a tactical advantage. Santa, regaining consciousness after being knocked out, kneels in the snow in his red pants, weeping over the body of his friend. Then he struggles on alone, overweight, out of breath, lugging his huge sack of toys, to confront the worms.

I'm surprised by my son's grasp of Jesus' role in the drama — something he has not gotten from me. It has been a long time since I have tempted fate by bringing him inside a church.

It is obvious, however, that the character of Santa Claus is larger in his mind, a cult figure to be propitiated at all costs. Santa's got all the accessories: the reindeer, the sleigh, the leather belt, the belly. But as the old elf slogs through burning buildings and over butchered carcasses, you have to be a little worried: Will his celebrated merriness be enough to see him through?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:54 AM


State Republican party flush with candidates, cash heading into campaign year (Steve Leblanc, 12/23/2003, AP)

State Republican leaders say their party is swimming in candidates and cash as it heads into a new campaign year.

The GOP has already recruited about 95 candidates to run for the Senate and House next year the highest number in a decade and has about $400,000 cash on hand to help fund the campaigns, GOP officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

To boost that total, top Republican leaders are dipping into their own wallets to support candidates, many of whom hope to use Gov. Mitt Romney's political coattails to ride into office.

Romney, his wife, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and her husband have already begun sending out $250 checks to the candidates, according to Dominick Ianno, executive director of the state Republican Party.

Romney said his goal is simple: Chipping away at the Democrat's overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate.

Romney said he would like to capture at least a third of the seats in either chamber enough to sustain his vetoes but conceded that's unlikely, given that it would require doubling the number of Republican lawmakers in either chamber.

While the Democrats have to write off huge swaths of the country, the GOP is on the attack everywhere.

December 23, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:59 PM


Christmas eve (David Warren, 12/24/03, Ottawa Citizen)

Throughout the world, on this Christmas eve, there is good news. The American and allied victory in Iraq is suddenly shown to push freedom forward, and throw tyrants back, on many other fronts.

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's unspeakable dictator, has himself acknowledged that the fate of Saddam Hussein in Iraq influenced his decision to abandon Libya' s programmes for weapons of mass destruction, and throw his country open to international arms inspectors. According to my information, he is also impressing the Bush and Blair administrations by turning tables on the intelligence front, and shopping some of his links and assets in the terror networks. Indeed, I believe the Orange Alert now signalled in the United States owes something to information transferred through British contacts from the Libyan intelligence services.

As well as to many other government sources in the Arab and Muslim world, not always friendly to the West. [...]

The whole power matrix of the Middle East seems thus to be getting it, from Rabat to Islamabad: rulers understanding that the U.S., Britain, and their allies are no longer the "paper tigers" described in Jihadist propaganda. The message of President Bush from his first state of the union speech after 9/11, "you're either with us or against us", is being driven home by diplomatic means that could only succeed after the Afghan and Iraqi demonstrations of military power. In one country after another, tyrants are deciding that they do not wish to share in the fate of Saddam, and will even begin to open their societies to avoid or postpone that fate. And even in France and Germany, attempts to undercut the U.S. effort are being publicly abandoned.

Definitely a glass half-full assessment, but one that drives home why the Islamicists would be feeling some urgency to pull off a strike ASAP.

Al Qaida debates its targets (Martin Walker, 12/23/2003, UPI)

A fierce debate is raging within the ranks of al-Qaida whether to attack the Saudi Arabian regime directly, or to concentrate their attacks on Americans. One result of the argument is that a new organization, the Al-Haramayn (Two Holy Places) Brigades, has spun off from al-Qaida to attack Saudi targets.

The debate, which is conducted semi-openly by al-Qaida theorists and Islamic intellectuals on the website "The Voice of Jihad," has now drawn in a senior al-Qaida member Abd Al-Aziz bin Issa bin Abd Al-Mohsen, also known as Abu Hajer, who is on Saudi Arabia's most-wanted list. He argues that Saudi Arabia should be handled with kid gloves, as the major source of al-Qaida funding.

Bush has thrown open Pandora's box in a paradise for international terrorists: 2003 has been a crucial year for the Middle East, with war in Iraq and the continuing intifada in Israel. The Guardian's acclaimed commentator on the region assesses what happened, what it
means, and where it might lead next year (David Hirst, December 23, 2003, The Guardian)

This new Iraqi order would be sovereign and democratic, but the first thing it would do would be to ask American troops to stay on to preserve that sovereignty and democracy.

With this subterfuge, Mr Bush might just, as he apparently plans, manage to declare "mission accomplished" on the eve of the presidential election. But it would be remarkable if such an essentially US-installed government, presiding over a hastily reconstructed army and police, was able for long to master the maelstrom of colliding passions and political interests which the removal of the tyranny has unleashed.

An Iraq at loggerheads with itself, and a paradise for international terrorists, would spare none of the principal actors in this geopolitical drama. Not the US, confronted as it then would be with the classical colonial dilemma of whether to pull back or plunge yet further in. Not the Arab world, whose regimes in their people's eyes only differ from Saddam's in the degree of their degeneracy, nor Israel.

The danger is what Arab commentators habitually call "Lebanonisation" - first of Iraq and then, by an inevitable contagion, the rest of the eastern Arab world. Hizbullah, that most successful of anti-Israeli insurgencies, grew out of a single failed and fratricidal state. What might an entire failed region throw up?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:12 PM


Immigration Reform on Bush Agenda (Mike Allen, December 24, 2003, The Washington Post)

White House aides would not provide details of the proposal, but the Republican officials said it draws on a bill introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would create a Web-based job registry, to be run by the Labor Department. Employers would post job opportunities that would be available first to U.S. workers and then to prospective immigrants, who would be allowed to come under a new visa for temporary workers.

The other half of the program would be what Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge referred to earlier this month as "some kind of legal status" for undocumented workers in this country. The sources said White House officials were more skeptical about this idea than about the temporary-worker program, but they concluded that they needed a response to the large population of undocumented workers for the plan to be credible and for Bush to get credit from Hispanic voters.

The blueprint is the most ambitious of its kind since a bill signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 that offered legal status to millions of illegal immigrants who had moved to the United States before 1982 and imposed sanctions on employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants.

The White House plan is being designed by Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove, in consultation with the domestic policy staff. Sources said the White House's biggest concern is that the new mechanism not penalize people who had followed the law and reward those who had not. McCain's plan, which was introduced in the House by Reps. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), tries to mitigate that problem by creating a new type of visa for previously undocumented workers who would be allowed to live in the United States legally for three years. Then the workers could apply for the temporary worker visa, which would be the path to a green card, or legal permanent residency. That would amount to a three-year advantage for those who entered legally.

Now there'll be no shutting the Buchananeers up.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Conservatives and Neoconservatives (Adam Wolfson, Winter 2003, Public Interest)

The basic contours of neoconservatism most readily emerge against the backdrop of its two main conservative rivals: libertarianism and traditionalism. (I will have little to say of religious conservatives and Straussians, since they are frequently allied with neocons and have moreover helped shape the neocon impulse.) These three conservative approaches - traditionalism, libertarianism, and neoconservatism - have distinct historical and philosophic roots. Generally speaking, traditionalists look to Edmund Burke, libertarians to Friedrich Hayek, and neocons to Alexis de Tocqueville. However, each finds its origins in something more elemental. Anyone of us can’t help but have a gut feeling about modern American life - its possibilities and limits, whether it is humane and decent or alienating and corrupting. Those of us who regret much of modern American life and find solace in old, inherited ways will cling to traditionalism. Others, who celebrate the new freedoms and new technologies, will turn to libertarianism. As for those who see in modernity admirable principles but also worrisome tendencies, their persuasion will be neoconservatism.

In the post-World War II period, a number of exceptional thinkers sought to adapt a traditionalist, Burkean conservatism to American public life. They became known as the “new conservatives.” The most prominent of them was Russell Kirk, who authored in 1953 the best-seller The Conservative Mind. An overly simple but for our purposes accurate enough way of characterizing Kirk’s achievement would be to say that he initiated a turn among American conservatives away from a bourgeois Lockean philosophy and toward a mildly aristocratic Burkean one. A typical American “conservative” in the pre-World War II period was in fact a nineteenth-century liberal - a believer in laissez-faire, scientific improvements, and progress more generally. The Burke revival that Kirk helped spark in the 1950s lent to American conservatism a very different voice. No longer would it settle for being the party of “big business” or an apologist for bourgeois society. The traditionalists joined Burke in his lament that “the age of chivalry is gone,” and concurred in his denunciations of the “new conquering empire of light and reason.” [...]

Kirk’s project was less about public policy than philosophic definition and cultural recovery. With Burke as his touchstone, Kirk aimed at explaining to an American audience what it meant to be conservative and to think conservatively. In The Conservative Mind, he surveyed a kaleidoscope of conservative thinkers, from John Adams to Tocqueville, and from Disraeli to Henry Adams. It had been a long time since Americans had been taught to take these thinkers seriously, and Kirk’s prolific writings changed the face of American conservatism. In its early years, the National Review was heavily influenced by traditionalist modes of thought, and for a while Kirk wrote a column for the magazine. The magazine’s opening statement of purpose, authored by William F. Buckley in 1955, was a neo-Burkean call-to-arms in which it was declared that the National Review “stands athwart history, yelling Stop.”

The desire to stop, reflect, reconsider, and perhaps go back remains alive within conservative circles. It can be seen in the conservative defense of the traditional family, and in its cultivation of the older virtues and a religious sensibility. Most practically it is evident in the traditionalist view that the federal government has usurped the prerogatives of localities. Such conservatives look back wistfully to an America of small towns and close-knit communities, and they have become increasingly critical of what they view as President Bush’s “big government conservatism.” [...]

My brief overview of traditionalism and libertarianism hardly does justice to the complexity and richness of each, or to the profound impact they have had on American public life. Yet even so the puzzle of their political alliance over the years should be readily apparent. Of course, they are both opposed to much government regulation and spending, but beyond this they might seem to share little in common. Their fundamental outlooks are quite at odds, and indeed it was the great project of conservatives in the 1950s and 1960s to find a way of reconciling the two - National Review writer Frank Meyer had called his solution “fusionism.” However, at a deeper level traditionalism and libertarianism do find common cause, and it is here where their differences from neoconservatism first emerge. For both the traditionalist and the libertarian, and in contrast to the neoconservative, politics is of secondary significance. The traditionalist believes that culture or history is the primary factor in human affairs; for the libertarian it is economics. And thus not surprisingly, they can oftentimes seem to have little affinity for modern democratic life. It is in neoconservatism’s appreciation for politics generally and the politics of democracy in particular that its unique characteristics can be seen.

Nostalgia for a pre-industrial, pre-Enlightenment past, as found in traditionalism, is largely absent from neoconservatism. It is not that neoconservatives are proponents of the unregulated market or are without appreciation for our moral and spiritual inheritance as are libertarians. Instead, the neoconservative faults Kirk’s neo-Burkean project for its sheer futility. Appeals to tradition as an authoritative guide in American life or as a brake on change and innovation are more than likely to fall on deaf ears. True enough, we have our traditions in America, but these tend to be liberal-democratic ones, such as our reverence for individual rights or our veneration of health and well-being. One need not have lived through our recent cultural upheavals to glean this truth about American democracy. From his visit to America in the 1830s, Tocqueville observed that Americans “treat tradition as valuable for information only.”

Not from such American materials is a Burkean politics made of. Recognizing this fact about American life - that almost everything is up for grabs and in continual flux - neoconservatives believe, to paraphrase Tocqueville, that we should aim at educating and directing democracy, rather than seeking to overcome it, or just as inadvisably, as some more literary conservatives in fact do, scorning it. It was a political axiom of Burke’s that “when ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment we have no compass to govern us.” This goes too far for the neoconservative. Without siding with the Enlightenment’s faith in reason as our only true compass, the neocon recognizes that in democratic times ancient opinions cannot rely on their own authority but must defend themselves in open debate, and that old rules must find some other basis than what is known as prescription if they are to flourish. The loss is, of course, considerable, but rather than retreating in defeat or condemning democracy outright, neoconservatives seek democratic substitutes for these older modes of living. Neoconservatives understand that tradition and custom, in themselves, can have little hold on a democratic people, and thus they look to other means to restrain democracy from its worst instincts.

At least here if nowhere else neocons and paleos are in partial agreement: Both share in opposition to traditionalists a sense that much of the past is irretrievable. The question is, where does one go from here? The lamentation for a lost tradition leads paleoconservatives in search of new gods, new heroes, and new myths. Full of disdain for what they consider the democratic idols of equality and commodious living, they seek not to rescue democracy from itself but to expedite its collapse, to make way for a postmodern, postdemocratic age. In contrast, neocons seek to refurbish America’s founding principles and its democratic way of life. They are aware of democracy’s shortcomings - its frequently low aspirations and dehumanizing tendencies - but they also recognize the fundamental justice of democratic equality. Neoconservatives seek to secure a genuine human freedom and dignity in the age in which we live now, the democratic age, rather than in some futurist utopia. [...]

Neoconservatives object not only to the libertarian critique of Big Government but also to its cramped understanding of liberty. Libertarians rise to the defense of every conceivable freedom but that of self-government; they typically tend to be pro-abortion, pro-drug legalization, pro-human cloning, and so on. Their goal, also ardently advanced by the postmodern Left, is the expansion of individual choice. But the “right to choose” has generally been secured in contemporary America only by enacting a judicial prohibition, one that forbids individuals from acting together to determine what laws they shall live under.

Now, neoconservatives are hardly a moralistic lot. On some of these contentious cultural issues, they are as likely to be on the “pro” as on the “anti” side. Moreover, their analysis tends toward the urbane - perhaps too urbane given what is morally at stake. Religious conservatives not infrequently become impatient with what they see as the softness of many neoconservatives on these vital issues. However, dispassion should not be mistaken for approval or naïveté about what is on the line. Neoconservatism, after all, came into its own in reaction against the Left’s nihilistic revolt against conventional morality and religion. Moreover, neoconservatives are in agreement in their condemnation of the high-handed manner in which the libertarian agenda is enacted. Democratic discussion is circumvented, and “we the people,” as the phrase would have it, are disenfranchised. To the neoconservative, the true road to serfdom lies in the efforts of libertarian and left-wing elites to mandate an anti-democratic social policy all in the name of liberty. But it is a narrow, privatized liberty that is secured. An active and lively interest in public affairs is discouraged as a result. Everything is permitted - except a say in the shaping of the public ethos. Libertarian ideology would turn citizens into foreigners who live happily, if indifferently, in their country

Maybe it's just the case that these concepts are too amorphous for us ever to reach general agreement about what neocons, paleocons, theocons, etc., even are, but there's a theme here in the contrasting of neoconservatism to traditional conservatism that it seems most of us could agree on: neoconservatism is rather urbane, in fact, rather urban--it is the kind of conservatism that one can feel most comfortable espousing in front of one's rich liberal peers in a cosmopolitan setting. Thus the "dispassion", the acceptance or even advocacy of progressivism, or at least an unwillingness to go backwards, etc.. It is precisely here though, if we accept the notion that neoconservatives are truly conservative, that we see it is a tragic flawed politics. Grant Mr. Wolfson his argument that neoconservatism "came into its own in reaction against the Left’s nihilistic revolt against conventional morality and religion" and then consider his statement that neoconservatism and libertarianism "share in opposition to traditionalists a sense that much of the past is irretrievable" and you find a paltry sort of "reaction". It seems to say: sure, the Left's assault on morality has caused sufficient damage to give rise to neoconservatism, but that's water under the bridge, let's be realistic and move on from here. No doubt that's the sort of attitude that goes down well at cocktail parties in Manhattan and Washington, but it makes it difficult to take such folk seriously.

Take three issues that seemed relatively settled in the '70s, the social acceptance and legalization of sexual "liberation", drug use, and abortion. The acquiescent, go-along-to-get-along, neoconservatism on offer here would have accepted these as fait accompli's (accomplii?). Traditionalists (it's obvious here that religious conservatives are traditionalists, not neocons) instead fought against them and the tide has been turned on all three issues. Similarly, the neocons are basically uninterested in the issue of gay marriage, but it seems quite possible that the traditionalists will prevail on this issue too. At some point, it seems fair to say that a movement that sits out the central fights on the morality of the age can not be considered conservative at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:51 PM


Report: Palestinian state in 2004, no matter what (Jerusalem Newswire, December 22, 2003)

The Middle East News Line (MENL) reported Sunday Israel has acceded to a Bush administration demand that an interim Palestinian state be established in the entire Gaza Strip and most of Judea and Samaria during 2004.

This state will come into being whether or not Palestinian terrorism continues and whether or not the Palestinian Authority cracks down on the terror groups, according to the MENL.

It is believed that the establishment of Palestine will have a powerfully positive effect on President George W. Bush's aspirations for re-election later in the year.

The US proposal for Israel to recognize an interim Palestinian state in the coming year was reportedly predicated on the Washington-sponsored Road Map plan, which calls for a de facto Palestinian state to be established in 2003, and its final borders to be determined by 2005.

But whereas the Road Map stipulated that there first be an end to terrorism and the disarming and dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure in the PA areas - something the PA simply refused to do - this new proposal apparently will award the Palestinians a state without demanding any Palestinian action.

The MENL report states that, "Sharon has accepted a US proposal for an interim Palestinian state in 2004 regardless of Palestinian Authority agreement to end the more than three-year-old war and dismantle Palestinian insurgency groups."

It's been disturbing this week to read folks who should have figured this out by now--Daniel Pipes, Zev Chafets, etc.--try to convince themselves that Sharon isn't serious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:24 PM


Oy, Yo Mama (Armond White, December 19, 2003,

Blaxploitation movies are both saluted and bitten in The Hebrew Hammer, a satire that applies the conventions of '70s black stud detective movies like Shaft, Hammer, Slaughter, Truck Turner to contemporary Jewish American culture. It begins with a flashback to the title character's childhood in which little Mordecai is teased by his non-Jewish schoolmates because the spinning-top dreidel he got as a Hanukkah present doesn't match up with their own, plentiful Christmas gifts. As an adult, Mordecai Jefferson Carver (played by Adam Goldberg) becomes a hipster, righteous defender of bullied Jewish kids while also making a career as a private eye. (He's called "a certified circumcised dick" to a tune that resembles Isaac Hayes' "Theme from Shaft.")

Jonathan Hesselman wrote and directed The Hebrew Hammer with a fan's knowledge of the Blaxploitation genre and with a frank and sometimes-funny tone of commiseration. Many of the film's jokes convey Hesselman's awareness of the need for aggression and revenge – the need for heroes – that made Blaxploitation movies such a draw for urban youth. What makes the film noteworthy is that Hesselman's comic perspective on ethnic identity spreads the need for role models and saviors across American's ethnic rainbow.

The analogy made here between black movie fantasy and white Jewish movie fantasy is sometimes awkward.

It seems unlikely that there's anything in the movie funnier than someone writing that last line with a straight face.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:22 PM

60-40 FILES:

GOP SENATE HOPES (Dick Morris, December 23, 2003, NY Post)

LOST among the focus on the Democratic presidential race is the likelihood of a huge Republican gain in the U.S. Senate in the 2004 elections. Even without a landslide victory for Bush (quite possible if Howard Dean wins the Democratic nod), the way races are shaping up, the Republicans have a lot to gloat about. [...]

The most likely result would be a Republican gain of three or four, knocking the Democrats down to only 44 or 45 seats, barely enough to sustain a filibuster. If Bush wipes out Dean in a landslide, the Democrats could fall even lower, although it seems unlikely that they would drop below the magic number of 40 needed to oppose closure on Democratic filibusters.

Mr. Morris, for once, is over cautious.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 PM


GOP's Frist hones Senate operating skills: After a rocky start, the Senate's majority leader refines his understated style to score a major win on Medicare (Gail Russell Chaddock, 12/24/03, CS Monitor)

"He got Medicare reform passed, and that's the high point of the whole Congress right now," says Eric Uslaner, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. [...]

While House GOP leaders have powerful rules to limit debate and enforce party discipline, the Senate works on consensus. Frist learned that lesson well. "He seemed every inch the amateur for the first few months as leader. But he's catching on and demonstrating expertise in that post," says Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist. "That quiet air of confidence that doctors project seems increasingly to fit well within the atmosphere of the Senate."

Frist has promised to quit the Senate by 2006. Insiders note that exit date leaves time to campaign for the White House in 2008. "A third of the Senate will probably think about running. He has the most credibility of all the senators," says Mr. Sabato.

The betting line at this point would have to be:

(1) Jeb Bush

(2) Condi Rice

(3) Bill Frist

(4) John Ashcroft

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:35 PM


In China, pews are packed: Beijing is wary as Christianity counts up to 90 million adherents. (Robert Marquand, 12/24/03, CS Monitor)

Christianity - in both the official and unofficial churches - is again gaining momentum in China, and is a source of some consternation for the party leadership. "Being Christian" is fashionable, with young people sporting crosses as a mild form of dissent, and others feeling the faith has a certain international cachet. But something more is at work. In many interviews, congregants say the deity they worship communicates, and has power in their lives, especially now when China is going through immense, jarring economic changes that upset older social contracts.

"People in China have a spiritual hunger, very much so," says an official church pastor in Xiamen, "and there is a need for that to be filled. I think this is the main reason why we continue to have larger services." [...]

Along the easy-going southeast coast, Protestant worshipers pay little attention to China's Shanghai-based official church hierarchy. They hold Bible study groups, have choir rehearsals, and gather in volunteer groups. "We have to join the [official] church, but then we do and say what we want," says a local pastor. "We preach the living God."

And so are the days of the dictatorship numbered.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 PM


Beyond Belief: Howard Dean's religion problem. (Franklin Foer, 12.22.03, New Republic)

[B]ecause Clinton hailed from the relatively conservative Baptist Church (as opposed to the liberal Congregationalists), he understood how to paper over differences with voters who disliked his positions on social issues, especially abortion. "With Clinton, evangelical voters no longer felt like they were locked in a battle against a secular Democratic Party," says the University of Virginia's Hunter. By the end of the campaign, Clinton and Gore seemed sincere enough that the Associated Baptist Press trumpeted them as "the first all-Baptist ticket for the nation's two highest offices." George H.W. Bush's share of the evangelical vote fell from 77 percent in 1988 to 56 percent in 1992. As a result, Clinton nearly swept the border states and made important inroads in the South.

Indeed, a case can be made that the Democrats' recent presidential success with Southern candidates is only secondarily connected to their geographic roots. Candidates who grow up in the South come from a world steeped in Jesus. Even if they don't buy the theology themselves, they intuitively understand the role that faith plays in people's lives; they have absorbed enough of the lingo to plausibly pass for religious or at least avoid offending the faithful.

Dean, on the other hand, utterly lacks this gift. In a CNN interview last week, Judy Woodruff asked him about his bike-path conversion. She seemed bemused over the story. "Was it just over a bike path that you left the Episcopal Church?" Dean told her, "Yes, as a matter of fact, it was." He explained how the diocese had resisted handing over the land for the trail. "One thing I feel about religion, you have to be very careful not to be a hypocrite if you're a religious person. It is really tough to preach one thing and do something else. And I don't think you can do that." As the discussion continued, Woodruff asked, "And you don't believe, governor, the Republicans are going to have a field day with comments like these?" Dean replied with unwitting clarity: "The Republicans always have a field day with things like this." Yes, they do.

The real story here--which the press seems unable to wrap its collective mnind around, just because he's "winning"--is that Howard Dean has thus far shown himself to be one of the most inept major party candidates we've ever seen. There's a huge difference between being personally irreligious and actually alienating religious voters--a candidate who persistently does the latter is incompetent as a matter of politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


Lieberman Furious as Dean Calls Clintonoid Group 'Republican' (NewsMax, Dec. 23, 2003)

Democratic Leadership Council, a Clintonoid group described by the media establishment as centrist, is "Republican," according to Democrat front-runner Howard Dean. And rival Sen. Joe Lieberman is furious.

"Does he realize when he's saying that he's pushing Bill Clinton, a hundred members of Congress, countless governors and mayors around America, state officials, who are members of the DLC and the new Democratic movement out of the Democratic Party?" Lieberman told reporters today in Manchester, N.H.

Mr. Dean is right on this one: to be a DLCer is to be a Republican in all but name and registration. May as well just go ahead and change those, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:26 PM


Gadhafi: North Korea and Iran Should Follow My Lead (Chosun Ilbo, 12/23/03)

In an interview with CNN on Monday, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who recently announced that he would end his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs, advised North Korea, Iran, and Syria to give up their WMD programs as well. Gadhafi said that by following in his footsteps, those nations can escape from their current difficulties.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:20 PM


Latest Scare Shows Need For Better Gun Program, Pilots Say (Adrian Schofield, December 23, 2003, Aviation Daily)

U.S. pilot groups believe the latest security alert highlights the fact that not enough pilots have been trained to carry firearms in the cockpit, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) needs to accelerate the training process.

The Airline Pilots Security Alliance said only 500-1,000 pilots have been trained in the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program, which is "rife with roadblocks" that discourage pilots from signing up. TSA "needs to fix the [FFDO] program before the next orange alert," APSA said, including lifting the training rate, improving screening process, and eliminating the requirement for guns to be carried in lock boxes.

Except, of course, that the latest scare was something quite different, a scare which demonstrates the point that guns in cockpits would be a greater threat to safety than terrorists are. The argument over guns has little to do with safety and much to do with Second Amendment ideology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:22 PM


News Release: Personal Income and Outlays (BEA News, 12/23/03)

Personal income increased $44.0 billion, or 0.5 percent, and disposable personal income (DPI) increased $39.2 billion, or 0.5 percent, in November, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $31.1 billion, or 0.4 percent.

Sooner or later, George "Herbert Hoover" Bush's lies about the "worst economy since the Great Depression" will catch up to him and Howard "Honest Abe" Dean will coast to victory....

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:42 AM

O HARP, WHERE ART THOU? (via The Mother Judd):

For a Timeless Song Style, a Chance at the Big Time (RANDY KENNEDY, 12/23/03, NY Times)

The Mount Pleasant Home Primitive Baptist Church on the outskirts of Birmingham is a long way from Hollywood, literally and figuratively.

So it was a little strange one Sunday to hear a group of people in the tiny bare-walled church swapping stories about Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of "The English Patient," who was pronounced by one elderly Alabamian that day to be "a pretty decent guy." [...]

When this Civil War drama [Cold Mountain] opens nationwide on Christmas, the hope among these singers is that it will accomplish something more meaningful than a glamorous trip to Hollywood. They hope it will introduce their kind of music — a powerful and beautiful but relatively obscure form of a cappella choral singing known as Sacred Harp — to a broader audience.

The music, also known as shape-note or fasola singing, has been waiting a long time for that attention. The style of singing, whose rudiments stretch back at least to Elizabethan England, flourished in Colonial New England and in its present form took deep root in the rural South, where it is still sung today in four-part harmony. But many of its practitioners — whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents sang it in little churches and town squares throughout the South — fear it could die out. So they are waiting eagerly to see whether the use of Sacred Harp music on the movie's soundtrack, released on Dec. 16, could do for their music what the soundtrack for "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," the Coen brothers comedy, did for rural blues and bluegrass. (The "O Brother" album unexpectedly sold more than five million copies and won the album-of-the-year Grammy in 2002.)

The film, despite the talented Mr. Minghella, promises to be just brutal, but the tunes look awesome.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:22 AM


Shafting the Poles (Ralph Peters, December 23, 2003, New York Post)

Poland did have one request - a humble one, in the great scheme of things. Warsaw asked for $47 million to modernize six used, American-built C-130 transport aircraft and to purchase American-built HMMWV all-terrain vehicles so elite Polish units could better integrate operations with American forces. Much of the money would go right back to U.S. factories and workers.

Our response? We stiffed them.

For once, the Pentagon and the State Department agree: No can do. Impossible. Our pocket are empty. Got to FedEx every penny to our favorite dictators.

It's a mistake to over-idealize any nation. But if there's a land of heroes anywhere between the English Channel and the coast of California, it's Poland. Our Polish allies have taken a brave, costly, principled stand for freedom and democracy in Iraq. They desperately want to be seen by Washington as reliable friends in this treacherous world.

The least we could do is to treat them with respect.

There seems no end to the shame we're willing to inflict on ourselves where Poland is concerned.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:50 AM


Dean left speechless on Libya arms move (Bill Sammon, December 23, 2003, THE WASHINGTON TIMES)

"Look, the agreement with the Libyans is good news and an important step forward in the effort to combat weapons of mass destruction," conceded Dean spokesman Jay Carson.

"But the agreement is the result of years of diplomacy and sanctions, conducted in concert with the international community, which Governor Dean believes is the most effective means of pursuing that goal," he added.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi made it clear that his decision to disarm was prompted by Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I will do whatever the Americans want because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid," Mr. Gadhafi told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, according to a Berlusconi spokesman who was quoted in yesterday's Telegraph of London.

Unlike the contest between Mr. Dean and General Clark over which is lying, this seems an easy call: after all, what advantage could Colonel Gadhafi hope to gain by admitting to the world he's terrified of George W. Bush?

Posted by David Cohen at 10:31 AM


Dean Rebuked for Statement Implying Brother Served in Military (Jodi Wilgoren, New York Times, 12/22/03)

Howard Dean came under criticism from an Iowa newspaper last weekend for an answer to a questionnaire in which he implied that his brother was serving in the military when he disappeared in Laos 29 years ago. His brother had been traveling in Southeast Asia as a tourist.

Asked by The Quad-City Times, which is based in Davenport, Iowa, to complete the sentence "My closest living relative in the armed services is," Dr. Dean wrote in August, "My brother is a POW/MIA in Laos, but is almost certainly dead." . . .

"The way I read the question was that they wanted to know if I knew anything about the armed services from a personal level," he said. "I don't think it was inaccurate or misleading if anybody knew what the history was, and I assumed that most people knew what the history was. Anybody who wanted to write about this could have looked through the 23-year history to see that I've always acknowledged my brother's a civilian, was a civilian."

I think all politicians should adopt the position that a statement is not a lie if independent research would have proved it false.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:10 AM


As Went Alf Landon, So Did McGovern- But How About Dean? (Ron Rosenbaum, Dec. 23, 2003, Jewish World Review)

Give George McGovern credit: He stuck to his anti-war message, he tried to make people care about Watergate, he stuck to his principles. The final crushing blow: Henry Kissinger's deceptive proclamation that, as a result of his secret diplomacy, "peace is at hand." Bye-bye, peace issue. It wasn't until after the election that it turned out peace was not really at hand at all. In fact, many more Americans and Vietnamese would die before the end. One can disagree with him on principle (and some of my thinking has changed). But was McGovern wrong to run a principled campaign on this issue? If you think so, you don't believe in the American democratic process.

Anyway, I was there for McGovern's final desperate cross-country dash, whose final leg— from Long Beach to a post-midnight landing in Sioux Falls— was a memorable debauch fueled by (among other things) wild delusory hope and the intimations of the landslide about to hit.

And then, less than two years later, I was there in Washington for the Nixon impeachment hearings, when the full truth about what was going on behind the scenes in that campaign from beginning (the phony letter that led to the demise of Ed Muskie's campaign) to end (the bagmen and the blackmail) finally emerged.

And I was there in the East Room of the White House as a weeping Richard Nixon left by the back door, disgraced.

That was the real end of the McGovern campaign. In some ways, you could say that ultimately he won. His opponent certainly lost. But even if McGovern was the Big Loser who eclipsed Alf Landon, he won my respect because he didn't lose his soul. He demonstrated that it was possible to run a campaign that focused the electorate's attention on the real issue of the day— Vietnam. I may disagree with Dean's supporters, but they have the right to have a candidate who expresses their views faithfully. Howard Dean won't break his supporters' hearts by losing the election; he'll break their hearts if he abandons his principles. Comparing Howard Dean to George McGovern shouldn't be an insult; it's something to live up to.

One can hardly condemn someone for clinging to the delusions of their youth, but need not take them seriously. What Mr. Rosenbaum is unable to face up to is that the real end of the McGovern campaign has not come yet for millions of people in Southeast Asia and that the principle he ran on was: Screw 'em.

Whatever else opposition to the Vietnam War entailed, its most obvious implication was that we should desert our South Vietnamese allies and leave them to be conquered by the Communist North. Removing Richard Nixon from office did indeed enable the McGovernites to do just that and the dictatorship and oppression and boat people that followed are all the bitter fruit of his "principles".

Now, it can be argued that he honestly didn't envision these results, that his principles were wrong, rather than genuinely evil. His obviously idiotic prediction about Cambodia's sunny future under the Khmer Rouge lend weight to this ignorance theory:

The growing hysteria of the administration's posture on Cambodia seems to me to reflect a determined refusal to consider what the fall of the existing government in Phnom Penh would actually mean.... We should be able to see that the kind of government which would succeed Lon Nol's forces would most likely be a government ... run by some of the best-educated, most able intellectuals in Cambodia.

But even if the truth of the matter is just that Mr. McGovern, Mr. Rosenbaum, and their ilk were shockingly naive about the nature of Communism, it seems cold comfort to the American nation they tore apart or to the Vietnamese and Cambodians they sentenced to death and misery that Mr. McGovern "didn't lose his soul." South Vietnam was too high a price to pay for the Senator's soul.

The Dean comparison then seems all too apt, because we can easily imagine him and his supporters cutting and running in the Middle East, preserving their own souls no matter the consequences for others.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:26 AM


PETA to cannibals: Don't let them eat steak (Wesley J. Smith, December 21, 2003, San Francisco Chronicle)

When Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals infamously asserted in 1986, "There is no rational basis for asserting that a human being has special rights: A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy," few believed that she meant it literally. Surely, people thought, Newkirk and PETA understand that humans have far greater moral worth than animals.

Actually, they don't. In fact, it now appears that PETA's moral views have become so distorted and misanthropic that the organization sees little difference between eating a steak and cannibalizing a human being.

Here's the story: Armin Meiwes, the "German cannibal," shocked the world when he admitted to slaughtering, butchering and eating a man he met over the Internet. PETA's reaction to this sickening event?` It sent Meiwes a vegetarian cookbook and a hamper full of veggie burgers in the hope of converting him to vegetarianism.

"What this man did to a German computer expert is done to other creatures every day," a PETA spokesman explained. "The cruel scenario of slaughtering, cutting up, portioning, freezing and eating of body parts," the actions taken by Meiwes against his human victim, "is the grim reality for more than 450 million sentient individuals (animals) that are killed in (Germany) every year."

In other words, according to PETA, when you enjoy a lamb chop or eat a hamburger, you are acting no differently than the cannibal who butchered a man and ate his flesh.

The conversion to vegetarianism did wonders for another German.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:20 AM


HEALTH SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (GREG SCANDLEN, December 17, 2003, Galen Institute)

This essay raises a question for conservative critics of Medicare reform: are they ignorant of what's in the bill or do they not truly believe their own rhetoric about choice and market forces?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:57 AM


Lighting our way to the palace of the king (Rabbi Yonason Goldson, Dec. 23, 2003, Jewish World Review)

Today, 2,168 years later, we too live in an age of spiritual darkness, when the loudest and most persistent voices in our surrounding culture cry out to expunge every mention of the divine, to condemn every moral judgment, to sanctify every perversion in the name of "tolerance." We live in an era of unprecedented material comfort and convenience, tranquilizing our bodies and our minds so that we can easily stifle the yearning of our souls.

But when the days are shortest and the nights are coldest, just then can a little light shine forth and dispel much darkness. Like a lighthouse guiding a ship home, the lights of the Chanukah menorah can draw us back from the abyss of spiritual oblivion. And as we add candle upon candle and light upon light, the growing radiance of the menorah reminds us of the divine flame that has guided us through the darkness of exile and saved us from the darkness of assimilation for generation after generation.

If we, like the Hellenist Jews, allow the material values of contemporary culture to shape our thinking and guide our actions, then we have truly forgotten who we are. Like the prince whose soul longed for nothing but a little hut to protect him from the sun and the rain, we will be destined to live out our days in futility.

But if we cling to all that which is noble within us, if the values of Jewish culture drive us to perform acts of kindness and charity, to devote a few moments each day to heartfelt and meditative prayer, to treat neighbors and strangers alike with respect, to set an example of morality and character for our children — then we will have rekindled the spark of divinity inside us, and we will have earned the privilege to have our Father, the King, bring us home.

Which is what makes the secularist movement in Israel so tragic--why preserve an Israel which does not vindicate the values of Jewish culture?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


href=,0,6112425.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions>The Senate Super Bowl of '06: Rudy vs. Hillary (John Ellis, December 21, 2003, LA Times)

The word around New York is that our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, has decided to challenge Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton when she seeks reelection in 2006 - a matchup we almost saw in 2002 before he withdrew for personal reasons. Giuliani won't confirm or deny it (as recently as Friday he told radio host Don Imus he hadn't made up his mind), but two well-placed GOP insiders say it's "basically a done deal."

This would be the Super Bowl of Senate races and a dramatic "wild card" lead-in to the 2008 presidential election. Only one of the principals could advance to the next level.

For Giuliani, challenging Clinton is a necessary step if he hopes to be a national GOP player. He could, if he chose, run for governor in 2006, but that wouldn't do him much good on the national stage. He would still be a pro-gay, pro-choice "Rockefeller Republican."

But Senator Giuliani would be a different matter. He would have slain the dragon, and slaying the dragon would bestow upon him exalted status. Major points of difference with the GOP's core constituencies - like the sanctity of life (abortion) and the evolution of mankind (stem cell research) - would become much less disqualifying.

Red State Republicans - those from the GOP stronghold states - could learn to love Rudy in a New York minute if he beat Hillary.

That's just silly. It would be great if he beat her but he's going nowhere in national Party politics unless he moves well to the Right on social issues.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:51 AM

INSUFFICIENT (via Mike Daley):

Europe's problem is that it's barren (Mark Steyn, 23/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)

To those of us watching from afar the ructions over the European constitution - a 1970s solution to a 1940s problem - it seems amazing that no Continental politician is willing to get to grips with the real crisis facing Europe in the 21st century: the lack of Europeans. If America believes in the separation of church and state, in radically secularist Europe the state is the church, as Jacques Chirac's edict on headscarves, crucifixes and skull caps made plain. Alas, it's an insufficient faith.

By contrast, if Christianity is merely a "myth", it's a perfectly constructed one, beginning with the decision to establish Christ's divinity in the miracle of His birth. The obligation to have children may be a lot of repressive Catholic mumbo-jumbo, but it's also highly rational. What's irrational is modern EUtopia's indifference to new life.

I recently had a conversation with an EU official who, apropos a controversial proposal to tout the Continent's religious heritage in the new constitution, kept using the phrase "Europe's post-Christian future". The evidence suggests that, once you reach the post-Christian stage, you don't have much of a future.

What's most interesting is that their decision to voluntarily die out seems to contradict one of their dearest rationalist myths: Darwinism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:43 AM


HARD-WIRED FOR GOD: Only something extraordinary could entice the Carmelite nuns of Montreal to break their vow of silence and venture out of the cloister. They have joined forces with science to look for a concrete sign from God -- inside the human brain (ANNE McILROY, Dec. 6, 2003, Globe & Mail)

When Dr. Beauregard and Mr. Paquette, his doctoral student, first approached Sister Diane about using three of the most powerful brain-imaging tools available to learn more about unio mystica, she was intrigued. She had heard about other experiments investigating the biological basis of religious experience.

The researchers were hoping the nuns would have a mystical experience right in the lab. Sister Diane told them that this would be impossible -- God can't be summoned at will. "You can't search for it. The harder you search, the longer you will wait," she says.

So the scientists came back with an alternative: Would the nuns be able to remember what it felt like? Dr. Beauregard is certain that when they recall such an intense experience, their brains will operate the same way as when the nuns actually felt God's physical presence.

He says there is plenty of evidence that this is likely. When we think about doing something physical, such as hitting a forehand in tennis, the same parts of the brain are active as when we are actually make the shot.

Similarly, he has conducted experiments with actors and found that dramatizing a sad experience causes intense activity in the parts of the brain that process emotion.

This approach pleased the nuns, and so far six have agreed to participate in the experiments, which will take two years to complete. [...]

Sister Diane says she is certain that Dr. Beauregard will discover a biological basis for the Carmelites' spiritual experience, one she says is shared by all human beings. God equipped people with the brains they need for a spiritual life, she insists. "Our body has a spiritual component. To be a human being is to be a spiritual being. I'm convinced this will show in the results."

Sister Teresa seems less sure. "It will be up to God," she says.

Dr. Beauregard's certainty would appear to presume that the experience is totally internal, a perfectly sound position rationally but hardly objective scientifically.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 AM


More Teenagers Say No to Sex, but Experts Aren't Sure Why (LINDA VILLAROSA, December 23, 2003, NY Times)

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its annual tally of birth statistics, announced that the teenage birthrate had declined 30 percent over 10 years to a historic low of 43 births per 1,000. African-American teenagers showed the sharpest declines, down more than 40 percent since 1991. For young black teenagers, from 15 to 17, the rate was half, to 40 births per 1,000 in 2002 from 83.6 per 1,000 in 1991 .

These declines, combined with a decrease in abortions among teenagers, points to a promising trend: fewer teenagers are becoming pregnant. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, in women 15 to 19, the pregnancy rate dropped from 11.5 per 1,000 in 1991 to 8.5 in 1999, the latest year with available statistics.

"When you see the abortion rate decline in tandem with birthrate, this essentially means that teenagers are being more successful in avoiding pregnancy, both that end in abortion and end in birth," said David Landry, senior research associate at the institute. It estimates that in women 15 to 19, the abortion rate declined, from 40 per 1,000 in 1990 to 24 in 1999.

Experts in the field agree that educational efforts have been crucial to reducing the numbers.

"Since 1991, when teen birthrates peaked, there's been a tremendous amount of attention focused on preventing teen pregnancy, and it has paid off," said Stephanie Ventura, the chief of the reproductive statistics branch of the National Center for Health Statistics in Hyattsville, Md., who is a co-author of the new report. "Initiatives at the state and local levels, including school-based programs, church-run, private and community have been ongoing and have really caught teenagers' attention."

It's staggering sometimes just how much different we are than our fellow Western nations.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:38 AM

IS NAZISM WINNING TOO? (via Harry Eagar):

Why al-Qa’eda is winning: the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq serve as object lessons in how not to conduct an anti-terrorist campaign (Correlli Barnett, 12/13. 03, The Spectator)

[W]e have to clear our minds of moralising political cant and media clichés. Thus it is misleading to talk of a ‘war on terrorism’, let alone a ‘war on global terrorism’. ‘Terrorism’ is a phenomenon, just as is war in the conventional sense. But you cannot in logic wage war against a phenomenon, only against a specific enemy. It is therefore as meaningless to speak of ‘a war on terrorism’ as it would be to speak of a ‘war on war’. Today, then, America is combating not ‘terrorism’ but a specific terrorist network, al-Qa’eda.

Here's an interesting exercise, word swap:
[W]e have to clear our minds of moralising political cant and media clichés. Thus it is misleading to talk of a ‘war on [fasc]ism’, let alone a ‘war on global [fasc]ism’. ‘[Fasc]ism’ is a phenomenon, just as is war in the conventional sense. But you cannot in logic wage war against a phenomenon, only against a specific enemy. It is therefore as meaningless to speak of ‘a war on [fasc]ism’ as it would be to speak of a ‘war on war’. Today, then, America is combating not ‘[fasc]ism’ but a specific [fascist] network, the [Nazis, Italians, and Japanse].

[W]e have to clear our minds of moralising political cant and media clichés. Thus it is misleading to talk of a ‘war on [commun]ism’, let alone a ‘war on global [commun]ism’. ‘[Commun]ism’ is a phenomenon, just as is war in the conventional sense. But you cannot in logic wage war against a phenomenon, only against a specific enemy. It is therefore as meaningless to speak of ‘a war on [commun]ism’ as it would be to speak of a ‘war on war’. Today, then, America is combating not ‘[commun]ism’ but a specific [communist] network, the [Soviet Union and its allies].

in doing so we recognize that the original paragraph needs a word swap too, because the phenomenon in question isn't terrorism, but Islamicism:
[W]e have to clear our minds of moralising political cant and media clichés. Thus it is misleading to talk of a ‘war on terrorism’, let alone a ‘war on global terrorism’. ‘Terrorism’ is a phenomenon, just as is war in the conventional sense. But you cannot in logic wage war against a phenomenon, only against a specific enemy. It is therefore as meaningless to speak of ‘a war on terrorism’ as it would be to speak of a ‘war on war’. Today, then, America is combating not ‘terrorism’ but [Islamicism].

It's not apparent why you wouldn't fight Islamicism in exactly the same why you fought its fellow isms--National Socialsm and Communism--by destroying the countries where belief in the phenomenon exists--as in the case of Nazism and Italian and Japanese fascism--or by making the cost of clinging to the belief intolerable--as with Communism. Of course, such belief systems are so inherently flawed that there's no need to fight them--left alone they'll collapse on their own. But as human beings we like wars and in the wake of 9-11 we particularly want to wage this one.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:32 AM


Church 'terminated' in same-sex battle: B.C. congregation defied bishop, would not marry gays (Michael Higgens, National Post, 23/12/03)

An Anglican church defying its bishop by refusing to support same-sex unions has been "terminated" only days before Christmas.

The decision by Bishop Michael Ingham to close Holy Cross in Abbotsford, B.C., is the latest action in a dispute that is threatening to split the Anglican church worldwide.

Despite the closure, the priest at Holy Cross, the Rev. James Wagner, vowed yesterday to celebrate mass on Christmas Day with parishioners.

"As far as the diocese is concerned we do not exist. We are a non-entity," Mr. Wagner said yesterday. "But I will not abandon these people. I will continue to pastor and pray for them in the midst of this crisis."

He said the decision by Bishop Ingham to close the church was a surprise because "it's so close to Christmas."...

Some conservatives are trying to juggle morality with pluralism by proposing the state establish and regulate civil unions and leave marriage to religion. Behind this fair-minded idea is the assumption that faith can be counted upon to preserve and guard tradition. That may prove naive in an era when many mainstream churches preach that the Kyoto accord was divinely crafted while the Ten Commandments are just helpful suggestions. The liberal impulse always starts with openness and compassion, and always ends with jackboots crushing dissent.

But perhaps it is just as well the bishop put them out of their misery quickly. If he hadn’t, some supreme court somewhere would have undoubtedly done so.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:06 AM


Onward (un)Christian Soldiers: The time has come to fight back. (Matt Taibbi, NY Press)

Which brings us to Billy and Franklin Graham. These fifth-rate shysters, both close personal friends of the president, have spent decades engaged on a relentless quest to turn the United States into the world’s revenge on smart people. Not only are they succeeding–have succeeded–but no one is doing anything about it. When the Sleestack herd themselves into football stadiums to organize and engage in elaborate shows of public self-debasement, the rest of us sit around in our houses, chuckle to ourselves and say, "Man, that’s scary"–and then go right back to fucking up the Times Thursday crossword.

What we ought to be doing is asserting our Darwinian prerogative: saturate their habitats with lizard repellent, then laugh all the way to the bank as they scatter in all directions, hissing and gasping and bumping brainlessly into walls and each other in a doomed search for safe ground.

In any fight, you must meet force with force. Evangelism is naturally expansive. Atheism is defensive. That is why they are growing, and we’re sitting around like idiots watching as pious troglodytes occupy the White House and send us hurtling hundreds of years back in time, to the age of the Crusades.

If you believe in Natural Selection, aren't you forced (just by looking at Europe) to conclude that Nature has selected against atheism and (just by looking at America) in favor of evangelicalism?

Hope Amid the Ruins: Anglican bishop in Sudan sees massive church growth. (Interview by Stan Guthrie, 12/18/2003, Christianity Today)

Sudan's Muslim north has been attempting to impose Islamic law on the country's Christian and animist south. Some 2 million people have died and more than 4 million have been displaced in the civil war, which began in 1983. However, both sides are negotiating a peace settlement that could be signed this month. Daniel Bul, 53, bishop of the Episcopal Church of Sudan for the Diocese of Renk, spoke with CT's associate news editor, Stan Guthrie.

What can you report about church growth in Sudan?

Well the church is growing, especially the Anglicans now. [The church had] over 500,000 [adherents] when the British left Sudan in 1955. The independence of Sudan came in 1956. The number of Sudanese priests was at that time about 5 or 6.

But the priests in the Sudan now for Anglicans are 3,500. And the number of Christians is 5 million Anglicans. And there is big growth going on in other churches like the Catholics, like the Presbyterians and Pentecostals. Other smaller churches are growing. The growth of the church is really tremendous. And we hope … in the southern Sudan … everybody is going to be a Christian.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:26 AM

58-42 NATION:

Poll shows Dean's growing strength against Democrats; and his vulnerability against Bush (WILL LESTER, December 22, 2003, Associated Press)

The ABC News-Washington Post poll found Dean, a former governor of Vermont, backed by 31 percent of Democrats and those who lean Democratic. All other candidates were in the single digits. [...]

When all respondents were asked who they would trust more with national security, 67 percent said Bush and 21 percent said Dean. When asked who they would trust more to handle domestic issues like Social Security, health care and education, they picked Bush by 50 percent to 39 percent.

In a head-to-head matchup, Bush led Dean by 55 percent to 37 percent.

A surprising number of people seem satisfied with another Vietnam and the worst economy since the Great Depression.

December 22, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:15 PM

LET THEM BE THE LAB RATS (via Charles Murtaugh):

Biotech Ends and Means (Arnold Kling, 12/18/2003, Tech Central Station)

The Bioethics Council's report has been widely praised, at the symposium and elsewhere, for raising the critical issues and moving the debate forward. I do not see it that way. By concentrating on ends and ignoring means, the Council has ducked what I see as the most fundamental ethical issue of all, which is whether concerns over biotechnology scenarios warrant a worldwide totalitarian dictatorship. If, as I would argue, such a dictatorship would be more dystopian than any of the scenarios that technology might create, then the report is really a cop-out.

Some of the toughest issues in bioethics involve means as well as ends. Will we curb freedom at the level of research, the level of development and marketing, at the level of consumption, or at all three?

Under decentralized decision-making, we are going to continue in the direction of conscious genetic selection, new techniques for physical and mental enhancement, artificial mood creation, and greater health and longevity. We have been doing these things for thousands of years by cruder means, and we are not going to stop now in the absence of a complete social redesign. Such a social redesign strikes me as more frightening than the dangers that it proposes to avoid.

My guess is that people who live through the middle of this century will feel sharp pangs of sadness from the discontinuity that will develop between life as it is lived today and life as it is lived in future decades. This troubles me. However, as concerned as I am about where biotech is taking us, I would rather take my chances on muddling through those issues than endure the heavy-handed centralized control that I believe would be needed to slow the biotech revolution.

If I am wrong, and there are ways to alter the shape of the biotech future without destroying the freedom in our society, then the ideas for those alternative mechanisms should be brought to the fore. Instead, discussing ends without means is almost meaningless.

Mr. Kling never explains why we need a worldwide solution. After all, it's of little concern to us if others wish to degrade their cultures by making them not merely post-Christian but post-human--our concern is properly the quality of our culture. In fact, why should we despoil our own society if we can allow others to pursue the research, wait for the results, and then pick and choose among them those that don't trouble our consciences too much?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:44 PM


For Oil Contracts, Russia Will Waive Most of Iraq's $8 Billion Debt (ERIN E. ARVEDLUND, December 23, 2003, NY Times)

Russia has offered to forgive more than half of Iraq's $8 billion debt to Russia, officials of Iraq's interim government said here on Monday, after the Iraqis signaled that Russia would have the chance to revive oil contracts signed during the Saddam Hussein era.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the current president of the American-backed Iraqi Governing Council, said President Vladimir V. Putin proposed in talks with the Iraqis to wipe out 65 percent of Iraq's Soviet-era debts to Russia in return for favorable treatment of Russian oil and other companies.

"We received a generous promise to write off the debt, or at least a part of it," Mr. Hakim said after meeting with Mr. Putin in the Kremlin. In return, "we will be open to all Russian companies," he added.

"Russia said it is willing to consider the write-off of the rest of the debt if it received beneficial treatment in terms of oil contracts," added Jalal Talabani, a member of the Iraqi delegation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:20 PM


We were kept in the dark over deal with Libya, says France (Henry Samuel, 23/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)

"We were not kept informed," M de Villepin said. His disclosure underlined the continuing mistrust in relations between the English-speaking powers and France, which made much of its opposition to war in Iraq.

M de Villepin sought to gloss over the differences, describing the relationship as one of "extremely active and fertile co-operation".

His words contradicted those of Michele Alliot-Marie, defence minister, who claimed on Sunday that France was "perfectly informed of the negotiations" several months ago.

Bizarrely, Mme Alliot-Marie denied there was any discrepancy between the two accounts, suggesting the foreign ministry was not as involved as her department. [...]

Even the normally pro-government Le Figaro described the Libyan deal as a "semi-failure" for France, which has been against tough action against rogue states.

Annick Lepetit, the Socialist party spokesman, said it signified "the isolation of France and French diplomacy in an area where it is traditionally influential".


Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 PM


-REVIEW: of GREEK GODS, HUMAN LIVES: What We Can Learn From Myths by Mary Lefkowitz (Oliver Taplin, NY Times Book Review)

Web rumor has it that ''Troy,'' Wolfgang Petersen's big-budget Hollywood version of the ''Iliad,'' will be godless. The screenwriter David Benioff has apparently decided to jettison Zeus and the whole Olympian apparatus. And he has a point, surely. How can you transplant that part awesome, part trivial extended family of self-centered hedonists into a realistic movie? Some may recall the gods in ''Clash of the Titans'': Laurence Olivier and a cluster of stars looked like World War I generals at a toga party as they petulantly shoved armies and fleets around a map of the world. Or suppose you turn the gods into eerie special effects: they would seem like extraterrestrial psychic forces from ''Star Trek.'' In our day the Greek gods make humans look like either pawns or robots.

Benioff is quoted as saying, ''The classicists are not going to like it.'' That is to turn classicists into a much more unanimous bunch than they are in reality. But there is at least one distinguished professor who will not like a godless ''Iliad'' at all -- Mary Lefkowitz of Wellesley College. Her thought-provoking new book, Greek Gods, Human Lives, is precisely an attempt to write the gods back into Greek myths. She maintains that modern accounts concentrate on the human dimension of these extraordinarily resilient tales, with a distorting playing down of the divine. Joseph Campbell -- whose highly influential hero (''The Hero With a Thousand Faces'') is presumably still waiting for the lights to change on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue -- is perhaps her central target.

Considering how badly she brutalized her last target--Afrocentrism--perhaps it's for the best that Mr. Campbell has passed on.

-EXCERPT: First Chapter of GREEK GODS, HUMAN LIVES: What We Can Learn From Myths by Mary Lefkowitz

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:11 PM

RIGHT & GOOD (via Matt Scofield):

Tiananmen in London (Frederick Turner, 12/19/2003, Tech Central Station)

[L]et us take a look at history, especially the history of our most fundamental intuitions about the nature of law. Laws seem, as many philosophers have opined, to be based on one of two foundations: what is good, and what is right. Very roughly, the distinction can be found in the difference between our own two traditions, of Roman law, and English common law; further back, between the ancient Hebrew ritual law, and the code of Hammurabi. Legal experts will, I hope, forgive the many exceptions to these generalizations for their usefulness as an analytic tool of thought.

The distinction, even more generally, is between what is commanded of us by the gods or God (or, in later ages, by Humanity, by Nature, by Reason, or by Popular Will) on one hand; and what is required of us in the honest fulfillment of a contract, on the other. The former, which finds its Western origins in ancient Israel (and can be found also in the Confucian legal system of ancient China), sees law as a way to enforce the good -- the good as a transcendent endowment of human society that we can partly intuit, especially if we are talented, trained, learned, and morally upright. The latter, which can be identified roughly with the Hammurabic, Solonic, and English Common Law traditions, sees laws as the way to make sure the humble contracts that human beings make with each other have the support they need over and above the natural sanctions built into our families, our markets, and our practical agreed systems of mutual trust. The first emphasizes the good, the second, the right. [...]

Let it be said at once that this essay is not an attack on the law of good, nor simply a paean to the law of right. The laws of good apply still more strongly to the individual conscience as the secular enforcement of them diminishes. They apply also to the free institutions of civil society (protected from each other, as they must be, by the law of right). The absolute claims of the law of good that make it so dangerous when armed with secular power are precisely what generate the decent conduct without which a good society is impossible. If the enthusiasts of the religious right were to abjure any claim to govern by legal coercion the conscience of the citizen, I would be in agreement with almost the whole of their cultural program for our country.

But goodness is, in my view and that of almost all ethicists, essentially bound up with freedom. We cannot praise a coerced virtue, nor blame an enforced crime. The very core of morality, enjoined by God himself in almost all religions, is the spontaneous assent to divine grace. Paradoxically, to enforce the law of good is to destroy it. Paradoxically, the freedom to do evil -- as long as it does not violate the right -- is required for the freedom to do good. The law of right is at its center the law of freedom, and is thus, paradoxically again, the only thing for which one can rightly resort to coercion and war. All of this is not to say that the law of good must bottle itself up within the individual and the closed community, and render itself impotent. Instead it means that the law of good must win the world the hard way, by the noncoercive means of persuasion, gifts, and the marketplace -- must win the population one by one by one. And it can only do so under the wing of the law of right.

Certainly, the laws of right do not make a perfect world. Adam Smith's Invisible Hand, the miraculous pricing mechanism praised by Mises and Hayek, that directs resources to where they are most needed, does indeed work, in the large statistical aggregate, when it is protected by the law of right. But it cannot deal with local tragedies, and it cannot by itself create the social and cultural capital that renders people capable of exercising political freedom in a responsible and objective way. And it cannot per se engender the marvelous overplus of heroism, sanctity, generosity and scientific and artistic integrity that society needs to advance. But neither can the law of good do so when enforced by coercion, for these things are free gifts and cannot of their nature be coerced.

This is all well and good in so far as the analysis is carried, but that's not quite far enough. For the order of the regimes matters--those states that transitioned from the law of the good to the law of the right were able to do so precisely because their citizens' consciences were so saturated in notions of what was and was not good. Additionally, the enforcement of the good, while no longer strictly enforced by the state, was deeply interwoven in the law of the right and the society (non-governmental institutions) was well-equipped and willing to use social pressures to fill the gaps. As the law of the right was coerced by the state, the law of the good was effectively coerced by society. A balance was attempted.

But it is the way of human affairs that such balancing acts are dicey things and the idea that the state should have no role in dictating the good easily deteriorates into the idea that society should have no role either and thence into the idea that there is no good and thence into the idea that such vestiges of the law of the good as remain in the law of the right must be torn out by the roots and so on and so forth until we reach the point where the state coerces those who seek to follow the law of the good to accept the anti-good or be punished themselves. The state, which began by making common cause with the good becomes its de facto enemy--arguably, its quite conscious enemy, because it can not tolerate any alternate source of authority and power.

Once this situation prevails the state must lose its legitimacy, or some considerable portion thereof, in the eyes those who seek the good. For example, whatever you may think of the laws themselves, it must be conceded that there is a considerable difference between the state saying that it will not seek to enforce sexual behavioral norms and the state saying that no other institution or individual may discriminate on the basis of departure from those norms. The former might arguably be said to be consistent with getting the state out of the business of coercing the good--the latter, inarguably, puts the state into the business of coercing a radically new version of the good and thereby brings us full circle. To this, the adherents of the good need not acquiesce.

-The Best Introduction to the Mountains (Gene Wolfe, December 2001, INTERZONE magazine)

There is one very real sense in which the Dark Ages were the brightest of times, and it is this: that they were times of defined and definite duties and freedoms. The king might rule badly, but everyone agreed as to what good rule was. Not only every earl and baron but every carl and churl knew what an ideal king would say and do. The peasant might behave badly; but the peasant did not expect praise for it, even his own praise. These assertions can be quibbled over endlessly, of course; there are always exceptional persons and exceptional circumstances. Nevertheless they represent a broad truth about Christianized barbarian society as a whole, and arguments that focus on exceptions provide a picture that is fundamentally false, even when the instances on which they are based are real and honestly presented. At a time when few others knew this, and very few others understood its implications, J. R. R. Tolkien both knew and understood, and was able to express that understanding in art, and in time in great art.

That, I believe, was what drew me to him so strongly when I first encountered The Lord of the Rings. [...]

It is said with some truth that there is no progress without loss; and it is always said, by those who wish to destroy good things, that progress requires it. No great insight or experience of the world is necessary to see that such people really care nothing for progress. They wish to destroy for their profit, and they, being clever, try to persuade us that progress and change are synonymous.

They are not; and it is not just my own belief but a well-established scientific fact that most change is for the worse: any change increases entropy (unavailable energy). Therefore, any change that produces no net positive good is invariably harmful. Progress, then, does not consist of destroying good things in the mere hope that the things that will replace them will be better (they will not be) but in retaining good things while adding more. Here is a practical illustration. This paper is good and the forest is good as well. If the manufacture of this paper results in the destruction of the forest, the result will be a net loss. That is mere change; we have changed the forest into paper, a change that may benefit some clever men who own a paper mill but hurts the mass of Earth's people. If, on the other hand, we manufacture the paper without destroying the forest (harvesting mature trees and planting new ones) we all benefit. We engineers will tell you that there has been an increase in entropy just the same; but it is an increase that would take place anyway, and so does us no added harm. It is also a much smaller increase than would result from the destruction of the forest.

I have approached this scientifically because Tolkien's own approach was historical, and it is a mark of truth that the same truth can be approached by many roads. Philology led him to the study of the largely illiterate societies of Northern Europe between the fall of Rome and the beginning of the true Middle Ages (roughly AD 400 to 1000). There he found a quality -- let us call it Folk Law -- that has almost disappeared from his world and ours. It is the neighbour-love and settled customary goodness of the Shire. [...]

Earlier I asked what Tolkien did and how he came to do it; we have reached the point at which the first question can be answered. He uncovered a forgotten wisdom among the barbarian tribes who had proved (against all expectation) strong enough to overpower the glorious civilizations of Greece and Rome; and he had not only uncovered but understood it. He understood that their strength -- the irresistible strength that had smashed the legions -- had been the product of that wisdom, which has now been ebbing away bit by bit for a thousand years.

Having learned that, he created in Middle-earth a means of displaying it in the clearest and most favourable possible light. Its reintroduction would be small -- just three books among the overwhelming flood of books published every year -- but as large as he could make it; and he was very conscious (no man has been more conscious of it than he) that an entire forest might spring from a handful of seed. What he did, then, was to plant in my consciousness and yours the truth that society need not be as we see it around us.

-Debates about primacy of conscience show the need for truth and freedom (Andrew Hamilton, 30/10/2003, Online Opinion)
Conscience is usually identified with the process by which we make decisions about right and wrong. When we follow our conscience, we weigh the arguments and do what we recognise to be right. Conscience engages the hunger for truth and goodness that are the core of humanity.

When we speak of the primacy of conscience we imply it must take precedence over some other things. In spelling out where conscience has precedence, Archbishop Pell and his critics agree, for example, that conscience has primacy over the claim of the state to dictate the religious faith and practice of its citizens. Archbishop Pell explicitly acknowledges this in endorsing the Declaration of Vatican II on Religious Freedom, which insists that the search for religious truth is central to human beings, and that assent to it must be freely given.

They agree also that conscience has primacy over our convenience or our comfort. The stories of martyrs are remembered in order to show that human dignity never shines more brightly than when people brave threats to their life and security in following their conscience.

This common insistence on the importance of conscience is significant, because in Australian national life today religious freedom and the lonely conscientious voice need all the support they can find. When so many people find government policies and their execution morally repugnant, we need a moral framework that expects and honours conscientious dissent and the religious freedom of minorities.

If conscience has primacy over religious coercion and over comfort, the aphorism “conscience has no primacy; truth has primacy” needs to be qualified; for the commitment to religious freedom could be interpreted that a true faith must yield to conscience inspired by false beliefs.

It is not helpful to see truth and conscience as rivals for precedence. When placed within the play of conscience truth does have primacy. When we ask what we should do, we affirm the value of truth. When forming our conscience, we enquire about the truth. After we recognise the truth, we choose to follow it but remain open to changing our way of acting if what we believed to be true turns out to be false. So truth does have primacy within conscience over self-interest and arbitrary choice. Our decisions are well made when they follow our recognition of truth.

This helps address Archbishop Pell’s major concern: the relation between the conscience of Catholics and the church to which they give allegiance. The archbishop claims that in committing themselves to the Catholic Church it is unreasonable to accept that God’s guidance is given through church teaching and simultaneously to appeal to the primacy of conscience to dismiss that teaching.

He cites those who dismiss the teaching of the Catholic Church about doctrines like the divinity of Christ, about moral issues like contraception, and about pastoral regulations that forbid offering the Eucharist to non-Catholics or to the divorced. He also instances those who, on the basis of conscience, justify remaining in the church while working to overturn such authoritative church teaching as the prohibition of homosexual practice or euthanasia. This kind of appeal to conscience leads him to argue that the principle of the primacy of conscience should be publicly rejected. He claims that because Catholics recognise that truth is to be found within the teaching of the church, they should give precedence to that truth in forming their conscience.

The Archbishop’s argument depicts a church that has been corrupted by a culture hostile to faith. I respect his judgment, but do not recognise in it the Australian church with which I am familiar. Although there is a crisis of authority within the Catholic Church, as in society, I believe that it touches a relatively small area of faith and life, and has more to do with the style of formal teaching than with its content.

-Conservatism and Classical Liberalism: A Rapproachment (Sam Roggeveen, Winter 1999, Policy)
If [F.A.] Hayek (1992) had been right about conservatism I would not be one either. But there are good reasons to be conservative, and in this essay I will attempt to examine what it is classical liberals dislike about conservatism, ask whether or not such criticisms are justified, and see if a reconciliation is possible. I believe on many points it is, and that the work of the British philosopher [Michael] Oakeshott is a useful means to achieve it. First though, speaking as a conservative, and in a spirit of reconciliation, I offer a concession to classical liberalism.

My concession is this: the professed conservative disposition of aversion to change is in reality not confined to conservatives at all. Conservatives will often warn that change ought not to be embarked upon ‘for its own sake’, but when is this ever the case? It would surely constitute a certain form of mental illness to prefer change for its own sake rather than for the perceived benefits that this change is likely to bring (One interesting exception to this which Oakeshott himself identifies is the fashion industry. Here change is indeed indulged in for its own sake, to the extent that annual or even seasonal change has itself become a tradition. This raises the question of whether tradition and innovation are opposites, or whether innovation can become a tradition). This scepticism is something common to all people of right mind. The real difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives have not been infected with the spirit of improvement. They are much more content with what they have rather than constantly striving for something better.

The other difference is that liberals feel the need for reasons to retain a thing. A conservative is happy to keep this same thing unquestioningly, all the time with a vague feeling that the wisdom of the ages is in any case superior to his own, and that there is therefore little profit in questioning such matters. For liberals, the status quo needs to be defended just as change does - on rational grounds. Appeal to tradition (‘Because we have always done it this way.’) is to the liberal as impoverished and miserable a response as one could find, but is the source of great nourishment for the conservative.

Classical liberals also consider conservatives anti-individualist, or at least not individualist enough. As I hinted at above, the work of Michael Oakeshott could be said to provide a middle ground here, in that although he makes a strong case for individuality, he distinguishes this from individualism, the latter being a rather crude ideological construct which is to classical liberals what ‘traditionalism’ is to conservatives. For Oakeshott the emergence of the individual as a free moral agent is the defining event of modern history, but contrary to much French Enlightenment thought, which argued that the shackles of tradition needed to be thrown off for man to be truly free, he is at pains to point out that the individual can only flourish within an established framework of tradition.

Oakeshott can also help us to meet some of Hayek’s objections to conservatism, as at some points Hayek is too far off the mark on conservatism for reconciliation to be possible. In particular his depiction of conservatism as nationalist is wildly at odds with most conservative sentiment on the subject. A cursory reading of Burke’s views on European affairs (such as his Letters on a Regicide Peace, for instance, in which he describes a common European society) would have been enough to put Hayek right here. However the main point of departure for a conservative, particularly one familiar with Oakeshott, comes very much earlier in Hayek’s essay. In the opening paragraphs Hayek puts what he takes to be a ‘decisive objection’ to conservatism, namely that although it is useful in putting the brakes on change, it can itself offer no alternative to change. ‘It may succeed by its resistance to current tendencies in slowing down undesirable developments,’ he says, ‘but since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance.’ For a liberal, on the other hand, the pace of change is not as important as the direction of movement.

For an Oakeshottian the substance of this objection would meet with immediate and vigorous agreement, except of course that rather than seeing it as an objection they would count this seeming poverty of ideas as a strength of the conservative disposition. For Oakeshott there ought to be no single ‘direction of movement’, rather (and this should appeal to classical liberals), the state should be so constituted as to allow individuals to pursue their own purposes, with the role of the state being to simply allow this to occur as smoothly and peacefully as possible without imposing a higher purpose of its own. Oakeshott’s great enemy throughout his intellectual life was the Rationalist planner, the one who sought to impose an abstract blueprint on society without thought of historical or local circumstance. On the face of it Hayek would seem to be an obvious ally in this cause, but in a famous passage in his essay Rationalism in Politics, Oakeshott says of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom that ‘although a plan to resist all planning may be better than its belongs to the same style of politics’.

Later Hayek restates his case against conservatism in slightly different terms, arguing that by its distrust of theory, conservatism deprives itself of weapons in the battle of ideas. A number of things strike the Oakeshottian about this line of argument. One concerns the use of the word ‘ideas’, by which Hayek presumably means ideologies. Oakeshott’s concern in much of his writing is that the world of ideas is in fact abused by the bogus assumption that better theory can lead to better practice. For Oakeshott the two are entirely separate realms, and the world of ideas is corrupted into ideology when one attempts to apply it to the ‘real world’. Another notable aspect of Hayek’s case is the imagery of ‘battle’, which tends to jar with one more used to Oakeshott’s metaphor of ‘conversation’. The rather beautiful image of civilisation defined as a conversation between all those (be they alive or dead) schooled in the ‘language’ of a particular discourse is one of the most appealing facets of Oakeshott’s thought. Whereas a ‘battle of ideas’ implies steadfast commitment, violent confrontation and eventual victory or defeat, Oakeshott’s conversation metaphor begets images of accommodation, compromise and inconclusiveness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Paul Wolfowitz: The godfather of the Iraq war (Mark Thompson, December 21, 2003, TIME)

As tag teams go, Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, could not be more unlikely. Rumsfeld is a Cook County, Ill., politician, while Wolfowitz would be more at home at the University of Chicago, where he earned his doctorate. That makes them the most interesting one-two combination this side of Bush-Cheney. If Rumsfeld is the face, mouth and strong right arm of the war in Iraq, Wolfowitz—the intellectual godfather of the war—is its heart and soul. Whereas Rumsfeld talks about Iraq like a technician, Wolfowitz sounds more like a prophet. Says a close associate of the deputy's: "Paul asks himself every day how he can limit suffering by toppling another dictator or by helping people to govern themselves."

Rumsfeld offered Wolfowitz his current post with an invitation to serve as his intellectual alter ego, a senior aide says. Their offices are a short walk apart along the Pentagon's E-Ring. Wolfowitz frequently slips down a back hallway, peers through a peephole into his boss's suite and, if Rumsfeld is alone, walks right in. "He's got great power of concentration," says Wolfowitz, "so you can open the door—it doesn't disturb him—until he pauses, and I ask, 'Can you take a minute?'" They talk half a dozen times a day, on matters small and large. Rumsfeld likes to chaff his deputy. "If there's a grammatical error in something I've written," Wolfowitz says, "he loves to correct it and say, 'And he has a Ph.D.!'"

Most Pentagons feature a top guy who's a big thinker and a No. 2 who's the day-to-day manager. Rummy and Wolfie (as the President calls them) have it reversed: Wolfowitz is more ideological than Rumsfeld, which has suited both men for different reasons. Wolfowitz often ventured way ahead of the rest of the Administration on foreign policy matters over the past two years, and Rumsfeld frequently let him go. That allowed Wolfowitz to push the whole Bush team to the right, which also let Rumsfeld align himself with that crowd when it served his purpose to do so. "Rumsfeld's a big-enough maestro to understand that Wolfowitz was the leading edge and that someone had to do it," a Pentagon associate says.

For whatever reason it's still not done too often, but when you analyze the extraordinary success of the Administration, the starting point should be the unequalled business/bureaucracy savvy that the folks at its top ranks--Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Andy Card, Tommy Thompson, John Ashcroft, Christie Todd Whitman, etc.--brought to the job.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:43 PM


Democracy and the Enemies Of Freedom (Bernard Lewis, December 22, 2003, The Wall Street Journal)

The kind of dictatorship that exists in the Middle East today has to no small extent been the result of modernization, more specifically of European influence and example. This included the only European political model that really worked in the Middle East -- that of the one-party state, either in the Nazi or the communist version, which did not differ greatly from one another. In these systems, the party is not, as in the West, an organization for attracting votes and winning elections. It is part of the apparatus of government, particularly concerned with indoctrination and enforcement. The Baath Party has a double ancestry, both fascist and communist, and still represents both trends very well.

But beyond these there are older traditions, well represented in both the political literature and political experience of the Islamic Middle East: traditions of government under law, by consent, even by contract.

Changes in the spirit of these traditions would offer an opportunity to other versions of Islam besides the fanatical and intolerant creed of the terrorists. Though at present widely held and richly endowed, this version is far from representative of mainstream Islam through the centuries. The traditions of command and obedience are indeed deep-rooted, but there are other elements in Islamic tradition that could contribute to a more open and freer form of government: the rejection by the traditional jurists of despotic and arbitrary rule in favor of contract in the formation and consensus in the conduct of government; and their insistence that the mightiest of rulers, no less than the humblest of his servants, is bound by the law.

Another element is the acceptance, indeed, the requirement of tolerance, embodied in such dicta as the Quranic verse "there is no compulsion in religion," and the early tradition "diversity in my community is God's mercy." This is carried a step further in the Sufi ideal of dialogue between faiths in a common search for the fulfillment of shared aspirations. [...]

The study of Islamic history and of the vast and rich Islamic political literature encourages the belief that it may well be possible to develop democratic institutions -- not necessarily in our Western definition of that much misused term, but in one deriving from their own history and culture, and ensuring, in their way, limited government under law, consultation and openness, in a civilized and humane society. There is enough in the traditional culture of Islam on the one hand and the modern experience of the Muslim peoples on the other to provide the basis for an advance towards freedom in the true sense of that word.

The hard part of building democracy is creating traditions, but if we can change the spirit in which they consider their own, there's hope.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:43 PM


Egypt's foreign minister attacked in Jerusalem (Harvey Morris, December 22 2003, Financial Times)

Ahmed Maher, the Egyptian foreign minister, was taken to an Israeli hospital on Monday night after being attacked by Palestinians during a visit to Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque. Eyewitnesses said he had been praying at Islam's third holiest site after holding talks with Ariel Sharon, prime minister.

He's lucky he wasn't attacked by Israelis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:36 PM


Dictators R Us (Noam Chomsky, December 21, 2003, AlterNet)

All people who have any concern for human rights, justice and integrity should be overjoyed by the capture of Saddam Hussein, and should be awaiting a fair trial for him by an international tribunal.

An indictment of Saddam's atrocities would include not only his slaughter and gassing of Kurds in 1988 but also, rather crucially, his massacre of the Shiite rebels who might have overthrown him in 1991.

At the time, Washington and its allies held the "strikingly unanimous view (that) whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country's stability than did those who have suffered his repression," reported Alan Cowell in the New York Times.

Let's accept for the sake of argument that every single death Saddam Hussein is accused of was a function of US policy and our support for him. Okay, we came to our moral senses and now we've stopped him from killing anyone else. Wasn't that our responsibility, if the Chomskyian view is correct? Did he, therefore, support regime change? He says himself that we should be "overjoyed", so why isn't he?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:52 AM

A HANGING OFFENSE (via Kevin Patrick):

Gen. Wesley Clark (Hardball: Battle for the White House, Dec. 8, 2003)

MATTHEWS: First question, up top.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General Clark, you’ve criticized Bush for his unilateral actions in dealing with Iraq.

CLARK: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: However, if you were in Bush’s shoes right now, what would you be doing differently to rebuild those international bridges you believe have been compromised?

CLARK: Well, if I were president right now, I would be doing things that George Bush can’t do right now, because he’s already compromised those international bridges. I would go to Europe and I would build a new Atlantic charter. I would say to the Europeans, you know, we’ve had our differences over the years, but we need you. The real foundation for peace and stability in the world is the transatlantic alliance. And I would say to the Europeans, I pledge to you as the American president that we’ll consult with you first. You get the right of first refusal on the security concerns that we have.

Not to put too fine a point on it but, that's treasonous.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:42 AM


Two GIs Killed in Iraq; Ex-General Nabbed (AP, December 22, 2003)

[M]onday, Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski paid an unannounced visit to the headquarters of Polish-led peacekeepers in Iraq, the PAP news agency reported.

Kwasniewski, accompanied by Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski and presidential defense aide Marek Siwiec, landed at the Camp Babylon Base on Monday afternoon, the Polish news agency said.

On Sunday night, U.S. troops detained ex-army Gen. Mumtaz al-Taji at a house in Baqouba, about 30 miles north of Baghdad.

"Tonight, we were on a mission to capture a former Iraqi intelligence service general who we believe is recruiting former military members of the Iraqi army to conduct attacks against U.S. forces," Maj. Paul Owen of the 588th Engineer Battalion told Associated Press Television News.

"He runs a very active cell in our sector, and hopefully, what we have done tonight is to stall some of his efforts," Owen said. [...]

Bremer said information gleaned from Saddam's capture has led to the arrests of insurgents like the ex-general.

"We have been arresting quite a number of his cronies and colleagues, including one last night," Bremer said. "We are getting some very useful opportunities in the last week or 10 days now to try to wrap up the leaders of the troops that are attacking our soldiers."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:59 AM


On Familiar Ground, Kerry Labors to Win Over Voters (R. W. APPLE Jr., December 22, 2003, NY Times)

There is something plaintive, something almost wistful about Mr. Kerry these days, as if he finds it inconceivable that he is having so much trouble convincing his fellow New Englanders that he and not Dr. Dean has the experience needed for the presidency. Like Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968, Mr. Kerry seems astonished that though he paid his dues, the nomination may go to a man who has not done so, at least in his eyes. He hopes that he will prevail in the end, against expectations, as Mr. Humphrey did.

A Democrat elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1982, then to the Senate two years later, Mr. Kerry has been in the public eye for more than 20 years, and for that entire time his face has constantly been on Boston television stations, which are heavily watched here in populous southern New Hampshire.

Yet he is doing far worse in this state, where the primary is set for Jan. 27, than in Iowa, where caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 19, or so the polls say. One recent New Hampshire survey has him 25 percentage points behind Dr. Dean, another has him 29 points back and a third has him 30 points down.

The potentially good news for the Kerry camp has been a suggestion that Dr. Dean is starting to turn off some voters.

How hurt are you when the best news you have is that folks are starting to dislike your rival as much as they dislike you?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:41 AM


Will Iraq survive the Iraqi resistance?
(SPENGLER, 12/22/03, Asia Times)

If well-planned and executed strikes against coalition forces continue at November's pace, Washington's moment of triumph will fade into a crisis of policy.

"Crisis of policy" is the appropriate term, rather than "strategic crisis". This is not Vietnam, where the Vietnamese communists enjoyed the protection of a nuclear superpower. Iraq has no such friends. The concept of Iraq as such - a nation protected by a superpower - may be the eventual victim of the success of the Iraqi resistance. That would imply a revolution in American policy towards the Middle East. [...]

Angelo Codevilla began the article cited above with the following observation: "Iraq was not a good idea in the first place. American and British Wilsonians decided to recreate something like the Babylon empire: Sunni Mesopotamian Arabs from the Baghdad area would rule over vastly more numerous southern Shi'ite Arabs, and Arabophobe Kurds. Why the ruled should accept such an arrangement was never made clear." To frustrate the Iraqi resistance, eliminate Iraq itself, Codevilla implies.

That is the logical response of American policy to the unexpected success of Iraqi resistance. Plans have been floating about for years to create a separate Shi'ite state in the south, hand the west of Iraq over to the Hashemites of Jordan, maintain a semi-autonomous Kurdish zone and leave a rump state around Baghdad to become a killing zone for counterinsurgency.

Setting aside for the moment the question of whether those strikes have been effective, why should the Shi'a--who are more numerous even in Baghdad--cede the central region to their Sunni oppressors rather than get rid of them?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:17 AM


Reagan's Legacy, Where 'Angels' Dares to Tread (Philip Kennicott, December 21, 2003, Washington Post)

Now come witnesses for the devil's advocate, to say uncomfortable things in the case of Ronald Reagan and the contest for how he will settle into the cultural memory. Even as those who hold up the 40th president as a political colossus the equivalent of Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt forge ahead with canonization -- there are efforts to name some piece of infrastructure for him in all of the nation's more than 3,000 counties, and to get his picture on the dime -- art is resistant. As two recent dramatizations of the Reagan years suggest, memories embedded in art remain raw even as the guns of partisan rancor turn to other targets.

Tony Kushner's "Angels in America," a two-part, six-hour history play about AIDS and gay life in America, is more than a decade old. Watching it, in a starry new film version on HBO, is a time warp, a return to a world where, for pockets of American society, hating Ronald Reagan was as elemental as hating August without air conditioning. The play has become dated in some ways, but none of them particularly damning. Kushner's language of gay life, the campy asides, has been absorbed into the American vernacular, as familiar from today's "Will and Grace" as it was exotic to audiences unfamiliar with gay society a decade ago. The millennial gloom of his characters, their sense that the world is falling apart, strange apparitions are in the air and nuclear holocaust is nigh, feels dated not so much because the world didn't end on schedule, but because it has been supplanted by a new, terror-infused nervousness.

But it is the Reagan-rancor that feels most strange and bracing in Kushner's play. Almost 15 years after he left office, and almost 10 years after Alzheimer's disease forced Reagan to leave public life, the ex-president is hailed by his supporters as the father of the current conservative movement. But those who resist his canonization cite his blunders in office, his disengagement with critical affairs of state and the damage done by the Iran-contra scandal.

Damage done? The Contras won, demonstrating that the U.S. could utilize guerilla war just as effectively as it had been used against us in Vietnam and that no communist state can ever afford to hold an election. What damage?

Meanwhile, the disengagement from matters of state toppled the USSR and the blunders gave us twenty years of economic growth, so far.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Tories, Even With a New Leader, See Little to Hope For (SARAH LYALL, 12/22/03, NY Times)

On a national level, Mr. Howard is trying to carve out policies that will distinguish his party from the government. But Mr. Blair's Labor Party has cleverly shifted right, usurping many traditional Conservative positions on issues like crime, social welfare, and immigration, and forcing the Tories to attack policies they once espoused.

There, but for the disgrace of the Clintons, go the Republicans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:42 AM


Year in review (David Warren, December 21, 2003, SUNDAY SPECTATOR)

The obvious "big event" of 2003 -- the events leading to and through the invasion of Iraq, capped with the capture of Saddam -- was probably not the most consequential. And the image of the year -- the fall of the dictator's statue in Baghdad -- is unlikely to have pointed the moral. My own extremely fallible intuition is that, if anything, this war and this image concealed the main event.

To my mind, the real story was in the opposition to this war, and how it persisted and developed in Europe and North America even after Iraq had been liberated from its tyrant. That will be the "developing story" in 2004 and years to come -- how the West has turned against its own ideals, and grows increasingly ashamed, even of its own most obvious accomplishments.

For all we know, what we witnessed in 2003 was not the defeat of an Arab tyrant, but the last prop snapping in the edifice of the West.

There is a somewhat different take on this, which, though not clairvoyant ourselves, seems more plausible: in large part as a function of globalization--or the End of History or whatever you want to call the universalization of the liberal democratic capitalist protestant state--this may be the moment at which we recognized most clearly that the West is not a geographic location but a set of ideas. In keeping with that realization, we can see that parts of the old West (France, Germany, Canada) have fallen prey to the internal weaknesses of democracy (egalitarianism, statism, and enervation) and merely await euthanasia, while a variety of nations--India, Turkey, Taiwan, the Philippines, Morocco, Uganda, Colombia, etc.--are moving on one or all levels towards the kinds of reforms that will make them truly "Western". The edifice is certainly changing, with portions having been condemned and new wings being added on, but it's really just a long overdue renovation project.

December 21, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:31 PM


I Remember Muammar (WILLIAM SAFIRE, 12/22/03, NY Times)

As American tanks began to roll through Iraq to overthrow Saddam, Libya's longtime terrorist, Muammar Qaddafi, came up with a strategy to avoid being next on the regime-change list: pre-emptive surrender.

Nobody calls it that, of course. Diplomats and doves want to treat the dictator's epiphany as the result of patient negotiation stretching back for decades.

What's not to like about a week when Saddam Hussein, the French, the Germans, and Qaddafi all surrendered without a shot?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM


Fatter Profits -- And Job Growth -- Will Send The Recovery Into High Gear (James C. Cooper & Kathleen Madigan, 12/29/03, Business Week)

To hear economic forecasters tell it, the trip from 2003 to 2004 will be like going to sleep in Kansas and waking up in Oz. And it won't be a dream. [...]

One big reason is that in 2004 the benefits of the economy's long-run trend of faster productivity growth will shine through. Even as demand sputtered over the past three years of recession and mock recovery, productivity gains were lifting profit margins and the real wages of workers who kept their jobs. Now, amid stronger and more widely based demand, every addition to revenue will create even more profits. And with payrolls rising, each new worker will generate even more purchasing power. "This is the virtuous cycle," says Gail Fosler at the Conference Board Inc.

The business economists in BusinessWeek's survey, on average, expect the economy to grow 4.1% in 2004. That's fast enough to spur enough job growth to cut the jobless rate to 5.6% by yearend from its peak of 6.4%. They expect almost no change in inflation, which will be 1.9% for the year. They also look for the Federal Reserve to be patient in lifting interest rates, most likely not until midyear. [...]

A sharp plunge in the dollar could bring a retreat in foreign capital so crucial to U.S. growth, along with higher inflation and interest rates. Mounting federal deficits also raise concerns about interest rates.

But that risk goes beyond 2004, and strong growth has a way of lessening other worries, including those over the dollar. For the coming year, forecasters see an economy ready to skip down a yellow brick road of rising demand, fatter profits, and solid job growth.

So, given that no one takes them seriously on national security, what exactly is whichever Democrat's presidential campaign going to argue in the face of a booming economy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:48 PM


The South: Will The Last Dem Turn Out The Lights? (Richard S. Dunham, 12/29/03, Business Week)

Many conservative whites see the Democrats as the party of minorities and urban elites who favor gay marriage, gun control, affirmative action, and abortion rights. That's why a good ol' Republican like Haley Barbour was able to win 80% of the white vote and oust Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove of Mississippi in November.

The leftward tilt of the Democratic Presidential field could hasten a second Southern sweep by President Bush. Because the South gained Electoral College clout as a result of the 2000 census, Bush can now count on 128 solid Southern electoral votes -- forcing the Democratic nominee to capture 66% of electors in the rest of the country to prevail. Without the South and Rocky Mountain West, a Democrat must "pull an inside straight" to reach the magic number of 270, says Catholic University political scientist John Kenneth White. [...]

In the Presidential race, even Democratic optimists say that among the states of the Old Confederacy, only Arkansas and Florida may be competitive. "The Democrats have to remake themselves in the South," concedes party strategist Donna Brazile. But that won't happen until the dust settles from the likely debacle of '04. With more setbacks inevitable, there's scant hope for centrists to overcome the take-no-prisoners partisanship that drove Breaux to the sidelines.

It's more likely the Democrats will lose a sitting Senator in AR than that they'll make the presidential race competitive there, even if General Clark accepts Governor Dean's "offer".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:29 PM


Journey from Taliban to democrat: One man builds a future in the new Afghanistan (Scott Baldauf, 12/22/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

Before he leaves his village for Kabul, Abdul Hakeem Muneeb is given strict instructions by his constituents.

"The first thing is Islam," they whisper to him. He agrees: "If we follow Islam, all the rest, development and security, will follow naturally."

A delegate to the loya jirga, a grand council that will produce Afghanistan's new constitution, Mr. Muneeb makes an unlikely founding father. A former deputy minister in the ousted Taliban government, he still wears the black turban favored by Taliban leaders. Without it, he says, his head feels naked.

While some Afghans consider him a representative of the past, the Karzai government sees former Taliban like Muneeb as windows into the volatile countryside, where the vast majority of Afghanistan's 21 million citizens live. Making men like Muneeb feel like citizens, with rights and responsibilities, may be a crucial first step in undercutting Taliban support and giving disaffected Pashtun tribesmen an option other than the gun. [...]

On Sunday morning, Muneeb listens to Karzai's introductory speech with mild amusement, but fervent support.

"The terrorists are the enemy of a better life for Afghanistan," Karzai tells the delegates. "But this nation will never give up. This nation will gain the victory against the terrorists, God willing."

The crowd applauds, and Muneeb joins them enthusiastically.

In the pocket of his sport coat, Muneeb carries a copy of the draft constitution - a 160-article document compiled by a handpicked team of intellectuals, religious scholars, and legal experts. He approves of most of the provisions, but he has qualms about issues of justice. The decision to forgive or punish a murderer, for instance, should belong to the victim's family - as it was during the Prophet's time - and not to the president, he says.

But there will be plenty of time for substance. First comes the symbolism. The former King Zahir Shah gives a short speech urging unity. A blind cleric chants verses from the Koran. Then a group of kindergarten students, dressed in various ethnic garbs, sing songs of Afghan unity.

"This is our great land,
this is our beautiful land,
this land is our life,
this is our Afghanistan."

The nationalist messages are not subtle, and they carry a powerful effect. On a large video screen at the front of the tent, a delegate wipes her eyes with a handkerchief. Muneeb also wipes his eyes. Afghanistan was beautiful once,he recalls, before drought and war and bombs turned the mountains around Kabul to dust.

Muneeb thinks of his children back in Zormat. His oldest daughter is 3; his youngest son is 2 months old. Will they have a school in Zormat? Will they grow up thinking of themselves as Afghans or as Pashtuns? Everything starts here.

Throughout his time as a Taliban official, Muneeb saw himself as a moderate among hard-liners. While commanders pressed for stricter rules on the lives of Afghanistan's urban population, Muneeb looked for ways to retain the true spirit of Islam. Taliban rules - unlike the Koran - specifically forbade women from attending school, for instance, but Muneeb and his moderate colleagues quietly arranged to keep a medical institute open for young women throughout the five-year Taliban regime.

But while the loya jirga organizers have worked hard on creating a spirit of unity, it's difficult to undo decades of animosity and suspicion. Within minutes of the children's song, an argument breaks out over procedures. Farsi-speaking candidates from religious parties complain that the system chosen by Karzai is unfair. Muneeb springs to his feet. He is the first speaker to back Karzai's voting system.

"At the last loya jirga, Karzai was elected president, so he has the authority to choose the system he wants," Muneeb says in Pashto. "We all have a big responsibility, to adopt a constitution and to act in accordance with Islam. We must not be distracted from our main task."

The only rational stance towards Afghanistan's experiment in nation building is skeptical hopfulness.

Uphill pursuit for Afghan warlord: US troops hunt for a guerrilla group with ties to Al Qaeda and Taliban. (Ann Scott Tyson, 12/22/03, CS Monitor)

For three days, US soldiers trekked along goat trails, forded waist-deep rivers, and scrambled up steep, rocky ridges of the Hindu Kush to reach a suspected mountain hideout of the group led by renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

There, near the remote hamlet of Tazagul Kala in Nuristan Province, they came upon devastation left by multiple precision-guided bombs - at least two cottages in rubble and another partially destroyed by a US air strike targeting Mr. Hekmatyar and his radical Hizb-i Islami, or Party of Islam.

The shepherds' dwellings perched on high terraces had been stocked for the winter with bags of corn and wheat, as well as machine-gun ammunition, bombmaking components, and antigovernment propaganda, say 10th Mountain Division soldiers who searched the site Nov. 9.

But who, if anyone, died in the late October strike remains a matter of controversy - with some local Afghans charging that six civilians lost their lives and US officers saying that anyone killed was probably an enemy. What is clear, however, is that Hekmatyar and his close associates evaded the attack.

Derided as a "warlord without a portfolio" by some Bush administration officials, Hekmatyar has emerged as a primary target since he declared a "holy war" against US-led forces in Afghanistan and denounced President Hamid Karzai as a puppet. The State Department this year labeled Hekmatyar a terrorist with ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and he is believed to be responsible for deadly attacks on both foreigners and Afghans.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:21 PM

DR. DEATH (via Mike Daley):

Lieberman Asks Santa's Aid in N.H. Primary (The Associated Press, December 21, 2003)

Dean staffers said Sunday he is going national with Doctors for Dean, which had previously been just a New Hampshire group. A new Web link will allow doctors across the country to sign up.

Dean told members of the group that studies indicate 50 to 60 percent of Medicare dollars are spent in the last six months of life, but some of that spending may not be in the patients' best interest. [...]

"I don't advocate assisted suicide," he said. "I think what we really need very badly in this country is to restore the doctor-patient relationship so private decisions can remain private and out of the political realm."

So, is he arguing that we reprivatize health care? or that we make it easier to kill expensive patients in order to save the government money?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:27 PM


Mondale on thin ice in criticizing this administration's foreign policy (Scott W. Johnson, December 21, 2003, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Those of us who lived as adults through the four years of the Carter administration in which Walter Mondale last served as an important public official may find Mondale's statements especially strange. We recall how President Jimmy Carter proudly announced that the United States had overcome its "inordinate fear of communism," famously planted a kiss on the cheek of Leonid Brezhnev, and then reacted with shock when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

We also recall how followers of Ayatollah Khomeni took 67 Americans hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Over the succeeding 444 days, the Carter administration tried idle threats, vain pleas and ineffectual military action to resolve the hostage crisis. Only the landslide election and subsequent inauguration of Ronald Reagan ultimately freed the hostages and ended the protracted national humiliation.

Henry Kissinger observed that the Carter administration had managed the extraordinary feat of having achieved, at one and the same time, "the worst relations with our allies, the worst relations with our adversaries, and the most serious upheavals in the developing world since the end of the Second World War."

These are the foreign policy credentials that Mondale brings to his assessment of the Bush administration. With these credentials, a reasonable person would conclude that discretion is the better part of valor and bite his tongue.

Mondale, however, seems to believe that the foreign policy of the Carter administration should serve as a benchmark against which to judge the foreign policy of other administrations.

One does feel some pity for a Party whose elder statemen are Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:17 PM


Decision on nuclear fusion site put off (The Japan Times, Dec. 22, 2003)

Six parties involved in a $12 billion, 30-year energy project failed Saturday to reach an accord on the venue for the world's first prototype nuclear fusion reactor due to a sharp division over the two rival sites in Japan and France.

Representatives from China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, the United States and the European Union instead agreed to work out a compromise by the end of January and try to hold a fence-mending meeting in early February. [...]

Japan has proposed hosting the project in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, while the EU has selected the southern French town of Cadarache as its candidate.

Announcing the joint communique, Werner Burkart, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said, "I hope that a few months from now there will be the final decision on the implementation of ITER."

Burkart said the venue for the February meeting will be determined by the six parties, but he signaled the IAEA's readiness to host the meeting in Vienna, where the agency's headquarters is located.

The IAEA participated in the meeting as a facilitator.

Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, who represented Japan at the meeting, said, "The six parties were divided into equal halves."

While avoiding citing specific countries, Hosoda, who was formerly state minister in charge of science and technology, said two supported Japan and two threw their support behind the EU bid.

According to conference participants, South Korea and the U.S. expressed support for Japan's bid, while China and Russia rallied behind France.

Why not just cut the French, Chinese and Russians out of the deal?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:13 PM


Dean Aide Denies Clark Claim (NewsMax, Dec. 22, 2003)

Appearing on ABC News This Week General Wesley Clark told host George Stephanopoulos that before he entered the Democratic primary race Dean had offered him the VP spot on his ticket should he win the nomination.

Clark said that during a meeting with Dean last September Dean "dangled" the VP spot on his ticket but that he had declined, noting he was "really not interested in even talking about it."

Minutes later Joe Trippi, Dean's campaign manager who was present at the meeting told Stephanopoulos the offer was never made. Calling Clark's statement "interesting" he said, adding that the matter of the Vice Presidential nomination "never came up," at the meeting.

One of them is lying. If you're a Republican it doesn't matter which--you just sit back and enjoy the carnage.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 4:56 PM


The Gift of Life: Study Says Giving Makes You Happier, Healthier (David Stonehouse, Ottawa Citizen, 21/12/03)

The old adage that it is better to give than to receive is more than just biblical wisdom or a mother's chasten to her child -- science is proving it to be the key to a healthier, happier, even longer life.

A flurry of research is showing that giving has a whole range of health benefits, including fewer aches and pains, better mental health, lower stress levels and improved protection against illness.

And if one study has it right, the best gift you can give is yourself. Benevolence, it found, can be better than not smoking or exercising four times a week if it is long life you seek.

Stephen Post, an American bioethicist examining the growing body of evidence linking altruism to improved health, says people have always understood that giving has benefits. But no one has quite figured out exactly why that is...

Scientists can be so cute sometimes. Not only does the pomposity of “proving” what the reverent have always known elude them, they don’t get it even when they get it. If Americans all spent their lives buying gifts and doing charitable works, they probably wouldn’t be healthier or live any longer if improving personal health was the only goal.

Giving to others is a symbolic expression of an outward-looking, self-abnegating life, one that renounces self and commits to others. It is through trying to see our needs and even our lives as unimportant that we may--no guarantees– be given the richest, longest lives of all. For most people, this is achieved through family. To care for those who care for you is true bliss. For others, it is attained through vocations of service like religious orders, the military and teaching. But it will never be achieved by those who see their sacrifices and good deeds as a kind of exercise regime, the main purpose of which is to earn them health payoffs and an extended life.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:55 PM


The Harder Hunt for Bin Laden Still searching: The terror chief's allies say that Saddam's capture is good for the Iraqi jihad. But they also have cause for worry (Sami Yousafzai and Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, 12/29/03)

U.S. intelligence officials agree that trapping the Qaeda leader, who has eluded pursuers for more than a decade, will be much more difficult than getting Saddam. But U.S. manhunting teams in Afghanistan, recently united with similar teams in Iraq under the umbrella of Task Force 121, have actually come close to nailing their quarries on several occasions, sources say. They are also using, in some cases, similar techniques. NEWSWEEK has learned that software used to track wanted Iraqis is also being used to piece together and identify weaknesses in the ethnic, family and tribal links of bin Laden's network, according to intelligence analysts and company officials. . . .

Even Zabihullah says that bin Laden had a close call not long ago. He says the terror chieftain and his protective entourage scurried into the bushes when a U.S. aircraft streaked overhead as they were walking along a mountain trail. The plane did not see them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:19 PM


The Democrats' Own Quagmire: Dean says he thought the war was a terrible blunder, but now that we're there, we should stay and see it through. This makes no sense (Fareed Zakaria, Dec. 29/Jan. 5, Newsweek)

[I]f the situation in Iraq is scary, if instability is spreading across the country, America will be more fully and deeply engaged in a war with some very nasty enemies. In such a situation, will the average American—in, say, Pennsylvania or Michigan, states Democrats must win—look to Howard Dean to get them through the dangerous times, or to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell?

There is, of course, the possibility that things in Iraq will not look so bad six months from now. It's possible that the American armed forces will get better at handling the insurgency, that the rare spectacle of Middle Eastern caucuses and elections will be underway, that Iraqis will be having a spirited debate about what an Islamic democracy means and that Iraq will be seeing the stirring of genuine free-market activity. And what will be the Democratic Party's response to this reality? Will it still be explaining that the war was a "catastrophic mistake"?

Mr. Dean, meet your petard.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:44 AM


The 'Bush Doctrine' Experiences Shining Moments (Dana Milbank, December 21, 2003, Washington Post)

It has been a week of sweet vindication for those who promulgated what they call the Bush Doctrine. [...]

To foreign policy hard-liners inside and outside the administration, the gestures by Libya, Iran and Syria, and the softening by France and Germany, all have the same cause: a show of American might.

Those who developed the Bush Doctrine -- a policy of taking preemptive, unprovoked action against emerging threats -- predicted that an impressive U.S. victory in Iraq would intimidate allies and foes alike, making them yield to U.S. interests in other areas. Though that notion floundered with the occupation in Iraq, the capture of Hussein may have served as the decisive blow needed to make others respect U.S. wishes, they say.

"It's always been at the heart of the Bush Doctrine that a more robust policy would permit us to elicit greater cooperation from adversaries than we'd had in the past when we acquiesced," said Richard Perle, an influential adviser to the administration. "With the capture of Saddam, the sense that momentum may be with us is very important."

Which makes the following from Senator Kerry unintelligible, Kerry rips Bush policy (Rick Klein, 12/21/2003, Boston Globe):
While applauding Libya's announcement, the Massachusetts senator said in a statement that it "makes clear the shortcomings of George Bush's go-it-alone unilateralism." Kerry said the United Nations and NATO could be used to help end weapons programs in North Korea and Iran.

"An administration that scorns multilateralism and boasts about a rigid doctrine of military preemption has almost in spite of themselves demonstrated the enormous potential for advances in the war on terror through cooperation," Kerry said.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:13 AM


Lincoln's Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers' Home by Matthew Pinsker (C-SPAN, 12/21/03, 8 & 11pm)

Lincoln and his family fled the gloom that hung over the White House, moving into a small cottage in Washington, D.C., on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home, a residence for disabled military veterans. In Lincoln's Sanctuary, historian Matthew Pinsker offers a fascinating portrait of Lincoln's stay in this cottage and tells the story of the president's remarkable growth as a national leader and a private man. Lincoln lived at the Soldiers' Home for a quarter of his presidency, and for nearly half of the critical year of 1862, but most Americans (including many scholars) have not heard of the place. Indeed, this is the first volume to specifically connect this early "summer White House" to key wartime developments, including the Emancipation Proclamation, the firing of McClellan, the evolution of Lincoln's "Father Abraham" image, the election of 1864, and the assassination conspiracy.

-EXCERPT: Chapter One (Oxford University Press)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:04 AM


The Great Library of Amazonia: 120,000 fully searchable texts and counting … Jeff Bezos is building the world's biggest digital book archive. It's an info-age dream come true - and the best way to sell books ever. (Gary Wolf, December 2003, Wired)

The fondest dream of the information age is to create an archive of all knowledge. You might call it the Alexandrian fantasy, after the great library founded by Ptolemy I in 286 BC. Through centuries of aggressive acquisition, the librarians of Alexandria, Egypt, collected hundreds of thousands of texts. None survives. During a final wave of destruction, in AD 641, invaders fed the bound volumes and papyrus scrolls into the furnaces of the public baths, where they are said to have burned for six months. "The lesson," says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, "is to keep more than one copy."

Kahle recently gave a copy of his digital archive of 10 billion Web pages to a new library in Alexandria. On a visit to the city last year, he sat down with Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of Egypt's president, and discussed his gift, which has all the advantages of a modern electronic resource: It can be instantly updated, easily searched, and endlessly replicated. Mubarak, with diplomatic politeness, allowed that she was impressed. Still, she ventured a protest: "But I love books!"

Therein lies a problem. Books are an ancient and proven medium. Their physical form inspires passion. But their very physicality makes books inaccessible to the multi-terabyte databases of modern Alexandrian projects. Books take time to transport. Their text vanishes and their pages yellow in a rash of foxing. Most important, it's still shockingly difficult to find information buried in books. Even as the Internet has revived hope of a universal library and Google seems to promise an answer to every query, books have remained a dark region in the universe of information. We want books to be as accessible and searchable as the Web. On the other hand, we still want them to be books.

An ingenious attempt to illuminate the dark region of books is under way at Over the past spring and summer, the company created an unrivaled digital archive of more than 120,000 books. The goal is to quickly add most of Amazon's multimillion-title catalog. The entire collection, which went live Oct. 23, is searchable, and every page is viewable.

To build the archive, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has had to unravel a tangle of technological and copyright problems. His solution promises to remake the publishing business and give Amazon a powerful new weapon in its battle against online competitors such as Yahoo, Google, and eBay. But the most interesting thing about the archive is the way it resolves the paradox of the book, respecting its physical form while transcending its limits.

Like all the best aspects of the Internet, it's easier to see how this will be useful than how it will generate any revenues in the long run.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:59 AM



Bring back the real men! New York women are sick of competing with - and dating - men who fuss over their hair, skin, nails, teeth, clothes and cuisine.

"I can't stand metrosexuals!" cries 23-year-old saleswoman Lauren Levin, who has written "metrosexuals need not apply" on her profile. "I want to get manicures with my girlfriends, not my boyfriend."

If there was a buzzword of 2003, it was "metrosexual" - used to describe the alarming amount of straight men who delight in traditionally female pursuits like yoga, pedicures, facials and sample sales.

The backlash has begun.

Levin recently went on a date with Alexander Vorgias, a chiseled 23-year-old commercial real estate agent. Within minutes she knew that he was not for her.

"First," she begins, "he ordered plum wine. He wore so much gel in his hair. His tan was perfect. His suit was Armani."

After he asked about her breasts ("Are they real or fake?" is how Levin recalls it) he confessed he was surprised she went out with him, since, when they first met, he wasn't immaculately dressed.

"You're such a metrosexual!" she blurted.

"I haven't been tanning in three weeks!" he shot back. He did, however, admit to using concealer to cover a bruise he got while playing paintball.

She ordered two more sakes.

Vorgias, a born-and-raised New Yorker, is still confused by Levin's reaction. "Maybe it's a byproduct of urban Manhattan life, but suddenly I'm being called a metrosexual," he says. "I care about how I look. I tan every few weeks. I buy Aramis creams and under-eye lotions. But the word 'metrosexual' is not manly."

Under-eye lotion?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


A New Pathway to the Stars (TIMOTHY FERRIS, 12/21/03, NY Times)

Talk has been that President Bush is preparing a bold new mission plan for NASA, much as John F. Kennedy did in 1961 when he committed the nation to putting a man on the Moon before the end of the decade. Some space enthusiasts are urging Mr. Bush to aim for Mars, but the long time lines involved suggest that he would wind up, as his father did, with nothing to show for it but a few NASA reports with soaring price tags attached and a nagging sense that he'd been had. Others talk of building yet another space station, higher up — perhaps at the "L 1 point," between Earth and the Moon — but to say that you are exploring space by orbiting inside a tin can is like claiming to have explored the Atlantic because you made an ocean-liner crossing in a cabin below the waterline.

A better target would be the Moon. I know, I know: at first blush it sounds like a case of "Been there, done that." But a new lunar campaign could reinvigorate the manned space program and open up the solar system to future exploration — if we do it right. That doesn't mean another Apollo-style "flags and footprints" bash that briefly doubles the NASA budget and then shrinks it back again, leaving everyone with indelible memories and a crippling hangover.

Rather, it means establishing a permanent lunar base, where explorers can refine the technology and techniques required to colonize Mars, in cooperation with other nations and with private entrepreneurs, all without irresponsibly increasing NASA's budget or shortchanging its admirable robotic space-probe programs. That may be a tall order, but — à la the Wright brothers — the venture's success depends less on money than on dedication, ingenuity and innovation.

Wny not do both--a permanent base on the Moon and manned trips to Mars with the goal of putting a permanent base there too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:30 AM


Easing Iraq's Debt Burdens (NY Times, 12/21/03)

James Baker III is quickly showing how old-fashioned diplomacy can advance Washington's policy objectives. In his first trip as President Bush's Iraqi debt negotiator, Mr. Baker met with five European leaders and emerged with declarations endorsing a substantial write-off of the $40 billion in old loans and accrued interest that Baghdad owes major developed countries. The five countries Mr. Baker visited, together with the United States, account for roughly $25 billion of those obligations. That's only a start — Iraq's overall debt amounts to $120 billion — but it's an important one.

Mr. Baker's itinerary included France, Germany and Russia, the most prominent European critics of the American-led invasion of Iraq, as well as Britain and Italy. His successful meetings in Paris and Berlin led to the most unified declaration on Iraq since last winter's damaging split in the Security Council. The Moscow session was less rewarding, with President Vladimir Putin linking support for debt relief to compensation for Russian companies that had contracts with Saddam Hussein.

The leaders of France and Germany were already looking for politically feasible ways to work with Washington on Iraq. Mr. Baker also benefited from the good reputation he enjoys in both countries, dating back to his role as secretary of state in the first Bush administration, when deft and sensitive American diplomacy helped manage the consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union. That record stands in painful contrast to the current administration's gratuitous alienation of much of Europe, most recently through a Pentagon memo excluding France, Germany, Russia and other opponents of the war from Iraqi reconstruction contracts financed by American tax dollars. Releasing that memo on the eve of Mr. Baker's European trip was inept. Fortunately, it did not prevent French and German cooperation on debt relief for Iraq.

Let's give the Timesmen the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're only playing stupid here, when they pretend that these results are a contrast to, not a function of, American unilateralism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 AM


UK in secret talks with pariahs (BRIAN BRADY, 12/21/03, Soctland on Sunday)

BRITAIN is in secret negotiations with at least two more ‘pariah states’ believed to harbour weapons of mass destruction, in a bid to encourage them to give up their arsenals peacefully or face the wrath of the international community.

Amid the fallout from the dramatic announcement that Libya is to abandon its illicit weapons programme, it has emerged that British officials are already in ‘back-channel’ negotiations with Syria and Iran, as part of a wider campaign to defuse the tinderbox situation in the Middle East.

Scotland on Sunday has learned that officials have met counterparts in both countries - labelled part of the "Axis of Evil" by President George Bush - for preliminary discussions.

The softly-softly strategy, which produced the developments in Libya after nine months of secret negotiations, was last night backed up by a veiled threat from Bush, who said he hoped other leaders would follow the example of Colonel Gaddafi. [...]

It emerged last night that Gaddafi was capable of firing a missile into the heart of Europe or Israel, according to defence analysts.

British officials confirmed privately that the arsenal included the feared Nodong missiles, capable of firing a devastating warhead up to 1,700 km. Their potential target range is almost 10 times the limit Gaddafi has now agreed to observe under the deal.

Libyan officials last night arrived in Vienna to come clean about Tripoli’s nuclear programme in a meeting with United Nations atomic watchdog the IAEA.

But in the aftermath of the agreement, Straw said the former pariah state had confirmed long-term fears that they had collaborated with the North Koreans in developing a deadly weapons programme that threatened enemies far beyond its borders.

Several points stand out here: first, looks like a standard good cop/bad cop act, with Britain as good cop; second, that Libya has such missiles is a far more catastrophic failure of intelligence than the lack of some predicted WMD in Iraq; third, even Howard Dean seems not to be claiming that getting rid of this nuclear missile program won't make the world a safer place.

-Libya’s fatal blow to axis of evil: Gaddafi deal signals end to secret nuclear weapon programme with Iran and North Korea (David Pratt and Trevor Royle, 12/21/03, Sunday Herald)

THE end of the threat posed to world peace and secure oil supplies by the “axis of evil” is emerging this weekend as the real prize that Tony Blair and George Bush have secured for Christmas.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi took the decision to renounce all weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on Friday night, but while at first it was thought this only had implications for Libya it is now clear that his decision has scuppered a secret partnership between Libya, Iran and North Korea formed with the intention of developing an independent nuclear weapon.

New documents revealed yesterday show that the three were working on the nuclear weapons programme at a top-secret underground site near the Kufra Oasis of the Sahara in southeastern Libya. The team was made up of North Korean scientists, engineers and technicians, as well as some Iranian and Libyan nuclear scientists.

North Korea and Iran, originally dubbed by Bush as the axis of evil along with Iraq, avoided detection by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) inspectors by each member farming out vital sections of its projects to its fellow members.

Iran, which is now in the final stages of uranium enrichment for its program, is badly hit, having counted on fitting into place key parts of its WMD project made in Libya. North Korea may also be forced to scale back the production of nuclear devices as well as counting the loss of a lucrative source of income for its Scuds and nuclear technology.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 AM


Napster Runs for President in '04: The political establishment was blindsided by the Dean campaign because it was blindsided by the Internet's power as a political tool. (Frank Rich, 12/21/03, NY Times)

I am not a partisan of Dr. Dean or any other Democratic candidate. I don't know what will happen on Election Day 2004. But I do know this: the rise of Howard Dean is not your typical political Cinderella story. The constant comparisons made between him and George McGovern and Barry Goldwater — each of whom rode a wave of anger within his party to his doomed nomination — are facile. Yes, Dr. Dean's followers are angry about his signature issue, the war. Dr. Dean is marginalized in other ways as well: a heretofore obscure governor from a tiny state best known for its left-wing ice cream and gay civil unions, a flip-flopper on some pivotal issues and something of a hothead. This litany of flaws has been repeated at every juncture of the campaign this far, just as it is now. And yet the guy keeps coming back, surprising those in Washington and his own party who misunderstand the phenomenon and dismiss him.

The elusive piece of this phenomenon is cultural: the Internet. Rather than compare Dr. Dean to McGovern or Goldwater, it may make more sense to recall Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. It was not until F.D.R.'s fireside chats on radio in 1933 that a medium in mass use for years became a political force. J.F.K. did the same for television, not only by vanquishing the camera-challenged Richard Nixon during the 1960 debates but by replacing the Eisenhower White House's prerecorded TV news conferences (which could be cleaned up with editing) with live broadcasts. Until Kennedy proved otherwise, most of Washington's wise men thought, as The New York Times columnist James Reston wrote in 1961, that a spontaneous televised press conference was "the goofiest idea since the Hula Hoop."

Such has been much of the reaction to the Dean campaign's breakthrough use of its chosen medium. In Washington, the Internet is still seen mainly as a high-velocity disseminator of gossip (Drudge) and rabidly partisan sharpshooting by self-publishing excoriators of the left and right. When used by campaigns, the Internet becomes a synonym for "the young," "geeks," "small contributors" and "upper middle class," as if it were an eccentric electronic cousin to direct-mail fund-raising run by the acne-prone members of a suburban high school's computer club. In other words, the political establishment has been blindsided by the Internet's growing sophistication as a political tool — and therefore blindsided by the Dean campaign — much as the music industry establishment was by file sharing and the major movie studios were by "The Blair Witch Project," the amateurish under-$100,000 movie that turned viral marketing on the Web into a financial mother lode.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign that learned the most from John McCain's use of the web has effected the most remarkable use of Internet power, signing up some ten million folks and sending out updates several times a day. It's also no surprise that the Frank Rich's of the world haven't figured that out yet.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:58 AM


Strong Support Is Found for Ban on Gay Marriage: The latest New York Times/CBS News poll also found unease about homosexual relations in general, making the issue a potentially divisive one in the 2004 election. (KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and JANET ELDER, 12/21/03, NY Times)

The latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found widespread support for an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban gay marriage. It also found unease about homosexual relations in general, making the issue a potentially divisive one for the Democrats and an opportunity for the Republicans in the 2004 election.

Support for a constitutional amendment extends across a wide swath of the public and includes a majority of people traditionally viewed as supportive of gay rights, including Democrats, women and people who live on the East Coast.

Attitudes on the subject seem to be inextricably linked to how people view marriage itself. For a majority of Americans — 53 percent — marriage is largely a religious matter. Seventy-one percent of those people oppose gay marriage. Similarly, 33 percent of Americans say marriage is largely a legal matter and a majority of those people — 55 percent — say they support gay marriage.

The most positive feelings toward gay people were registered among respondents under 30, and among those who knew gay people.

The nationwide poll found that 55 percent of Americans favored an amendment to the constitution that would allow marriage only between a man and a woman, while 40 percent opposed the idea. [...]

The poll also found that by a 61-34 margin, Americans oppose gay marriage. They are slightly more accepting of civil unions to give gays some of the same legal rights as married couples, with 54 percent opposed to civil unions and 39 percent supportive.

The gay lobby has badly overplayed what was a weak hand to begin with. Folks have little stomach for arresting and prosecuting homosexuals, willing to avert their gaze from private behavior no matter how depraved. But their equally unwilling to have such behavior come out of its dark corners and start to impact public policy and their own lives, which permitting (never mind requiring) states to afford gay marriage would do. It would be wise to beat a hasty retreat, appeal to Americans basic sense of fairness, and ask for just some generic legal/contractual institution, rather than continue the attack on marriage. But, then again, the fight isn't about providing legal protections to gays, but about forcing the rest of society to endorse homosexuality, which seems certain to fail.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:48 AM


Jalapeno Cornbread from Treebeards in Houston (Texas Monthly, August 1992)

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
5 cups grated cheddar cheese (about 1 pound)
5 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups creamed corn
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1/3 cup sliced jalapeno peppers
6 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
2 1/3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine baking powder and salt, and add vegetable oil. Add remaining ingredients in order given. Mix thoroughly, but do not overmix or cornbread will be tough.

Pour mixture into greased 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Bake approximately 1 hour, but start checking at 45 minutes. Bread is done when knife blade inserted in center comes out clean.

To prepare ahead, mix all ingredients except baking powder. Cover and refrigerate. Next day, add baking powder and bake. Serves 10.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


The other North Korea: A historian's alternate view of Kim Jong Il's shadowy kingdom (Drake Bennett, 12/21/2003, Boston Globe)

WHEN AMERICANS THINK of North Korea at all, it's as a psychotic little menace of a nation and a nightmarish, otherworldly place. Historian Bruce Cumings has devoted his career to painting a different picture. In his 1,400-page, two-volume "The Origins of the Korean War," published in 1981 and 1990, he argued that the Korean War was not a Soviet provocation but a civil war -- one that the United States, by splitting the peninsula in 1945, had made inevitable.  

In his latest book, "North Korea: Another Country" (New Press), Cumings sets out to show, among other things, that the United States visited a "holocaust" on North Korea during the Korean War, that the rebuilt country came much closer to being a socialist paradise than we give it credit for, and that it is the Bush administration, not the Kim regime, that is to blame for the current tensions.

Ideas reached Cumings by phone at his office at the University of Chicago.

IDEAS: In your new book you quote journalist Bernard Krisher, who described North Korea in 1991 as "one big kibbutz." Is that how you would describe the place?

CUMINGS: It's important to realize that in the early `80s, North Korea's per capita output, their infant mortality, life expectancy, all of that, were either at South Korea's level or higher. They had something like double the per capita energy usage of South Korea in the `70s.

But the country's energy regime collapsed and that rippled through everything, including the agricultural sector. Then the Russians cut off all aid with the end of the Soviet Union. And in `95 and `96 the worst floods of the century affected something like 40 percent of the arable land. After Kim Il Sung died in `94, the regime itself became internally stymied in handling its problems. North Korea's tragedy is that it was one of the better Third World developing states in terms of feeding, clothing, housing, and educating its own population -- only to reach a level of degradation in the late `90s that is as low as you can go.

I think it's inexcusable that North Korea, which is a highly centralized state, allowed at least half a million of its citizens to starve to death and an entire generation to be malnourished and stunted. This is not a state, like several in Africa, that is incapable of mobilizing its population. North Korea can mobilize everybody.

IDEAS: How seriously should we take recent reforms in North Korea?

CUMINGS: Particularly since 2000, they have done dramatic things they didn't do before. They normalized relations with the European Union, as well as Australia and Canada, and they sought to normalize relations with Japan. They have allowed market forces to operate in their economy since the mid-'90s -- when their system of delivering goods and services through the state essentially broke down. And then, in July of 2002, they drastically revalued their currency, which had always been grossly overvalued.

Stalin and the USSR have never lacked for apologists in America, but, with the exception of the folks at ANSWR, it's far rarer to find folks who think that North Korea was a socialist garden spot that we destroyed. Leave it though to the Globe to find one and present him to their readers as if he were a serious person.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:45 AM


What is Chanukah? (Paul Greenberg, December 21, 2003, Townhall)

Chanukah isn't mentioned in the Old Testament. The story of battles and victories has been relegated to the Apocrypha. A mere military victory rates only a secondary place in the canon. It is not celebrated for its own sake but for what it reveals.

A violent confrontation is lifted out of history, and enters the realm of the sacred. A messy little guerrilla war in the dim past of a forgotten empire has become something else, something that partakes of the eternal. For only the spiritual victories last.

The central metaphor of all religious belief - revealing light - now blots out all the imperial intrigues and internecine warfare. And that may be the greatest miracle of Chanukah: the transformation of that oldest and darkest of human activities, war, into a feast of illumination. [...]

But if there is one constant message associated with this holiday, it can be found in the weekly portion of the Prophets chosen to be read on the Jewish Sabbath. And over the centuries, the scripture for the Sabbath of Chanukah has remained unchanged: Zechariah 4:1-7, with its penultimate verse:

Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:25 AM


Talmud confirms an early Gospel of Matthew (NEIL ALTMAN AND DAVID CROWDER, Dec. 13, 2003, Toronto Star)

For more than a century, liberal scholars have contended that the Christian gospels are unreliable, second-hand accounts of Jesus' ministry that weren't put on paper until 70 to 135 A.D. or later — generations after those who witnessed the events of Jesus' ministry were dead.

Today's more liberal scholars say the Gospel of Matthew may have been aimed at Jews but it was written in Greek, not Hebrew.

They also believe that the Book of Mark, written in Greek, was the original gospel, despite the traditional order of the gospels in the Bible, putting Matthew first.

But a literary tale dated by some scholars at 72 A.D. or earlier, which comes from an ancient collection of Jewish writings known as the Talmud, quotes brief passages that appear only in the Gospel of Matthew. In his 1999 book, Passover And Easter: Origin And History To Modern Times, Israel Yuval of Jerusalem's Hebrew University says that Rabban Gamaliel, a leader of rabbinical scholars in about 70 A.D., is "considered to have authored a sophisticated parody of the Gospel according to Matthew."

The Talmud, a text not often touched by New Testament scholars, also contains a number of obvious references to Jesus and his family.

Jesus is called a Nazarene, one of the names given him. Another dubs him Yeshua Ben Pandira, which means Jesus born-of-a-virgin in a combination of Hebrew and Greek. His father was a carpenter, his mother was a hairdresser and Jesus, the Talmud says, was a magician who "led astray Israel."

And, it says, he was "hanged" on the eve of Passover. Gamaliel's tale, which happens to portray a Christian judge as corrupt, may be less valuable for its instruction than for casting doubt on the long-held theory that Matthew, though longer than Mark, was written years later by someone after the apostle Matthew had died.

December 20, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:19 PM


Bush wants Saddam to hang, but we must resist: The US president is reflecting his own brutish view of the world (Max Hastings, December 20, 2003, The Guardian)

We can agree, perhaps, that Saddam Hussein does not deserve to live. It is a pity that he made no show of resistance when American soldiers found him, to justify tossing a grenade into his spider hole. But he did not fight, and was captured alive. Next year, some sort of tribunal will find him guilty of unspeakable crimes. Thereafter it will be inconvenient and expensive to guard him through a long captivity.

Yet those of us who reject judicial killing can support no sentence other than life imprisonment. [...]

My wife, whose liberal instincts are normally much more reliable than mine, is bemused by my scruples. She believes the case is unanswerable for the dictator's cheap, permanent removal. But I cannot swallow either the principled or pragmatic arguments for yet another act of government-directed violence.

The allies rightly executed the leading Nazi and Japanese war criminals in 1945 and 1946. That was in another age, after the victors had fought the greatest war of national survival the world has seen. Bush's intervention in Iraq, by contrast, represented a war of choice, with the limited purpose of changing the nation's government.

If it is now to become US policy to execute former dictators who have committed terrible crimes against their own people, then many past and some current American clients will need to form an orderly queue to the gallows.

In reality, Bush's eagerness to see Saddam swing reflects not an overarching objection to murderous dictators, but an ad hominem desire to complete the liberation of Iraq with a gesture that fits his own brutish view of the world. The least Blair can do, on Britain's behalf, is to say that we can no more endorse the sponsorship of a hanging carried out by Iraqi stooges of the coalition, than fly out Geoff Hoon to do the job personally.

How precious are Mr. Hastings's scruples: had Saddam fired a round it would have been just great to blow him to bits in a hole, but decency forbids that he hang after a proper trial for killing one million Iraqis. Even better, the very same decency somehow allows for the hanging of Nazis, who, not coincidentally, made war against Britain. The principle involved seems clear: to so much as shoot at an Anglo calls for death, but no amount of Arab blood can justify capital punishment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:06 PM


Dean Assails 'Washington Democrats' on Iraq (Paul Farhi and Jim VandeHei, December 19, 2003, Washington Post)

In a pointed blast at his presidential rivals Thursday, Howard Dean criticized "Washington Democrats" who "want to declare victory in the war on terror" after Saturday's capture of Saddam Hussein.

The former Vermont governor expanded on his earlier assertion that the arrest did not make the nation safer, saying Americans are no safer now than they were before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"For the past four days, the Washington Politics as Usual Club has taken every opportunity for attacks on me and my campaign that go far beyond questioning my position on the war," Dean said in a campaign stop. "The capture of one very bad man does not mean this president and the Washington Democrats can declare victory in the war on terror."

Saying "the soul of the Democratic Party is at stake," he added: "The Washington Democrats fell meekly into line" with President Bush and "failed to ask the tough questions" last fall during the run-up to the war.

Dean appeals for halt to attack politics among Democrats (MIKE GLOVER, December 20, 2003, Associated Press)
Howard Dean appealed to fellow Democratic presidential candidates Saturday to stop the bitter attack politics that have come to dominate the race for the party's nomination. The race needs "a little character transplant," he said.

"It's not necessary to tear down the other opponents," said Dean, whose front-running campaign has come increasingly under fire from Democratic rivals.

One needn't be as cynical as we to believe that on December 19th, Mr. Dean's pollsters told him that the attacks by other candidates were hurting him worse than his attacks on fellow Democrats were helping him. Thus, the Doctor wants to play nice.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:58 PM


Saddam fooled me, too (Con Coughlin, 21/12/2003, Sunday Telegraph))

I never expected it to end like this. Saddam Hussein, the Anointed One, the Glorious Leader, direct descendant of the Prophet, president of Iraq, chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, field marshall of its armies, doctor of its laws, and great uncle to all its peoples, surrendering himself to American soldiers from the confines of the fetid hole that had become his final refuge.

After Saddam praised the "martyrdom" of his two sons Uday and Qusay, who died in a hail of bullets following a six-hour gun battle with US troops last summer, I assumed that, were he to find himself in a similar predicament, Saddam would fulfil his promise to use the "last bullet" on himself.

On reflection, I should have known better. Saddam has always been better at portraying himself as the great heroic leader than playing out the role in real life. During his rule Iraq's propaganda machine made much of the fact that Saddam had been seriously injured during a failed assassination attempt on the then president in the late 1950s, when in fact he had suffered nothing more than a light graze.

In the same way, we're always disappointed when serial killers or asssassins are caught and turn out to be such schlubs. We desperately want the personalities of such men to measure up to the evil that they commit, because the idea that complete losers can wreak such havoc is somehow even more terrifying. This reaction is natural and human enough and relatively harmless, but it has a terrible corollary: in our imaginations we also conflate the regimes of men like Saddam, Hitler, Stalin, etc. into towering threats, when in fact they truly aren't. The source of much of their power lies just in our fear of confronting them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:47 PM


Now I'm a believer (Jemima Hunt, December 19 2003, Financial Times)

[D]espite rumours to the contrary, religion is not collapsing in the modern world. What has radically altered in the past 50 years is the religious map of Britain, due to the implosion of the Empire and new patterns of immigration. As [William] Dalrymple reports, today in Britain there are plenty of people with religious affiliations. The largest religious minority in the country are Muslims. Catholics account for a significant chunk of British church-goers. Black Pentecostal churches are flourishing, and at least half of London church-goers are now non-white. The secularity found among the generation whose parents would have traditionally followed the Church of England is unlikely to be reversed. Instead, according to Dalrymple, Christianity will survive in a more specialist form, involving smaller groups of people. "Whether this makes Britain a secular country, at least as far as Christians are concerned, is still a matter of debate," he says. [...]

We crave certainty. In America, over 90 per cent of people say that they believe in God and 40 per cent that they go to church every Sunday. But such is the deep insecurity of American society that religious loyalty, along with flag-waving, is part of national pride. British culture is, by
comparison, proudly individualistic and discrete. Nevertheless, it could be argued that the way in which we have devised our own individuated belief systems is a sign of true faith. With the collapse of state religion, we no longer have to conform. We are free to make it up as we go along. Our beliefs are the result of individual choice and effort. We believe properly. But believe in what? is the question. A universal consciousness? The right to be happy? Or having a few existential thoughts on a Thursday night?

This is, of course, utter nonsense. No belief requires greater and more repressive conformity than that every individual is entitled to their own faith. The reasons for this are twofold and rather obvious: first, any manifestation of an organized and popular belief system must be attacked, lest those who differ be made to feel so much as uncomfortable--this is variously referred to as multiculturalism, tolerance, or political correctness; second, because there are no longer any socially imposed shared behavioral standards, the State must step in and dictate and enforce its own standards. So does Ms Hunt's imagined freedom lead inevitably to its opposite. Brits and other Europeans are no less conformist than Americans, they just conform to a belief which is so indivualistic as to make society untenable and to make statism necessary.

-In Europe, 'Secular' Doesn't Quite Translate (CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, 12/21/03, NY Times)

[F]rance will be a test case for Europe. It has both the highest percentage of Muslims in Europe and an uncompromisingly secular constitution. In 1905 laws were passed to discipline the Catholic church, which controlled primary schools, influenced politics through its assets and played a role in exposing France to the disgrace of the Dreyfus affair, in which a Jewish army captain was framed on espionage charges.

Church and state were separated by means of "laïcité," which is difficult to translate. It differs from the American tradition in that it seeks less to neutralize public authorities in matters of religion than to neutralize religions in matters of public life. A paradox results: Since the Iraq war, much of the world views France as the symbol of Western reluctance to provoke a civilizational clash with Islam. The United States has been assailed for willingness to run that risk. Yet France aims to curtail the religious expression of its Muslims in ways no prominent American has ever suggested.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:12 PM


A crisis in Europe (Japan Times, 12/21/03)

The European Union's failure last week to agree on a new constitution raises crucial questions about the future of the union. Negotiations will resume next year, but the odds of success then are not likely to be much better. Although the consequences of failure may be the best incentive for a deal, that proved to be insufficient motivation this time around. A more intriguing question is whether failure actually suits some countries: It could liberate the EU and allow like-minded governments to move ahead at their own speed. While that holds out the promise of deepening integration for the willing, it could create a "two-tier" Europe that undermines the hopes of the union's founders.

Yes, well, there are at least two Europes: the Old Europe, which is generally more comfortable with statism, and the Europe which is traditionally more closely associated with the United States and the belief in liberty--led by Poland and Britain. Why shouldn't groups that differ so widely in their core values break into separate alliances?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:05 PM


Iraqis Exact Revenge on Baathists: Police Shrug Off Killings of 50 Hussein Loyalists by Unknown Gunmen (Alan Sipress, December 20, 2003, Washington Post)

Iraqi sources with contacts among former and current security officials estimate that about 50 senior figures in Hussein's intelligence, military intelligence and internal security organizations have been gunned down in recent months. There has been an even larger toll among neighborhood party officials, such as Taee, who are blamed for having informed on the local community during Hussein's rule, these sources said.

Neither the morgue nor officers in Iraq's new police force -- who concede they have little interest in probing these deaths -- have tallied the figures. But the phenomenon is citywide, according to a survey of police stations, with numbers varying widely from one district to another.

In the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Friday, officials said an angry crowd attacked and killed Ali Zalimi, a former Baath Party official. Zalimi was believed to have played a role in crushing the Shiite uprising in 1991 after the Persian Gulf War.

The massive settling of scores that some U.S. and Iraqi officials had predicted did not initially materialize after Hussein's government fell in April. Sporadic killings occurred during the following months, notably in the southern city of Basra. But only in recent weeks did the tempo of attacks accelerate as Iraqis, frustrated with the slow progress of the court system and fearing that Baathists may be seeking to reorganize, have increasingly taken justice into their own hands, according to Iraqi security and political sources.

"We are an Eastern, tribal society with the principle of vengeance. Revenge will be exacted," said Maj. Abbas Abed Ali of the Baya police station in southwest Baghdad. He said at least six Baathists have been murdered in his district since late November. [...]

The killings of Baath security officials have revealed fissures in Iraqi society, not only between supporters and opponents of the Hussein government but also between some Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Most of the security chiefs were Sunnis like Hussein; the suspected killers are Shiites.

50 is a start, but a rather meager one. Even the French, who willingly collaborated with the Nazis, indulged in some 2500 post-war reprisal killings.

-Why the capture could make things worse: The arrest of Saddam has left the Arab world more divided than ever (Yasir Suleiman, 12/21/03, Sunday Herald)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:51 PM


Taking Exception: Out of the Mainstream? Hardly (Howard Dean, December 21, 2003, Washington Post)

The Post's Dec. 18 editorial discussing my recent foreign policy speech ["Beyond the Mainstream"] badly misrepresents both my position and the central argument in the coming election on how best to strengthen America's security.

To start: The Post repeatedly misstates my views. For example, I support missile defense efforts that make us more secure; I oppose deployment of any system not yet proven to work. I favor active talks with North Korea, backed by the threat of force, rather than a stubborn refusal to engage that has allowed the situation to become more dangerous by the day. And the role I support for the National Guard is hardly "radical"; it was endorsed by the bipartisan Hart-Rudman commission and in fact is enshrined in our Constitution (Section 8, Clause 15).

More important, The Post's editorial comes close to equating the Bush administration's foreign policy -- including its signature doctrine of "preemptive war" -- with the American foreign policy mainstream. In fact, the Bush agenda represents a radical departure from decades of bipartisan consensus on the appropriate use of U.S. power and our leadership in the world community.

From its derisive treatment of allies to its rejection of important global agreements, this administration has favored a go-it-alone approach and a determination to use force as its weapon of first resort. Its approach has alienated friends and bolstered foes. Its agenda isolates the United States, placing responsibility for all the world's problems in our hands, and runs counter to America's traditions as a republic.

By contrast, my national security policy reflects the best of our mainstream tradition. I believe the United States must exercise leadership by working with allies and partners to advance common interests, rather than advancing our power unilaterally.

The Governor's got them here. His transnationalist views are entirely in keeping with the mainstream of American post-WWII tradition and with nearly the entire foreign policy establishment, including the Posts's editorial pages. It's the American people and their time-tested Jacksonian unilateralism he's out of touch with.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:42 PM


Martin off to bad start with George Bush (PAUL STANWAY, December 20, 2003, Edmonton Sun)

So, the first time Paul Martin chats with U.S. President George Bush, the new PM bugs him about Iraqi reconstruction contracts for Canadian companies and then lectures him on how to deal with Saddam Hussein.

I don't know about you, but if I were Bush I'd be thinking twice about calling back. The holier-than-thou pomposity evidenced by Martin during his 15-minute telephone call to the White House has, sadly, become ingrained in the world view of many Canadians.

The Americans have provided the bulk of our defence for 40 years. The U.S. is our largest trading partner by a mile and the source of much of our prosperity. We consume American culture with as much gusto as we consume American products, and because of this self-inflicted inferiority we feel the need to define ourselves, mostly, by an alleged superiority to the Americans!

Call back? One doubts he'll think once about it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:38 PM


Not neo-con, just plain greed: The U.S. campaign to have Iraq's debts forgiven shows how the Bush administration backs any market distortion that enriches its friends (NAOMI KLEIN, Dec. 20, 2003, Globe and Mail)

Contrary to all predictions, the heavy doors of Old Europe weren't slammed in James Baker's face as he asked forgiveness for Iraq's foreign debt. France and Germany appear to have signed on, and Russia is softening its line.

Just last week, there was virtual consensus that Mr. Baker's Drop the Debt Tour had been maliciously sabotaged by deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose move to shut out non-coalition partners from $18.6-billion (U.S.) in Iraq reconstruction contracts seemed designed to make Mr. Baker look like a hypocrite.

Only now it turns out that Mr. Wolfowitz may not have been undermining Mr. Baker at all, but rather acting as his enforcer. He showed up with a big stick -- the threat of economic exclusion from Iraq's potential $500-billion reconstruction -- just when Mr. Baker was about to speak softly.

Mr. Baker hardly needed Mr. Wolfowitz to make his mission look hypocritical; one can scarcely imagine an act more rife with historical ironies than James Baker impersonating Bono on Iraq's debt. The Iraqi people "should not be saddled with the debt of a brutal regime that was more interested in using funds to build palaces and build torture chambers and brutalize the Iraqi people," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

This is a nearly pluperfect--though unintelligible--example of a column that's become a staple of the pundits during the George W. Bush years: "I didn't think he was serious. He was. I didn't think his strategy made sense. It worked. This all goes to show how treacherous he is and that no matter how wrong I now seem, I was really right."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:26 PM


The Case for Putin: Don't write off Russia's president. (Lewis E. Lehrman, 12/22/2003, Weekly Standard)

[T]here is another possible interpretation of the controversial arrest: that Putin acted not against democracy but against corruption; that he played the part of a prudent constitutional chief executive in enforcing the laws of the Russian Federation; and that the Russian people sense this, which is one reason they gave Putin's party and its allied parties a landslide victory in the Duma elections held on December 7. [...]

[C]onsider only a few of Putin's achievements since the total collapse of Russia's economy in 1998 and 1999. Today, Russia is in the early stages of building a civil society after 1,000 years of tyranny at the hands of Mongols, czars, boyars, and Communists. Perestroika, then Boris Yeltsin, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, opened the way for a decade of colossal corruption characterized by incompetence and official self-dealing. Putin has led a vital, four-year drive, first as prime minister, then as president, to contain these corrosive forces. As he said in September, "If by democracy one means the dissolution of the state, then we do not need such democracy."

A reading of Russia's financial performance will show that central bank reserves are over $70 billion, up from national bankruptcy in 1998--with an extraordinary rise in reserves of over 25 percent since January 2003. The flight of capital predicted at the time of Khodorkovsky's arrest has not materialized. The fiscal budget is in surplus. The current account surplus continues to add to these resources; some government debt has been repaid, some refunded. Russia's credit rating has risen from bankruptcy to Moody's investment grade. Reports on manufacturing growth are exceptional. President Putin's first term has been, in a word, a financial triumph.

The Yeltsin model of selling out the Russian people's assets, for almost nothing, to the "family" and the oligarchs will forever be deeply regretted in Russia. But privatization will persist, despite warnings to the contrary from Khodorkovsky's apologists. True, some Yukos shares will remain frozen until the criminal trial is over (a not uncommon practice under both U.S. and Russian law), but this period will be associated with continued growth and stability in the Russian economy, to the increasing benefit of middle-income and working people. Over the next five years, the European Union, China, and other countries will vigorously compete to invest in Russia.

The fact is, the positive economic trends set in motion during the presidency of Vladimir Putin are every bit as significant as those in China, India, and Brazil. [...]

Above all, future historians will appraise the immediate past and the developments of the next five years in light of the disorder of the decade 1989-99. An overwrought media, curiously infatuated with Khodorkovsky--and before him, with the oligarchs Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky--will gradually come round to acknowledging Putin's achievements.

Don't bet on it. If there's one consistent global media bias, it is that no regime of the Left ever had bad motives for the damage it caused and no regime of the Right had good motives when it saved a nation.

The Khodorkovsky Affair (John C.K. Daly, Dec. 16, 2003 , Insight)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:49 PM


Iraqi Shiites Enter New Era of Inclusion, Not Exclusion (SUSAN SACHS, 12/21/03, NY Times)

Iraq's Shiites, long the underclass in a nation where they are the majority, stand on the verge of their first real chance at political power in Iraq.

After the Shiites were sidelined for centuries by successive Sunni and foreign rulers, their political and religious leaders have become the dominant players in the American-led process of shaping a new, more representative government for Iraq.

"Our tragedy will not occur again," vowed Muhammad Hussein al-Hakim, a spokesman for his father, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Said al-Hakim, one of the four most senior Shiite clerics in Iraq. "There is no turning back the tide." [...]

The country's Shiite leaders have taken pains to avoid openly antagonizing the American occupiers, the Sunnis or the Iraqi Kurds. The Shiites have said they do not seek a theocratic form of government like that in neighboring Iran, the next-largest Shiite nation. They have said they do not seek to oppress other groups.

But the Shiite leadership has also made it clear that its modesty should not be mistaken for meekness. The Shiites are believed to make up as much as 70 percent of Iraq's population of 25 million, and Mr. Hakim, whose family has produced a long line of senior clerics, said they would not accept less than the presidency of an independent Iraq.

"We don't want a dictatorship of the majority to dominate," said Mr. Hakim. "But we do want to preserve the rights of the majority, which is the Shia, and the simplest right is to have the head of state come from the majority. Isn't that correct?"

Mr. Hakim seems to understand democratic theory better than those Westerners who are more conncerned about minority rights than majority governance.

A Break at Last: Is That Hissing Sound the Last Gasp of Iraqi Insurgency? (Hiwa Osman, December 21, 2003, Washington Post)

Saddam Hussein's humiliating capture freed him from a fugitive's gloomy life of rat holes and battered taxis. For thousands of his victims, his arrest meant release from their own silent isolation, and they took to the streets in wild celebration. Friends in Iraq with access to e-mail sent me messages saying: "Happy Capture Day," like joyful Merry Christmas greetings in the West. [...]

Some foreign observers and journalists have expressed doubts about the importance of Hussein's capture, and whether it will weaken the violent Iraqi campaign against U.S. forces and all other supporters of a new Iraq. Such doubts are misplaced. Saddam's role in the "resistance" was both symbolic and practical. His arrest should result in the collapse of the insurgency, even if the impact is not felt immediately. The insurgents may not lay down their weapons. When the head of a snake is cut off, the body twitches for some time. With Saddam sitting in jail -- and soon in a courtroom -- his loyalists will eventually get the message that the head is gone. [...]

Saddam's loyalists have provided the backbone of the insurgency. They are experienced security and intelligence officers with established networks, intimate knowledge of Iraqi geography (especially in the central region) and an understanding of the infrastructure of major cities. Operating with large sums of disposable cash from their hideouts in the Sunni triangle, they have been able to exploit the disgruntled and unemployed by offering money in exchange for conventional attacks on U.S. military targets. A pattern has emerged where reported sightings of former senior Baath officials in a given area have been followed by an increase in attacks on U.S. military and civilian targets. At the same time, this loyalist Baathist backbone has been providing the intelligence, local knowledge and guidance to foreign Islamic militants seeking to carry out suicide attacks.

The elusiveness of Saddam was an important symbol of America's ineptitude. Until now, those who suffered at his hands were too afraid to openly support the new American-led system, lest the dictator would somehow return. But more significantly, they were rapidly losing faith in American ability to deliver, which exacerbated fear. [...]

The capture of Saddam redeems the U.S. occupation and renews a marginalized, victimized people's hope that they can be part of the new national project of building a free, secure and democratic Iraq. It is important that the United States recognize this opportunity. The arrest of Saddam has flushed out his supporters, who are less followers of the man than Sunni Arabs who fear the loss of their minority rule to the Shia majority. Their open street demonstrations of support for Saddam should be welcomed, not feared, because it means their activities have ceased to be clandestine.

Those who were backing Saddam and believed he would one day return now feel that they are on their own. What do they fight for, if not his return? They will have to move into the political arena and fight for a place at the table alongside their fellow Iraqis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:40 PM


Colgate's Bid for Perfection Hits Wall (PETE THAMEL, December 20, 2003. NY Times)

Colgate's charmed football season ended with a thud Friday night.

Overmatched in size and speed by a Delaware team that has thrived in the playoffs, the Raiders fell, 40-0, in the Division I-AA national championship game at Finley Stadium.

A season of records, firsts and indelible moments sputtered because the Raiders (15-1) made uncharacteristic mistakes, failed to establish the running game of tailback Jamaal Branch and could notstop Blue Hens quarterback Andy Hall.

Two first-quarter Colgate blunders — a poor punt after a one-hop snap and a fumble by quarterback Chris Brown — helped Delaware take a 20-0 lead that Colgate never threatened. "We got down and stayed down," Colgate safety Sean McCune said.

The weather was even a fitting omen for Colgate; five minutes before kickoff, snow flurries turned into snow squalls. That excited Colgate's 3,500 fans. The snow, however, dissipated by kickoff, and Colgate soon followed.

The author doesn't come right out and say it, but, if you read between the lines, it seems obvious he's saying that Delaware cheated, not least by tampering with the weather.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


Spain's Aznar pays surprise visit to Iraq (Associated Press, , December 20, 2003)

Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar paid a surprise visit to Spanish troops in Iraq on Saturday, his office said.

In a trip reminiscent of President Bush's Thanksgiving Day visit to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq, Aznar left Friday night with a 16-member delegation to meet with member of the 1,300-strong Spanish contingent in Iraq, based in the southern town of Diwaniyah.

"He is there now. He will have lunch and come home," an official at Aznar's Moncloa Palace office in Madrid said.

Opposition leaders lashed out at Mr. Aznar, saying the Christmas tree in photos was made of plastic.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:14 AM


Fewer Teens Report They Abuse Drugs: Decline Is Attributed to Ads and Crackdowns (Ceci Connolly, December 20, 2003, Washington Post)

The number of American teenagers using illegal drugs fell markedly over the past two years, the first noteworthy decline in more than a decade, according to government data released yesterday.

The percentage of high school students who reported they had used an illicit drug in the past month fell to 17.3 percent this year, down from 19.4 percent in 2001, according to the comprehensive "Monitoring the Future" survey. That translates into 400,000 fewer high school students using drugs.

Although they cannot be certain, Bush administration officials attributed the decline to more aggressive and targeted anti-drug advertising, additional money for treatment and a drop in supply caused by law enforcement crackdowns.

"This survey shows that when we push back against the drug problem, it gets smaller," said John P. Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. "Fewer teens are using drugs because of the deliberate and serious messages they have received about the dangers of drugs." [...]

Since researchers began surveying eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders in 1975, teenage drug use has followed a roller coaster path. After climbing in the late 1970s and early 1980s, usage slowly fell to 10.5 percent in 1992. The rate rose again to a high of 20.6 percent in 1996 and persistently hovered in that range until 2002.

1980-92--Reagan/Bush >> 1993--Clinton >> 2001--George W. Bush.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:43 AM


Dean Lays Out a Domestic Plan to Wake Up His Party (DAVID M. HALBFINGER and DIANE CARDWELL, 12/19/03, NY Times)

Howard Dean sketched out an expansive "new social compact for working families" on Thursday but did so in a way that immediately put him at odds with the moderate wing of his party over domestic issues.

Making explicit reference to Bill Clinton's politically groundbreaking declaration in 1996 that the "era of big government is over," Dr. Dean, the former governor of Vermont, called for a new era for Democrats — "not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families." [...]

Dr. Dean proposed a "social contract" built on affordable health insurance and child care; a savings plan to help families prepare for retirement; and a "College Commitment," guaranteeing $10,000 in student financial assistance through a mix of grants and loans, depending on family finances.

But the reference to Mr. Clinton by Dr. Dean escalated the tensions between him and the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.

Called for comment, Bruce Reed, a former Clinton adviser who is now president of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, said, "He took a cheap shot at Clintonism which wasn't appreciated." Mr. Reed added: "You know it just doesn't make any sense. One day Dean says Americans are no better off with Saddam out of power, now he seems to be saying Democrats are better off with Bill Clinton out of power."

Dean: I'm not criticizing, snubbing Bill Clinton (JOHN DiSTASO, 12/20/03, Manchester Union-Leader)
[A]t the Manchester City Library on Thursday, Dean unveiled a new “social contract” on domestic policy in a speech that contained the key line:

“While Bill Clinton has said that the era of big government is over, I believe we must enter a new era for the Democratic Party — not one where we join Republicans and aim simply to limit the damage they inflict on working families.”

An earlier draft of the speech, released to the media on Wednesday night, did not mention Clinton and appeared to more accurately reflect what Dean’s campaign is now saying that he meant.

Reportedly, the distributed draft of the foreign policy speech did not include the line about the capture of Saddam not making us any safer either. If the media were capable of analyzing Governor Dean objectively, here's what stands out about the week where he gave his two major addresses on foreign and domestic policy:

(1) By attacking the Bush Administration he buried the foreign policy speech and by attacking President Clinton he buried the domestic speech. These efforts to appear more moderate instead made him look even more extremist.

(2) Both wounds seem to have been inflicted by the candidate himself--ad-libbing or at least acting impulsively--not by staff.

Never mind the question of whether the country would be safe with him as president, these errors have to raise serious doubts for Democrats about whether he's even competent to run a national campaign.

The Era of Bill Clinton Is Over: Howard Dean triangulates the triangulator. (William Saletan, Dec. 18, 2003, Slate)

[W]hat's the difference between Dean and Clinton?

I see two differences. One is that Clinton ran for president promising tax cuts for the middle class. Dean is running for president promising to repeal tax cuts for the middle class and everyone else. Dean says the rich got most of Bush's tax cuts, and he's right. He says the tax cuts came with a hidden price tag—state budget crises, higher property taxes, higher state college tuition, higher national debt—and he's right again. But the first point solves the second. If the rich got most of the money, then the government can get that money back—and alleviate the hikes in tuition, debt, and property taxes—by repealing the tax cuts that went to the rich, while preserving the tax cuts that went to the middle class. That's the position taken by Wesley Clark, John Edwards, John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, and even Dennis Kucinich. But not Howard Dean.

In his speech, Dean concedes, "The average wage earner did get a few hundred dollars back" in Bush's tax cuts. He says he'll "get rid of the Bush tax program"—notice the absence of the word cut—"and repeal the 'Bush Tax.' " But don't fret about losing the few hundred bucks you got from Bush: Dean says his "New Social Contract … will include fundamental tax reform to ensure that every wealthy American individual and corporation is paying their fair share of taxes—and that the tax burden on working families is reduced." He says he'll crack down on companies that use offshore shelters to avoid "$70 billion a year in taxes—enough money to bring a real tax cut to every family." It sounds like Dean is going to offer you a tax cut in exchange for taking away the one Bush gave you. But he never does.

The other difference is that Clinton got elected.

There's a third difference too: Mr. Clinton ran--though didn't often govern--well to the Right on social issues, from abortion to Welfare.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:19 AM


Two Decades of Sanctions, Isolation Wore Down Gaddafi (Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler, December 20, 2003, Washington Post)

Libya's stunning decision yesterday to surrender its weapons of mass destruction followed two decades of international isolation and some of the world's most punishing economic sanctions. In the end, Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gaddafi was under so much pressure that he was forced to seek an end to the economic and political isolation threatening his government -- and his own survival, according to U.S. and British officials and outside experts.

The turning point in Gaddafi's undoing may have been the U.S. intelligence investigation that eventually tracked a tiny piece of the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, back to two Libyan intelligence agents, U.S. and British officials say. The evidence mobilized the world and produced an international effort that may now peacefully disarm Libya.

"What forced Gaddafi to act was a combination of things -- U.N. sanctions after the Lockerbie bombing, his international isolation after the Soviet Union's collapse . . . and internal economic problems that led to domestic unrest by Islamists and forces within the military," said Ray Takeyh, a Libya expert at the National Defense University.

Whether by coincidence or fear that Libya might be targeted, Gaddafi's envoys approached Britain on the eve of the Iraq war to discuss a deal, U.S. officials said.

"The invasion of Iraq sent a strong message to governments around the world that if the United States feels threatened by weapons of mass destruction, we are prepared to act against regimes not prepared to change their behavior," said a senior State Department official who requested anonymity.

So unilateral action by the United States and the near complete isolation of a rogue regime succeeded in ending the Libyan WMD threat without war, while ending the Iraqi threat via war. Meanwhile, Governor Dean proposes ending such unilateral actions, eschewing war, and ending the isolation of North Korea. One is reminded of the sage advice of Bert Lance: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Fulfilling the Promise of America: Meeting The Security Challenges of the New Century (Governor Howard Dean, M.D., Los Angeles, California, December 15, 2003, The Pacific Council on International Policy)

We can advance the battle against terrorism and strengthen our national security by reclaiming our rightful place as a leader in global institutions. The current administration has made it almost a point of pride to dismiss and ridicule these bodies. That's a mistake.

Like our country's "Greatest Generation," I see international institutions like the United Nations as a way to leverage U.S. power, to summon warriors and peacekeepers, relief workers and democracy builders, to causes that advance America's national interests. As President, I will work to make these institutions more accountable and more effective. That's the only realistic approach. Throwing up our hands and assuming that nothing good can come from international cooperation is not leadership. It's abdication. It's foolish. It does not serve the American people.

Working more effectively with the UN, other institutions, and our friends and allies would have been a far better approach to the situation in Iraq.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:59 AM


What if we stopped being so fixated on death, and gave life a chance? (The Rev Dr. Giles Fraser, The Guardian, 20/12/03)

Why are we so obsessed with what other people think of us? Why are we so concerned to fit in? Why do we submit so readily to the tyranny of the "they"? Heidegger's famous answer is that social conformity is a function of the fear of death. Standing alone is to face the full force of our own mortality. The crowd, on the other hand, is impersonal and immortal. The crowd is beyond the reach of death. Heidegger concludes that we hide from the unwelcome prospect of death by submerging our identity in the "they". The crowd anesthetises us from the thought of our own mortality. [...]

Heidegger's thought suggests that a culture obsessed with death will place ultimate value upon self-sufficiency and subjectivity. Replacing cultural necrophilia with a celebration of birth would transform our social and political paradigms. "Whereas mortality is the condition that leads the self to withdraw from the world into a fundamental concern with a fate that can only be its own, natality is the condition through which we immerse ourselves into the world through the goodwill and solidarity of those who nurture us," writes Seyla Benhabib, professor of government at Yale.[...]

A faith premised upon natality would have little place for an indifference to the physical. The thought that human beings are souls trapped beneath a veil of flesh makes no sense to a mother caring for her child. Likewise Plato's conception of love as an abstract intellectual virtue - that the "beauty in souls is more honourable than that in the body" - could never have been dreamt up by someone who had given birth or spent time cuddling, kissing or tickling their kids. The love inherent within nativity is inescapably physical: beginning in the womb and continuing in the physical intimacy of feeding and cleaning.

Most important of all, a culture of natality would be inscribed with a permanent sense of hope. Too much Christian theology has immediately displaced this hope into the beyond, effectively denying its applicability to the world in which we live. Hence the importance of the Christian Aid strapline: We believe in life before death. Often Christianity is imagined as transcending the human, in favour of some other realm, thereby betraying the constitutive elements of our humanity. But again it is Plato that is the real villain, insisting, as he does, upon transcending humanity to reach a perspective "unalloyed, pure, unmixed, not stuffed full of human flesh and colours and lots of other mortal rubbish". The nativity of Christ tells a very different story, returning Christians to a concern for the human in all its vulnerability and glory. In this way, a culture of natality provides a secure theological footing for an insistence upon social justice and the significance of the environment. [...]

The western cultural imagination has been obsessed with death. No doubt, a version of Christianity that has wedded itself to Platonism is partly responsible for this unhealthy fixation. Salvation is achieved through the death of Christ. Death is the pathway to life. Properly speaking, even here it is the resurrection, the affirmation of the triumph of life over death that is being celebrated. None the less, without the corrective of natality, a certain unhealthy morbidity can easily attach itself to the Christian vision. Even the modern rite of baptism is surprisingly heavy on the death imagery, perversely preferring a theology of death and rebirth to the miracle of birth itself. The feminist theologian Grace Jantzen, who has done most to develop a theology of natality, has suggested that the evangelical emphasis on being born again is a way in which men have wrested the power of birth away from women...

That this confused mishmash of trendy, secular-inspired drivel would undoubtedly resonate with many Christians is evidence of why the faith is in such trouble in the West. The objections are so numerous. Firstly, isn’t it a tad tasteless to champion a discredited crypto-Nazi over Plato? Secondly...

Oh, never mind. Let’s just thank the vicar for giving the culture of death such a good name.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:49 AM


Reason and Faith, Eternally Bound (EDWARD ROTHSTEIN, 12/20/03, NY Times)

One might have expected the forces of Reason to be a bit weary after a generation of battling postmodernism and having its power and authority under constant scrutiny. Reason's battles, though, continue unabated. Only now it finds its opposition in the more unyielding claims of religious faith. This latest conflict is over seemingly incompatible ways of knowing the world. It is a conflict between competing certainties: between followers of Faith, who know because they believe, and followers of Reason, who believe because they know. [...]

Isaiah Berlin argued that the Enlightenment led to the belief that human beings could be reshaped according to reason's dictates. And out of that science of human society, he argued, came such totalitarian dystopias as the Soviet Union.

Reason then, has its limits. The philosopher Robert Fogelin's new book, Walking the Tightrope of Reason is subtitled "The Precarious Life of a Rational Animal" because, he argues, reason's own processes negotiate a precipice. Mr. Fogelin quotes Kant, who described a dove who "cleaving the air in her free flight, and feeling its resistance, might imagine that its flight would be still easier in empty space."

Failing to understand what keeps her aloft and taking a leap of faith, the dove might set off in "empty space" — a vacuum — and plummet. But reason might lead to the same end: if something offers resistance then logically can't one proceed more easily if it is eliminated? So why not try?

The problem is that the bird can never fully comprehend the medium through which it experiences the world. In many ways, Kant argued, neither could the mind. Reason is still the only tool available for certain knowledge, but it also presents questions it is unable to answer fully.

Some of those questions may remain even after contemporary battles cease: how much faith is involved in the workings of reason and how much reason lies in the assertions of faith?

"Certain knowledge"?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:41 AM


The Ownership Society (DAVID BROOKS, 12/20/03, NY Times)

In his State of the Union address, the president will announce measures to foster job creation. In the meantime, he is talking about what he calls the Ownership Society.

This is a bundle of proposals that treat workers as self-reliant pioneers who rise through several employers and careers. To thrive, these pioneers need survival tools. They need to own their own capital reserves, their own retraining programs, their own pensions and their own health insurance.

Administration officials are talking about giving unemployed workers personal re-employment accounts, which they could spend on training, child care, a car, a move to a place with more jobs, or whatever else they think would benefit them.

President Bush has a proposal to combine and simplify the confusing morass of government savings programs and give individuals greater control over how they want to spend their tax-sheltered savings. Administration officials hope, in a second term, to let individuals control part of their Social Security pensions and perhaps even their medical savings accounts.

The Ownership Society idea allows Bush to be centrist and conservative at the same time.

Think of it as the conservative iteration of the Third Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:37 AM


The Optimist (MARSHALL SELLA, December 21, 2003, NY Times Magazine)

Orange County is ostensibly Reagan Country, but there are 325 non-Republicans who turn out to hear the fiery congressman give his eight-minute stump speech. It's hard to tell what has unified them. Since Kucinich resides at the left of his party (to the point where Ralph Nader has threatened to run in 2004 if anyone but Kucinich is the Democratic nominee), it seems that every faction of the left has come out and tossed up an information stand of some sort. You can stroll by a rackety table marked ISRAEL HOLOCAUST AGAINST PALESTINE; another pleading with you to FREE THE CUBAN FIVE; and don't forget the COLOMBIA PEACE PROJECT. There are Greens, Socialists and New Agers of every stripe. To judge from the fashion tastes of the crowd, someone would be wise to set up a table selling muumuus.

Candidate Kucinich emerges to the expected fanfare. As he takes the stage and begins to speak, he lists ''the real weapons of mass destruction.'' While he does, children march out with cardboard cutouts in the shapes of bombs, but with the actual culprits scrawled on the cardboard: poverty, poor health care, poor education and so forth. Kucinich stands, absorbing the love in his rolled-up blue shirt sleeves. The crowd is treated to ''We Are the World''; kids holding the bomb shapes sway along with the music, as if poverty and its friends have joined Hands Across America.

Unlike the unpolished speakers who have gone before, Kucinich is a firebrand. He jabs the air at all the right moments; he rails against the administration's failure to find W.M.D., at its hideous lies, at the fact that it ''led this nation into a war under a pretense.''

''Bring our troops home,'' the candidate shouts. ''Louder!'' And the crowd replies in kind, 10 times over, each time louder than the last.

Dennis Kucinich is easy to like.

Like? We love 'im. Hopefully he and the Reverend Al will still in the race until the bitter end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:10 AM


Soros Doubts (Robert Novak, December 20, 2003, Townhall)

Left-wing billionaire investor George Soros, who appeared to support Howard Dean for president, now is privately expressing doubts about the Democratic Party's front-runner.

In conversations with political friends, Soros confided he has become alarmed by Dean's recent performance and wonders whether the former Vermont governor is capable of defeating George W. Bush. In one such chat, Soros suggested he is interested in retired Gen. Wesley Clark.

Who pays the piper calls the tunes...

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 AM


A Mary for all: Christianity's Jewish roots: New evidence on links between Judaism, Christianity and Islam (The Economist, Dec 18th 2003)

Like several other religions, the Jewish tradition was torn between its emphasis on the unbridgeable gap between God and human beings and its belief that, in certain circumstances, it is possible for man and the divine to come face to face.

For the Jews, the unique place of encounter between man and God was the temple. Before that, it was the Tabernacle, or tent, constructed by Moses. Mrs Barker's point is that only in the light of the temple or tabernacle tradition can many features of early Christianity be understood. She also believes that the reverse applies: in the light of early Christian practices and ritual, it becomes easier to reenter the world of the Jewish temple. As an example of this, she takes the central Christian rite of the Eucharist, in which bread and wine are offered to God, consecrated and then consumed by worshippers who believe the sanctified gifts enable them, in some mysterious but primordially important sense, to take part in the divine life of Christ.

As many a religious historian has noted, there are two temple practices that foreshadow the Eucharist. One was the weekly ceremony in which 12 loaves of bread were brought into the temple, consecrated and then consumed by the high priests. The other was the annual rite that marks the high-point of the Jewish calendar: the Day of Atonement, the only time when the priest entered the holy of holies, the most sacred part of the temple.

Before doing so, the priest would select two almost identical goats. One would be slaughtered, and its blood was taken into the holy of holies before being sprinkled in various parts of the temple. The other was sent out into the desert, a “scapegoat” bearing the sins of the people.

As one standard translation puts it, the priest would sacrifice one goat for the Lord, the other to a demonic force called Azazel. But Mrs Barker, drawing in part on Christian sources, argues for a different reading of the Hebrew: one goat was sacrificed as, rather than for, Azazel, whereas the other was sacrificed as the Lord. If she is right, then the paradoxical Christian teaching that God the Son, being crucified, is both “victim and priest” in an act of supreme sacrifice becomes easier to understand. And it is clear that the links between the Eucharist and the Atonement rite are closer than previously realised.

If, as has been said, Christianity is "Judaism for Gentiles", we should expect many such overlaps, no?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:51 AM


The Democrats' Dean Dilemma: Will the Democratic center speak out? (David Tell, 12/29/2003, Weekly Standard)

[D]uring the Q&A session that followed his carefully scripted Los Angeles pronouncement, Dean wasted little time stripping himself bare of precisely that "moderate" image it had been intended to win him. There he was, in his force-averse, neo-isolationist skivvies, advancing a semi-coherent and alarmingly stingy "Dean Doctrine" that would circumscribe the exercise of U.S. military power abroad. The engagement of American arms should be "confined," Dean said, to three sets of circumstances only: One, if we've already been attacked, as with Afghanistan. Two, if we know we're about to be attacked. ("I hope we would have done something," Dean mused aloud, vaguely echoing the bizarre-o conspiracy theory he'd floated a week before, "had we known Osama bin Laden was going to run planes into the World Trade Center.") And three, though only "in some instances, when other world bodies fail," it's okay for the United States to intervene militarily in order "to stop genocide."

Saddam Hussein, of course, would not have qualified for American attention under the "Dean Doctrine." Not this year, anyway: "I would have supported intervention during the Shiite massacres," the doctrinaire Dr. Dean casually allowed, "but those occurred 11 years ago." Nor, it seems, would Saddam's associations with terrorism and determination to acquire weapons of mass destruction have prompted President Dean to take action, even had the evidence been contemporaneous and undebatable. North Korea, after all, "may or may not possess nuclear weapons, but surely, at least at this time, is not an imminent threat."

Nevertheless, "I would not have hesitated to go into Iraq," Dean concluded, despite having just ruled it out as a matter of principle, "had the United Nations given us permission."

You can drag a man to the foreign-policy center with a big, subtle, ghostwritten speech. But you can't make him think from the center if he really doesn't want to.

At the risk of being accused of using the Reductio ad Hitlerium, or whatever it's called: why does the Left believe there should have been a statute of limitations on Saddam's mass murder and use of WMD? If Hitler had sued for peace and stopped the Holocaust in 1944 and survived in power until 1955, would it have been illegitimate for us to execute regime change?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:40 AM


In Revival Of Najaf, Lessons for A New Iraq: Shiite Clergy Build A Spiritual Capital (Anthony Shadid, December 10, 2003, Washington Post)

"What was forbidden is beloved," [Heidar Moammar, a gaunt, 25-year-old cleric in a white turban] said, smiling as he glanced at the signs of the city's reawakening.

Across a thousand-year history as a seat of Shiite Islam, Najaf has weathered pillaging by puritanical tribes from the desert, the tyranny of Sunni Muslim rulers in Baghdad and the ascent of rival seminaries in Iraq and Iran. But in the wake of the fall of former president Saddam Hussein, a rebirth is underway in a city that, by virtue of its religious stature, looks to Baghdad as its equal. Long-dormant Shiite seminaries are proliferating, hotels are being built to cope with tens of thousands of pilgrims, and the bazaars of Najaf are boasting of profits that have doubled, even tripled, despite growing frustration with a lack of basic services.

More than just a city's renaissance, Najaf's revival is a story of shifting fortunes and unintended consequences in the tumult of postwar Iraq. The U.S. invasion dismantled one system, the construction of another is lagging, and a vacuum of leadership has ensued. With renewed confidence, the clergy have begun fashioning their headquarters into the spiritual capital of the country, and their leaders as the guardians of Iraq's Shiite majority. Few endorse Iran's Islamic government and perhaps even fewer support the U.S. goal of a secular state. But in between are vigorous debates -- over law and religion, Islam and state -- that could resonate throughout the Shiite world, where Iran and its revolution have long held sway as the unchallenged model.

Moammar -- a religious student by age 13, a prisoner in Hussein's jails by 16 -- sees himself as a soldier in that struggle.

As the call to Friday's prayers floated along the Prophet's Street, he walked toward the shrine of Imam Ali, the gold-domed resting place that gives Najaf its sanctity. The melancholy call clashed with the city's vibrant sounds. Iranian pilgrims chattered in Persian. Television blared footage of a Shiite ceremony from Iran and the training of a Shiite militia. Vendors hawked cassettes of ritual chants of grief, near piles of yellow brick for construction. Along one wall, scrawled in red, was a slogan that declared, "Saddam is a criminal."

"This is the freedom that is available to the Shiites," Moammar said. "In the time of the tyrant Saddam, no one could let even a prayer fall from his tongue."

That the Shi'ites aren't going to do with their newly won freedom what we would have them do with it does not make it not worth winning.

-The Iraqi Shiites: On the history of America’s would-be allies (Juan Cole, Fall 2003, Boston Review)
Rebuilding Iraq Is ... Nothing a Few Middle-Class Guys Couldn't Solve (JOHN TIERNEY, December 21, 2003, NY Times Magazine)

Before getting into the many reasons freedom is doomed in Iraq, consider a cheery counterexample. If you believe the political-science dictum that the bourgeoisie is the essential first ingredient for democracy, then there is at least one bit of good news in Baghdad today. Nader Hindo has come back to do business.

Never mind the car bombs, the missile attacks, the kidnappings, the blackouts, the ransacked buildings and bombed-out phone system. To Hindo these are minor obstacles compared with what he saw growing up in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. His mother, Nidhal, the owner of a document-translation service, was regularly harassed and shaken down by the ''economic security'' police. His father, Wathiq, who tried importing liquor and cigarettes, was muscled out of business by Uday Hussein and nearly executed for being ''an economic saboteur.'' When Hindo finished high school in 1992, he left his family in Baghdad for the University of Illinois with no intention of returning. After studying computer science, he became a partner in a dot-com selling mortgage software to banks. When American troops entered Baghdad, he was 29 years old and living in a Miami condo with a swimming pool and a view of the ocean -- bourgeois bliss in South Beach.

Now Hindo is back in Baghdad, which starts to look like capitalism's promised land when he takes you around in his S.U.V. to show his projects. He is running an Internet service, supplying computers and satellite telephone service to three dozen hotels and businesses, plus he's negotiating to rebuild part of the national phone system. These are just his sideline businesses. He has got several bigger ventures going with his father. Together they're selling power generators to the United States Army, building materials to contractors and drilling equipment to the oil industry. They're overseeing 250 workers busy on the reconstruction of a dozen mansions, ministries and other buildings. On weekends, they scout the mountains and lakes of Kurdistan, where they're planning to build resort hotels.

Yes, resort hotels in Iraq.

A soldier's side: How diplomacy will turn Iraq around (MARA SHALHOUP, Creative Loafing)
U.S. Army Capt. Hunter Hill, a West Point graduate and Atlanta native, is taking a rare two-week break from Iraq, where he's been stationed for the past nine months with the 101st Airborne Division. At the moment, two days before the capture of Saddam Hussein, he's sipping coffee at a Buckhead Starbucks. More typically, Hill, 26, is found alongside his boss, the assistant division commander for operations in northern Iraq. [...]

Creative Loafing: It seems like there are these both lofty and concrete principles, of building democracy and rebuilding infrastructure. But beyond that, it seems like the most important thing is to rebuild the character and self-respect of the people who've been so pummeled. Your division's motto kind of speaks to that. But how do you reach the hearts and minds of these people?

Hunter Hill: It's definitely different. I had no idea that I'd be getting unbelievable lessons in diplomacy and political wranglings.

We had millions of dollars of Iraqi-seized assets, and we've spent over $15 million on building up offices and fixing the aqueduct so that the farmers can get water. [The Iraqi people] see the results. That's the bottom line. They see that their kids are back in school. They see banks working. What they don't see, and what's making some of them angry, is that the security situation is still not good. They're just concerned about the security issue, and I don't blame them.

This [city-building] isn't exactly what you were trained to do at Fort Campbell.

You're exactly right. But the thing is, we'll give an Iraqi engineer money [to] do the work we're not trained for. We are indeed the very people who need to be there doing this. We are making things happen. We don't know how to do everything, like you said, because we don't have the expertise. But we go and find the person that does.

How long do you think your work in this particular area will take until it's done to your satisfaction?

It's going to take 10 to 12, 20 years, maybe. If somebody comes in here and tries to be all hard-ass and forgets the people and just focuses on the security thing, it's going to ruin everything that's been done.

It's a very difficult balance, and I'm not smart enough to understand it. Because when [one of us] gets hurt or killed, the natural intent of the soldier, myself included, is to go out and kill. But [Maj. Gen. Petraeus] takes a very sober judgment to it. We try to create operations to find these people and kill them. But at the same time, we do not pull away from the locals. We try to get them to help us.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:23 AM


Chanukah, classical and pops: Like the Maccabees of old coming down from the Judean hills to reclaim the Temple, Chanukah CDs are coming from the most unexpected of places to rededicate the holiday musical landscape. (Paul Wieder, Dec. 4, 2002, Jewish World Review)

Shelley Olson uses classical music traditions to inform her Chanukah Cantata. And Shirley Braha, a.k.a. Little Shirley Beans, collected a dozen bands you've never heard of (unless you are a fan of the Casino Ashtrays, Chariots of Tuna, or Gumdrop Alley) and charged them with writing all-new Chanukah songs for the anthology I Made It out of Clay.

[T]he wildly eclectic I Made It out of Clay [is] billed as the first "Chanukah Indie-pop compilation." "Indie" is short for "independent," as in independent film. The two media also share an do-it-yourself, hey-why-not ethos. However, there is a "tight sense of community that builds around it," that is lacking in the film world, Shirley Braha, the album's producer, notes.

The performers on Clay are based in a dozen states, plus Canada and Finland, where they know something about winter. Kisswhistle remakes Elvis Costello's "Veronica" into "Verhannukah," and Mesopotamia harmonically laments the passing of a tail-chasing dog named Dreydel. The tones range from meditative to raucous, and encompass sounds from samba (Jumprope's "Hanukkah in Brazil") to nursery rhyme (the Boyish Charms "Theme for a Defiled Temple"); DJs will probably find "Hanukkah Girl" by Metronome the most radio-friendly cut. Many of the tracks feature muted vocals, but the full lyrics to all 20 tracks are enclosed.

We unfortunately have this one. "Unfortunately" because the kids like it but it makes adults want to set themselves on fire.

December 19, 2003

Posted by David Cohen at 9:15 PM


Voelz is remembered as a tomboy and a daredevil (Erica Walsh, The News-Enterprise, 12/17/03)

Floyd Fahnestock's Pennsylvania home is filled with floral bouquets. For two days now, Floyd and his wife, Carol, have seen florist after florist ring the doorbell.

Each one usually has a condolence card attached with kind words and fond memories of their daughter, Kimberley.

"Everyone loved her," Floyd Fahnestock said.

Staff Sgt. Kimberley A. Voelz — "Kim" to her friends and "Kimmy" to her father — died Sunday in Iraq after an explosive device she was attempting to disarm detonated. The Fort Knox-based soldier was 27.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:55 PM


Libya to give up WMD (BBC, 12/20/03)

Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi has admitted his country was developing weapons of mass destruction, but will dismantle its secret programme.

He told the official Libyan news agency he was ready to play its role in building a world free from all forms of terrorism, after months of negotiations with the West.

The process of dismantling the programme would be "transparent and verifiable" and the range of all Libya's missiles would be restricted to 300km, he said.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed the unexpected decision and called it "an historic one and a courageous one and I applaud it". . . .

The US and its allies have long suspected that Libya had secret chemical and bio-weapons programmes, however Libya always denied such allegations saying it had only facilities for pharmaceutical or agricultural research.

In 1995 the country reopened its Rabta pharmaceutical plant, at Qabilat az Zaribah, which prior to its 1990 closure had produced up to 100 tons of chemical weapons, according to the US.

But chemical weapon production at Libya's underground Tarhuna facility is thought to have been suspended following intense public scrutiny.

UK officials believe Libya was close to obtaining a nuclear weapons capability before the deal.

Gosh, you'd think Gaddafi was afraid that actions have consequences.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:19 PM


White House 'very pleased' with Sharon's speech (ASSOCIATED PRESS, Dec. 19, 2003)

President George W. Bush's spokesman reacted warmly Friday to much of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's latest prescription for dealing with the Palestinians.

"We were very pleased with the overall speech," spokesman Scott McClellan said in an apparent effort to offset published accounts that focused on his admonition Thursday that Sharon should not try to impose a settlement without negotiations.

In an exchange Friday with reporters the White House spokesman offered no criticism of Sharon's speech Thursday in Herzliya in which the prime minister offered to remove some settlements on the West Bank and make other concessions.

Posted by John Resnick at 1:45 PM


Twisting Skyscraper to Replace NY's WTC (December 19, 2003, Grant McCool)

The building dubbed the "Freedom Tower" will be the world's tallest at 1,776 feet when it is completed by the end of 2008 and is intended to reclaim part of Manhattan's famous skyline shattered in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"We will build it to show the world that freedom will always triumph over terror and that we will face the 21st century with confidence," said New York Gov. George Pataki, who has final authority over what is built on the 16-acre (6.4 hectare) site in lower Manhattan's financial district.

Right after 9.11.01, a group of colleagues and I were heatedly debating whether they'd ever re-build the WTC. Some insisted that it would be such sacred ground that nothing would ever replace it. I've always believed the most symbolic memorial for those 3000+ souls could never be found at ground level - surely it would stretch to the heavens. The American Spirit of Freedom demands that we would rebuild something taller, stronger, more technologically equipped. This is not arrogance or extravagance. It is evidence of what we aspire to be.

And, dear God forbid, should this one too be razed by the evils of terror, we must rebuild again and again.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:23 PM


U.S. Navy seizes boat with drugs linked to al-Qaida (MATT KELLEY, December 19, 2003, Associated Press)

The U.S. Navy has seized a boat in the Persian Gulf carrying two tons of hashish and four people tied to the al-Qaida terrorist network, the military said Friday.

The guided missile destroyer USS Decatur intercepted the boat on Monday, U.S. Central Command said in a statement. On board were two tons of drugs worth an estimated $8 million to $10 million and 12 people, four of whom have suspected ties to al-Qaida, the statement said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:08 AM


What is the ultimate gift we can give our children on Chanukah?: Re-thinking priorities during the Festival of Lights. Hype aside, there really IS a "gift that keeps on giving" (Rabbi Daniel Cohen, 12/19/03, Jewish World Review)

What is the ultimate gift we can give our children on Chanukah? What gift will nurture their Jewish identity, give them joy, and strengthen their character and family bonds? It is not a computer, even with a Chanukah program. The greatest gift is Shabbes (Sabbath).

This year, the first and last nights of Chanukah coincide with Shabbes. The secret of our ability to light Chanukah candles despite efforts to squelch the flame of Judaism throughout Jewish history is the observance of Sabbath.

Material gifts have a limited shelf life. Sabbath — a spiritual gift — lives on. Sabbath affords the Jew the tools to spiritual fulfillment and meaning. Sabbath enriches our lives with infinite everlasting value.

Deep down, our children do not want our gifts — they want us. They want our time, attention and love. Sabbath is an oasis in time. Rather than lighting the Chanukah candles on Friday night and going out, light the Shabbat candles as well and stay home.

Spend Friday evening and Saturday talking with your family about the why of Jewish identity. Go to synagogue. Sing Sabbath and Chanukah songs. Identify how each member of the family brings light to your life. The Israeli writer Ahad Ha'am reflects: "More than the Jew has kept Sabbath, Sabbath has kept the Jew." It is the key to Jewish Renaissance.

The question is not have we been through another Chanukah, but has Chanukah been through us?

We wish all our brothers and sisters in Abraham the very best Chanukah.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:01 AM


Telling It Right (PAUL KRUGMAN, 12/19/03, NY Times)

[T]he war came at a heavy cost, even before the fighting began: to prepare for the Iraq campaign, the administration diverted resources away from Afghanistan before the job was done, giving Al Qaeda a chance to get away and the Taliban a chance to regroup. [...]

To top it all off, the ongoing disorder in Iraq is a clear and present danger to our own national security. A large part of the U.S. military's combat strength is tied down in occupation duties, leaving us ill prepared for crises elsewhere. Meanwhile, overstretch is undermining the readiness of the military as a whole. [...]

While the world celebrated the capture of Saddam, a federal appeals court ruled that Jose Padilla must be released from military custody. Mr. Padilla is a U.S. citizen, arrested on American soil, who has been held for 18 months without charges as an "enemy combatant." The ruling was a stark reminder that the Bush administration, which talks so much about promoting democracy abroad, doesn't seem very concerned about following democratic rules at home.

One can't help noticing that while the critics of the administration are fond of saying that it isn't doing enough to fight al Qaeda, they seem overjoyed that al Qaeda has won a round in our Court's that could make it harder to fight them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:37 AM


Who needs WMD when you've got Saddam? Jim Lobe, 12/20/03, Asia Times)

In a nationally televised interview earlier this week, Bush appeared to dismiss the relevance of whether Iraq actually had WMD and the possibility that Saddam might eventually have moved to acquire them. "So what's the difference?" asked Bush, who later added that he was persuaded Saddam constituted "a gathering threat, after 9/11 [September 11] ... that needed to be dealt with. "And so we got rid of him, and there's no doubt the world is a safer, freer place as a result of Saddam being gone," he went on. [...]

"In my many years on [Capitol Hill]," one veteran congressional staffer told IPS, "I don't know that I've seen anything quite as cynical as this. They're clearly hoping that Congress and the American public will just forget that they waged war because of a threat that never existed but that they hyped to kingdom come."

Even Mr. Lobe does not try to rebut the President's unanswerable argument, that the world is safer and freer with Saddam gone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:31 AM


No Trespassing: When teens vow not to have sex, the moral to their story isn't always clear (LEAH GERCHARIO AND MICHELLE MARTINEZ, Dec 18, 2003, Dallas Observer)

[M]any of these teenagers are distinctive in one unseen way: They are card-carrying pledgers of True Love Waits, a Christian-based abstinence program. To join, teens must sign a card reading, "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship."

In fact, these kids are not that unusual. According to True Love Waits, some 1.2 million teens have made the pledge since the group's beginning in 1993. Programs like TLW, abstinence advocates say, are at least partly responsible for a drop in the number of high school students having intercourse: down to 46 percent in 2001 from 54 percent a decade earlier, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Richard Ross, the professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, spearheaded the True Love Waits program a decade ago and is now a TLW spokesman. He dislikes the term "founder," saying that God is the founder and the True Love Waits team merely God's instrument "for protecting the hearts of kids." He says True Love Waits is still a grassroots movement, although more than 90 Christian and secular organizations are listed as cooperating ministries, including Protestant and Catholic groups.

Many students commit to True Love Waits while they're in middle school or early high school and are urged to recommit every year. Ross says most of them do so because TLW articulates a goal to which many teens desperately aspire. "What many of them say on this issue is, 'I love God so much, I am choosing to obey what he has asked of me.'"

The Dallas Observer interviewed some 15 TLW teens and young adults, and indeed most of them speak highly of the program. Some, like Kenneth Sewell, have even married other TLW members. "I don't think kids even understand, until they get into a marriage relationship, the kind of trust that's needed in a marriage," Sewell says. "And when that is hanging over your head, you know, those past girlfriends, those past boyfriends, that really makes trusting in a marriage difficult. I guess I didn't understand the real importance of True Love Waits until I got married."

Others with whom the Observer spoke say what sounded like a simple commitment in their younger years became harder to stick with once they hit high school or college. Matthew (who asked that his last name not be used) signed the card as a junior in high school, before he'd had any sexual experiences.

"I got to college, and I realized there's a lot more out in the world than Killeen, Texas," Matthew says. "I started to realize that this whole 'waiting till marriage' thing wasn't necessarily the be-all, end-all of the way relationships should go." The woman to whom he lost his virginity is now his wife. "In a sense, you could say I fulfilled the promise of the pledge," he says. "Maybe not the wording, but certainly the spirit of it, since she's the only woman I ever had sex with and she's now my wife." [...]

TLW's Ross says that detractors and "adults who are just consumed with sexual expression" don't dissuade teenagers from abstinence--quite the opposite, he says. In the current "tsunami wave of sexuality" in America, he says, True Love Waits becomes a countercultural movement that naturally attracts young followers.

"I think teenagers today are standing up to adults," Ross says. "[They're] saying, 'You don't think we're capable of controlling ourselves. You think we are all going to live like barnyard animals...The only thing you can say to us is, "Here, take a condom. Protect yourself if you can."'

"I think there is a spirit within teenagers that causes some to say, 'We're not going to do what you think we're going to do. We are perfectly capable of making promises. We are perfectly capable of keeping those promises. So we're going to be different from you.'"

That choice, though, doesn't guarantee an adolescence free from emotional scarring and sexual temptation.

This represents a vacuous but all too common misconception about morality: recognizing the existence of moral laws does not inoculate you against breaking them or from the temptation to break them and following them won't necessarily make you happy. You try to follow them because that's the objectively right thing to do, not for your own personal gain, and you have to anticipate that you'll not be able to follow them consistently. Morality makes life harder, not easier. License is the easy way out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:27 AM


Peace doesn't require a plan (Mitchell G. Bard, December 16, 2003, Israeli Insider)

I'm thinking of redecorating my house and wall papering the entire thing with Yossi Beilin's peace plans. Beilin is a good man, a tireless advocate of peace, but shares the delusion of many that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict has eluded everyone simply because no one has devised a brilliant enough plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. [...]

Ironically, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will inevitably resemble one of the very first plans proposed nearly 70 years ago. In 1937, Lord Peel figured out the only conceivable way the two peoples could live together was to create two states. If the Palestinians had been willing to accept that plan, or almost any of the dozens of others offered since that time, they would have long ago had an independent state larger than the one they will ultimately establish.

No choice but a unilateral solution (Ted Belman, December 18, 2003, Israel National News)
Given that the Palestinians are against a two-state solution, no matter what they say, Israel must develop a separate vision; one that they can impose unilaterally. To be able to do so, Israel will have to destroy the terror infrastructure, expel the terrorists, and jail or expel all Palestinians who continue to incite in schools or mosques.

Let the debate begin. But it must involve a unilateral solution.

There's another chapter for Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point here, as the unthinkable becomes the conventional wisdom in near record time.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:24 AM


Netanyahu: Israel's demographic problem is with its Arab minority (Ellis Shuman, December 18, 2003, Israeli Insider)

Netanyahu's speech, his first diplomatic address since becoming finance minister, attacked Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's call for a withdrawal from most of the territories due to the concern that Israel could not remain a Jewish democratic state if it didn't ensure a 80% Jewish majority. "For a diplomatic deal you need a partner and you need to get something back in return," Netanyahu said, rejecting any possibility of unilateral moves.

"We do have a demographic problem but it is with the Arab Israelis, not the Palestinians," Netanyahu said. "The declaration of independence depicts Israel as both Jewish and democratic. To stop democracy from wiping out the Jewish nature of the country we must insure the Jewish majority. Incorporating the Arab Israelis fully into Israeli society should be done hand in hand with protecting the Jewish nature of that society," he said.

"Luckily we no longer control the larger part of the Palestinian population. I do not see any possible solution that will somehow bring these people back under Israeli rule, as citizens or in any other form. We are not interested in controlling the Palestinians," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu warned that if the Arab minority would reach 40% of the population, Israel would cease to exist as a Jewish democratic state. Of Israel's 6.6 million citizens, about 1.3 million (20%) are Arabs, Haaretz reported.

Mr. Netanyahu is correct that all this does is buy Israel time, but wrong about who's the problem. Jews need to have more children.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:01 AM

60-40 NATION:

Can you like George Bush and not vote for him? (Mark Shields, December 15, 2003, CNN)

If Democrats are serious about involuntarily retiring President George W. Bush in next November's election, then they had better pay special attention to the most recent Los Angeles Times poll and the answers to this good question: Which one of the following statements come closest to the way you feel about President Bush? [...]

The good news for the Democrats is that a plurality, approaching a majority, of voters mostly dislike the incumbent president's policies and therefore might reasonably be expected to vote in 2004 for the challenger.

But the bad news is that better than two out of three of the likely voters like Bush as a person. And for most Americans, our choice for president -- quite unlike our less reflective pick for lieutenant governor or county recorder --is the most personal vote we cast.

Two out of three men like Bush as a person. So, too, do two out of three women. Three out of five self-identified Democrats personally like Bush. More than a majority -- 52 percent -- of liberals like the conservative chief executive personally.

These numbers mean that the Democratic nominee' s difficult mission will be to persuade voters who like George W. Bush personally that they can vote against his policies, next November, and still like Bush.

To pull that off, that Democratic candidate must reject the appeals and the advice of the zealous anti-Bushies, that fierce 20 percent of the electorate, who are convinced that the route to victory lies in just one more recital of the incumbent's mispronunciations, missteps or mistakes.

But to win the nomination they have to play to the 20%, which means that in the general the Democratic nominee will be closer to 40% than to 50%.

Some Democrats Uneasy About Dean as Nominee (KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and ROBIN TONER, 12/19/03, NY Times)

Many leading Democrats say they are uneasy about Howard Dean's candidacy for president and are reluctant to cede him the nomination for fear that his combative style and antiwar stance will leave Democrats vulnerable in November.

They acknowledge that Dr. Dean has run a strategically savvy campaign that has made him the candidate to beat. But their worry has been heightened anew, they say, by Dr. Dean's statement this week that the capture of Saddam Hussein "did not make America safer" and by his suggestion that Saudi Arabia warned President Bush about Sept. 11 even though "I did not believe the theory I was putting out."

Senator John B. Breaux of Louisiana, who has long sought to push the Democratic Party to the center, said Dr. Dean's remark about Mr. Hussein's capture was "not the smartest thing to say." Mr. Breaux added, "Most people in my part of the country think the world is indeed safer without a ruthless dictator."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:49 AM


The Soros Threat (James K. Glassman, January/February 2004, American Enterprise)

In early November, Soros and a partner donated $5 million to the liberal, anti-Bush He also gave $10 million to a similar organization, America Coming Together, which aims to mobilize voters in 17 battleground states. And he has promised $3 million to the Center for American Progress, a new Democratic think tank started by former Clinton aide John Podesta.

Soros has always fancied himself an intellectual as well as a moneymaker, and he wants desperately to be taken seriously. His first attempt came in 1997 with a weird, discursive article in the Atlantic Monthly called "The Capitalist Threat." He argued that "the spread of market values into all areas of life" is now the main threat to "open and democratic society."

The man-bites-dog nature of the anticapitalist article from the capitalist mogul brought it attention, but it was so appallingly stupid that it provoked the ire of even the typically mild-mannered, centrist journalist Robert Samuelson of Newsweek. He called Soros "a crackpot" and his essay "gibberish" akin to the "Unabomber's manifesto in its sweeping, unsupported, and disconnected generalizations."

Now Soros is back in the Atlantic with a piece called "The Bubble of American Supremacy." Here the problem is not so much incoherence as hysteria: "The Bush administration proceeded to exploit the terrorist attack for its own purposes," he writes of the 9/11 terrorist murder of innocents. "It fostered the fear that has gripped the country…and it used the war on terrorism to execute an agenda of American supremacy."

What does Soros propose? Not military action, but "preventive action of a constructive and affirmative nature. Increased foreign aid or better or fairer trade rules," and, of course, "international cooperation."

All of this would be harmless if Soros didn't have billions to spend and the intention to manipulate our politics with them. In the past, it was enough for him to lavish money on leftish causes like drug legalization through the Soros Foundations Network. But a more strident, ideological tone has now become evident.

It does at least provide some clarity when the Democrats hop in bed with someone who is openly opposed to capitalism and American supremacy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:35 AM


No choice but a unilateral solution (Ted Belman, December 18, 2003, Israel National News)

Given that the Palestinians are against a two-state solution, no matter what they say, Israel must develop a separate vision; one that they can impose unilaterally. To be able to do so, Israel will have to destroy the terror infrastructure, expel the terrorists, and jail or expel all Palestinians who continue to incite in schools or mosques.

Let the debate begin. But it must involve a unilateral solution.

Peace doesn't require a plan (Mitchell G. Bard, December 16, 2003, Israeli Insider)
I'm thinking of redecorating my house and wall papering the entire thing with Yossi Beilin's peace plans. Beilin is a good man, a tireless advocate of peace, but shares the delusion of many that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict has eluded everyone simply because no one has devised a brilliant enough plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. [...]

Ironically, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute will inevitably resemble one of the very first plans proposed nearly 70 years ago. In 1937, Lord Peel figured out the only conceivable way the two peoples could live together was to create two states. If the Palestinians had been willing to accept that plan, or almost any of the dozens of others offered since that time, they would have long ago had an independent state larger than the one they will ultimately establish.

There's another chapter for Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point here, as the unthinkable becomes the conventional wisdom in near record time, even if 70 years late.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:16 AM


the mind for battle (The Baltimore Sun, Dec 18, 2003)

On the theory that preparing the mind for battle is as important as preparing the body, the top officer in each service provides a reading list of recommended books for enlisted personnel to commissioned officers. The Marine Corps, which for many Americans has the image of being the toughest of the tough, offers the most extensive reading list, with about 175 books divided among each rank. [...]

Following is a sampling of books from the list of recommendations by Marine Corps rank, compiled by Tom Bowman, The Sun's military affairs reporter.

Private, private first class, lance corporal

Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein. A recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the universe - and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry against mankind's most frightening enemy.

The Bridge at Dong Ha, by John Grider Miller. On Easter morning 1972, Marine Capt. John Ripley, the sole U.S. adviser to the tough 3rd Battalion of the South Vietnamese marines, braved intense enemy fire to blow up a bridge and stop a major invasion from the north. [...]

Brigadier general through general

The Best and the Brightest, by David Halberstam. The story of how the U.S. got involved in Vietnam through the "best and brightest" policymakers appointed by John F. Kennedy.

Maverick Marine: General Smedley Butler and the Contradictions of American Military History, by Hans Schmidt. A two-time Medal of Honor recipient, Butler, beginning in 1898, served on American foreign military expeditions from Cuba to the Philippines, China, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Haiti, France and China. After a rescinded court-martial and premature retirement in 1931, he renounced war and devoted his energies to causes ranging from labor unions to the anti-war movement of the 1930s.

What exactly are they trying to tell the Generals?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:05 AM


Good-News Dilemma (Michael Kinsley, December 19, 2003, Washington Post)

[D]ean won points in my book for another bit of straight talk. After calling Hussein's capture "a great day" for the military, for Iraqis and for Americans generally, he added that it was "frankly, a great day for the administration." This is a rare example of a politician saying "frankly" and then saying something actually frank. It comes close to admitting the obvious: that this development helps Bush's chance of winning next year's election and therefore hurts Dean's.

With that anyone who values the English language must agree.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:57 AM


Martin differs with U.S. on Iraq; Disagrees on death penalty for Saddam; Reconstruction contracts also at issue (Susan Delacourt, Toronto Star, 19/12/03)

Prime Minister Paul Martin has made clear he is at odds with U.S. President George W. Bush on capital punishment for Saddam Hussein and on his handling of the war and reconstruction in Iraq.

But despite these "principled" differences, Martin maintained in a round of media interviews yesterday that he has embarked on a course of constructive new Canada-U.S. relations.

"I personally don't believe in the death penalty," Martin told CHUM Television yesterday when asked whether the former leader of Iraq, captured by U.S. forces a week ago, should face capital punishment, as Bush has said he favours. Martin had earlier skated around the question of Saddam's fate, saying it should be left to the courts, but he was clearer yesterday in voicing his opposition to the death penalty for the jailed dictator.

Martin said international law leans in favour of his own view in theory, if not in practice.

"The fact is that international law right now would not permit the death penalty, but neither the United States nor Iraq have signed on to those particular covenants," Martin said. "What's most important is that whatever decision comes down, we want it to be seen to be internationally credible." [...]

The Prime Minister said he does not agree with the Americans' decision to give reconstruction contracts only to firms from countries that supported the war. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien was justified and right to keep Canada out of the Iraq war, Martin said in several interviews yesterday, and the U.S. is only hurting the Iraqi people if it erects more obstacles to reconstruction efforts.

In our more treasonous moments, my wife and I fantasize about what the U.S. should do to slap around a few faces up here. It seems withholding invitations to the ranch isn’t enough. It is a tougher challenge than one would think. There isn’t a lot that can be done to punish Canadians that wouldn’t punish Americans equally. And, in the end, we’re really no threat and have no desire to be one. Is it worth the effort?

Seen through Canadian eyes, this tired prattle is more a product of cowardice and anti-intellectualism than any desire to challenge or even disagree with the U.S. The problem is not anti-Americanism, which is actually pretty mild compared to in Europe or Latin America or even some current allies, but a neurotic parochialism hidden under a self-deluding cloak of internationalism. Only among conservatives is there any sense that Canada is behaving shamefully if she does not accept she is part of something bigger and more precious than herself, to which she owes duties. This is why the concept of the Anglosphere is, at bottom, so scary. It implies having the courage to defer to leaders and to make sacrifices to defend something. It’s much safer to claim one is equal and run off to play rhetorical games at the UN. More fun, too.

Those who claim Canada is falling apart are wrong. The problem is as much that she is not. We work hard and have built a very agreeable place to live and raise a family. But we have also had many, many years of peaceful comfort and American protection, with the right to mouth off thrown in. It may be humans can simply not bear such blessings for so long before losing any sense of reality and self-respect.

But whatever contempt this earns Canada from the American right, the responsibility is not all up here. Canadians are big consumers of the American media. If you were an ordinary Canadian treated to a nightly spectacle of Democrats, media types, academics, activists and Hollywood icons saying it was all America’s fault and that the U.S. should work much harder to please great people like us, what would you think?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:56 AM


Saddam Hussein, like Adolf Hitler, will live on for millions of people (ROBERT FISK, 12/17/03, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq this year, we journalists -- and all praise to Paul Wood of the BBC for his part in this -- got our hands on videos of some of the most pornographic violence any of us would be able to stomach. For 45 minutes, Saddam's security police whipped and beat half-naked Shiite prisoners in the courtyard of their "Mukhabarat" headquarters.

They are covered in blood, screaming and whimpering. They are kicked and their testicles crushed and pieces of wood forced between their teeth as they are pushed into sewers and clubbed on the face.

The videos show that there were spectators, uniformed Baathists, even a Mercedes parked in the background under the shade of a silver birch tree.

I showed a few seconds of these films at lectures in Ireland and the United States this summer and some members of the audience left, nauseated by the evidence of Saddam's perverted nature. Who, after all, were these videos made for? For Saddam? Or for the victims' families to watch, so that they may suffer again the torture of their loved ones?

It's easy, looking at these images of Saddam's sadism, to have expected Iraqis to be grateful to us this week. We have captured Saddam. We have destroyed the beast. The nightmare years are over. If only we could have got rid of this man 15 years ago -- 20 years ago -- how warm would be our welcome in Iraq today. But we didn't. And that is why his capture will not save U.S. soldiers. He lives on. Just as Hitler lives on today in the memories and fears of millions. It is in the nature of such terrible regimes to replicate themselves in the mind.

Which U.S. soldiers are at risk from this imagined living Hitler and who fears him today? Even when Mr. Fisks makes a bit of sense he's nuts.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:30 AM


Poland Takes Pride in Assertive Stance Toward Neighbors (MARK LANDLER, 12/19/03, NY Times)

Despite a population of 39 million and by far the largest economy in Central Europe, many here fear that Poland will not be treated as a full partner in a greater Europe.

"We keep seeing ourselves as a small country," Danuta Hübner, the minister for European affairs, said in an interview. "In fact, Poland is a big country. We are half of what is joining Europe in terms of population. We should have the responsibilities that come with being a big country."

Such talk is heard more and more often these days. Five months before it adds 10 new countries with 75 million people, the European Union seems to be cleaving into two camps — one centered on France and Germany, the other encompassing an assortment of bantam and middleweight countries.

This latest crisis erupted two weeks after Germany and France effectively vitiated the fiscal rules that govern the countries using the euro as their common currency, refusing to bring their budget deficits under a mandated ceiling.

For Europe's smaller countries — as well as would-be members, who are dutifully bringing their finances into line with European standards — the impunity with which France and Germany acted suggests that the union keeps a different rulebook for its biggest members.

In Poland's case, the frictions with Germany and France have been aggravated by Warsaw's staunch support of the American-led war on Iraq, which Berlin and Paris just as staunchly opposed. [...]

Not everybody here applauds Poland's intransigence. Marek Ostrowski, a leading foreign affairs commentator, said it was less a principled stand than a display of Poland's insecurities and pathologies.

Rather than defer to Poland, Mr. Ostrowski predicted, Germany and France will find a way to bypass it. He also questioned why Poland was so intent on cultivating an "exotic alliance" with Spain instead of working to close the gap with its natural partner, Germany.

Germany? They're Poland's natural enemy. Britain and America are it's natural allies, even if not always trustworthy ones.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:55 AM


No scholarships? No problem for Colgate ( Gary Mihoces, 12/18/03, USA TODAY)

Mark Murphy remembers when Colgate and the rest of the Patriot League faced a stigma: No football scholarships, no football credibility. The Colgate alum and former school athletics director was on the NCAA Division I-AA Football Committee in the mid-1990s. One debate topic: Should the Patriot League champ get an automatic berth in the playoffs?

"It was such a hard fight," says Murphy, who became Northwestern's athletics director in June. "There was just a sense that they don't take their football seriously. Non-scholarship?"

The Patriot League, which got the berth, still doesn't give football scholarships. But Friday night, Patriot champ Colgate (15-0) meets Delaware (14-1) in Chattanooga, Tenn., for the national title in I-AA, the second-highest rung in the NCAA ladder. [...]

Colgate, a 2,800-student school in rural Hamilton, N.Y., has a high academic reputation. Average SAT score of this year's incoming students: 1,378. But this isn't Revenge of the Nerds.

Colgate takes football seriously. It gives players aid based on financial need. If that need is grave, the aid can offset Colgate's annual tuition, room and board of about $37,500. And the school finds quality players.

Fullback Jamaal Branch ran for 2,271 yards and 29 touchdowns this season, both I-AA records. Quarterback Chris Brown threw for a school-record 22 TDs.

"People are really excited. Our phones have been ringing with alumni right and left," school President Rebecca Chopp says. "We're having lots and lots of people get tickets and make plans for Chattanooga."

Patriot League teams have won at least one playoff game in five of the last six seasons. Colgate became the first to reach the semifinals — and now the final.

It won playoff games in blizzards at home against Massachusetts and Western Illinois. It won last weekend in Fort Lauderdale against Florida Atlantic.

"We've had them in snow. We've had them in heat. We're ready for anything," Chopp says.

Go 'gate.

a-headlines-sports>Class-First Program: Despite a 15-0 record and a berth in the Division I-AA title game, Colgate football players put textbooks over playbooks. (LA Times, 12/19/03)

December 18, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:19 PM


THE RETURN OF THE KING: TOLKIEN AND THE NEW MEDIEVALISM: The obsession with power, will and hierarchy in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings fuels its dangerous topicality: a vindication and veneration of empire. (K.A. DILDAY, OpenDemocracy)

The relationship between politics and art began to trouble me anew when I walked out of the The Fellowship of the Ring, the first instalment of the Lord of the Ring film trilogy in December 2001. It was just three months since the apocalyptic attacks and New York was still reeling. The tension of worldwide anticipation was palpable, something was coming, but what?

By the time the second part of the saga, The Two Towers was released last year, the invasions had begun and the nascent 21st century had become eerily similar to Middle Earth. Now, The Return of the King opens around the world at the same time that global news media display images of a defeated enemy undergoing public, intimate, physical inspection as a symbol of his complete submission and degradation.

We are living in times when the public rhetoric is medieval. Politicians and pundits invoke the words good and evil casually, as if the age of reason never happened.

You'd be hard pressed to improve on this for an argument of why the medieval understanding of the world is superior to that of the Age of Reason.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 PM


Science breakthrough of the year: proof of our exploding universe (Tim Radford, December 19, 2003, The Guardian)

The findings settle a number of arguments about the universe, its age, its expansion rate, and its composition, all at once. Thanks to the two studies, astronomers now believe the age of the universe is 13.7bn years, plus or minus a few hundred thousand. And its rate of expansion is a bewildering 71km per second per megaparsec. One megaparsec is an astronomical measure, totting up to 3.26m light years. Something latent in space itself is acting as a form of antigravity, exerting a push on the universe, rather than a pull.

Dark matter was proposed more than 20 years ago when it became clear that all the galaxies behaved as if they were far more massive than they seemed to be. All sorts of explanations - black holes, brown dwarfs and undetectable particles that are very different from atoms - have been suggested. None has been confirmed.

But dark matter exists, all the same. The dark energy story began in 1998 when astronomers reported that the most distant galaxies seemed to be receding far faster than calculations predicted. A study of a certain kind of supernova confirmed that they had not been misled: the universe was indeed expanding ever faster, rather than decelerating.

The discovery that some unexpected and undetectable force was pushing the fabric of space apart seemed to confirm a famous observation decades ago by the British scientist JBS Haldane: "The universe is not only queerer than we suppose. It is queerer than we can suppose." It once again raised profound questions about the nature of the universe: about space, and time, and energy, and matter. And it set the theorists on the hunt first for an explanation, and then for an experiment that would confirm their hypothesis.

So they turned once again to the original evidence for the Big Bang, the cosmic microwave background radiation. This is the original blaze of creation, cooled to minus 270 C - just about 3 C above absolute zero. Several lines of research, including experiments in the Antarctic and from high-flying balloons, began to provide a clearer picture: the universe simply had to consist of something more than just atoms and so-called dark matter.

"But WMAP, with superbly precise data beamed back from a little spacecraft a million miles away, has made the evidence more precise," said Sir Martin, of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge.

"The dark energy is spread uniformly through the universe, latent in empty space. Its nature is a mystery. Whereas there's a real chance of learning what the dark matter is within the next five to 10 years, I'd hold out less hope of understanding the dark energy unless or until there's a unified theory that takes us closer to the 'bedrock' of space and time."

It may just be hubris, but does any of us truly doubt that there is such a unified theory and that it is discoverable? And does not that in itself implicate the idea of Creation, regardless of your concept of Creator?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:53 PM


Give Them a Chance (Dr. Mohammad T. Al-Rasheed, 18, December, 2003, Arab News)

The jubilation in Baghdad put the Arab media to shame. America, for this brief moment at least if not for longer, is a liberator and not an occupier. I can’t help being smug, since what I saw gave me back some confidence in the possibility of justice in this world. I had almost lost hope. It took George Bush to give me that back. I don’t agree with him on many things, and while many Americans share my stand, I’ll give the man his due. He will go down in Arab history as the liberator of Baghdad, even if the whole mission in Iraq comes to nothing more than this.

On a more sober note, the reality we have to face is the fact that it took Americans to relieve Baghdad of its dictator. Arab impotence recorded a new low. I might sound naive but I would like to ask where the “freedom fighters”, “the resistance”, “the strugglers for the freedom of Iraq” were when that man ran amok. Having delivered Saddam, the Americans will have to deliver Iraq. Shouldn’t we now be wise enough to give them at least a chance, if not a real helping hand?

We started this business of post-Sept. 11 by jousting with the American loudly and virulently. We could not believe that any of our sort would behave in such barbaric ways. The truth became clearer with time. Regardless of the reason for the American intervention in Iraq, the end result couldn’t have been happier for the Iraqis or more loaded with hope for other Arabs. Dare we say Carpe Diem and actually seize the day? Do we have the intellectual honesty to sit back, ponder, and then act, or are we going to start spinning more conspiracy theories to explain the obvious?

At some point we have to stop asking where the voices like this are in the Middle East and take note of the fact that they do seem to be multiplying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:47 PM


Has the CIA Unmasked Daniel Pearl’s Killer?: Once again, the U.S. is covering up for Pakistan’s mistakes (Bernard-Henri Lévy, 12/18/03, LA Weekly)

I don’t believe that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, as the American government recently declared, first to Pearl’s widow, Marian Pearl, and then to the press. [...]

So then, the question becomes, as it always does in these cases, why? What interest or purpose is served by this bizarre revelation, fallen as if from the sky, and, making things stranger still, presented to us as coming from anonymous sources? I do not doubt the good faith of the investigators, who are doing their best, even when going astray, in their search for the truth. But I do not doubt either, alas, the possibility that this “Operation Mohammed” functions as a protective smoke screen.

For my Pakistani friends, for all who struggle for democracy in that country and consider discovering the truth about the Pearl affair as a test, the matter is very clear: To stress the responsibility of Mohammed inevitably means blurring the guilt of Omar Sheikh, the mastermind of Pearl’s abduction, who is now condemned to death in Pakistan. And casting a spotlight on al Qaeda and its former third in command also means, deliberately or not, turning the same light away from Pakistan’s ISI intelligence services, of which there is ample evidence to show that Omar is an agent.

It could well be that this sudden placement of blame on one of the chiefs of this cold, stateless monster that is bin Laden’s organization comes at this appointed moment to turn our attention away from the Pakistani scene, where many analysts have lingered with an insistence that has become embarrassing to both the U.S. and Pakistani governments.

There's no point though in helping destabilize or isolate the current military government until we're ready to clean out the Islamicists there.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:27 PM


Lieberman Unbound: Willing to try anything to save his candidacy, Joe decides to detonate his own Democratic Party (Harold Meyerson, 12/18/03, LA Weekly)

Clearly, Lieberman has gone on the attack because he has nothing to lose. The New Hampshire primary is just six weeks away; and Saddam’s arrest, he’s calculated, gives him probably his last opportunity to reshape the race. Problem is, what Lieberman needs to reshape is his party. [...]

Dean is no George McGovern — he’s far too pugnacious — but the parallels between Lieberman and McGovern’s chief rival in the 1972 primaries, Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, are striking. Jackson ran as the one Democratic candidate who still supported the war in Vietnam, a position that ensured he would fail to win the nomination just as surely as Lieberman’s pro-war adamance condemns Joe to finishing out of the money this year. But as the campaign season progressed, Jackson increasingly saw his mission as bringing down McGovern no matter what. It was Jackson who termed McGovern – a middle-American Methodist if ever there was one – the candidate of “acid, abortion and amnesty.” By the time Scoop and his ilk were done with McGovern, the Nixon re-election campaign hardly needed to take the field.

Joe Lieberman is Scoop Redux, willing to blow apart his party in a last-gasp attempt to resurrect his own failed candidacy.

You'd think it would be worth noting that, since 1972 (inclusive), every presidential election has been won by the GOP or a born-again Southerner. Maybe the party needs to be blown apart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:04 PM


Albert Camus: Camus has overtaken Sartre to become the popular hero of existentialism. Now even his views on Algeria have outgrown Sartre (Paul Barker, December 2003, The Prospect)

Camus's first and best-known novel, L'Étranger, written in his twenties, is a short moral tale, in the tradition of Voltairean contes, about a meaningless ("absurd") murder. Its flat short sentences have a permanent appeal to adolescent angst. It was first published by Gallimard in 1942, in a Paris under German occupation. L'Étranger is Gallimard's all-time bestseller; the revenue helps them continue to dominate French literary publishing. Far more people read the novels of Camus than those of his contemporaries - friends, rivals and eventual enemies - Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. One grubby piece of evidence is Plateforme, a novel by France's pornographer-in-chief Michel Houellebecq. This tale of sex tourism opens with a parody of L'Étranger's plot and its deadpan, much-quoted first sentences: "Today my mother died. Or perhaps it was yesterday, I'm not sure." Houellebecq's anti-hero is called Renault; Camus's outsider was "Meursault." The clunky automobile cross-reference is intended to show, I suppose, how robotic western man has become since Camus became known, to his annoyance, as "existentialism's No 2 man," tagging along behind Sartre. [...]

Camus's taste for moral fables means he is often compared with Orwell. They admired each other's work and had friends like Koestler in common. The comparison with Orwell became closer after Camus published La Peste in 1947. He began work on this novel during the war, but broke off to edit the resistance newspaper Combat. The spread of plague through Oran, and the betrayals and compromises it brings, parallel French behaviour under the Germans. As the plague ebbs, Dr Rieux notes that this is no tale of "final victory" against "terror and its relentless onslaughts." Watching the celebrations, "he knew what those jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned from books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good." It only bides its time, as the first years of the 21st century have demonstrated.

In his long-running postwar battle with the French Communist party and its innumerable fellow travellers, Camus said, "It's better to be wrong by killing no one than to be right with mass graves."

I confess never having understood how The Stranger can be read as a moral fable when it effectively argues against the existentialism that Camus espoused.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:41 PM


Remember 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'?: For Bush, They Are a Nonissue (RICHARD W. STEVENSON, 12/18/03, NY Times)

In the debate over the necessity for the war in Iraq, few issues have been more contentious than whether Saddam Hussein possessed arsenals of banned weapons, as the Bush administration repeatedly said, or instead was pursuing weapons programs that might one day constitute a threat.

On Tuesday, with Mr. Hussein in American custody and polls showing support for the White House's Iraq policy rebounding, Mr. Bush suggested that he no longer saw much distinction between the possibilities.

"So what's the difference?" he responded at one point as he was pressed on the topic during an interview by Diane Sawyer of ABC News.

To critics of the war, there is a big difference.

Here's one more of the beneficial effects of pulling a living Saddam (or his look-alike) out of that hole: Howard Dean and the other anti-war folks ask us to believe that squirrely dude was trustworthy and sane enough that we could accept his assurances he wouldn't use WMD anymore.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:24 PM


The tide is turning and we are unprepared (Kevin Myers, 14/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)

The local council in High Wycombe has banned an advertisement on a library notice-board for a carol service in the neighbouring All Saints church, on the grounds that Buckinghamshire now has "a multi-faith community and passions could be inflamed by religious issues". In France, a government committee has advocated the banning of Muslim headscarves in schools.

Each affair confirms that something irreversible has occurred in Europe: Islam has taken root in what for the best part of 1,500 years was the evangelical heart and administrative home of Christianity.

The British response has been the typified by the Buckinghamshire approach, which is to make the majority conform with rules which in practice had been devised to deal specifically with a minority. The French attitude is characteristically centrist, and one which would have been recognised by the Sun King or by Napoleon: government by edict. [...]

The worst consequence of Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech was that it prevented all reasoned debate about immigration. Anyone who questioned immigration was promptly locked up in an intellectual box called "racism", to be reviled, mocked and ignored. Immigration thus became a standard feature of British and European life, and within my lifetime, millions and millions of non-Christian Asians and Africans poured into the traditionally white, Christian cities of a dozen countries.

Islam is much like Christianity: its spectrum is very broad, and many forms of it encourage moderation and toleration. But there are extremes which have no parallel in Christianity, nor even in communism or Nazism: the suicide bomber who believes that paradise awaits those who die in the act of the killing the infidel is a creature for whom the European mind, and European institutions have been wholly unprepared. And at a less extreme level, though the experience of communism has prepared them intellectually for the idea of national disloyalty, Europeans are hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with an abiding mass loyalty to foreign entities by their fellow citizens.

It's not like they can say they haven't been warned.

Posted by David Cohen at 8:10 PM


‘Gold Mine’: Saddam Hussein’s Loyalists Infiltrated U.S. Operations in Iraq (Martha Raddatz, ABC News, 12/18/03)

Agents for deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein have penetrated the U.S. command in Iraq, ABCNEWS has learned. As a result, they have the potential to undermine U.S. authority.

Among the documents found in Saddam's briefcase when he was captured last weekend was a list of names of Iraqis who have been working with the United States — either in the Iraqi security forces or the Coalition Provisional Authority — and are feeding information to the insurgents, a U.S. official told ABCNEWS.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


Skeptical Environmentalist Vindicated! (James K. Glassman, 12/17/2003, Tech Central Station)

The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation today severely repudiated a board which, a year ago, had judged The Skeptical Environmentalist, the best-selling book by Bjorn Lomborg, "objectively dishonest" and "clearly contrary to the standards of good scientific practice."

Lomborg's book -- with 2,930 footnotes, 1,800 bibliographical references, 173 figures and nine tables -- powerfully challenged the conventional wisdom that the world's environment was going to hell. When it was published in English in 2001, the book, published by the distinguished Cambridge University Press, was praised in The Washington Post, The Economist and elsewhere.

That reception provoked panic among radical greens. In early 2002, The Economist reported that "Mr. Lomborg is being called a liar, a fraud and worse. People are refusing to share a platform with him. He turns up in Oxford to talk about this book, and the author… of a forthcoming study on climate change throws a pie in his face." [...]

[I]n January, came what enviros figured would be the coup de grace: a report by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSC). The report was, to be charitable, a piece of junk, but its conclusions, coming from an official body, were nonetheless given prominent display in world media. The New York Times headlined its page 7 story by Andrew Revkin, "Environment and Science: Danes Rebuke a 'Skeptic.'"

Now, the Danes have issued a well-deserved rebuke to the rebukers.

Yet it moves.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:01 PM


The twilight of the tyrants: Dictatorship is fading, but democracy doesn't always replace it. (Peter Ford, 12/19/03, CS Monitor)

Unseating the autocrats who remain, however, from Cuba to North Korea, from Saudi Arabia to Burma, poses policy challenges that the United States and other democracies are only beginning to face, say diplomats, human rights activists, and analysts.

Terrorized by secret police and paralyzed by fear, subject peoples often find it hard - if not impossible - to shake off their burden. "But if people were allowed to voice their views, the dictators would not stay, and in that sense they are very fragile," points out Mark Palmer, a former US ambassador who advocates a more activist Western policy to oust tyrants.

"The last 30 years of history shows that they go fairly easily when people start to get organized," he adds, pointing to leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic, who stepped down as President of Yugoslavia in 2000 without a shot being fired.

One quarter of the world's 192 nations are today "not free," down from 43 per cent of countries in 1973, according to a report released yesterday by Freedom House, a New York-based human rights group that has been measuring political rights worldwide for 30 years.

"Absolute dictatorship is becoming less and less common," says Adrian Karatnycky, author of the report. "Over the last 30 years, 45 [more] free countries have appeared on the global map."

Significantly, he adds, today when new countries are created, as in East Timor, or when nation builders step in, as in Bosnia, "the model everyone turns to is democracy. There is no question of forming a one-party state" as was the fashion in newly independent countries four decades ago.

On the other hand, the conditions that feed autocracy persist in many parts of the world. "Apart from residual communism," argues Bernard Kouchner, the former United Nations administrator in Kosovo, "there are two sources of dictatorship: extreme poverty and oil."

Almost all the energy-rich nations in the Middle East and Central Asia figure on Freedom House's list as among the least free in the world. At the same time, 37 of the 49 "not free" countries have an average per capita income of less than $1,500 a year. The group makes its list on the basis of characteristics such as the vibrancy of civil society, the independence of the media, and the fairness of elections.

Galling for conservatives to acknowledge, but obvious once you look at the American Revolution: taxes make us free. That is to say, the need for government to ask for our tax dollars allows us to discipline and hold accountable that government.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:19 PM

60-40 FILES:

Four Republicans who want to challenge Boxer (Daniel Weintraub, December 18, 2003, Sacramento Bee)

[T]he prize -- the right to face off against two-term Democrat Barbara Boxer next November -- is looking a little bit more attractive to Republican candidates these days. While formidable, Boxer has never been as popular as the state's other senator, Dianne Feinstein. And with a Republican suddenly in the governor's office and President Bush looking stronger on the national scene, the potential Boxer challengers are beginning to think they might just catch a wave and knock her off. [...]

[T]he early favorite figures to be the man who finished third in that race, former Secretary of State Bill Jones. With the highest name identification, the biggest endorsements and, probably, access to the most money, this would seem to be Jones' race to lose. He is expected to have the backing of former Republican Govs. Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian and will try to establish an early lead to give his nomination the feel of inevitability. [...]

The others on the ballot include Howard Kaloogian, Rosario Marin and Toni Casey.

Kaloogian, a former financial planner and assemblyman from San Diego County, is the conservative insurgent in the race. An early backer of the Davis recall, Kaloogian was chairman of the Recall Gray Davis Committee, a position from which he used the Internet and talk radio to generate support in conservative ranks for a campaign that many establishment Republicans thought was a waste of time and money. [...]

Marin, a former Wilson aide and mayor of Huntington Park who served as U.S. Treasurer under George W. Bush, is another wild card in the race. A Mexican immigrant, a moderate on social issues but a fiscal conservative, Marin is the sort of new Republican who many party activists believe will be crucial to building the party's future in California. [...]

Casey, another former Bush appointee, at the Small Business Administration, is trying to position herself as the high-tech candidate. She boasts two advanced degrees from Stanford University, is the former mayor of Los Altos Hills and for 10 years served as a lobbyist for the biotech industry.

Governor Schwarzenegger has an obvious interest in getting a more accomodating state legislature elected, so he has an interest in pumping up the GOP statewide. If he and the Bush team put maximum resources and effort into it, California could be the Democrats' Ground Zero in November 2004.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:37 PM


Russia to Ease Iraqi Debt: Agreement to Negotiate $8B Owed Brings Moscow in Line With Other Europeans (Peter Baker, December 18, 2003, Washington Post)

Russia agreed on Thursday to negotiate debt relief for Iraq, reversing course after months of refusing to forgive any of $8 billion in obligations run up by Saddam Hussein's government. The shift brings Russia in line with other European powers.

President Vladimir Putin told visiting U.S. special envoy James A. Baker III that he was prepared to discuss ways to restructure the Iraqi debt within the framework of the Paris Club, an international organization of creditor nations, as France and Germany agreed earlier in the week.

The move came a week after Putin's defense minister rejected any discussion of debt relief for Iraq, which owes Russia more than any other European nation.

The next time American unilateralism doesn't work will be the first.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:24 PM


THE RAT TRAP: Part 1: How Saddam may still nail Bush (Pepe Escobar, 12/18/03, Asia Times)

The Christmas blockbuster from the Pentagon studios was a dream. This was the new Roman Empire at its peak - better than Ridleys Scott's Gladiator: a real, captive barbarian emperor, paraded on the Circus Maximus of world television. The barbarian was not a valiant warrior - but a bum. He was not hiding in a nuclear-proof bunker armed to his teeth - he was caught like "a rat" in a "spider hole". He was nothing but a pathetic ghost taking a medical for the world to see. What the bluish pictures did not show, though, is that former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Saddam Hussein is a reader of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. An Arabic copy of Crime and Punishment was found in a shack near the "spider hole" where he was captured.

Saddam surely now know very well what he needs to do. He won't be consumed with remorse like Dostoevsky's character Raskolnikov, who committed murder. For the moment Saddam may be "taking the Fifth" - in the words of an American interrogator, referring the the fifth amendment of the US constitution under which a person has the right to remain silent until charged in court. But Saddam will wait until he gets some rest, a very good lawyer, and then he will start talking.

The capture of Saddam was the best Christmas gift that President George W Bush could expect from his foreign policy adviser - God. Or was it? AlJazeera television has quoted Egyptian writer Sayyid Nassar saying that "by shaving his beard, a symbol of virility in Iraq and in the Arab world, the Americans committed an act that symbolizes humiliation in our region". Revenge could be imminent - and it will pour in avalanches, not from Saddam of course, but from wounded Iraqi and Arab pride.

Unfortunately for them, the radical nature of the reformation that needs to occur in the Arab world requires such humiliation. They need to grapple with the fact that their civilization has failed and that their future lies in liberalization and democratization. This, for example, seems a more sensible take on events, A Tigris Chronicle: The Arab world grapples with Saddam's captivity. (FOUAD AJAMI, December 18, 2003, Wall Street Journal)
[T]he dictator's capture lends the process of "Iraqification" greater legitimacy. With Saddam on the loose, our options were limited. We had full possession of Iraq, and we were responsible for everything under the sun. We now have room for maneuver, and the Bush administration has the warrant to grant Iraqis more power over their own destiny. We have given the best of ourselves in Iraq. We are not miracle workers, though. We can't wish for Iraqis more national unity than they wish for themselves, nor can we impose it on them. It is their country that is in the balance. It is they who must put behind them the age-old tyranny of the Sunni Arabs, and their pan-Arabism which was but a cover for sectarian hegemony, while keeping in check those who would want to replace it with a Shiite dominion.

Iraq, we must admit, has tested our resolve. We have not found weapons of mass destruction, and we may never do so. We found a measure of gratitude, but not quite enough. What we found was a country envenomed by a dictatorship perhaps unique in its brutality in the post-World War II world. We can't be sure that our labor in that land will be vindicated. There is sectarianism, and there are undemocratic habits, and a good measure of impatience. But the abject surrender of a tyrant who had mocked our will and our staying power, and whose very political survival stood as proof of our irresolution a dozen years earlier, can only strengthen our position in the Arab-Islamic world. In those unsettled lands, preachers and plotters tell about America all sorts of unflattering tales. The tales snake their way through Beirut and Mogadishu, and other place-names of our heartbreak and our abdication. It is different this time. The spectacle has played out under Arab and Muslim (to say nothing of French and German) eyes. We saw the matter of Saddam Hussein to its rightful end. We leave it to the storytellers to make their way through this American chronicle by the Tigris.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:16 PM


Dean defends opposition to war (ROSS SNEYD, December 18, 2003, Associated Press)

Presidential hopeful Howard Dean on Thursday defended his claim that the United States is no safer with Saddam Hussein in custody, contending that the "capture of one bad man" doesn't allow President Bush or Democrats to declare victory in the war on terrorism.

Dean, whose foreign policy statement Monday earned criticism from Democratic rivals for the party's nomination, said those in his party who supported the war "backed away from what was right."

"I think the Democratic Party has to offer a clear alternative to the American people. The capture of one bad man doesn't mean the president and Washington Democrats can declare victory in the war on terrorism," he said. "The question is what is right, not what is popular."

As Joe Lieberman said, and Mr. Dean apparently agrees, the capture of Saddam does illuminate the alternatives--if Howard Dean were president, Saddam would still be oppressing Iraq.

Where the public's mood is shifting (The Associated Press, December 18, 2003)

COUNTRY'S DIRECTION: The discussion about Saddam's capture apparently does alter public perception of the country's overall direction. When people were asked at the start of the AP-Ipsos poll if the country was headed in the right direction or was off on the wrong track, they were about evenly divided. But those asked that question after a discussion of Iraq, terrorism and the capture of Saddam were more likely to say the country was headed in the right direction. Among that group, two-thirds said the country was headed in the right direction.

SIGNIFICANT SHIFT: One group in particular -- a group crucial for Democrats, women with less education, said they feel better about how Bush is handling foreign policy in the wake of Saddam's capture and they also feel better about Bush's handling of the economy. They are more likely to support his re-election than they were a couple of weeks ago.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:01 PM


For Bush, Saddam is icing on the cake: President has many advantages in his bid for re-election (Howard Fineman, Dec. 17, 2003, Newsweek)

I’ve been at this for a while now, and I have never seen a president more popular with his own party base. Even Ronald Reagan had to deal, from time to time, with the remnants of older iterations of the Republican Party. Bush doesn’t have to bother. They’re gone, and he’s united the new GOP. That means he won’t face an intra-party primary in ’04. Presidents who have to deal with one — Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush come to mind — lose re-election bids. [...]

Yes Howard Dean is a Net-based money machine, but he’s still a mom-and-pop operation compared with Bush-Cheney ’04, which has raised $110 million since June, and has no primary opponent. Dean has some 550,000 names on its email list. “BC04” has 10 million. [...]

It’s a simple fact, but true: If you’re an incumbent, you have a better than 2-1 chance of winning re-election. You have the whole machinery of government at your disposal. You have inertia on your side. The late Lee Atwater, the enfant terrible of the GOP, once told me that an incumbent president is like the guy in the rowboat with a paddle. His main aim is to use that paddle to clobber anyone who tries to climb in. They usually (though not always) can do so. Of course, this president knows full well who one of the exceptions is: his own father.

The only interesting question left is can W carry D.C..

Posted by David Cohen at 4:17 PM


Kerry camp pins hopes on Iowa, N.H. success (Patrick Healy, Boston Globe, 12/18/03)

Presidential candidate John F. Kerry has sharply curtailed campaign visits to states beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, betting virtually all of his political chips on success in one short month: January.
Either he's just trying to get this over with as soon as possible, or he fundamentally misunderstands the problem with his campaign. Would you want to be the aide that has to go tell him that letting the people in Iowa get to know him better might not his best strategy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:20 PM


PM Sharon: "Outposts Will Be Dismantled, Period!" (Israel National News, Dec 18, '03)

Unauthorized outposts will be dismantled, period.” So said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his much anticipated address tonight (Thursday) at the Herzliya Conference.

There was great tension in the political and defense establishments in Israel and abroad as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delivered his speech at the Herzliya Conference this evening. The speech was aired live on television across the world - even on the Arab Al-Jazeera network.

Prime Minister Sharon began by saying that Aliyah (Jewish immigration to Israel) is central to the state of Israel's existence. PM Sharon then turned his attention to the issue of unauthorized Jewish communities in Yesha (Judea, Samaria and Gaza).

“Israel will fulfill its commitments,” said Sharon. “I made a commitment to US President Bush and I will fulfill that commitment. We will try to dismantle the outposts in the least painful possible way. There will be no new settlements and no incentives or tax breaks for residents of Yesha (Judea, Samaria, and Gaza).”

The Prime Minister went on to unveil what he called his “disengagement plan,” to be implemented in the event that the PA does not fulfill its obligations under the Road Map. “We will not wait for them [the Palestinian Authority] indefinitely,” said Sharon. “The IDF will disengage from many Palestinian Authority towns. We will change the location of some settlements to reduce the amount of Jews living in the heart of Palestinian areas.”

Sharon introduced a new term to replace the term “dismantling settlements.” Instead, the Prime Minister referred to the “relocation of settlements” throughout his speech.

The Road Map can only end in one place and the Palestinians need not have any say in it--that was always its genius.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:11 PM



Brother Driscoll on Tina Brown and the "more metrosexual approach to foreign relations", seriously, she said it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:06 PM


The sad bicentennial of a once fabulous sugar colony: The opposition is trying yet again to get rid of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in a long-misgoverned country (The Economist, Dec 18th 2003)

ON JANUARY 1st 1804, Haiti became the world's first independent black republic, after a successful 12-year revolt by slaves, inspired by Jacobin principles...

Do you really even need to read any further?

Posted by David Cohen at 2:35 PM


Bush Should Have Found Bin Laden, Clark Says Democratic Candidate Calls Terrorist Leader a Far Greater Threat Than Hussein (Dan Balz, Washington Post, 12/18/03)

Retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark said yesterday that President Bush should have tracked down and captured Osama bin Laden rather than waging war in Iraq, arguing that while the arrest of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was "good news" for the world, bin Laden's al Qaeda network represents a far greater threat to the security of the country. . . .

Bush, he said, should immediately refocus intelligence and military resources on the hunt for bin Laden. Clark said that, if he were president, bin Laden would be in custody already. "I would have kept the focus on Osama bin Laden," Clark said. "I would have gotten him. . . . I would like to think I would have had Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein by this time."

So, he would have gone after Saddam after all?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:28 PM

MORE LIES (via John Resnick):

Treasuries Mixed After Jobless Drop (Ellen Freilich, 12/18/03, Reuters)

U.S. Treasuries were mixed on Thursday after a surprising drop in U.S. jobless claims in the latest week suggested an improvement in the labor market.

Jade Zelnik, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital Markets, said the level of claims, now in line with the lower trend of early November suggested that layoffs have slowed enough to support payroll gains of over 100,000 per month.

The Labor Department said first-time claims for state unemployment aid, a rough guide to the pace of layoffs, plunged 22,000 to 353,000 in the week ended Dec. 13 from a revised 375,000 in the prior week. Wall Street economists had expected claims to drop to 365,000.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:01 PM


Secularism gone mad: Chirac's determination to ban Muslim headscarves from schools will cause years of confrontation (Madeleine Bunting, December 18, 2003, The Guardian)

It seems preposterous: how can the clothing of schoolgirls become an issue of such enormous symbolic weight that for 14 years it has been the touchstone of a debate about the French constitution, about what it is to be French and how France should "integrate" its 3.7 million Muslims - the largest Muslim minority in Europe? (Significantly, France talks of integration, not multi-culturalism.) It is not just schoolgirls who will be affected but also public servants; a juror was even dismissed during a trial because she was wearing a headscarf. The French state must be seen to be entirely neutral in all its dealings, and Chirac yesterday endorsed the findings of an official commission and asked parliament to pass a law banning all "ostentatious religious symbols".

From this side of the Channel, one can easily pour scorn on Gallic arrogance. What lies ahead is many more years of confrontation between the French state and Muslims, and a dangerous reinforcement in the Muslim community of the perception of Islamophobia, of exclusion and persecution. One can reasonably ask, as David Drake at Middlesex University does after studying this issue, why so much political, intellectual and emotional energy has been spent on this subject rather than on far more pressing issues of integration such as the high rates of unemployment and deprivation in the Muslim community.

But any smug sense of British superiority is misplaced. The themes that underlie this vexed issue in France are as evident here: this is the latest chapter in a long and troubled history of how liberalism interacts with religion in Europe.

You know things have run amok when the Guardian is worried about secularism, but this the truth that secularists have to face: in elevating politics, the State, and the Law above religion, society, and morality they create a situation in which their chosen authority must act to quash other sources of authority. That's simply how power works.

It was inevitable that this clash come first in France, where the French Revolution long ago created a culture that centers around the State--as the means of delivering equality--and which, having stamped out Catholic influence, was certainly not going to brook a challenge from Islam. But we can also be fairly certain how this clash ends--sooner or later the Muslims will outnumber the "French" and then the State will be easily transformed into a tool of the faith.

England is a more muddled case. It has for some time been able to cover over how completely authority has been concentrated in just one institution: the party in charge of the House of Commons. The danger inherent in a parliamentary system--that the head of the dominant parliamentary party is automatically the Head of State--has now though been unleashed in full. The Church was subsumed in the state long ago, the king followed in short order, and the House of Lords fell early in the 20th Century, with any remaining possibility of reasserting itself disappearing in recent "reforms" which effectively allow the Prime Minister to name its members. The gravity of the situation became obvious in the recent Iraq War, which was opposed by the Church, the Crown, the people, the Lords, etc., etc., etc., but supported by Tony Blair, who was supported (albeit narrowly) by his party--and so it was waged.

Whether you think the war was a good thing or not, it seems apparent that this was the last moment in British life in which it could be said that there is any check at all on the party in power in the Commons. There seems no possibility of it happening, but were any institution, church or state, in Britain to challenge the authority of the Commons, it too would be crushed.

Which brings us to America, unusual in so many ways and no less so here. To begin with, we can easily see the genius of the divided government that the Founders set up and of the separation of powers. Executive, judiciary, and legislative are certainly interdependent to some degree, but in the broadest sense independent. There are thus three (four if we divide the Congress in two) centers of power vying against each other at all times. Scratch that. Thanks to federalism--considerably weakened now, but a factor nonetheless--the individual states too are claimants to authority. One or the other of these contestants will sometimes gain primacy, but not often for long duration and never unchallenged and undiluted.

More important, we see the true value of the separation of Church and State. Modern secularists misinterpret the chief function of this separation to be keeping religious values out of government. Instead, what it does (when functioning properly) is cordon off an entire segment of life into which the State is not to intrude, building limitations of State authority into the system. America has therefore generally had a more vibrant society than other modern nations, the associations and organizations with which de Tocqueville was so taken being a replacement for government in a country where government was rather limited.

This has changed of course, and quite rapidly, since Herbert Hoover and the New Deal came along in the Depression. The State has expanded not just terms of its raw size but, more dangerously, in terms of what areas of life it is considered mete that government become involved. The most obvious examples involve things like the Courts intervening to stop school prayer, legalize abortion, and now legalize and even require sanction of homosexuality. Each is an instance of traditional social morality being trampled and replaced by arbitrary state legality. It must be apparent that a system which has been so altered as to allow the State to intrude at will upon society in matters which it had never been considered to have any say in is headed in the direction of a dangerously centralized authority.

However, here's where the genius of the Founders comes into play. Right now it is the Courts--long recognized as the "most dangerous branch"--which are trying to aggrandize authority. This means that we can use the jealousy of the other branches, Congress and the president, and of the forgotten competitor, the states, to reign in the Courts and restore power to society. The easiest way to do this would be through constitutional amendments on discrete or general issues. Both gay marriage and abortion, for example, might be taken care of by an Amendment making it clear that nothing in the text of the constitution and its amendments may be interpreted to create a free floating right of privacy and all such issues are to be left to the discretion of the citizens of the individual states. At any rate, the very struggle for power between the three branches and their unwilingness to see one gain too much authority could be used to lessen the authority of all and refurbish that of the states and the church (which still wields great power in society). So might we avoid confrontations like the one going on in France or like Roe v. Wade, where the quest for power and authority leads the State or, in our case, a part of the State to overreach what should be its bounds.

Posted by David Cohen at 10:26 AM


Poll: Dean Pulls Away In Dem Race (CBS News, 12/17/03)

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has pulled away from the field in the Democratic Presidential nomination race: his support among Democratic primary voters nationwide has risen in the past month, and held steady after the news of Saddam Hussein's capture. But the race remains open: more than half of Democratic voters still have no opinion of Dean, most have not made up their minds for sure, and large numbers remain undecided.

Dean has been a vociferous critic of the Iraq war. Most voters believe, as Dean does, that the U.S. is no safer from terror in the wake of the arrest of Saddam Hussein. And while Dean’s rise may have been helped along by former Vice-President Al Gore’s recent endorsement, most primary voters say Gore’s nod makes no difference to them.

Dean has the backing of 23 percent of likely primary voters, the same as he did in the days just prior to Saddam's capture, and up from 14 percent in November. His nearest rivals today are Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman, both at 10 percent.

Sane people can assimilate new information and change their behavior accordingly. The Democrats may no longer be able to do that. If capturing Saddam makes no difference to the race for the nomination, then the Democrats have gone insane. This poll doesn't quite prove that, because of the high level of undecideds. But undecided voters tend to break in more or less the same proportions as decided voters, so that may not make much of a difference. The question that's not asked is the decided voter's second choice. This may be the key fact now. My sense is that most Democrats can live with Dean as the nominee, something that is not true of, say, Joe Lieberman. Two-thirds of Democrats say they would consider voting for Dean if he were the nominee.

The real proof that the Democrats are insane is buried deep in the poll:

Democratic primary voters are not necessarily looking for a candidate who opposed the war in Iraq -- in fact, many say the nominee's stance on the war would not matter to them. 31 percent want the party’s nominee -- whoever he or she might be -- to have opposed the action in Iraq. 27 percent want a candidate who supported it, while more than one in three -- 37 percent -- say the candidate's war stance doesn't matter to them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:36 AM


Poll: Dean Pulls Away In Dem Race (CBS News, Dec. 17, 2003)

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has pulled away from the field in the Democratic Presidential nomination race: his support among Democratic primary voters nationwide has risen in the past month, and held steady after the news of Saddam Hussein's capture. But the race remains open: more than half of Democratic voters still have no opinion of Dean, most have not made up their minds for sure, and large numbers remain undecided.

The great thing though is to check out Al Sharption's numbers as compared to Gephardt, Kerry & Edwards.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:31 AM


Dean's Remarks Give Rivals Talking Points: His Readiness to Lead Is Questioned (Jim VandeHei and Jonathan Finer, December 18, 2003, Washington Post)

Howard Dean's penchant for flippant and sometimes false statements is generating increased criticism from his Democratic presidential rivals and raising new questions about his ability to emerge as a nominee who can withstand intense, sustained scrutiny and defeat President Bush.

How's that for the first paragraph of the first story every politico will read in the Post tomorrow?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:24 AM


Bush's gay-marriage tack risks clash with his base (Susan Page, 12/17/03, USA TODAY)

President Bush is trying to walk a fine line on the question of gay marriage, which is supplanting abortion as the most volatile social issue in next year's presidential election.

A USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll conducted Monday and Tuesday underscored the perils of Bush's approach. It showed the intensity of feeling among those who oppose same-sex unions.

On Tuesday, Bush said for the first time that he would, "if necessary," support a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. But he said he wouldn't prohibit "whatever legal arrangements people want to make" that are "embraced" by states. [...]

In the poll, Americans opposed recognizing same-sex marriage by more than 2-to-1. That is a slightly higher level of opposition than earlier this year. Analysts say there has been some backlash to recent court decisions regarding gay men and lesbians. Last month, Massachusetts' top court in effect recognized a right for same-sex couples to marry.

The divide on the issue is wider among those who feel strongly about their position. By more than 3-to-1, strong opponents outweighed strong supporters.

Not only does that seem like the position we'll all eventually arrive at--if we're going to tolerate homosexuals let them have some arrangement, but certainly not marriage--it also illustrates just how little real political distance there is between even the "extremes" in America. This is, after all, pretty much the solution that progressive Howard Dean arrived at as Governor of Vermont, though he now pitches civil unions as a pro-gay measure. President Bush and his fellow social conservatives will arrive at the identical spot but pitching it as pro-straight marriage. As on so many issues we all conform to a quite narrow view and then fight like tigers over how we justify it. It's more a matter of why you believe than what you believe.

December 17, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:28 PM


Anger Management 101: How the partnership between Dean and Gore is remaking the Democrats (JOE KLEIN, , Dec. 22, 2003, TIME)

Democratic factions tend to be sedimentary. The oldest Old Democrats are blue-collar economic populists like Dick Gephardt, who also tend to be pro-military, churchgoing and socially conservative. In the 1970s they were supplanted by radical-liberal activists, refugees from the 1960s protest marches who tended to be antiwar, antipoverty, passionate about civil rights and civil liberties and more secular than the lunch-pail crowd. Bill Clinton's New Democrat movement was an information-age reaction against the two previous generations — a free-trade, business-friendly revision of traditional Democratic economics and a socially conservative reaction to the excesses of 1960s liberalism (especially when it came to law enforcement and welfare reform).

The New-News borrow from all three factions, but they most resemble the radical liberals. They are defined by their opposition to the war. They are militant on most civil rights and civil-liberties issues, especially support for gay rights and opposition to the Patriot Act. They are overwhelmingly secular. Indeed, they seem to have replaced religion with cybercommunity; the monthly Meetup is their church. One of the strangest but most telling passages in Dean's recent stump speeches comes when he indulges in a romantic vision of 1968--a terrible year when America seemed to be falling apart but a time he remembers fondly as a moment of misty social communion. That, he says, is the America he seeks to re-create.

Unlike the original radical libs, who clashed with the blue-collar Dems, Dean has cleverly embraced Gephardt's lunch-pail populism. To do so, he had to delete Howard Dean 2.0, who was a militant New Democrat. He abandoned his support for free trade. He now opposes the New Democrat impulse to reform traditional liberal programs like old-age entitlements, public education (Dean is even skeptical about charter schools, a New Dem staple) and affirmative action. Indeed, about the only Clintonian remnant that Dean supports is fiscal conservatism. [...]

There is, however, another statistic that may put the Dean phenomenon in perspective. On Sept. 30, Dean had approximately 452,000 Internet supporters. Trippi said the goal was a million by the end of the year. Last week they had only 515,000. The New-New movement may have reached a plateau.

It would be rather shocking if more than 500,000 people recall 1968 fondly and want to recreate it. Even stranger though is the seemingly conscious decision of the Dean Democrats to base the race on those 500,000 secular cybernauts in a nation that's so unsecular.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:34 PM


The Grounds for Celebration (Harold Meyerson, December 17, 2003, Washington Post)

[T]he case against the war was necessarily a complex one. If the only factor had been ridding Iraq of its Baathist thugocracy, why, of course, the war merited support. But supporting the war also meant supporting a new national doctrine in favor of preventive -- that is, discretionary -- wars. It meant the shredding of the United Nations and NATO and the very idea of international institutions, the rejection of long-term alliances, the normalization of unilateral and discretionary wars in what was already a dangerous world. It meant acquiescing to the idea that the president can lie this nation into war. It meant an overextension of our armed forces that emboldened North Korea in threatening its neighbors and China in threatening Taiwan. It meant the transformation of the United States from a land admired throughout the world into a nation, by the evidence of all available polling, almost universally feared. Call those externalities if you will, but they sure do add up.

War is tragedy, and either supporting or opposing it involves tragic trade-offs. Most of the movement that emerged to oppose the war in Vietnam, for instance, did not welcome the prospect of a communist takeover of the South. The movement included such dedicated anti-communists as Robert Kennedy and Mitch Cohen's predecessor as editor of Dissent, Irving Howe. These were people with no illusions about communist regimes; indeed, Howe, a lifelong democratic socialist, was as trenchant a critic of those regimes as you could find anywhere on the U.S. political landscape.

During the Vietnam War, he continually condemned that portion of the antiwar left that glorified the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. But he opposed the war withal: The immensely bloody means required to win it, he believed, finally eclipsed, indeed subverted, the end.

And so it is for those of us who had no illusions about Hussein, and believed that if the United States went to war, it could surely overthrow him -- but opposed the war anyway.

This is an exceedingly curious argument, one which has been disatisfying since they made it during Vietnam: even if we accept the concern about tearing apart Vietnam or Iraq, literally, or about tearing apart the international community, figuratively, why are they so willing to tear America apart with their anti-war demonstrations and heinous talk about our own government and the majorities who support these wars?

If you acknowledge that, taken in isolation, it's worthwhile defeating a North Vietnam or a Saddam then you're left with a simple equation: what's more important the social fabric of America or the viability of intenational institutions? Indeed, this seems to be the divide in America, as it was throughout at least the 20th Century--the Left deems the health of internationalism the highest consideration while the Right cares most about effects on American society.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:17 PM


Still no mass weapons, no ties to 9/11, no truth (Derrick Z. Jackson, 12/17/2003, Boston Globe)

With no weapons, no ties, and no truth, the capture of Saddam was merely the most massive and irresponsible police raid in modern times. We broke in without a search warrant. Civilian deaths constituted justifiable homicide. America was again above the law. We have taught the next generation that many wrongs equal a right. In arrogance, we boasted, "We got him!" The shame is that we feel none for how we got him. The capture of this dictator, driven by the poison of lies, turned America itself into a dictator.

It may come as a surprise to Mr. Jackson, but in warfare there is no doctrine of "fruit of the poisonous tree". If you capture a mass-murdering dictator and it turns out that he has no WMD you can still try him for starting two wars, using WMD repeatedly, killing hundreds of thousands (as many as a million?) of his own people, and maintaining a brutally repressive dictatorship for decades.

Of course, under Supreme Court jurisprudence you might indeed have to let him go, but luckily the Justices don't have votes on this one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:00 PM


John Burns on Covering Iraq: Then and Now: Wolper's Exclusive Interview With 'NY Times' Scribe (Allan Wolper, 12/17/03, Editor & Publisher)

John F. Burns sat back in a chair in a corner of the Algonquin Hotel dining room in midtown Manhattan, thousands of miles from his New York Times outpost in Baghdad -- his hand curled around a morning cup of coffee -- and spoke publicly for the first time about the ethical remonstrations he created via a taped interview published in the recent book, Embedded: The Media At War in Iraq (The Lyons Press). That oral history was first excerpted at E&P Online on Sept. 15, drawing extraordinary attention and praise, and criticism as well.

"I said some very edgy things about that period of time," said Burns, the 59-year-old senior foreign correspondent for the Times, who was in the U.S. for just a few days before heading back to Baghdad. "I had become known as the most dangerous man in Iraq. It was not a joke. And it put me under tremendous stress. So when I spoke harshly in the book, I had some very raw feelings about this."

The "this" was his contention that American journalists in Iraq often ignored the terror of Saddam Hussein's regime to avoid losing their visas, and plied his ministers with expensive gifts and hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to stay on their good side.

"Yeah, it was an absolutely disgraceful performance," he told Embedded editors Bill Katovsky and Timothy Carlson. Burns also told them that a journalist he won't identify "from a major American newspaper" took his clips and those of his competitors to the Iraqi Ministry of Information to prove he was softer on Saddam than Burns and others were.

Burns sat down with E&P on Nov. 26, the day after receiving The Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) at a Waldorf-Astoria black-tie dinner attended by representatives of the very news organizations he accused of paying off Saddam's deputies. [...]

[H]e warned American journalists against setting unethical precedents. "If we are going to hold our government accountable we'd better be pretty sure we don't make expedient compromises ourselves, which is a very hard thing to do -- very hard," he said. "You better get into these places to report on them. You have to get your visas extended to continue to report on them. It is not easy. It's a question of where you strike the balance. I don't think the balance was struck in the right way when Saddam was in power." [...]

Q. Can you tell me the name of the reporter from the major American newspaper who brought your articles to Saddam's ministry of information?

I am not going to say anything about that. I have not said anything more about that since that last time. And I think it is better for me not to say anything.

Q. Why haven't you identified the television journalists who paid off the Iraqi officials? By not naming them, you wound up implicating the entire press corps.

That was an unfortunate consequence ... The points I had to make were not personal ones. The points were broader. They were matters of principle ... It's an impossible dilemma. I am not going to talk about individuals. What I found out to my enormous pleasure was that I struck a chord in my profession. Many of my colleagues from Baghdad have written to me, had dinner with me, and approached me at news conferences to say they appreciated what I said.

Someone smarter than me will have to explain why what he knows about his fellow journalists doesn't require him to hold them accountable in the same way he would the government? Why doesn't he have an ethical obligation to publish damning information about his fellow pressmen?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:34 PM


Paranoia Politics: Some Democrats are nuttier than a tin of Almond Roca. (Mossback, 12/17/03, Seattle Weekly)

BEATING GEORGE W. Bush in 2004 will be an uphill battle. While the campaign will require blood, toil, tears, and sweat, I think it's safe to say that it will not be successful if the opposition runs on the paranoia platform.

I loathe Bush like the next liberal, but I'm afraid I have to partially agree with the diagnosis of neocon columnist Charles Krauthammer, a former shrink, who earlier this month said he had identified a new psychological syndrome: Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS), described as "the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency—nay—the very existence of George W. Bush."

Now there are a lot of conservatives out there who are trying to pathologize liberalism—people who think, for example, that world-class economist Paul Krugman has somehow gone off his nut because in his column in The New York Times he consistently maintains that the Bush administration's policies are a menace. Krauthammer suggests Krugman is a BDS sufferer. He also tags Bill Moyers and Barbra Streisand, among others.

I disagree. Krugman, certainly, is one of the sanest men in the country. But I would also say this: Yes, there are those who occasionally become unhinged at the very idea of the Bush presidency, Mossback among them. A stolen election will do that.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 7:14 PM


U.S. TO WARN PREGNANT WOMEN ABOUT TOXINS IN TUNA (Joseph Brean, National Post, 13/12/03)

The United States plans to warn that expectant mothers and young children should limit their tuna consumption to avoid damaging their nervous systems with mercury, a potent toxin.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are working on a draft document that for the first time says even canned light tuna, traditionally the safest form of the fish, should be approached with caution. An official announcement is expected in the spring. [...]

Canada has no plans to follow suit, but stands by its current advice that pregnant woman, women of childbearing age and young children should eat no more than one meal a month of shark, swordfish or tuna, either fresh or frozen. This does not apply to canned tuna, the agency says.

"We monitor what [the United States does] and we're interested, [...] It could well be that we will go the route of the United States, but at the moment, we don't know that."

Sure we despised Chretien and are furious we didn’t go to war with you in Iraq, but don’t ever get the idea we Canadian conservatives are just a bunch of yes-men. This is our idea of an independent foreign policy. You guys want to fight about tuna? Boy, have you taken on the wrong country.

Umm, does anyone know how to approach a can of light tuna with caution?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:01 PM


U.S. flooded with post-Saddam tips from 'Sunni Triangle' (WORLD TRIBUNE.COM, December 16, 2003)

The U.S. military has detected an increase in Iraqi Sunni cooperation in wake of the capture of Saddam Hussein.

U.S. officials said military units in central and northern Iraq have been flooded by tips from Iraqis on Saddam loyalists and insurgency operatives. They said Iraqis have also been responsive to U.S. patrols in towns and cities in the Sunni Triangle.

On Monday, the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division captured an Iraqi described as a high-ranking official from the Saddam regime. Several other unidentified regime figures were said to have been captured and interrogated.

As much as one would like to believe that capturing Saddam would produce results like this, Mr. Dean and various pundits assure us it won't.

What US has learned from Hussein: Papers found at his hideout reveal key details about guerrilla cells. (Peter Grier, 12/18/03, CS Monitor)

circumstantial evidence, including boats pulled up on the shore of the nearby Tigris River, pointed at courier activity and some sort of rudimentary network of command and control.

"He was clearly the symbolic figure, and these networks reported to him," said Army Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division, in a meeting with reporters on Tuesday.

Troops under General Dempsey's command have captured three high-ranking former members of the Iraqi military who are believed to be paymasters of the insurgency, the general indicated, according to accounts of his interview.

And on Tuesday US troops crashed what appeared to be a meeting of insurgents run by a mid-level leader near Samarra, which has been a hotbed of anti-US feeling. Seventy-three people were arrested.

The emerging picture, say some experts, is of an organization where Hussein provided some sort of strategic oversight, perhaps just through exhortation. He may even have ordered some attacks.

In Washington this week, interim Iraqi health minister Khudair Abbas said he believes Hussein communicated with followers via code in his tape-recorded messages.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM


Prayer and the polls: Americans with strong religious beliefs have faith in Republicans (David M. Shribman, December 17, 2003, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Three years ago, when the country was divided narrowly over whether to elect Gov. George W. Bush of Texas or Vice President Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee, one of the biggest gaps was over religion. In the 2000 election, Bush swept more religiously observant voters by large percentages -- and, in the case of white evangelical Protestants, by a margin of more than five to one.

This would matter in any nation at any era; much of British and French history, for example, is the story of religious struggle, and the role that religion has played in the politics of the Middle and Far East, in Africa and in Latin America is well known. Though we commonly argue that we live in a secular age, the United States today is engaged in a bitter national-security struggle with strong religious overtones -- even as the nation itself is moving toward stronger religious belief.

Today 81 percent of Americans say that prayer is an important part of their daily lives, an increase of 5 percentage points in the past 16 years, according to a national survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center. But a more important finding may be that 51 percent completely agree that prayer is an important part of their daily lives -- an increase of 10 percentage points in that period. Some 87 percent of the public says it never doubts the existence of God.

This has critical social and cultural implications. In the past decade and a half, political and religious viewpoints have become increasingly interconnected and increasingly important. Indeed, the connections between political conservatism and religiosity have grown ever more robust in recent years. A telling finding: The Democrats had an 18-percentage-point advantage among white Catholics who said in the late 1980s that they attended Mass daily; today the Republicans have a 2-point advantage over voters who say the same thing.

The flight of white evangelical Protestants and religious Catholics from the Democrats to the Republicans is one of the signal political events of our time...

That seems like a sizable voting bloc that Mr. Dean walks away from when he says he doesn't think we should discuss God in politics.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:15 PM


John Cleese may run for mayor of Santa Barbara (Knight Ridder Newspapers, Dec. 16, 2003)

Actor John Cleese might follow in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gary Coleman by making a run for California public office, reports the New York Post.

Cleese's Monty Python co-star Michael Palin told London's Daily Telegraph that Cleese is "very involved with his local community" in Santa Barbara, Calif., and is thinking of running for mayor.

Basil Fawlty would be a Republican, but one doubts Mr. Cleese is.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:11 PM


Vitter building a $5M war chest for Senate race (Peter Savodnik, 12/17/03, The Hill)

Rep. David Vitter (R-La.) is assembling an extensive Washington-based fundraising operation to reel in more than $5 million for his still-unofficial Senate bid. [...]

Vitter’s campaign team includes former Speaker-designate Bob Livingston, who is heading up Vitter’s fundraising effort and who held the same congressional seat, in the New Orleans suburbs, now occupied by Vitter.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:33 PM


A talk with the stars of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: John Rhys-Davies (Jeffrey Overstreet, Looking Closer)

John Rhys-Davies (Gimli): [...] I'm burying my career so substantially in these interviews that it's painful. But I think that there are some questions that demand honest answers.

I think that Tolkien says that some generations will be challenged. And if they do not rise to meet that challenge, they will lose their civilization. That does have a real resonance with me.

I have had the ideal background for being an actor. I have always been an outsider. I grew up in colonial Africa. And I remember in 1955, it would have to be somewhere between July the 25th when the school holiday started and September the 18th when the holidays ended. My father took me down to the quayside in Dar-Es-Salaam harbor. And he pointed out a dhow in the harbor and he said, "You see that dhow there? Twice a year it comes down from Aden. It stops here and goes down [South]. On the way down it's got boxes of machinery and goods. On the way back up it's got two or three little black boys on it. Now, those boys are slaves. And the United Nations will not let me do anything about it."

The conversation went on. "Look, boy. There is not going to be a World War between Russia and the United. The next World War will be between Islam and the West."

This is 1955! I said to him, "Dad, you're nuts! The Crusades have been over for hundreds of years!"

And he said, "Well, I know, but militant Islam is on the rise again. And you will see it in your lifetime."

He's been dead some years now. But there's not a day that goes by that I don't think of him and think, 'God, I wish you were here, just so I could tell you that you were right.'

What is unconscionable is that too many of your fellow journalists do not understand how precarious Western civilization is and what a jewel it is.

How did we get the sort of real democracy, how did we get the level of tolerance that allows me to propound something that may be completely alien to you around this table, and yet you will take it and you will think about it and you'll say no you're wrong because of this and this and this. And I'll listen and I'll say, 'Well, actually, maybe I am wrong because of this and this.'

[He points at a female reporter and adopts an authoritarian voice, to play a militant-Islam character:] "You should not be in this room. Because your husband or your father is not hear to guide you. You could only be here in this room with these strange men for immoral purposes."

I mean--the abolition of slavery comes from Western democracy. True Democracy comes form our Greco-Judeo-Christian-Western experience. If we lose these things, then this is a catastrophe for the world.

And there is a demographic catastrophe happening in Europe that nobody wants to talk about, that we daren't bring up because we are so cagey about not offending people racially. And rightly we should be. But there is a cultural thing as well.

By 2020, 50% of the children in Holland under the age of 18 will be of Muslim descent. You look and see what your founding fathers thought of the Dutch. They are constantly looking at the rise of democracy and Dutch values as being the very foundation of American Democracy. If by the mid-century the bulk of Holland is Muslim--and don't forget, coupled with this there is this collapse of numbers ... Western Europeans are not having any babies. The population of Germany at the end of the century is going to be 56% of what it is now. The populations of France, 52% of what it is now. The population of Italy is going to be down 7 million people. There is a change happening in the very complexion of Western civilization in Europe that we should think about at least and argue about. If it just means the replacement of one genetic stock with another genetic stock, that doesn't matter too much. But if it involves the replacement of Western civilization with a different civilization with different cultural values, then it is something we really ought to discuss--because, g**dammit, I am for dead white male culture.

We saw the shorter version last week, but in its entirety this interview is even better. It goes well with the story from below and reminds us that the expansion of access to our culture has not just afforded opportunities to those who were denied them--sometimes unjustly--in the past, but has unleashed secularists, feminists, multiculturalists, etc., who not only aren't thankful for the opportunity but who hate the culture precisely because it is the product, in the main, of dead white men of faith. They seem to labor under the delusion that they can continue to enjoy the benefits of this unique culture even if they deny, or hopefully destroy, its foundations. The time is long since past to stop letting such squander our patrimony.

MORE (via Jeff Guinn):
Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown (Terrence O. Moore, December 8, 2003,

More than a decade ago the nation was in a stir over the birth of a fictional boy. The boy was Avery, son of Murphy Brown. Television's Murphy Brown, played by Candice Bergen, was a successful news commentator who, after an unsuccessful relationship with a man that left her alone and pregnant, bore a son out of wedlock. The event, popular enough in its own right, became the center of political controversy when then Vice President Dan Quayle in a speech to the Commonwealth Club of California lamented that the show was "mocking the importance of a father." Suddenly the nation polarized over this question of "family values." But the controversy over Murphy Brown's childbearing soon died down. The characters on the show became more interested in Murphy's hairstyle than her baby, as did perhaps Murphy, who eventually found a suitable nanny in her painter so she could pursue her career without abatement. The show was off the air before Murphy's son would have been seven. Vice President Quayle was not reelected. Eleven years later, it is worth pondering what might have happened to Avery had this story not been just a television show. More to the point, what is happening today to our boys and young men who come from "families" not unlike Murphy's and who find the nation as divided now as it was then over the "values" by which we ought to raise them?

For more than a decade I have been in a position to see young men in the making. As a Marine, college professor, and now principal of a K-12 charter school, I have deliberately tried to figure out whether the nation through its most important institutions of moral instruction—its families and schools—is turning boys into responsible young men. Young women, always the natural judges of the male character, say emphatically "No." In my experience, many young women are upset, but not about an elusive Prince Charming or even the shortage of "cute guys" around. Rather, they have very specific complaints against how they have been treated in shopping malls or on college campuses by immature and uncouth males, and even more pointed complaints against their boyfriends or other male acquaintances who fail to protect them. At times, they appear desperately hopeless. They say matter-of-factly that the males around them do not know how to act like either men or gentlemen. It appears to them that, except for a few lucky members of their sex, most women today must choose between males who are whiny, incapable of making decisions, and in general of "acting like men," or those who treat women roughly and are unreliable, unmannerly, and usually stupid.

The young men, for their part, are not a little embarrassed when they hear these charges but can't wholly deny them. Indeed, when asked the simple question, "When have you ever been taught what it means to be a man?" they are typically speechless and somewhat ashamed.

The question for teachers, professors, and others in positions of moral influence is what to do about young women's growing dissatisfaction and young men's increasing confusion and embarrassment. Teachers cannot become their students' parents, but they can give direction to those who have ears to hear. Two lessons are essential. First, a clear challenge must be issued to young males urging them to become the men their grandfathers and great-grandfathers were. This challenge must be clear, uncompromising, engaging, somewhat humorous, and inspiring. It cannot seem like a tired, fusty, chicken-little lament on the part of the old and boring, but must be seen as the truly revolutionary and cutting-edge effort to recover authentic manliness. Second, a new generation of scholars must tell the tale of how men used to become men and act manfully, and how we as a nation have lost our sense of true manliness. The spirit of this inquiry cannot be that of an autopsy but rather that of the Renaissance humanists, who sought to recover and to borrow the wisdom of the past in order to ennoble their own lives.

-REVIEW: of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity By Leon J. Podles (Loredana Vuoto, Townhall)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:51 PM


The battle between heart and politics: a review of FOR YOUR FREEDOM AND OURS: THE KOSCIUSKO SQUADRON: FORGOTTEN HEROES OF WORLD WAR TWO By Lynne Olson and Stanley Cloud (Montagu Curzon, The Spectator)

The Kosciusko squadron had the highest kill total in the Battle of Britain and well-placed RAF officers reckoned it and its fellow Polish squadron may well have swung the very fine balance of the battle. It was named after the 18th-century Polish patriot whose first fight for independence was with the American colonists against the British; he then returned to die in an early bout of the long-running Polish struggle to get free of Russia. His memory inspired American airmen to volunteer in the Polish-Soviet war of 1919-20, when the squadron was formed. Their feats made a significant contribution to Polish victories and so to the formidable, if woefully ill-equipped, Polish air force of 1939. Far from absurdly charging tanks with cavalry, as Nazi propaganda put out and the Western media swallowed whole, the Poles fought like tigers; their pilots shot down 126 German aircraft, would not accept the inevitable defeat but, by desperate means, made their way to France (hopeless) and to England (scornful) and back into the air.

At length the RAF twigged that these were superb pilots, crucially with combat experience, with phenomenal eyesight and every reason to wreak revenge on the Luftwaffe. They chafed at the language and the regulations and the English throttles that pushed forward to go fast not backwards like Polish ones. The English clenched their jaws at Polish wildness and improper dress and tendency to fly off as opportunity beckoned and not keep formation. But when serious business began each saw the point of the other and a deep, even passionate, bond was formed, of real brothers in arms. [...]

Churchill had made heartfelt promises to the Poles, knew well their history, their suffering and how they had fought back. Roosevelt made high-sounding declarations, with at least half an eye to the seven million Polish-American voters, and only really cared about his delusory personal understanding with Stalin. Both were caught between the closing pincers of these promises and the perceived imperative of preserving the huge lie of Big Three unity and common purpose. Thus Stalin, well known to be a monster, was dressed up as Uncle Joe, the Katyn massacre was hushed up, and vast amounts of aid sent. [...]

From underhand agreements at Teheran in November 1943 to outright betrayal at Yalta in 1945 the slope to infamy got steeper, the promises thinner, the Poles’ despair deeper. Finally General Anders asked for his Polish II Corps to be withdrawn from the 8th Army and pilots questioned the point of taking off. They had seen the Warsaw uprising left to be destroyed, with derisory help from the Allies, while Stalin stopped his advance to look on, content that the SS was saving him some bullets. The Polish Parachute Brigade, formed specifically to drop into Poland, clamoured to go, were refused, then dropped into Arnhem and massacred, all because the Russians would not allow Western aircraft to land and refuel (until far too late). Churchill wanted to send aircraft regardless and call Stalin’s bluff, but the Americans would not hear of it.

Nevertheless, Anders and the pilots fought on for the sake of their honour, this being all they had left. Even this was derided at the end of the war when the Attlee government would not allow them to march in the Victory Parade for fear of annoying the Russians.

Quite the most infuriating book you'll read this year as you realize how profoundly and carelessly we betrayed Eastern Europe in general but the Poles in particular. Demolishes the notion that WWII was worth fighting if we were going to wimp out as badly as we did.

Posted by David Cohen at 2:50 PM


State OK's removal of Sagamore rotary (Beth Daley, Boston Globe, 12/17/03)

The Sagamore Rotary, long the most grueling hurdle for thousands of travelers who flock to Cape Cod on summer weekends, will be dismantled beginning as early as this spring and replaced by a road that sends Route 3 traffic straight onto the Sagamore Bridge.

State Environmental Affairs Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder gave her final approval yesterday of the $35 million project, which was opposed by environmentalists and some residents who worried that easier access to the Cape would increase development.

"To everyone who has had to endure that broken intersection, we are on our way to fixing it," said Daniel A. Grabauskas, state secretary of transportation. "It is a great milestone."

I love rotaries, and this rotary in particular. They're worth all the trouble they cause just for the chance to see out-of-staters drive 'round and 'round trying to figure out how to exit and they are the best way to deal with two traffic flows converging at a heavy intersection. I'm skeptical that this solution will greatly decrease the wait on the heaviest days, as narrowing Route 6 down to one lane is going to cause its own troubles. On light traffic days, the rotary causes no trouble at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:33 PM


Spare a thought for us -- first: Ebadi's wasted opportunity? (Ardavan Bahrami, December 15, 2003, The Iranian)

A few days ago I received an email from a friend whom I have never met in person but have been chatting and exchanging views with on Iranian current affairs.  The email contained a note from an Iranian gentleman/lady who had commented on Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace prize speech.

The note was most refreshing and above all extremely courageous.  Consequently, my journalistic conscience told me that such a fresh viewpoint should not be ignored. As I do not know this person nor does my friend, I have taken the liberty to use the note and expand it further, hoping many others could enjoy the comments.

To make it easier I shall call this person Hope!  Hope's note starts by saying,

"Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance ceremony was a huge opportunity missed for all the Iranians who have suffered human rights abuses in the last 24 years of the Islamic dictatorship in Iran. The reason for this is non-other than what seems to be a genetic disease seen in a large number of older generation Iranians who forget the plight of their own people but prefer to take up the cause of others."

This is most distressing.  In the past years and particularly in recent events I have witnessed many Iranians who by large are indifferent and not involved in political issues have suddenly shown concerns on US war against terrorism by taking actions against the American administration's policies or even have had the audacity of joining groups or demonstrations in support of Palestinians!

Was it Moshe Dayan who said of the Palestinians that they never waste an opportunity to waste an opportunity? It seems a Middle Eastern affliction sometimes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:19 PM


Agreement: Nomar would be dealt for Ordonez (, 12/17/03)

Contingent upon a completion of the Alex Rodriguez-for-Manny Ramirez megadeal between Texas and Boston, the Red Sox have conditionally agreed to trade shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez, ESPN's Peter Gammons has confirmed.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:32 PM


I feel sorry for Saddam, says Pope's aide (John Hooper, December 17, 2003, The Guardian)

In a move that seems certain to outrage the US administration, one of the Pope's most senior officials yesterday expressed "pity" and "compassion" for Saddam Hussein, and warned that his capture might do more harm than good.

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the pontifical council for justice and peace and the equivalent of a minister in the Catholic church's "government", was speaking at the presentation in Rome of a message from the Pope in which, among other things, he included a coded reminder to the world that the invasion of Iraq had been carried out without UN backing.

Cardinal Martino, whose department deals with a wide range of international issues, said he was pleased with the capture of Saddam and hoped it would bring peace and democracy. But he added: "I felt pity to see this man destroyed, [the military] looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures ... Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him."

Compassion for even your enemies is a wonderful Christian sentiment, but one does wish the Vatican gave any sense that it felt similar compassion for the people of Iraqi.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:26 PM


Dubya's ace in the hole (Geov Parrish, 12.17.03,

[D]ean is hardly the most radical voice in his own party -- Rep. Jim McDermott, for instance, has publicly questioned the political convenience for the White House of Saddam's capture now rather than months ago.

That's a tad cynical for my tastes. And unnecessary. There are plenty of other reasons to be concerned by What Happens Next -- both to Saddam Hussein and to his American captors.

First, Saddam. The man is a war criminal -- that much is clear. But the Bush Administration is planning to turn Hussein over to the "Iraqi people" for a show trial. What else could it be, when every decision of "the Iraqi people," thus far, has been made by the same Americans who for a dozen years, even and especially post 9-11, have turned Saddam into Public Evildoer #1; the same Americans whose unilateral invasion and occupation has included seizing complete military control of Iraq's judicial system; whose limited nods toward self-government have allowed only carefully vetted Iraqi exiles and the like?

When concerning the fate of political leaders who have allegedly killed hundreds of thousands of their own (or anyone's) people -- crimes properly called "crimes against humanity" -- the global community now has a procedure in place for international trials. The United States, under Clinton and now Bush, has refused to honor it, concerned that a truly impartial process could reflect poorly on American foreign policy and its leaders.

Wow, it was sad enough when the Left convinced itself that Saddam wasn't a WMD threat, but now they aren't sure he was one of the most murderous dictators in the world?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:15 PM


Dean's Foreign Policy: I Am No George Bush (John Tirman, December 16, 2003, AlterNet)

In his speech, he emphasized three criticisms of Bush that are bound to become the pillars of his own foreign-policy agenda during the campaign. First, the cardinal threat to American security is terrorism, and that Bush has done far too little to protect Americans and much of it, clumsily. Among such threats, Dean pointed to weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists several times in the course of his speech. The second critique points the damage to the alliances and multilateral cooperation due to Bush administration's emphasis on unilateralism. Third is Bush's refusal to address social and economic calamities -- HIV/AIDS and global poverty -- that in turn give rise to the conditions of desperation and political violence.

Huh? Mr. Dean is going to go before the American people and say:

(1) he'd be tougher on terrorists and WMD, but not attack anyone,

(2) the UN and EU would have veto power over our national security and foreign policy,

(3) and he'd boost foreign aid.

He might not even carry Manhattan Island.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:05 PM


U.S., Central American Nations Reach Trade Deal (Martin Crutsinger, December 17, 2003, AP)

Negotiators reached agreement in all areas, including textiles and agriculture, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced at a news conference with the trade ministers of Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.

"Negotiations began last January, and today we have fulfilled that vision with a cutting-edge, modern free-trade agreement to tear down the tariff walls that block trade between the United States and Central America, between friends and neighbors," Zoellick said.

A fifth nation, Costa Rica, abruptly left the talks on Tuesday complaining about excessive demands being made by the United States for the nation to open up its market to foreign competition in telecommunications and insurance.

However, U.S. officials expressed hope that the differences with Costa Rica can be resolved in coming weeks so that it will be included when the administration submits the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, to Congress early next year. [...]

The deal, which will phase out virtually all trade barriers among the participating countries over the next decade, represents the sixth free trade deal the United States has achieved.

The North American Free Trade Agreement covers Canada and Mexico and the United States has individual free trade agreements with Israel, Jordan, Chile and Singapore.

Two-thirds of the Earth is covered with water, by the end of '08 the rest may be covered by George W. Bush's individualized free trade agreements. Poland, Spain, Britain, Australia, the Philippines, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Eritrea, etc.--the key nations in the fight against Islamicism--should be next.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:38 PM


World's most mysterious book may be a hoax: The Voynich manuscript may be elegant gibberish. (JOHN WHITFIELD, 17 December 2003, Nature)

A strange sixteenth-century book may be cunningly crafted nonsense, says a computer scientist. Gordon Rugg has used the techniques of Elizabethan espionage to recreate the Voynich manuscript, which has stumped code-breakers and linguists for nearly a century.

"I've shown that a hoax is a feasible explanation," says Rugg, who works at Keele University, UK. "Now it's up to believers in a code to produce evidence to support their ideas." He suspects that English adventurer Edward Kelley produced the Voynich to con Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor and collector of antiquities, out of a fortune in gold. [...]

The Voynich manuscript is often described as the world's most mysterious book. It is hand-written in a unique alphabet, about 250 pages long, and contains pictures of unrecognizable flowers, naked nymphs and astrological symbols.

The manuscript first appeared in the late 1500s, when Rudolph II bought it in Prague from an unknown seller for 600 ducats - about 3.5 kilograms of gold, worth more than US$50,000 today. The book passed from Rudolph to noblemen and scholars, before disappearing in the late 1600s.

It surfaced again around 1912, when US book dealer Wilfrid Voynich bought it. The manuscript was donated to Yale University after Voynich's death.

No one has worked out whether Voynichese is a code, an idiosyncratic translation of a known tongue, or gibberish. The text contains some features that are not seen in any language. The most common words are often repeated two or three times, for example - the equivalent of English using 'and and and' - giving weight to the hoax theory.

On the other hand, some aspects, such as the pattern of word lengths and the ways in which characters and syllables occur with each other, are similar to real languages. "Many people have believed that it is too complicated to be a hoax - that it would have taken some mad alchemist years to get such regularity," says Rugg.

James Joyce used the same code for his novels.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:30 PM


Is America sick? (Sydney Morning Herald, December 15, 2003)

In "Stupid White Men" and "Bowling For Colombine", Michael Moore introduced millions of readers and moviegoers worldwide to some of America's ills: guns, corrupt politicians, fearful citizens, unchecked corporations, crumbling social services. These are big problems for a nation that plays such a dominating international role.

Understanding them is one thing, but what can be done to fix them?

In his unpublished manuscript, The IHO Syndrome, Julien Ninio suggests the best way to understand America's ailments is to study their symptoms, in the same way a doctor examines a patient - and that the diagnosis is of a disease that can be cured by both Americans and non-Americans.

In the five excerpts here, Ninio examines America's self-image: the "cradle of democracy", the "land of plenty", the "beacon of justice", the "best way of life", the "land of the free". He finds gaps between the self-image and the reality, which he calls the "symptoms" of the disease. He argues that the symptoms can be traced to a powerful cocktail of ignorance, hypocrisy and obedience - the "IHO syndrome". As a cure for this disease, Ninio proposes that people replace ignorance with knowledge, hypocrisy with sincerity and obedience with resistance.

As globalization demonstrates, the disease has no cure. Americanism (liberal democratic capitalist protestantism) has infected the whole planet, some of the victims will survive and be better for it, others will succumb. Deal with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


Campaign Finance Casualties (David S. Broder, December 17, 2003, Washington Post)

[T]he practical effect of McCain-Feingold is likely to be, as Mann says, to "rearrange the flows" of money, not to reduce it. You can see that effect already, because parties and candidates have been operating under the terms of McCain-Feingold for the past 13 months while the legal challenge was being heard.

In this new "golden era," President Bush is on his way to breaking the all-time record by raising almost $200 million for his preconvention campaign, while two Democrats for the first time have rejected the public financing system that limits spending for the nomination. Meanwhile, millionaires such as George Soros and major interest groups are pouring money into supposedly independent political organizations, which will replace party "soft money" spending on voter registration and turnout programs.

The question, then, is whether the limited purifying effects are worth the restrictions on political activity embodied in the act, or whether Justice Antonin Scalia is right in contending that "the juice is not worth the squeeze."

Unlike Scalia and the other dissenters, I think the court got it right in upholding the ban on the unlimited, frequently six-figure "soft money" contributions to the parties from business, labor and wealthy individuals. Corporations and unions have been barred from contributing to federal candidates for decades, and the courts have long sustained the constitutionality of limits on the size of individual contributions. The "soft money" loophole was created by administrative action and was then ruthlessly exploited by both political parties. Shutting it down was an overdue step.

Boy, you really have to have drunk the Kool-Aid to think that a political system where George Soros will influence the Democrats by giving them several tens of millions of dollars through the back door instead of millions through the front is even a little bit "purified".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:47 AM


W. Is a Helium Balloon (Ben Smith, 12/17/03, NY Observer)

The President's head, portrayed by a small yellow helium balloon, was greeted with great joy by television producers and technicians, who took their sitings from the skyboxes during a "media walk-through" of the convention site staged by Republican officials Dec. 16.

The day was a demonstration of the precision of Mr. Bush's Republican machine: Convention planners know where the Presidentís head will be, where the cameras that photograph that head will be, and where the bathrooms will be when a crowd of Republicans and reporters numbering about 50,000 comes to town next Aug. 30 to Sept. 2 for the first Republican National Convention held in New York in the history of the United States.

The Bush bunch is one well-organized team. And that was the thrust of a preview of the 2004 Republican convention that will dominate New York City next summer: a mountain of technical details for a convention that will launch the final stage of the Presidentís drive for re-election next year.

The New York event struck a sharp contrast to the vague preview that Democrats offered reporters in Boston, the site of their 2004 convention, two weeks earlier.

"This blows Boston out of the water," said Peter Barnes, the Washington bureau chief for Hearst-Argyle Television. "If the Republicans are this organized for their convention, imagine the campaign."

Here's what the Republicans have: incumbency, money and a setting that will inevitably remind Americans of the President's performance in the same city the week after Sept. 11, 2001. And in the shadow contest between each party's convention planners, the G.O.P. is using those advantages to full effect, slotting the pieces of their gala into place as the Democrats do the usual Democratic struggle, searching for a nominee, a message and a plan.

That the Democrats blew having their convention in NYC continues to boggle the mind.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 10:41 AM


Baseball star: P.E.I. catcher to be sentenced today for underage sex (Richard Foot, CanWest News Service(17/12/03)

A 19-year-old baseball star whose sensational trial on charges of inciting oral sex from two adolescent girls shocked Prince Edward Island will find out today whether he will be sent to prison.

In his first interview since his conviction, Cass Rhynes told CanWest News Service he is not the sex-obsessed predator many consider him to be. "I'm not some kind of sexual predator," he said this week. "I'm a virgin. Sex is not on my priority list. I've got way too much else going on." [...]

However, he also suggested the girls were not simply unwitting victims. Why, he asks, would adolescent girls know anything about oral sex in the first place, let alone be interested in it? He says that is a question the girls' families, and society, need to ask themselves.

"What happened was that I made a mistake. We all make mistakes. It just happens that this one was pretty big," he said. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time -- and morally, I made a mistake, but legally, I didn't." [...]

She(the judge) said when Rhynes received oral sex early this year from two girls, aged 12 and 13, he failed to "take all reasonable steps" to find out if the girls were over the legal age of 14. She also said Rhynes knew he would be getting sex from the girls when he agreed to meet them, and was not simply "a passive recipient of sexual advances by an aggressive child."

Rhynes has filed an appeal, to be heard in March. A decision to uphold his conviction could irreparably harm any chance he has of playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who drafted him this spring. A criminal record would make it almost impossible to travel to the United State

A very funny mimic of Nixon during the Watergate scandal had him insisting he took full responsibility for his actions, but not the blame. The difference, he said, was that one who took the blame lost his job, while one who took responsibility did not. So it is with the Kobe Bryants and Cass Rhynes of this world, who rush to admit they are moral trash all the while insisting there should be no consequences and that the women and girls they exploit and assault are really to blame.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:36 AM


Economic reports show expansion without inflation: Consumer prices dip, industrial production surges and housing construction soars (Jeannine Aversa, December 17, 2003, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Consumer prices slid, industrial production surged and housing construction sizzled in November, signs that the economic recovery is powering ahead without unwanted inflation.

The latest batch of economic news Tuesday raised hopes that the recovery will be lasting and that businesses may feel more inclined to boost hiring, analysts said.

"We have no inflation, once-idle factories are pumping out goods, and houses are being erected at a breakneck pace. This is a perfect recipe for economic strength," said Richard Yamarone, an economist at Argus Research Corp.

After twenty-plus years of virtually uninterrupted economic growth with falling or no inflation, you'd think even economists would notice a trend.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:17 AM


Capture boosts Bush in Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll (John Harwood and Jacob M. Schlesinger, 12/16/03, The Wall Street Journal)

[T]he Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed no evidence that Democratic voters view Dean's background and positions as a liability, even after Saddam's capture. In the surveys taken both before and after the dramatic arrest, Dean was favored for the 2004 nomination by at least 25 percent of Democrats. That was more than double the number that favored either retired Gen. Clark or Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, his two closest competitors.

In each survey, Dean ran slightly closer to Bush than did Clark. Following the Iraqi dictator's capture, Bush led Dean by 52 percent to 31 percent, compared with his 53-percent-to-28-percent lead over Clark. Matched against a generic Democratic opponent, the president held a less imposing 44-percent-to-33-percent lead among those surveyed Sunday.

The most remarkable aspect of Mr. Dean's strength continues to be his weakness. At a comparable time in 1999 George W. Bush was favored by half his party and polled well against Al Gore--that enabled him to survive the McCain challenge and upset a sitting VP in a time of peace and prosperity. Mr. Dean is supported by only a quarter of his party for the nomination and gets slaughtered in a match-up with the President.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 AM


The Face of Scare Politics (NY Times, 12/17/03)

Let's hope that this week will mark both the beginning and the end of the use of Osama bin Laden as a prop in political campaign commercials. The current TV ad starring the most infamous face in terrorism is part of a "stop Howard Dean" movement from his fellow Democrats. Perhaps the true originators — whose identities are as murky as Qaeda operatives' — can be persuaded to cease and desist as a holiday present to the people of New Hampshire and South Carolina.

That ad's message — that Dr. Dean, the former Vermont governor, lacks foreign policy experience — is fair enough. But it is delivered with low-blow stealth as the ad's graphics dwell entirely on the sociopathic bin Laden stare. The screen shows floating scraps of scare phrases, "Dangerous World . . . Destroy Us . . .," and finally the tag-line bodkin alleging that Dr. Dean "just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy." [...]

The Osama ad was concocted with labor figures and politicians who have supported Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Representative Richard Gephardt of Missouri, Dr. Dean's primary rivals, who disown any connection. It's always risky to ask how dumb the ad makers think voters are. But Grand Guignol attack ads underwritten by generic-sounding committees unconnected to any particular candidate are bad politics at any season.

The Times runs a couple columns a month--by Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, Tom Friedman when he's off his meds, and guests--arguing that George W. Bush's policies are helping al Qaeda, but one ad by an independent group linking Governor Dean to Osama and we've a political crisis on our hands. Why is it the press wants to limit our speech but theirs should be held sacrosanct?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:00 AM


Analyze this! (Tony Blankley, 12/17/03, Jewish World Review)

The other useful idea that Saddam's arrest has presented the world is that America cannot be stopped. By our sheer magnitude and organized persistence, we will eventually find all enemies and accomplish all objectives. The Romans sometimes were opposed by better generals and equally courageous warriors. The odd legion might even be massacred. But they maintained a Roman Peace for half a millennium by the perceived certainty of their ultimate success. Finding one rat in a hole in the ground in the middle of a vast land cannot help but be a vastly dispiriting fact to many of our current enemies.

Thus Saddam's arrest discloses to the world that America is both an instrument for exemplary human justice and a remorseless, inevitably successful enemy if we are opposed. That's not a bad day's work for the Fourth Armored Infantry Division.

Which is why it would be helpful to engage in the next regime change as quickly as practical--it hardly matters where, though Syria, Libya, Cuba, and North Korea seem good choices--in order to demonstrate that a minor resistance in the Sunni triangle won't deflect us from our purposes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:28 AM


An interview with Stephen Unwin (Kevin Holtsberry, 15 December 2003, A Nickel's Worth of Free Advice)

Stephen Unwin was born in Manchester, U.K. He attended Chetham's Hospital School and obtained his bachelor's degree in physics from Imperial College, University of London. For his research in the field of quantum gravity, he received his doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Manchester. He has held the post of British technical attache to the United States Department of Energy, and is currently the president of his own consulting firm, specializing in risk analysis and risk management for Fortune 100 clients. He lives in Ohio.

To top all this off, he decided to write a book that would calculate the probability of God's existence. [...]

[Q:] At the beginning you take a moment to think about other ways to approach the probability of God’s existence. You discuss intelligent design and reject that option. Yet, the Bible seems to suggest nature as a way to God or at least a way people become aware of God. And certainly this has historically been used as a way to point to God’s existence. Why tackle Intelligent Design and why is that not a useful way to God’s existence?

[A:] Well for the reasons you state, it is often viewed as a crucial and central argument for God’s existence and that if he does exist he designed the world the way it is. I guess the conclusion I reached in the book, based on thinking through the facts, is that certainly we do live in a very structured world and things do give the appearance of design – whatever that word design means – but I really don’t believe that one needs to rely on a theistic view of the world to explain to the satisfaction of our own intellects why the world is the way it is. Now that is not to say that if God does exist that he wouldn’t be playing an absolutely crucial role in the way the world is. For example, people often argue, “do you believe in creation or in evolution?” Well, I think that is a false conflict because I strongly believe in evolution. To my mind it is one the most successful natural theories in the history of the human intellect. Yet in my mind it is not at the expense of belief in God, I mean one can believe that those complex mechanisms were set up in some way. So if one has to concede design it is in the design of those mechanisms not in the more naïve engineering sense of someone sitting there with a blueprint of a human eye and building it that way.

[Q:] Can you give a simple explanation of the anthropic principle and what you mean by it?

[A:] There are various types of descriptions of that principle put out there. There is the so-called strong anthropic principle and the weak anthropic principle. The strong anthropic principle is the one I do not discuss because it is very philosophically unsatisfying in my mind, says that somehow that the laws of nature were specifically tuned and created to result ultimately in the conditions that would be conducive to life, perhaps even human life. The weak anthropic principle, which to me is a very valid principle, is that the universe we would see around us is inevitably the universe that would be conducive to life. In other words, for there to be a perceiver of the things around us the world had to be just right to allow that perceiver to exist. A perceived universe, one that we can see and detect, really always would need to be conducive to life and the person doing the perceiving. I kind of joke in the book, in no universe would the comment be overheard “Just as I thought, no life here.” It is a logical paradox

I also use the device of the little sign in the shopping mall. If you walk up to a sign in a shopping mall it has that little arrow that says, “you are here.” Would you be surprised that the sign is exactly right? I mean it is kind of a miraculous manipulation that the sign was exactly right. It could have anything but it said just the right thing that you are here. Well, the answer is that it is your attributes that make it right. If you were standing somewhere else it wouldn’t be right but you wouldn’t be reading it in that case. So kind of in-built into it is its correctness. So the analogy is that the world is such that the person looking at it would always come into being. So you are always looking at a world conducive to life and structure.

[Q:] Do you have in your mind a relationship between faith and science?

[A:] Well yes, faith is a word that can be used in many different contexts. The specific context and the way in which I talk about in the book and the way I envision it – I go through this process of calculating the probability of God and what I mean by that is based on the evidence and rational analysis using the same sort of process you might use in a scientific analysis here is the probability of or likelihood of God based purely on reason. And I come up with a number that is 67% but then I say if you ask me off the top of my head – more intuitively – what’s the probability that God exists I wouldn’t say 67% I would probably give you a number that is far closer to 100%. What I say in the book is that that discrepancy, the discrepancy between 67% and 100%, that is explicitly the role that faith plays. It is a bit audacious I know but what I do is basically model the number of what the faith factor is so that it is something that accounts for the discrepancy between what is rational belief and what is the full belief. So in that sense the faith factor is really disconnected from the rational analysis by definition. But the situation isn’t all that simple because you ask in a more general sense what faith can be. And in that sense scientists have faith. The faith of a scientist is that reason or rationality is going to help him understand the natural world. We think and we look at the world around us and we take these tools of human reason like say mathematics and it proves to be a remarkably successful way to model the way the natural world works. I mean that is what physics is, it is modeling the way the world works in the language of math. Well you ask yourself did it have to be that way? Can we imagine a world where we come up with all these clever mathematical devices and yet it sheds no light on the physical workings of the world? I think scientists have faith in the fact that they can in principle uncover the way the physical world works by applying human reason and mathematics. So faith can be a very subtle thing. It insinuates itself even into atheistic beliefs. An atheist scientist at core has faith that reason can describe the way the world works.

He concedes more ground than he ought, but interesting nonetheless.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:18 AM


The Perils of Republics (Lucy Sullivan, Autumn 1998, Policy)

Why did democracy, when enacted in its purest form as the will of the people untrammelled by traditional power and authority, degenerate so readily into demagogy? Two intertwining lines of explanation are offered by the most interesting of this new group of philosophers, and they hinge on the source of political authority and the problem of unanimity in the people’s will.

Marcel Gauchet, Bernard Manin and Pierre Manent explore the problem of the ‘empty seat’ of power created in the modern world by the removal of the authority of monarch and religion. Gauchet develops the idea that traditional societies were given stability by the role of religion, as an authority outside the disputable affairs of men, which was deferred to as unquestionable. In late eighteenth century France, with the overthrow of both religion and its surrogate, the monarchy, and the advent of the republic, the state replaced religion as the exogenous (external, overarching) power, deriving its authority from beliefs in the autonomy of the individual. But because, in a republic, the state is seen to represent the people’s will, and is therefore sovereign, it can be concluded that no individual has the right to defect from its authority. This is why the modern nation has tended to totalitarianism as well as to democracy.

Manin arrives at a similar conclusion by a different route. The democratic ideal of the will of the people as the only legitimate source of power creates immediate problems of political practice, if each individual is to exercise personal freedom. Manin diagnoses eighteenth and nineteenth century liberal theories of justice as attempting to answer the question: How can we establish a political and social order based on the free will of the individual? The answer was a presupposition of unanimity of will in the political sphere. In practice this does not occur, and the practicalities of government require its relinquishment, again making the reach of authority problematic, and requiring the acceptance of compromise. But as a principle, the belief in unanimity is a powerful tool of totalitarianism which allows dissidence to be seen as disrupting the unity of ‘the people’ and their rightful rule. [...]

Let us now look at the position of the United States, a stable republic, in this development. Unlike the French republic, the American republic did not overthrow religion as a source of authority in the conduct of its citizens’ lives. De Tocqueville, in the nineteenth century, argued that religion, although unattached to monarchy, was an essential feature of democracy in America. Thus the religious fundamentalism of America, deplored for its personal restrictiveness when viewed from within the tolerance of constitutional monarchies, has provided for the United States the exogenous dimension which defends republics from totalitarianism.

The American Bill of Rights and its separation of powers, devised as defences against dictatorial law-making, may have been less important in this respect than has been supposed. With the secularisation of the ruling classes, a judiciary has appeared which feels free to remake the Bill of Rights in its own image, promoting levels of individual choice in transiently fashionable directions previously debarred by religion, which disrupt the stability of tradition. Its innovative judgements are delivered as representing the will of the people when, free as judges are of the constraints of deliberative representative assembly, they have no real claim to even this authority. The Bill of Rights exacerbates rather than protects against this new sovereignty of individual rights.

Thus we will have to go back, seizing power usurped by the judiciary and restoring the authority of religion, if we are to forward a free nation.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 AM


The God of Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad: The author of God: A Biography says that, yes, of course Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God. (Jack Miles, BeliefNet)

A week ago, President Bush scandalized some of his evangelical fans by innocently asserting, during his trip to England, that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Richard Land, speaking for the scandalized, has now rebuked the President for what Land calls playing "theologian-in-chief."

Land writes: "When President Bush concludes that Muslims and Christians worship the same God, he is simply mistaken." In my view, Bush is, at least on this point, a better theologian than his evangelical critic.

Though Land neither confirms nor denies that Jews and Christians worship the same God, surely he would concede that the first Christians, Jews all, did not understand Christian discipleship to entail switching to a new God. But what of the first Muslims? If they, too, understood themselves to be worshipping the God of the Jews, then were they not necessarily worshipping the God of the Christians as well?

The Qur'an identifies Allah as none other than the God to whom Abraham offered "submission" (islam) in the episode Jews and Christians know so well from Genesis 22, the story of the binding of Isaac. As the paradigmatic Muslim or "submitter," Abraham then made the original, paradigmatic pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims believe, accompanied by the very son, Ishmael, whom Allah had rescued so dramatically.

Jews and Christians have always believed that Muhammad got this story wrong. It was Isaac, not Ishmael, who was bound, they believe, and Abraham made no such pilgrimage to Mecca. But have Jews and Christians also believed, historically, that Muhammad had the divine protagonist wrong as well--to the point that he was referring to another deity altogether?

This, it seems, is Land's assumption when he writes: "There is only one true God, and His name is Jehovah, not Allah." As it happens, centuries of Jewish and Christian thinkers have assumed just the opposite.

Wow, is there any field where the President isn't smarter than his critics?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:04 AM


Arrest raises fears in Saddam's tribe (Ferry Biedermann, 12/18/03, Asia Times)

Sheikh Mahmoud Nidda, who heads Saddam Hussein's al-Nasseri tribe, has reasons to be upset. United States forces make his life difficult because he is a relative of the deposed leader. And now, Saddam himself is no longer a source of pride and prestige. He has become reason for embarrassment.

"We are a tribe of brave men," the sheikh, 60, asserts in his large reception hall in Ouja, the village near Tikrit where Saddam was born. "Saddam should have fought. He should have killed a couple of American soldiers and then he should have let them kill him, just like his sons Uday and Qusay did."

In Iraq, as indeed in the wider Arab world, people are shocked by the meek surrender of the once feared leader. "Maybe the people who took him his food drugged him," the sheikh speculates. But he acknowledges he is disappointed.

To Sheikh Mahmoud, that kind of surrender is a personal affront. It may also have repercussions for his tribe. When the deposed dictator stands trial, the role that his family played may come out. "It is obvious that the tribe profited from its connection with the leader of the country," he says. The sheikh lives in a palatial villa on the edge of Ouja. The house and the reception hall exude power and money.

The tribe should fair no better than the Nazi Party did, hopefully worse.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:55 AM


Cowboy Cool: Lyle Lovett returns to songwriting--and town--with My Baby Don't Tolerate (ROB PATTERSON, December 11, 2003, Dallas Observer)

With the exception of two of his gospel-flavored numbers, My Baby Don't Tolerate is probably Lovett's most country recording since his eponymous debut nearly 18 years ago. That is, "if you call what I do country. Most of these arrangements are kind of country. I think my stuff's a lot more country than country stuff these days," he notes.

It's an observation rather than a bitch point when Lovett talks about what Nashville calls country. After all, he's hardly been shut out by the industry, as some off-brand country artists feel they have. Rather, Lovett has coaxed together his own audience from the peripheries of country, folk, softer rock, jazz and more. If he is country music, he's the Williams-Sonoma or NPR of country--upscale fare for discerning, intelligent consumers--and not the NASCAR or CMT.

Yet Lovett's not afraid to get his boots--though probably not his collection of hand-tooled treasures--down in the mud and manure of real life on the farm. The place he lives in the world is Klein, a town outside Houston founded by his mother's family in the late 1840s. With suburbia sprawling its way in during recent decades, the family spread was broken up. "Most of the place was sold out of the family in 1980. And I wasn't able to buy it back until 1995," he explains. "So I really feel like my life's work has been just trying to keep as much of my grandpa's place together as I can.

"My family is very important to me. And our home place is important to me," says Lovett, who warned going into the phone interview that a call may come in about the flowers he is sending to his mother, who will turn 74 the next day. "My uncle still works the place. [His name is Calvin Klein, and his jeans are not designer.] Our place is the home base for his cattle operation." Lovett also started a breeding operation for quarter horses for the track he has overseen since his father's passing. And, of course, he keeps riding horses.

Yes, Lovett was once tabloid fodder during his romance with Julia Roberts, a.k.a. America's Sweetheart. And yes, he records in Los Angeles and rubs shoulders and appears in movies with Hollywood hotshots. But when asked if being back home in Texas is a respite from show business, he hesitates a bit and ponders the notion. "Well...yeah! I guess. Not that you need relief from it. I love playing music. I love sitting around in my house playing the guitar trying to make up songs. That's what I always did for fun."

Then Lovett reaches for a feeling. "It still doesn't seem like a real job to me. What seems like a real job is making sure you've got the winter grass planted and the fertilizer out. Making sure the animals are taken care of. That's a responsibility that you have to look after constantly. And that's the kind of stuff I grew up around that was considered to be a real job. This deal--I'm not sure it'll ever feel like a real job. I feel really privileged to do it. It's fun."

That whole Roberts romance is still deeply disturbing, but his music's terrific.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:20 AM


'If I had to do it over again, I'd let rip': Al Gore's backing of Howard Dean gives Democrats back their voice (Sidney Blumenthal, December 11, 2003, The Guardian)

Above all, Democrats are consumed with a rising sense of injustice. They believe that democracy was undermined when the votes were not counted in Florida and the supreme court made George Bush president; that the social contract in place since the New Deal is being shredded; that internationalist alliances are being shattered; that the president lied about the reasons for war; that the Bush administration acts with authoritarian impunity (refusing, for example, to make public even the members of the vice-president's energy policy panel); and that the media is being overwhelmed by the din of a rightwing echo chamber that masks itself as journalism.

In the face of constant provocation, Democrats see their own party as hesitant, compromised, if not complicit, and cowardly. "You're either with us or the terrorists," Bush has repeated many times. The Democrats supported the war in Afghanistan. Most Democrats in the House and Senate backed the war resolution on Iraq. Yet none of this prevents Republicans from challenging their patriotism. [...]

Gore's endorsement of Dean is the most important since grainy film was shown at the 1992 Democratic convention depicting President Kennedy shaking hands with a teenage Bill Clinton. Gore's endorsement is not the passing of the torch to a new generation, but another conferring of legitimacy. For Democrats, he personifies the infamy of the last election. He is not another politician, but the rightfully elected president, by a popular majority of 539,895 votes. [...]

Gore now calls the rightwing media a "fifth column" within journalism, and he's raising millions to build a TV network of his own as an alternative. In his own way, he's absorbed the lessons of the past three years and become a representative Democrat. His endorsement of Dean is his commentary on his campaign and the conduct of his party since.

Republicans are unjustly impuning their patriotism, but are a "fifth column" undermining democracy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:15 AM


-REVIEW: of INTELLIGENCE IN WAR: Knowledge of the Enemy From Napoleon to Al-Qaeda By John Keegan (Joseph E. Persico, NY Times Book Review)

Keegan takes a hard look at the role of intelligence in the Battle of the Atlantic during World War II, beginning with an observation from Prime Minister Winston Churchill that ''the only thing that really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.'' Was Churchill's concern justified? In the conventional telling, Allied intelligence, particularly code breakers, located German U-boat wolf packs, which Allied ships and planes then sank. This, it is said, saved Britain from strangulation. But Keegan is quite ready to sacrifice the heroic legend to the duller truth. Yes, the Allies did defeat the German U-boat fleet in the Atlantic. And yes, intelligence did play an instrumental role. But, he points out, even in 1943, the year of the biggest convoy battles, 9,097 Allied ships made it safely across the ocean, while only 139 were lost. He concludes that ''the Battle of the Atlantic could have been won without the assistance of the code breakers.'' [...]

Even the storied resistance fighters in occupied Europe working with Allied secret agents to harass the Nazis are not spared Keegan's relentless rationality. Granting the extraordinary courage of these men and women -- courage that nourished hope and revived the honor of conquered peoples -- their efforts provoked such brutal retaliation by the Germans, Keegan concludes, that they ''brought nothing but suffering'' to the resisters and their innocent compatriots. As for the military value of the resistance, it ''harmed the German occupiers scarcely at all.'' [...]

In this latest work, Keegan has not set out to debunk intelligence. Rather he has sought to place the clandestine underbelly of war in perspective, to wrest it from the popular imagination as some sort of entertaining shortcut to victory. In the end, as he puts it, ''It is force, not fraud or forethought, that counts.'' Whatever its truth, the roots of this conviction are not hard to divine. Keegan came to military history well before he came to military intelligence, and he understands all too well the barbarous physical reality of war as contrasted to the largely cerebral battlefields of intelligence warriors. To John Keegan, warfare has always been far more blood and guts than cloak and dagger.

You can't begrudge folks the absurd notion that WWII was a close run thing--every nation needs its myths.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:09 AM


Leftists Attack Borders: Leftists, Islamists and minority racists team up to help criminal aliens and terrorists come to America. (Steve Brown and Chris Coon, 12/13/03, Front Page)

Under the auspices of the National Security Entry-Exit Registry System (NSEERS) which was implemented to track all newcomers to the country, BICE (formally INS now under the Homeland Security Department) began the Special Registration Program in November 2002. Special Registration required not only new arrivals but those from the selected countries of origin already present in the States to register with their local immigration office. When reporting they were photographed, fingerprinted and were subject to questioning under oath. If the investigation revealed discrepancies in their immigration status or ties with criminal activity including terrorist links, registrants faced arrest, detention or deportation.

The program targeted those from 25 nations: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. As of May 2003 approximately 80,000 people had registered under the program, with another 94,000 from as many as 150 countries who registered as they entered the country.

According to BICE's website “Most of the foreign visitors registered are students, individuals in the U.S. on extended business travel, or individuals visiting family members for lengthy periods. The requirement to register does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents (green card holders), refugees, asylum applicants, asylum grantees, and diplomats or others admitted under 'A' or 'G' visas.”

The program was fairly successful, netting 35,000 found to have overstayed their visas triggering 13,800 deportation hearings. Another 2,870 have been detained with 23 in federal custody and over 140 criminals uncovered including a reported 11 suspected of having terrorist ties. In addition the DHS reported that several questionable persons have been denied entry.

However, on December 2, Asa Hutchinson, the undersecretary of Homeland Security's Border and Transportation Security Department announced that the program would be terminated in order to implement a broader program to target all those who enter the country regardless of nation of origin, age or sex. This month the original program begins a re-registration process which is still required for previous registrants, however under the new program re-registration would be on a case by case basis. [...]

But fierce opposition to any kind of registration program or secure entry/exit system remains widespread with no indication of subsiding. Left-wing radical activists such as Refuse and Resist, an online group of radicals that has compared Ronald Reagan to Hitler and have made it their stated goal to prevent a "Resurgent America" and LaResistencia, who are, according to their website ”an organization building a mass movement of opposition and resistance to all the attacks on immigrants by the government and their racist point-men,” (and who's motto is ”¡Todos somos ilegales! We are all illegal!") haven been some of the most vocal opponents of the Special Registration program. They have compared the detention and deportation of those found in violation of immigration law with the “disappeared,” the political enemies of the state who vanish in totalitarian banana republics never to be seen again. They are members of the so-called Blue Triangle Network, a front for radical extremists, including Not in Our Name, the National Lawyers Guild, the ACLU and the American-Arab Anti-discrimination Committee who have fought tooth and nail against any attempt by immigration officials to weed out criminal aliens in our midst and to improve our nation's security. They cite sympathetic examples of men who had gone to register and were not heard from again until they called their families in America from the nation they were deported to.

The emotional comparisons make for red meat to the ACLU and others already decrying stringent Homeland Security measures and the attendant “loss of liberties” they see behind every move of the Department of Homeland Security. The loss of the freedoms of a relative handful of criminal aliens who flaunt immigration law is an unfortunate necessity given the dangers facing our nation in this war on terror. It is again incumbent to point out that criminal aliens have no rights or guarantees to freedoms of any kind, despite the repeated and disingenuous distortions of fact, stark reality and history spewed by the radical left and aped by the mainstream press in their unending campaign to abolish the bedrock ideals and system of government embodied in our constitution

One of the strongest arguments for regularizing the entry of immigrants into the country is precisely to be able to do background checks and register them, so that we know who's here and can deny entry to those we don't want for reasons of their legal, moral, and political backgrounds. Though we'd let many more do so, no one has a right to come here and a program that boosts immigration but is more careful about it seems entirely fair and far safer than the current debacle.

December 16, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:37 PM


A New Backbone? (Mugger, 12/16/03, NY Press)

I don’t care much for the writing of David Brooks–his Bobos in Paradise was an abomination–and so I was disappointed, if hardly stunned, when he was anointed the heir apparent to the 73-year-old William Safire as the New York Times’ token conservative op-ed columnist. (If publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. had a real desire to balance the idiocy of Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman, he’d have hired the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby or the Weekly Standard’s David Tell.) Safire told the New York Observer’s George Gurley that he has no intention of retiring soon, but given the rude walking-the-plank exit of Russell Baker, I’m skeptical the ex-Nixon speechwriter will still have a Times slot a year from now.

Brooks is a squishy conservative, the kind that liberals will deign to break bread with. He supported John McCain in 2000, told Gurley he’s not a supporter of Bush’s tax cuts and believes the president is "intellectually insecure." I wouldn’t be surprised if, when the 2008 election nears, Brooks completes his conversion and favors a moderate Democrat like Sen. Evan Bayh for president.

Brooks: Bubeleh in Paradise (George Gurley, NY Observer)
In May of this year, The New York Times was in full meltdown over the Jayson Blair scandal. By June, executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd had been pushed out and a new executive editor, longtime Timesman Bill Keller, was given a mission to smack some good old boring news sense into the paper.

Around this time, David Brooks got a phone call. He was in his ninth year writing for the conservative Weekly Standard, was appearing every Friday on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and his book, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There, had been a New York Times best-seller. He’d also written for The Times’ Sunday magazine, Book Review and Week in Review section. After a few lunches with Times editorial-page editor Gail Collins and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Mr. Brooks was asked if he’d be interested in becoming a twice-a-week columnist on the Op-Ed page.

"Has anybody ever said no to that question?" he replied.

The subtext behind the question? According to a Times insider, it’s "no secret" that the search for a successor to the paper’s big-gun conservative columnist, William Safire, began "two or three years ago." Mr. Safire, who is 73, has been a columnist since 1973. "I don’t think there’s been a date set, but you can just look at his age and when columnists typically and reasonably have retired," said the source. "There’s not forced retirement for writers at The Times, only for editors, but I think it’s been on their mind for some time who would succeed him. And I think that they’ve actually found the best possible person, in that he’s a lovely guy and he’s a good writer." (Asked about his plans to retire, Mr. Safire said, "Some day, but not soon.") [...]

"He’s every liberal’s favorite conservative," said Michael Kinsley, founding editor of Slate. "He may have no enemies, but that will change: If he still has no enemies writing a column for The New York Times for a couple years, he’s failed."

"People were always stopping me, saying that they liked his stuff," said The Times’ Ms. Collins. "There is something about him—he’s like the conservative guy who can talk to liberals."

"Obviously he’s a post-Raines hire, and a very, very smart one," said Andrew Sullivan, the conservative blogger and occasional Times contributor. "He’s every liberal’s idea of a sane conservative, and he’s every conservative’s idea of what a liberal’s idea of a sane conservative is. He’s not a fire-breather. My boyfriend much prefers his stuff to mine. But I can deal with that." [...]

Mr. Brooks said he’s against the death penalty, "incredibly mushy-headed" on whether a second-trimester abortion should be legal (he thinks it’s O.K. in the first, not in the third), and believes in gay marriage and gays in the military. "It’s from personal observation that gay people don’t have a choice in being gay," he said.

Although he’s not enamored of the Bush tax cuts, he’s upbeat about the economy ("The numbers speak for themselves," he said), but the big domestic issue for him is polarization. "We’re increasingly dividing—geographically, culturally, religiously, commercially—into totally different segments," he said. "People don’t even talk to each other."

And don’t call him a neocon. [...]

Could Mr. Brooks ever become a leftist again?

"Sometimes I do think that," he said. "If I was with the Nation left, I’d be depressed. If I was with the centrist–Joe Lieberman left, I’d be happy."

Of course, Mr. Safire is no prize. He broke the dam when he announced he was voting for Bill Clinton, giving all kinds of wifty Republicans just the cover they were looking for to bolt George H. W. Bush. It does make one wonder if the Timesmen are so insecure that they fear adding a genuinely conservative voice to their pages.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:17 PM


Documents Found With Saddam Point to Regime Network (Jim Garamone, Dec. 16, 2003, American Forces Press Service)

Intelligence from the capture of Saddam Hussein already is making Baghdad a safer place.

Army Brig. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division here, said documents found with Saddam have allowed his forces to attack cells of former regime figures and make significant inroads against the financial network supporting the groups.

"What the capture of Saddam Hussein revealed is the structure that existed above the local cellular structure – call it a network," Dempsey said during an interview with press traveling with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers. "We now know how the cells are financed and how they are given broad general guidance."

Dempsey said Saddam did not exercise control of the cells as Americans would define it. Rather, the cells were provided funds and given a broad mission. "We still believe their actions against us are conducted locally, and with very little guidance from above other than 'impede progress,'" he said.

The general said 10 to 14 of these cells have operated in Baghdad, and that the 1st Armored Division has been successful against six. "The remaining challenge is about eight cells and that network that sits above them," Dempsey said.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 11:10 PM


NEW DEAN ADVISER SAYS: ISRAEL AID SHOULD HINGE ON WITHDRAWAL: Prestowitz Appointment Raises Some Eyebrows (ELI LAKE, 12/16/03, NY Sun)

Howard Dean’s presidential campaign yesterday named a group of foreign policy advisers - including an author who calls for making America’s aid to Israel contingent on an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and concludes that America’s Jewish lobby has prevented successive presidents from properly pressuring Israel to make peace with the Palestinian Arabs.

The appointment of Clyde Prestowitz, author of “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions,” released by Basic Books earlier this year, has drawn sharp criticism from Jewish leaders and Democrats alike, including Senator Lieberman, a Democrat of Connecticut, who said the former Vermont governor should reject his new adviser’s advice.

Mr. Prestowitz writes that America’s intervention in Iraq should coincide with renewed pressure on Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate. “This should include making aid to Israel conditional on withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, a freeze on all settlement development, and closing of all settlements except those tentatively agreed on at Camp David and Taba.” He goes on to write, “In no way should any deal be conditioned on an end to all violence, a condition that simply gives veto power to extremists on both sides.”

The opening paragraph of the chapter Mr. Prestowitz devotes to America’s relationship with Israel and Taiwan (titled “Wagging the Dog: Two Tales”) ends with this line: “I have often felt America’s differences with the world could be largely explained in four words: Israel, Taiwan, religion, and lobby.” Writing of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, he says, “In demanding all or nothing, they are the mirror image of the Israeli hawks who favor Eretz Israel.” In a section on the pro-Israel lobby, the Dean adviser writes, “A major factor in the collapse of the peace efforts has been these lobbies’ ability to prevent U.S. pressure on Israel.”

In isolation this might not matter much, but Mr. Dean continues to take actions and make statements that suggest a really unusual lack of support for Israel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:33 PM


We have to tear it up and start again: The constitution would have been a disaster - and I helped to write it! (Gisela Stuart, December 17, 2003, The Guardian)

I have bad news for Max Hastings, who said on these pages on Monday that, after reading my Fabian pamphlet, he was "no longer a European". Max, neither you nor I can change geography. You are British by birth and I was born in Germany - we are both Europeans whether we like it or not.

I have bad news for the Tories too. My criticisms of the constitution do not mean I have joined their ranks of sterile "Eurosceptics". They were the ones who signed up to every single significant treaty that shaped the EU as it is today; and they now denounce it. They offer no alternative other than the mantra of the Little Englander who sticks to the firm belief that "nothing good has ever come from the east" - and it does not seem to matter whether they are led by John Major, William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith or Michael Howard.

But something has gone wrong with the Europe defined by the blue flag and the 12 golden stars which goes beyond the simplistic divide of Europhile and Europhobe. There is more to the failure of the weekend's intergovernmental conference than a spat between Poland and Spain and the rest over voting weights. If it had been just that, a committed pro-European like myself - I spent 16 months of my life helping draft the constitution - would have been deeply disappointed. And yet I am not. I think it was a narrow escape for the European Union.

First Step: We admitted we were powerless over the Euro-bureaucrats -- that our lives had become unmanageable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:23 PM


The long road for the Canadian right (Mark Wegierski, December 15, 2003, Enter Stage Right)

It should be pointed out that Canada today may be seen as combining the most liberal aspects of America and Europe -- indeed, it may be the world's most liberal society. Like some European countries such as the Netherlands, it is extremely socially-liberal, as demonstrated by the Canadian federal government's recent acceptance of "same-sex marriage." Although a vote on the issue will eventually take place in the Federal Parliament, it will be with direct referral to the Canadian Supreme Court. What conservative critics call "judicial activism" is in Canada a comparatively late but now flourishing development, which only really got underway with the introduction of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) into the Canadian Constitution. The Charter, clearly a left-liberal rather than classical liberal document, essentially enshrined virtually the entire agenda of Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Canada's left-leaning Liberal Prime Minister from 1968-1984, except for nine months in 1979-1980) as the highest law of the land. After Brian Mulroney's huge Progressive Conservative majorities of 1984 and 1988 -- whose record in regard to social and cultural conservatism was indeed abysmal -- Canada's federal Liberal Party (headed by Jean Chretien) comfortably won the elections of 1993, 1997, and 2000.

On the other hand, unlike some European countries, Canada is characterized by very high rates of immigration, and it has whole-heartedly embraced multiculturalism, affirmative action (called "employment equity" in Canada), and diversity with a startling degree of unidirectional intensity. Canada's official immigration numbers are more than twice as large as those of the United States -- per capita -- and are probably among the highest in the world. With a population of about 30 million persons, Canada receives every year about a quarter-million immigrants, most of whom end up in large cities, especially Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal.

At the same time, Canada has now embraced some of the more negative aspects of American society -- such as the excesses of pop-culture, the trend to political-correctness, and growing litigiousness. However, it lacks many aspects of America that may temper the aforementioned trends.

In Canada, for example, the government accounts for about half of the GDP. (In contrast to about a third in the United States.) Taxes are very high, relative to the United States. The Canadian medical system is stringently socialized to an extent unheard of in the United States. Canada's gun control laws are also extremely strict. Unlike the United States, fundamentalist Christianity plays virtually no role in Canada. The debate about abortion and many other social issues is considered effectively closed.

In another extreme contrast to the United States, Canada has virtually no military (the entire armed forces, including army, navy, air force, and reserves, number about 58,000 men and women) and there is major disdain throughout much of Canadian society (and especially in elite opinion) towards the military. [...]

The current-day Canadian situation -- of near-total left-liberal intellectual hegemony, of very little authentic academic or journalistic debate, and of little hope that a centre-right party will ever unseat the Liberals at the federal level -- cannot be described as offering prospects for a truly humane future for Canada. There is certainly no intellectual balancing of Left and Right, and very little possibility of alternation at the federal level between left-leaning and conservative parties, in Canada today.

It can't go Asian fast enough to suit.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:06 PM


Heinlein novel imagines a future America patterned on Alberta (Robin Rowland, December 9, 2003, CBC News Online)

The American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein is known for such classic novels as Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

A new book reveals that Heinlein, at least early in his life, was a Socred, a believer in the Social Credit movement that came to power in Alberta in 1935.

Heinlein's long-lost first novel, For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs, is scheduled for publication in January. It imagines a future America patterned on 1930s Alberta. [...]

In Heinlein's America of 2086, the country did not enter the Second World War, remaining isolated. (Hitler commits suicide after the collapse of the German economy, Mussolini just retires and the Duke of Windsor becomes king of a united Europe).

In the novel, in the 1950s, Fiorella LaGuardia (mayor of New York when Heinlein was writing) begins a series of economic reforms, starting with a banking system based on the Social Credit theories of Socred thinker Clifford Hugh Douglas. In the novel, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds these changes. In reality, in Canada, the Supreme Court rejected them.

In For Us, the Living, later presidents complete the reforms. These reforms then give people a basic income that bridges the gap between production and consumption, which then allows the Americans of 2086 to do what they really want, free of economic fear. [...]

[Robert James, who is writing a biography of Heinlein] quotes Heinlein as telling another science-fiction writer about the later changes in his political philosophy: "I've simply changed from a soft-headed radical to hard-headed radical, a pragmatic libertarian."

Well, that's sort of progress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:52 PM


Inflation falls short of Brown's target: Pundits rethink their forecasts on interest rates as new prices index reflects widespread retail discounting (Larry Elliott, December 17, 2003, The Guardian

The City was last night hedging its bets over the timing of the next rise in interest rates from the Bank of England after the government's new measure of inflation fell last month to its lowest level since the summer.

Price discounts forced on clothing and footwear shops by the sluggish start to Christmas cut the annual rise in the consumer prices index to 1.3% in November, well below the target of 2% set by Gordon Brown in last week's pre-budget report.

Analysts said the fall in the cost of living coupled with the presentational difficulty the Bank would have in raising borrowing costs at a time when inflation was undershooting could stay the hand of the monetary policy committee for the time being.

They should be cutting, not hiking rates.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:45 PM

60-40 FILES:

Breaux Resignation Makes Dem Majority Harder (Fox News, December 16, 2003)

On top of the vacancies, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota is potentially facing a formidable challenge in 2004 against former Republican Rep. John Thune.

Thune lost the Senate race against Democrat Tim Johnson in 2002 by 524 votes. On Tuesday, he announced he was not going to seek the House seat being vacated by convicted Rep. Bill Janklow. Republican sources told Fox News that Thune is recruiting staff for a campaign against Daschle next year.

"Tom Daschle may have been hurt somewhat by becoming more closely identified with the national Democratic Party rather than being a senator who is serving South Dakota and tending to local issues. I think that could be seriously contested," Barone said.

Given the certainty that the GOP will hold the Senate, eighty year old Senator Inouye of Hawaii seems likely to be the next to announce his retirement.

-Dems fret over Dean coattails (Hans Nichols, 10/21/03, The Hill)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:25 PM


How to deal with irritatingly good news (Janet Daley, 17/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)

[B]eing as resourceful as it clearly is, the anti-war (which is to say, the anti-American) party may not need any help at all. But, in the seasonal spirit of good will, I offer a guide to Guardian comment writers, BBC interviewers and Labour backbenchers on how to deal with any foreseeable circumstance that may arise from the current state of emergency.

What To Say If:

Saddam refuses to co-operate with his interrogators.

The arrest of this man is a sideshow. He clearly knows nothing about the current state of resistance and has played no role in the planning of insurgency. His trial will simply be an exercise in vengeance with no constructive outcome for Iraq.

Saddam sings like a canary, identifying the perpetrators of insurgency.

Saddam is obviously being tortured by his American captors. Or else, they are lying about his testimony and justifying their own persecution of innocent Iraqis on the basis of his alleged "confession". (Note to broadcasters: these hypotheses need not be stated baldly. They can simply be hinted at or implied by leading questions and incredulous facial expressions.) [...]

If the arrest, trial and possible execution of Saddam results in a free and democratic Iraq.

This is irrelevant to the War on Terror. Iraq had no links with al-Qa'eda. Bush and Blair will never defeat terrorism until they catch Osama bin Laden.

Hopefully someone is working on their spin for OBL.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:13 PM


Iraqi Minister Scolds U.N. for Inaction Regarding Hussein (WARREN HOGE, Dec. 16, 2003, NY Times)

Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, accused the United Nations Security Council today of having failed to help rescue his country from Saddam Hussein, and he chided member states for bickering over his beleaguered country's future.

"Settling scores with the United States-led coalition should not be at the cost of helping to bring stability to the Iraqi people," Mr. Zebari said in language unusually scolding for an occupant of the guest seat at the end of the curving Security Council table.

"Squabbling over political differences takes a back seat to the daily struggle for security, jobs, basic freedoms and all the rights the U.N. is chartered to uphold," he said.

Taking a harsh view of the inability of quarreling members of the Security Council to endorse military action in Iraq, Mr. Zebari said, "One year ago, the Security Council was divided between those who wanted to appease Saddam Hussein and those who wanted to hold him accountable.

"The United Nations as an organization failed to help rescue the Iraqi people from a murderous tyranny that lasted over 35 years, and today we are unearthing thousands of victims in horrifying testament to that failure."

He declared, "The U.N. must not fail the Iraqi people again."

That would be the same UN that Democrats insist be brought in to lend our efforts in Iraq legitimacy?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:44 PM


Fallen Giant: What does Saddam's capture mean for Iraq? (Fred Kaplan, Dec. 14, 2003, Slate)

Whoever the insurgents are, whatever their goals or allegiances, they have been abetted by the fear of ordinary Iraqis that the Americans might be driven out, that Saddam might return to power, and that he would punish those who helped the occupiers in his absence.

They have been completely reasonable in this fear. Saddam has been the dominating force in their lives for 30 years, surviving every assault.

Now he is definitively gone. The foundation of fear is shattered.

The fear of the Iraqis was the hope of the French and Germans, who've already conceded the debt issue with his fall. That'll be an enormous boost to Shi'ite Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:38 PM


Politics in a Nation of Hawks (James Pinkerton, 12/16/2003, TCS)

The headline in Sunday's New York Times reads, "Dean Formulates a Nuanced Approach to Foreign Policy"; one can't buy advertising like that. In the article, readers are assured that that the Vermonter "shows a fluency in discussing the world that is certainly beyond where Mr. Bush was four years ago." Even under the new McCain-Feingold law, such contributions don't have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission.

Yet while Dean has his strengths for the nomination, he is losing ground in the general election match-ups. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken before the Saddam capture showed Dean trailing Bush by 12 percentage points, 39-51. But a second poll taken on Sunday, after the news broke, showed Dean losing by 21 points, 31-52.

And 'twas ever thus. This is a mostly hawkish country. Dovish candidates of both major parties -- George McClellan in 1864, William Jennings Bryan in 1900, Wendell Willkie in 1940, McGovern in '72 -- have all gone down to severe defeat. It's fair to say that in wartime American history, no anti-war candidate has ever won.

One is touched by the sincerity of the first argument, you read it often these days, that Mr. Dean hasn't really pinned himself in the Left hand corner, because of his nuances. But this gives the American press and people a credit for caring about nuances that they have never demonstrated. Al Gore wasn't actually a pathological; liar nor George W. Bush an idiot in 2000, yet those were the roles they were cast in, without relent.

The second point is actually true--surprising for Mr. Pinkerton these days, but perhaps he's simply accepting why no one is buying the isolationism he's been espousing. Someone will have to help me with the source and wording of the quote, but America has been referred to as having the ethos of an army on the march. Of course, marching armies aren't known for spending much time pondering nuance, are they?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:08 PM


Iraq: women join Shia revival: The collapse of the Ba'athist regime has given Shia women a chance to learn about their once-suppressed faith. (Usama Hashem Rida, 6 Dec 2003, The Institute for War & Peace Reporting)

For Abd al-Sattar Lafta, the head of the Association to Commemorate Religious Rituals, the courses do not just teach women about the faith but also inoculates them against extremist ideas.

"Terrorists would not be able to recruit young people if their mothers were politically and religiously aware," he said. "It is the mothers who spend most of the time with their children and not the fathers."

Shia Islam, for example, places many more restrictions on the declaration of holy war than Sunnism. The course's organisers hope the students will learn to be sceptical of declarations of jihad from radical preachers.

The lessons also deal with contemporary politics and practical matters - discussing systems by which residents of a neighborhood can organise waste disposal, or the importance of telling children not to pick up suspicious objects from the streets, in case they're bombs.

College graduates, students and even illiterate women attend Talaqani's classes. "The illiterate ones are the most eager," she said. They are allowed to take their exams orally, though some insist on trying to write. [...]

Like the classes, the sermons have a strong political dimension. "We are against everyone who wants to harm this country," Talaqani told the audience in her inaugural talk two weeks ago. She spelled out who she considers as the main enemy of the new Iraq, "We will fight the Ba'athists and the Wahabis."

She condemned the recent suicide attacks against the police stations in Baghdad, and ridiculed the perpetrators for considering themselves martyrs after killing themselves and innocent Iraqis.

The sermon closed with chants of "God is Great" and "Death to Saddam".

Well, that last chant worked, let's hope the rest does too.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:48 PM


Apparently, on Special Report with Brit Hume tonight, Mort Kondracke reported that Madeleine Albright told him that she believed the Administration had already captured Osama bin Laden but is waiting until next October to produce him when it will achieve maximum political effect.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:07 PM


Unprecedented public ferment among once-silent Saudis: Islamic extremism, education, and women's rights are under scrutiny in Saudi Arabia. (Faye Bowers, 12/17/03, CS Monitor)

There is a dialogue in society," says Khaled al-Maeena, editor in chief of Arab News, an English-language daily in Saudi Arabia. "Newspapers are flourishing. Papers are talking about accountability, corruption, leaders not being up to the mark, women, children, and empowerment."

A leading indicator, says Mr. Maeena, was a Nov. 28 commentary by Mansour al-Nogaidan, a reformed militant Muslim and Saudi columnist, published in The New York Times. The article bluntly questioned the Saudi government-sanctioned extremist religious culture - and was widely reproduced here. "I think the whole of Saudi Arabia read it and is talking about it," Maeena says.

The kingdom has been steadily - albeit slowly - evolving for the past 60 years, Saudi and Western officials say. But the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US, along with the May and November suicide bombings this year in Riyadh, have galvanized Saudis and enabled the press to discuss reforms and societal problems more than ever before. Prior to the May bombing, says a Western diplomat, the government denied that Islamic extremism was a problem. The attack was a major turning point.

"The ironic thing is that at 11 p.m. on the evening of the May 12 bombing, television featured a scholar - a professor of Islam at Imam Muhammed Bin Saud Islamic University here. He spoke about extremism within society. That opened a lively debate here," the diplomat says. "To my surprise and astonishment, there is [now] a very lively debate within a fairly free press here."

Remember all the petulance about how we weren't being mean enough to the Saudis? Here's a reminder that solutions in the war on Islamicism are not one size fits all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


The Kabul Express: In the sixties and seventies it was the hippie trail that brought foreigners to Afghanistan. Two decades of war and terror later, Kabul is a nonstop rave of C-130s, NGOs, soldiers, and spooky nation-builders. The freaks are back on Chicken Street—where everything old is new again. (Patrick Symmes, December 2003, Outside Magazine)

WAY BACK IN THAT ERA OF NAIVE JOY known as the 1960s, Afghanistan was a symbol of something other than war. It was the luminous mystery at the center of Asia, a kingdom of infinite skies and peerless peaks. Kabul was the antique capital of a romantic nation, and Chicken Street, the city's enclave of hotels and restaurants, was a ghetto of global hippies and seekers. By the late 1970s, Afghanistan had become perhaps the most storied name on the trekkers' road less traveled, the famous "overland route" where strangers banded together in VW vans, sharing love affairs and mimeographed tip sheets en route to the "Three K's"—Kabul, India's Kullu Valley, and finally Kathmandu. Islam was musical, mystical, and embracing, the prices cheap, the dope wicked. Afghanistan was, in the idiom of the age, mellow.

And it will be so again.

Yes, Afghanistan. After 25 years of war and civil war, the people and politics are beginning to come full circle. In the sixties it was the hippie trail that brought change; this time it was B-52s, dropping loads of modernization, leaving foreign troops and civil schemes in their wake. Since the American overthrow of the Taliban, in late 2001, the UN and its acronymic camp of followers have parachuted into Kabul, pursued closely by the shock troops of low-rent globalization: entrepreneurs and actual tourists. The future—however tentative and fragile—is back.

"There are a lot of cultural similarities between then and now," one of the veterans of both eras, Nancy Hatch Dupree, said. "They're trying to open it up again." In 1977, Dupree, an American expat, published the definitive—and, for the time being, last—guidebook to the country, An Historical Guide to Afghanistan, a 492-page odyssey down every bumpy road of delights. A friend to prime ministers, rebel commanders, and even the Taliban, Dupree now lives in Peshawar, Pakistan, but returns often, at age 76, to oversee various organizations she has founded—like SPACH, the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage—and to advise the Ministry of Information and Culture.

"Travel today is about like it was in the 1960s," said Dupree. This was partly a promise, and partly a warning—the highways are in shambles, the land is still scattered with up to ten million land mines. In many ways, I'd picked a terrible moment to venture into the provinces: The country is littered with unexploded ordnance; attacks by Taliban holdouts, mostly in southeast Afghanistan, have been increasing; and even the pro-government warlords ruling the "safe" provinces have their own armies. In early October, the White House formed a "stabilization group" for Iraq and Afghanistan, a tacit acknowledgment of the "deteriorating security conditions" cited in a June 2003 joint report on Afghanistan by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Asia Society. President Hamid Karzai's government has international clout but neither the money nor the troops to back it up in the provinces. At the current rate of training, there will be only 9,000 soldiers in the Afghan National Army by mid-2004, compared with 100,000 militiamen for the various warlo— I mean "local leaders."

According to the World Bank, Afghanistan will need $15 billion in reconstruction money in the next five years, above and beyond relief aid. Meanwhile, opium has been reborn as a $2.5 billion shadow economy, twice the amount of foreign aid received in 2002 and more than the government's entire $2.25 billion budget. Last year, according to the report, one warlord, Ismail Khan, of the western city of Herat, reportedly levied $100 million in customs duties; the central government took in $80 million nationwide.

But as one veteran of the UN's de-mining program reminded me, it used to be so much worse. Just over a year ago, Taliban rockets were still hitting close to Kabul. The memory of chaos is so fresh that, in one of those undiplomatically honest comments made only on background, she said, simply, "Warlord is good." Afghans want order, and are slowly getting it. "It's too early to talk about success or failure," said David Haeri, special assistant to Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy to Afghanistan. "Whether the glass is half full or half empty, there is water in it."

For many critics of America this will not be enough, but even if Afghanistan descends back into chaos--which when has it not?--there's something to be said for bringing water to a dying man.

'A Road to Afghanistan's Future': Upbeat Ceremony for Kabul-Kandahar Highway Reopening (Pamela Constable, December 17, 2003, Washington Post)

Attack helicopters circled overhead, snipers peeked from rooftops, a trench had been dug alongside the reception tent and all traffic was halted for several miles in each direction.

But despite the intensive counterterrorist precautions, the mood and message of Tuesday's ceremony to mark the rebuilding of 310 miles of highway between the cities of Kabul and Kandahar followed a determinedly upbeat script.

"We are standing on the road to Afghanistan's future -- a road to national unity, prosperity and peace," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told several hundred Afghan officials and guests gathered at a windy roadside spot about 30 miles south of Kabul, the capital, where construction began on the mostly U.S.-funded project in late 2002.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:58 PM


Former inmate rejailed when picking up belongings (CNN, December 16, 2003)

Released from prison, Ronald A. Mahner's first mistake was driving back to get his stuff.

Mahner returned to the Seminole County Jail to reclaim his personal property four days after being released. He had served a sentence for drunken driving, auto theft and habitually driving with a suspended or revoked license.

But when asked to provide identification, Mahner handed a sheriff's deputy his license, which after routine computer check was found to have been revoked for life.

Deputy Teri Cresswell couldn't prove Mahner was doing anything illegal without seeing him behind the wheel, so she told him to drive to the back parking lot.

Mahner took the car around back, parked in a fire lane and went inside to claim his clothing, shampoo, dart board and battery charger.

Removing him would certainly help the gene pool.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:41 PM


Democrats must decide: Is Dean still viable? (DAVID YEPSEN, 12/16/2003, Des Moines Register)

The post-Saddam phase of the 2004 Democratic presidential campaign began Monday. Democrats must now decide a simple question: Do they want to nominate a candidate who voted to go to war to oust Saddam Hussein, or do they want one who opposed the idea? All other issues and differences seem much smaller in comparison to this issue.

It's been simmering on the Democratic burner for months, and Saddam's capture just caused it to boil up again. The Democratic Party ripped itself up over war and peace issues during Vietnam, and seems poised to do it again. No candidate seems to have found a middle ground that is acceptable to all factions.

Candidates who voted for the war in Congress are unacceptable to the many anti-war activists backing Howard Dean. Some threaten to stay home in November if Dean isn't the nominee. Yet supporters of the pro-war candidates are suggesting that Dean's opposition to the conflict reflects his inexperience and that his anti-war position will lead the party to a crashing defeat next year.

How can anybody not love politics? Here's a guy who was on top of the world last Friday, having won the endorsement of his Party's fallen martyr. Today he has the dean of Iowa journalism asking if his candidacy is viable...

Dean vs. Bush: Would it be close?: Former Vermont governor tries to recast himself on foreign policy, but is he too liberal to win? (Linda Feldmann and Liz Marlantes, 12/17/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

[I]f Dean was hoping to portray himself as the moderate in foreign policy, compared with what the Dean team calls Bush's radical policy of preemptive warfare, the news headlines didn't cooperate. Dean, in fact, could find himself boxed in by his position on the Iraq war, with opponents largely seizing on one quote - "the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer" - to attack him. The central point of the so-called "Dean doctrine," an emphasis on multilateral action in international affairs, got less attention.

-The New Electable Howard Dean: Evolution of a Not-So-Radical Contender (Kareem Fahim, December 17 - 23, 2003, Village Voice)
This month, Dean's campaign has moved past the single issue that his critics said made him unelectable—his anti-war rhetoric. While his innovative and successful fundraising strategy and his healthy poll numbers have been tracked for some time, his policy proposals have been somehow obscured by the very passion that first attracted the crowds.

Officially, his campaign maintains it was never concerned that Dean was becoming too closely identified with his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. The war, said Jay Carson, a Dean spokesperson,"is just a metaphor for standing up for what you believe in."


Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:15 PM


Efficient Boeing 7E7 expected to take wing (Byron Acohido, 12/16/2003, USA TODAY)

Boeing (BA) announced late Tuesday that its board of directors approved moving forward with its first new model in 13 years, the 7E7. [...]

The company's board of directors has given the Commercial Airplanes unit clearance to begin offering the new 7E7 Dreamliner to airlines. Responses will determine whether the project goes forward.

The 7E7, dubbed the Dreamliner, stands out as a case study in risk-aversion. The E literally stands for efficiency. The 7E7's technological advances: wider use of lighter parts and more efficient engines to make it cheaper to operate and thus a less-risky purchase for airlines.

Key partners in Japan, Italy and Texas will assume the financial risk of designing and delivering most of the jet's structure in ready-to-connect modular sections, something Boeing has never tried before. Japan will supply the wings, heretofore considered Boeing's crown-jewel expertise.

By deflecting 50% of the 7E7's estimated $6 billion-to-$10 billion development costs to key suppliers, Boeing aims to break even on the 7E7 faster than any model in history. [...]

Boeing is not expected to announce buyers until sometime next year. Airlines are still struggling to operate profitably. Officials from Germany's Lufthansa and All Nippon Airways of Japan have said they've taken a close look at acquiring the 7E7 as more-efficient replacements for aging midsized jets.

Boeing 7E7: If it flies, will airlines even buy it? (David Bowermaster, 12/14/03, Seattle Times)
Boeing's business case for the 7E7 is to make a plane so efficient that it would nudge airlines to retire their Boeing 767s, Airbus A300s and A310s and replace them with 7E7s rather than A330s.

Airlines today operate 1,439 jets in the 7E7's size category — referred to as the "middle of the market." That market, split with Airbus, probably wouldn't be enough to justify a new jet. So Boeing is counting on hefty growth.

Randy Baseler, Boeing's vice president of marketing, said the company expects the world's airlines to purchase 2,520 small widebodies over the next 20 years.

Boeing could capture the bulk of those sales if cost-obsessed airlines embrace a plane that can burn 20 percent less fuel than the A330-200, currently the best-selling small widebody.

"It depends on what Airbus does," Baseler said. "If they stay with the A330-200, we think we'll have a significant share. But we don't think they'll sit on the A330-200."

Heard some analysts saying today that the thing is so cost efficient it makes the much ballyhooed new Airbus obsolete already.

Posted by David Cohen at 4:46 PM


Clark testifies at Milosevic trial (Reuters, 12/15/03)

"It's closure with a man who caused the deaths ... or is alleged to have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the homelessness and refugee burden throughout Europe," Clark told reporters.

"There were murders and rapes and thousands expelled and people imprisoned and bludgeoned and murdered, including the slaughter at Srebrenica. This is the sense of judicial closure, that the world community cares, that it took action, that it brought to justice the alleged perpetrator," Clark said.

Best of the Web cites this article to take a well-deserved poke at Clark for being so mealy mouthed. It also makes clear that the difference between Kosovo and Iraq, in Clark's mind, is that Kosovo is in Europe and the Kosovars are European. Can't let them be murdered in the thousands.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:24 PM


Miller lauded by Poland's political leaders (Stefan Wagstyl, December 14 2003, Financial Times)

Leszek Miller, the Polish prime minister, was not short of critics in Brussels, ready to blame him for the summit's collapse.

But in Warsaw he was met with a chorus of approval. In a show of unanimity - as rare in Poland as a winter heatwave - politicians of the left and right praised Mr Miller for his defence of Poland's position on the Nice treaty voting rights.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski personally thanked him for arguing Poland's case in spite of the injuries he suffered in a recent helicopter crash. The two men, both former Communists who became social democrats, are fierce political rivals. But on this occasion Mr Kwasniewski avoided any hint of criticism.

Jan Rokita, leader of the Civic Platform, a centre-right opposition grouping, who earlier coined the slogan "Nice or death" said: "This is a good debut in the European Union."

Roman Giertych, leader of the far-right League of Polish Families, said: "I think this is the best Christmas present divine providence could have given Poland - that we will not lose the sovereignty of the Polish state."

"Divine" is right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 2:13 PM


Stand-off over repayment of Iraqi debts resolved (Robert Graham, December 16 2003, Financial Times)

A stand-off between opponents of the US-lead invasion of Iraq and the Bush administration over how to ease the burden of debts accumulated by the Saddam Hussein regime was resolved at a meeting on Tuesday between President Jacques Chirac and James Baker, the special envoy of George W. Bush.

In a later meeting with chancellor Gerhard Schröder, Germany agreed to a restructuring and "substantial debt forgiveness" through the Paris Club of leading creditor nations.

The aim is to settle the debt next year according to the rules of the Paris Club of leading creditor nations. "I think we were all agreed on the fact that it was important to alleviate the debt within the Paris Club, if possible during 2004; and I believe we are basically in agreement on the parameters," said Mr Baker.

If every politician and pundit who claimed that the reconstruction contract limits were going to make agreement on the debt impossible were to do the right thing, there'd be one hell of a lot of scarecrows lookin' for work.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


Amid the Cheers, Sobering Facts (James Carroll, December 16, 2003, The Boston Globe) 

I had spent Saturday in Washington at a conference organized to protest the Smithsonian's new National Air and Space Museum exhibit that opened yesterday. A centerpiece is the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. In 1995, a previous exhibit drew fire from veterans groups and the Air Force Association because curators had provided "context" which suggested that President Truman's decision to use the weapon was not uncontroversial, even at the time. (Eisenhower's opposition was noted.) That exhibit was abruptly canceled.

The exhibit that opened yesterday provides no context for the display of the Enola Gay. Not even the casualties it caused (more than 140,000 deaths) are noted. The bomber is being displayed, the current museum director said, "in all of its glory as a magnificent technological achievement." A group of historians protested "such a celebratory exhibit" with a statement that drew hundreds of supporting signatures from scholars, and on Saturday more than a dozen of them, together with numerous Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings, came together. The issue is the construction and reconstruction of history, a question not only of the past, but of the present and the future. If America remembers its first use of nuclear weapons as morally uncomplicated -- or worse, as an event to be celebrated -- its present commitment to a huge nuclear arsenal, and its future readiness, under Bush policies, to build "usable" nukes will seem acceptable.

At issue in how the capture of Saddam Hussein is understood, also, is the construction and reconstruction of history. The melodrama of the seizure should not be allowed to obscure the fact that Saddam Hussein, by this point in the war, had long since stopped being the crucial issue. Hussein was a bloody tyrant whose crimes should be adjudicated, but to assess the meaning of America's war in Iraq with that as the key justification would be like remembering Aug. 6, 1945, only with reference to the atrocities committed by the Japanese imperial army. The United States did not attack Iraq because of Hussein's wickedness (The world is rife with wicked tyrants). It did so because Hussein posed an imminent threat to his neighbors and America, and there was no other way to stop that threat.

Mr. Carroll is well known for his hatred of America and Christianity, but even by his standards this seems asinine. Who cares why we deposed Saddam? Isn't the point, for anyone who actually does believe him "a bloody tyrant whose crimes should be adjudicated" that now they will be? That the world is rife with wicked tyrants is an argument to go get the rest, not that we should have left this one in place.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:36 PM


Congresswoman Invites a Terrorist (NewsMax, 12/16/03)

We're giving Saddam ally Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee exactly what she wanted, but will she thank us?

She recently visited Syria although even the State Department admits it is a state sponsor of terrorism, and she says she was so impressed with dictator Bashar Assad that she invited him to her home state of Texas.

"I'm sure someone will write a headline, 'Congresswoman invites a terrorist'," the Democrat is quoted as saying in today's Houston Chronicle. "But that's not what I'm trying to do."

McDermott questions timing of arrest (Alex Fryer, 12/16/03, Seattle Times)
On Seattle radio yesterday, Rep. Jim McDermott questioned the timing of Saddam Hussein's capture, saying, "I'm sure they
could have found him a long time ago if they wanted to."

His comments came during an interview on "The Dave Ross Show" on KIRO-FM.

"I've been surprised they waited, but then I thought, well, politically, it probably doesn't make much sense to find him just yet," he said.

"There's too much by happenstance for it to be just a coincidental thing that it happened on this particular day," he continued.

Later yesterday, the Seattle Democrat said he did not know whether the Pentagon had manufactured the arrest of the Iraqi leader. "I think the fact is that the administration has been desperate to find something (positive), and this came up.

Exactly whose side are the Democrats on?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:28 PM


U.S. Troops Capture Iraqi Rebel Leader (SLOBODAN LEKIC, 12/16/03, Associated Press)

U.S. troops arrested an Iraqi rebel leader and 78 others in a raid Tuesday near a town north of Baghdad where hours earlier guerrillas ambushed a U.S. patrol and sparked a gunbattle that killed 11 of the attackers.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:23 PM


Hillary Praises Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan (NewsMax, 12/16/03)

U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, praising the former Soviet Union yesterday for its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, said that the attack helped bring women's rights to the fundamentalist Muslim country.

"The Soviets tried to provide more opportunities for women," Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, in a speech billed by her office as "her first major foreign policy address as a U.S. senator."

And the trains ran on time...

Posted by David Cohen at 11:55 AM


Nucor Announces Raw Materials Surcharge (Nucor Corp., 12/16/03)

Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE) states that beginning with shipments on January 1, 2004, all Nucor Steel divisions are instituting a $20/ton raw materials surcharge on all steel mill products. The surcharge has become necessary due to rapid and unprecedented raw materials price increases. The rapid escalation of raw materials cost has outpaced our ability to appropriately react through normal price changes. The surcharge will be adjusted on the third Monday of each month, based on raw material cost changes from the previous month, and applied to shipments on the first day of the following month.

The unprecedented increase in the cost of raw materials used by the world's steel producers (scrap, coke, iron ore, freight, alloys and energy) can no longer be absorbed through normal price increases.

The cost of steel, and in particular of certain specialty steels, has increased as much as 50% over the last few years. In part this was due to the tariffs, but it was also due to issues that had nothing to do with the tariffs. Demand has grown along with the economy and the dollar is now much weaker against the Euro. Steel suppliers (who are not unbiased, but who are also knowledgeable) say that it will be six months or more before steel users see any relief from the pulling of the tariffs. In the short term, it is more likely that the price of steel products will increase, than decrease. (It is worth noting, however, that this notice was sent to us by a Nucor competitor.)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:45 AM


A Brief History of the Resistance> (JAY WINIK, 12/16/03, NY Times)

As L. Paul Bremer III, America's administrator for Iraq, said last week, there is likely to be an increase in attacks in coming months. So amid the euphoria over the news of Mr. Hussein's capture looms a larger question: what does history tell us about the prospects for success against a guerrilla insurgency committed to fighting until the bitter end? Here, the evidence is sobering.

At its essence, guerrilla warfare is how the weak make war against the strong. Insurrectionist, subversive and chaotic, its application is classic and surprisingly simple: concentrate strength against vulnerability. As most Americans know from the Vietnam experience, guerrilla warfare can work with frightening success.

Well, other than the fact that the Viet Cong had ceased to exist as an effective fighting force by 1972 and operations in South Vietnam had to be taken over by the North Vietnamese, an entirely conventional enemy who we mistakenly failed to consistently treat like one....

The Campaign of Hate and Fear: Some of my fellow Democrats are unpatriotic. (ORSON SCOTT CARD, December 16, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

Vietnam was a quagmire only because we fought it that way. If we had closed North Vietnam's ports and carried the war to the enemy, victory could have been relatively quick. However, the risk of Chinese involvement was too great. Memories of Korea were fresh in everyone's minds, and so Vietnam was fought in such a way as to avoid "another Korea." That's why Vietnam became, well, Vietnam.

But Iraq is not Vietnam. Nor is the Iraq campaign even the whole war. Of course there's still fighting going on. Our war is against terrorist-sponsoring states, and just because we toppled the governments of two of them doesn't mean that the others aren't still sponsoring terrorism. Also, there is a substantial region in Iraq where Saddam's forces are still finding support for a diehard guerrilla campaign.

In other words, the Iraq campaign isn't over--and President Bush has explicitly said so all along. So the continuation of combat and casualties isn't a "failure" or a "quagmire," it's a "war." And during a war, patriotic Americans don't blame the deaths on our government. We blame them on the enemy that persists in trying to kill our soldiers. [...]

I can think of many, many reasons why the Republicans should not control both houses of Congress and the White House. But right now, if the alternative is the Democratic Party as led in Congress and as exemplified by the current candidates for the Democratic nomination, then I can't be the only Democrat who will, with great reluctance, vote not just for George W. Bush, but also for every other candidate of the only party that seems committed to fighting abroad to destroy the enemies that seek to kill us and our friends at home.

And if we elect a government that subverts or weakens or ends our war against terrorism, we can count on this: We will soon face enemies that will make 9/11 look like stubbing our toe, and they will attack us with the confidence and determination that come from knowing that we don't have the will to sustain a war all the way to the end.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:26 AM


Dreams and Glory: In his foreign policy speech in Beverly Hills, Howard Dean
tried to seem serious and pragmatic but came across clueless. (David Brooks, 12/16/03, NY Times)

George Bush fundamentally sees the war on terror as a moral and ideological confrontation between the forces of democracy and the forces of tyranny. Howard Dean fundamentally sees the war on terror as a law and order issue. At the end of his press conference, Bush uttered a most un-Deanlike sentiment:

"I believe, firmly believe — and you've heard me say this a lot, and I say it a lot because I truly believe it — that freedom is the almighty God's gift to every person — every man and woman who lives in this world. That's what I believe. And the arrest of Saddam Hussein changed the equation in Iraq. Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq."

Bush believes that God has endowed all human beings with certain inalienable rights, the most important of which is liberty. Every time he is called upon to utter an unrehearsed thought, he speaks of the war on terror as a conflict between those who seek to advance liberty to realize justice, and those who oppose the advance of liberty: radical Islamists who fear religious liberty, dictators who fear political liberty and reactionaries who fear liberty for women.

Furthermore, Bush believes the U.S. has a unique role to play in this struggle to complete democracy's triumph over tyranny and so drain the swamp of terror.

Judging by his speech yesterday, Dean does not believe the U.S. has an exceptional role to play in world history. Dean did not argue that the U.S. should aggressively promote democracy in the Middle East and around the world. [...]

The world Dean described is largely devoid of grand conflicts or moral, cultural and ideological divides. It is a world without passionate nationalism, a world in which Europe and the United States are not riven by any serious cultural differences, in which sensible people from around the globe would find common solutions, if only Bush weren't so unilateral.

This is another example of how religious faith has become the dividing line within America and across the West, which does make it odd that the Buchananeers are so opposed to the Bush view.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:05 AM


Canada raises Iraq contracts with Bush, no results (David Ljunggren, 15 Dec 2003, Reuters)

New Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin said on Monday he had tried to persuade U.S. President George W. Bush to let Canadian firms bid for lucrative Iraq reconstruction contracts but had not managed to get a firm commitment.

Martin, who took over last week from Jean Chretien, said he would raise the question again with Bush when they hold a bilateral meeting next month on the sidelines of a summit in Monterrey, Mexico.

Mr. Bush's antipathy towards Jacques Chretien was notorious, but it was interesting that in his first press conference as PM, on Friday, Mr. Martin was asked if he'd spoken to the President and responded that he wasn't penciled in until Monday. This suggests that Mr. Bush is not just carrying a personal grudge but recognizes that Canada is not a reliable national security ally any longer.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:56 AM


The return of Al-Qaeda: Bush and Blair thought they’d beaten bin Laden. They were wrong. He remains determined to wreak havoc on the world (Jane Corbin, 14 December 2003, S unday Herald)

It is true that following the rout of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the winter of 2001, al-Qaeda’s forces were scattered and many of them killed. But they had planned for this, as I discovered in the mountains of southern Afghanistan in the spring of last year when local warlords told me that most of al-Qaeda’s hardened fighters had melted away across the border to the wild no man’s land of Pakistan’s tribal territories. From there they made their way back to where they had originated from – the Gulf, North Africa, Indonesia, Chechnya and the Sudan. Their orders, from bin Laden, were to form links with local Islamic militants and to “hit the infidel wherever you can”. We are now reaping the bitter fruits of that migration from Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden himself and his deputy, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, the ideological brains behind the organisation, relinquished much of the day-to-day control of al-Qaeda’s terror network. They had to, for they were on the run … although I believe that bin Laden has never left the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sightings of him continue to be reported by various security forces, the latest apparently in the border area of Chitral. [...]

While al-Qaeda is again stirring and proving its resilience, so too are bin Laden’s former hosts in Afghanistan – the Taliban. This week has seen the launch of the biggest ground attack yet by US Special Forces into the mountains of southeast Afghanistan. Optimistically entitled “Operation Avalanche”, it involves 2000 of the 10,000 US troops stationed in the country and its aim is to smoke out the enemy before the winter makes the area impassable. It proves how successful the Taliban has been at re-grouping and re-organising in Afghanistan whilst American forces are overstretched by the war in Iraq.

The Pentagon say their soldiers have been attacked more times in the past three months than in the previous year, a reflection of the growing boldness of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the shadowy border area. US forces killed 400 Taliban in September alone but still the attacks continue. Air strikes have begun again – and so too have civilian casualties. Fifteen children have been killed in the past two weeks and local anger in an area traditionally loyal to bin Laden will win yet more followers for the Taliban and the smaller al-Qaeda cadres still operating in this region.

This seems a fairly sensible strategy on our part, first denying them the nation-states from which they could operate with impunity (Afghanistan & Iraq), and driving them into the wilds of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, where they are terribly isolated. Eventually, when the larger tasks are taken care of, we can return to the region with a genuine Anaconda plan, encircle them and squeeze.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:33 AM


U.S. Nov. Consumer Prices Fall 0.2%; Core Falls 0.1% (Dec. 16, 2003, Bloomberg)

The U.S. consumer price index fell 0.2 percent in November, a government report showed. Excluding food and energy, prices fell 0.1 percent, the biggest drop in 21 years.

The unexpected decline in the price index, reflecting cheaper energy costs, followed no change in October, the Labor Department said in Washington. The so-called core index, which excludes food and energy prices because they tend to be volatile, fell 0.1 percent, the biggest decline since 0.2 percent in November 1982.

Surplus industrial capacity, gains in worker productivity, and global competition have held prices in check even after the U.S. economy grew in the third quarter at the fastest pace in 20 years, making it easier for customers of General Motors Corp., Procter & Gamble Co. and other companies to find bargains. Federal Reserve policy makers last week indicated that they see little immediate threat of inflation.

A figure below expectations "would be a reminder that even with the pickup in growth there's no pricing power," said Ethan Harris, chief U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers Inc. in New York, before the report. "We need to see a sustained healing in the economy before we can talk about inflation, and we're only at the very beginning of that now."

Economists had expected a 0.1 percent increase in the consumer price index, based on the median of 64 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from a decline of 0.1 percent to a rise of 0.4 percent. Core prices were also forecast to rise 0.1 percent.

Consumer prices for all goods and services rose 1.8 percent for the 12 months that ended last month, compared with a 2 percent increase October. Core prices rose 1.1 percent from a year earlier, the smallest gain since January 1966.

Add in the fact that even Alan Greenspan has testified that the inflation rate is overstated by at least 1%, because of problems with the way it's measured, and you have an economic environment with not just no inflation but no chance of any. You just can't raise your prices in the globalized economy because others won't follow suit. Yet the Fed continues to keep interests rates artificially elevated and is making noises about raising them in the not too distant future. Didn't they do enough damage when they caused the economic slowdown of 2000-01?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:19 AM


Dean's Speech on Iraq Brings Rebuttals From Rivals (JODI WILGOREN and RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD, 12/16/03, USA Today)

"The difficulties and tragedies which we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at the extraordinary cost, so far, of $166 billion," he said. "The capture of Saddam does not end our difficulties from the aftermath of the administration's war to oust him."

Dr. Dean's Democratic opponents immediately seized on the speech to raise new questions about his viability in a general election during a flurry of hastily scheduled conference calls as well as in their own planned campaign events. At the same time, a group of Democrats known informally as a "stop Dean" coalition began running a television advertisement in New Hampshire and South Carolina that shows a photograph of Osama bin Laden with the warning, "It's time for Democrats to start thinking about Dean's inexperience."

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who supported the war, spent a second day in row hammering Dr. Dean on the Iraq issue, and scheduled a speech for Tuesday in New Hampshire to highlight their differences on national security.

"If he truly believes the capture of this evil man has not made America safer, then Howard Dean has put himself in his own spider hole of denial," Mr. Lieberman said. "I fear that the American people will wonder if they will be safer with him as president." [...]

Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, whom Dr. Dean has criticized during the presidential campaign for voting for the resolution on using force against Iraq, on Monday accused his opponent of shuffling to the center to bolster credibility for a general election.

"We can't beat George Bush by playing politics with foreign policy," Mr. Gephardt told reporters in a campaign swing in Ecorse, Mich. "We've got to stand up for what we think is right. That's what I've always done and that's what I'll always do."

Mr. Kerry, who has been among the fiercest critics of Dr. Dean's statements on the Iraq war, renewed his argument that his military credentials and foreign-policy portfolio make him a better candidate to face President Bush, saying Democrats "deserve more than" a "foreign policy speech written by someone else."

"In a world where terrorist threats loom large, and they do, our fellow Americans are looking for real leadership," Mr. Kerry said. "To earn your trust, we have to show through our own actions, and our own experiences, that our approach to national security and foreign policy is credible, legitimate, and the best way to defend our nation."

The ad mentioned here is just brutal--it opens on on Osama bin Laden's face and then zooms into his eyes while the voice over tells us that Mr. Dean has no foreign policy experience, etc., etc., and basically says that Democrats need to ask themselves whether the country would be safe with him as president. Ouch.

Activist says no rival behind anti-Dean ad (Jim Drinkard, 12/08/03, USA TODAY)

Two political activists with ties to Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, are behind new political attack ads against Howard Dean airing this week in Iowa.

The two, former Gephardt fundraiser David Jones and former Harkin aide Timothy Raftis, raised $230,000 through a non-profit political group to buy a week's worth of ads on television in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

Raftis said that he and Jones formed the group, Americans for Jobs & Healthcare, in mid-November because of "how passionately I feel about progressive issues ... and how critical I see the next election, and the selection of our party's nominee." [...]

Raftis denied that he was doing the bidding of any other candidate in trying to undermine Dean's support. "We are not connected to any candidate, period," said Raftis, who is now a consultant in Florida.

The new political group was set up under section 527 of the tax law. It can accept unlimited contributions but can't coordinate its activities with any campaign and must disclose its donors. Raftis declined to say who had given to the group, or even to talk about the number of contributors, until the deadline for disclosure at the end of January, after Iowa's caucuses.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:33 AM


Whopper: Howard Dean: Oh, that bizarre and irresponsible remark! (Timothy Noah, Dec. 13, 2003, Slate)

Scott Spradling, WMUR-TV: Governor Dean, you had once stated that you thought it was possible that the president of the United States had been forewarned about the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You later said that you didn't really know.

A statement like that, don't you see the possibility of some Democrats being nervous about statements like that leading them to the conclusion that you are not right for being the next commander in chief?

Howard Dean: Well, in all due respect, I did not exactly state that.
—Exchange at the Democratic presidential debate in Durham, N.H., Dec. 9.

Julie from Traverse City,* Mich.: [O]nce we get you in the White House, would you please make sure that there is a thorough investigation of 9/11, and not—

Dean: Yes.

Julie: —stonewall it?

Dean: There is a report which the president is suppressing evidence for which is a thorough investigation of 9/11.

Diane Rehm, WAMU (public) radio: Why do you think he's suppressing that report?

Dean: I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can't—think it can't be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is that by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and then eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the clear, the key information that needs to go to the Kean commission.

—Exchange on The Diane Rehm Show, on WAMU in Washington, Dec. 1.

Discussion. In answering Spradling at the New Hampshire debate, Dean failed to acknowledge his Diane Rehm Show appearance, in which he introduced the bizarre and irresponsible accusation that Bush got advance warning about 9/11 (ostensibly as an example of the kind of speculation Bush lends credence to by not cooperating with the Kean commission). Dean's denial that he said what Spradling said he said is false and dishonest if you take the Diane Rehm appearance into account.

Now that Mr. Dean has become a stalking horse for Al Gore, you'd think the first thing he'd learn is the importance of not being seen to be a stranger to the truth.

Posted by Peter Burnet at 5:39 AM


Try Saddam in an International Court (Kenneth Roth, International Herald Tribune, 15/12/03)

To do these victims justice, their plight should be recorded in a court of law and their perpetrators properly judged and punished. But the Iraqi Governing Council, taking its lead from Washington, last week established a tribunal that is to be dominated by Iraqi jurists. Despite the superficial appeal of allowing Iraqis to try their own persecutors, this approach is unlikely to produce sound prosecutions or fair trials. It reflects less a determination to see justice done than a fear of bucking Washington's ideological jihad against any further enhancement of the international system of justice. As we know from Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, prosecutions of genocide or crimes against humanity can be enormously complex, demanding jurists of exceptional skill and sophistication. They require amassing volumes of official documents, collecting sensitive forensic evidence from mass graves, presenting hundreds of witnesses from among victims and accomplices, and paying scrupulous attention to the requirements of due process. To avoid being perceived as show trials or "victor's justice," they call for highly experienced jurists of unquestioned integrity. .Saddam's brutal and arbitrary justice system can hardly be expected to have produced such jurists. Prosecutions were typically based on confessions, often induced by torture. Serious criminal investigations, let alone complex trials, were virtually unheard of.

The Iraqi Governing Council hopes to solve this problem by looking to Iraqi exiles as well as Iraqis from communities historically repressed by the Baath Party who remained in the country. But even among these it will be difficult to find jurists with the right combination of skills and emotional distance from the former dictatorship to produce trials that are fair - and seen as fair. An internationally led tribunal would be a far better option, whether a fully international tribunal or, more likely, an internationally run tribunal with significant domestic participation, such as the special court set up for Sierra Leone. Because its personnel would be selected by the United Nations rather than by Washington's surrogates, an internationally led tribunal is more likely to be seen as legitimate. And because it can draw from a global pool of talent, it would be better able to secure the experienced and fair-minded jurists than a court that must look only to Iraqis. An internationally led tribunal could still conduct trials in Baghdad and involve Iraqis as much as possible, but it would be run by international jurists with proven records of overseeing complex prosecutions and scrupulously respecting international fair-trial standards. .Despite the obvious merits of an internationally led tribunal, Washington is adamantly opposed, which largely explains the path chosen by the Iraqi Governing Council. But Washington's opposition reflects its ideology, not concern for the Iraqi people.

Mr. Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch in New York, has some interesting points. While it is certainly not their fault, Iraqis are little more than crazed, vengeful wogs and those American cowboys have no end of nasty ulterior motives. Besides, who ever heard of a competent American judge? No, we need international jurists. Never mind who they are or where they come from. In real life, they could be political hacks from Latvia or intellectually challenged Portuguese, but describe them as “international” and they become descendants of Solomon. Only they can provide the erudition and dispassionate justice that can guarantee that nice Mr. Hussein gets a fair trial. Only they have the patience and experience to sift through the thousands of documents we must digest before deciding whether he did anything wrong. Only they can decide the thorny question of whether being invaded “illegally” is a defense to genocide and mass torture.

And only they could orchestrate it into anti-American political theatre and actually let the scumbag off.

Buried in this specious and near libelous argument is the real reason–legitimacy. Legitimacy of what, you may ask. Don’t bother. It is the all-purpose abstract concept the left hauls out desperately to oppose American actions when it finds itself on the wrong side of the popular will and has run out of other reasons.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:07 AM


Plan to Shift Bases Shakes Up Allies (Jamie Dettmer, Dec. 15, 2003, Insight)

The Bush team plans to put U.S. military assets in better position to take on threats. The Kremlin was quick off the mark. Within hours of Washington acknowledging in late November that it had begun formal negotiations to take over several Polish military bases, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov warned during a trip to Warsaw that any reconfiguration of the U.S. military presence in Europe must consider his country's national-security interests.

According to a Russian official, "The Kremlin is not concealing from the Americans or the Poles its negative attitude toward Polish-American discussions about relocating bases in Germany." But in the weeks to come the Russians won't be the only ones jittery about a long-touted repositioning of U.S. forces and bases. For different reasons allies and foes across the globe are exercised about ambitious Bush administration plans to shift and reshuffle tens of thousands of GIs posted around the world. [...]

But even before the Iraq War, Rumsfeld and his top aides were sketching out plans for realignment. For them too much of the U.S. global military posture was outdated and designed to fight an adversary that no longer was on the battlefield - namely, the Soviet Union. They wanted more forward, but smaller, bases and lighter and more mobile forces that could react quickly, be deployed fast against enemies and project power. Rumsfeld and his aides thought advanced U.S. military technology and air power would reduce the need for the kind of expensive and large foreign outposts required during the Cold War.

Since 9/11 the Pentagon hasn't confined itself to planning. Away from the public gaze, the United States has been securing air bases and landing rights and signing military agreements with a series of countries located in what military planners call the "arc of instability" - namely, troubled and failing nations in parts of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia. Military bases have been upgraded or established in Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bulgaria, Romania, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Georgia, Djibouti and the Philippines. [...]

Some experts, though, worry that pulling U.S. assets out of "old Europe" might make the Germans and the French even more reluctant to agree to U.S. requests. On the other hand, say Pentagon hard-liners, what does it matter?

Compare this to the speeches Howard Dean and Hillary Clinton gave today, which envision allowing France, Germany, and the UN to more or less determine American foreign policy.

December 15, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:44 PM


Saddam's end a lesson to others who oppose American policy (SAM F. GHATTAS, 12/15/03, Associated Press)

Never mind which Arabs feel joy or disappointment - the real message in Saddam Hussein's capture should not be lost on Middle East leaders who might think to challenge American interests, say experts and analysts who also see in Saddam's dramatic end an opportunity to redraw the politics of the region.

Saddam was a leader who once terrified - and shocked - his fellow Iraqis and neighbors with his violent politics and opulent lifestyle. That he looked a broken man when pulled from his underground hiding place was noted both by ordinary Arab citizens and their leaders.

"The sight of Saddam's capture on television was terrifying to his colleagues, the Arab rulers," said Sateh Noureddine, managing editor of the Lebanese daily As-Safir. "It could make them reconsider their calculations, the way they deal with America, the way they confront it and the way they reject its demands." [...]

Lebanon's English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, noted that America would not hesitate to intervene directly to safeguard its interests in the region and said it is time for Arabs to deal with the changes and use them to their benefit.

"Like a force of nature, an emboldened America is now bearing down on a Middle East, whose habitual status is somnolence. If the countries of the region continue to let others decide the pace and direction of events, the storm will be a highly destructive one," wrote the Star in an editorial Monday.

By taking initiatives toward democracy, the editorial said, Arabs can turn the American effect into a "cleansing rain, washing away the stains left behind by decades of failed statecraft and illegitimate leadership ... It is our actions and intentions, not America's, that will decide the issue."

Who'll stop the rain?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 7:39 PM


A Difficult Marriage: How Iraqi Shiites could save the presidency of George W. Bush. (Reuel Marc Gerecht, 12/22/2003, Weely Standard)

EVER SINCE 1979, Shiite Muslim clerics have scared Americans. The trepidation is, of course, understandable. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini energized a generation of Islamic radicals. His theocratic revolution in Iran held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. His disciples directed and incited lethal attacks against the United States. The slaughter of U.S. soldiers in Beirut in 1983 and at Khobar in Saudi Arabia in 1996 were inspirational for Osama bin Laden and other Sunni holy warriors who have promised victory through terrorism.

Far more often than their Sunni Muslim counterparts, Shiite clerics are charismatic. Their long, arduous legal education, which builds a self-confident, serious elite, and their historic position between ruler and ruled have often earned them the respect of common man and king. Shiite clerics have been powers to be reckoned with--complimented, appeased, or squashed--in great part because their authority has been popularly based. In an autocratic Muslim world, they have, more often than not, been defenders of decency. The greatest strength of the Muslim community has always been its secure and ordered home, and the clergy has been its redoubtable guardian. Even the most irreligious Shiites can revere these men because they are vivid, stubborn repositories of the wisdom, vicissitudes, and pride of an often abused and maligned community.

Shiism teaches that individual men, through their determination, sacrifice, and suffering, shape history. The Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, the father of all Muslim martyrs, did not flee certain death on the plains of Karbala in southern Iraq because his cause was just. His end, even more than the unlucky life of his father, the Caliph Ali, has become the baptismal font of the Shiite identity. Like Christians, Shiites are pretty sure that redemption will not come in this life. Their clerics often see themselves in a continuing passion play of good versus evil. They have stood between tyrants and the oppressed, between domineering Sunnis and belittled Shiites, and, not infrequently, between threatening foreigners and besieged Muslims. Though in modern times the Shiite clergy have become a diverse lot--progressives, traditionalists, revolutionaries, and reactionaries--they are similar in their continuing firm belief that the clergy has a historic duty to defend the flock. Guided by the Holy Law, nationalism, Marx, or John Locke, they see themselves as a vanguard for and against change. [...]

Hand-picked provincial officials and self-selecting local "notables" can't possibly have the traction of would-be politicians constantly pressing the flesh. Don't we want the Iraqis to get excited about determining their own destiny? Don't we want this sooner, not later? Shouldn't we find out sooner, not later, whether the Arab Sunnis as a group want to participate in a democratic process? Ditto for the Kurds? Does the administration really think that six months down the road the violence in the Sunni belt is going to diminish? That holding peaceful elections will indeed be any easier then than now? Are we going to allow Sunni reactionaries and foreign jihadists to hold hostage national elections?

And suppose the Sunni insurgents take the war south into the Shiite zone. Remember the bombs of August when Washington and Baghdad panicked, fearing the two-front nightmare scenario had arrived? Isn't it a better idea to have the Shiites fully on board, committed to participatory democracy? Do we want to see bombs going off in Najaf, Karbala, or Hilla and an increasing number of Shiites arguing that the Americans, who deny them democracy, also deny them security? Shouldn't we assume a worst-case scenario, that we've got an incipient Sunni insurrection on our hands? Don't we want to see whether the Sunnis will go to the ballot booth? If they do, won't they be more inclined to join us in the arduous and ugly counterinsurgency campaign to root out the guerrillas-cum-terrorists? Don't we want the Shiites and the Kurds to back us and themselves morally through the ballot box for the difficult and bloody campaign that may lie ahead?

At present, we still have Ali Sistani on our side. The old man is a product of the most politically skeptical and cautious grand ayatollahs of the last 50 years, Sayyid Abu'l-Qasim Kho'i and Hajj Hosayn Borujerdi. Sistani's fatwas on elections and his pithy commentary on the role of Islam in society have been consistently moderate. The absence of Islamically loaded language in his political commentary is indeed striking. And grand ayatollahs are as they appear: They are not masters of deception (as are others in the Shiite tradition). Their minds and manners evolve openly over decades.

Does this moderation mean that Sistani believes in a secular society, with a firm wall between religion and state? Certainly not. But he and his clerical lieutenants clearly understand how combustible Iraq is. They know that Shiites, let alone Arab Sunnis and Kurds, are a variegated lot. Sistani's followers have been explicit in their disapproval of the clerical dictatorship in neighboring Iran. They don't like clerics intertwined with politics. Sistani and his men have so far made it clear that they believe the commonweal, not a cleric interpreting the holy law, holds ultimate political power. The Sistani crowd is certainly more moderate than the Shiites of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa party, whom the Coalition Provisional Authority has grown too fond of. (That SCIRI and Dawa representatives serve as important channels for the CPA to Sistani is bizarre.) And the grand ayatollah has so far shown great sensitivity toward Sunni fears of Shiite predominance. He has not allowed his dispossessed followers to take back the mosques that were stolen from them after the '91 rebellion. To put it succinctly: We are enormously lucky to have Sistani in post-Saddam Iraq. If the old cleric were to die, our position among the Shiites might collapse overnight. Our objective with the grand ayatollah thus ought to be to cooperate (and preempt), not confront.

If the Bush administration is wise, it will change its provisional-government plans and allow for direct elections as soon as feasible. If it refuses to change, and Sistani and the Shiites force it to abort the plan later, we will be left weaker than if we change now. We ought not dissipate our strength so profligately. There will undoubtedly be moments where we will need to intimidate. Dealing with Muslim clerics has, understandably, never been an American strong suit. Though many in the CPA and the administration may want to wish Sistani away, fortunately they can't. He is America's most powerful democratic weapon in Iraq, even if we don't know how to wield him. If President Bush is reelected in 2004, however, Grand Ayatollah Sistani will have certainly done his part.

This is a perfectly sensible essay, pointing out that the Shi'ite iteration of Islam seems rather well suited to eventual democracy of some variety or another. In fact, looking at Iran, Mr. Gerecht might go further and argue that even an authoritarian Islamic republic would not last long, because it's antithetical to Shi'ism. But where'd the sub-head come from? "save the presidency of George W. Bush"? Bill Kristol really needs to get out more.

In Iraq's south, democracy buds: US administrator Paul Bremer wants to spread the 'Muthanna model.' (Nicholas Blanford, 12/16/03, CS Monitor)

With a provincial council and four city councils already formed in the province of Muthanna, this is the first of seven town council selections to be held over the next three weeks. It is an anxious moment for the CPA representatives and the team from the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), a US-based nonprofit, who organized the selection process. They are aware that CPA headquarters in Baghdad will be closely watching the selection process, the first practical demonstration of the new democracy being ushered into the rural heartland of Iraq.

While the weekend capture of Saddam Hussein has received worldwide attention, it is here in Muthanna that a true success story is in the making.

Muthanna is the second-largest province in Iraq and almost certainly the poorest. Its predominantly Shiite inhabitants were brutally repressed under Mr. Hussein's regime, its infrastructure underfunded, its economy based on low-scale agriculture.

During the war to oust Hussein, American troops were warmly welcomed by the Shiite population when they advanced into Samawa, Muthanna's capital. The province remains calm, with no attacks against coalition troops and almost no support for the mainly Sunni guerrillas operating further north.

"We have a seven-month timetable and we would like to keep them friendly until we turn off the lights and go home," says one foreign official, referring to July 1, when the US has said it will turn the country over to Iraqi control.

The peaceful atmosphere has helped the coalition press ahead with establishing local administrations, outstripping other provinces and winning praise from the CPA in Baghdad.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:20 PM


Flee as a Bird: Envoi; Aloha, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen; Adiós Amigos; I'm Checkin' Out, Goombye (Gary Giddins, 12/15/03, Village Voice)

As Groucho Marx used to sing, "Hello, I must be going." It's time to move on when you begin to calculate a job's duration the way children identify their ages. Whereas I used to think in round numbers, lately I found myself muttering, "29 and a half years," "30 years and two
months," "30 years, seven months, two weeks, five days"‹which is correct as of my pub date. Or am I confusing children with convicts? This was the hardest decision I've ever made, and like Artie Shaw, who has a different answer every time he's asked about quitting clarinet, I'm not sure
why‹except that I want to focus on books, I don't like writing short, and it's time. In jazz, time is all.

Gary Giddins is the best jazz critic writing today; and, based on his Bing Crosby biography and other writings, he might be the best critic of popular culture (movies; books; rock, jazz, blues and folk music) period. His knowledge is truly encyclopedic, but what sets Giddins apart are 2 things.
First, in a field (jazz criticism) which is either overly technical (discussing substituted chords or the inticacies of African rhythms), Giddins can explain musical concepts in a manner which doesn't require formal education: all you need to follow his analysis is the recording he's writing about and a set of ears. Second, whether he's writing about Sonny Rollins or Raymond Chandler, he transmits a sense of his enthusiasm for the topic and the joy he received from listening or reading or watching. We'll miss his regular columns, but eagerly await his books.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 6:57 PM


France Pledges to Help Reduce Iraq Debt (JAMEY KEATEN, 12/15/03, Associated Press)

Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin of France, one of the most persuasive and persistent critics of the U.S. decision to wage war in Iraq, said he hopes the capture will allow the international community to "regain its unity."

France's commitment toward reducing the outstanding debt came a day before U.S. special envoy James A. Baker was to arrive in Paris, one of five European capitals he will visit this week as part of an effort to encourage such moves. [...]

Mending relations with Washington and persuading the Bush administration to hand decision-making power over to the Iraqis could also bolster France's ability to influence Iraq's future — and its chances of participating in the lucrative reconstruction of Iraq.

France, in the most concrete gesture to Washington, will join other members of the Paris Club of creditor nations to look for ways of restructuring or forgiving huge debts Iraq owes them, de Villepin said.

"France could envisage the cancellation of appropriate debts," he said at a news conference after meeting a delegation of visiting Iraqi ministers. He did not provide any figures.

Even we didn't think France would fold that fast, but when the client goes down, the patron looks to deal, eh?

Hussein's capture may help bridge US-Europe divide: Envoy Baker seeks Iraqi debt relief from allies bitter about being barred from contracts. (Howard LaFranchi, 12/16/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:26 PM


Chapter V - On the Development of the Intellectual and Moral Faculties (Charles Darwin, Descent of Man [1871])

With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilised men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick; we institute poor-laws; and our medical men exert their utmost skill to save the life of every one to the last moment. There is reason to believe that vaccination has preserved thousands, who from a weak constitution would formerly have succumbed to small-pox. Thus the weak members of civilised societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. It is surprising how soon a want of care, or care wrongly directed, leads to the degeneration of a domestic race; but excepting in the case of man himself, hardly any one is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.

Sadly, such ideas have consequences.

The Culture of Death: Who Will Decide When You Should Die? (Nat Hentoff, December 1st, 2003, Village Voice)

I have debated bioethicists who are true believers in the "duty to die" when care is "futile." These exchanges have been on college campuses, radio, and television. When I bring up the history of "futile care" in pre-Hitler Germany (as I did in last week's column), the "duty to die" advocates become deeply offended. Nonetheless, they are sincerely continuing a lethal legacy.

Nancy Valko continues: "Just a generation ago, doctors and nurses were ethically prohibited from hastening or causing death. Family disputes and ethically gray situations occurred, but certain actions such as withdrawing medically assisted food and water from a severely brain-damaged but non-dying person were considered illegitimate no matter who was making the decision.

"But," Nancy Valko emphasizes, "with the rise of the modern bioethics movement, life is no longer assumed to have the intrinsic value it once did, and 'quality of life' has become the overriding consideration. Over time, the ethical question, 'what is right?' became 'who decides?--which now has devolved into 'what is legally allowed?' "

In the aforementioned November 4 Philadelphia Inquirer story, Stacey Burling reported what physicians and bioethicists consider a worrisome obstacle to expanding "what is legally allowed."

"Hospital leaders [around the country] fear they would lose a lawsuit if they denied care demanded by a family." These officials and bioethicists want more case law to enable them to end lives they consider "futile."

Until the media spend more space and care on who decides whether--and how--certain disabled Americans should die, I recommend your remembering that, as disability rights activists say, many of us are only temporarily able.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:58 PM


Harold, in the wings: Political stage could someday see a very new President Ford, observers say (James W. Brosnan, December 14, 2003, Memphis Commercial Appeal)

In two years, when Ford reaches the qualifying age of 35 "his name, I think, will automatically go into the hopper, permanently," University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said.

"If you could look into a crystal ball and say, over the next 25 years, who would be the first African-American president and all you knew is who is there now, you would have to say Harold Ford Jr. and Jesse Jackson Jr.," said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Former president Clinton said at the recent awards dinner at the National Civil Rights Museum, "I hope I live long enough to vote for him myself."

Heady stuff for a four-term congressman who has yet to chair a committee hearing, yet to shepherd a controversial piece of legislation to passage, and yet to fulfill some personal goals: getting married, starting a family, passing the Tennessee bar exam.

"I'm flattered," Ford said in response to the presidential speculation. But: "It's not something I wake up thinking about. It's not something I go to bed thinking about."

Observers say Ford has stepped into the spotlight through a combination of innate talent, politics and drive that surfaced early in his life. [...]

In 1996, running his first campaign for public office, Ford was elected to succeed his father.

Arnold Perl, chairman of the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority, said the younger Ford learned from his father's emphasis on constituent service. Harold Ford Jr.'s efforts his rookie year to win $66 million in federal aid for their two-mile runway, Perl said, was "the most effective case of representation I had ever seen."

But Ford also signaled that his interests would go far beyond the district.

"I saw the same thing in Harold that I saw with Bill Clinton when he was 26 years old, in a positive way," Rep. Marion Berry, D-Ark., said. "He is really smart. He has a sixth sense about politics that is unmatched in my generation and in his." [...]

Ford Jr. also joined the moderate "Blue Dog" coalition and has amassed a more conservative voting record than his father or current African-American congressmen. He was one of only four members of the Congressional Black Caucus to support the war with Iraq.

Ford bristles at comparisons to other black officials.

"Why do you keep putting me in that box?" he said. "Why can't it be, 'One of those Democrats, or one of those Blue Dogs, in support of it?' "

But Ford also acknowledges that some of his frequent appearances on cable television talk shows can be attributed to the fact he is an African-American moderate whose views run counter to stereotype.

"I think my thinking closely parallels where people my age think, be they black or white," Ford said. [...]

Becoming the first African-American senator from the South since the post-Civil War era would be a huge boost to Ford's White House hopes. But if he loses, he could be tagged, like one of his mentors, former vice president Al Gore, with the label "Can't Carry His Home State."

"It's a big risk," Sabato said. "But in politics, everything is a risk if you want to be president. You can't play it safe."

Of course, the biggest question involving Ford or any other black presidential candidate is when or whether Americans will ever elect an African-American president.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 92 percent of Americans would consider voting for an African-American as president, compared to 37 percent in 1958.

That's just measuring social acceptance, said David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, the leading black think tank.

Polls show that Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican, is the only black American who could be elected president now, Bositis said. Ford's best chance is to be selected as the vice presidential nominee first, he said.

When you have a young man on the make, clear some room for him to make it with you and he'll take it. Mr. Ford's path to the top lies in the GOP, not the Democratic Party--woo him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:41 PM


Disorganization And Doughnuts
(JOHN TIERNEY, 12/14/03, NY Times)

Democrats have always been known for chaotic conventions, but this year they are outdoing themselves. Officials in the host city, Boston, have been feuding with national party officials over who makes which decisions and who comes up with what money.

The resulting disorganization and lack of money became embarrassingly clear this month when the Democrats held what was billed as a "walk-through" of the convention facilities. Some 200 television, radio and print journalists journeyed to the Fleet Center hoping to plan their convention coverage.

Instead, they were treated to glazed and jelly doughnuts, speeches about the virtues of grass-roots Democrats and the evils of Republicans, and an amateur ice show. And that was about it.

Party officials offered the audience basic diagrams of the inside of the arena. But rather than a walk-through, officials provided a talk-through of the possible press facilities, since Democrats still were not sure whether it would be in an office building a block or two away, in tents outside the hall or, most glorious of all, down in the bowels of the parking garage.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:30 PM


Altercation (Eric Alterman, MSNBC)

In the meantime, let’s all hope for a speedy recovery for Colin Powell.

 Speaking of whom, last night at the 137th anniversary dinner for the Nation—watching a moving, poetic and deeply patriotic speech by Robert Byrd followed by a belligerently moronic one by Aaron McGruder--I sat between this incredible guy who had been on death row for eighteen years before being freed by the Innocence Project at Medill Journalism school (the winner of this year’s $100K Puffin/Nation prize) and Joe Wilson, winner of this year’s Ron Ridenhour prize. I asked Joe why Powell had turned out to be such a wimp—failing to use any of his prized credibility to put the breaks on his lying colleagues, and instead telling all those falsehoods at the UN and convincing a boatload of gullible reporters of a whole mess of stuff that just ain’t so. Wilson—whose speech repeatedly termed the members of the administration to be "f****ing a**holes and thugs" said he had no idea.

Imagine being so desperate for attention that for your two minutes of fame you had to defend the honor of Saddam Hussein?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 4:12 PM


President Bush Holds Press Conference (Press Conference of the President, Room 450, Eisenhower Executive Office Building)

I believe, firmly believe -- and you've heard me say this a lot -- and I say it a lot because I truly believe it -- that freedom is the almighty God's gift to every person, every man and woman who lives in this world. That's what I believe. And the arrest of Saddam Hussein changed the equation in Iraq. Justice was being delivered to a man who defied that gift from the Almighty to the people of Iraq.

The whole conference was pretty amusing--very reminiscent of the one after the 2002 mid-term, when he was likewise coming off a huge personal vindication--with the President relaxed, tossing nicknames, chiding questioners, etc. It was one of those deals where if you hate him he seemed a stumblebum--if you like him he seemed a man sublimely comfortable with himself and the hand fate has dealt.

The most interesting moment came with the answer above, which should lay to rest any doubt that this war is a Crusade. The President expressed, with only sleight hesitation, the idea that America punished Saddam Hussein for violating God's laws. The Buchananeers, libertarians, and the Left will surely get the vapors over that one.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 3:02 PM


Sen. Breaux Will Retire: La. Democrat Is 5th Southerner to Step Down This Year (David Espo, December 15, 2003, The Associated Press)

Louisiana Sen. John Breaux, a leading Democratic centrist during three terms in office, has told fellow lawmakers he intends to retire next year rather than seek re-election, officials said Monday.

Breaux's retirement would make him the fifth southern Democrat to step down in 2004, further compounding the party's difficulties in its struggle to gain a Senate majority.

Breaux, 59, scheduled an announcement in Baton Rouge. Several officials speaking on condition of anonymity said he informed several fellow lawmakers of his intentions. [...]

His departure is expected to prompt two members of the state's House delegation to jump into the 2004 Senate race, Reps. Chris John, a Democrat, and David Vitter, a Republican.

Republicans have never won a Louisiana Senate seat since Reconstruction.

Unfortunately, to win his campaign slogan needs to be: "A dark-complected Aryan, not black".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 PM


Pro-Saddam rally in Tikrit turns into brawl (AP, 12/15/03)

A brawl has erupted in Saddam Hussein's hometown -- after hundreds of people took to the streets in support of the former dictator.

Some 700 people in Tikrit cheered and rallied in favor of Saddam, following his weekend capture by U-S forces.

At one point, security forces waded into the crowd to arrest the protest leader. That's when a widespread fight broke out. The man was eventually handed over to Iraqi police. [...]

Protestors had been chanting "Saddam is in our hearts, Saddam is in our blood." U-S troops and Iraqi police responded with cheers of "Saddam is in our jail."

Kind of unanswerable, eh?

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:56 AM


With Endorsement of Dean, Gore Steers Democrats Away From Clintonism (Ronald Brownstein, December 15, 2003, LA Times)

As a political movement, Clintonism arguably was born on May 6, 1991, when Bill Clinton delivered a seminal speech on his "New Democratic" vision to a conference of the Democratic Leadership Council in Cleveland.

Political historians may conclude that Clintonism was eclipsed as the dominant set of ideas in the Democratic Party on Tuesday, when Al Gore, Clinton's vice president, endorsed Howard Dean in the 2004 presidential race.

Dean has demonstrated many assets in his bid for the Democratic nomination. He's run a groundbreaking campaign that has changed forever the way candidates look at the Internet. He's shown the capacity to inspire great passion among Democratic activists. He speaks the way a boxer jabs, with sharp thrusts that strike many voters as heartfelt and uninfected by political calculation.

But whatever his other virtues, it's difficult to argue that Dean upholds the political philosophy that Clinton advanced. Indeed, Dean is probably the Democratic contender who most directly rejects Clinton's vision.

By endorsing Dean, Gore has continued the journey away from Clinton that began in Gore's own 2000 presidential campaign. More important, the former vice president's endorsement suggests that just three years after Clinton left office, key portions of the Democratic establishment most associated with him are willing to acquiesce, if not to help, as Dean moves to redirect the party. [...]

[A]ll of Dean's arguments about the best approach for Democrats echo the left's complaints about Clinton; Dean's signature line that he intends to represent the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" is the description that liberals used to distinguish themselves from centrist "New Democrats" associated with Clinton. "That was the anti-Clinton line," says Al From, founder of the DLC, a centrist party group.

The distance between Dean and Clinton is measured partly in policy. Dean shares Clinton's commitment to fiscal discipline (though Dean has offered a health-care plan much more expensive than anything Clinton proposed after his initial proposal collapsed).

But Dean has rejected Clinton's emphasis on lowering trade barriers, his push to use the federal government as a lever to force greater accountability in the schools and his effort to balance tax increases on the wealthy with tax cuts for the middle class.

In conflicts such as Bosnia and Kosovo, Clinton worked to erase the post-Vietnam suspicion that Democrats flinched at using military force. Dean has insisted he is not reflexively opposed to using force. But by centering his campaign on opposition to the war in Iraq, Dean is steering the Democrats back toward their pre-Clinton identity as the party most dubious about committing troops abroad.

As important as the difference on issues is the contrast in tone. Though his personal problems threw sand in the gears, Clinton relentlessly sought to reconnect Democrats with swing voters through themes such as personal responsibility, government reform, national strength and bipartisan cooperation; he often said he intended to transcend "brain-dead politics in both parties."

Dean, by contrast, offers a biting, sometimes red-faced, partisanship that presents issues from abortion and civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans to taxes as an unambiguous conflict between right (liberals) and wrong (conservatives); in contrast to Clinton's call for a new synthesis between left and right, Dean says the Democratic Party's principal problem is that it has blurred too many differences with the Republican Party.

Now, even if you're a Democrat it must be relatively easy to convince yourself that Bill Clinton is such a contemptible man that failing to follow him should be seen a virtue, not a political sin. But substitute Tony Blair for Bill Clinton in the analysis and it becomes clear that what the Dean/Gore wing is steering the Party away from is the opportunity--which Bill Clinton too failed to take advantage of because he had to jag Left in order to get liberals to oppose his impeachment--to move the institution radically to the Right and thereby capture the middle ground.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:32 AM

President Bush will hold a news conference at 11:15 a.m. ET

Posted by Orrin Judd at 9:57 AM


Powell to Undergo Prostate Cancer Surgery (Fox News, December 15, 2003)

Secretary of State Colin Powell will undergo surgery for prostate cancer Monday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the State Department said.

Spokesman Adam Ereli said the surgery had been scheduled for some time and he described it as "routine intervention."

Ereli said Powell is expected to be hospitalized for several days, then go home to recuperate. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will be in charge in his absence, Ereli said.

President Bush was informed of the surgery two weeks ago, Ereli said.

In a statement, the State Department said that Powell "is undergoing surgery this morning for prostate cancer," and that after he returned home from the surgery would be on a "reduced schedule."

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:53 AM


Candidates Celebrate First and Worry Second (ADAM NAGOURNEY, 12/15/03, NY Times)

The news about Saddam Hussein fulfills what many Americans have long viewed as a crucial test for measuring success in the war in Iraq and thus could rob Democrats of an issue they have increasingly challenged President Bush on, Democrats said on Sunday.

But its impact could fall particularly heavily on the candidacy of Howard Dean, the Democrat who most party leaders view as the leading contender for the nomination. It could force Dr. Dean, Democrats said, to deal with a stronger incumbent in next year's general election, should the capture prove the turning point Mr. Bush has sought in the war. It could also lead to challenges from newly emboldened Democratic candidates who supported the war, who see an opportunity to attack Dr. Dean on his antiwar stance, the issue on which he has built his candidacy. [...]

"If Howard Dean had his way, Saddam Hussein would be in power today, not in prison, and the world would be a much more dangerous place," Mr. Lieberman said. "The American people would have a lot more to fear." [...]

Even though it had been anticipated to some extent, the early morning news from Iraq seemed to shock the candidates and their aides, and left several expressing grudging admiration at what one described as Mr. Bush's continued good luck. They spent the day trying to applaud the capture while trying not to abandon their criticism of Mr. Bush's management of the war in Iraq as well as their attacks upon one another.

Lucky? Did they think our military wouldn't hunt him down eventually? Mr. Bush is most lucky in the low quality of his critics.

Mohammed Atta's Iraqi Connection (Con Coughlin, December 15, 2003, London Telegraph)

Certainly the memo's detail concerning Mohammed Atta and Abu Nidal fits in with the known movements of the two terrorists in the summer of 2001. Abu Nidal, the renegade Palestinian terrorist responsible for a wave of outrages in the 1980s, such as the 1985 bomb attacks on Rome and Vienna airports, was based in Baghdad, under Saddam's personal protection, for most of his career.

Having briefly relocated to Libya, Abu Nidal returned to Baghdad at some point in early 2001. At the time it was assumed that Saddam had lured the Palestinian terrorist back to help the Iraqi leader plan a number of terrorist attacks aimed at destabilising American plans to remove him.

In particular, Saddam wanted Abu Nidal to revive his network of "sleeper cells" in Europe and the Middle East to carry out a new wave of attacks. During 2001 Abu Nidal lived in a number of houses in the Baghdad area, including a spacious home in the al-Dora district where he is reported to have met Atta.

The relationship between Abu Nidal and Saddam, however, quickly turned sour, mainly because - as the Telegraph reported at the time - the ageing Palestinian leader was reluctant to accede to Saddam's request to train al-Qaeda fighters in sophisticated terrorist techniques.

Abu Nidal was murdered in August 2001, although the Iraqis tried to claim that he had committed suicide. Habbush appeared at a hastily arranged press conference in Baghdad in an attempt to persuade the sceptical Arab media that Abu Nidal had taken his own life after Iraqi investigators had uncovered a plot to assassinate Saddam.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:09 AM


Why I am no longer a European: It is galling to be driven by logic into the 'no' camp (Max Hastings, December 15, 2003, The Guardian)

Faith in Britain's destiny in Europe has been at the core of my own convictions all my adult life. Yet, suddenly, I find myself hitting the buffers. I can no longer support the government's case for signing up to the European constitution. This week, I join the referendum campaigners. [...]

Signing up to the foreign policy provisions of the European constitution is a mockery. In defence, the field about which I am best informed, Europe shows a boundless appetite for creating common structures and bureaucracies, yet lacks the slightest willingness to provide forces to give them substance. Optimists, most of them in Downing Street, suggest that if the bureaucracies are formed, the substance will follow. There are no grounds to believe this.

Unlike the Eurosceptics, I feel no principled fear about losing national sovereignty, which has become an almost meaningless concept. If, over half a century or so, it becomes plain that Europe's institutions - above all, its parliament - have evolved to a point at which they can take the strain, well and good.

Yet today, it is not remotely credible that the European parliament can provide a democratic check upon the doings of the European executive, or that it is progressing towards doing so. Between 1979 and 1999, voting in European elections fell from 63% to 49%, despite compulsory participation in three countries. Against such a background, how can any society sensibly continue a march to closer integration, endorsing the accretion of new powers to Brussels? [...]

For me, the last straw was the publication last week of Gisela Stuart's Fabian pamphlet, about her experience as the Labour party's representative at the European convention. "Not once," she wrote in a seminal passage of her brave and deeply impressive piece, "in the 16 months I spent on the convention did representatives question whether deeper integration is what the people of Europe want, whether it serves their best interests or whether it provides the best basis for a sustainable structure for an expanding union."

These are damning words. This weekend's EU summit was frustrated by a mere tactical dispute about voting weights. Yet more and more of us feel, like Stuart, that emotional faith in the concept of Europe can no longer blind us to the rational objections to the European constitution.

Europe conducts its affairs in an increasingly fantastic spirit that would be admired by Lewis Carroll, but which becomes frightening when transferred from Wonderland to the political destinies of hundreds of millions of people. Some of us swallowed reservations about the Maastricht treaty because we accepted the assurances of British ministers,that its integrationist provisions would never be enacted.

Today, when those optimistic Tory "wets" have been proved so wrong, it is far harder to accept the European constitution merely by cherishing hopes that it will collapse under the weight of its own follies, together with wilful breaches by the usual suspects, led by France and Italy.

It is always painful to switch political course. It is especially so in the case of Europe, because it puts us in some rotten political company. Yet it no longer seems possible to support the European constitution - as Blair still seems willing to do - merely as an act of faith in a "tidying-up process".

Hard to imagine you could be any less gracious in admitting your foes were right for fifty years. (Margaret Thatcher, for instance, seems completely vindicated.) The mention of Maastricht though calls to mind a poem by Geoffrey Hill:

Wherein Wesley stood
up from his father's grave,
summoned familiar dust
for strange salvation:

whereto England rous'd,
ignorant, her inane
Midas-like hunger: smoke
engrossed, cloud-encumbered,

a spectral people
raking among the ash;
its freedom a lost haul
of entailed riches.

Let enough more join Mr. Hastings in repenting, even so sullenly, and perhaps England's freedom won't end up entailed after all.

Less than half show support for EU (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, 09/12/2003, Daily Telegraph)

Britain was by far the most negative state, with positive feelings tumbling to 28 per cent, but even the French were below half for the first time after months of battles with Brussels over tax cuts and illegal aid to ailing firms. [...]

Gisela Stuart, a Labour MP and Britain's sole voice on the 13-strong drafting "Praesidium", raised the pressure on Downing Street to stand firm on Britain's "red lines".

She said it was under no moral obligation to accept a text "riddled with imperfections" and rigged by "a self-selected group of the European political elite".

In a blistering pamphlet for the Fabian Society, German-born Mrs Stuart exposed the pretence that the wordy text is needed to tidy up the treaties or pave the way for EU expansion, saying "the real reason for the constitution - and its main impact - is the political deepening of the union".

She added: "Not once in the 16 months I spent on the convention did representatives question whether deeper integration is what the people of Europe want.

"The debates focused solely on where we could do more at EU level. Any representative who took issue with the fundamental goal of deeper integration was sidelined."

She said the secretive body chaired by Valery Giscard d'Estaing slipped through radical changes that had never been agreed, insisting on French documents to create confusion.

When the sole East European member dared to raise a dissenting voice he was told his vote "didn't count".

Posted by Orrin Judd at 12:22 AM


Israel's 'cloud of demographics': A dovish politician is forcing even hawkish Israelis to consider ceding land to the growing population of Palestinians. (Cameron W. Barr, 12/15/03, The Christian Science Monitor)

Even now, nearly four months after it was first published, an article by a dovish Israeli politician continues to irritate and appall his ideological opponents. But its main point - the need for Israel to cede land - is now being voiced by more hawkish Israelis as well.

Avraham Burg, a former Speaker of the Israeli parliament and a leading defender of the idea that Israel and a Palestinian state can coexist in peace, wrote in an Israeli newspaper in August that the "Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer-security programs, or antimissile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed." [...]

The impetus for this discussion - and the core of Burg's article - is the growing realization that Israel is losing the demographic war with the Palestinians, even as it emerges more or less triumphant from the battles of recent years.

Israelis have long ruminated over the paradox of their situation: If they maintain control over the Palestinian territories in the service of the idea that Jews should govern the entire "land of Israel," they will need to figure what to do with the Palestinians. Israeli hard-liners argue for expulsion or "transfer," but that step would be internationally unpopular. Another option is to deprive the Palestinians of political rights, but this "apartheid" approach would also draw international opprobrium. A third option is to make the Palestinians citizens - something Israel has already done with Palestinians who did not flee their lands in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war - a step in keeping with the desire of the majority of Israelis to maintain a full-fledged democracy.

The problem is that there so many Palestinians. As it is, Burg argued in an interview this month, "Between the Jordan [River] and the Mediterranean [Sea], somewhere between next year and two years' time, there will be born the first Palestinian ... [of] the Palestinian majority."

"What do you give up - assuming you can't have them all - land, system, or majority?" asks Burg, a balding, blue-eyed, and fit man who speaks English with an accent that has often been likened to Arnold Schwarzenegger's. Burg's answer: "I'll never give up democracy, I'll never give up the Jewish majority. With difficulties and pain, I compromise the land."

Even more hawkish Israelis, such as [Ehud] Olmert, are now willing to voice this view in public.

While folk continue to dream of demographics as naturally self-regulating, they continue to shape the destiny of peoples.

December 14, 2003

Posted by Orrin Judd at 10:35 PM


Dean mounts foreign policy challenge with pledges on Israel and Korea (David Usborne, 15 December 2003, The Independent)

Howard Dean, who is leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, is to spell out starkly different approaches to those of President George Bush on foreign policy, including a willingness to address swiftly border issues between Palestine and Israel and enter bilateral talks with North Korea. [...]

In Los Angeles today, the candidate is due to disclose that Tony Lake, the former national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, is among those he has assembled to advise him on foreign policy. He is also expected to give details of plans to create a multi-billion-dollar international fund to combat terrorism around the world.

Let's imagine the scene at Dean HQ: "We're doing so well with the pro-Ba'athist stuff, how about siding with Arafat and Kim Jong-Il? And, while we're at it, even though folks think I'm an Islamicist dupe, let's bring on board notorious Communist dupe Tony Lake. Wait though, here's the topper, I'll announce all this on the day after we capture Saddam and it's revealed that Abu Nidal trained Mohammed Atta in Iraq at Saddam's behest."

One begins to believe that Karl Rove created Governor Dean in a laboratory under the West Wing.

The Politics of Saddam: What Saddam's capture means for the 2004 race and the Democratic contenders. Hint: It's bad for Howard Dean.
(Fred Barnes, 12/14/2003, Weekly Standard)

The big loser is Howard Dean--potentially. Dean has embarked on an image-altering effort so he'll be seen as a centrist on foreign affairs. In interviews with the Washington Post and New York Times, he insisted the differences between himself and Bush are not great, mainly about style, not substance. He offered this amazing statement to the Times: "It's all about nuance." In truth, there's rarely been a presidential candidate with a less nuanced approach to foreign affairs.

Dean demonstrated this once again in his response to Saddam's capture. He praised the capture, then claimed that it had created "an enormous opportunity" to adopt what amounts to the Iraq policy of France. First, do "everything possible" to bring the United Nations, NATO, and others into the effort in Iraq. In other words, turn the Iraq situation over to those who not only favored keeping Saddam in power, but also sought to undermine the American policy of regime change in Iraq from the moment it was first announced by President Clinton in 1998. And second, speed up the turnover of power to Iraqis. There's nothing nuanced about that advice. And by the way, Dean claimed last week that he had never called Saddam a "danger" to the United States. [...]

All the Democratic candidates passed up the opportunity to advocate debt relief for Iraq. We're talking about some $120 billion in debts amassed by Saddam. Why not demand that France, Germany, and Russia forgive the debts and give the Iraqi government that takes over next year a running start? After all, the new government won't be able to pay the debts anyway. They've left the debt relief issue to Bush. Not smart.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 8:06 PM


Here's how badly the Democrats have positioned themselves: Dean's statements about Saddam today are being referred to as doing "damage control". When the capture of a mass murdering dictator by your own nation is damaging to your political prospects, it's time to ask yourself what the heck you're doing.

Notes from Saddam in Custody: Saddam is talking, but he isn't cooperative. New details on his capture and his first interrogation (BRIAN BENNETT, Dec. 14, 2003, TIME)

Saddam Hussein was captured on Sunday without a fight. But since then, according to a U.S. intelligence official in Iraq, the fallen dictator has been defiant. "He's not been very cooperative," said the official, who read the transcript of the initial interrogation report taken during the first questioning session.

After his capture, Saddam was taken to a holding cell at the Baghdad Airport. He didn't answer any of the initial questions directly, the official said, and at times seemed less than fully coherent. The transcript was full of "Saddam rhetoric type stuff," said the official who paraphrased Saddam's answers to some of the questions. When asked "How are you?" said the official, Saddam responded, "I am sad because my people are in bondage." When offered a glass of water by his interrogators, Saddam replied, "If I drink water I will have to go to the bathroom and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?"

Geez, even Moses didn't hold it in the whole time he was confronting Pharoah.

-Anatomy of Hussein's capture: The cellar floor didn't look quite right ... (Peter Grier, 12/14/03, CS Monitor)

... at least, not in one spot. Bricks and dirt were spread about in a studied way, as if someone were trying to conceal something beneath. So US troops taking part in the early evening "Red Dawn" sweep shoveled the debris away. They discovered a hole, which led to a modest hiding chamber, complete with ventilation fan. The chamber was quite small, considering that it held not just a man but in some ways decades of Iraqi national history. [...]

For the troops that took part in the capture - a total of some 600, from the US 4th Infantry Division, and Special Forces - the raid was not exactly business as usual. They didn't know that Mr. Hussein was their target, exactly. But the operation was clearly a search for an HVT, in military parlance, "High Value Target."

They established a perimeter first, cordoning off an area of about 1.2 miles square in Ad Dawr, near Hussein's birthplace of Tikrit in northern Iraq. After surveillance they become suspicious of a small walled compound between a field and a sheep pen. There were two buildings there: a metal lean-to and a farmhouse, a hut really, just a two-room adobe structure not even nice enough to be described as "humble."

As they approached the compound, at about 8:30 p.m. local time on Saturday, two armed guards saw them. Undoubtedly hardened insurgents, aware of who was inside the compound, these men saw what was coming - and ran. They were quickly taken into custody.

Inside was a bedroom strewn with clothes that were newish, if not new. A box contained $750,000 in US $100 bills. There was also the suspicious debris, and a rug just outside the structure, which US troops removed. There was not a trapdoor, but a plug, a light styrofoam plank. They pulled it up, and there was HVT 1, Saddam Hussein himself, bearded and tired and looking more likely to ask for a quarter than order a strike of chemical weapons. "He was a little disoriented, obviously, as he came up," said Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, 4th infantry division commander, on Sunday.

The hut was close to the Tigris. Across the river stood some of the ornate homes Hussein had constructed for himself, friends, and relatives in an area that had always been a stronghold of Baathist Party support. "He was in a hole in the ground across from these great palaces that he had built," said Gen. Odierno.

Breakthrough Capped a Renewed Effort to Ferret Out Leads (ERIC SCHMITT, 12/14/03, NY Times)
The hunt for Saddam Hussein ended late Saturday with information from a member of his tribal clan.

Seizing Mr. Hussein, a man who one senior general said had 20 to 30 hide-outs and moved as often as every three to four hours, had become a maddening challenge. Eleven previous times in the last several months, a brigade combat team from the Army's Fourth Infantry Division thought it had a bead on Mr. Hussein and began raids to kill or capture him, only to come up empty, sometimes missing its man by only a matter of hours, military officials here said.

But at 8:26 p.m. Saturday, less than 11 hours after receiving the decisive tip, 600 American soldiers and Special Operations forces backed by tanks, artillery and Apache helicopter gunships surrounded two farmhouses, and near one of them found Mr. Hussein hiding alone at the bottom of an eight-foot hole.

He surrendered without a shot.

"He was just caught like a rat," Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the commander of the Fourth Infantry Division, told reporters at his headquarters in Tikrit on Sunday. "He could have been hiding in a hundred different places, a thousand different places like this all around Iraq. It just takes finding the right person who will give you a good idea

-Hussein's Capture Could Leave Followers Disillusioned (John Daniszewski, December 14, 2003)
The gasps that arose when Iraqis first saw Saddam Hussein filthy, ragged and in American hands could be the sound of the air leaving the insurgent movement.

The former soldiers and intelligence officers who were the backbone of the guerrillas in Iraq have suffered a stunning blow. People who have been sitting on the fence may now be less likely to join the resistance, and some may be emboldened to commit themselves to the U.S. vision for a new Iraqi state. [...]

Meanwhile, the capture should be a boost to President Bush's prestige in the region. He accomplished his goal to capture or kill Saddam in a region that admires strong leaders. He should be able to use that capital to influence events inside Iraq and compel Iraq's neighbors and even European countries to become more supportive of the transition to elections and Iraqi sovereignty, now targeted to take place in mid-2004.

Bearing Questions, 4 New Iraqi Leaders Pay Hussein a Visit (IAN FISHER, 12/15/03, NY Times)
The wild gray beard was gone, and he sat on a metal army cot, just awake from a nap, in socks and black slippers. He was not handcuffed. He did not recognize all his visitors, but they recognized him. That was the purpose of the visit: to help confirm that he was, in fact, Saddam Hussein.

What came next in the Sunday afternoon meeting, according to people in the room, was an extraordinary 30 minutes, in which four new leaders of Iraq pointedly questioned the nation's deposed and now captured leader about his tyrannical rule. Mr. Hussein, they said, was defiant and unrepentant but very much defeated.

"The world is crazy," said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, a Governing Council member in the room on Sunday after Mr. Hussein was captured near his hometown, Tikrit. "I was in his torture chamber in 1979, and now he was sitting there, powerless in front of me without anybody stopping me from doing anything to him. Just imagine. We were arguing, and he was using very foul language."

The carefully managed event gave the four men who had spent decades opposing the ruler they regard as an oppressor of their country a rare chance to confront him. Though he spoke forcefully, the haggard Mr. Hussein was now the prisoner, and his opponents seemed to gain some legitimacy as leaders through the meeting in which they said they had called him to task on behalf of their nation. [...]

"I was so angry because this guy has caused so much damage," Mr. Rubaie added. "He has ruined the whole country. He has ruined 25 million people."

"And I have to confess that the last word was for me," he continued. "I was the last to leave the room and I said, `May God curse you. Tell me, when are you going to be accountable to God and the day of judgment? What are you going to tell him about Halabja and the mass graves, the Iran-Iraq war, thousands and thousands executed? What are you going to tell God?' He was exercising his French language."

The final ignominy, reduced to French.

Posted by Orrin Judd at 5:06 PM


Saddam an Important Symbol in the Arab World (Joyce M. Davis, December 14, 2003, Knight-Ridder)

When American troops invaded Baghdad last spring, Iraqis rushed to topple statues of Saddam. It was a pivotal, yet for some Arabs humiliating, moment in the region's history.

The rampaging Iraqi men didn't rid themselves of Saddam's evil; they needed American Marines to do that for them. Other Arab leaders didn't send armies to liberate the Iraqi people; President Bush did. And even the feared Islamic jihadees (holy warriors), for all their threats of suicide bombs and terrorism, proved too weak to defeat the Arab leader they hated most.

The fact that it was hated Israel's friend and protector that toppled Saddam wasn't lost on millions of Arabs.

As a result, according to Suleiman Nyang, a political scientist at Howard University in Washington, although Saddam wasn't beloved in the Arab world, his demise is seen in the Middle East and beyond as another sign of Arab weakness and degradation at the hands of the West.

"If it is a humiliation for the Arab people, it is one that Arabs themselves are accountable for," he said. "It is unfortunate that a guy like Saddam Hussein should have remained in power for so long. The Arab people don't fight for their freedom the way other people fight for freedom."

And any gratitude for what the United States did expired quickly, as attacks against American troops picked up speed amid popular discontent at the sight of U.S. soldiers patrolling Iraqi streets and neighborhoods.

"It is a very painful experience that the Arabs are undertaking," said Clovis Maksoud, a former Arab League ambassador to the United States and the United Nations. "There will be a lot of soul searching, a period of ferment. Profound changes are going to take place." [...]

Yet with Saddam's regime relegated to history, the danger is that Iraqis and other Arabs will see a common enemy in the Americans who destroyed him, and keep fighting to end their occupation of Iraq.

We are the enemy; that's what even our own neo-isolationists don't seem to get. Because of the globalization of American values we